Royal Backfires, From Gold to Bronze and The Majestic Walk of Shame and God’s Continual Grace Part 1 of 2

Father, help me to concentrate so I can give you the glory and the honor with this post.  Please give me a clear head, pure heart and even purer intentions.

The kingdom has been divided: Israel in the North and Judah in the south.  In the North, we have Jeroboam, the man who had been hand-picked by God in, but as we see in Chapter 13, li
All the way back in Chapter 12, we see that Jeroboam initiates a “new religion” in his kingdom.  He decides he wants to make “idol” worship convenient with his people, so he builds golden calves close to his town so people don’t have to travel all the way to Jerusalem and end up giving their allegiance to Rehoboam, King of Judah.  This showed a blatant  irreverence for God and put his lust for control above God.  The crazy thing is, the plan backfires.
{Ever have these things happen in your own life?  You are certain, sure, things are headed in a certain direction, things are going swimmingly, and bam, your plans backfire.  And you know what, I think this can sometimes happen in obedience as well as disobedience, in our obedience, we are certain that God is guiding us in a particular direction and that, yep, sure enough, that thing, that roadblock is going to happen, but roadblock after roadblock remains, and when it’s all said and done that thing doesn’t happen anyway, but what was God trying to teach us in the first place?  He is teaching us that He is all-knowing, all-powerful, worthy of our trust and all our praise.  The second, darker area comes at a much deeper, graver cost as we see in the case of Jeroboam.}
What does Jeroboam and his Northern Kingdom lose as a result of his decision to construct his convenient religion?  A royal backfire is what, because it explains in 2 Chronicles 11:16, that those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God–and Rehoboam’s kingdom was strengthened anyway!
Don’t worry: it gets worse, you see, a prophet is sent to Jeroboam predicting that someone named Josiah will be born into David’s line, that he will sacrifice the priests of the high places, human bones will be burned on these altars and that the altar will be split apart and the ashes on it poured out (in Bible times, the spilling of ashes rendered the sacrifice useless).  Jeroboam is so angered by this that he stretches out his right hand, saying to his guardsmen, “Sieze him!” and his hand shrivels up.  But God in His infinite grace and mercy, healed him when the prophet prayed on his behalf.
Unfortunately, Jeroboam did not learn his lesson and did not change his evil ways, moving into I Kings 13.  Once more, he appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people, ignoring many of God’s commands, including that of Exodus 40:12-15 that Aaron and his sons should be consecrated to the Lord as priests, that this should continue from generations to come and well as his command in Dueteronomy 12:13 not to sacrifice anywhere he pleased, but to offer sacrifices only in places that the Lord chooses.  And according to I Kings 13:34, this led to the downfall and the destruction of this kingdom from the face of the earth.  Jeroboam was muddying the waters–big time–and this could only lead to destruction.
Part II
From Gold to Bronze: The Royal Walk of Shame
If you will, now, follow me into Chapter 14, the story continues in this same vein of disobedience.  Jeroboam’s son has become ill, so he sends his wife, the queen, disguised, to the prophet Ahijah to see what will come of the boy.  Interestingly enough, the disguise that his wife put on was completely useless, as Ahijah is blind and the Lord told him ahead of time that she was coming.  This is what will become of Jeroboam:  The Lord outlines exactly what Jeroboam is guilty of “You have done more evil than all who lived before you.  You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back.  He goes on to outline the consequences.  “Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam.  I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel–slave or free.  I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone.  Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.  The Lord has spoken!”
He goes on to say that as soon as she enters the city, their son will die.   The Lord will raise up for himself a king over Israel who will cut off the family of Jeroboam.  He will uproot Israel from the good land that God gave to their forefathers AND he “will give Israel up because of the sins Jeroboam has committed and has caused Israel to commit.”  This last phrase is pretty bone-chilling, because here the sins of the father are being paid for by generation upon generation with displacement and unrest. 
Which begs the question, how can our sins, our repeated offenses to God have an effect on our children, our community, our nation.  It is sobering to say the least.
True to God’s word, Jeroboam’s son dies and later, Jeroboam’s house is destroyed.
But the roots of disobedience do not end there, we switch the camera lens to Judah, with Rehoboam as their king later on in I Kings 14:22.  Scripture says that Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord, by the sins they committed, they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done, they set up idols and engage in all sorts of “detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites”.  This sin crippling has a far-reaching effect: in the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak, king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem and carried off the treasure of the temple and the royal palace, taking everything, including the golden shields that Solomon had made.  King Rehoboam made bronze shields to replace them and assigned them to the commanders of the guard on duty at the entrance to the royal palace.  “Whenever the king went to the Lord’s temple the guards bore the shields, and afterward they returned them to the guardroom.”  I don’t know what it is about this verse that frustrates and discourages me so much.  Apparently, the original shields, made of gold were valued at somewhere around 5M dollars and sadly the bronze shields were worth only a fraction of that…
What acts of disobedience in my life have resulted in my attempting to remake my shields.  It’s pathetic, really, when left to my own devices what facades I’ll try to construct to make things look ok, and when I realize how truly glorious they could be when left in God’s hand in God’s timing.
And yet, here is this beyond beautiful picture of God’s grace in the midst of all this cheap imitation: it’s obvious from this recent attack that the nation of Judah is in some serious trouble, so we see in 2 Chronicles that the leaders of Israel, for a time, humbled themselves and said, “The Lord is just.” Because of their repentance, he does not destroy them, but does allow them to become subjected to Shishak. He is disciplining them, just as he disciplines us, somedays I feel He is constantly disciplining me, but that’s the other lovely part of all of this.  What if He is?  He disciplines those he loves.  Wow, what a privilege, in a way, that I am part of my Creator’s Creative process.  He is refining me, burning off the ugly stuff, replacing it with bits of colored glass and ceramic, only more beautiful.  You see, the same God who created this,

and this,

 is working on me, can you imagine how lovely we will be when his process in through (that is,  the day he takes us home!)

Psalm 78: 38 Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them.  Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath.  He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return.

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