In our Old Testament reading, we see God ripping the ten Northern tribes of Israel out of the hands of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. God raises up a man named Jeroboam and makes him king over this newly independent nation—fulfilling the earlier promise that he had already spoken.
Now Jeroboam is an interesting character. As far as we can tell, he has no royal lineage. He’s more of a working class guy. A man of the people. But he was also smart, and he knew what it took to lead and organize people for a common task. In fact, during Solomon’s reign, Jeroboam was the head of the labor union. He’s described in I Kings 11 as “industrious” and “very capable.” Simply put, Jeroboam may not be from noble blood, but he knew how get things done that needed doing. In time, he might have proven to be a fine king.
But as soon as Jeroboam receives the throne of Israel, he forgets the God who placed him there. Instead asking God for the strength and wisdom to lead, Jeroboam begins to lean heavily upon his own strength and understanding. Instead of believing the promise of God, Jeroboam begins to fear for his political future. What if the people of Israel, when they journey to Jerusalem for the three annual feasts, decide that they want to be one nation again? What if they decide to depose their working-class king and return instead to the kings that can claim David as their father?
And so Jeroboam, controlled by his desire to hold on to power, leads his people into an apostasy from which they will never recover. He ignores God’s clear commands regarding true worship, and literally sets up an idol at each end of his kingdom. Jeroboam’s golden calves offer his people convenience over faithfulness. A tribal religion instead of true worship. National pride over genuine humility. Where will all this lead? Well, in about 200 years, God will send the Assyrian army in to ravage this apostate people. Those who are not killed by the sword will be led away with chains on their feet and hooks in their noses. There will be no more national pride because there will be no more nation. It will be destroyed along with its idolatrous altars.
It's good to think about these things—especially as we approach another election cycle in our own nation. Although it is true that all earthly leaders receive their authority from God—like Jeroboam, many of them use that authority to build their own kingdoms and consolidate their own power. And, like the politically savvy Jeroboam, if they can appeal to Christians by talking about God and family values and quoting bible verses, well, then they are most often happy to do it. They are happy to use the sacred things of God in order to secure the electorate’s fear, love, and trust above all things. They are happy to lead the nation deeper into idolatry if it secures them a win at the ballot box.
So as you watch this election cycle unfold. As you listen to the promises, evaluate the debates, and whatever the outcome….just remember this: you are in this world but not of this world. In your baptism, you were made a citizen of heaven. You were marked with the Triune name. You were placed into the church as the people of God—the true Israel of God. Be faithful in your vocation as a citizen of the United States, but never forget that your true, eternal citizenship is set to be revealed on the last day. Don’t hand over the allegiance of your heart to any earthly prince. Submit to them. Pray for them. But always remember that your true King is Christ. His promises never fail. His righteousness will endure. His kingdom will have no end.