One of my favorite pictures is an image of my son when he was just two years old, standing at his Little Tikes grill, flipping plastic burgers as he stood in the shadow of my husband cooking on the grill. As I looked on, I watched my son as he glanced at his daddy to copy his every move. Over the years, I have seen each one of my children mimicking the words and actions of their dad on many occasions. It is weighty and humbling to know that your children walk in your ways. The importance of modeling in leadership cannot be exaggerated.
After the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split in two. Judah and Benjamin followed Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, and became known as the Southern Kingdom (Judah). The remaining 10 tribes of Israel followed Jeroboam, becoming known as the Northern Kingdom (Israel).
Jeroboam saw a looming problem with his newly minted kingdom. According to the Law, the people had to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. All males were required to go to the temple three times per year in order to keep festival and make sacrifices (Exodus 23:17, Deuteronomy 16:16). However, the Temple was in Jerusalem which was located in the south. He ruled the north. What would happen when his people left their land and ventured into the Southern Kingdom three times per year? He feared that they would see the error of their ways, rejoin their brothers, serve Rehoboam the king of Judah, and turn away from him. He would lose everything.
Jeroboam hatched a plan to keep these things from happening: He would set up an entirely new system of worship that mimicked Yahweh worship. Rather than credit Yahweh with delivering the people from Egypt, the credit would go to two golden calves. Rather than worshiping the One who made the heavens and the earth, they would worship images carved by human hands. Rather than one place where all the people would gather together and appear before the presence of the Lord, there would be two convenient locations at the northern and southern ends of the Northern Kingdom. Rather than the priesthood being exclusive to one tribe appointed and set apart by God, anyone with a desire could be a priest. He would appoint new feasts and festivals. The people would have gods and a system of worship that would appeal to their needs and desire to worship, but it would be much more convenient for them. He would lead the people to sin and he could retain his power and position.
The men who would reign over the Northern Kingdom for the next 200 years would walk in the ways of Jeroboam, doing evil in the sight of the Lord and leading the people of Israel to sin. Eventually, God would wipe out the entire Northern Kingdom because of the sin that they began under Jeroboam. “And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them…until he had cast them out of his sight. When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD and made them commit great sin. The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them” (2 Kings 17:20-22).
Jeroboam’s decisions as a leader affected the eternity of an entire nation. Rather than serving and worshiping the Lord, he led others to worship gods of his own making. He walked down a path of false worship and destruction and the people walked in his ways. Following his example propelled them into deep sin.
If others were to walk in your ways, where would it lead them? Are you leading others in a path of righteousness, or do you lead them to worship gods of your own making? Who or what is the object of your worship?
We are at a critical time in the life of our nation. Mass panic and fear have swept through our communities in the face of a global pandemic. What are you modeling for others at this time? How are you leading and shepherding others through this crisis? I pray that as followers of Jesus we are leading others to walk in the fear of the Lord and modeling what it means to take refuge in Him (e.g. Psalm 46 and 57). The world is watching how we walk through this time; let us show them the path of life. May we not fall into the ways of Jeroboam and lead others to walk in sinful ways because we have modeled panic, fear, and lack of faith. Rather, may we be able to say with the apostle Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (I Corinthians 11:1).