Jeroboam – A Man of Insecurity
The story begins with the disobedience of Solomon. When he followed after other gods, turning his back against the Living God, the Lord then raised up Jeroboam (a key official of Solomon) against him (1 Ki. 11). The Lord promised Jeroboam that he would tear apart the kingdom of Israel and bless him with ten tribes, making him king over Israel. The Lord also cautioned him to be careful in following His commands so that his throne would remain secure forever (1 Ki. 11:31-39).
However, things didn’t happen as God exhorted Jeroboam. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided, having Jeroboam as the king over Israel and Rehoboam as the king over Judah. Then Jeroboam did something detestable in the sight of the Living God. He made two golden calves and enticed Israel to worship them. He also built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites (1 Ki. 12:28-33).
One wonders why Jeroboam had chosen to do these evil things! Do you want to know the reason? After Israel revolted against the house of David and submitted itself to the leadership of Jeroboam, they still had to go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the temple. Now Jeroboam was afraid. He thought to himself, “If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam” (1 Ki. 12:26-27). So, to guard his life and his leadership, he schemed such evil things at the cost of going against the standards of God, eventually ruining his life and his kingdom.
It seems apparent to me that the thing that led to Jeroboam’s downfall is this—INSECURITY. Although he was excited about his new kingship, he could have felt insecure that he might lose his control over people, which leads to loss of leadership, and consequently went his own way to guard his position.
We leaders are not immune from this temptation. In fact, insecurity is widespread especially among the leaders. How possible it is for a person to be multi-talented, passionate, brilliant, influential, and yet be ruled by insecure emotions! How difficult it is to remain secure in God when leadership is threatened! How painful it is to remain confident in the Lord when fear of losing people lurks within us! How many good leaders, for the sake of controlling people and protecting their position of leadership, lost their godly character and gave in to manipulation, unhealthy control, strife, selfishness and wicked ways!
Lessons to Learn from Jeroboam’s Insecurity
The following are few insightful lessons to learn from Jeroboam’s insecurity, which led to his downfall, so that we would not allow such follies to wreck both our lives and ministry.
1) Placed in leadership by God’s grace, not by own efforts. Jeroboam failed to understand that it is by God’s grace he became a leader of Israel, not by himself. He did not push his way to the top; it is God who exalted him. The thought of becoming a king didn’t occur in his mind; it was God who revealed his plan to him. Yet, Jeroboam behaved as if his leadership originated from himself and is secured by himself.
No matter how knowledgeable, smart and skillful we are, we become leaders by grace and are sustained by it. When we fail to realize that we are in leadership only by God’s grace, we go worldly ways to build and protect our world. But recognizing the grace of God in our lives makes us more grateful, not greedy. When there is no recognition of grace from above we become ambitious for earthly glory. Knowing we are what we are only by God’s grace directs us to lead for His glory, not for self-glorification. When our eyes are fixed upon God’s gracious activities, even when we are not in leadership, we wait for God’s timing, not take up crooked ways to fulfill our aspirations.
Where is our focus—on our throne or upon the Throne of Grace?
2) Trusting in God’s sovereign control. The divine orchestration of God’s intervention is obviously seen in Jeroboam’s life. He became king by God’s appointment. If God had selected him, then it is He who provides him security. His throne was guarded by the Throne of God. The Living Lord was in control of his life and kingdom. Nothing could touch him without passing through the eyes of God.
Nevertheless, when his leadership seemed to be threatened by assumed events, what did Jeroboam do? Rather than recognizing God’s sovereign control over his life, he decided to control things himself. In his leadership, he didn’t teach himself that it is God who places and God who removes—if He places, I must humbly serve Him, and when He removes, I ought to humbly submit to His authority. He didn’t learn the lesson from Saul’s and David’s life—when God decides to place someone, none can prevent him; when God resolves to remove someone, none can withhold him.
No leader can be secure in his leadership if his trust is not in the sovereign control of God. Only when he trusts God with absolute control of his life and leadership can he confront the challenges on his way with courage and security. When comforts turn into crisis, do we turn to God and trust Him to handle things, dealing with the situations according to His wisdom, or do we endeavor to control situations out of fear of insecurity? When our leadership is threatened, do we clench the position of leadership or cling to the Leader of the heavens and the earth?
There is a gentle reminder for us in the Scripture, “No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another” (Ps. 75:7). Hence, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6).
3) Focus on obeying the commandments of God. The Lord made it plain to Jeroboam, “If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.” (1 Ki. 11:38)
Where was Jeroboam’s security? In God alone and by living in obedience to His word! The endurance of his kingdom was dependent on his submission to the word of God. But Jeroboam’s focus turned from obeying the commandments of God to clenching leadership. He wanted to hold his position by hook or by crook rather than by walking in the ways of God.
A leader’s security is in obeying the commandments of God. The more he departs from it, the more he declines in leadership. A leader is a godly leader as long as he walks in the ways of God. Once he turns his back against God, although he may still continue as a leader for a while, he has lost his saltiness and destruction awaits him.
Remember, obedience is better than leadership. It is better for us to lose leadership than compromise on the standards of God. When love for leadership takes precedence over love for obeying God, a leader gives himself to wickedness, becoming a selfish, ambitious person. When taking his own ways, although he may think he is doing all things to secure his leadership, he is in fact digging his own pit to fall in it one day.
Where is our focus—obedience to God or obsession with leadership?
4) Leadership is a place for servanthood, not for egohood. Jeroboam was placed in leadership by God, not for his own sake, but to serve the people of Israel. Sadly, Jeroboam didn’t see leadership as a responsibility to serve people, but as a means for self-glorification. His passion was not for God’s mission, but to gratify his selfish ambitions. His fear was that he may lose control over the people (and let them go back to Rehoboam) rather than being concerned to serve them. He loved power, position, praise, prestige, property, his own pride, rather than people who were entrusted to him by God.
How easy it is to miss this pivotal point in leadership—that we are there for people; they are not there for us! We are leaders to serve people; they are not there to serve us. We are supposed to give attention to them, not to gain recognition. We are there to lead them for the glory of God, not for self-glorification. We are responsible to think and do best for them, not to be absorbed in self-interests. We are not to hold them under our grip but gear them up to live according to God’s will. When we live in this way, we would rather lose leadership than God’s standards and His people.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear—leadership is not the goal; it is only a means for servanthood. Do we continuously deny ourselves—resisting to love power, position, praise, prestige, property, pride—and place people above all, loving them and serving them for the glory of God?
5) Walking by truth rather than entertaining assumptions. Jeroboam assumed that if people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, they may again give their allegiance to Rehoboam, king of Judah. So, to avoid this supposedly pathetic situation, he erected idols and appointed unauthorized priests in his own land so that people may remain under his wings. He did all these things under assumption, without analyzing whether his presumptions are based on truth.
Insecurity breeds folly assumptions. Insecure leaders are often led by assumptions (becoming complicated personalities in interpersonal relationships) rather than by truth. They manifest unhealthy tendencies as below:
• exercise unhealthy control and authority over people
• lack of trust in people
• constantly live under the pressure to please people
• fear about what people think about them
• extremely sensitive and easily feels rejected by people
• lacks transparency among people
• lives with unresolved conflicts in relationships
• cannot bear if others are given more attention than themselves
• long for approval, respect and praise from people
• increasing defensive attitude
• reluctance to accept correction from people
• curious to know all public and private issues of their followers
6) Going against God is going against ourselves. Jeroboam foolishly thought that he can protect himself, guard his kingdom and secure his position by going on his own standards which are against God. He deceived himself into thinking that he can bypass the standards of God and still excel in life. His life story teaches that doing so reaps ruination of our lives and leadership.
We as leaders need to learn this most important lesson—going against God is going against ourselves. To damage His ministry is to destroy ourselves. To bring disgrace to His Name is to bulldoze our self-esteem. But loving God is loving ourselves. Obeying God is to shower great favor upon ourselves. Living a good life for God is doing good to ourselves. Following the Peace-Giver is to live in peace. Finding security in Christ Jesus—the One who loved us and gave Himself for us—is to live a life free from the fear of insecurity.
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