Jeroboam was crowned the leader of the Northern Kingdom, the new Israel. Ten of the twelve tribes of the original Israel had been torn away after the unwise actions of Solomon’s son, King Rehoboam, and they formed their own nation. Rehoboam was left with only the Southern Kingdom, Judah, to lead and to preserve the temple and the genealogical line of King David.
God chose Jeroboam to lead the breakaway Northern Kingdom just as He had chosen David to lead Israel after their first king, Saul, had abandoned the Lord. In this case, it was David’s son, King Solomon, a man of many gifts from God, whose heart had turned away to the worship of idols.
God had spoken through a prophet to Jeroboam and made him a generous offer:
37 So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. 38 Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you. 39 And I will afflict the descendants of David because of this, but not forever.’” 1 Kings 11:37-39 NKJV
God brought Jeroboam the same offer He had given to King David: If you walk in My ways, I will build you an enduring house. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had the same opportunity to live in perpetual peace and security that God had offered to David. All they needed to do was to follow Him and avoid the worship of other gods and idols.
One of the first things that Jeroboam struggled with in this new situation was the concern that if people went to Judah to worship God in the temple, they might defect to Rehoboam while there. He sought counsel from advisors on what to do about this concern.
26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David: 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
28 Therefore the king asked advice… 1 Kings 12:26-28 NKJV
Just as Rehoboam had followed bad advice that cost him the majority of his kingdom, Jeroboam began his reign by following even worse advice:
28 Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” 29 And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 1 Kings 12:28-29 NKJV
Golden calf idols had a history with God, and it was by no means a good one. By choosing to set up these gold calves for worship, Jeroboam was making a mockery of God’s generous offer by setting up the worst possible idolatry for Israel to follow.
God had freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt using ten plagues, including the miracle of Passover, and then brought them safely through the Red Sea when Pharaoh’s army was in close pursuit. The Lord went to great lengths to save the Israelites from their misery and to bring them out as His special, chosen people. They were intended to worship Him alone and to serve as His shining light to the nations of the world, pointing to the one true God. Yet, after Moses had gone up on Mount Sinai to meet with the Lord for forty days to learn about the law and the design of the tabernacle, the people quickly turned away from God and began to worship a golden calf. This calf had been fashioned from gold they had been given by the Egyptians when Israel had come out from slavery because the Egyptians were in awe of Israel’s powerful God.
4 And he (Aaron) received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Exodus 32:4 NKJV
God was so furious with this outrageous apostacy that He was ready to destroy the people right then and there and to start over again making a nation from Moses rather than from the descendants of Abraham. But Moses interceded on their behalf, and God decided to stick with His original plan.
It is most unthinkable that Jeroboam, a man chosen by God to run the Northern Kingdom and offered such a generous eternal covenant, would stoop to follow such horrible advice to offend God so quickly. Due to his own insecurity over his new throne, Jeroboam was willing to disobey the Lord, who had given it to him, in such a blatant and defiant manner. The spiritual advantage of the Northern Kingdom over Judah was quickly squandered because Jeroboam followed such foolish advice and made such an extremely poor choice to lead the people away from God.
God made generous offers to several kings if only they would follow Him, but few were able to do so. The lure of idols and the pleasures and “benefits” associated with them were just too great for them to stay faithful to God, who alone offered the true benefits.
Faithfulness is a rare quality, but one that is cherished by the Lord. With His help, may we stay faithful to Him and to those he has blessed us with, today and all the remaining days of our lives.