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Fully Trusting in the Lord

Date: Nov. 16, 2014

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

1 Kings 12:25-14:20

Key Verse: 1 Kings 14:8-9

“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. 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.”

There are many things that we trust explicitly. What I mean is that we trust it wholeheartedly and not once do we question it. Our faith is never shaken in these things and we never have panic attacks because they might stop working. We trust gravity explicitly. We never worry about flying off this planet. We trust gravity to always be there with no doubt or second-guessing. We trust that day follows night and night follows day. We trust that day will come when we wake up. We trust that after a long day that the night will come. We trust that the summer is warmer than the winter. We trust that oranges are orange and bananas are yellow. We trust that we are going to be able to take our next breath. We don’t think about it or worry about it, we just keep breathing. These are all examples of fully trusting in something. We trust these things everyday, but there is so much that we don’t trust. Sometimes we are right not to trust, but other times when we don’t trust there are serious problems. In today’s passage, there are two people who do not fully trust God and his word, and the consequences of not doing so are pretty disastrous.

In the past few weeks we have witnessed the ripping of the kingdom of Israel into two. Solomon had not followed God completely and allowed idolatry into his heart as he sacrificed to other gods, some of which were pretty horrible. God said that he was going to strip away ten tribes from the kingdom and give them to someone else and that it would happen during Solomon’s son Rehoboam’s rule. God told Jeroboam, through Ahijah the prophet, that those ten tribes would go to him and they would make him king. The Lord promised Jeroboam that if he followed God’s laws and decrees like David did, Jeroboam would, too, receive a long dynasty. His descendants would rule Israel for countless generations. After Solomon died, Rehoboam went up to Shechem to be made king. The people came to Rehoboam and asked for him to reduce their burden. Solomon had put a number of them into forced labor late in his rule and the people didn’t want it. Rehoboam conferred with advisors and ended up threatening to make things worse. That decision backfired for Rehoboam, as the ten northern tribes broke away from the king’s rule and they made Jeroboam king over them.

We arrive in this passage after Jeroboam is made king, just like God said he would be. The passage starts out, “Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.” (12:25) One of Jeroboam’s first acts was to fortify Shechem and make it the capital of the northern kingdom and he also built up Peniel, a city in the north that would serve as a defense from an attack from the north. I find it a bit funny that Jeroboam chose for his capital the very city where Rehoboam was made king. I mean, it was also the city where Rehoboam lost the ten northern tribes and makes sense that way, but it all seems a bit funny to me. Nevertheless, Jeroboam’s first main act as king is military defense. He wanted to protect his new kingdom of attack, so he built up some important cities. It is a smart move, but unfortunately, it foreshadows another protective move, one that doesn’t need to be made.

Not only did Jeroboam want to protect his kingdom from outside attacks, he wanted to ensure that the people would not return to Rehoboam. He thought, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.” (12:26-27) Jeroboam was afraid that when the people went back to Jerusalem to the temple that Solomon built to worship the Lord, then they will realize that Rehoboam is their rightful king and return the kingdom to him. Jeroboam was afraid to lose what he had gained. He was king and he thought that it was his to lose. Here we see Jeroboam’s lack of trust in God’s promise to him. The kingdom was never Jeroboam’s to lose. It is God’s kingdom. God established Jeroboam as king, as we saw last week. It was God who put him in power and it was God who established the criteria of his rule. If Jeroboam followed God’s laws and decrees, he would be king and have a lasting dynasty. Those were the conditions, if they were met, then his kingdom would last; if not, then the kingdom would be taken. It is very simple, but for some reason Jeroboam doesn’t hold to this promise and fears that the kingdom will revert back to Rehoboam if the Israelites are allowed to worship in Jerusalem.

It is easy to look at Jeroboam and see his fear overriding his trust in God, but often, we do the same thing! Our fear clouds our trust, because at any given moment, our fear is right in front of our face, while trusting God seems so distant. Just remember what you felt like on the eve of the big exam, interview, project presentation or life changing event. I’m pretty sure you know what I am talking about. You remember at least one time. How did you feel? Was there a panic to get everything done on time: to study all your material, prep your resume, practice that presentation or preparing to ask that question? No matter what, we have moments of panic, times where fear pushes out all logic, and we scamper while trying to figure things out on our own. We don’t even think to ask for help and that is exactly what Jeroboam was doing. He was so freaked out about losing the kingdom that he tried to find every way to make sure that the people would not defect.

So Jeroboam had an idea. He wanted to give the people a place to worship without having to go back to Jerusalem. If the people didn’t have to go back to Jerusalem, then the kingdom would be safe in Jeroboam’s hands. He even played to their convenience. They didn’t need to go all the way to Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam had an easier way to do things. He created to places to worship: one in the north at Dan and another in the south at Bethel. These places of worship had altars to make sacrifices and these big golden calves. Jeroboam set them up to be representative of God, but they themselves were objects of worship. They were idols. Also, Jeroboam made priests from all sorts of people. If anyone wanted to be a priest, they could be. Then, Jeroboam created a festival just like the Festival of Tabernacles, only one month later. Jeroboam effectively replaced the worship of the Lord with one of his own making.

There is great irony here. Jeroboam was so afraid to lose the kingdom that he created his own religion and those golden calves. By creating the calves, Jeroboam stopped following God’s laws, which was the condition of the everlasting northern kingdom. Jeroboam was so afraid to lose the kingdom that he took action, and that action was the very thing that could cause him to lose the kingdom. Jeroboam didn’t trust God’s promise to him and he didn’t trust the consequences of walking away from the Lord. Jeroboam’s fear blinded him so much that he didn’t see what he was really doing.

Fear is strange that way. It blinds us and prevents us from seeing the truth. Through fear, we end up making rash and rushed decisions. We also tend to listen to people who we would otherwise never listen to, and we end up making some of the biggest mistakes of our lives. We become vulnerable and instead of thinking clearly and coming to God with our fears, we listen to the wind trying to scramble for solutions. What the wind says sounds good to us, but the reality is that the wind doesn’t really care about you. It has its own interests. The first sin committed by Adam and Eve was done because of fear. They didn’t fully trust God and questioned God’s love for them, so they listened to the serpent and ate the fruit from the tree they were forbidden to eat from. God had given them everything and there was no reason for Adam and Eve to not trust God, but fear and doubt crept in and they listened to the serpent who wanted them to be removed from God. They made the biggest mistake of their lives because they did not trust fully in God.

One day, when Jeroboam was offering sacrifices on the altar in Bethel, a man of God came up from Judah to give notice about Jeroboam’s activities. The man of God went up to the altar and started talking to it. “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’” (13:2) The man of God predicted that someone named Josiah would desecrate the altars by burning the priests’ bones on them. This would happen some three hundred years later when King Josiah of Judah came up from Jerusalem and destroyed the altar by desecrated it by going to the tomb of the priests and burning their bones on it. The man also gave a sign that the altar would be split open to prove that the prophecy was true.

Jeroboam didn’t like the prophecy and ordered that the man be seized, but as he gave the order, his hand shriveled up and the altar broke open. God’s power was displayed for Jeroboam for him to repent of his idolatry, fear and distrust. Jeroboam asked the man to pray for him to have his hand restored and the man did so. In order to try to save face and show that he was on good standing with God, Jeroboam offered the man of God the ability to come with him and eat and drink together, but the man utterly refused. He said, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” (13:8-9) God commanded the man that he couldn’t eat and drink anything while in Israel. A possible thought is that food and drink are often associated with sacrifice and to keep the man of God pure, he was forbidden to eat and drink in a land that was filled with idolatry. The man uses the word “commanded” to show the severity of God’s command. It wasn’t just mentioned, it was commanded. God explicitly and strongly told the man not to eat or drink.

The man looks like he is a man that is strong with God, but he too did not fully trust in the Lord. There was an old prophet who heard about the man of God, and he wanted to meet him. He had his sons get his donkey prepared, so he could go chase after the man. The old prophet found the man and invited him to eat and drink with him. Again, the man of God refused, but his words softened. He responded, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’” (13:16-17) If you look closely, the word “commanded” was softened into just “told”. The man had been very strong against the king, but now that that had passed, the man’s guard was coming down.

This is really apparent when the old prophet lies to the man of God and says that an angel told him to bring the man back to his house and give him bread and water. For some reason, the man agrees and goes to the prophet’s house. The man trusts the old prophet and disobeys the word that God had given him. God commanded the man to not eat or drink, but when someone said that an angel told him something different, the man doesn’t try to ask God to see if this is true, he just listens and goes to eat. Who do you think that you should trust? Should you trust God who talked to you directly or should you trust a guy you just met who may have heard something from an angel who talked with God? If you have a direct line to God, then you should trust that direct line, but the man didn’t even try to confirm what the old prophet was saying was true.

Many times, when we walk with God, we have times of strength and we can trust in God. Other times, we are weak and we don’t trust God. It is not necessarily that we are living in fear, but that our guards go down because we become complacent. We become comfortable with our surroundings and don’t sense a threat. When the obvious threat is there, we are strong, but in times of peace, we don’t trust that word as much because there is not a dire need to do so. We’ve heard it before. Christianity is strongest and grows the greatest when it is under persecution. When God’s church is under attack is when the church thrives, because the church needs to trust in God. However, in times of peace corruption enters into hearts of believers and we don’t trust God as much. We don’t have that dire need for God and lots of things start to sound good. If you look throughout history, it is when the church has the most power that it is the most corrupt and has the least trust in God.

I am not saying that the man of God was corrupt, but he was disobedient and for his disobedience, a lion killed him. The lion didn’t eat him or kill the donkey; it just stood by his body. It must have been a strange sight to see this lion standing there next to a donkey and a body that it killed. The old prophet grabbed the body and buried it in his own tomb. The man of God’s death was to serve as yet another sign that God’s eyes were on the northern kingdom and God’s words were to still come true. Unfortunately, Jeroboam didn’t heed this warning and did even more evil in God’s sight, and as the last verse of chapter 13 says, “This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth.” (13:34)

Around this time, Jeroboam had a son Abijah, who was really sick and he wanted to know what was going to happen so he sent his wife to Ahijah the prophet who predicted Jeroboam’s rise to power. When she arrived, she received the news that the boy would die when she returned, but even worse than that, she received news that God was planning to strip the kingdom from Jeroboam. God spoke through Ahijah, “I raised you up from among the people and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 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. 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. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!” (14:7-11) It was a bleak future for Jeroboam’s household. They would all die because of Jeroboam’s sin, and they would die in a pretty horrible fashion.

Instead of being a pillar for Israel, Jeroboam became a standard of failure for the kings. If you look at the kings of the north, each one mentions that they did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. He is the standard of sin. Also it is mentioned a number of times, that when a king is deposed, his fate is similar to Jeroboam’s. Their entire family would be destroyed and dogs would eat those dying in the city and birds would eat those dying in the country. Jeroboam’s distrust made him a failure and he became synonymous with sin and failure, much like Benedict Arnold is synonymous with traitor and the Titanic is synonymous with failure from pride. The unsinkable ship downed on its maiden voyage.

Not fully trusting in God is very dangerous. You can flat out not trust God, like Jeroboam and be filled with fear or you can just grow complacent in your trust, like the man of God, but both of these concepts takes us further from God. Now, I am not saying that we are going to end up like Jeroboam or the man of God. We are not necessarily going to get mauled by a lion for our complacency or our families completely killed because of our fear, but our hearts become open to idolatry because we don’t trust God. We trust something else more than God, but those things are completely unreliable. Golden calves can’t save us. The old prophet deceived and lied and trusting in him led to the man of God’s death. Trusting the serpent over God brought sin into the world and broke our connection to God.

We trust so many things in our lives, but most of all, we trust ourselves. We believe that the one that we can trust most is our self. We think that we know best for ourselves. But think about this; we lie to ourselves more than one else lies to us. We are not trustworthy to ourselves. Why trust a liar? Why trust the one person who has deceived you the most? Instead, we need to focus on God. We need to take our trust and put it fully in the one who has never lied to us. God has never once deceived us. What he says is true. We only have to put our focus on him to see that. There is a concept that we have to solve all of our problems. Our distrust of God has caused problems and many times we are stuck on putting out those fires, but those fires keep coming and coming. In our weakness, the problems never end. However, when we look at something greater than those problems, when we look beyond them, we have perspective. When that something greater is God, it pulls our actions into sharp focus. It is our attempts to quell the fires that stokes them, when our hands are busy trusting and praising God, it is like removing the oxygen that is fanning the flames, and the fires die out. When we trust in ourselves, we make ourselves into an idol and just mess things up even more. When we put our full trust in God, rest assured we are putting our faith in the most reliable person ever.

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