Under Kings

By Michael Smith

A Reading from 1 Kings 12:21-33

21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, one hundred and eighty thousand chosen troops to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 Say to King Rehoboam of Judah, son of Solomon, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 “Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kindred the people of Israel. Let everyone go home, for this thing is from me.” So they heeded the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and resided there; he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 Then Jeroboam said to himself, “Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. 27 If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.” 28 So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan. 31 He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not Levites. 32 Jeroboam appointed a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the festival that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he alone had prescribed; he appointed a festival for the people of Israel, and he went up to the altar to offer incense.


Things went from bad to worse in only a few generations for the kingdom of Israel. God had acquiesced in giving the chosen people a king in Saul, who was soon replaced by David, who was succeeded by the wise Solomon. After a shaky start, it seemed the kingdom had finally arrived with the accession of Solomon who asked God for “a wise and discerning mind” instead of long life, riches, or victory over his enemies and, wonder of wonders, he was given it all (1 Kgs. 3:10-13)!

Life should have been good for a kingdom with such a king. Unfortunately, Solomon forgot who he was and began to build shrines and altars for the false gods. Solomon failed to remember the first commandment of the God of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me” (Ex. 20:2-3).

As a result, the fabric of the kingdom of Israel was ripped apart into the house of Judah and the house of Israel. In today’s lesson, since the house of Israel no longer had access to worship at the temple of God in Jerusalem, their new king made two calves of gold and set up these idols in two different cities. Once again, God’s people forgot who they were and failed to remember the commandments of God.

Today is the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, the day of resurrection. When we gather, virtually or in person, to give thanks and praise to God, history will not repeat itself. Our King Jesus will always remember who he is and exalt the commandments of God. Happy are we who are citizens of his kingdom!

Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for fifteen years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

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Today we pray for:

St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, Shreveport, La.
Province of the Episcopal Church of Sudan


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