Introduction: After Solomon’s reign, the Jews were divided in their loyalties between God and worldly idols. To show them that they had dual allegiances, God allowed the Jews to be divided into two nations. Instead of repenting, the Jews tried to keep their idols and subdue each other by force. This led to a civil war, which resulted in at least 500,000 deaths. Abijah, Judah’s second king, and Jeroboam, the first king of Northern Israel, both claimed to speak for God. In fact, neither knew God. The Jews who followed each leader into civil war also failed to see that their leaders had no legitimate walk with God. As a result, the people of both nations followed their leaders into a war that God had expressly prohibited. Knowing whether a leader is walking with God should be a concern of every believer. A leader walking with God deserves every believer’s support. In contrast, believers should first pray for and then vote against a leader who is not walking with God. From the failures of Abijah and Jeroboam, God reveals seven signs of a leader without a real walk with Him. These include: (1) disobedience, (2) belligerence, (3) hypocrisy, (4) pride or arrogance, (5) a shallow faith, (6) unrepentance, and (7) covetousness.
First, after Abijah succeeded Rehoboam as Judah’s second king, he disobeyed God’s Word by adopting several forms of pagan idolatry. God judged him by limiting his reign to three years. From Abijah’s mistake, God warns believers to be wary of any leader who disobeys His Word. Second, Abijah ignored God’s prophet, who instructed Rehoboam not to try to retake Northern Israel by force. Abijah then manipulated God’s Word in seeking to justify his war. In addition to disobedience, God warns believers to be wary of any leader who is belligerent and violent. A God-fearing leader instead loves his enemies and seeks reconciliation. Third, Abijah proclaimed judgment over Jeroboam because of his idolatry. Yet, Abijah was a hypocrite because he practiced idolatry himself. From his mistake, God warns believers to be wary of leaders who are hypocritical in judging others. Fourth, Abijah proclaimed that he would win the war because of his country’s alleged righteousness. Yet, he was also under God’s judgment for similar sins. From Abijah’s mistake, God warns believers to be wary of any leader who is prideful and boastful. Fifth, to teach Abijah and his soldiers humility, God nearly allowed Jeroboam’s forces to prevail in battle. It was only after Abijah and his troops cried out to God that God delivered them. Yet, after being delivered, Abijah quickly turned away from God. From Abijah’s mistake, God warns believers to be wary of a leader whose faith is shallow or transactional. Sixth, despite giving Jeroboam several opportunities to repent, he refused to do so. God was then forced to judge him, his family, and his kingdom. From Jeroboam’s mistakes, God warns believers to be wary of any leader who is unrepentant in his or her sins. Finally, after being delivered, Abijah strengthened himself and violated God’s Word by taking 14 wives. He coveted both power and the things of the flesh more than the things of God. From Abijah’s mistakes, God warns every believer to be wary of any leader who is governed by covetousness.
Abijah’s three-year reign as Judah’s second kind. Rehoboam appointed his son Abijah to succeed him. Yet, because he disobeyed God, God only allowed him to reign for three years: “1 In the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam, Abijah became king over Judah. 2 He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Micaiah the daughter of Uriel of Gibeah.” (2 Chr. 13:1-2a). Abijah’s mother Micaiah was the favorite of Rehoboam’s 18 wives (2 Chr. 11:21; 1 Kgs. 15:2). She was the granddaughter of David’s son Absalom (2 Chr. 13:2; 2 Sam. 14:27). She was an idolater and had an evil influence over Rehoboam. She also influenced Rehoboam to select Abijah to be his heir when there were other older sons who were next in line to the throne (2 Chr. 11:22). She then influenced Abijah to practice idolatry (1 Kgs. 15:1-5). Her influence ended only with the reforms of Abijah’s son and successor, King Asa (2 Chr. 15:16). As a sign of his judgment, Rehoboam reigned in Judah for only 17 years, 931-913 B.C. (1 Kgs. 14:21). As a sign of Abijah’s even greater judgment, his reign lasted only three years, from 913-911 B.C. (1 Kgs. 15:2). Abijah’s evil acts led Judah into idolatry, misery, and war (1 Kgs. 15:7). His reign in Judah was concurrent with Jeroboam’s reign in Northern Israel. Because both men were evil, they plunged the Jews into their third civil war.
Anonymous “Abijah” Canterbury Cathedral, England (12th Century)1
Abijah embraced idolatry. During his short reign, Abijah 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. 2 He reigned three years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. 3 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. 4 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; 5 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.” (1 Kgs. 15:1-5). Abijah followed after the idolatrous practices of his father Rehoboam, who made idolatry both open and pervasive in Judah (1 Kgs. 14:23-24). The evil practices included (1) temple prostitution with “male cult prostitutes” (1 Kgs. 14:24; Dt. 16:22) and (2) worship using pagan “Asherah” poles, with sexually explicit carvings (1 Kgs. 14:24). In the book of Kings, he is referred to by the name “Abijam” (1 Kgs. 15:1). In the book of Chronicles, he is referred to by the name “Abijah” (2 Chron. 13:1-2). 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). He was a populist who stopped walking with God and embraced evil practices that the people loved. His name change showed God’s mercy and grace.
A God-fearing leader obeys God’s Word. Abijah’s problems began when he refused to submit to God’s Word as king. Moses exhorted the Jews to obey God’s Word (e.g., Dt. 6:3-4; 9:1; 20:3). Joshua also encouraged the Jews to be obedient (Josh. 1:7). Before Solomon became king, David also urged him to obey God’s Word: “observe and seek after all the commandments of the Lord your God so that you may possess the good land and bequeath it to your sons after you forever.” (1 Chr. 28:5-8). Moses, Joshua, and David knew that the purpose behind the law might not always appear clear at the time. They were required to be obedient out of love, not obligation. God’s thoughts and His ways are greater than our own (Is. 55:8). Today, Christians are not “under the law” in the sense that they must comply with it to be saved (Gal. 5:18; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). By “fulfilling” the law, Jesus freed us from the impossible task of trying to obtain salvation through the law (Matt. 5:17). Jesus is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:14). Although not a salvation test, He reveals that you will keep His Commandments out of love to Him: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Do you vote for leaders who obey God’s Word, and are you praying for God to convict those who are rebellious toward Him?
Abijah starts a civil war. Without consulting God through prayer or through His prophets, Abijah then started a civil war with the larger 10 tribes of Northern Israel: “2b Now there was war between Abijah and Jeroboam. 3 Abijah began the battle with an army of valiant warriors, 400,000 chosen men, while Jeroboam drew up in battle formation against him with 800,000 chosen men who were valiant warriors. 4 Then Abijah stood on Mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, ‘Listen to me, Jeroboam and all Israel: 5 Do you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the rule over Israel forever to David and his sons by a covenant of salt? 6 Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, 7 and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them.” (2 Chr. 13:2b-7). Historians typically agree that an invading army needs at least three to one odds to defeat an army. Abijah started a war against an army twice the size of his army. He had many examples in Jewish history where the Jews defeated much larger pagan armies. But, in all of these cases, God intervened because of the Jews’ faith. Here, Abijah proclaimed God’s name as a rallying cry. But he did not pray for God’s guidance. Even worse, he misrepresented God’s Word.
Abijah committed the sins of presumption and misrepresenting God’s Word. Abijah sought to justify an invasion of Northern Israel based upon God’s eternal covenant with David (2 Chr. 13:4). But this was a misrepresentation of God’s complete Word. God did previously promise that David’s line of successor kings would reign forever (2 Sam. 7:16-17). God, however, warned Solomon that His covenant was in part conditional upon the obedience of Solomon and his descendants (1 Kgs. 9:6-7). Solomon ignored God’s warnings by building pagan temples and worshiping other gods (1 Kgs. 11:9-10). To give the Jews a chance to repent, God warned Solomon that the nation would be divided during his son Rehoboam’s reign: “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.” (1 Kgs. 11:12). Both Solomon and Rehoboam ignored these warnings. To give Rehoboam another chance to repent, God then sent the prophet Ahijah to again give a prophecy about the Jews’ division if Rehoboam did not repent of his sins. But Rehoboam again ignored God’s warning: “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the LORD might establish His word, which He spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” (2 Chr. 10:15). As a consequence of his ongoing rebellion, he lost the 10 tribes (2 Chr. 10:16-19). Without consulting God, Rehoboam then also tried to use his military to force the 10 tribes of Northern Israel to rejoin his kingdom (2 Chr. 11:1; 1 Kgs. 12:21). Because his actions were contrary to God’s Word, God’s prophet Shemaiah stopped Rehoboam from starting a war: “2 But the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 3 ‘Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin, saying, 4 ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not go up or fight against your relatives; return every man to his house, for this thing is from Me.’’’ So they listened to the words of the Lord and returned from going against Jeroboam.” (2 Chr. 11:2-4; 1 Kgs. 12:22-23). Rehoboam could not use force to prevent God’s Word from coming true. For the same reason, Abijah could not undue God’s judgment by starting his own unauthorized civil war.
Be wary of leaders who are belligerent and prone to start conflicts. God warns that a leader should not be quarrelsome or seeking conflict: “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged,” (2 Tim. 2:24). “For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,” (Titus 1:7). A Spirit-led leader instead tries to establish peace unless God directs otherwise: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9). Are you voting for peaceful leaders and praying for those who start conflicts?
Love your enemies. God’s people frequently quarreled with one another. On two prior occasions, these conflicts erupted into full civil wars. During the time period of the Judges, Israel fought its first civil war (Jdgs. 20:20-48). After Saul’s death, Israel fought its second civil war as the people chose sides between David, God’s anointed king, and the last son of Saul, Ish-bosheth (2 Sam. 2 - 4). Sadly, Abijah plunged the Jews into their third bloody civil war. If Rehoboam or Abijah had used love, reconciliation, and prayer, they might have reunited the Jews. If you are in conflict with a brother or sister, use love to resolve your differences. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Jo. 13:34-35). Are you voting for leaders who show love to others and praying for those who don’t?
Abijah failed to learn from David’s and Solomon’s examples in seeking guidance. David committed many terrible sins. Yet, he frequently sought out God’s guidance. He sought God’s guidance when Saul pursued him and tried to destroy him (1 Sam. 23:2-4, 9-15). After Saul’s death, David then again sought out and received God’s guidance regarding whether he could return to his people (2 Sam. 2:1). After becoming king, David continued to seek God’s guidance before he fought the Philistines (e.g., 2 Sam. 5:19). When he first became king, Solomon also humbly prayed for God’s wisdom to correctly guide the people (1 Kgs. 3:7, 9). Both Rehoboam and Abijah failed to learn from the examples of David and Solomon. They instead did what seemed right in their own eyes. Solomon warned that doing so could lead to death. “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12). In this case, their sins of presumption by doing what seemed right in their own eyes led to the death of the nation.
Seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance through the Word and prayer. Today, you can inquire of God’s will simply by reading the Word and by praying for the Holy Spirit to guide you. David later recorded in a psalm that he would turn to God’s Word to guide his path: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit will help you to remember the Word and apply it in your life. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” (Jo. 14:26; 14:16; 15:26; 16:13). The Holy Spirit will also give you wisdom: “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (Jam. 1:5). “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.” (Ps. 51:6). “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Prov. 2:6). Are you reading the Word and praying for the Spirit to guide your leaders to follow God’s will?
Abijah judged Jeroboam for his idolatry and for his counterfeit priesthood. Even though God did not authorize this war, God used Abijah to repeat His warnings of judgment that He had previously given to Jeroboam for even worse sins: “8 ‘So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you. 9 Have you not driven out the priests of the Lord, the sons of Aaron and the Levites, and made for yourselves priests like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes to consecrate himself with a young bull and seven rams, even he may become a priest of what are no gods.” (2 Chr. 13:8-9). When God split Israel into two nations, He gave Jeroboam a conditional chance to succeed. His kingdom could succeed if he and his descendants kept God’s Ten Commandments and His statutes: ‘“Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.”’ (1 Kgs. 11:38). But Jeroboam squandered God’s grace and brought judgment on his kingdom.
Jeroboam squandered God’s grace through idolatry and a counterfeit priesthood. Jeroboam squandered his chance to lead Northern Israel by openly embracing idolatry and by creating a counterfeit priesthood that was not from the tribe of Levi (1 Kgs. 12:31). He also created his own festivals with his counterfeit priests sacrificing calves in association with the Canaanite gods El and Baal (1 Kgs. 12:32-33). This caused the Levite priests within the 10 northern tribes to flee to Judah for protection (2 Chr. 11:13-15). Jeroboam led his nation into idolatry out of a misplaced belief that he needed to do this to preserve his power (2 Kgs. 17:21). He also took steps to prevent people from being able to travel to Judah. He further fortified Shechem, the northern capital (1 Kgs. 12:25). He also built up Penuel east of the Jordan River to assert his control over those Jewish territories. God sent a prophet to warn Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 13:1-10). But Jeroboam would not listen. Thus, God sent the prophet Ahijah to judge Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 14:10-11). But Jeroboam refused to repent. This began a process of spiritual decline. Without the priests to guide them, the Jews of Northern Israel fell further into sin. Jeroboam would lose this battle. He would then die from his wounds. Because his descendants continued these sins, their apostasy eventually culminated in Northern Israel’s exile to Assyria (2 Kgs. 17:20-23). Although Abijah was correct in pointing out these sins, he was a hypocrite in judging Jeroboam for his idolatry. He was judging Jeroboam for some of the same sins that he was committing.
Jeroboam ignored God’s warnings against idols and worshiping golden calves. God’s Second Commandment expressly prohibited the Jews from using idols to worship Him or any other alleged deity (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Jeroboam not only violated the Second Commandment, he did so in the exact same way that God condemned when Aaron built the golden calf and said that it represented God (Ex. 32:8, 4; Dt. 9:12). Jeroboam had just returned to Israel after years of exile in Egypt. Pharaoh had even given him a sister-in-law as a pagan wife (1 Kgs 11:19-20). Like Solomon, Jeroboam’s pagan wife led his heart astray. He incorporated the Egyptian belief that a person must see a god to worship it. But God prohibited this form of worship. At the southern end of his kingdom, he also put one false center of worship in Beth-el, 11 miles north of Jerusalem in the divided territory of Benjamin (1 Kgs. 12:29; Josh. 18:11-13, 22). He was most likely able to manipulate the Jews into believing that this was a proper worship location because Jacob worshiped there (Gen. 28:10-22; 35:1-15). At the northern end of his kingdom, he put a worship center in the city of Dan, located today in southern Lebanon (1 Kgs. 1:29). He most likely picked this as a second location because the rebellious Jews previously created a pagan worship center there during the time period of the Judges (Jdgs. 18:30-31). Although Jeroboam thought that his actions were politically astute, God warned the Jews through Moses that they could only worship in the appointed place that He selected (Dt. 12:5, 11). The Jews could not do this in any cultic place that they found. Offerings could only be made in the place that God selected (Dt. 12:13-14). Thus, for many reasons, God judged Jeroboam for leading the 10 tribes astray. Although Abijah was also a sinner, God used him as His instrument of judgment (Ro. 13:4).
Abijah was a hypocrite for judging Jeroboam for his idolatry. To be God’s instrument of justice, Abijah should have first purged Judah from the idolatry that he permitted under his rule. Jesus warns believers not to be hypocritical in judging others: “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”’ (Matt. 7:4-5; Lk. 6:41-42). Are you voting for leaders who are not hypocritical in judging others?
Abijah proclaims Judah’s righteousness before Northern Israel. Blind to his own sins, Abijah proclaimed his self-righteousness before Jeroboam: “10 But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the sons of Aaron are ministering to the Lord as priests, and the Levites attend to their work. 11 Every morning and evening they burn to the Lord burnt offerings and fragrant incense, and the showbread is set on the clean table, and the golden lampstand with its lamps is ready to light every evening; for we keep the charge of the Lord our God, but you have forsaken Him. 12 Now behold, God is with us at our head and His priests with the signal trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O sons of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you will not succeed.’” (2 Chr. 13:10-12). Abijah was consumed with pride. He was convinced of his moral superiority. Thus, he boldly proclaimed that he would win.
God gave Abijah a victory only after humbling him. Because of his pride, Abijah deserved to be defeated: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” (Prov. 16:18). God granted him a victory only after he and the rest of Judah humbled themselves and cried out to God for deliverance: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 18:14). “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.” (Prov. 29:23). “‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”’ (Jam. 4:6(b)). Are you voting for leaders who submit to God in humility?
Trust in God and not in government for your deliverance. God repeatedly warned the Jews to put their trust in Him and not in human leaders for their 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). God is the one who strengthens and protects His people: “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thess. 3:3). A God-fearing leader does not promise to deliver his or her people. Instead, a God-fearing leader guides people back to God.
Jeroboam ambushes Judah, and Judah prevails only after crying out to God. God showed the folly of Abijah’s pompous pride. He was about to lose the war he started. God only intervened because the Jews from Judah humbly “cried out” to God: “13 But Jeroboam had set an ambush to come from the rear, so that Israel was in front of Judah and the ambush was behind them. 14 When Judah turned around, behold, they were attacked both front and rear; so they cried to the Lord, and the priests blew the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah raised a war cry, and when the men of Judah raised the war cry, then it was that God routed Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 When the sons of Israel fled before Judah, God gave them into their hand. 17 Abijah and his people defeated them with a great slaughter, so that 500,000 chosen men of Israel fell slain. 18 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. 19 Abijah pursued Jeroboam and captured from him several cities, Bethel with its villages, Jeshanah with its villages and Ephron with its villages.” (2 Chr. 13:13-19). God did not give Judah victory because of Abijah’s prideful boasts. He granted them victory despite these boasts. With two evil kings battling against each other, God might have simply withdrawn from this battle. But He responded to the humble cries from Judah for help. He was also faithful to maintain His covenant to protect the line of David. God, however, did not reward Abijah with his desired reconquest of Northern Israel. Judah temporarily captured “several cities” from Northern Israel. But these territories soon reversed back to Northern Israel. Because the Jews in both kingdoms maintained divided loyalties between God and the idols of the world, their kingdoms remained divided.
Abijah cried out to God for deliverance2
Abijah turned to God only when he needed Him. 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). Yet, Abijah turned to God only when he needed him. Once his power was secure, he took 14 wives for himself (2 Chr. 13:21). 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.
God was faithful to keep His covenant, even when Judah’s kings were unfaithful. Abijah 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?
Worshiping idols can bring defeat or setbacks for an entire nation. Jeroboam was under greater judgment because he never turned from his idolatry and never cried out to God for deliverance. This was true even after he lost 500,000 men in battle. If a nation refuses to repent and turn back to God, God warns that He may also allow His people to be defeated in battle: “25 The Lord shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Dt. 28:25). “I will set My face against you so that you will be struck down before your enemies; and those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee when no one is pursuing you.” (Lev. 26:17). When the Jews were disobedient to God, they were defeated in battle: “The Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel. When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield.” (1 Sam. 4:2). “So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent; and the slaughter was very great, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.” (1 Sam. 4:10). If you refuse to follow God’s laws, you will not lose your salvation. Yet, God may remove His hand of protection and allow you to experience setback and defeat.
God will judge any nation that embraces idols. No person should treat sin lightly (Ro. 6:26). God is a consuming fire when in the presence of sin: “for our God is a consuming fire.” (Heb. 12:29; 10:27; Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24; 9:3; Ps. 97:3; Is. 33:14; 2 Thess. 1:7). For those who do not repent, He warns: “I will pour out My indignation on you; I will blow on you with the fire of My wrath, . . .” (Ez. 21:31(a)). ‘“Is not My word like fire?’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer which shatters a rock?’” (Jer. 23:29). “The soul who sins will die.” (Ez. 18:4(b)). Unless you accept that God will judge sin, you will feel no pressure to repent. Staying silent about His judgments also doesn’t help others. Are you helping others turn to Christ to spare them from judgment? (Matt. 28:16-20).
God judged Jeroboam and struck him down. Because Jeroboam refused to repent, God eventually judged him by striking him down from his injuries: “20 Jeroboam did not again recover strength in the days of Abijah; and the Lord struck him and he died.” (2 Chr. 13:20). Even though God judged Jeroboam, He showed him mercy and grace. First, he allowed him to survive the battle with only wounds to give him the chance to repent. Second, God granted him a 22-year reign, longer than either Rehoboam or Abijah (1 Kgs. 14:20). Third, while most of his successors died in violent coups, he lived to see his second oldest son Nadab succeed him as King of Northern Israel (1 Kgs. 14:20).
God’s mercy and grace through His many prior warnings to Jeroboam. Jeroboam received several warnings before he died. First, God warned him that he would only succeed if he kept His Commandments and statutes (1 Kgs. 2:3-4; 3:14; 11:38). Second, after he adopted idolatry, he experienced God’s power and a warning with a sign of his withered and then restored hand (1 Kgs. 13:1-6). Third, he received a warning from his own false prophet (1 Kgs. 13:26-32). Fourth, God tried to reach Jeroboam by allowing his first heir Abijah to become ill (1 Kgs. 14:1). God had Ahijah proclaim judgment on Jeroboam’s son Abijah. He would die, and he would be the only descendant of Jeroboam to be buried: “7 Go, say to Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel, 8 and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you—yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight; 9 you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back— 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.’’ 12 Now you, arise, go to your house. When your feet enter the city the child will die. 13 All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he alone of Jeroboam’s family will come to the grave, because in him something good was found toward the Lord God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam. 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. 14:6-14). Fifth, to demonstrate his power, God confirmed His Word by causing Jeroboam’s son Abijah to die exactly as He foretold (1 Kgs. 14:17-20). Sixth, God allowed Jeroboam to lose 500,000 men and several cities in battle (2 Chr. 13:17, 19). Finally, God allowed Jeroboam to be wounded in battle instead of suffering an immediate death (2 Chr. 13:20). Yet, Jeroboam ignored all of these opportunities to repent. Thus, God judged him, his family, and his kingdom.
The wages of unrepentant sin are death. Because Jeroboam did not repent, “the LORD struck him and he died.” (2 Chron. 13:20). Jeroboam’s judgment should be treated as a warning to all: “For the wages of sin is death, . .” (Rom. 6:23). For the unsaved, allowing demonic forces into your life through drug abuse, alcohol, pornography, or the occult brings with it an eternal death penalty (Lev. 20:27; Ex. 22:18; Dt. 18:10-12). Only through faith in Jesus’ atoning death on the cross is salvation possible (Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:21). “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, . . .” (Gal. 3:13). “for ‘whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”’ (Ro. 10:13). Are you voting for leaders who repent of their sins, and are praying for the Holy Spirit to convict those who refuse to repent?
God’s warnings of future judgments should also be taken seriously. God does not want to judge anyone: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). Anyone who repents can find eternal life in Jesus. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life . . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (Jo. 3:16, 18). Yet, God warns that whoever rejects Him as their Lord and Savior will face an eternal life without God: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jo. 3:36). “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16:16). These judgments are avoidable and should horrify you. Are you taking steps to spread the hope available through Jesus?
Out of pride, Abijah took 14 wives. Once freed of the threat to his reign, Abijah followed in the example of the kings who preceded him by adopting polygamy: “21 But Abijah became powerful; and took fourteen wives to himself, and became the father of twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22 Now the rest of the acts of Abijah, and his ways and his words are written in the treatise of the prophet Iddo.” (2 Chr. 13:21-22). Abijah showed that he did not cry out to God out of a change within his heart (2 Chr. 13:14). He instead responded to God’s mercy and grace by strengthening himself and hardening his heart. He then ignored God’s law by taking 14 wives for himself.
Abijah violated God’s law against polygamy. God’s law prohibited Abijah from having more than one wife: “17 He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; . . ..” (Dt. 17:17(a)). God intended for marriage to be limited to one man and one women (Matt. 19:4-6; Gen. 2:23-24; 1 Tim. 3:2). In addition to violating God’s law, he defamed God’s holy name. To this day, nonbelievers frequently cite the existence of polygamy in the Old Testament to assume that God condoned polygamy.
Don’t let a spiritual victory allow you to become spiritually complacent. Another important lesson from Abijah’s failure is the need for vigilance. If God has shown favor in your life by delivering you from an addiction, an adversary, or some other struggle, don’t allow His grace to allow you to become complacent in your walk. As one commentator explains, “from our more complete understanding of Abijah’s life, we can learn another lesson: that one great spiritual victory does not make an entire life before God. One should never trust in a past spiritual accomplishment or season of victory.” (David Guzik on 2 Chr. 13) (italics in original).3 Are you vigilant in your walk?
Abijah modeled the behavior of his predecessors, David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. As the ruler of Israel, there were no more important role models for Abijah than his predecessor kings David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. David also disregarded God’s law in this area. During his seven-year reign in Hebron, David took seven wives (1 Sam. 25:43l 2 Sam. 3:2-5; 2 Sam. 3:12-16). After becoming king, David took more wives and concubines (2 Sam. 5:13-14). He then again showed his disregard for the laws of sexual purity when he committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:2-4). Solomon also repeatedly violated God’s law against having one wife by taking 1,000 wives or concubines (1 Kgs. 11:3-4). Rehoboam then also ignored God’s law by taking 78 wives or concubines (2 Chr. 11:18-21). Thus, Abijah modeled what he saw growing up and followed after the misconduct of his father, grandfather and his great-grandfather. What kind of example are you setting for your kids?
Don’t cause others to stumble with your sins. David, Solomon, and Rehoboam’s mistakes are a warning to believers. “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God;” (1 Cor. 10:32). Are you causing others to stumble from your sins?
Coveting cannot be satisfied by giving into it. No matter how hard they tried, David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah could not satisfy their licentiousness by feeding it. They most likely did not have deep meaningful relationships with their spouses. Their wives were mere objects, and they were prisoners to their cravings of the flesh. The coveting that the devil offers can only be satisfied through more coveting (Heb. 11:25; Lk. 12:19-20). Thus, Solomon later lamented from his own mistakes: “Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.” (Prov. 27:20; 30:16). “And the dogs are greedy, they are not satisfied. And they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each one to his unjust gain, to the last one.” (Is. 56:11; Hab. 2:5). Giving into your temptations only leads to misery as you are unable to find peace and contentment. Are you giving into your temptations?
Make no provision for the flesh in your life. Choosing the Spirit is just the first step in the spiritual warfare between the flesh and the Spirit. As happened to David, Solomon, Rehoboam, and Abijah, the flesh will look for every opportunity to wage war against your Spirit. You must be prepared to fight the desires of the unholy passions of the flesh: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11). “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.” (Ro. 7:23). “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Gal. 5:24). You must take each thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5). You must also renew your mind daily in this conflict (Ro. 12:1-2). Have you made any accommodation with desires of the flesh?
Be wary of leaders who covet power or the things of the flesh. Abijah was not content with what God had given him. He coveted the power of a united kingdom and the desires of his flesh through his 14 wives. A Spirit-led leader is content with God’s gifts: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” (1 Tim. 6:6; Lk. 12:15). Are you voting for leaders who are free from covetousness?