Jeroboam was the first king of the northern half of the divided nation. He feared that he would lose the support of the people and they would turn back to the Davidic dynasty in the south, regardless of the fact that God promised him, if you will hearken to all that I command you, and walk in my ways, and do that which is right in my eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, that I will be with you, and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you, 1 Kgs 11:38. Because he did not have faith in that promise, he changed the pattern of worship as set forth in the Law, 1 Kgs 12:25-33.
He made a new feast day, v 32-33, so the people would not be traveling to Jerusalem with all the southerners to worship together, v 27. He began making priests of other tribes than Levi, v 31. He made two new places of worship, Dan and Bethel, conveniently located at both ends of the country, so the people would not feel compelled to travel to Jerusalem—anything to keep them at home and happy. It is important to note, too, that the calves he built were not idols to be worshipped, but graven images by which the people were to worship Jehovah—something Amos and Hosea make more apparent than 1 Kings. This was not rampant idolatry; it was just a change in the pattern of worshipping Jehovah.
So what is the problem? They still worship Jehovah. They still keep feasts to Jehovah, and make sacrifices under the leadership of a priesthood. Yet these were things devised of his own heart, v 33, not things that God had ordained. This is the difference: God said through the prophet Ahijah in 14:14-16, Jehovah will raise up a king who will cut off the house of Jeroboam…For Jehovah will smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he will root up Israel out of this good land which he gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the River…and he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he has sinned, and in which he made Israel to sin. From the point of the northern kingdom’s first king, God had decided their fate—they would not stand for the Law, so he would not stand for them.
Now take a few minutes and read these passages: 1 Kgs 15:3, 29, 30; 16:25,26, 31; 22:51,52; 2 Kgs 3:1-3; 10:29-31; 13:1-3, 10, 11; 14:23,24; 15:8,9,17,18,23,24; 17:20-23. What do they have in common? A phrase similar to this: and he walked in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat in which he made Israel to sin. Five times a king is said to have done evil “like Ahab,” but sixteen times the honor goes to Jeroboam. Jeroboam single-handedly caused the destruction of the northern kingdom, and set the standard for evil among all her kings. How? By disrespecting the Law of God. That is the legacy of Jeroboam.
Whether we like it or not, we are all leaving a legacy. It may not affect a kingdom, but it will affect our children, and theirs, and theirs, till before you know it, we have affected hundreds. The greatest legacy we can leave is to follow God’s pattern for marriage, raising children, worship, and social conduct. If your children are small, now is the time to become conscious of the legacy you are leaving, before it’s too late. The frightening thing about legacies is, they cannot be undone!
But when that generation was gathered to their fathers, there arose a generation that knew not God…Judges 2:10.
Don’t let it be your children’s generation.