The kings and The King
Stupidity Under Sovereignty
Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, but his son Rehoboam, the next in line for the throne of Israel, was a fool. His foolishness tears apart the kingdom of Israel and splits it in two. Throughout 1 Kings 12, we see that none of the foolish decisions made by the kings of Israel and Judah thwarted the sovereign plan of God. Listen as Pastor Travis explains how this truth applies to our lives today.
Thanks for the opportunity for me to be up here again. My name is Travis. I'm the youth pastor here, grateful for another opportunity to open the word of God with you this morning. If you have your Bibles, open up to 1 Kings 12. We're continuing our series of "The Kings and the King" and we're in 1 Kings 12.
I want you to think for a moment before we get started. Take a moment, just for a second, as this will be the major theme of our text today. Take a moment to think of a time that God protected you or even used your foolish or stupid actions to accomplish his will in your life. Can you think about that for just a moment? Can you think of a time where your foolish or stupid actions did not derail the plan of God in your life but maybe even accomplished it? We all have them. I have many and it's good to think back on those, isn't it? To be reminded of God's power and his plan in your life in spite of us. Adults in the room, are you able to now look back at many of your foolish actions or even foolish years of your life and say, "In spite of me, God used my foolish actions to accomplish his plan"? Man, those are beautiful stories to share with your children to help them to see your humanness, your foolishness, and yet God's sovereignty and his power over all of those.
So this idea that I just tried for you to wrestle with or to grasp or to wrap your heads around is what we're going to call today "Stupidity Under Sovereignty." Humanity's foolishness or stupidity and yet all of that still falls under a God who is fully in control, fully in charge, and still seated on the throne; how even our stupidity is under the sovereign hand of God. What a blessing that is and this is what 1 Kings 12 is going to teach us today.
I've one more illustration I want to make before we get started. Have you ever seen, probably you did in like
So I've got a couple of them. Let's throw one up there. So just your gut response. When you see this picture, what do you see? What's the first thing you see? Raise your hand if you see a man laughing. Oh, okay, that was the first thing you saw. Raise your hand if you saw a mouse or a rat. More people saw the mouse or the rat. Good. So you've got one image and it's possible to see two drawings of two things in this picture. Good job.
Next one. What's the first thing you see? Yeah, maybe whisper to your spouse or your friend sitting next to you what you saw. So raise your hand if you saw like a candelabra or whatever that thing is called. Raise your hand if you saw two faces. Okay, okay, that was about 50/50.
Last one. What's the first thing you see? Whisper to your spouse or your friend. Raise your hand if you saw a duck. Wow. Now raise your hand if you saw a rabbit. Now, look at it from the other angle. Can you see the opposite? Can you see the opposing argument in the picture there?
So one image, one picture but yet it's
Let me show you the outline for the whole chapter real quick, help you to see exactly where we're going. We're going to break chapter 12 up into three sections. Verses 1 through 15 is Rehoboam's folly. Verses 16 to 24 is either Israel's rebellion or Jeroboam's rebellion. I couldn't figure out who the main character was. You can decide. And then the last section there is Israel's false worship. But please don't miss when you look at this outline, please don't miss the downward trajectory of Israel. Notice how in verse 1 through 15 it's one man's folly which leads to a nation's rebellion and then ultimately a division and a very low point in the history of Israel. That's where we're going.
So let's get started. Before we dive into the text, I want to show you a very childish map that was very helpful for me. So as we look at 1 Kings 12, there are these two main characters with very similar names. Then we've got the nation of Israel and that word "Israel" could be very confusing because
So our main characters you've got to keep straight are Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Rehoboam is Solomon's son. He is the heir to the throne. So the guy on the bottom of the picture looked very surprised. He is the heir to the throne. That is Solomon's son, the one who should take over the nation of Israel. Our other main character is Jeroboam. Jeroboam, in chapter 11 we learn that he is Solomon's servant. He is in charge of the labor force of the nation of Israel. He is not the heir to the throne but as we'll see in chapter 12, he is the future king of the northern kingdom Israel.
Two more pieces of information you need to know. Jerusalem is the God-appointed capital
Okay, so take one more look at this picture. If you understand this picture, 1 Kings 12 will make a whole lot more sense.
Alright, so let's dive into our text. 1 Kings 12:1-15 is Rehoboam's folly. Look at your Bibles. If it says at the top of 1 Kings 12 "Rehoboam's folly," the very title of this section is pure irony, almost hilarious, and I don't want you to miss it. I hope that you notice the obvious irony in our text. The title of this paragraph in many of your Bibles is "Rehoboam's folly." The wisest man who ever lived, besides the God-man Jesus Christ, gives the kingdom to his very incredibly foolish son. Notice the irony? The wisest man who ever lived gives the kingdom to his son and the title that they give to 1 Kings 12 is "Rehoboam's folly"? Do you notice the irony there? This would be like Frank Sinatra introducing you to his tone-deaf son and telling you that because Frank is sick, he's going to sing tonight. Complete irony. Don't miss that.
The very title helps you to see something's weird, something's up, a new change is taking place, but for some reason in our text, Israel seems excited about this son of Solomon taking over. They are looking forward to a new king on the throne. Israel is hopeful that the living conditions in Israel will improve. Under Solomon's reign, the people's lives became miserable. Solomon reinstituted forced military service as well as hard labor for the people in order to accomplish his projects, and he also put upon his people very heavy taxation so that he could fund his projects. Life had become miserable for the people and they are grateful that anybody besides Solomon is on the throne right now and as wise as Solomon was, his lack of character caused the nation of Israel to struggle severely under his rule. And as we have talked about much over the last two weeks, success doesn't always equal health. Be leery of success.
So it seems from the first two verses of chapter 12 that Israel is looking forward to a new king on the throne and they hope that Rehoboam will bring relief from the oppression that Solomon has brought upon them. They're optimistic. They're looking forward to this, somebody new, and that's what causes the conversation in verses 1 through 5. Israel is begging for lighter working conditions and better living conditions. They ask Rehoboam, "How will you treat us?" Notice the exact wording they use, "Your father made our yoke heavy. Now, therefore, lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you." They're saying, "Help us out, Rehoboam, and we will serve you for the rest of our lives." Their request seems very fair and logical, doesn't it? "You work for us, Rehoboam, and we will work for you. Let's go at this together. Let's have a healthy nation. Let's work together for the betterment of the nation."
Verses 6 through 11, Rehoboam then, hearing the request of the people, seeks counsel on how to rule Israel as its new king. This also seems like a very wise thing to do. "Okay, I hear your request. Instead of answering it immediately on the spot, would you mind a little time? Can I think about it? Can I wrestle with what I should do?" And so Rehoboam seeks two different opinions. All of this seems fine. He goes to the old wise men and the old wise men say, "Rehoboam, the best thing you can do is serve your people and in return, they will serve you." Verse 7 says this, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever." Isn't that very logical? You notice the people of the nation of Israel are in complete agreement with the wise old men. "Let's come together. Let's work together for the betterment of the nation. Rehoboam, you serve the people. In return, the people will serve you." It seems very logical.
Rehoboam wants a second opinion. He's not so convinced so he goes to his buddies, the young silly men, and the young silly men tell him, "No, no, no, no. That's not solid advice. I know the vast majority of the nation is in agreement but that's not good advice. Here's what you should do: abuse the people and they will then have to serve you." Much better advice. Verse 10 says this, "Thus shall you speak to
Here at this point, we should at least assume that Rehoboam's goal is a healthy nation where the people serve the king and the nation prospers. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. So then now he's listened to two opinions, he has to make a decision. He has to pick one of the two options. Number one would be to listen to the people, all the people
So those are kind of his two options. So from our standpoint, wisdom would say the people and the old wise men are in agreement, the result will be health, do option 1, right? That seems logical. Stupidity would say, don't listen to the people nor the wise counsel, listen to your friends and feel powerful. Again, the irony of this text is so clear, it's that his father was Mr. Wisdom, Solomon was Mr. Wisdom and we are seeing his son do the very opposite of choosing wisdom, throwing out logic and doing whatever he wants to do.
So verses 12 through 15 rounds out this section and Rehoboam then tells the nation of Israel his plan. He takes three days, ponders all that he's learned, and he goes to the people with his decision. He spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions." The result is verse 15, "So the king did not listen to the people."
So Rehoboam meets with all the people of Israel, led by Jeroboam. Jeroboam's in the crowd. He gathered all the people up. He tells the people the decision he has made. "I'm going to make your lives worse than my father made your lives. You think life stunk under dad, you just wait." This is crazy. This is stupidity. This is stuff a tyrant would do. It's absolutely crazy as we read our text and it is this very decision in verse 15 that causes the split of the nation of Israel into two fragments. One of the saddest moments in God's people's history, 1 Kings 12, the divided kingdom.
But now let's look at that exact same section, those first 15 verses, but let's look at it with different glasses. Let's look at it from a different vantage point. Before we move on, let's look at the same passages through God's eyes, looking for his rule and his reign in the midst of stupidity. Now that we have seen the rabbit in the picture, let's look for the duck because the question ultimately we have to wrestle with in life ultimately is: can mankind's stupidity derail the plan of God? Have you ever wrestled with that question? Is it possible that I can mess up the plan of God? Can I derail all that God was planning to do and change it? Or maybe you've asked it this way: is God's will or plan changed when man messes up? Did God have this beautiful magnificent plan for my life and my city's life and yet because I've messed up that's all gone now, this is all changed?
Look at verse 15 again. Verse 15 is the key to the whole section about Rehoboam's folly. Verse 15 says this, "So the king did not listen to the people," why? "For it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat." If you remember in chapter 11, after God announces his judgment on Solomon, God raised up adversaries against Solomon to begin to tear the kingdom away from Solomon. He then says in verses 11 through 13 of chapter 11, "Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, 'Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem that I have chosen.'" So here we see that God's plan is actually being fulfilled through man's stupidity and not derailed by man's stupidity. So as stupid as Rehoboam's decision is to speak harshly to the people and to make their lives more difficult, we will actually see that it is this stupid decision that actually fulfills God's promise to Solomon to give the kingdom over to his servant. And if you remember, what was Jeroboam's role? He was the servant of Solomon. All of this is coming to plan. All of this is fulfilling as God had planned it.
Quick illustration for you. Do you remember, I'm a movie buff. I like movies. There was a movie made 15-20 years ago called "The Italian Job." Do you remember that? I'll try to explain it
So if you were to ask the driver of the money truck, "Why did you just turn left?" He would've said, "Because I thought it was the right decision and it made the most sense. I chose to turn left." But if you were to ask the hacker sitting in the office controlling the traffic lights, he would've said, "No, no, no, no. The truck turned left because I made him." So why did the truck turn left? Think about that question for a second. Why did the truck turn left? Both because the driver chose to and because the hacker made him. Stupidity under sovereignty. Does that make sense? And this is where we are in seeing 1 Kings 12. Why did Rehoboam choose so foolishly? Because he's a fool. Why did Rehoboam choose so foolishly? Because it was according to the will and plan of God.
Let's look at the second section. Israel's rebellion verses 16 through 24. Again, we're going to see humanity's stupidity reign in these sections but we're also going to see God's sovereignty. Israel's response to Rehoboam's decision. Rehoboam just told them, "It's going to get
Verse 17, Rehoboam isn't cool with the decision so he decides to send the replacement for Jeroboam, the guy who now has Jeroboam's job, Adoram, to Jeroboam and all the people to force them to come back and serve Rehoboam. Can you imagine this? So
Rehoboam hears what they did to Adoram, hops on his chariot because he knows the same will happen to him if he doesn't run away. He goes to Jerusalem to put his army together and you're on the verge of a massive civil war all because of one foolish decision to be harsh to the people. You are now on the verge of an enormous civil war.
Israel hears Rehoboam fled to Jerusalem. They then decide to crown their own king and they make Jeroboam as the king of the northern kingdom. This war is on the verge.
Rehoboam then in Jerusalem puts together an army of 180,000 chosen warriors and plans on fighting to the death the northern kingdom in order to force them to rejoin the one true
Look at verse 24, "Thus says the LORD, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me." If you underline or highlight your Bibles, underline "for this thing is from me." "So they listened to the word of the LORD and went home again, according to the word of the LORD." God says again, "I'm in charge of this. I'm involved in this. Your stupidity hasn't thwarted my plan, it hasn't derailed my plan. I've got this." Is there stupidity in this section? Absolutely but there is still sovereignty in spite of the foolish decisions, the almost civil war. God's like, "I've got this. I'm still in charge of 180,000 warriors. I'm still in charge of the divided kingdom. I'm still on the throne."
That leads us to our final section: Israel's foolish worship. The end of the chapter, verses 25 to 33. Israel's false worship. Sorry. Again, you're going to see humanity's stupidity. That's the theme of 1 Kings 12, humanity's stupidity. So what does Jeroboam decide to do now that there's not been a war but there's been a clear division? The south and the north, clear division and no war. So Jeroboam begins to build his kingdom. He decides to build his empire. Jeroboam does exactly what an Israelite king would do to prove to his people that he is the real king. He wants them to know that he's important, successful, and someone who can bring about change. He wants the nation of Israel to trust that they are following a man who will lead them and not abuse them like Solomon did or like Rehoboam was going to do.
He's a man worth following. That's how you should read this paragraph. Jeroboam is establishing himself as the better Rehoboam, "I'm the guy that should be in charge. I'm the guy that loves you, that cares for you. Listen to me. Follow me. I have your best interest in mind." Which isn't true but he's going to establish a nation that feels like Jeroboam has their best interest in mind. Instead of Jeroboam just being a great leader, he tries to prove by his actions that he is a great leader by doing several foolish things.
The first thing he does is he moves into Shechem. That's exactly, go back to chapter 12, verse 1, that's exactly what Rehoboam did when he was made the king. He moved to Shechem. Jeroboam is moving the pieces in order to make himself look like a really good guy. Number two is he honors an important historical site called Penuel. He knows that this location is important to the people so he grants that for them. He pours some resources and some energy into Penuel in order to appease the people, to kind of tell them, "I've got your back. I know. I know what's important to you guys. I'll look after these places." Then the last thing he does in our section is he even builds places of worship for them in the north which seems very kind. He's helping them with convenience but all of these things are very very foolish.
So here is what Jeroboam is really doing: Jeroboam is lulling the people into a false sense of security by making the northern kingdom feel just like home so they don't question the direction they are headed. Does that make sense? He wants them to not think by creating an environment for them where they feel safe. This is when the presidential candidate who acts really religious the year before the election, or this is like the cult leader who has beautiful accommodations at the cult, right? "Like, we're going to just make this place fun for you and beautiful for you. I'm one of you guys." One of the stories we learn about Adolph Hitler was that he became a Christian right before the Holocaust and he would travel from church to church promoting his agenda to Christians and many people that Adolph Hitler promoted to his regime were Protestants because he waved the flag of the Christian church. He said he supported the cross. Jeroboam is creating a cult with beautiful accommodations.
You see, looking healthy doesn't mean you are healthy and that is what the northern kingdom is doing right now. They're trying to just look healthy and it's one of these acts, one of those three acts I just mentioned, of stupidity that really frustrates God. It's one of those, it's the straw that breaks the camel's back. It's one that causes God to become so upset.
Look at verse 30, "Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one." So what is that thing? What's that thing that made God irate? Which one of those three foolish decisions made God go crazy? It was when Jeroboam institutes false places of worship in the northern kingdom: Bethel and Dan. That's where God goes crazy and the text tells us why. I love this. The text tells us exactly why Jeroboam does this.
Look at verse 26, "And Jeroboam said in his heart, 'Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If
You see Jeroboam's wickedness, don't you? He's not helping the people. This convenient worship place isn't a service to the people. He's not caring for them. It's all selfish motives. He doesn't want them traveling south to Jerusalem, entering into Judah to worship because they'll stay. That's where their God resides. That's where God lives. They'll get comfortable there. They'll love that. They'll stay. He's like, "Ah, I got this. We'll create new Jerusalems. We'll create new houses of worship." And this is the thing that makes God angry.
Jeroboam establishes false worship. Jeroboam leads the followers of God away from God by instituting worship that isn't for God. Do you see this? Did you know it's possible for religion to push people away from God? That's exactly what has happened. You see, any worship that isn't according to God's plan is ultimately self-worship and not God-worship or idolatry.
1 Kings 12:32-33. Look at those verses. Jeroboam explains or the text explains clearly for us exactly what Jeroboam's false worship looks like. So what does Jeroboam do? He dedicates false locations for worship; he builds false houses of worship; he appoints false priests to order the worship, and he creates false ceremonies of worship. Verse 33 summarizes Jeroboam's sin so blatantly. Notice the emphasis on him and notice the lack of God in verse 33, even though it's God-worship. "He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings."
It's such a sad story and the only conclusion you can come to is man's foolish. What a foolish people. What a horrible nation. What sinful leaders. And yet what a sovereign God because his sovereignty has been everywhere. It's been sprinkled through the entire chapter of God's still on the throne, he's still got this, he's not asleep, he didn't go on vacation, he's still in charge.
So let's summarize all of chapter 12 and boil it down to a take-home truth. Chapter 12 is a list of foolish actions by men who have been placed in leadership positions to carry out God's plan at that time and place. That's literally what it is. It's just a list of foolish actions, a lot like my life, a list of just foolish actions, foolish actions, foolish actions. But as foolish and stupid as these men behaved, never were they able to cancel, thwart or even jeopardize the will and plan of God. More than that, we even see God telling us readers that these men's foolish actions are actually fulfilling the will of God. It's unbelievable. That is why we have titled this chapter "Stupidity Under Sovereignty," because even our stupidity is under the sovereign reign of God and that is really good news.
So why does this matter? Because understanding this teaches us our take-home truth: that rebellious, sinful people like us, we can breathe and we can rest because we know that our stupidity can never thwart the sovereign rule and plan of God. I don't know about you, but that take-home truth for me is amazing news. That is great news because I know myself, I know my foolishness, I know my stupidity, and if God's will was in my hands, we'd be in a lot of trouble.
I want to end our time today by telling you one more story. It's not in 1 Kings 12, it's actually in the New Testament, but our story that I want to tell you I believe is the epitome of what 1 Kings 12 has taught us in a dramatic and very dramatic way, and it's dramatically pictured in the holiday we're about to celebrate in just a couple of weeks, Good Friday and Easter. Think about, I'm going to give you some foolish human decisions. Think about these for just a second and let me see if you can see God's sovereignty in them.
Think about the betrayal of one of Jesus' best friends, Judas. Is that a pretty foolish stupid decision? Yeah, it was.
What about the conspiracy of the Pharisees to trap Jesus and to trick Jesus and to find areas where they think he's breaking the law in order to find accusation for him to be sent to King Herod and to Pilate where he claims to be God and the whole conspiracy of the Pharisees. What that sinful and stupid? Yeah.
What about the very trial from Pilate? Was that sinful and stupid? Pilate was stuck. He didn't really know what to do. But the whole trial was sinful and stupid.
What about the very crucifixion of an innocent man on a Roman cross as a murderer? Was that sinful? Was that stupid? Absolutely.
The whole season we're coming up to that we're going to celebrate is exactly what 1 Kings 12 is trying to teach you. Humanity's stupidity, foolishness, poor decision making, and yet all of it was under the sovereign plan of God. All of these events took place
One of my favorite texts, Acts 2:22, specifically look at verse 23. If you have your Bibles, you need to underline verse 23 for sure. Let me read it to you. It says this, this is Peter right after Pentecost. Peter stands up with boldness and preaches. He preaches to all those gathered around, those who were followers of Christ, people who saw the crucifixion, people who heard of a risen Savior. All of this is going on and they're all gathered to find out what's going on and Peter steps up with boldness and says, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst," that wonderful Jesus, "as you yourselves know," that amazing man, "this Jesus, delivered up," how or why? "According to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God." So why did the acts of Jesus happen? Because it was completely the plan of God. All of the situations that you just saw in the last several weeks with Jesus' fake trial and the betrayal and the conspiracy, all of that was the plan of God, but man, men of Israel, you crucified him and you killed him by the hands of lawless men. You see, verse 23 beautifully shows you humanity's stupidity and yet God's sovereignty. Man, it's so great.
Then in verse 24, "God raised him up, losing the pangs of
So today, quick question for you: do you know your desperation today? I used words like foolish and stupid, did that bother you? Did that frustrate you that I would call mankind foolish and stupid? Did that kind of get under your skin a little bit and you say, "Not me. Why is he calling us stupid? Why is he calling us foolish? That's offensive." Do you know your desperation today? Do you understand your foolishness? Your stupidity? And have you called upon the one, the only one that can save you from your sinfulness and grant you salvation? If not, right now you can. Today find forgiveness in the saving grace of Jesus who was murdered by lawless men according to the sovereign plan of God.
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Israel's biblical history is more than military conquest in chronological sequence. It is messianic prophecy in narrative form. This is especially and beatifully seen in the books of 1–2 Samuel, 1–2 Kings, and 1–2 Chronicles. Prepare to enjoy the adventure of the Old Testament in our 2017–2018 series, "The kings and the King," and appreciate anew the anticipation of Christ woven throughout each of these historical books.