Nations split. It’s a sad reality and it happens often. Even in our lifetimes several nations have split. It’s a tragedy when it happens.
And Israel was about to get broken apart. Solomon in all his wisdom could not get a handle on his lust and having married countless women, he was led astray by them to worship other gods. Because of it God decreed the nation would split in the course of his son’s life.
His son Rehoboam became king of Israel. But Jeroboam was also an influential man, one who had become a refugee in Egypt and had found favor with the Egyptian rulership.
When Jeroboam and all the people went to Rehoboam, they asked for a lightening of the load that Solomon had placed upon them. When Rehoboam consulted the elders, they agreed with the request and give instruction for him to respond to the people in kindness. Then Rehoboam asked his childhood friends who had grown up with him and they suggested he show his strength, saying his father was nothing compared to who he was. Rehoboam listened to his friends, and thus the people rebelled and broke away.
Now the nation was split. Rehoboam, son of Solomon, only got the tribe of Judah to serve him in the South. Jeroboam on the other hand had the hearts of all the other 10 tribes. (Yes, there used to be 12 tribes total but the tribe of Simeon was absorbed into the tribe of Judah).
But just as in the Revolutionary War in America where some were loyal to the homeland, Britain, and others were loyal to the new land, America, and most wavered between loyalties, so the same happened here. Hearts were torn. It wasn’t plain and clear who to serve. Sides had to be taken but it wasn’t so easy.
Jeroboam was afraid therefore that people would return to following Rehoboam, son of Solomon in Judah. It was a real possibility. So he did what happens so often. He made a substitute.
He set up a substitute capitol city by building up the city of Shechem. He built a substitute place of worship and substitute gods. He set up substitute priests and substitute sacrifices. He even set up a substitute time frame of worship and substitute festivals.
This is what happens over and over in history. If you just set up a substitute to the real thing, people will be deceived and follow. It has the look and feel of the real deal, so it seems justifiable. It happens in relationships, in worship, and more.
A substitute is more evil than just all out evil.
So now there were two kingdoms. There was Rehoboam, son of Solomon who foolishly listened to his young friends instead of the elders and be harsh against the people, but he was starting to listen and obey the Lord somewhat (1 Kings 12:20-24). Then there was Jeroboam who had all the tribes of the North who seemed to be Ok but then was leading the people away from the Lord with these idolatrous substitutions (1 Kings 12:25-33).
The people who truly worshiped the Lord were caught between the two. It seemed like both sides of the street had significant deficits.
It’s a very difficult place for the people of God.
There is no substitute for righteousness.