“A Kingdom Provided”: The Kingdom Divided
Sin comes with a cost. Always. Even if we might not see it right away.
I think of the consequences of sin like the seasons when I eat too much and exercise too little. There are times when I eat well and exercise enough that I am in decent shape. But then, life gets busy and I get lazy and my eating and exercising slip. I don’t notice any difference the first day. Or even the first week. Or sometimes even the first month. But at some point, I look in the mirror and am not happy with what I see. I step on the scale to discover I have added 20 pounds back on. Those 20 pounds did not appear overnight. Rather, they are the cumulation of all the extra calories and skipped runs adding up. Each extra calorie mattered, even if I didn’t see how for some time.
In a similar, yet more important way, our sins have consequences. Sometimes those consequences are evident right away. At other times, like my lack of discipline, nothing is seen for quite some time and then one day they are readily apparent. This is what we see happening in the Bible story this week.
We begin this week by tracing the end of Solomon’s reign. Solomon started out well, but ended terribly. He married countless women and worshiped their idols. Because of his sin, God told him he would tear the kingdom from him, yet because of the promise He had made to David, God would not tear it entirely away.
Sometimes we want to parse personal and corporate sins. We tend to want to excuse “personal” sins a little more, believing they only impact ourselves. But that is not how God works, and it is not how life works. Here we see that Solomon’s “personal” sins bled over to how he ruled his people. There is no such thing as a “personal” sin, because God did not design us to live in a vacuum. All of our sin have the potential to impact others, directly or indirectly.
While it was Solomon’s sin that divided the kingdom, it was the folly of his son, Rehoboam, that set it in motion. After Solomon’s death, the people gathered before Rehoboam and asked him to ease up on them. Solomon had burdened them greatly to build the kingdom the way he desired. The people promised that if Rehoboam eased up, they would serve him gladly.
Rehoboam asked the elders what they thought of the people’s offer, and they encouraged him to do it. He had the opportunity to win the hearts of his people. But then the king asked his peers, and they took the opposite stance. If Rehoboam eased up on the people, he would appear to be soft and they might take advantage of him. Rather, the king had to set the tone right away and be even more strict than his father had ever been.
The king unwisely heeded the advice of his peers prompting the kingdom’s divide. In a corporate act of mutiny, most of the tribes severed from Rehoboam and the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah were formed. There is a helpful take-away here. When it comes to seeking advice, we need to weigh carefully who is giving us that advice.
The Long-Term Consequences
Solomon’s sin did not just impact him and his son. It didn’t even just impact the next generation. Solomon’s sin rippled through generations. As we will see in the weeks ahead, both kingdoms were ruled mostly by sinful kings who drove God’s people further and further into idolatry and wickedness. Ultimately, both kingdoms would be conquered and hauled off into captivity. We have to wonder what would have happened had Solomon not sinned. What if the people had remained one? Might they have held fast to God? Might they have avoided the gross idolatry that plagued them?
It’s an interesting thought, no doubt, but we know that in the end, what happened was part of God’s perfect plan. From the divided kingdom and captivities would come a restored people, a picture of the gospel. While the people would struggle with a new vice—legalistic moralism—idolatry would pretty much be cast aside. God’s judgment was for the good of His people. Sin ripples through the generations; God’s mercy and grace echoes through eternity.
Now, I say, whatever your heart clings to and confides in, that is really your God.” — Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Preschool Tip: For preschoolers, be sure they understand this part of the big story of Scripture. The divided kingdom is, of course, a critical turning point in redemptive history, so be sure that your little ones grasp what happened on some level. If they miss it here, they will struggle to make sense of what happens after this.
Kids Tip: Once again, we see how no king was good enough for God’s people. Not Saul. Not David. Not Solomon. Not Rehoboam. And moving forward, with a couple of exceptions, they get worse and worse. Remind your kids of this truth and also try to guard time to talk about some of the practical implications of Solomon’s sin and Rehoboam’s folly. Help your kids see that their conduct impacts others.
 Martin Luther, Luther’s Large Catechism, trans. John Nicholas Lenker (Minneapolis, MN: The Luther Press, 1908), 44.