Divided KingdomMap of the Divided Kingdom

Recap of Chapter 14

Solomon, whose name means peace, found peace slipping away during the final years of his reign.  His son Rehoboam was to take his place as ruler over the 12 tribes of Israel. A large party of disgruntled leaders led by Jeroboam showed up at Rehoboam’s coronation ceremony requesting that he grant relief from the heavy burden of taxation and forced labor that Solomon had placed on them. Rehoboam rejected the counsel of the experienced elders and took the advice of his immature peers who theorized that bullying and intimidation were better leadership tactics than servanthood.  Rehoboam promised even heavier taxation and more forced labor. With one decision, the nation divided and its fate was sealed.

Only Rehoboam’s tribe of Judah remained loyal to him.  The other 10 tribes to the north seceded, took the name of Israel and made Jeroboam their king.  Instead of appreciating the gracious gift of God, Jeroboam, like Aaron centuries before, set up idols of counterfeit worship, leading Israel into idolatry.  God sent a prophet who warned of judgment for their idolatry and predicted that someday a king named Josiah, a descendant of David, would destroy their pagan worship sites (this was fulfilled 290 years later.) As a sign to authenticate his message, the pagan altar split in two and Jeroboam’s outstretched hand turned leprous.

This did little to curb Jeroboam’s pagan practices.  When his son became ill he sent his wife in disguise to the prophet Ahijah to inquire about their son’s fate. Though blind, Ahijah’s spiritual sight was 20-20.  He not only saw through the charade, but gave Jeroboam’s wife a message of doom predicting that her husband’s dynasty would soon end and Israel would one day be carried away into captivity. The message of doom was to be authenticated with the death of their son as soon as her footsteps crossed the entrance to the palace.  And so it came to pass.

God’s chosen people were now committing the same idolatrous and immoral practices that compelled God to purge the land of its Canaanite inhabitants in the first place.  God’s righteousness and covenant loyalty moved Him to jealous anger. Rehoboam allowed Judah to fall into the same idolatry as the North.  The golden years of peace faded further when God judged Judah by using Shishak king of Egypt.  He attacked Judah and carried off the all of the gold and silver treasures. Rehoboam replaced them with bronze, but the decline in moral and spiritual values was even sharper than the drop in value from gold to bronze.

The Lower Story is primarily a list of idolatrous kings who led both Judah and Israel further and further way from God. Abijah son of Rehoboam became the next king of Judah.  His tenure was short and sinful like his father’s.  No good kings reigned in Israel after the split of the kingdom. Things went from bad to worse with the house of Omri.  His evil son King Ahab and her royal wickedness Queen Jezebel drove Israel to new lows in idolatry.

But in the Upper Story, we see two things:  First, those who reject the LORD will reap His grim judgment.  But second, this judgment is always designed to redirect His people and produce repentance back toward the God who still relentlessly pursues His people, through prophets like Ahijah and kings like Asa who forged a path for people to find their way back to Him.  The era of the kings, despite their terrible freedom, inaugurates a path to the King of Kings, who would redeem not just this era of division and strife, but every age from everlasting to everlasting.

Before we get started I apologize for the formatting design. Some weeks do not go as planned. Thanks for understanding.

The Insidious Dangers of Idolatry

With a “congregation” of 22 million viewers before her “retirement”, Oprah Winfrey became one of the most influential spiritual leaders in America.  Her followers will read whatever books she endorses, ponder her every word, and donate money to her causes.  The Wall Street Journal coined the word Oprahfication to describe “public confession as a form of therapy.”  Her early life was deeply influenced by the church.  She read the Bible, attended a Baptist church and knew that God had for her a higher calling.  No one could argue that many people have benefited from her benevolence.  But the beliefs that she now embraces and promotes to millions are eternally dangerous.  The various “spiritual leaders” who frequent her show include Deepak Chopra who teaches that an enlightened human consciousness can heal the body (based on Hindu), Marianne Williamson whose New Age teachings reinterpret Christian doctrines and most recently, Eckhart Tolle, whose book A New Earth is now an online class available on Oprah’s website so that everyone can find the “truth” that is already in them.  He promotes the idea that “how spiritual you are has nothing to do with what you believe, but instead with your state of consciousness.”

Oprah has embraced the lie that all religions are equally valid paths to God.  She said, “One of the biggest mistakes humans make is to believe there is only one way.  Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to what you call God.”  (“The Church of O,” Christianity Today, pp. 38-45, April 1, 2002)

Sadly, Oprah’s influence upon American women is astonishing.  We cannot underestimate the many people who are right now being drawn away from the One True God and to a generic spirituality that feels good.  The Bible makes one thing very clear:  there is only one God and He is jealous.  Any path that does not go through the cross leads to destruction.  Let us learn from the mistakes of others and boldly proclaim that Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life (Jn. 14:6).

I.       Idolatry in Israel

A. God could not have been clearer.  If there was one thing that the Israelites were to understand, it was that YHWH alone is God.  There is no other and His divine jealous required exclusive devotion to Him alone.

B. The LORD demonstrated to Israel and Egypt that He alone is God when He struck Egypt with plagues that were directly connected to their gods.  (See Ch.4 lesson plan for details.)

C. The LORD codified the seriousness of this exclusivity in the Law given to Moses and the people of Israel.  The Covenant of the Law was predicated upon the redemptive work of God on behalf of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  THEREFORE, the redeemed were – and are – to maintain an undivided devotion to Him. The First Commandment states, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”  The second forbids the worship of any idol based upon the righteous and holy jealousy of God (Ex. 20:1-5).  God’s jealousy is a good thing!

D. Israel experienced the judgment of God when they got involved in Baal worship in Moab just before entering the Promised Land.  High Priest Phinehas stopped the heinous acts but 24,000 still died as a result (p. 66-67).

E. Israel began following after other gods after Joshua died.  Their sin of apostasy inevitably led to other kinds of sin as well.  (Judges/Ch. 8)

F. King David understood well that the leader of God’s chosen people had a unique privilege and responsibility to keep the Law.  His commission of Solomon included the admonition to be obedient to the LORD (p. 144) to keep the throne. Sadly, Solomon did not heed the warnings of his father, and he followed after the gods of his many foreign wives toward the end of his life.  This ignited the angry wrath of God (p. 157).  God will always fulfill His word.  He said He would take the kingdom from the king who failed to follow him, and so He did (p. 157).

G. After the kingdom divided, all of northern Israel’s kings followed after other gods.  Jeroboam, the first king of the north, created a counterfeit cult that looked remarkably like YHWH-worship as prescribed by the Law.  That is the insidiousness of idolatry – it takes turns a whole truth into a half-truth so that it is untruth.  It is much more difficult to detect a counterfeit that is created to look like the authentic.

1. The calf is reminiscent of the golden calf that Aaron made while Moses was on the mountain.

2. The cultic centers of Bethel and Dan were focal points to draw others away from the singular focal point of the Jerusalem temple.

3. Priests were appointed to replicate the Levitical priesthood of the true faith of God.

4. Offerings and sacrifices, and festivals provided worshipers a false sense of security.

H. Jeroboam became the standard of evil by which all other kings were measured.  Notice that accomplishments (as we would define them) are not the measurement of a good or evil king.  Nothing else mattered much except one’s relationship with the LORD.  This truth never changes!

1. The object of one’s worship will inevitably determine one’s way of life.  This truth can be seen throughout the whole history of Israel.

2. In nearly every case of idolatry, there is also sexual immorality.  There is a relationship between the two sins.

3.Israel’s idolatry does not end with this chapter.  But neither does God’s redemptive mission!

a. He deposes evil leaders who continue to lead His precious people away from Him.
b. He loves them enough to send prophets who will proclaim His truth, the truth that life can be found in Him alone.
c. His ultimate act of redemption came when Jesus took on flesh and pointed all nations to the only God and Father

II.       Idolatry in the New Testament Church

Jesus made it clear that faith in Him is required for salvation.  “Unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”  (Jn. 8:24)

A. As the gospel spread from Jerusalem and Judea to Samaria and the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8), new churches emerged from pagan, idolatrous cultures.  Their new-found faith required a change in worldview and a resulting change in their way of life.

B. The church in Corinth emerged from a culture that worshiped all kinds of Greek gods, and which placed a major emphasis upon “higher knowledge” and being very “spiritual.”  Paul told them, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”  (1 Cor. 10:14)

C. The Gentiles were known for their idolatries (1 Pet. 4:3).

D. Idolatry is listed among the deeds of the flesh that are at enmity with the Spirit (Gal. 5:20).  The one who is walking in the Spirit will not carry out the deeds of the flesh (Gal. 5:16)

E. The church in Colossae was reminded that their identity was bound up with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because of the new self in Christ, their old way of living should be put away.  But notice Paul’s comment about idolatry. “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.”  (Col. 3:5)

  1. The word for “greed” is pleonexia and means covetousness, or the greedy desire to have more.

  2. Paul identifies covetousness as idolatry.  Thus, greed puts something or someone ahead of God.

  3. Paul points out that this list of sins, including idolatry/greed brings about the wrath of God and it characterizes the former life of the believer.

  4. Perhaps this is what Jesus had in mind when He said on the Sermon on the Mount, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”  (Matt. 6:24)

III.       Idolatry Defined

A. Greed amounts to idolatry (Col. 3:5)        — Paul (or God)

B. Greed places something or someone ahead of God.  It is the longing for something that belongs to someone else or placing supreme value on something not (yet) possessed.          —Richard Melick

C. Idolatry is worshiping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that is meant to be worshiped.                  —St. Augustine

IV.       Idolatry in the American Culture and the Church Today

A. Is there idolatry in our American culture today?  Is there idolatry in our church today?

B. Idolatry in our culture and church is evident in at least two ways:

  1. GREED If “greed” amounts to idolatry which is defined as “putting something or someone ahead of God” then we must honestly answer yes!  Perhaps it is not likely to be done blatantly as often as it is subtly.
      1. What does “serving wealth” mean? What does it mean for it to be one’s master?
      2. Greed is not synonymous with wealth.  The Bible never condemns wealth, but it does condemn any ill-gotten gains by which someone fails to “love his neighbor.”  And it does condemn subjugating oneself to the pursuit of wealth.
      3. Jesus made clear that the whole Law could be summarized by loving God with all one’s heart (Matt. 22:37) and loving one’s neighbor.  Anything that is not loving God or loving my neighbor is covetousness and idolatry.
      4. Greed or covetousness leads us into all kinds of other sins, including the sexual immorality that was associated with idolatry in the life of Israel.
      5. List the various outcomes of greed.
  2. Other GODS or Syncretism 
  • We Americans value our freedom of religion.  But as Christians, we must guard ourselves against syncretism.  Syncretism is the merging of our Christian beliefs with the beliefs of other religions, creating a hybrid of sorts.

  • YHWH made it very clear to Israel that there are no gods other than Him and Jesus made it clear that He is “the way, the truth and the life, and nobody comes to the Father except through Me.”  (Jn. 14:6)

  • The exclusivity of the faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation is a non-negotiable of the Christian faith.  There is no other means of salvation except the gracious, atoning death of Jesus, appropriated by faith.Oprah has become an increasingly powerful voice for syncretism.  Her show often features “spiritual leaders” from various false religions and she has been known to frequently embrace the lie that there are “many paths to God.” This is dangerous because it leads to destruction, not eternal life.  Like the kings from our chapter, all the benevolent things Oprah has done count for nothing by God’s standard.  Like Jeroboam, the counterfeit religions that she promotes make her a false teacher/leader.   His standard, as demonstrated by King David, is a heart devoted solely to Him.

    1.  There are a startling number of Christians who have embraced syncretism.
    2.  56% of evangelical Christians believe that there are other religions that lead to eternal life.  Only 16% of Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that.
    3. Only 59% of evangelical Christians believe the Bible to be the Word of God, literally true word for word.
    4. Only 58% of evangelicals attend religious services once per week, while 82% of Jehovah’s Witnesses do.
  • The Apostle John’s warning applies to believers of all times and places, but if greed is idolatry, how badly his words needs to be heard today. “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”  (1 John 5:21)

V.       Applications and Implications

A. I will learn from the mistakes of the kings in Israel and Judah and not turn away from God.

B. What I believe about God will affect the way I live my life.  Therefore, I want to know Him better as He reveals Himself in the Scriptures.

C. I will not let other religious beliefs creep into my understand of Who God is.

D. Greed is idolatry.  Therefore, I will become more self-aware of covetousness in my own life, repent of it and receive God’s cleansing.

E. I will correct Christians who are deceived about the exclusivity of faith in Jesus Christ for eternal life.

F. My personal life reflects what I really believe about God.

G. God is jealous and will not tolerate idolatry indefinitely.  He will judge it.

H. I will prayerfully ask God to reveal to me any idols in my life that I put before my devotion to Him.

I. The worldly accomplishments of the kings were not the grounds for God’s evaluation of them.  Their heart relationship to Him was the only thing that really mattered.  I will align my priorities to reflect this truth.

Key Questions: What are our idols?  How do you know?  What are the tragic outcomes of idolatry in our world today?

A Message of Doom

This section you will need your Bibles to look up the various passages of scripture that are used here.

Solomon was the last king of the undivided nation of Israel.  His successors walked in his footsteps and took the nation down the path of destruction.   THE STORY, chapter 14, relates how Jeroboam, who was not one of Solomon’s sons, came into power and took all but one tribe as his kingdom.  Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, led the tribe of Judah.  God’s people would be divided, known as Israel and Judah from then on. Jeroboam’s actions were despicable; his own family, and all Israel were doomed to suffer the consequences.

I. Jeroboam sinned in word and deed.  I Kings 12:19-33.

1.  What did Jeroboam want to prevent the people of Israel from doing? (12:26-27)

2.  What did he say to the Israelite people? (12:28-29)

3.  Outline the five changes that he made in worship:

12:29-  He moved the location of worship from __________________ to Dan and Bethel.

12:28-  He added the symbols of golden calves to worship and claimed they brought them out of ____________.

12:31a-He changed from worship of God in the temple to symbolic worship in _____________

_____________.

12:31b-He appointed new ____________________ who were not Levites.

12:32  He established a new _______________________ of his own choosing.

Jeroboam set out to unify the Israelites by disguising his sinful plan as change for the better.  However, when man tries to do God’s things according to his own ways, the plan is doomed.

II.  God used word and deed to give Jeroboam a chance to repent.  1 Kings 13

A man, sent from Judah by God, confronted Jeroboam in Bethel as he was ready to make an offering.

1.  What did God say through the man? (13:2-3)

2.  When Jeroboam tried to attack the man, what did God do to him?  (13:4,5)

3.  Fill in the blanks from 13:5:  “Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the

___________given by the man of God by the ______________ of the _____________.

4.  Why would Jeroboam have already known God’s will against changes that he had made in worship?

The word and deed of God that the man delivered should have been enough.  But God further proved his point in 13:7-31. Disobeying the direct instruction not to tarry for any reason in that place, the man of God chose to stop for food and drink—to his own peril.

5.  What was God’s response to this man’s disobedience? (13:20-24)

6.  How did Jeroboam react to these two extraordinary occurrences? (13:33)

III. Jeroboam’s wife receives a message of doom.  I Kings 14:1-19

When Jeroboam’s son became ill Jeroboam sent his wife to speak with Ahijah, the prophet.  He should have faced Ahijah himself, but after the preceding events, he had reason to avoid the prophet.  This was the one who had told him he would be king.  This was a prophet of the same God whose ways he had rejected.

1.  Why did Jeroboam suggest his wife use a disguise?

2.  What did Ahijah’s greeting to the woman show? (14:6)

3.  What was the key point of Ahijah’s message to Jeroboam?  Whose doom was predicted? (14:9-10)

4.  What information would be a staggering blow to Jeroboam’s wife?  (14:12,13)

5.  What happened as Jeroboam’s wife stepped over her threshold? (14:17)

6.  How did the child’s death show God’s grace? (14:13b)

Jeroboam’s evil choices caused his family to suffer, caused his child to die, and brought doom to Israel.  The effects of sin cause the innocent to suffer alongside the guilty.  This fact has caused men and women to doubt God as nothing else has.  Yet, as mankind looks up to God with human understanding, God looks down with perfect understanding and sovereign ways.

IV. God’s message of hope.  Isaiah 55

The prophet Isaiah taught God’s people approximately 100 years after Jeroboam.  Israel was well on its way down the path of destruction that Jeroboam started on.  Isaiah warned them of their doom, just as Ahijah had done.  Some principles about God’s ways are revealed in Isaiah 55.

1.  According to 55:1-2, who is invited to come?

2.  What is the general condition of those who are invited to come to the Lord?

3.  What will it cost them?

4.  How can this be explained? (55:6-9)

While water, wine and milk represent basic physical needs, they also represent basic spiritual needs.  Water is figurative for salvation (John 4:7-26).  Wine is figurative for joy and celebration (Isaiah 26:6-9).  Milk is figurative for nourishment (Hebrews 5:12).  Only the help and hope that the Lord offers will meet the needs of those who have suffered great loss.

5.  What is the power of God’s word, as described in verses 10-11?

6.  What is the result when we allow God’s word to accomplish what He desires? (55:12-13)

7.  How would these words comfort a mother who had lost her son?

“It was not astonishing to the Jews that God would be gracious to them.  What was astonishing to many was that He would grant them mercy without their having earned it.   Isaiah has extended an invitation for participation in redemption through covenant relationship.  Now the bond and bounds of that covenant relationship is declared to be in the word of God which is faithful and powerful” (Butler, 53-54)  The message Christians have been commanded to share is one of “good tidings and joy”, a message of hope instead of doom.

Key Question:  With whom will you share this message of salvation?

Advertisements