1 Kings 14 – condemnation of Israel then Judah
In these verses we are given a status update on the relationship of Israel and Judah with God. In both cases they are condemned for their action of mixed worship but in each case the mixed worship reveals a different heart problem.
Israel – King Jeroboam – v1-20
As the story goes Jeroboam sends his wife to see the prophet Ahijah to enquire about the future of the nation. The nature in which he tells her to go reveals a lot about their relationship with God. He tells her to disguise herself so that no one will know she is Jeroboam’s wife. Ahijah is a prophet of the Lord and as such is the representative of God or a mouthpiece for God to speak through to his people. Jeroboam doesn’t go himself but sends his wife and tells her to disguise herself so it isn’t known she is from him. Like a small child not wanting to go to their parents because they know they are in trouble Jeroboam is avoiding God.
Ahijah is forewarned by the Lord and has these words to be taken back to Jeroboam.
7 Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.
Jeroboam is condemned. He has not kept God’s commands, he has not done what is right in the Lord’s eyes, he has replaced God with other gods, made his own gods out of earthly things. The result is a broken relationship between the king and his God; God is angry because Jeroboam has not treated him as God.
This is the consistent story of the Kings of Israel. They keep replacing God with other gods and idols they make for themselves. God is meant to be there Lord, their guide for action, their help with decisions, the centre of their worship. However, Jeroboam and this his people have picked and chosen what they would like to do. They have replaced God when it suited them. Particularly when it comes to the making of idols which is really making something to rule over you that you can choose what demands it makes on you since you made it. An idol isn’t a God that might challenge you to live differently. An idol affirms whatever you want to do because it represents what you want god to say to you. An idol confirms what you already think because behind an idol is the desires of its maker.
In the midst of condemnation there is hope given to Israel.
14 “The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam. Even now this is beginning to happen
The Lord will make a new king. God’s condemnation of his people and even his punishment of them does not mean he will abandon them completely. He is constantly dismayed by their actions but he constantly provides avenues for them to be brought back. He is faithful to his promises even though his people are not. For the people of God the king is very important and determines their future. For Israel they will be punished for the sins of Jeroboam and the sins the king causes them to commit. It is with great joy that we now look to our King Jesus in whom we receive the benefits of him not sinning and whom takes the punishment for the sins we commit.
Who the king is determines the people of God’s relationship with God. Jesus is the better king in whom our relationship with God is perfect, not because we are perfect but because he is perfect.
Judah – King Rehoboam – v21-31
Rehoboam and Judah are given similar condemnation for their mixed worship. They say they worship the Lord but they have multiple places of worship. In one sense there is nothing different between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. There is one distinction made and it is repeated for us so that we don’t miss it.
In v21 and 31 the same phrase is repeated – His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.
Here is a reminder of the history of Judah who are still feeling the affects of their most famous king. In 1 Kings 11.1 it is reported that Solomon had many wives from many different religious backgrounds. Some of them were Ammonite. Although Solomon was wise in his heart he was still corrupted and thus aligned himself with many other gods via marriage. Judah is still feeling the affects of his unfaithfulness to the Lord.
Both Israel and Judah have a broken relationship with their God. They manifest in the same way but at the heart they are different. In Jeremiah 3.11 we see the distinction clearly. Israel is faithless and Judah is unfaithful – they both make idols and put up altars to worship other Gods but the heart of their disobedience is different. The distinction is found in Israel not really claiming a relationship with God. Jeroboam seems to fear God but doesn’t come to him. There is an absence of relationship – there is an absence of any faith. For Judah he regularly goes to the Lord’s temple (under guard for fear of his life) and yet he also goes to other temples and permits the worship of other Gods in the land. He has a relationship with God and with other gods. He is not an absence of faith but an absence of the purity of faith. They are the unfaithful bride of God the faithful husband.
The solution for both is Jesus. On the cross as Jesus is not faithless or unfaithful. In his darkness moment of pain he does not ignore God but calls out to him and speaks to him, even praying for those who are killing him. In his pain he does not turn to other gods, he does not stray from God the Fathers plans but is faithful for the benefit of his people. Jesus is the king humanity needs that we might live in the freedom of what he has achieved. With Jesus as king he sends his Spirit into our hearts to constantly be turning and orientating our hearts to the one who has saved us. In Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are moved from being faithless or unfaithful because when we fail we have a God who points out our sin and welcomes us back to him. Our minute acts of faithlessness or unfaithfulness are opportunities to turn back to the living God in repentance and grow in our holiness, obedience, and love of him for he is faithful to us.
Jesus is our better faithful king.