8 June 2016

1 Kings 12:25-31

“You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough.” (v. 28)

Psalm: Psalm 99


Jeroboam's time for taking over the northern tribes of Israel arrived when Solomon died. Solomon's son, Rehoboam, tried to establish himself as King over both Israel and Judah with ill-advised, heavy demands. Jeroboam returned to the land and had little trouble in being installed by the ten tribes "as king over all Israel" (1 Kings 12:20). Only Judah remained in Rehoboam's control.

However, Jeroboam's rebellion led Israel into a dark period of its history. Was it religious fervour for Baal, or more likely a political attempt to dissuade the northerners from going to Jerusalem, that caused Jeroboam to make some important strategic decisions? First, he established his capital at Shechem (verse 25), not without importance for the patriarchs, but the Canaanites before Abraham had cult shrines at Shechem. Secondly, Jeroboam made two gold calves and altars in Dan (in the extreme north) and Bethel (11 miles north of Jerusalem, on the pilgrim route) (verse 29) so that the people could worship these images, without needing to go to all the way to Jerusalem.  All images were of course forbidden by the law of Moses. Political and religious rebellions were reinforcing one another.

Who might redeem such a situation? In chapter 13, a "man of God" from Judah confronts Jeroboam at the altar in Bethel. The reader is thus introduced to the prophets, the only people who seem either able or willing to stand up for God's laws, whilst a succession of kings drifts away from the God of Israel.

For Christians redemption truly comes with the coming of Jesus, although this happened 900 years after the events in 1 Kings. In the Gospels we read that Jesus acknowledged the need for political rulers, but kept emphasising for all groups and individuals the importance of Godly behaviour such as personal integrity, lack of hypocrisy, care for the disadvantaged, a sense of justice for all. Underpinned by belief in a compassionate God, Jesus summed up the way to redemption as, 'Love God with your whole being, and love your fellow human beings as much as you love yourself'(paraphrasing Luke 10:27). It remains the Christian blueprint.

To Ponder

  • Can politics and religion ever completely mix? Or does one necessarily inform/influence the other? Why? Or how?
  • Which political leaders in the world today do you feel called to pray for? Take a moment to pray for them today.

Bible notes author

Michael King

Michael King is a Methodist local preacher. From 2000-2011, he was leader of the Methodist Church's World Church Relationships team, and was the vice-president of the Methodist Conference in 2012/2013.