Jeroboam takes the northern tribes to rule over them. He is afraid of losing the people’s loyalty, especially to God, so he makes them “new gods” instead.
I know I must have read this passage sometime before but reading it today made my jaw drop! Jeroboam’s comparison to David is COMPLETELY severed for me. I initially compared his experience of being called to be king while a king was still serving and running for his life from that king to David’s experiences. His ‘crowning’ as king by a portion of the nation of Israel holds some semblance but his actions in our reading today DO NOT.
Jeroboam DID NOT want the people to follow the Lord. He wanted to keep them away from Jerusalem and especially away from the Temple that bore God’s name. His reasoning was that if the people return to God they would also return to Rehoboam. They would have no more need for him and eventually kill him for leading the ‘rebellion’ that tore Israel in two.
First of all, GOD is the one who ultimately tore Israel in two and it was the price of Solomon’s sin. God appointed Jeroboam. God allowed him to hear of Solomon’s death and return in safety. God allowed the people to set conditions. God allowed Rehoboam to act cruelly to the people. And God allowed Jeroboam to lead the people away. He could have put a stop to this at any time but His words of judgment had to be completed first. But He didn’t say they couldn’t reconcile at some later point in time. I truly believe He would have welcomed them back with open arms.
It appears that Jeroboam knew that too. He believed he needed to do something that would entice the people far away from Jerusalem AND God. Jeroboam made ‘new gods’ for Israel and set them up in places within his own borders.
He made two golden calves. Of all things to choose from and he comes up with what has already been tried! To add insult to injury, he credits HIS creations with bringing Israel out of Egypt. I wanted to reach back through time and SHAKE HIM! Did his parents not tell him the story of the first golden calf? Did he miss the part in the Commandments that says “No other gods”? Did he think himself SO important that God would overlook his actions? Did he think he was beyond God’s reach? Did he consider this broken off part of Israel as a separate nation from the one God called as His own? “Spoiler alert”: he will find out different VERY soon!
I don’t think Jeroboam even needed to worry about the people returning to God. We have seen time and time again that the wandering away and staying away was MUCH easier to accomplish than the returning with this group of people. God had to pretty much smack them upside the head to get their attention. And give them serious motivational incentives/consequences to bring them back to Him. There is more freedom to do as you please in a lifestyle of sin than there is in following God. The people liked that ‘freedom’ and would cling to it as long as they could.
I am MORE than happy that I wasn’t living in this time in history. Neither option for king is good. One ‘puts the bible on the shelf’ and the other burns it in the trash can. But God didn’t disappear. Just because these two kings weren’t listening to Him, it didn’t change who He was or His expectations of His people. God wasn’t about to give up on His people. Even in their sin, He is still calling them back to Himself. And He still does the same today!
Father God, THANK YOU that You don’t abandon me in my sin. Thank You that You continue to call out to me, even when I put my fingers in my ears and try not to listen. I want NO other gods in my life. I want to be Yours 100%! Keep reminding me of this any time I ‘heat my furnace to craft another calf’. Burn it away!