A Tale of Two Kings

Tom Burke

February 2004
© 2004 Scriptural Study Groups.  All Rights Reserved.

In the Old Testament, we can read of two young men whose early lives were remarkably similar. Both quickly showed great promise in service to the king of Israel. Both were later forced to flee into exile. Both were anointed by men of God and told that they would one day be king. Both exhibited great love for God’s people.

And both did indeed reign, the first in Judah and later in Israel, the other in Israel, but never in Judah.

The first, despite his errors, is remembered as a man after God’s own heart. His name was David. The second, despite his intentions, is remembered as the standard against which evil kings were measured. His name was Jeroboam.

What would cause such similar stories to culminate in such widely differing results? One factor stands out. David, anointed as a very young man, trusted that the God who called him to rule would keep His promise. As a shepherd, as a general, and as a fugitive, he resisted the temptation to “help God out.” He did not attempt to bring God’s promise to pass by his own effort, even when presented with seemingly perfect opportunities.

Even as king, David trusted that the God who gave the kingdom would guard the kingdom. He did not endeavor to keep by force that which he had gained by grace. He simply trusted the One who gave it.

A different story is told of Jeroboam. Though Jeroboam ruled in Israel, the rigid and oppressive Rehoboam continued to reign in Judah. Judah was where Jerusalem was located. Jerusalem was where the temple was located. And all men of Israel were required by God’s law to visit the temple for the three annual feasts. Jeroboam began to think …

I Kings 12:26, 27

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

If this People go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this People turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.”

The solution that occurred to him would prove disastrous both for Israel, and for Jeroboam himself.

I Kings 12:28, 29

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

Jeroboam set up his own places of worship. He appointed his own priests. He designated his own feast days. And all of this was done because, when confronted with an apparent threat, he ‘said in his heart’, rather than leaning on the God who had given him that kingdom. As a result, Israel would be plagued by idolatry from the time of Jeroboam until its final conquest by the Assyrians, when its people were taken away to other lands, disappearing from both the records of man and the plan of God.

Jeroboam himself lived out his life as king of Israel, but his son reigned only two years before being killed and replaced by a king not of Jeroboam’s bloodline. David’s bloodline, however, would continue on. Among his descendants can be counted all of the kings of Judah, and finally the Lord Jesus Christ.

We as Christians have been given much more than an earthly kingdom. We have been given redemption, righteousness, holiness. We have been given citizenship in heaven and membership in the household of God. We have been given the very life of God, and all of the blessings that go with it.

What did we do to earn such greatness? Nothing. How did we attain it? Simply by trusting the words of the One who promised. Our works, schemes, and thoughts were absolutely incapable of securing God’s blessing. He, and He alone, gave us that blessing, by His grace. By what logic does the Christian determine that his former useless works, schemes, and thoughts have now become essential in retaining God’s blessing?

Galatians 3:2, 3

This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

In a moment of time, we heard God’s Word and believed. God was faithful to deliver all that He had promised. He is still faithful today. Let us continue to live by believing.