- Bible Readings: 1 Kings 12:1-17, 25-29
- Free Resource: Generation Celebration (Cross+Gen Education)
- Unit Theme (October 20—November 3): God’s Way of Leading
- The Point: We lead best when we listen to and serve others.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.George Santayana
Our movement through the history of Israel continues up to the pivotal events in 1 Kings 12. After the people begged for a king, God had given them Saul. Saul proved to be disobedient, so God chose the shepherd boy David to be the next king, though that took a while. David had a long and complicated reign and was followed by his son Solomon. Despite Solomon’s famed wisdom, he messed up royally, thus leading to our story today when his son, Rehoboam took the throne.
God’s Way or Not
In our faith formation resources, we have selected last week, this week, and next week as a single unit called “God’s Way of Leading.” Last week, we saw the coronation of David as king over all Israel. This “man after God’s own heart” is set as an example of a good leader, even if he abused his power, committed crimes, and was negligent of his parental responsibilities later on. A godly leader is one who puts God and the people first, a servant rather than a tyrant. As last week we got a “do this,” this week we get a “don’t do that” cautionary tale.
The Sins of the Father
Although the narrative in the Bible goes all the way back to creation, this particular thread began in 1 Kings 11. For all the wisdom God had given Solomon, he abandoned the commandment “have no other gods” and worshipped lots of other gods. [Interesting to note, one of Solomon’s “errors” was to marry a Moabite (along with a lot of other foreign women) although his great-great-grandmother Ruth was a Moabite herself.]
God’s punishment for these gross sins of idolatry was that the united kingdom of Israel would be ripped out of the hands of the Davidic dynasty (leaving only one, two, or three tribes, depending on how you count them), although this would happen to Solomon’s son, not the sinner himself. God even chose the leader who would take ten tribes away from Rehoboam, that being Jeroboam. [Why do these names have to be so similar?]
This future was not even kept secret. God told Solomon this, and the prophet Ahijah told it to Jeroboam with an object lesson of a torn garment. Solomon wasn’t too happy, so Jeroboam thought it best to take a vacation to Egypt for a while. Jeroboam even received a promise from God: if he follows God’s way like King David, then God would make of him a dynasty over Israel as David has over Judah (1 Kings 11:38).
That didn’t work out that well. Skipping to the second passage in this reading, the first order of business once Jeroboam became king was to set up shrines with golden calves in his own territory. History repeated itself. So, no royal dynasty for Jeroboam. In fact, his son only reigned for two years before being assassinated and his whole house being wiped out in a violent coup.
This act of setting up golden calves should sound veryfamiliar. Even the proclamation Jeroboam makes is almost identical to Aaron’sback in Exodus 32:
He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”Exodus 32:4
So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”1 Kings 12:28
This direct connection between the time of the dividedkingdom and the story of the exodus brings up the question of whether there areother parallels between this story and the other. In fact, there are.
Solomon’s Other Sins
Solomon really fits the warning God (via Samuel) gave to the people when they whined for a king (1 Samuel 8), though I find it curious that Scripture does not include this in Solomon’s sins. Samuel warned the people that a king would demand heavy taxation and conscription of able-bodied men and women. Solomon may have created many wonderful things in the kingdom, but he did so basically on the backs of “forced labor.” It sounds quite a bit like slavery to me.
Prior to being run off to Egypt, Jeroboam was hand-picked by Solomon to have “charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph” (1 Kings 11:28). That sounds like Exodus 1:11: “Therefore they [the Egyptians] set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharoah.”
Jeroboam, taskmaster turned deliverer, approaches the new king, Rehoboam. He asks for deliverance for the people of Israel, but the king (pharaoh?) doubles down (hardens is heart?) on his cruel actions. So, via a leader chosen by God, God delivers the people of Israel from their forced labor again, though this time it went even worse than the first time. The people really went off the deep end on idolatry, led by this not-actually-Moses deliverer. History repeated itself, the second time worse than the first.
Learn from the Past (and Each Other)
All told, the people involved here really should have sat down and had a Torah lesson. The story that defines God’s relationship with the people of Israel is one of freedom from slavery and service to the vulnerable. But, the cycle of disobedience found over and over again in Scripture continues, eventually losing the upswing of the people’s repentance, until they are sent into exile (Assyrian for Israel and Babylonian for Judah). I think that the elders Rehoboam first consulted were giving advice from their lived experience rather than directly referencing the Torah, but it was still sage advice. Listening for, and following, the wisdom of others is something that would benefit us, too.
Faith Formation Strategy: Listen!
The philosophy behind cross+generational ministry is that each person from each generation can have something to teach, some special wisdom from their experience. The young have much to learn from their elders (as Rehoboam did from his elders), however, the elders also have much to learn from the young. We can all become wiser and our faith more formed, when we take the time to listen to the wisdom others can offer us, discerning, of course, what is truly wise.
Our free resource today is adapted from our Living the Word: Cross+Gen Education product. “Generation Celebration” encourages members from each generation or age group to consider how to compliment and celebrate people of other generations, and to see where they might have wisdom to offer.
Our Cross+Gen Education curriculum, along with our Cross+Gen Worship resource, is available to purchase as a full year as well as by season (fall, winter, and spring). Also, you can purchase individual lessons (or worship guides) directly from our website!
Go out and follow God’s lead!
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
If you would like to know more about our perspectives onfaith formation and cross+gen ministry, you can check out the following links:
- Faith Formation: Frequently Asked Questions and relevant blog posts and the What Is Faith Formation? series.
- Cross+Gen Ministry: Frequently Asked Questions and relevant blog posts and the What Is Cross+Gen Ministry? series.
- Narrative Lectionary: Frequently Asked Questions
For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the storyof God’s love, check out our complete Living the Word series for elementary students,youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!