TRYING TO PULL THE WOOL OVER GOD’S EYES

1 Kings 14:1—17

Have you ever listened to how some people pray?  Why do some preachers feel the need to pray in the old King James language?  Have you ever thought it strange that some people feel the need to speak to God differently than they would to a flesh-and-blood person?  Of course, we ought to address the Almighty with the utmost honor and respect, but, His name is not “Thee” or “Thou” and if you wouldn’t speak to your earthly father in a halting, stiff manner, why would you your Heavenly Father?

The pathetic account of Jeroboam, his wife, and his son Abijah reminds us of what Longfellow profoundly observed:

Sublimity is always simple.

In other words, the more true believers pray, the simpler yet more genuine their prayers become; no more pretense, no more disguises, and no more false fronts.  Eloquent prayers may sound impressive, but they are no more effective in moving the heart of God than the simplest prayer of a child.

1.  Too late seeking God, verses 1, 2

At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill and Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go, disguise yourself, so you won’t be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there—the one who told me I would be king over this people.

King Jeroboam, first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, whose throne was established by God, was a major disappointment to say the least.  Instead of following in the footsteps of great men of God like David and Solomon, as soon as Jeroboam ascended to the throne, the first thing he did was to found a mongrel religion that took elements of the true worship of Jehovah and combined them with elements of Canaanite rituals and ideas from his own mind.  But when tragedy struck his own family, the first thing he did was make overtures to God for help.  Sadly, as we will see, it was too late.

This arrogant king of Israel had a strange relationship with the prophet Ahijah.  Ahijah, you will recall, was the one whom the Lord spoke through calling Jeroboam to be king of Israel.  He was the “national prophet,” yet largely ignored by the king.

Here is a small lesson about the human psyche.  Jeroboam had been spoken to by God through two prophets, Ahijah and the unnamed man of God from Judah.  He was given the throne of Israel by God; he did nothing to earn it; the throne was divine gift.  Yet as soon as he could, Jeroboam left God and chose to do what he wanted do, forgetting everything God had told him. The king had strayed as far from God as one could get, but he thought, somehow, when things got so bad, the God he forsook would help him.  However, while he had knowledge of God, his daily life was lived in presumptuous denial of His very existence.  Therefore, God owed Jeroboam nothing at this point.  Jeroboam had been given in no uncertain terms exactly what he should do and how he should live and govern in order to hold on to God’s favor.  He was also told exactly what would happen if he disobeyed God and went his own way.  The tragedy about to befall the king’s family was one brought on by himself; he had no one to blame but himself.

The king had a son, Abijah (not to be confused with Ahijah the prophet), who had become very sick.  The real sad thing about this is that Jeroboam had another son named Nadab who was easily as wicked, if not more so than his father was, yet these shady characters were not stricken in way, only the “good son” was afflicted by the withering finger of God.  Why is that?  Stephenson wrote,

Every sorrow and disappointment may be to us as goads to drive us nearer our God if our hearts are right with Him.

God chose to afflict the dearest son to get the king’s attention.  Still, there are those who find this a troubling aspect of God’s sovereignty.  There are always those who think they know better than God.  Menander wrote,

He whom the gods love dies young.

Or, to put it another way, the psalmist wrote—

Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.  (Psalm 116:15)

What we view as the worst thing possible event in a person’s life—death—is viewed by God as the best thing that can ever happen to a believer!  Paul said as much in 2 Corinthians 5:5—7,

Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.

It’s a troubling thing when a believer shuns death or is terrified of it.  We either believe what Paul wrote, or we don’t.

2.  Praying in disguise, verse 2

Jeroboam told his wife to disguise herself and go to Shiloh to see Ahijah.  The thing that jumps off the page is the fact that the king urged his wife to change her appearance.  The king must have known how old the prophet was and that he was almost blind; but he apparently forgot that God’s eyesight is 20/20!  It’s always amusing to us (and it must be hilarious to God) when lackluster Christians try to change their “appearance” or their character in order to appeal to God’s loving and kind disposition.  God’s family always seems to swells in size when times are tough and shrinks when times are good.

But the thing that reveals the heart of the king the most was where he told his wife to go:  Shiloh, not Bethel.  Bethel was the where his altar was; it was where the priests where; it was where the king worshiped.  Why not send his wife there?  Jeroboam was like so many people today:  they have one religion when things are going well for them, and another one for the hard times.  A lot of Christians don’t need the church until they have a power bill they can’t pay or a daughter they have to marry off or spouse who’s sick, or worse, needs to be buried!  But a telling thing was the disguise; Jeroboam knew that Ahijah had not been pleased with his performance, so the king sought to “pull the wool over the old prophet’s dim eyes.”

It may come as a surprise, but it is useless to try being one way in the world and another way before God.  Nobody can disguise their true character when in God’s presence.  Jeroboam’s wife was going to bribe the prophet with some cakes, but how many borderline believers try to bribe God with their tears?  How many people claiming to be Christians believe one thing on their knees but another on their feet?  If we may learn one lesson from these verses, it must surely be that God sees a person’s heart.  You may be able to fool your wife or your pastor, but you can never fool the One who knows you better than yourself.

The disguise, in all probability, was an attempt to avoid the prediction of the man of God from Judah had given from coming to pass, but they were desperate to find out what would happen to their son.  This couple is a perfect example of people who want something from God but don’t want to know His will for their ungodly and godless lives.

3.  Getting the bad news, verses 6, 10—13

So when Ahijah heard the sound of her footsteps at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news.”  (verse 6)

Either the old prophet wasn’t as blind as the king thought he was or God was at work even before Jeroboam’s wife got to his house.  Ahijah saw through her crude disguise and asked a rhetorical question:  “Why this pretense?”  It’s not that he was expecting an answer, but she needed to know that her efforts where to no avail.  But we see empathy and compassion at work here.  Ahijah was not happy to deliver this bad news to the mother of Abijah.  He knew it was bad news; he wasn’t made of stone, after all!  Yet he did not let his sense of compassion and sympathy stop him from delivering the Word of the Lord.  God’s Word should never be compromised or sugar-coated.

Verses 7—9 outline the Lord’s complaint against Jeroboam—

  • Jeroboam was to be part of God’s plan as an instrument of judgment against the House of David on account of Solomon’s sin;
  • Jeroboam had taken advantage of the situation to assert himself and was guilty of the most grievous acts of disobedience against God;
  • The House of Jeroboam would be destroyed to the last person;
  • Ahijah, the sick son, would die and all Israel would mourn for him because he was to succeed his father as king;
  • Jeroboam’s religion and influence would have such a terrible effect on all Israel that eventually the entire nation would be taken into exile (verse 15).

Jeroboam could have been a king in the mold of David and Solomon; he could have ruled Israel in peace and righteousness and his dynasty could have been prominent in world affairs even down to this day had he lived and ruled in conformity to God’s will.  However, because of his arrogance and sustained disobedience, Jeroboam squandered the opportunity he had been given by God and ruined any chance his house had to continue to rule the northern kingdom of Israel.  His disobedience would bring punishment both upon himself, his family, and his nation.  John Donne so eloquently stated:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

No human being can confine the consequences of his sin to himself.  What you do, particularly the evil that you do, reaches out and touches untold lives.

‘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!’  (verses 10, 11)

This man, Jeroboam, was hoisted by his own petard!  He was scared to death that the people of Israel would rebel against him and kill him, and the thing he feared the most was going to come to pass.  Terrible violence was going to befall the House of Jeroboam.  If he would have just trusted God, his kingdom would have endured.  But, apparently, that was too hard for him.

As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die.  All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good.  (verses 12, 13)

Amazingly, godless Jeroboam seemed to get more signs than most other kings of either kingdom!  What should be noted here is that Abijah’s death would occur when his mother got home; in essence, her actions would result in his death.  And so God’s awful judgment on the House of Jeroboam and the House of Israel was about to begin, and nobody can know how awful this woman must have felt.  The sin we commit carries with it terrible consequences, not the least of which is the knowledge of what we have done.

Jeroboam, and his wife as well, continued to live and rule for years after the death of Abijah, but his death must have been like an opened wound that refused to heal.  His death was just a foretaste of what awaited every single member of the family with one exception:  this boy died in peace while the fate of the rest of the family was one of violence and terrible deaths.  Abijah’s life was not unduly cut short.  It has been said that, “Life is to be measured, not by the beats of the pulse, but by the quality of our time and of the work we have accomplished.”  This boy was, it seems, loved by all Israel for all Israel mourned for him.  The same was not said of Jeroboam or the rest of his family.  In His mercy, God removed this young Prince before His wrath was poured out.

There are many lessons to be learned from how God dealt with Jeroboam, some of them have already been discussed.  Jeroboam had so much to gain yet lost so much because of his willful rebellion against the will of God.  It’s hard to believe that a man could be so stubborn as to insist on having things his own way even when that way leads to pain and ultimately death.  But how many people, all around us, are on the same course as King Jeroboam, and maybe not even be aware of it?  We should look around at the state of our lives and consider what we see.  May the Lord open our eyes as he opened old Ahijah’s to the true state of our spiritual condition.  We may delude ourselves into thinking everything is just fine, but God can never be fooled; nobody can pull the wool over His eyes!

(c)  2010, WitzEnd
(c) 2010 WitzEnd
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