1 Kings 15: Lessons From the Leaders of Israel and Judah Regarding the Dangers of Rebellious Leaders

When a nation’s leaders rebel against God, the entire nation can be placed into bondage1

Introduction: After Solomon’s reign ended, the nation of Israel divided into two nations. Both adopted idolatry and rebelled against God (1 Kgs. 12:1-14:31). In 1 Kings 15, God revealed the rebellions against Him during the reigns of Abijam and Asa in Judah, and Nadab and Baasha in Northern Israel. During this time, the sins of Jeroboam continued in Israel (1 Kgs. 15:26, 34), and the cultic high places remained in Judah (1 Kgs. 15:14). Some of the leaders, like Abijam and Asa, initially followed after God. But they eventually rebelled or failed to fully obey Him. From these leaders, God reveals seven warnings regarding leaders who rebel against Him. They are frequently governed by: (1) a shallow faith, (2) dual mindedness, (3) fear and faithlessness, (4) unrepentance, (5) violence and covetousness, (6) an evil heart, or (7) strife and misery.

First, Rehoboam’s son Abijam in Judah initially turned to God when he faced a large assault from Jeroboam’s forces in Northern Israel. But his heart turned against God after God freed him from a military threat. He embraced idolatry and took 14 wives. From Abijam’s mistakes, God warns believers to be wary of leaders with a shallow faith. Second, the next king of Judah, Asa, broke with Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijam by removing idols. But he refused to remove the cultic high temples that God ordered the Jews to remove. He walked in partial obedience as he tried to both serve God and tolerate the things that others believed in, even though God called these things evil. His actions would eventually cause his passions for God to fade. From Asa’s mistake, God warns believers to be wary of dual minded leaders who walk in only partial obedience to Him. Third, after Asa’s faith was weakened, he became filled with fear when Baasha, the new evil king of Northern Israel, attacked. Instead of trusting God, Asa placed his trust in a pagan Assyrian king to save Judah. God used a prophet to rebuke Asa. Asa responded by jailing the prophet and oppressing his people. From Asa’s mistakes, God warns believers to be wary of fearful and faithless leaders. Fourth, after Asa refused to repent, God allowed him to become crippled with a disability. But Asa again refused to repent. From Asa’s mistakes, God warns believers to be wary of leaders with an unrepentant heart. Fifth, Nadab, the next king of Northern Israel, joined in his father’s sins by having his people worship golden calves. He also continued his father’s rule that prohibited God’s chosen Levites from serving as priests. From Nadab’s mistakes, God warns believers to be wary of leaders governed by an evil heart. Sixth, the next king of Northern Israel, Baasha, was worse than any leader who preceded him. He murdered men, women, and children for his own selfish desire for power. To keep his power, he kept the counterfeit religion and priesthood in Northern Israel. He also prevented observant Jews from traveling to Judah to worship in the Temple. From Baasha’s evil reign, God warns believers to be wary of violent and covetous leaders who are motivated by self-gain. Finally, both Asa and Baasha brought continual strife, warfare, and misery to the people of Northern Israel and Judah. Because both had turned against God, Satan governed them both. From their mistakes, God warns believers to be wary of leaders who cause strife and misery.

1. A Shallow Faith: Be Wary of Leaders With a Shallow Faith. 1 Kgs. 15:1-7.

  • Abijam succeeded Rehoboam, but soon did evil in God’s eyes. God blessed Rehoboam’s son Abijam with the highest honor of being king of Judah. But Abijam squandered God’s blessings by engaging in idolatry: “1 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, Abijam became king over Judah. He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. He walked in all the sins of his father which he had committed before him; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, like the heart of his father David. But for David’s sake the Lord his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, to raise up his son after him and to establish Jerusalem; because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. Now the rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam.” (1 Kgs. 15:1-7). As a sign of his judgment, Rehoboam reigned in Judah for only 17 years, 931-913 B.C. (1 Kgs. 14:21). His son Abijam was the second ruler of Judah. He was previously called Abijah (2 Chron. 13:1-2). His reign in Judah was concurrent with Jeroboam’s reign in Northern Israel. While Abijah means “my father is the Lord,” Abijam means “father of the sea.” In the Bible, the sea can either represent a mass of people or evil (Jer. 51:42; Ezek. 26:3; Matt. 13:47; Rev. 13:1). Some believe that his name was changed to reflect that he stopped walking with God during his reign as king. As a sign of his judgment, his reign lasted only three years, from 913-911 B.C. (1 Kgs. 15:2). His mother Maachah was the favorite of Rehoboam’s 18 wives (1 Kgs. 15:2). She was the granddaughter of David’s son Absalom (2 Chron. 13:2; 2 Sam. 14:27). She was an idolater and had an evil influence over Abijah. Her influence ended only with the reforms of King Asa (2 Chron. 15:16). Abijah’s evil acts led Judah into idolatry, misery, and war (1 Kgs. 15:7).

  • Abijah turned to God only when he needed Him. At one point during Abijah’s reign, he faced a large assault from Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 15:6). The book of Chronicles reveals that Abijah turned to God when it seemed like his kingdom would lose in battle. God then allowed his forces to prevail: “Thus the sons of Israel were subdued at that time, and the sons of Judah conquered because they trusted in the LORD, the God of their fathers.” (2 Chr. 13:18). But Abijah turned to God only when he needed him. Once his power was secure, he took 14 wives for himself: “But Abijah became powerful; and took fourteen wives to himself, and became the father of twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters.” (2 Chr. 13:21). This violated God’s law against a king having more than one wife: “17 He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; . . ..” (Dt. 17:17(a)). From the beginning, God intended for marriage to be limited to one man and one woman (Matt. 19:4-6; Gen. 2:23-24; 1 Tim. 3:2). Like many people, Abijah turned to God only when he needed Him. In times of plenty, his evil heart reigned over him.

  • Be wary of leaders who enjoy their power more than God. Jesus warned about those who rejoice at His Word and then become consumed by the world: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22). Like many leaders, Abijah’s faith failed because it had only shallow roots.

  • David was a sinner who repented when confronted with his sins. Abijah did not have a heart for God like his great-grandfather David (1 Kgs. 15:3). This did not mean that David’s conduct was righteous. Like every other person, David was a sinner. His sins included adultery and the murder of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:16-24). But when confronted with his sins, he repented. “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.” (Ps. 51:4; 2 Sam. 24:17; 1 Chron. 21:17). David also was not an idolater. Thus, he had no other gods in his heart. He further invited God to search his heart to expose his hidden sins (Ps. 139:23). His openness to learning from his sins is what made him a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Abijah had no similar willingness to let God expose his sins. Nor was he willing to repent of his sins. If you think you don’t have any sins, God’s truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Are you inviting His testing?

  • God was faithful to keep His covenant, even when Judah’s kings were unfaithful. Abijam did not deserve to be king. God allowed His “light” to burn in Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 15:4) and allowed him to be king only to fulfill His promises to David that his heirs would continue to reign over at least parts of Israel. On many occasions, God repeated His promise of an eternal kingship through David: ‘“I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.’ Selah.” (Ps. 89:4). “So I will establish his descendants forever and his throne as the days of heaven.” (Ps. 89:29). “He gives great deliverance to His king, and shows lovingkindness to His anointed, to David and his descendants forever.” (Ps. 18:50). “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” (Ps. 89:27). “For thus says the LORD, ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel;”’ (Jer. 33:17). Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of this promise (Is. 9:6-7; 16:5; Jer. 23:5-6). He was born into the line of David (Matt. 1:1). He came to fulfill God’s covenant with David as the eternal King of Kings (Lk. 1:32-33; Rev. 19:16). You may declare Jesus to be your Lord. But is He Lord over every aspect of your life?

2. Dual Mindedness: Be Wary of Leaders Who Walk in Partial Obedience. 1 Kgs. 15:8-15.

  • Asa succeeded Abijam and walked in partial obedience with God. Although Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijam all engaged in evil acts of rebellion, the next heir Asa broke with the sins of his fathers and initially turned Judah back to God: “And Abijam slept with his fathers and they buried him in the city of David; and Asa his son became king in his place. So in the twentieth year of Jeroboam the king of Israel, Asa began to reign as king of Judah. 10 He reigned forty-one years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 11 Asa did what was right in the sight of the Lord, like David his father. 12 He also put away the male cult prostitutes from the land and removed all the idols which his fathers had made. 13 He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother, because she had made a horrid image as an Asherah; and Asa cut down her horrid image and burned it at the brook Kidron. 14 But the high places were not taken away; nevertheless the heart of Asa was wholly devoted to the Lord all his days. 15 He brought into the house of the Lord the dedicated things of his father and his own dedicated things: silver and gold and utensils.” (1 Kgs. 15:8-15). Under Rehoboam and Abijam, idolatry was open and pervasive in Judah (1 Kgs. 14:23-24; 2 Chr. 12:1). This means that it was no longer stigmatized as a sin. The evil practices included temple prostitution (1 Kgs. 14:24; Dt. 16:22). The “Asherahs” were sexually explicit carvings associated with a Canaanite deity. The evil that God condemned also included male same sex cult prostitutes (1 Kgs. 14:24). But Abijam’s son Asa did right in the sight of the LORD. His name is an Arabic name that means “to heal”. He initially began to heal Judah from its open idolatry. His reign lasted 41 years, 911-870 B.C. (1 Kgs. 15:10). Thus, his reign lasted a year longer than David and Solomon (1 Kgs. 2:11; 11:42). His reign also outlasted seven future kings of Northern Israel. These included Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, and Ahab.

Asa initially walked in partial obedience by destroying pagan altars2

  • Asa initially succeeded in personal obedience, but failed by tolerating evil. Asa’s reforms are described in this chapter and in 2 Chronicles chapters 14 and 15. He engaged in six righteous acts that brought God’s blessings. These included: (1) initially having a heart devoted God like David (1 Kgs. 15:11); (2) putting away the male cult prostitutes (1 Kgs. 15:12; 14:24); (3) removing idols made by his father Abijam, his grandfather Rehoboam, and his great grandfather Solomon (1 Kgs. 15:12; 11:7); (4) removing Maacah as queen mother and burning an Asherah idol that she used to mislead others (1 Kgs. 15:13); (5) restoring the dedicated holy things that had been removed from the Temple (1 Kgs. 15:15); and he “commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment.” (2 Chr. 14:4). This caused the people of Judah and many refugees from Israel to see that God was with him: “He gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who resided with them, for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord his God was with him. 10 So they assembled at Jerusalem in the third month of the fifteenth year of Asa’s reign.” (2 Chron. 15:9-10). But his righteousness was not complete. He failed to rip down the cultic high temples left by the Canaanites, Solomon, Rehoboam and Abijam. He decided that tolerance was a virtue. Yet, because he tolerated what God called evil, both he and future generations would fall back into rebellion against God (1 Kgs. 15:14).

  • Tolerance is not a virtue when it leads you or others to rebel against God’s Word. To accommodate the religious beliefs of his pagan subjects and wives, Solomon built a special pagan worship temple to the Moabite god “Chemosh” and the Ammonite god “Molech” (1 Kgs. 11:7). Like Molech, worship to Chemos frequently included the disgusting use of innocent children as burnt offerings (2 Kgs. 3:27). Solomon’s tolerance would have been praised today as a virtue. But God warned the Jews not to use pagan altars for worship (Dt. 12:12-13; 1 Kgs. 13:32; Jer. 7:31). Whenever the Jews came across pagan altars, they were ordered to destroy them: “then you shall . . . destroy all their figured stones . . . and demolish all their high places;” (Nu. 33:52). “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. You shall tear down their altars . . .” (Dt. 12:2-3). Failing to observe this rule would eventually cause the Jews to blend their worship of God with Canaanite pagan practices: “ . . . For on every high hill and under every green tree you have lain down as a harlot.” (Jer. 2:20). Solomon did the exact opposite of what God commanded by building these temples. And these temples would stumble many future generations of people. King Jeroboam later followed Solomon's example and built altars for idol worship with unauthorized priests (1 Kgs. 12:31). King Manasseh later followed Solomon’s example and rebuilt pagan altars after King Hezekiah destroyed them (2 Kgs. 21:3). Solomon and Asa both believed that it was wise to tolerate the different religious practices of others. But when tolerance leads someone into direct rebellion against God’s Word, it is not a virtue. Unlike Solomon and Asa, you are called upon to destroy any unholy idol in your life.

  • You cannot have dual allegiances between God and other things. Many people serve God intensely. But our service to God is frequently divided. Once we understand that God will not accept divided allegiances, we realize how frequently we fall short in complying with this commandment: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (Gal. 1:10). “And Elijah came near to all the people and said, ‘How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is god, then follow him.’ And the people did not answer him a word.” (1 Kgs. 18:21; Josh. 24:15). If you are “double minded” by giving God less than your full devotion, you need to repent.

  • God warned David’s heirs that their success depended upon their full obedience. Before his death, David warned Solomon (and his heirs) that success would depend upon their obedience: “Keep the charge of the LORD your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to what is written in the Law of Moses, that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn,” (1 Kgs. 2:3). God also repeated these warnings to Solomon on two separate occasions (1 Kgs. 3:5; 9:2). All kings were further required to keep a personal copy of the law to make sure that they followed it as king: “Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests.” (Dt. 17:18). Thus, David’s heirs had no excuse for disobedience. Each knew that their success depended upon faith-led obedience.

3. Fear and Faithlessness: Be Wary of Fearful and Faithless Leaders. 1 Kgs. 15:16-22.

  • Out of fear of Baasha, Asa formed an alliance with the Assyrians. Although Asa’s heart was initially devoted to God, he became filled with fear when Baasha, the new evil king of Northern Israel, attacked. Instead of trusting God, Asa placed his trust in a pagan Assyrian king to save Judah: “16 Now there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. 17 Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. 18 Then Asa took all the silver and the gold which were left in the treasuries of the house of the Lord and the treasuries of the king’s house, and delivered them into the hand of his servants. And King Asa sent them to Ben-hadad the son of Tabrimmon, the son of Hezion, king of Aram, who lived in Damascus, saying, 19 ‘Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you a present of silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me.’ 20 So Ben-hadad listened to King Asa and sent the commanders of his armies against the cities of Israel, and conquered Ijon, Dan, Abel-beth-maacah and all Chinneroth, besides all the land of Naphtali. 21 When Baasha heard of it, he ceased fortifying Ramah and remained in Tirzah. 22 Then King Asa made a proclamation to all Judah—none was exempt—and they carried away the stones of Ramah and its timber with which Baasha had built. And King Asa built with them Geba of Benjamin and Mizpah.” (1 Kgs. 15:16-22). Acting under Satan’s influence, Jeroboam in Israel and Rehoboam in Judah brought constant conflict between their people (1 Kgs. 14:29-31; 1 Kgs. 15:6; 2 Chron. 13:1-3). In one battle between Jeroboam and Rehoboam’s son Abijah, at least 500,000 Jews from Israel died (2 Chron. 13:1-3, 17). After Abijam succeeded Jeroboam in Northern Israel, Israel and Judah had 10 years of peace (2 Chron. 13:19-20) Yet, after Baasha from the tribe of Issachar seized power in Northern Israel, he resumed Israel’s conflicts with Judah throughout his entire reign (1 Kgs. 15:16). Baasha sought to create a partial blockade against Jerusalem by building up the city of Ramah in the divided territory of Benjamin, five miles north of Jerusalem. Because Egypt was hostile toward Judah, trade through the south had already been cut off. Baasha sought to cut off an important highway that Solomon built up for trade through the north and east. He also sought to prevent observant Jews from reaching the Temple to properly worship God (1 Kgs. 15:17). In response to these actions, Asa sent almost all the money that he had to form an alliance with the ruler of the Assyrian kingdom in Damascus, Ben-hadad I. He wanted the Assyrians to break their treaty with Israel and invade Israel from the north (1 Kgs. 15:18). Ben-hadad I accepted the bribe and invaded Northern Israel. He then took lands north of the Sea of Galilee. This gave Syria control of the trade routes to the Mediterranean coast and important farmlands (1 Kgs. 15:20). Ben-hadad was a pagan. His name meant “son of the son.” Asa failed to learn from Solomon’s mistake in forming an alliance with a Pharaoh in Egypt, who later betrayed the Jews. Asa did not turn to God for help or deliverance. Instead, he used the remaining monies in God’s Temple to encourage a pagan king to wage war and oppress God’s people. This short-term act succeeded in ending Baasha’s threat to Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 15:21-22). But he then made the same error as Baasha by cutting off the people of Northern Israel from reaching the Temple by fortifying the cities of Geba and Mizpah, along the border in the divided territory of Benjamin (1 Kgs. 15:22). More importantly, his actions set in motion a conflict between the Assyrians and the Jews. This would cause misery and war for God’s people, leading to the exile and extinction of 10 tribes.

King Asa’s failure to trust God led to the Assyrians placing God’s people into bondage3

  • God rebuked Asa for his fear and for failing to trust Him. Asa was so afraid of Baasha that he built a special cistern to hide in in case Baasha conquered Jerusalem and tried to kill him: “Now as for the cistern . . . it was the one that King Asa had made on account of Baasha, king of Israel; . . .” (Jer. 41:9). In the book of Chronicles, the Bible records that God rebuked Asa for failing to trust Him, even after God had protected him in other battles. Sadly, Asa responded by imprisoning God’s prophet: “At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, ‘Because you have relied on the king of Aram and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.’ 10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.” (2 Chr. 16:7-10). Asa’s actions show how living a life in partial obedience ultimately leads to spiritual decline. At the time he purged Judah of idols and turned the nation back to God, few could have imagined that the same man would imprison God’s prophet and oppress God’s people (2 Chr. 16:10).

  • Trust in God and not in human leaders. Asa failed to heed God’s many warnings not to place his trust in human leaders for his deliverance: “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). Asa’s actions might have seemed wise at the time. God’s desire that Asa place his trust in Him must have appeared foolish to him. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). But a wise leader places his or trust in God and does not lean upon their own understanding: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). Today, people regularly place their hope in their political leaders with each election. But these people cannot save you. Have you placed your trust in God or in powerful people?

4. Unrepentance: Be Wary of Leaders With an Unrepentant Heart. 1 Kgs. 15:23-24.

  • Asa lived out his final years as a cripple, refusing to repent and return to God. Because Asa’s walk did not match his heart for God, God removed His protection from Asa and allowed him to live out his final years as a cripple: “23 Now the rest of all the acts of Asa and all his might and all that he did and the cities which he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? But in the time of his old age he was diseased in his feet. 24 And Asa slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David his father; and Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place.” (1 Kgs. 15:23-24). Although it is not a popular message in churches seeking to increase their numbers, there are consequences for your actions. Asa used the Assyrians to oppress the 10 tribes of Northern Israel. He used his own power to imprison God’s prophet and oppress God’s people (2 Chron. 16:7-12). Thus, God allowed Asa to live crippled with either gout or a vascular disease in the hopes that he would repent and turn back to Him.

God allowed Asa to live with diseased feet in an effort to cause him to repent4

  • Asa refused to turn back to God during his disability. In 1 Kings, God reveals that He allowed Asa to live as a cripple in his final years (1 Kgs. 15:23). In 1 Chronicles, God reveals that He did this in an effort to encourage Asa to turn back to Him: “12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa became diseased in his feet. His disease was severe, yet even in his disease he did not seek the Lord, but the physicians.” (2 Chr. 16:12). Sadly, the man who clearly saw the evil in his fathers could not see it in himself. Thus, he refused to repent and turn back to God during his time of disability. Instead, he placed his trust in physicians to save him from God’s punishment.

  • God can also use illnesses to cause you to repent. If a person lives in rebellion, God can allow that person to become sick to bring the person to repentance: “The Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with the sword and with blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until you perish.” (Dt. 28:22; Lev. 26:16). Illnesses can have many sources. Yet, if you are suffering from an illness, you should examine your heart for any sins and repent.

  • Even in death, Asa’s sins were odious to all around him. In 1 Chronicles, God reveals that the stench of Asa’s sins were so odious from his diseased feet that his attendants tried to cover up the stench at his funeral with spices: “13 So Asa slept with his fathers, having died in the forty-first year of his reign. 14 They buried him in his own tomb which he had cut out for himself in the city of David, and they laid him in the resting place which he had filled with spices of various kinds blended by the perfumers’ art; and they made a very great fire for him.” (2 Chr. 16:13-14). This provides a picture for what sin looks like in God’s presence. It is an ugly and intolerable thing in His holy presence.

  • Don’t become complacent in your walk. As one commentator notes, Asa’s tragic downfall and his refusal to repent is a warning to all believers. Believers should never allow spiritual success to lead to complacency. The moment you let your guard down, Satan will try to pull you off your walk with God: “Asa shows us the tragedy of a man who rules well and seeks the Lord for many years, yet fails in a significant challenge of his faith and then refuses to hear God’s correction. . . Asa was a good man who did not finish well. The last years of his life were marked by unbelief, hardness against God, oppression against his people, and disease. Age and time do not necessarily make us better; they only do if we continue to follow God in faith.” (David Guzik, 1 Kings 15).5

5. An Evil Heart: Be Wary of Leaders With an Evil Heart. 1 Kgs. 15:25-26.

  • Nadab succeeds Jeroboam in Northern Israel and does evil in God’s eyes. While Judah enjoyed 41 years of stability under a partially obedient king, Northern Israel suffered constant instability under their evil kings: “25 Now Nadab the son of Jeroboam became king over Israel in the second year of Asa king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. 26 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father and in his sin which he made Israel sin.” (1 Kgs. 15:25-26). God promised Jeroboam that he would succeed if he kept God’s Commandments and statutes (1 Kgs. 11:38). Yet, despite being given a chance to succeed, Jeroboam exceeded the evil of Saul and Solomon by setting a counterfeit worship system that led his entire country astray (1 Kgs. 16:25, 30; 2 Kgs. 21:11). Like his father, Nadab was an idolater (1 Kgs. 15:26). Thus, his reign was short, only two years in length, 910-909 B.C. He then met a violent end to his life.

King Nadab embraced pagan worship like his father Jeroboam6

  • Nadab also obstructed the Levites from serving as priests. Nadab joined in his father’s sins in having the people worship golden calves. He also continued his father’s rule that prohibited God’s chosen Levites from serving as priests: “For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the LORD.” (2 Chr. 11:14). Nadab’s name means “willing.” He was more than willing to continue in his father’s evil acts.

  • God will severely judge rulers who pull believers off of their walks. Paul warned that merely associating with an idolater can cause the believer to be pulled off his or her walk. (1 Cor. 5:11). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Cor. 15:3). Thus, you must: “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9). If merely associating with an idolater can cause you to stumble, the risk is even greater when your leader is an idolater. That person can cause any person or group of people under his or her authority to be led astray by his or her bad example. God will therefore judge these leaders for leading others astray. “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6). God severely judged Nadab for leading the 10 northern tribes into idolatry.

6. Violent and Covetous: Be Wary of Leaders Motivated by Self Gain. 1 Kgs. 15:27-31.

  • Baasha deposed Nadab in a coup and killed off Jeroboam’s descendants. As part of his punishment, God allowed Nadab to suffer a brutal and violent end at the hands of Baasha: “27 Then Baasha the son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar conspired against him, and Baasha struck him down at Gibbethon, which belonged to the Philistines, while Nadab and all Israel were laying siege to Gibbethon. 28 So Baasha killed him in the third year of Asa king of Judah and reigned in his place. 29 It came about as soon as he was king, he struck down all the household of Jeroboam. He did not leave to Jeroboam any persons alive, until he had destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Ahijah the Shilonite, 30 and because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel sin, because of his provocation with which he provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger. 31 Now the rest of the acts of Nadab and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (1 Kgs. 15:27-31). This shows the type of evil that reigns when God’s hand is completely removed from a country. Baasha showed no hesitation in killing Nadab and others to seize power. The coup took place in Gibbethon, 32 miles west of Jerusalem within the territory of Dan (1 Kgs. 15:27-8). This was meant to be a city of light, filled with God’s Levite priests (Josh. 19:44). Yet, after the Levites fled from Jeroboam’s counterfeit religious order, it became a city of darkness. Without God, Satan was in full control.

Baasha murders Nadab and then his family7

  • The future fulfillment of God’s judgment upon Jeroboam’s kingdom. The prophet Ahijah warned that God would raise up a king who would overthrow Jeroboam’s evil kingdom. “10 therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. 11 Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the Lord has spoken it.’’ . . . 14 Moreover, the Lord will raise up for Himself a king over Israel who will cut off the house of Jeroboam this day and from now on.” (1 Kgs. 14:10-11, 14). God fulfilled that prophecy here when Baasha deposed Nadab and killed every living male descendant of Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 15:27-30). Yet, even though the prophecy was limited to the male heirs, Baasha went beyond the prophecy to kill every woman and child as well.

  • The future fulfillment of God’s judgment of political instability. The prophet Ahijah prophesied that the people of Northern Israel would be like a “a reed is shaken in the water.” (1 Kgs. 14:15). This was a metaphor for instability (Matt. 11:7; Lk. 7:24). Baasha’s coup was the first of many coups to fulfill this prophecy of judgment. God judged each and every one of the leaders of Northern Israel for their evil acts (1 Kgs. 15:34; 16:2, 19, 31; 22:52; 2 Kgs. 3:3; 10:29, 31; 13:2, 11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28).

7. Strife and Misery: Be Wary of Leaders Who Cause Strife and Misery. 1 Kgs. 15:32-34.

  • Baasha wages war with Judah and does evil in God’s eyes. As part of his evil reign, Baasha also did evil in God’s sight by embracing idolatry and by waging war on God’s people in Judah: “32 There was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days. 33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah became king over all Israel at Tirzah, and reigned twenty-four years. 34 He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel sin.” (1 Kgs. 15:32-34). Baasha reigned for 24 years, 909-866 B.C. During this time, he caused all of Northern Israel to sin. Thus, he did not remove Nadab because of his idolatry or to please God. Indeed, his reign was worse. He sought to preserve the idolatrous system of worship with golden calves started under Jeroboam. At the same time, he prevented observant Jews from reaching the Temple for worship by creating a blockade in Ramah (1 Kgs. 15:17). Thus, Baasha seized power solely to glorify himself.

  • Spirit-led leaders do not create strife amongst God’s peoples. The strife between the Jews was as a result of their trusting in their flesh instead of God. Neither nation prospered because they did not fully trust God: “An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.” (Prov. 28:25.) A person who causes strife amongst God’s people is one of the things that God “hates”: “There are six things which the LORD hates, . . . A false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” (Prov. 6:16, 19). Thus, neither Baasha nor Asa could claim any moral high ground in this conflict. Their unending wars were their punishment (2 Chr. 16:9).

  • God allowed the Jews to experience conflict to discipline them. God warned that the eternal kingship given to David’s descendants would not exempt them from His discipline, just as a loving father disciplines a wayward son: “14 I will be a father to him [David’s descendants] and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men,” (2 Sam. 7:14). In a similar way, God disciplines His people out of love: “Thus you are to know in your heart that the LORD your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” (Dt. 8:5). “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” (Heb. 12:7). “But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.” (1 Cor. 11:32). If God has disciplined you, have you changed your ways for Him?

  • God will not forsake you. Even though God disciplined David’s descendants, He promised never to forsake them and remove their right to the kingship (2 Sam. 7:15). Sin would, however, limit the extent of their blessing to the land of Judah (1 Kgs. 11:13; 2 Kgs. 17:18; Ps. 89:33). God also promised that He will never leave or forsake His people. “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” (Dt. 31:6; Heb. 13:5). Like David’s descendants, open sin may prevent you from experiencing the fullness of God’s blessings. Thus, when you sin, repent and turn back to God. Leaders who refuse to repent while leading God’s people astray store up wrath for themselves: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” (Ro. 2:5).