We are all unmasked before God, though not everyone wants it or accepts it. In 1 Kings 14, King Jeroboam tries to get something from God by deception. He even uses his wife in the deception. You can’t blag it with God. He sees you. And there are consequences.
These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube.
Step into the light (1-5)
Jeroboam was king of Israel. Solomon had been king over all 12 tribes of Israel in the peak days for the kingdom. Solomon’s early years were wonderful, but he drifted away from God. The consequence was that the kingdom would be divided. While Solomon was still alive, a prophet called Ahijah told Jeroboam that he’d end up as king over the northern tribes of Israel. After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam caused the kingdom to divide: Israel in the north (10 tribes) and Judah in the south, with Jerusalem the capital city.
To stop people going Jerusalem to worship, Jeroboam put places of worship in Israel: Gold calves at Bethel & Dan. Last time we saw how a man of God prophesied against that new system of worship. God was deeply opposed to it, and angry with Jeroboam for leading Israel astray. Even though the man of God himself ended up dying in clear proof that God meant his word, Jeroboam wouldn’t change his ways. The gold calves remained.
But now, here in 1 Kings 14, Jeroboam has a problem. His son is terribly ill. What do people do when all else fails? They turn to God. More accurately, they turn to people who they know worship God. Jeroboam won’t turn to God himself in prayer. But he remembered that prophet Ahijah who told him he’d be king – that was very good news from an prophet and it came true! Perhaps Ahijah could give him some more good news..?
Clearly, he didn’t expect any favours from God. But maybe Ahijah could say something from God which would be true – maybe the boy might yet live. So he told his wife to wear a disguise. She won’t go with her “queen clothes” or helpers. Could it work? How could it? Read v4-5.
A lack of understanding about words
Jeroboam displays two massive misunderstandings about God: He lacks understanding about words from God, and words to God.
He wants to keep God in the dark about his own motives, and he wants to stay in the dark in relation to listening to God’s commands.
When you go to God, as Jeroboam’s wife did, you can’t go in disguise. He sees you. As you truly are. We’re all unmasked before God. His knowledge of you is complete. A total physical, spiritual and mental MRI and Cat scan combined – all the time, every day. He sees you better than you do yourself.
If you wish to keep things from him, you’re only kidding yourself. Jeroboam didn’t fool God and neither will you. He sees your sin, knows your desire, weighs your actions. But for those who will step into God’s light and come to him out of the shadows of kidology and deception, this is good news:
- He knows how you feel – even when you can’t find words.
- And he knows what you need – even better than you know.
- He knows what you’ve done (or what you’ve not done).
- Above all, he already sees you, so step into his light and be open with him.
Confess. Lament. Cry out. Rejoice. But all truly. The Lord’s (model) prayer has an order that matters. It first recognises God in his holy greatness. You step towards him – and you hide nothing. Hide no sin that needs forgiving. Hide no need for bread that needs meeting.
Just nice words, please
But Jeroboam prefers the dark. He tries to keep God in the dark, and he wants to stay in the dark too. “Some nice words from God would be good, so long as I don’t have to do any of that other stuff.” / “Just say the boy will be well and I’ll be on my way.”
He wants fridge-magnet verses to say everything’s ok. But the word of God is exactly that: God’s own word. God’s words are always warm with the breath of his mouth. Whether it’s a word of encouragement, or one of correction. You can pick up his words today – written thousands of years ago, and he still speaks – fresh, vivid, alive.
Jeroboam wanted to cherry-pick. But when God speaks, you must hear it all. A Christian who isn’t reading their Bible daily isn’t listening to God. I’d encourage two kinds of daily reading:
- Familiarity: Reading a couple of chapters each day to maintain your familiarity with the whole Bible.
- Meditation: Listening more intently to a shorter reading (maybe just 1 verse) and responding to God in prayer.
But step into the light; be true with God; be open to hear him.
Walk in the light (6-13)
Jeroboam’s reign is a classic example of a life of someone who has been greatly blessed to hear God’s word, but has then cherry-picked the bits he wants to hear and ignored the rest. A message comes from God to the prophet, the prophet to Jeroboam’s wife, from his wife to Jeroboam himself. That route takes nothing away from the content. It is God’s word to Jeroboam, no matter how many people are involved. Just as the words here are God’s word to you, no matter how they came to be in front of you; they’re alive.
So look at the three parts of God’s answer to Jeroboam:
- V7-8 God had greatly blessed Jeroboam with amazing privilege and honour.
- But, v8-9, Jeroboam hadn’t just come up with an alternative form of worship of God – he’d actually established a different religion, a worship of gold calf idols. He was even warned against it, but carried on anyway. So (v9) he turned his back on God. You can’t say “I serve God” and openly disobey his word at the same time.
- Jeroboam has trashed God’s word so now he and his male descendants will be burned up like trash, never to rise.
But wait! Why is God being like this? Isn’t Jeroboam at least coming to him now? It might be cloak-and-dagger, smoke-and-mirrors, but at least he is turning to God isn’t he? Shouldn’t God show a little mercy here?
Light in a hole; light for a path
Clearly, Jeroboam is genuinely concerned for his son. He is in a very dark place, looking for glimmers of light. He knows that God could heal – he has person experience of a frozen and unfrozen hand! And he knows that Ahijah is a true prophet of God. But here’s the problem: Jeroboam wants God’s light in a dark place, but he doesn’t want God’s light for his daily path. Jeroboam is turning to God in a classic time of crisis after repeatedly turning his back on God in times of comfort. Again, he’s been unmasked before God.
To a Christian, united to Christ for all eternity, whether you’re in times of comfort or crisis turning to God ought to be your instinctive first call – not a desperate last hope.
The Lord may well answer a last resort prayer. Sometimes he takes you to the very lowest point simply to force you into praying that prayer: He did that with Jonah! And although Jonah’s heart was still twisted, God rescued him nonetheless. Jeroboam learned the hard way that God is not his puppet, nor his genie. And he’s not yours either.
But, in Christ, God is your father. He loves you – he always has and always will. And you are to walk in his light.
- Don’t hang around in the shadows and ask him for light when you stumble.
- Walk in the light, even as God is in the light.
- So walk in the light by nature, united to Christ. Not a checklist of things to do, but a person to be – united to Jesus by faith.
Walking with integrity and godliness in work, in studies, in your family, based on your private openness with God. Integrated.
Light the way (14-20)
The word to Jeroboam’s wife is not a happy one. Three things are foretold in v12-16:
- The child will die as soon as she gets home.
- He will be the only one of Jeroboam’s sons to have a decent burial – the rest will end violently.
- The northern nation of Israel will eventually be exiled because of the sin Jeroboam led them into.
Then, sadly, the child did die when she got home (Read v17-18). Notice that last part: “as the LORD had promised…” The other parts of the prophecy would also happen (first in Chapter 15, then in 2 Kings 17). Why? Because the nation followed in the sins that Jeroboam had taught them – the false worship & idolatry. Over and over, Jeroboam is referred to as the standard measure of wickedness in Israel.
What we’ve got here is actually the stage set for the rest of 1 & 2 Kings: Northern Israel with bad king after bad king, all repeating the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat until they’re all in exile. We have moved very quickly from “peak Israel” under Solomon to the path to destruction one generation later. So as we leave 1 & 2 Kings for while, we’re left reflecting on Jeroboam’s legacy.
Because v19-20 shouldn’t be skipped over [read].
A legacy of doom
It’s a kind of formula you see throughout 1 & 2 Kings.
- After 22 years in the corporate world, my CV looked pretty impressive. Lots of experience, abilities and achievements
- After 22 years as king of Israel, I’m sure Jeroboam’s CV was pretty good too. Plenty of economics, politics, construction – all sorts of achievements.
- But for the author here, he just says “If you want to know about that stuff, look it up. But if you want to know the spiritual weight and legacy of Jeroboam, it’s here and it’s bad.”
As we reflect on Christians who have gone to be with the Lord, what do we celebrate? Their achievements, or their character?
- Older Christian, will you be remembered for your godliness, your grace, your encouragement to others? More, will you be remembered as an example to others?
- Younger Christian, you’ll be under pressure to get a good job, get a steady income, buy a nice house, get a better job, etc – and those things are obviously important
- But more important is your godly character, shining for the Lord and lighting the way for others to find him.
So, wherever you are on your Christian experience:
- Step into the light – don’t try to hide anything from God, but go to him as you are. Confess your sin and cry out for forgiveness; he will hear you.
- Walk in the light – don’t hang around in the shadows and only ask for light when you stumble in the dark. Walk in the light, close to Christ, united to him, alive in him 24/7.
- And light the way – whether you are young or old, work to leave a legacy marked by godly example to others, leading them to Jesus and life – not idolatry and death.