The story of the Divided Kingdom is a vivid example of the relationship between human responsibility and divine sovereignty. Throughout history theologians (professional and amateur alike) have struggled to hold both of these biblical truths together. Thus, unfortunately, many favour one at the expense of the other. Far be it from me to wrap up this debate in 400 words or less! Nonetheless, it is right to affirm both, as Scripture does, and so we will look at both sides as we finish our look at the Divided Kingdom.
1 Kings 11 follows the description in chapter 10 of the great heights Israel reached: the praise and wonder from a visiting Queen, the amassed wealth, political influence, and the strength of a mighty army and its armaments. In less than two chapters we see its quick demise. On one level, it is easy to read 1 Kings 11 & 12 politically. We could see the North/South division as the natural consequence to the kind of “tribal” conflict that is so prevalent today across our own political spectrum. From Solomon’s lack of worship fidelity to his questionable policies, to his son Rehoboam’s foolish stubbornness and the rise of Jeroboam, we see the impact upon a kingdom of human sin and political maneuvering.
Something to Praise:
But is this all we see? When we read through verses 9 to 13 of chapter 11 the central figure is the Lord. He judged Solomon and found him wanting. Solomon ignored the Lord’s commands and as a result turned his heart from the Lord. As a consequence, the Lord said: “I will surely tear the kingdom from you (v11).” Even the timing and scope was under the Lord’s will: “Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son (v13).” What of the Solomon’s adversaries? Even those, such as Jeroboam, were “raised up” by the Lord. The bible tells us that everyone, “will give an account of himself to God (Rom 14:12)” All humans are made in the image of God, and as such, have moral agency; which is to say, we make choices through our lives that are real choices with real consequences. That said, we take comfort that our perfect, holy, loving Creator “works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11).” In spite of the billions of choices made all over the world moment by moment and day after day, God works all things toward his glorious purposes!