“And Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.…’ So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, ‘You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’” (1 Kings 12:26, 28)
When David’s son Solomon ascended to the throne, he got off to such a promising start. He wanted to honor God, and one of the first things he did was build a temple for Him. But later in his life, he let himself be led astray by his wives’ foreign deities. As a result, the kingdom was in trouble by the time he died. Certain people were rising up against Solomon, causing contention in the land. One of these was named Jeroboam.
Jeroboam had a long history with the royal family. Under Solomon, he had been in charge of the forced labor division for the tribe of Joseph. But one day, a prophet came to him and told him that, because of Solomon’s sin in turning to foreign gods, God was going to take the majority of the kingdom away from him and give it to another man. That man happened to be Jeroboam. God promised that if Jeroboam would take care to follow Him, He would establish his house and make it secure.
When Solomon heard about this, he wasn’t too happy about it. He tried to kill his soon-to-be rival, so Jeroboam fled to Egypt. He stayed there until Solomon died, and when he came back home, he led the people to request the new king Rehoboam for a lighter workload. When Rehoboam replied that he intended to give them the exact opposite, the people rebelled. Ten of the tribes broke away from David’s house and created their own kingdom—creatively titled “Israel”. For their king, they chose Jeroboam. Everything was happening just as God had said it would.
But then, things got bad. The people of Israel were still travelling to Jerusalem—which was in the other kingdom, now called “Judah”—to worship at the temple there. Worried that his people would gravitate towards Rehoboam again, Jeroboam devised a plan to keep them in their own kingdom. He created two golden calves and set them up at either end of the kingdom, claiming that they were Israel’s gods. The people went right along with his plan, changing their worship from God to gold in an instant. Thus the new kingdom of Israel was already doomed.
When God first called Jeroboam to be king, He told him, “I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:38b) In other words, God promised that Jeroboam would be the ruler of his own country. Israel would break away from David’s house, and Jeroboam would rule over them. But it seems as if he didn’t really believe God would keep His word. He was so afraid of losing his kingdom that he deliberately led his people into idolatry. He didn’t trust that God meant what He said when He told him He would give build him a sure house. He let his worries control him and, trusting in himself and his own ideas, doomed his nation.
How often do we do the same thing? We know God has promised us something, but as soon as things start going a little differently than we’d thought they would, we panic. Maybe we’re doing something wrong! Maybe God actually meant something else! Maybe there’s something we can do to help things go right again! So we start looking for the perfect remedy. Our own ideas seem so perfect; how could they possibly go wrong? It’s only when we put them into motion that we realize what a dreadful mistake we’ve made. Jeroboam didn’t mean to send his country into destruction; he only wanted to keep his people within his country. But he trusted in himself instead of God, and the result was disaster. We must always be careful that our own trust is in the right place. In every situation, we must decide whom we are going to trust—ourselves, or God. We have to decide whether we trust God to keep His word. We have to decide who is truly worthy of our trust. Jeroboam learned the answer the hard way; will we do the same?