June 16, 2015.
Daily Reading: I Kings 10-13.
Background: I Kings 5-9.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The Queen of Sheba: As Solomon’s fame spread throughout the nations that were around Israel, word came to a woman we know as the Queen of Sheba, and she was interested to see if the reports of Solomon were true. The exact location of Sheba is debated amongst scholars, but suffice it to say that Sheba was a nation that was south of Israel. The Queen traveled to meet Solomon, and she brought questions with her to test his knowledge and wisdom. Solomon was able to answer all of her questions and tell her about everything she asked. She was blown away, or as the record puts it, breathless. She said that the report that she had heard of Solomon was true, but it had not even encompassed half of what the wisdom of Solomon actually was. She blessed the Lord because of what He had done for Solomon in giving him such vast wisdom and knowledge, and brought gifts to Solomon. Jesus references the Queen of Sheba in Matthew 12:42 when he is addressing the scribes and the Pharisees, telling them of different people that will rise up and condemn them on the day of judgment, because they had seen the glory of God in people less than Jesus and acknowledged the Lord, but the scribes and Pharisees had Jesus, God on earth, and they were not willing to see. The Queen of Sheba certainly came to see Solomon because of his fame, and left astonished.
2. Israel’s golden age: After the story of the Queen of Sheba, we get a glimpse into just how prosperous Solomon and Israel were during this time period. It truly was Israel’s golden age, where silver was counted as nothing. The Lord blessed Solomon with riches and wisdom truly beyond compare, and this is why Solomon was able to try anything and everything to seek satisfaction (see Ecclesiastes 2). He had it all. We will see in the next chapter that this was not enough to keep him from falling. We can take note of that to help us realize that even if we had everything we could ever want, our circumstances would not automatically fix everything we think it will.
Solomon’s downfall: Solomon had it all. He had access to anything and everything that he could ever wish for, materially speaking. Yet Solomon had one vice: a love for foreign women. When the children of Israel were to enter the promised land, the Lord specifically told them not to make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land or take their sons or daughters as spouses, lest they be snares to the children of Israel and turn their hearts away from the Lord to other gods (see Exodus 34:11-16). Kings were also told in the law not to take too many wives for themselves, lest their hearts be turned away (see Deuteronomy 17:14-17). Solomon didn’t pay much attention to either of these two commands, as he did the opposite of both. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, and a love for foreign women. Just as the law said would happen, this would lead to Solomon’s downfall, as his wives turned his heart away from the Lord in his old age to serve their gods and build high places to offer sacrifice to their gods. The Lord was displeased with Solomon, and came to him to tell him that He was going to rip the kingdom from his from him and give it to his servant because Solomon had not followed His statutes or walked in His ways. Yet, because of David, the Lord would not do this in the days of Solomon, but rather He would do it in the days of his son. Also because of David, He would not completely tear the thrown away from David’s lineage, but would give ten tribes to another, leavening one for the line of David. Though He was going to wait to tear the kingdom from Solomon until the days of his sons, the Lord still raised up advisories during the days of Solomon as punishment for his disobedience. Perhaps the most notable was a man names Jeroboam, whom Solomon had made the head of all the forced labor in the house of Joseph. A prophecy was made that it would be Jeroboam whom the Lord would give the 10 tribes of Israel to when Solomon’s son sat on his throne. Because of this prophecy, Solomon sought to kill Jeroboam and Jeroboam fled to Egypt, remaining there all the days of Solomon. He will be an important character in the chapters to follow. Solomon reigned over Israel for 40 years before he died, leaving his son Rehoboam to reign in his place.
1. Unwise counsel: After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam sat on the throne in his stead. This chapter tells a very interesting story about the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign and the mistake he made that lead to the division of the kingdom. When Solomon died, Jeroboam and all the people of Israel came to Rehoboam and asked him to lighten the burden that his father had put on them, and if he would, they would certainly serve him. Rehoboam took counsel with the old advisors that advised his father while he was still alive, and they gave wise counsel to listen to the people and lighten the load, that they might serve him forever. Rehoboam didn’t like this counsel, however, so he decided to take counsel with his peers, the people he had grown up with. They told him to assert his dominance and increase the burden of the people, in what was basically a move to show the people who had all authority. This was foolish counsel, but Rehoboam liked it better, and thus that is exactly what he did. This was all part of the plan of God to rip the kingdom from Rehoboam, for when Jeroboam and all Israel heard that Rehoboam had not listened to their plea, they abandoned him and set Jeroboam up as their king. The kingdom was officially divided, and would remain that way until each went into exile. Rehoboam mustered up an army to take back Israel, but the Lord stopped him from doing such, for this was a fulfillment of the punishment of the Lord. This story should show us the importance of wise counsel, and how much lasting impact and consequence one bad decision can have.
2. Jeroboam: Jeroboam became king of the 10 northern tribes of Israel, and he would prove to be a lousy king. Just shortly after becoming king, Jeroboam got sacred that the people would return to Rehoboam when they went to Judah to worship and sacrifice, so he took matters into his own hands and set up idols at Dan and Bethel, claiming that those were the gods that brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. Jeroboam did many terrible things in the sight of the Lord, and he would lead Israel into much sin. The Lord had told him that he would establish his kingdom if he would walk in His ways and statutes, but it seems that Jeroboam had little to no interest in that.
The man of God from Judah: Chapter thirteen gives an interesting story about a prophet from Judah who we don’t even know the name of, sent from God to Jeroboam to confront him about the sin that was being committed. There are several lessons that we can take from this story, and they likely aren’t limited to what will be discussed here. However, we will discuss four lessons.
The first lesson we can draw from this story is that we should take courage in the Lord, knowing that he will provide. The man of God from Judah was sent to do a frightening and dangerous thing. Confronting the king about something he was doing wrong was not something that would be taken kindly at this time. This is exemplified when Jeroboam tries to seize the man of God after he cries out agains the altar. Yet as soon as he did this, Jeroboam’s hand withered and suddenly his attitude changed. The Lord had provided for and protected the man of God from Judah as he was carrying out the will of the Lord.
The second lesson we can draw from this story is that it is best for us to heed the warnings of God. Notice what happens after the man of God from Judah left Jeroboam: nothing. The man of God from Judah cries out against the alter, Jeroboam’s had is withered, God’s power is displayed, but then the man leaves and nothing changes. He would later reap the consequences (see I Kings 14:1-18). Jeroboam was not willing to change His heart even when the power of God was tangibly displayed. We need to learn to change our heart and heed the warnings of God as He has given us.
Another lesson we can take from this story is that we should listen to God, not man, even if they claim to speak from God. When the man of God left the presence of Jeroboam, he was doing very good. The hard part of his mission was over, for he had already confronted the king, been delivered and not accepted the invitation to turn aside and eat, as the Lord had commanded him not to. Then comes an old prophet to the man of God, reason unknown, to ask him to turn aside and eat with him on his way back. The man of God refuses to eat with him, as it would be a violation of the command that he had been given not to eat or drink on his journey. But then the old prophet lies to the man of God, telling him that he had received a vision that told him otherwise, and that the man of God should come eat with him. For some reason, this was enough to convince the man of God that he should indeed eat with the old prophet. However, in the middle of the meal, the old prophet receives a real message, stating that the man of God had disobeyed the command of the Lord, and that he was going to die. And this is exactly what happened. Take note that God does not change. If He tells us to do one thing, we should not listen to man who tells us to do another (see Galatians 1:6-8), even if the man claims to be a preacher or a prophet. Just because someone claims to speak from God, doesn’t mean they are actually speaking from God. We should always compare what people say with the scriptures to discern if what they are saying is true.
Finally, God’s will will be done, and He will use whoever He pleases to carry it out. God used different people in this story to bring about his will, even if they were acting contrary to him. God used the man of God from Judah who would eventually make the mistake of not following his instructions and paying the price for it. God set Jeroboam as King over Israel, though he would do evil in his sight. God even gave the Old prophet a real message to speak even after he had lied to the man of God and diverted him from his task, leading to his death. God’s purpose will not be thwarted, no matter how hard we go against Him. It is up to us to choose who’s side we are going to be on, however. We can either work for the Lord, or work against Him, but in the end, His will will prevail. It would be an unwise decision to work against His will. Let us ever choose to carry out the will of the Lord.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 69-71.