Sermon preached on 1 Kings 11:14-43 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 10/27/2019 in Novato, CA.
Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
1 Kings 11:14-43
I Will Afflict the Offspring of David… But Not Forever
God is a gracious God, but we ought not to take that grace for granted. As those who have know the grace of God, we must not arrogantly presume upon the grace of God. I think of that here with Solomon. He had so greatly known the rich grace of God. God had given to him wealth and wisdom in the highest. God had blessed him tremendously. Yet, in his old age he turned his heart after other false gods. That was inherently an act of great betrayal to the one true God who had given him so much. We read about that last week. Solomon’s sin is reiterated again in verse 33 of today’s passage. And we read last week that God would chasten Solomon because of his sin. This passage records three adversaries that God raises up to use in that chastening. In this, God is teaching a lesson to not presume upon the grace of God. Yes, we must depend upon God’s grace. We must rely on such grace. We should desire it and seek it. We should rejoice in how freely God holds out the offer of such grace. But we should never think it is okay to just betray such grace in willful and blatant rejection of the God of such grace.
The first adversary God rose up against Solomon is Hadad the Edomite. This is recounted in verses 14-22. Note that the background here is the military conflict between Edom and Israel during King David’s day. David along with his army commander Joab had previously had a great victory over Edom. It was a tremendous defeat for Edom. We find this recorded in 2 Samuel 8:13-14. There we read how David struck down 18,000 Edomites. He then established garrisons throughout Edom’s territory. Edom then had become a nation subjugated to Israel’s rule.
And so, in today’s passage we learn of how one of the Edomites had escaped that bloodbath by fleeing to Egypt. It’s this Hadad, who turns out to also be of royal lineage in Edom. He escapes to Egypt where he is honored greatly by the Pharaoh. The Pharaoh provides for Hadad with a house, and land, and even an allowance of food. Hadad finds such great favor in the Pharaoh’s sight that he gives his sister-in-law to Hadad in marriage. (This is likely the same Pharaoh, by the way, that gave his daughter to Solomon in marriage.) And so, Hadad is well taken care of and prosperous in Egypt. Yet as time passes and King David is gone, Hadad wants to return to back to Edom. At first the Pharaoh is resistant to this, but eventually he lets him return. So, it’s when Hadad returns to Edom that he becomes an opponent to Solomon. Presumably this became an external threat to Israel along the southern border.
Now, you may have noticed some echoes from Israel’s own history with the story of Hadad. Surely, this is intentional by God. Hadad’s story has some interesting parallels with Israel from back in Joseph’s day. Long before, Israel had themselves fled to Egypt to survive and was at first greatly welcomed in Egypt by their Pharaoh. There in Egypt they at first prospered greatly and grew to a great number. Of course, when they were ready to leave and go back to the Promised Land, the new Pharaoh was at first resistant. But by the grace of God, God did bring them out of Egypt back to the land of Canaan. There, God gave them victory over the evil Canaanites who were full of idol worshippers who worshipped false gods. Now as Hadad returns to that same land, it’s Solomon leading the people of Israel in the idol worship of false gods. And it’s the LORD who raises up this Hadad to be an opponent to Solomon who had begun to look too much like the Canaanites of old. And so surely Hadad’s similar story is meant to be a foil to Solomon and Israel. It is meant to remind Solomon of the very grace that God had shown Israel – grace that Solomon was betraying by going after other gods.
The second adversary that God rose up against Solomon is Rezon, son of Eliada, verses 23-25. We see this Rezon was previously under the authority of Hadadezer, king of Zobah. Zobah was a Syrian kingdom to the northeast of Israel. In 2 Samuel 8:3 we read how King David defeated this king of Zobah, presumably referenced here in verse 24. Well, it seems that David’s victory over Hadadezer gave opportunity for this Rezon to break away from his master Hadadezer. Rezon then gathers his own band of men and lives in rebellion to Hadadezer. Eventually, Rezon and his band settle in Damascus and Rezon is made king there. From there, he becomes a thorn in Solomon’s side, becoming an external threat in the north for Israel.
Now you might have noticed some more echoes from Israel’s own history – to Solomon’s own history – with the story of Rezon. Surely, this is intentional by God. Rezon’s story has some interestingly parallels with David back in King Saul’s day. Back then, David had to flee from his master King Saul. While David was essentially in exile and running from Saul, that’s when David gathered up his band of mighty men. Eventually, God preserved David and his mighty men during that season as a refugee to bring David to Hebron and make him king of Judah and then all Israel. That was directly in Solomon’s heritage. It was God’s grace to David that preserved David during that season and establish him as king after that. Solomon was a direct beneficiary of that grace God gave David. And God here preserved Rezon from his master Hadadezer to eventually set Rezon as king over Syria. And so surely Rezon’s similar story is also meant to be a foil to Solomon and Israel. It is meant to remind Solomon of the very grace that God had shown him and his family – grace that Solomon was betraying by going after other gods.
The third adversary that God rose up against Solomon was Jeroboam son of Nebat, verses 26-40. Unlike the first two adversaries, Jeroboam, as an Israelite, was an internal threat. Specifically, he was of the tribe of Ephraim which means he was a descendant of the patriarch Joseph. We learn here that this Jeroboam had at first been a faithful and favored servant of King Solomon. In verse 27, we see that Solomon again using forced labor in a building project – this time in building up the fortifications in Jerusalem. In that context, Solomon recognized Jeroboam’s abilities and promoted him. Solomon made Jeroboam in charge of all the labor forces that were of the house of Joseph, i.e. those of Ephraim and Manasseh.
Well, that was all well and good, but one day Jeroboam goes out of Jerusalem and ends up encountering a prophet of God. God sent the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh to him. Shiloh, by the way, is also in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim, and it’s where God had originally setup the tabernacle when Israel first came into the Promised Land. Shiloh was where God had initially put his name among the people in the Promised Land. It wasn’t until the people became disloyal to God and rejected him for idol worship that God abandoned the tabernacle at Shiloh, according to Psalm 78:60. That psalm goes on to say how God then rejected the house of Joseph and thus Ephraim as the leader of God’s people. Instead it says he chose the tribe of Judah and Mount Zion to replace Ephraim and Shiloh, Psalm 78:68. See the comparison again here? God had rejected the leadership of Ephraim because of their disloyalty to God by the idol worship of false gods. God had took leadership away from Ephraim and Shiloh and had given it to Judah and Jerusalem. But now, God has a prophet from Shiloh come to give back most of the kingdom to Ephraim. Ephraim and Shiloh had previously forsook the God who had given them so much grace. Now Solomon who had known such grace fell into the same sort of sin that had caused Ephraim and Shiloh to lose their place of privilege before.
So then, this prophet Ahijah from Shiloh wears this new cloak and tears it up for Jeroboam into twelve pieces. Ahijah has Jeroboam take ten of the twelve pieces. In God’s great grace for the sake of David he yet reserves one piece for Solomon’s seed. The pieces of the garment represent the twelve tribes of Israel. As a side note, people often ask here about twelfth piece. Ahijah gives ten to Jeroboam and one to Solomon – what happened to the twelfth piece? I’ve seen various answers proposed among interpreters. A very common thought is that it assumes Solomon already has the tribe of Judah and that he is being given Benjamin. But as I’ve continued to reflect on that, I don’t think that’s what’s going on. I think the one piece or tribe for Solomon is in fact the tribe of Judah. Next chapter even says in verse 20 that when Israel abandons Solomon’s son Rehoboam, that they are only left with the one tribe of Judah. Yes, it’s clear there are some parts of Benjamin that do remain loyal to Judah and stay a part of the southern kingdom. But it’s also true that there are some parts of the territory of Benjamin that also end up in the northern kingdom. Bethel would be an example – that is in the territory allotted to Benjamin but ends up controlled by the northern kingdom – which is why Jeroboam would later setup a golden calf in Bethel. But of course, if that’s the case – that Solomon and his seed are technically getting just the one tribe of Judah, and Jeroboam gets ten tribes, then what about the twelfth tribe? I think then the best answer is that the twelfth tribe must refer to the tribe of Levi – and of course that tribe belongs uniquely to God. That’s why the prophet keeps that tribe. That’s my best thought, but that’s really just an aside in our sermon today because I know that is a common question.
Returning then to the main point here, I want you to recognize a key promise that the prophet holds out to Jeroboam. In verse 38, God essentially gives an offer to Jeroboam that is very similar to what God had previously graciously given to David. Jeroboam is told that if he as the future king is careful to keep all God’s commands and laws, like David, then God would also build a sure house like he did for David. This recalls on the one hand the Davidic covenant that God established with David in 2 Samuel 7. On the other hand, it also recalls how God had similarly been willing to do the same thing in the past for King Saul, but didn’t because of Saul’s own rejection of God (1 Samuel 13:13). This also should serve as a foil to King Solomon as he should see again his own history being held out in Jeroboam. Likewise, when Jeroboam ends up fleeing Solomon and goes to Egypt, Jeroboam again acts as foil. Like how Hadad the Edomite looked like Israel’s past in his flight to Egypt, so too Jeroboam again serves as a foil to Solomon by his own flight to Egypt for safety. But in all this, we see reminders of the grace God had previously given to both Israel in general and the David-Solomon house specifically. That only made Solomon’s disloyalty to God all the worse when he had so personally known God’s grace.
Of course, for Jeroboam it becomes an interesting time. Would he in his response to the Word of God prove himself to be a man after God’s own heart? We he restore permanently the kingdom to Joseph and the rest of Israel by showing himself as such a man? Well, already in our passage we have a hint that the answer is going to be “no”. Because verses 26 and 27 start out this section describing how Jeroboam twice lifted up his hand against King Solomon. That is rebellion language, that he revolted or rebelled against King Solomon in some way. We aren’t told the details here, but it’s surely why in verse 40 that Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam. Remember, how David interacted with King Saul when God prophetically told him that he would be king after Saul? David patiently waited for the Lord’s timing. David wouldn’t strike Saul, the anointed of the Lord, even when he repeatedly had opportunity. David didn’t ever try to rebel or revolt against King Saul – he tried to be the best servant possible to King Saul. How much more should Jeroboam have done the same, especially when the prophet here clearly and explicitly told Jeroboam that this prophecy wouldn’t come to pass until after Solomon’s days. Jeroboam, like Solomon, begins already to presume on the grace of God by starting to walk in the wrong direction of the spirit of grace. We’ll eventually see him fall into idolatry himself when he sets up golden calves in Bethel and Dan for the people to worship there instead of in Jerusalem.
Stepping back then, we see that God’s use of all three of these adversaries is to serve the purpose he states in verse 39. “And I will afflict the offspring of David” because of Solomon’s going after other gods. The word “afflict” there is in the sense of “humble” – surely for the purpose of chastening. That was part of God’s promise to David in the Davidic covenant – that if any of David’s descendants went astray that he would chasten them in love. And so, we should recognize how God used these three adversaries to Solomon in such chastening. God was humbling the pride of Solomon in this, that it might bring about repentance. And so, we should not be surprised to see how each of these three adversaries paint a picture of God’s former graces to Solomon. Hadad pictures the grace of God in the Exodus from Egypt. Rezon pictures the grace of God in establishing David’s kingdom in place of King Saul. Jeroboam has aspects that picture both of these former graces of God. All of this was to humble Solomon for the purposes of divine chastening.
Yet even in all of this, God would not take away his grace fully from David’s line. That was in fact the point of the Davidic covenant promising that God would chasten any of David’s wayward offspring. That God would not ultimately take away his love and his kingdom from David’s line like he did from Saul (2 Samuel 7:15). Rather, God promised to David that his grace would endure in his lineage until the climax of the promise was fulfilled – that David’s kingdom would be established in one of his offspring in an everlasting throne. That is why verse 39 so wonderfully and so graciously ends the way it does. Verse 39, “And I will afflict the offspring of David because of this, but not forever!” But not forever. There in our passage is the hope for David’s line. There in our passage is the promise of Jesus Christ.
I love how all of this comes together in the life of Jesus. The former pictures of God’s grace with the Exodus and with David are recapitulated in Jesus’ own earthly life and ministry. Why? Because Jesus came as the true Israel and as the true David. Think about it. As the true Israel, Jesus’ life begins with him having to flee to Egypt to spare his life. Matthew 2:15 says this was to fulfill God’s plan, that “out of Egypt I called my son.” There Jesus relives the Israel experience of God’s grace, as he finds shelter in Egypt but then brought out of there back to the Promised Land. So too, we think of Jesus as the true David. At first, Jesus was not acknowledged or received for the king that he was. He was rejected by Israel’s leaders. Yet, he lived as an exile and refugee of sorts, even while in land of Israel. There, he gathers a band of brothers unto himself – his inner circle of the twelve along with a number of other disciples. There he begins to do the kingdom work in advance of his enthronement, while he awaited his official coronation as king over the people of God. There he has echoes of that season of grace during David’s life – Jesus even references that time when in Luke 6 he speaks of David and his men eating the showbread from the tabernacle while they were on the run from King Saul – Jesus relates that to he and his own disciples. And so there Jesus relives David’s experience of God’s grace too.
These pictures of God’s former grace relieved in Jesus’ life show that Jesus came identifying with the people of God. It showed that Jesus came to bring God’s long-awaited grace. It came to show that the time of waiting in verse 39 was coming to an end. The “but not forever” of verse 39 was ultimately the “until King Jesus has come”. King Jesus, the true Israel, and the true David, finally did come. He was the ultimate expression of God’s grace to his people. He was God’s grace in the highest, especially as Jesus ultimately went to the cross. There, God’s people know God’s grace in the fullest as we find atonement for all our sin.
Saints of God, people presuming upon the grace of God is not confined to the Old Testament. At the start of the New Testament, John the Baptist warned the religious leaders about this. To those who claimed God’s grace when their hearts were actually far from God, the Baptist said this in Matthew 3:9, “And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” As we go on to read in Romans 11, God removed such unbelieving “branches” from his people. We in turn, Paul says there in Romans 11, have been grafted into God’s people through faith in Jesus Christ.
Let us then not fall into the same snare of presuming upon the grace of God through unbelief and in forsaking our God. It’s like what Paul goes on to say in Romans 11, that a Gentile who was grafted in can also be broken off (21). It’s also along these lines that Paul says at the end of Galatians (6:7), “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that you can lose your salvation or that you have to earn it. When we speak today against presuming upon grace we are speaking against assuming you have grace when you don’t have a real saving faith and trust in the Lord. That’s how God extends and offers grace – to those who repent and believe. If you haven’t truly repented and believed in Jesus it would be presumptuous to think you are saved.
Yet we are reminded today that this is a real temptation. Sometimes it is people born into the church just going through the motions and assuming God’s grace when their hearts are far from him. Or it can be someone who has outwardly served in the church for years and years and now thinks they put in their time and can do whatever they want and God owes them something. Of course, such an attitude betrays the gospel. And yet even for true believers, that’s a mentality we can be tempted to fall into. We can fall into seasons where we begin to be presumptuous of God’s grace instead of thankful for it. We can start to stray from trusting in God as either our Lord or our Savior. God might even need to bring some chastening in our lives to awaken us against that wrong attitude.
So then, may this call today to not presume upon the grace of God point you back to the grace of God. May it remind you how we can have this grace. We have it as we repent of our sin and unworthiness and trust in faith in Jesus Christ for grace and forgiveness. As we turn to the Christ from our hearts and acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior, we have free access to his grace. May our hearts truly and fully be turned to this Lord of Grace all our days! Amen.
Copyright © 2019 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.