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Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible Kelly Commentary
1 Kings 12
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ wkc/ 1-kings-12.html. 1860-1890.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://studylight.org/
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Solomon was now at the height of his glory, a vivid type of a greater than Solomon. And it is only when we see that he really does thus prefigure the Lord Jesus as King that we can understand the importance that God attaches to the history of such as David in one light and Solomon in another. David as the warrior-king who puts down the enemies actively, Solomon as the man of peace who will reign over the subjugated nations and kingdoms, more particularly Israel; but in point of fact, at the same time, the glorious Son of man that will have all kingdoms and nations and tribes and tongues then. Now I am persuaded that every one's faith has something lacking who does not leave room for this glorious future. I do not mean now in the smallest degree as a question of one's soul with God, but I am speaking of the intelligence of a Christian man. And I repeat, that he who does not look for the kingdom of God to be established by and by in this world has neither a key to the Bible nor, in point of fact, can he understand why God permits the present confusion. There is nothing more likely to fill the soul with perplexity than leaving out the future. Bring it in and we can understand why God exercises such amazing forbearance. The present is but a revolutionary time, and so it has been for ages, marked by the solemn fact that even the very people of God are the most dispersed of all nations upon the earth. I speak, of course, of Israel now, and I say that if there be a people that are no people, Israel is the one that comes up before our view. The devil may have a kind of imitation of it in some other races that are scattered over the ends of the earth, but then the man that could confound Israelites with, for instance, the Egyptians would be evidently doing the greatest injustice to one of the most remarkable people even as a race, as a nation, that has ever lived upon the earth. The other is only a kind of Satanic imitation of it; but no man can wisely despise Israel, even as a man. Still more, when our hearts take in the real truth of God and remember that God Himself in the person of His own Son deigned to become an Israelite, was in truth the Messiah, the Anointed, was the born King of the Jews. He who takes this in can understand the great place that Israel has in the mind of God, and that it is a proof of very little faith and of great occupation about ourselves when we do not relish what God has given us about His ancient people.
I grant you that it is a poor thing for the soul to be occupied with that in the first place, and it is, therefore, of great consequence that as now it is no question of Israel, but of Christ. And if then of Christ, of Christ as a Saviour, and further as the Head of the church. We are called now to know Him as a Saviour, next as members of His body to know what the Head of the body is, and what is involved in these relationships both of His to us and of ours to Him. But having the truth as to these, the more intimate and of the deepest personal importance to us, the question is whether our souls are not to be exercised on that which God has given us here, and what is God's thought, God's lesson, God's intention, for our souls in it.
This I shall endeavour to gather, not by forcing it to speak Christian language, not by what I may call "gospelling" the different parts of Scripture, which is really very often a perversion; not even by taking profitable hints from it that are most just and true and concern the grand living principles of divine truth, most important as all these are. But still there is another thing that we ought all with jealousy to care for, and that is to seek the real mind of God what is intended by the scripture that comes before us. This leaves perfect freedom for every other application, but we ought to have first and foremost what God intends us to understand by His word. The time will come when we shall require to know how far any application is just. Because, needless to say, the divine purpose in the scripture necessarily has the first place for him that respects God, and who is not uneasy and anxious, and who is not coming to scripture always asking, "Is there anything about me here?" or, "Is there anything for me?" The great point is this, Is there anything about Christ there, and what is it that God is teaching us about Christ there? I am supposing now that the soul's want has been already met.
What then is it that God is showing us here? Why, clearly He is bringing once more the man of peace, Solomon, the type of Christ Himself when reigning in peaceful glory. But, alas! it was not Christ yet; it was only a shadow and not the substance, and the consequence is that although God has written the scripture very especially to keep up the type and to exclude what would be inconsistent with it, nevertheless, we have the truth; and God intimates here the danger that was before Solomon and his family. He intimates the conditional ground which he must take until Christ brought in sovereign, unconditional grace. It is impossible not to speak in the way of condition except in view of Christ, of Christ personally. It is there alone that we get the full mind of God and heart of God, and whenever that is the case it is no question of conditions but of perfect love that works for His own name's sake, and that can do it righteously through the Lord Jesus. But this gives me reason to speak of a very important principle that I shall have many opportunities of illustrating; what might seem a very strange thing in setting up the kingdom in Israel. Of all things in Israel there was nothing that illustrated the principle of one master so much as the king. Even the high priest did not in the same way, though he also did in another form. But the king determined the lot of the people in this way: if the king went right there was a ground for God's blessing the people, simply and solely for that very reason. On the other hand, if the king went wrong judgment fell upon the people. Alas! as we know, a king might go right, and it did not follow that the people would; if the king went wrong, the people were sure to, follow. Such is the inevitable history of man now. Well, this principle would seem very strange, and always does appear so till we see Christ. Then how blessed! God always meant to make Christ, and Christ alone, the ground of blessing. For any other for any of the children of Adam to be the pillar, so to speak, on which the blessing should repose, would be a most precarious principle. We know well what Adam's sons are. We ought to know by ourselves, but when we see God looking onward to the Second man the last Adam then we understand the principle.
Well now, it is for this reason that, whether you look at David or Solomon, they have a very peculiar place as being personal types of the Lord Jesus as King. In a way, that is not true of others. Others might be in part, but they far more fully; but the principle is most true of the kingdom in Israel. That is, that there was one person now on whom depended the blessing of the people, or, alas! who involved the people in his own ruin, and this is the great principle of the kingdom of Israel. Miserable! till we come to Christ. How blessed! when Christ comes to reign. Then all the blessing of all the world hangs upon that one Man, and that one Man will make it all good. Such is God's intention, and He will never give it up. Now anyone who takes this in has a wholly different view from the history of the world from the gloom that must settle upon any man's heart that looks upon the earth apart from Christ. That God should have aught to say to such a world, that God should take an interest in it, that God should own such a state of things how difficult otherwise to understand! The more you know of God, and the more you know of man, the more the wonder increases. But when we see that all is merely suffered till that one Man come, God meanwhile working out other purposes, as we know now, in Christianity, that as far as regards the earth and man upon it, it is all in view of Christ's coming again, and coming to reign; that is, coming to take the world into His own hands in the way of power not merely to work in it by grace, but to take the reins of the world under His government, banishing him who is the fertile source of all the difficulty and contention and rebellion against God, that has filled it now, and indeed ever since sin came into it the difficulty is solved.
Well then, in this second appearing of the Lord to Solomon, we have what, to a spiritual mind, would at once show the danger, nay, the sad result, the utter failure, that was to come in. Nevertheless, there was great comfort in it in the words of the Lord for these are most true that His eyes and His heart shall be there perpetually; and, further, that that family, and that family alone, was to furnish an unbroken line till the fulness of the blessing of God be made good in this world. David's family is the only one that has that honour, for God preserved, as you know, the genealogical links until Messiah came; and after the Lord Jesus was born, before that generation passed away, Israel was dispersed. Where are they now? And where are the proofs now? All hangs upon Christ. But God took care that, till Shiloh came, there should be this maintaining of a man of David's house; and then, when the Lord Jesus was put to death, and it seemed as if all was gone, on the contrary, rising from the dead the work was complete. There was no need of any further line which was in the power of an endless life even as king, even in His kingdom. For David, according to Paul's gospel, must be raised from the dead, and so He is, and, consequently, He is brought in as unchanging. We can understand, therefore, that by virtue of Christ, the eyes and heart of God rest there. There may be nothing to show for it now. Of all places in the earth, the land of Palestine and Jerusalem may outwardly seem to be given up to be the prey of Satan. Nowhere has he more manifestly triumphed. Nevertheless, all is made good, and God will prove it, and prove it shortly. The truth is, the foundation is laid; nay, more than that, not merely the foundation laid, but the Person is in the glorious state in which He is to reign. He is risen from the dead, He is glorified, He is only waiting for the moment waiting, as it is said, to judge the quick and the dead, but, waiting, also, to reign.
This then is what lies underneath the type of Solomon. But as to himself we see that in the very next chapter (1 Kings 10:1-29), although there was still the keeping up of honour, and the testimony to his wisdom in the queen of Sheba's coming up, and all her munificent homage to the wisest king that God had ever raised up among men nevertheless, even then failure shows itself. The conditions of God are soon broken by man. "Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; and he had a thousand and four hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen." "And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt." "And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver" (1 Kings 10:28-29). Was this obedience? Was this the king after God's own heart? Had He not expressly warned His king to beware of it? Had He not cautioned him against the accumulation of wealth, for he had had wealth of his own without seeking? God had ensured him that, but he sought it, he valued himself upon it, he laid no small burdens upon his people to accumulate wealth for the king; and at the same time he shows his dependence upon the Gentiles. He goes down to Egypt for horses, for that which would add to royal splendour, and would be an enticement to his sons, if not to himself, to seek conquest not according to the mind of God.
In short, whatever might be the object, it was a transgression of the distinct and direct word of the Lord, as we all know, given in the Book of Deuteronomy, where God had foreseen these dangers. But there was another danger too (1 Kings 11:1-43), and a deeper one. "But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites." What! The wisest king the wisest king so to prove his total ruin in the very thing where, least of all, it became him! So it is with the sons of Adam. You will always find that in the very point in which you most pride yourself you most fail. In that which it might seem to be least possible, the moment your eye is off the Lord, in that particular you will break down. Adam, it would not have been thought, would so soon have forgotten his place of headship Adam, to whom the Lord spoke especially. I do not say to the exclusion of his wife. Far from it. For indeed she was united with him in it. But undoubtedly he was the one who ought to have guided the wife, and not the wife her husband, and there was the first failure at the very beginning. But had not Solomon known that? Had he not heard of it? How had he profited? this man with his seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines! And so we find that his wives turned away his heart. "For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of Jehovah, and went not fully after Jehovah, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And Jehovah was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from Jehovah God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice" (1 Kings 11:4-9).
The greater the privilege and the higher the honour, the deeper the shame. This was, I will not say the sad end of Solomon, but undoubtedly the rapid decline and fall of the man. This is the sad character that Scripture attaches to him, that in his old age he listened to the follies of these strange women, and, accordingly, God begins to chastise, not merely when Solomon was taken, but in his lifetime. And indeed there is no happier intimation of Scripture that I know of about Solomon. For while God deigns to give us his estimate of the elders that walked by faith, or that in some way signalized their faith, Solomon is not one. Nevertheless, that God did put especial honour upon that son of David, who can doubt? Who inspired him to give us some of the most weighty portions of God's word? And by whom was he given this signal wisdom of which Scripture speaks so much, and indeed which he proved so truly? But, nevertheless, it is written for our wisdom, for our learning, for our warning, that we should beware of slipping in the very thing which God signalizes. There is no strength in wisdom or in aught else. Our strength is only in the Lord, and the only way to make it good is in dependence upon Him. It was not so with Solomon. He rested in the fruits that God had given him. He yielded to the enjoyment of what came from God, but what was turned aside from the living source. All was ruined, and so Jehovah, as we are told, stirred up Hadad the Edomite. He was one that when David was in Edom, and Joab was there, had been concealed and kept.
"Jehovah stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom. For it came to pass, when David was in Edom, and Joab the captain of the host was gone up to bury the slain, after he had smitten every male in Edom (for six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom), that Hadad fled, he and certain Edomites of his father's servants with him, to go into Egypt; Hadad being yet a little child" (vers. 14-17). Now he comes forward. God is wise, and that young prince was kept to be a sting to king Solomon. But this is a little comfort to us, and indeed, I may say, almost the only comfort that we have in the history that is given us of king Solomon that God chastised him. He chastised him, not merely allowed the fruit of his evil, the results of his folly, to appear in his family, but chastised himself in his own lifetime. This is His way with His own people, and indeed in some cases it is almost the only hope that you have that a person is a child of God, namely, that God does not allow the evil to pass, but deals with it now in this world. Those that God passes over in spite of evil are persons who are evidently waiting to be condemned with the world, but those who, being guilty, are dealt with now are objects of God's fatherly care. He is dealing with them, rebuking them, judging them, but after all, they are chastened that they should not be condemned with the world. Solomon, at any rate, most clearly comes under the chastening of the Lord. As the Lord had said to his father and implied to Solomon himself, He would not take His mercy from him, but He should chastise him with stripes, and this He does. But it is Solomon. It is not merely the house generally, the family generally, or their offspring, but Solomon himself.
Hadad then is one means of putting the wise king to great uneasiness. God made him a source of trouble to Solomon, for when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers he comes forward. But now it is particularly mentioned. God does not say a word about that until Solomon's failure. Then Hadad comes forward in a most decided and distinct way to be a scourge for the guilty king. But he was not the only one. "God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah: and he gathered men unto him, and became captain over a band, when David slew them of Zobah: and they went to Damascus, and dwelt therein, and reigned in Damascus. And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria."
I do not mean that the mischievousness of either Hadad or of Rezon was only when Solomon became an idolater, but I do draw attention to the fact that the Holy Ghost reserves the account of the vexation they caused the king till then. It is put by the Spirit Himself as a direct chastening of his idolatry. And these were, not the only ones. They were external. Solomon might say, "Well, we cannot expect anything better. They have private grudges, or national grudges, against our family." But "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite," was no foreigner, nor was it a question of avenging the supposed wrongs that were done to his family or his race. Not so; he was "Solomon's servant whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king. And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king; Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breaches of the city of David his father. And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph. And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they, two were alone in the field; And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces; and he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Behold I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee."
What an announcement ten out of the twelve tribes to Jeroboam, the servant. "But he shall have one tribe," for so God calls it, "for my servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel; because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand; but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant's sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there."
What mercy! "a light always." Reduced greatly reduced in the extent and glory of the kingdom, but with this most marked difference, compared with the ten tribes the much larger part that passed to the other they would shift their loads from time to time, and after having continual changes in the family that governed they had one after another rising up. If it was a rebellious servant that it began with, it would not end with him, but many a rebellious servant would rise up against the king of Israel, and so the dynasty would be changed over and over and over again. Not so with Judah. Even though reduced to what God calls but one tribe, in order to put in the strongest possible way this utter diminution of their glory, nevertheless there the light shall be always. Such was the merciful, but at the same time, most righteous dealing of the Jehovah God of Israel.
And soon, too, the word takes effect. Solomon dies. Rehoboam comes and is himself the witness of the truth of his father's word that the father might heap up riches without end to leave to a son, and who knows but what he will be a fool? And Rehoboam was a fool in the strictest sense of the word. I do not of course mean by that mere idiocy, for such are a matter of compassion; but there are many fools that are fools in a very much more culpable sense than idiots. They are those persons who have sense enough and ought to use it aright, but persons who pervert whatever they have, not only to their own mischief, but to the trouble of those who ought most of all to be the objects of their care; for there is no king that rightly governs unless he holds his kingdom from the Lord, and more particularly a king of Israel, who had to do with Jehovah's people.
And this was the thing that filled David's heart spite of many a fault in him. He felt that it was God's people that was entrusted to him, and this alone was at the bottom of his dependence upon God. For who was he? He needed God who was sufficient for such a thing. God alone could guide in the keeping of His people. But Rehoboam was the foolish son of the wise father, but of a wise father whose last days were clouded with darkness and with guilt, and who now is to reap bitter results in his family and is only spared by the grace of God from utter destruction. Rehoboam then, it is said, reigned in his father's stead. "And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king." The very first word shows the state of the king and the state of the people. Why to Shechem? What brought them there? What business had they there? Why not come to Jerusalem? When David was coming to the throne the tribes of Israel came to Hebron because Hebron was where the king lived. It was the king's chief city, where he had reigned before he reigned in Jerusalem, and the people came, as became them, to the king. Rehoboam heard that the foundations were being loosened and about to be destroyed for the king goes to Shechem. It was there that the people chose to go, and there the king perforce follows. He was a fool; he did not understand how to reign; he did not own his place from God.
"He went to Shechem, for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king." That is the reason of it. It was not that God had made Shechem the centre or the right place for king or people, but evidently the people chose to go there, and Rehoboam followed them, and that was the way in which his reign began. It was an ominous beginning, but it was a beginning remarkably suited to the character of Rehoboam. Where Rehoboam ought to have been firm he was loose, and where he ought to have been yielding he was obstinate; and these two things unfit any man to govern, for the grand secret of governing well is always knowing when to be firm and when to yield, and to do so in the fear of God with a perfect certainty of what is a divine principle, and there to be as firm as a rock; and to know, on the other hand, what is merely an indifferent thing, and there to be as yielding as possible.
Now it was not so with Rehoboam. "He went to Shechem, for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king." There was not now an association of divine grace, or truth, or purpose, or any other thing at Shechem; it was merely that Israel went there and he followed; he went there too. "And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt), that they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous "You see the rebellious spirit from the very beginning. It is now in their language, as it was in their act before. "Now therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee. And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed. And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people? And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever."
It was not the noblest ground it is true. It was not the ground that would have left him in both liberty and responsibility. That would be the true ground I need not tell you, beloved brethren, and it ought to have been the ground if he would be a servant of Jehovah if he would serve Jehovah in watching over the best interests of Jehovah's people. But said they according to their measure, "If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever." It was prudence, it was good policy. I could not say there was faith in it but there was good policy in it, as far as that went. "But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, which stood before him. And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."
His days were numbered the days of the kingdom of Rehoboam. "So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day." He was in the plot, he was the one that well knew what the prophecy was, and now there was an opportunity of taking advantage of it. This is not the only connection you will find of Rehoboam with Shechem. "And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him; And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from Jehovah, that he might perform his saying, which Jehovah spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat." Did that excuse Jeroboam? This is a very important principle that you will find constantly in the word of God. A prophecy is in no way a sanction of what is predicted. Prophecy takes in the most abominable acts that have ever been done by the proud, corrupt, or murderous, will of man.
Prophecy therefore is in no wise a sanction of what is predicted, but nevertheless to a crafty and ambitious man as Jeroboam was, it gave the hint, and it gave him confidence to go on according to what was in his own heart. He therefore soon gives the word. "So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them, Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute." But this only became the overt occasion for the rebellion to display itself. "And all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day." And that rebellion was never healed. Alas we shall find greater abominations than this, but thus the bitter fruits of evil were beginning to show themselves; and he that had sown the wind must reap the whirlwind.
"And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only."
Rehoboam wants to fight. It was in vain. God had given away ten parts out of the kingdom and God would not sanction that the man who is himself guilty should fight even against the guilty. God had not given them a king of the house of David in order that they might fight against Israel. "Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They harkened therefore to the word of Jehovah and returned to depart, according to the word of Jehovah."
And what does Jeroboam? In the 25th verse we are told that he built Shechem. That was the place that he made to be his central spot. "Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein: and went out from thence, and built Penuel." But Jeroboam considers.
"Jeroboam said in heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David. If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah." He was afraid that if he allowed his subjects to go up to Jerusalem they would bethink themselves of their old king bethink themselves of the grand purposes of God connected with Jerusalem What does he do then? He devises a religion out of his own head. "Whereupon the king took counsel and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt."
He put it upon the ground of bringing religion to their doors, of helping his people to a religion that would not be too costly or too difficult, in fact, was only seeking to make religion subserve his policy. Accordingly, he did this knowing well that it is impossible for a kingdom more particularly Israel God's people to be strong in the earth, where there is not the owning of God where there is not the owning of God blended with the government so that there should not be two contrary authorities or, possibly, contrary authorities in the kingdom. For in fact the stronger of the two for the conscience is religion and not civil obedience.
In order therefore to confirm the strength of his people, he makes the religion to be the religion of the kingdom. That is, he makes both the polity and the religion to flow from the same head the same will and for the same great ends of consolidating his authority. Hence therefore he thinks of religion. And what does he go to? Not the blotting out of Jehovah: that was not the form that it took; but the incorporating of the most ancient religious associations which he could think of and which would suit his purpose. And he goes to a very great antiquity not the antiquity, it is true, of that which God had given, but an antiquity that immediately followed; not the antiquity of the tables of stone, or the statutes and judgments of Israel either, but the antiquity of the golden calves. This is what he bethought himself of. "And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi."
The reason of Dan being the one that was chiefly cultivated was this: it was at the greatest distance from Jerusalem. Bethel was rather too near. A dozen miles or so might have exposed them no doubt, as he would have thought, to the temptation of Jerusalem, so Dan was the one. Although there were the two, Dan was the one that was chiefly courted. But he was not satisfied with this. He made a house of high places in imitation of the temple, and he made priests of the lowest of the people which were not of the sons of Levi.
But further, "Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made; and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar." For why not, Jeroboam? Solomon had done so. "So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el, the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which," as Scripture says so graphically, "he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel; and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense" (1 Kings 12:32-33).
But God was not wanting to give a testimony even to this wicked king (1 Kings 13:1-34). "And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of Jehovah unto Beth-el: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of Jehovah, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith Jehovah; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee" the grand vindication of God against the wicked religion of Jeroboam! "And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which Jehovah hath spoken." That prophecy might await its accomplishment in due time, but there is a present sign given, as God constantly does a present pledge of a future accomplishment. "Behold the altar shall be rent and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out." The moment Jeroboam hears this he wants the man arrested. He puts forth his hand from the altar, saying, "Lay hold of him," but the power of God was with the word of God. "And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of Jehovah. And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of Jehovah thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again."
Thus it is not only that we find the chastening of God's people for their good, but the punishment of the wicked, at any rate, for their warning to break down their proud will; and so it was with Jeroboam. "The man of God besought Jehovah and the king's hand was restored to him again, and became as it was before"; but it left the king as he was before. There was no bending of his heart to the Lord. Nevertheless the king could not but be civil, and so he says to the man of God, "Come home with me and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward."
This brings out a principle of the deepest moment for you and for me, beloved friends. "And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: for so was it charged me by the word of Jehovah, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest." And no wonder. Here was Jehovah slighted. Where? Among the Gentiles? That were no wonder. Among His own people direct apostasy from the Lord God of Israel. Here was a man that went forth in the strength of the word of the Lord. Absolute separation was therefore enjoined, and eating and drinking in all ages have been most justly regarded as the sign of fellowship. It may be as in the most solemn way fellowship between God's people and the Lord Himself at His own table; but even in other lesser ways eating and drinking are not so slight as man supposes. "With such an one no not to eat." Who? A man that is called a brother. If an unbeliever bid you, even supposing the unbeliever might be the worst man in the world, you are free to go, provided you believe that God has a mission for you an object. Supposing it was the man's soul nothing more important in its way you are free to go to the very worst on the face of the earth if you can serve God by going. You had better be sure of that first. But there is another thing, and that is, suppose a man that is called a brother is living in wickedness, "with such an one no not to eat." This does not mean the Lord's table; it means the common ordinary table. It means that there is not to be a sign of such fellowship as this fellowship in ordinary life because one of the most important means of dealing with the conscience of one that is called a brother is not merely separation from him at the table of the Lord, but it is intended to govern all one's ordinary social life with him. Not with the world; there is no greater folly than putting the world under discipline; but there is nothing more important in the church of God than walking in holy discipline, not merely at the table of the Lord, but at all other times.
I know that the world makes light of this, and counts it extremely uncharitable; and I am aware, too, that it has been so abominably perverted by popery that one can understand why most Protestants are rather alarmed at anything that is so close and trenchant; but nevertheless it does not become those that value the word of the Lord to shrink from the danger, and I think that there cannot be a doubt that what I am saying is correct as to the 5th of the 1st Corinthians. I know that some apply it to the Lord's table. I will just give one or two reasons that are decisive. First, there would be no sense in speaking of a man that is called a brother only; no sense in saying that he is not a man of the world because there could not be a question about eating the Lord's Supper with him. The question might arise with a brother, no doubt. But in speaking of an erring Christian "no not to eat" means that fellowship is not to take place in so little a thing as to eat. "Not so much as to eat," meaning that it was a very small thing, and so it is a small thing to take an ordinary meal. Who could suppose the Holy Ghost treating the Lord's Supper as a very little thing? Why there is nothing of more importance on earth, so that I am perfectly persuaded "no not to eat" means so small a thing as to eat, which at once shows that the meaning is in no way the Lord's Supper. The Spirit of God never could treat that as a small matter. No, it means an ordinary meal.
I am not now speaking of relatives, because that modifies the thing. Supposing, for instance, a Christian person had a heathen father or mother. Well he is bound to show them reverence, even though they were heathens; and so with other relationships in life. Take, for instance, the wife of a man who perhaps was a despiser of the name of the Lord. She must behave properly as a wife. She is not absolved from that relationship. She is in it. Now that she is in it she is bound to glorify God in it. But where the scripture speaks so peremptorily as I have been now describing, it is where there is freedom. This is jealousy for the Lord that we should not err in an act that might seem open to us, because it was a slight one. It is jealousy that we might not forget the glory of the Lord in seeking also to arouse the conscience of him who evidently has fallen into such grievous sin.
So, then, the man of God was put upon this as the point of honour for a man of faith. He was not to eat bread or drink water, or even to go the way he came. He was evidently to pass through the land, not to be as one that was even repeating his footprints in the path which he had trodden before, but he was to go through it as one that had a mission to perform, and to have done with it. This was God's purpose in it. It was a most marked and solemn token, too, because it was meant to be a testimony, and therefore he was not to repeat it merely to the same persons who had seen it, but it was that others should see it too. This man of God was to pass through the land that was now apostate. And this, beloved friends, is of very great moment to us to bear in mind, as we have to do now with a most guilty state of Christendom. A very large part of Christendom is in a state of idolatry. Perhaps we do not see so much of it in these lands, yet it is increasing habitually, and it takes the shape of apostasy more particularly where there are Protestants; where those that came out of idolatry are going back to it in any form. It may begin in very trifling matters; it may show itself in little ornaments about the person, but what Satan means is not ornament but idolatry, and what Satan will accomplish by it is idolatry, and it is a very small thing which scripture shows most clearly that both the Jews, who are, apparently, the greatest enemies of idolatry in the world, and Christendom, who ought to have been altogether above idolatry, will go straight back into downright idolatry. Scripture is perfectly plain as to this, so the Lord told the Jews that the unclean spirit should return. That means the spirit of idolatry; and to return not as he formerly was alone but return with seven other spirits worse than himself. Antichristianism the worship of a man as God will accompany the idolatry of the last days, and this in Israel. And neither more nor less than this is what is taught in the 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians as to Christendom. For what is the meaning of apostasy, and what is the meaning of the man of sin that is to set himself up, and that is to be worshipped? Not so is it with the revelation which strongly speaks of their worshipping gods of gold and silver and brass that could not see and hear and so on. This is not the Jews only, but Gentiles also, and Gentiles that once bore the name of Christ and are so much the worse for that.
But although these are the extremer things, there are other things now, for this is what we are called upon as Christians. The world itself will see when things come out so plainly, though there will be no power to resist, for all the motives of man and all the prosperity of men and all the countenance of the world will depend upon persons acquiescing, and men will not endure the dissent from it, and those that give a testimony will be intolerable. And, therefore, beloved friends, it is now our place to judge these things (that will be) in their principles not merely in the open result that will be by and bye. But there is the working now of what will lead to that, and the only security is Christ, and the way in which Christ practically works is in the obedience to the word of God.
This was what the man of God, then, was called to the most decided separation from the apostate people, and this because being the people of God they were now idolaters. But "there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel" ah! these old prophets are dangerous people. "Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass, and he rode thereon, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak."
He was not told to sit under an oak. There was the beginning of it. There was his first failure, and there is no failure there is no ruin that takes place at one step. There is always a departure from the word of the Lord which exposes us to the power of the devil, and it is not first, I repeat, Satan's power. It is first our own failure, our own sin, our own disobedience. He was sitting, then. He had been told that he was not to return by the same way that he came. He was evidently to get away as fast as possible. A man that is forbidden to eat and drink was not intended to sit under a tree. But this old prophet found him sitting under an oak, "and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah?" Nothing could be apparently a more thorough recognition of his mission and of his work from God. He was a servant of the most high God that had, no doubt, come to show them the right way. There was great respect. "And he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place. For it was said to me by the word of Jehovah, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest."
He does not now come in the same power. When he came it was not merely so. It is a stronger expression. But, however, I will not dwell upon that now. "Thou shalt eat no bread," he repeats as before, "nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest." "He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of Jehovah saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water." And there his testimony was broken his sword utterly broken in his hand for it was not merely a word that he was called to, but to deeds, and men will care little for your word if you do not show them by deed that you feel that word which you would fain press upon them. There is nothing that men will not bear you to say if you do not act it out; for this it is that always troubles, not only the world, but still more the old prophets for they are the people that feel. The old prophet could not bear the fact, for if this was the case with the man of God where was the old prophet? And it is not said that he was a false prophet; and the issue of the story would rather seem to show the contrary. But the old prophet was determined to try the man of God and see whether he could not make him as unfaithful as himself, for that is what would have been a miserable salve to a bad conscience. There is nothing that so troubles Christians that are not walking with God as when there are any that do; and there is nothing so important as not merely the testimony, but the living testimony, the walking in what you say.
Accordingly, this was the point that he assailed. "Can I not get him to eat bread and drink water?" So he pretends that he has a fresh message from God. What was the man of God about? Does God say and unsay? If it were so we should have no standard whatever, no certainty, and what would become of the poor children if there were such a thing. I know that unbelief constantly says it, and tries to make the Bible contradict itself, but then those who do so are guilty; and so the old prophet was guilty of lying "he lied unto him." Nevertheless, the man of God listened. He had sat under the oak and was found by the old prophet there. He listened to the old prophet, and parleyed with him. The mischief takes effect. The man of God returns, breaking the word of the Lord in his own person, but not without the hand of God stretched out against him. If the man of God was false to God, God would be true to the man of God and true in a most painful way; and mark, beloved friends, most righteously; but it is a righteousness according to God, for we in our folly would have thought, "Surely the old prophet is the man that is going to die for this." Not so, but the man of God. For it is those who ought to know best, if they fail, that God chastises most. Do not wonder if the same things are done elsewhere and pass, apparently, without a chastening from God, or without any very direct exposure. These things cannot be done where the word of the Lord is the rule.
The man of God, accordingly, hears now the word, and this word was given him by the old prophet. "And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of Jehovah, and hast not kept the commandment which Jehovah thy God commanded thee, but camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place of the which Jehovah did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers." It is not that his spirit did not go to the Lord. We are sure it did, but, nevertheless, his body did not come to the sepulchre of his fathers. The Lord did deal with him, and dealt with the body that his spirit might be saved in the day of the Lord.
"And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back. And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase."
What a testimony! It is not so that the lions usually behave. It was in itself a wonder. The body of the man of God lay there, the ass beside it, the lion on the other side, all perfectly peaceful. The work was done. God was just in it, and accomplished what He pleased, but the lion had no mission to do more, and there in the face of all men it was evident that the hand of God was there according to the word of God. "And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God." He knew right well whose carcase was there. "It is the man of God who was disobedient unto the word of Jehovah: therefore Jehovah hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of Jehovah, which he spake unto him."
And so the prophet goes and finds the ass and the lion standing by the carcase. "The lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass. And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him. And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!"
What a history! How true and how full of instruction, but how, solemn solemn to think of the man of God, but, oh! what can we say of the old prophet? What can we say of those that tempt the men that are of God and that have been faithful in their mission, to depart from the word of the Lord, and draw a miserable consolation to themselves for the moment to countenance their own living in habitual disobedience, in habitual ease where the man of God was forbidden to eat of the bread or drink of the water? There is nothing that so hardens the heart, and there is nothing that so destroys the conscience, as habitual disobedience to the word of the Lord not in gross sins, but in religious indifference. That was what marked the old prophet. He consoled himself that he had respect for the Lord respect for the man of God. He was put to the proof. He was Satan's instrument, and he brought out, no doubt, the weakness of the very vessel that God had made so strong against king Jeroboam. He knew he was utterly weak before the seductions of the old prophet. Oh, beware of such! Beware of those who use their age or their position, or anything else, to weaken the children of God in their obedience to the word of the Lord.
This, then, is the deeply interesting and instructive history of the true path of saints of God in the midst of that which is departed from scripture departed from the Lord.
Another thing that we learn, too, is that after this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way. He could entreat the prophet, the man of God, and the man of God could entreat Jehovah, and not without an answer, but it had taken no effect upon his conscience. There is no good done unless conscience is reached in the presence of God. "He made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever, would he consecrated." It was not only Jeroboam's will that was at work, but anybody's will, everybody's will. "Whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth."
In the next chapter (1 Kings 14:1-31), accordingly, we find the hand of God stretched out against the house of Jeroboam. Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick, and Jeroboam well knew that there was reality in this man of God, so he bethinks himself of another Ahijah the prophet. He tells his wife to go to Shiloh and to see Ahijah. "And Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people." She was to bring an honorary gift in her hand to present to the prophet, and Jeroboam's wife did so; and it is written for our instruction.
Ahijah could not see for his eyes were set; they were fixed by reason of his age, but God gave him to hear and gave him to see, too, what was unseen. "And Jehovah said unto Ahijah, Behold the wife of Jeroboam cometh." What was the folly of men! There was a man that could trust the prophet to tell him the future, and not to see through the disguise of his wife. How great is the folly of the wise, for Jeroboam was a wise man after this world. But the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God, even as God's wisdom is foolishness in their eyes. "And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet as she came in at the door that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another?" What a humiliation! "For I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith Jehovah God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over my people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in mine eyes; but hast done evil above all that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and hast cast me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam."
Abijah he was not to recover. She was to get back to her husband and to her house. "And when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward Jehovah God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam." What grace of God to produce some good thing toward Jehovah God of Israel in the house of the man that had wrought such things against Jehovah, and to show His mercy in taking him away from the evil to come! "And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin." And that was not all. "And who made Israel to sin." And so it was. Jeroboam died and Nadab his son reigned in his stead.
"And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which Jehovah did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess. And Judah did evil in the sight of Jehovah, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed, above all that their fathers had done. For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. And there were also sodomites in the land; and they did according to all the abominations of the nations." And, accordingly, God let loose the king of Egypt against Rehoboam, He came up "and he took away the treasures of the house of Jehovah, and the treasures of the king's house; he even took away all; and he took away all the shields of gold that Solomon had made," so that Rehoboam was driven at last to shields of brass.
"Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days. And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. And his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess. And Abijam his son reigned in his stead."
On what follows I make a very few remarks in concluding this lecture. We have here a signal turning point in the history of Israel. In 1 Kings 15:1-34 we have a long and deep course of evil and of the Lord's righteous ways in the house of Jeroboam. But first of all as to Abijam. "He walked," it is said, "in all the sins of his father, which he had done before him: and his heart was not perfect with Jehovah his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless for David's sake did Jehovah his God give him a lamp in Jerusalem, to set up his son after him, and to establish Jerusalem: because David did that which was right in the eyes of Jehovah." And God forgets it never. "And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. Now the rest of the acts of Abijam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. And Abijam slept with his fathers."
And Asa succeeds, who reigns a long while in Jerusalem, and he does what was right in the eyes of Jehovah as did David his father. He took away the sodomites out of the land. "Asa's heart was perfect," or, undivided, "with Jehovah all his days. And he brought in the things which his father had dedicated, and the things which himself had dedicated, into the house of Jehovah, silver, and gold, and vessels." We find the war continued, and Baasha king of Israel builds Ramah that he might not suffer any one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah. But it was in vain. Benhadad, the king of Syria, hearkens to king Asa. A sad descent in his latter days that the king of Judah finds his refuge in the king of Israel instead of in the Lord. Nevertheless, all goes, apparently, well for the moment, for God does not judge all at once. "It came to pass when Baasha heard thereof that he left off building." The house of Asa is concluded here. "In the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet. And Asa slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father."
Nadab comes to his end, and Baasha conspires against him and "smote him at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines: for Nadab and all Israel laid siege to Gibbethon. Even in the third year of Asa king of Judah did Baasha slay him, and reigned in his stead. And it came to pass, when he reigned, that he smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him, according unto the saying of Jehovah which he spake by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite: because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked Jehovah God of Israel to anger. Now the rest of the acts of Nadab, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel."
So then in this very next chapter (1 Kings 16:1-34) we find what I have already referred to the judgment following. The sovereignty passes out of the hand of Jeroboam. Zimri his captain rises up against him. Omri kills Zimri. Thus family after family takes possession of Israel, but God left Himself not without warning. It was in that very time that a great and solemn act was done according to the word of the Lord. A man dared to despise the word of Joshua, who had pronounced a curse upon him that would raise Jericho once more. It was not that Jericho was not inhabited, but to raise its walls as a city to give it the character of a city was despising God. The judgment was long stayed. A long time had intervened, but God had forgotten nothing. In these wicked days if he raises up one part the judgment is in the death of his eldest son, and if he raises up another part it is in the death of his youngest. His family paid the penalty of despising the word of the Lord. Oh, what a thing it is to us, beloved friends, to see how God maintained His word not only with the man of God, on the one hand, but with the open despiser and blasphemer, on the other. The Lord give us more and more to delight in the word of the Lord, and give us to cultivate a deepening acquaintance with every part of the word. Amen.