When Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who was in Egypt heard of it... they sent and called him.1. This chapter reveals one of the turning-points in Israel's history, for it is as true in the history of Israel as in that of any other people that there are periods comparatively insignificant, and hours as well, that are full of great events.
2. It had seemed to be one of the chief purposes of God to make Israel a great nation. That is the promise made to Abram. The nation seems to have been essential to the carrying out of God's purpose in giving a revelation and establishing His kingdom in the world. Truth does not gather momentum while it is propagated by an occasional teacher or prophet. Great institutions, educational, civil, and religious, such as can be developed only in a great nation, are necessary to make truth mighty, to give it power among the masses, and that volume which sets it moving over wide areas. The revelation, which had been sporadic in Israel throughout patriarchal times, now by means of the great civil and religious institutions of Israel as a nation — prophecy and the school of the prophets, the priesthood and the great religious festivals — gathers momentum and moves grandly on toward the fulfilment of the promise made to Abram.
3. But by this Scripture we are introduced to a condition of things that is startling. The very chosen instrument essential to the carrying out of God's purpose to bless and save the world — the Israelitish nation — is threatened with destruction. There is something violent in the very tones of the cry, "To your tents, O Israel." Where now is the nation through which God is to bless the world? Can His purpose be accomplished by these fragments?
4. A study of the actual course of history among these tribes would show that there were many natural causes leading to this division of the kingdom. Rehoboam was weak and wicked. He who will rule others must first learn to rule himself. The young men, probably sons of Solomon's chief officers, who had been trained at the royal court and were designed to be the officers of the succeeding king, had inherited the bitter hostility that had long existed, especially between the tribes of Judah and Ephraim; thinking themselves strong under the new king, they were ready to advise and help to carry out rash measures. There was no lack of occasion for dissension on the side of Rehoboam. On the other hand there can be little doubt that the taxes exacted of Israel were oppressive. Ephraim had always been jealous of and restive under Judah's rule. "To the house of Joseph — that is to Ephraim, with its adjacent tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh — had belonged all the chief rulers of Israel, down to the time of David: Joshua, the conqueror; Deborah, the prophetess; Gideon, the one regal spirit of the judges; Abimelech and Saul, the first kings; Samuel, the restorer of the people after the fall of Shiloh. It was natural with such an inheritance of glory that Ephraim always chafed under any rival supremacy." And when "the Lord refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah," the old jealousy was intensified and ready to burst forth on any pretext. Jeroboam had once lifted up his hand against King Solomon, and Solomon had attempted to kill him, and had driven him into Egypt. Weakness, wilfulness, and impetuosity on the part of the king and his advisers, all of which served to intensify an inherited jealousy of prerogative, were the influences at work on the one side. On the other a powerful people fired with a sense of injustice, with a powerful, ambitious, and unscrupulous leader — these certainly afforded causes for a disruption deep and irremediable.
5. But the prophet expressly tells us that this division is of God.
6. What was the real cause? The record makes it plain, and reveals at the same time God, the long suffering and the holy One. It was not that the king had fleeced them, as Samuel a century earlier had told them he would (1 Samuel 8:11-17). It was that they had rejected God, as God told Samuel they had, when they asked a king (1 Samuel 8:6-8).What are the lessons to be learned?
1. God gives opportunities to individuals and to nations even though He knows that they will not improve them. Jeroboam was justified in taking possession of the Ten Tribes. It was part of the Divine plan. He had been so instructed. But Jeroboam departed from God, and he has gone down in the sacred history as the man that made Israel to sin. Rehoboam had his opportunity also both before and after the division of the kingdom. He wasted it wickedly. Whether we use or abuse our opportunities they come to us, and God with and in them all, to work out His righteous will through us if we will, and, if not, to abandon us and to find a way for His will and purposes through others.
2. We may learn also that, however essential an institution may seem to be for carrying forward the purposes of God, if it fail it is doomed. The Israelitish nation, in order to express the Divine will and be a revelation of Jehovah, must be conscious of its dependence on Him. But this Israel had lost. There is no trace of the confidence or of the sense of dependence that appears in the song of .Moses at the Red Sea. The spiritual hold on Jehovah has relaxed.
3. God works in the actual condition of things. It is a mistake to suppose that God must wait for either the ideal man or the ideal nation. The ambitious Jeroboam and the weak Rehoboam are alike His agents. The revelation which shapes the conditions under which the kingdom of God cannot flourish may be as important as that which shows the conditions of its prosperity. "To your tents, O Israel: see to thine own house, David," is violent language. Jehovah will find other means for propagating and perpetuating His truth. "The Arabian traditions relate that in the staff on which Solomon leaned, and which supported him long after his death, there was a worm which was secretly gnawing it asunder." The worm — idolatry — has done its work.
(B. P. Raymond.)
1. Israel's secession "was from the Lord." From terrible, relentless, persistent tyranny, after due but vain remonstrance, subjects have a Divine right to free themselves by revolution. "The powers that be are ordained of God," but no particular form of polity is so. Rulers exist for subjects, not subjects for rulers. The government of a nation at any time presumably deserves respect and support; but it may forfeit all claim to both by ceasing to fulfil its function as a blessing to the people.
2. Observe the pusillanimity of pride. Pride seems a source of strength: it is rather a source of weakness; it prevents one from acting according to his best light. Rehoboam must in his first calm moment have felt convinced of the superior wisdom of the course urged by the older counsellors. But the words of the younger men appealed to his pride and momentarily blinded him to their folly.
3. Consider how expensive such senseless pride may become. It cost Rehoboam far the best part of his dominions. Israel rather than Judah fills the chief place in the history of the next few centuries. Henceforth until the fall of Samaria Israel is ever upon the historian's page. Judah occupying a subordinate place. The history of Israel is that of a nation — Judah consisted of but a single great and splendid city. Rehoboam's pride was an expensive luxury — it cost him the richest jewels in his crown.
4. Mark the peril of disregarding the wisdom of age. Had Rehoboam consulted only his seniors, he would have taken the right course. This his pride forbade. Was he not king? Old men, fogies, the Bismarcks and the Gladstones, had carried on the State long enough. Like William of Germany, he would show what wonders fresh blood and brain could do. Besides, was he not getting all the light he could inquiring of all rather than of few? Many a youth has thus cheated himself into the belief that he was proceeding with great prudence, when in fact he merely wished an excuse for some darling folly.
5. Notice, that serving is the only way to win true fortunes. How numerous are the applications of this principle in the household in the workshop, in society, in government! If employers only treated their employees in this spirit, how it would assuage the friction between the two, to the advantage of both! If labourers always acted in this temper of love, what added strength it would assure to labouring men's organisations! How perfectly did the course of our Divine Lord and Saviour illustrate this! He came to win the world. How was it to be done? Had He been a mere man, He would never have sought to attain His end in the way He did. Instead of appearing as a grand monarch, ministered unto, courted, and flattered, He came as a servant, ministering ever unto others. Instead of being rich, He had not where to lay His head. Instead of courting the great and wise, He sought the poor and lowly. And He has in this world a Name which is above every name, at whose mention millions of hearts rise and millions of heads bow in loving adoration.
(J. B. G. Pidge, D. D.)
(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
Monday Club Sermons.The fault of the prince lay not in consulting younger men — for they are often most favourable to progress — the error was in allowing his action, as a ruler, to be governed by private considerations. The young man's failing was a kingly one, but also a very common one. The great landowner cannot see the advantage of yielding his game-preserve to the uses of hard-worked tenants. The manufacturer does not frequently pay the sowing-women he employs more than the market price for their labour. Power and wealth men are as slow to give up as Pharaoh was the Israelite slaves.
I. AN EARLY ILLUSTRATION OF AN ATTEMPT TO ADJUST DIFFICULTIES BY CONFERENCE. Though the people might not have remained for a long period loyal to the house of David, they made an attempt to adjust the difficulties between them and their hereditary prince. They did not go into open rebellion. They asked that their rights and their complaints might be considered Kings who exercise despotic power, and their defenders, are wont to base their claims on the authority of the Bible. As Englishmen, we point with pride to the Barons at Runnymede as they demand the Great Charter from King John. This right of petition, exercised by Israelites and Englishmen, is not one that has always been conceded. Charles II. endeavoured to secure the passage of a bill limiting this right of his subjects so late as 1680. In early Bible times we find free speech, free petition, and methods of arbitration. This right of petition must be conceded before any adjustments can he made between sovereigns and their subjects, or between men and their fellows. We must be willing to hear men's causes and defence, before any result can be obtained that will be satisfactory. Before conference can begin, there must be this openness of discussion. There is one phase of this matter that is very practical. Do we not often condemn persons before giving them any opportunity to explain their action? We nurse fancied wrongs and bear ill-will toward those who ought to be dear to us. Have we ever told them of our grievances? Are we sure they are aware of fault or sin? We say too often, "Let them find out for themselves." Thus friends are alienated and homes made unhappy. Christ emphasised the adjustments of wrongs between men as individuals. In the Old Testament, we have the same duty enforced by example and precept. We have, also, an illustration of a proper method of righting public wrongs. This lesson is for labourers and capitalists, for servants and masters, as well as for kinsfolk and friends.
II. THE INEVITABLE TRANSFER OF POWER FROM HIM WHO SERVETH NOT, TO HIM WHO WILL, SERVE THE INTERESTS OF OTHERS. The power of the house of the beloved David must be diminished when his descendants no longer served the people. Jeroboam, the rival claimant for the throne, was a man of few good qualities, but he professed to be willing to serve the people. He certainly attempted to please them, though he finally degraded them, as is seen in the subsequent chapter. Even into the hands of demagogues, power will often pass, with God's permission, from selfish and despotic princes. God calls the world to witness the humiliation of greatness that is supported by injustice. There is continually a redistribution of power and wealth that goes on in the world with the Divine sanction. Where men may gamble and become suddenly rich, they may as suddenly lose their wealth. A house or family founded on unrighteousness has in it the elements of its own destruction. Drink may ruin the son of the millionaire. His wealth goes to strangers. Often the transfer of power is sudden, and proud men in their own lifetime behold their sceptre "wrenched by an unlineal hand, no son of theirs succeeding." Power that has not lifted the world's burdens will pass.
III. GREAT REVOLUTIONS MAY TAKE PLACE UNDER GOD'S GUIDANCE WITHOUT VIOLENCE. We are told that this revolt was of the Lord. The people failed in their conference, but they succeeded in accomplishing a great change quietly. They had begun right to end well. Thenceforth the cause was in God's hands. Prayer is one of the means by which great changes are accomplished silently. God is always on the side of the earnest prayer, and any good that results is from Him. The history of the revolutions wrought by prayer must remain unwritten till the great day of revelation.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day... then they will be thy servants for ever.
I. THE FOLLY OF REHOBOAM. In the ancient, town of Shechem, a town that recalls to the Israelite memories of patriarchal limes, a king is about to be crowned. Solomon the Great has gone the way of all his fathers, and by right of succession the crown falls to Rehoboam his son. All Israel assembled at Shechem to make him king. For ages that old city had retained traces of its ancient dignity, just as Rheims, the old capital of France, continued to be the scene of coronations long after it had ceased to be the national capital. There was a time when Amsterdam was threatened to be deprived of its right of Royal Coronation, but since the severance of Belgium and Holland, the New Church here holds that honour undisputed. Shechem was full of representatives from all parts of the country. The king came down in royal state from Jerusalem. No opposition was offered to Rehoboam's succession. He was the only son of Solomon, and the people were prepared. to receive him as such. They had, however, many grievances which they wished to have redressed. Solomon had not been everything that a king should be.
II. THE PREROGATIVE OF SERVICE. A wise king would have at once acceded to such a request. But Rehoboam, although the son of a wise father, had not the common sense to do so. Wisdom is not inherited. "Who knoweth whether his son will be a wise man or a fool?" He was the king. The people had no rights but what he chose to give them. They were his servants, not he their servant. His will was their law. He knew nothing and would hear nothing of the rights of the individual. According to the mind of Jesus, he is the greatest who renders the greatest service to others. "They assert that the strength of a monarch's throne is service for and sympathy with his people." A throne built on such a foundation will last unshaken for ever. Oh, happy king to have such counsellors! Oh, foolish man to turn aside from them! The consequence of this incredibly foolish reply was such as might have been expected. "The work of two generations was undone in a moment." Under the leadership of Jeroboam, who promised them the reforms they wanted, the Ten Tribes revolted.
III. SELFISH AUTOCRACY. It is the old story of the consequence of selfish and inconsiderate autocracy. It is a lesson which makes but slow progress in the minds of men. The old heathen idea of forcible dominion is still largely the governing one of politics — that to be great is to receive much service, not to render it. Politics has too often been a game of ambition rather than a sphere of service.
(W. Thomson, M. A. , B. D.)
Christian Commonwealth.The honour of service is emphasised by Solomon in the title he gives to his father. He speaks of him by a more honourable name than that of king — "Thy servant David." Solomon recognised that he owed his exalted .position entirely to God. The most universal function in nature is that of service. Nothing in creation is serving itself, but every element is intended to serve some other. The flowers bloom in beauty, but soon serve us by transformation into seed. The winds purify the earth. The clouds carry moisture across all regions. The sun is regal in majestic splendour, but this monarch of the planets is, in reality, far more their servant, as their light and heat bearer. Above all, the idea of service is ennobled by Jesus, who as minister to His disciples was "servant of all." So are we to seek to serve God and man.
My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.
Homilist.These were the words of an infatuated fool — a fool led on to his own destruction by the "irony of destiny."
I. WISDOM IS NOT HEREDITARY. The question is often asked, as this kind of phenomenon comes under notice, how does it happen that great men seldom have great children? Does genius wear itself out? We incline to think that the gross neglect which geniuses manifest towards their children has much to do with it. Still, it cannot be denied that the descendants of many of our greatest men have been little better than "drivelling idiots."
II. CURSE OF EVIL COMPANY. We could not find a more painful instance than the one under consideration, either in profane or sacred history. It was fraught with terrible consequences.
1. It is a curse to the man himself. Do evil, unholy, foolish companions make a person happy? Does it not rather bring trouble, sorrow, regrets, and present inconvenience? It is expensive, humiliating, degrading.
2. It is a curse to the man's influence. Character is assimilated with those with whom we associate. And even if the evil influence does not produce evil results, the name of the evil clings to him who mixes with it.
3. It is a curse to his future. It will ultimately bring him ruin. No person was ever yet strong enough in his integrity to resist the united influence of boon cornpardons. Their influence sows a seed which will ultimately produce an abundant harvest.
III. STUPIDITY OF DESPOTISM. A despot uses his power for the mere sake of using it, and not to effect any good purpose, or to bring about any desirable end. There are many minor despots in the world — persons put into little offices, who love to manifest and to parade their brief authority.
IV. THE OVERRULING POWER OF GOD. He maketh even the wrath and the folly of man to praise Him. Had Rehoboam acted wisely, we do not know whether the Judgment might not have been still further postponed; but as it was, this act precipitated God's wrath and effected His purposes.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH REHOBOAM COMMENCED HIS REIGN WERE UNUSUALLY HAZARDOUS.
II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS DEMAND ON THE PART OF THE PEOPLE WAS MET BY THE KING.
III. THE FINAL REPLY OF REHOBOAM TO THE DEMAND OF HIS PEOPLE. It was nothing else, we cannot but say, than downright infatuation.
IV. THE CAUSE WAS FROM THE LORD. And this is one among many proofs of God's absolute predestination, and of the perfect freedom of human actions. The division of the kingdom from Rehoboam was absolutely certain; it was determined by God; it was positively predicted by a prophet of God.
V. THOSE POINTS IN THE CHARACTER AND HISTORY OF REHOBOAM, WHICH MAY BE CALCULATED TO CONVEY SUITABLE INSTRUCTION. And let me remark:
1. Talent and piety are not inherited by birth. No part of Solomons far-famed wisdom descended to his son. He was even more than usually deficient in common prudence, and in the capacity for government. A father may convey to his heirs the riches he has accumulated; but there is a nobler wealth, which cannot be bequeathed, and which cannot be transferred. Knowledge, mental opulence, talent — these are the result of individual application, of laborious industry, and of perseverance. Without these, no fancied gifts of nature can avail; and with these there is scarcely any extent of acquisition, which it is not possible to secure. But it is yet far more important to notice, that true piety does not descend by birth: Religion is a personal and individual thing; it is not transferred like property, it does not descend like any civil privilege. Religion is an individual matter; it is a change wrought upon the individual's mind; it is a living principle and energy within the individual heart and the individual nature. Talent and piety are not inherited by birth.
2. The king's rejection of wise counsel. The aged are not always wise, and they are often too cold and too calculating to be safe guides; and sometimes also their manner is unfortunate and repulsing; they are unamiable, they are irmpatient of the habits and feelings of youth, and they pronounce too magisterially to be very easily borne. But these are exceptions, and beyond all doubt, a multitude of years should teach wisdom. It was one of the laws of ancient Sparta (a heathen State), that whenever an old man appeared, the young in the assembly should rise up in token of their reverence. Reverence for age lies at the foundation of a sound moral character; it is not only becoming, it is not only beautiful, but it is essential; and where it is wanting in measure, it shows there is something utterly wrong, utterly unsound, in the moral constitution.
3. His arbitrary disposition. Instead of soothing, and gradually quenching the spirit of revolt, Rehoboam sought to cut down the clamours of his subjects, by arbitrary measures. The saying of the wise man cannot be too often repeated, "A soft answer turneth away wrath."
4. Rehoboam's imprudent choice of his associates. We cannot question that the ruin of this prince is to be ascribed to those whom he selected as his companions. Had it not been for the young men who grew up along with him, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah bad been undivided, and he had retained the crown. And, in connection with this, "Evil communications corrupt good manners." There is nothing, so far as personal piety is concerned, so far as the salvation of the soul is concerned, of so much importance as the choice of your associates.
(J. Young, M. A.)
Macaulay's England.But there was at the court a small knot of Roman Catholics whose hearts had been ulcerated by old injuries, whose heads had been turned by recent elevation, who were impatient to climb to the highest honours of the State, and who, having little to lose, were not troubled by thoughts of the day of reckoning. These men called with one voice for war on the constitution of the Church and the State. They told their master that he owed it to his religion and to the dignity of his crown to stand firm against the outcry of heretical demagogues, and to let the Parliament see from the first that he would be master in spite of opposition, and that the only effect of opposition would be to make him a hard master.
This thing is from me.I. SOME EVENTS ARE SPECIALLY FROM GOD. God is in events which are produced by the sin and the stupidity of men. This breaking up of the kingdom of Solomon into two parts was the result of Solomon's sin and Rehoboam's folly; yet God was in it. God had nothing to do with the sin or the folly, but in some way, which we can never explain, God was in it alL The most notable instance of this truth is the death of our Lord Jesus Christ; that was the greatest of human crimes, yet it was fore. ordained and predetermined of the Most High, to whom there can be no such thing as crime, nor any sort of compact with sire How, then, was "this thing" from God?
1. First, it was so as a matter of prophecy.
2. And, secondly, "this thing" was from God as a matter of punishment. God setteth evil against evil that He may destroy evil, and He uses that which cometh of human folly that He may manifest His own wisdom.
II. WHEN EVENTS ARE SEEN TO BE FROM THE LORD, THEY ARE NOT TO BE FOUGHT AGAINST. Rehoboam had summoned his soldiers to go to war against the house of Israel; but, inasmuch as it was from God that the ten tribes had revolted from him, he must not march into the territories of Israel, nor even shoot an arrow against them.
1. The thing that is happening to you is of the Lord, therefore resist it not, for it would be wicked to do so. If it be the Lord's will, so may it be.
2. But, next, it is also vain, for what can we do against the will of God?
3. Next, it would be mischievous, and would be sure to bring a greater evil upon us if we did resist.
III. THIS GENERAL PRINCIPLE HAS MANY SPECIAL APPLICATIONS. I believe it often happens that events are most distinctly from the Lord, and when it is so, our right and proper way is to yield to them.
1. A case in which this principle applies is when severe afflictions arise.
2. Sometimes, also, we are troubled by certain disquieting plans proposed by our friends or our children.
3. A very pleasant phase of this same truth is when some singular mercy comes.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
And Jeroboam said in his heart.
I. OPPORTUNITY. Seated at last firmly on his throne, Jeroboam was face to face with the opportunity of his life. It was a decisive hour in the young ruler's career. His future and the fate of a kingdom hung in the balance. Should he determine to serve God, work righteousness, lighten oppression, promote religion — should he prove strong to do all that Jehovah his God commanded — he might easily make himself the mightiest monarch, and his people the foremost nation of the age. God would then be with him. But if he disregarded these high ends, his kingdom would come to nought, and his name be a hissing and a by-word. God would be against him. Strange that Jeroboam did not comprehend this. No lesson was more clearly taught in the history of his country. Jeroboam is not alone in this fault. For nations and rulers to meet and lose such crucial chances is not at all uncommon. Not "once," as Lowell hath it, but often-
To every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever, 'twixt that darkness and that light.One immortal precept Jeroboam's case vividly illustrates — the only safe path is the right path. Our salvation from failure and shame lies in being absolutely true to our deepest convictions of right, unswervingly loyal to what we know of God's will.
II. EXPEDIENCY VERSUS RIGHTEOUSNESS. Before his great opportunity Jeroboam failed. The causes of his downfall were all the more seductive because they seemed to be justified by the soundest maxims of governmental policy. It would never do, he reasoned, to have the centre of the national religion in a foreign city, and especially in the chief city of the country from which his subjects had just seceded. They might as safely have the seat of government in the capital of a rival nation as to have the seat of religion there. If the people continued to go up to the prominent feasts at Jerusalem, there was danger of a revolution backward. The old ties might prove too strong. Religious scruples knight overcome political considerations. It was necessary to isolate the nation religiously as well as governmentally. The secession must be complete. To this end Jeroboam now devoted his energies. Having fortified some of the chief cities of his realm, he set to work to create a public sentiment favourable to his scheme. "It is too much," he said to the people, "for you to go up to Jerusalem." There was plausibility in this plea. Devices to lighten the stress of duty, or give a liberal interpretation to moral obligations, are apt to be popular. The new arrangement seems to have sprung into general favour at once. Following up the advantage thus gained, the king established two centres of worship — one at Bethel, a place already sanctified by many sacred events; the other at Dan, on the northern frontier. So, for mere political ends, the national connection with the religion which God had ordained was broken off. Jeroboam had made a fatal mistake. He had set politics before religion, chosen convenience instead of duty, made expediency take the place of righteousness. Disastrous consequences always follow a choice like that. Keen-sighted men are often short-sighted. They see vividly, but only at close range, like those party leaders whose foresight does not extend beyond the next election. But the immutable laws move relentlessly on to exact in due season their last ounce of penalty. "They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin," saith the Delphic Oracle. Thousands of Esaus are all the time peddling their birthrights for messes of pottage. For the sake of temporary gain, or the gratification of a present desire, or to tide over an immediate crisis, they put in pawn their manhood, purity, and honour, and mortgage their future to the Devil. This evil tendency is greatly increased by current sentiments about success. Success is a cardinal virtue with most of us. We worship the goddess of victory. Having exalted to a superlative rank the matter of gaining our end, the severity with which we criticise the means is inversely as the degree of success hoped for. The great thing nowadays is to get ahead — by honourable courses if one can; but to get ahead. Herein he is a warning to us. Whoever puts policy before religion, chooses convenience before duty, or makes expediency a greater thing than righteousness, has foredoomed his career to ultimate failure, and his name to certain shame.
III. IDOLATRY. One false step necessitates a second. Having adopted his policy, the new king must needs devise suitable means for carrying it out. An evil aim and end calls for evil devices. The results of Aaron's experiment, however, would seem sufficient to have deterred any one from imitating it. Common sense should have perceived the advisability of making as few changes as need be, and of introducing gradually such as were imperative. The religious sense of the worthiest classes was sure to be shocked at any radical alterations in the established order. But the king, having entered upon a wrong road, went rashly on. It is argued by some commentators that this was not idolatry in the strict sense, but only the worship of Jehovah under the form of a calf. And indeed the phrase may read, "This is thy God, O Israel, that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Be that as it may, Jehovah had expressly forbidden men to worship him in that fashion, for the wise reason that worship by the aid of sensuous forms invariably degenerates among the masses into actual idolatry. The making of images results in the worship of false gods. Fifty years later, in the days of Elijah the reformer, we find the nation wholly given over to idols. The worship of Jehovah had almost entirely ceased. Baal, Astarte, and Moloch were the reigning deities. 'Tis ever thus. Idolatry involves also the sin of disobedience. God had said, "Thou shalt not." This Jeroboam well knew. He ought to have remembered the hot displeasure with which in the history of his nation infractions of God's will had been punished. What a strange infatuation possesses men who suppose that they can please God while doing the very things which He has sternly forbidden! Yet men are guilty of this folly all the time. But the crowning iniquity of Jeroboam, for which more than for all else he was condemned, was that he used the public power, the Divinely bestowed authority of the state, for the furtherance of ungodliness. There is a warning here for legislators who legalise a nefarious traffic, give respectability to lotteries and gambling-dens, or load unjust taxes upon the poor and weak, and for rulers who wink at bribery, theft, and other wickedness in high places.
IV. DOOM. In his procedure Jeroboam overlooked a universal law. Consequences are inevitable. Effects follow their causes. Every road has its proper terminus, every seed its peculiar harvest. Choose your course, and you will come to the end of it. Sow your seed; you must reap the sort of grain which you have sown. Flesh and corruption, wind and whirlwind, spirit and life, obedience and blessing, transgression and ruin: these things go in these pairs. The two names in each pair are but two names for the selfsame thing. In natural matters, in physical science, this principle is everywhere respected; in spiritual it is almost universally ignored. Since the foundation of the world men have been doing evil that good might come, seeking blessedness by the way of the transgressor, sowing tares and watching for wheat.
(F. W. Ryder.)
I. THE MAN — JEROBOAM. The man inaugurates the policy. The idolater precedes the idolatry. The sin does not force itself into Israel, but is introduced by the king. Jeroboam was the son of Nebat. Dean Stanley says his mother had been a woman of loose character. The son had courage, ability, and industry. He held an important office, under Solomon, and "was known as the man who had inclosed the city of David."
II. THE PEOPLE — ISRAEL. The people followed their king. (There is a tradition that one family held out against calf-worship.) The national conscience was not sensitive, the national faith not vigorous, the sense of loyalty not strong, the spirit of obedience not quick. The people, though knowing better, were easily led into disobedience. They knew the law, and the history of Aaron's golden calves. Their eyes were open, but they lacked the moral fibre and high spirit that will refuse to follow a false leader in his wrong plans. Many of them must have surrendered conscience in following this apostate king. Let us not be too severe in our judgment of them. Hosts of informed people are being led in evil ways by modern Jeroboams. Men like him still frequently decide public policy, even in matters of morals and religion, and the multitudes follow even into the ditch. Conscience goes to the wall. The king, the government, or the party chooses the policy, offering plausible excuse for violating God's law, and the people follow. The result is certain. A nation surrendering conscience loses conscience. A people disobedient to God suffers His wrath. Israel did.
III. THE SIN — IDOLATRY. This evil surrounded the Jews. They knew the nature and results. God was training them for pure worship. The spiritual God was trying to get a spiritual people. He had always to resist a tendency to idolatry. His word is full of warnings against it and woes upon it. He knew its nature and deadly result. Evermore He tries to prevent it, not in petty jealousy, but for the love of His children. Worship is love. God does not so jealously guard mere forms and ceremonies. He does guard the love of His people. Worshipping Him is loving Him. And that is the deepest relation between God and man. His supreme expression toward man is the utterance of His love. Man's supreme response is love. Love brooks no divided heart. Love needs no images. "God is a spirit." Love is spiritual. Worship, in its essence, is love. He "seeketh such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth." "For two hundred and fifty-seven years this terrible indictment, 'he made Israel to sin,' follows Jeroboam and his kingdom through all the pages of this sacred record, until the kingdom was utterly destroyed and the Ten Tribes blotted from the map of human history, even as Moses and the prophets had predicted." Why does this result follow idolatry? Because right relation to God is the root of character. If that relation be wrong life itself is wrong. This is fundamental. Error or fault here is fatal. There are not two centres to this circle. Men cannot keep the first commandment and break the second. In idolatry men satisfy their religious feeling by a false worship which pretends to be true. The essence of it is disobedience; self-choice instead of self-surrender. It denies God by choosing other ways than His. It looks religious; it is the essence of sin. It begins with materialism and ends in polytheism or atheism. A close student has said: "Idolatry does not begin as idolatry. There is evolution down as well as up. The argument for image-worship is specious, and it is always in essential spirit the same. Every tendency toward materialisation is a backward tendency in religion. The golden calves which Jeroboam sets up as a representation of God lead naturally and speedily to the horrible pagan rites which come in with Ahab and Jezebel." "Idolatry in the ancient Church," says the Britannica, "was naturally reckoned among those magna crimina or great crimes against the first and second commandments which involved the highest ecclesiastical censures." The danger of idolatry has not ceased. St. John's message is still to men: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." The golden calf still exists in "covetousnesst the which is idolatry." It exists to destroy.
(W. F. McDowell.)
1. The wise Solomon saw the many abilities of Jeroboam, and made him, when a young man, ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph; he was a man of decision, discretion, industry and valour. But he was destitute of faith and devoid of that fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.
2. Jeroboam in thus establishing idolatry in order to strengthen the throne and consolidate his kingdom ignored the living God as a potent factor in the problem. The Divine element, which was the all-controlling one, found no place in his plans, his calculations or his conduct.
3. In the establishment of idolatry he did not openly reject the Jehovah of Israel, but corrupted His worship — with what far-reaching evil let Israel's shameful history. and ignominious end proclaim.
4. The corruption of the people proceeded, pars passu, with the corruption of the worship of God. The life of the nation began with flagrant violations of the Divine law and with an idolatrous worship, and the effects of these sins are seen in all the subsequent history of Israel. The national life was polluted at its very fountain, for the religion and worship of any people are the very innermost springs of being, development and civilisation; and so Israel passed from bad to worse with frightful rapidity and momentum, and her history is red with blood and dark with defilement.
5. Israel's idolatry led not only to her decay, but to her death. The wages of sin is death, no less for the nation than for the individual. The soul that sinneth and the nation that sinneth shall die.
(A. W. Pitzer, D. D.)
I. JEROBOAM'S DIFFICULTY. The difficulty was a religious one. In the northern kingdom which he had founded there was no temple — no place consecrated for offerings and sacrifices. The temple was the crowning glory of Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom, "Whither the tribes went up, the tribes of the Lord, unto the testimony of Israel." The only place of sacrifice, the only place in which the highest religious duties could be discharged, was in the rival kingdom over which Rehoboam reigned. The hour had not yet come when "neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem should men worship the Father." It was the hour in which every devout Jew felt compelled to offer the appointed sacrifices in the appointed place. No provision could be found in Jeroboam's kingdom for the religious wants of the people. He had to rule a nation (which was nothing if it was not religious — a nation which, in former times, had been ruled by Jehovah without the aid of kings) without any of the signs of His presenced no ark, no shekinah glory, no tables of stone, no altar, no priest, no temple. Jeroboam knew full well that these were essential to the nation — that unless these religious needs were met within his own borders the people would go up to Jerusalem, they would be found within the temple of Solomon. He feared that they would be fascinated by the glory both of the city and temple; that their hearts would be drawn thither; that the rival kingdom of Judah would acquire new glory in their eyes; and that, sooner or later, they would forsake their allegiance to him and his throne, and return to the dynasty which they had so recently forsaken.
II. JEROBOAM'S REMEDY. The difficulty was very evident. The remedy was not easily to be found. It probably gave the king much anxious thought, and, when it was found, was of the kind to be expected both from his character and antecedents. Altars were reared, objects of worship were devised after the model afforded by the sacred calf of Heliopolis. The cry heard long before beneath the granite crags of Sinai was repeated: "These are thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." The feast times were altered to suit the later harvest of the more northern climate. To borrow the felicitous historical illustrations of Dean Stanley, just as Abder-rahman, Caliph of Spain, arrested the movements of his subjects to Mecca by the erection of the holy place of the Zeca at Cordova, or as Abdelmalik, because of his quarrel with the authorities at Mecca, built the dome of the rock at Jerusalem, so Jeroboam sought to rear rival seats of sacrifice in his kingdom to keep the heart, of the people from Jerusalem, and bind them more closely to his person and his throne.
III. LESSONS SUGGESTED BY THIS POLICY OF JEROBOAM.
1. The inconvenience of the State busying itself with religious matters. The true policy of Jeroboam would have been to have left religion alone. He had been called to the throne for political purposes. After all, the root of the whole mischief is to be found in want of faith. Assuredly it was thus with Jeroboam. On two distinct occasions, by symbolic but most expressive methods, he had received the assurance that over the ten tribes he would be called to be king. He knew that "the thing was from the Lord." This religious difficulty met him, it is true, at the very opening of his reign. Why could he not leave it in Jehovah's hands? Why could he not fill the throne assured that God would provide for the Church? Why could he not believe that called to the throne he would be preserved therein, although the people did go year by year to sacrifice in the rival kingdom? It is thus in our day. Men are filled with all manner of fear if this union be not preserved. Why cannot we believe that God will provide for His Church, and that the more she trusts in Him and the less in men, the stronger she will be for her work?
2. The evil of preferring policy to principle. Policy lay at the root of Jeroboam's mischief Although he hid lived in Egypt, he belonged to the chosen race, and was ignorant neither of its history nor laws. Policy is a word too often on men's lips. The very commonness of its use is significant of the prevalence of the thought. To many minds it is quite sufficient to dissuade from a course of action to say it is not good policy. If right go with policy, all is well; if right part company with policy, right pleads in vain. The men who range themselves fearlessly under the banner of truth, who adopt the motto of our great English orator and statesman, "Be just, and fear not," are regarded as dangerous men. The cry needs to be heard, "Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait on Thee." The conviction needs to take strong hold of our spirit, "Thou desirest truth in the inward parts." We need to .listen to the words of our great Poet, words which sound like an echo of the voice of prophet and apostle, words filled with the spirit of Him who came to bear witness to the Truth —
To thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
(W. G. Horder.)
Monday Club Sermons.I. THE KING MADE USE OF THE CHURCH TO SERVE HIS POLITICAL AMBITIONS. Historical illustrations of success in a similar line to that entered upon by Jeroboam are abundant. The Roman Church has this sad record to face, of its having been a support or cover to all the personal ambitions that throb in a human breast. The important thing, however, is that, under all forms of church establishment or order, these influences are liable to manifest themselves. The dangers to the church arise not merely from the desires of prominent individuals to exercise undue control in ecclesiastical affairs; the false sentiments of men within and without the church are the sources of peril. Pressure is brought to bear upon the Christian community to declare itself positively on difficult or doubtful questions. Political motives often mingle with those that are personal in leading men thus to antagonise the church into a position favourable to their views.
II. THE PEOPLE SACRIFICED THEIR RELIGIOUS PRINCIPLES TO THEIR LOVE OF EASE. If a young man who has been taught secret prayer neglects that duty and privilege till bedtime, and delays still further till he retires, that prayer will not be a vital, faithful prayer. Frederick W. Robertson used to say, "Begin the day with a sacrifice." He rose quickly. He engaged his mind, instead of allowing it to wander in the precious morning hours. It was his habit to learn a verse of Scripture while dressing. Some vigorous mental and moral effort is necessary to bring one into a proper state for worship.
III. THE INTRODUCTION OF OLD ERRORS MADE IDOLATRY MORE ACCEPTABLE. Jeroboam took advantage of an incident in the early history of the people of Israel in setting up the golden calves. The old sin of the tribes, in worshipping the calf made by Aaron in the absence of Moses, was yet to bear fruit. The new ritual is made more acceptable by being linked with an old sin. The people fell again into the pit from which they were digged. The results, however, were those that universally followed disobedience to God's commands. Moab and Damascus were soon as near as Bethel and Dan, and their worship as acceptable to deceived Israel.
IV. A SERVILE PRIESTHOOD AIDED IN ACCOMPLISHING THE ENSLAVEMENT OF THE PEOPLE. We need not understand, by the lowest orders of the people, the worst of the population of the ten tribes. The king chose his priests where it pleased him, outside of the tribe of Levi. This would undoubtedly be a popular measure. Probably the king did not choose all bad men. It does not appear a matter of great importance to many in this day that a man be called of God to the ministry; it is, however, a most vital matter. If he does not recognise God's call upon him, he will not feel responsibility to God. He is only, or chiefly, responsible to men. We obey the master that elevates us. The priests, out of the lowest, orders of tim people, served the king. Men will treat lightly the word of God unless an inward voice has declared to them its sacredness and their commission in regard to it. The servility begotten of a feeling of responsibility to men expresses itself in formalism. It recognises custom and tradition as the law by which men are to guide their lives. A ministry that the world calls will obey its master. Let us have a consecrated and called ministry.
(Monday Club Sermons.)
Homiletic Review.Jeroboam sought to satisfy the people's longings.
I. MUCH OF OUR RELIGION TO-DAY IS MAN-MADE. This is seen,
1. In work done in the churches from wrong motives.
2. In accepting doctrines which are merely pleasing to us.
3. In modifying God's Word to suit the times.
4. In making our standard the standard for testing salvation.
II. BUT TRUE RELIGION HAS GOD FOR ITS AUTHOR. Only the God-made religion
(1) (2) (3) (Homiletic Review.).
(2) (3) (Homiletic Review.).
(3) (Homiletic Review.).