We as Christians have been blessed by God to have in our possession the Old Testament, the record of the dealings of God with the nation Israel, for our instruction and admonishment (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We find within its pages many examples of righteousness and wickedness, with much to be gained from each. Let us today examine one such example of wickedness, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat.
We are told about him that he was a servant of Solomon, but God determined to give to him the majority of the kingdom of Israel after the sin of Solomon (1 Kings 11:30-39). This was fulfilled, and he was given dominion over ten of the tribes of Israel (1 Kings 12:20). Let us now examine what he did after this, and how many follow after him today.
Speaking in His Heart
The first actions against God that Jeroboam performed is found in 1 Kings 11:26-27:
And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now will the kingdom return to the house of David: if this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, then will the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me, and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
Jeroboam does not trust in God that his kingdom will be kept secure, but must within himself attempt to secure it. He heeds not the words of Solomon in Proverbs 3:7-8:
Be not wise in thine own eyes; Fear Jehovah, and depart from evil: It will be health to thy navel, And marrow to thy bones.
We see today that the vast majority of errors propagated in “Christianity” have come by the inkling of the hearts of man, and not by searching for the will of God (Acts 17:11). How many doctrines are defended not by Scripture but by presumption? How often will people ask, “well, where does God say not to do it?” Or, “surely God would not condemn us for it.” Many examples could be given, such as instrumental music, “modes” of baptism, fellowship halls, benevolence to non-saints, acceptance of divorce not for the reason of adultery, and countless more. These errors begin when man attempts to think where God has not spoken.
The Calves, and the Acceptance of Tradition
The next sin of Jeroboam is found in 1 Kings 12:28:
Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold; and he said unto them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”
Jeroboam has created two idols, and has justified the practice by hearkening back to the error of Aaron at Sinai, seen in Exodus 32:1-4:
And when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mount, the people gathered themselves together unto Aaron, and said unto him, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him.”
And Aaron said unto them, “Break off the golden rings, which are in the ears of your wives, of your sons, and of your daughters, and bring them unto me.”
And all the people brake off the golden rings which were in their ears, and brought them unto Aaron. And he received it at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, and made it a molten calf: and they said, “These are thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”
This greatly displeases God, who condemns the practice vehemently in Exodus 32:7-10; why would anyone think that Jeroboam would be justified by this same practice? Yet he led Israel into sin by these calves!
Many today also follow after traditions, equating them with the words of God. The example of the calves shows clearly that traditions can be errors, no matter how old or how many follow after them. We must make sure that we are conforming to the truth of God, being assured that the gospel that we preach is the one preached by Paul and the Apostles (Galatians 1:6-9).
Adaptation of Authority and the Desire for Similarity
The next set of errors of Jeroboam are found in 1 Kings 12:31-33:
And he made houses of high places, and made priests from among all the people, that were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he went up unto the altar; so did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places that he had made. And he went up unto the altar which he had made in Beth-el on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart: and he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and went up unto the altar, to burn incense.
Jeroboam next changes the authority to suit his desires; for this sin God will blot out the whole family of Jeroboam, and Josiah will sacrifice these priests upon that altar (1 Kings 13:2-3; 14:7-14; 15:27-30; 2 Kings 23:15-19). We also see that Jeroboam establishes feasts and worship very similar to that in Jerusalem, in order to further persuade the people concerning the validity of his changes.
We see again many in “Christendom” who have made adaptations to the authority system developed by God, and it will lead to their own destruction. We also see many examples of worship services which attempt to seem to be of the truth, but vary in many different ways. In how many worship services are there praise teams, choirs, instruments, and other additions, and in how many “churches” are there kitchens and fellowship halls? Do these not seem to be following God? After all, they preach and read the Bible– but they have not conformed completely to God’s plan. Similarity does not mean truth.
Jeroboam the son of Nebat eventually perishes, along with his whole family (1 Kings 14:18, 15:27-30). The path he established, however, continued along, with successive generations of increasing error: these kings “walked in the way of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin” (1 Kings 15:26, 34; 16:7, 26, 31). In fact, we read in 1 Kings 16:31 concerning Ahab:
And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.
This development of error would also infect Judah to the south (2 Kings 8:18, 27), and cause almost the whole of the Israelite people to sin. Jeroboam the son of Nebat had begun to infect Israel with error, and those who later sat on his throne perpetuated the illness, to their own destruction.
Time would fail us if we were to demonstrate the development of error within “Christendom” today. It is very evident from history that the errors began small and progressively became greater; for example, elders in the church became an elder over the churches, which developed into one “archbishop” over many bishops each over many churches, leading to an “episcopal” governmental system foreign to the Scriptures but prevalent today. Our own times speak of such a progression: from the division over the benevolence to non-saints we now have churches professing to be churches of Christ with praise teams, kitchens, fellowship halls, instruments, and look in all respects to be Evangelical. It is evident that many have walked in the way of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat; truly, many have made it seem trivial to do so.
Finally, we see the reaction of God to the deeds of Jeroboam: destruction of his temples, calves, and priests (1 Kings 13:1-4), the destruction of the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:7-14), and eventually the destruction of the kingdom of Israel altogether (1 Kings 14:15-16; 2 Kings 17:22-24). Judah was cast into captivity for their sins, which found their origin in Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 30:15-21).
God has made it perfectly clear that He will not tolerate the adaptation of His system of worship. If He was willing to destroy Israel and to cast out Judah because of their sins, initiated by Jeroboam, how shall we doubt His willingness to destroy those today who follow the way of Jeroboam yet professing Christ? We do well to heed Paul’s words in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9:
and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might.
We must be diligent, constantly examining ourselves and our doctrine, staying away from the way of Jeroboam and holding fast to the way of David, that of following God and He alone (2 Corinthians 13:5). Many have followed after Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, thinking within their hearts that no harm will come to them. We can see the result of such things, for we see that there is little remaining of the ten tribes which followed after this belief of Jeroboam. Let us hold fast to God and His commandments, that such calamity may not fall upon us in eternity.