How One Man’s Life Drastically Affects Generations
In Jimmy Stewart’s It’s a Wonderful Life, we are offered a poignant yet comic story of the premise: if I’d never been born, what difference would it make? While the movie is touching, the reality is that we tend to give little credence to that question.
Indeed, it would be truly wonderful if our lives were like movies and we had the opportunity to view the sequels and get a glimpse of what happens next. The truth is, however, that the sequels of our life get made in the present.
Fortunately, the Scriptures give us some of those sequels—sometimes with devastating consequences.
Jeroboam was on his way up. He worked under the most powerful king of the day—Solomon. He had the reputation of being a valiant warrior, and he was a hard worker. Solomon appointed him to be over the house of Joseph.
Jeroboam’s star was rising, whereas the star of his boss, King Solomon, was declining. Solomon had married many foreign women and followed after the practices of their religions. As a result, the prophet Ahijah came to Jeroboam and revealed God’s plan. He was going to take part of the kingdom from Solomon and give it to Jeroboam. Ahijah’s prophecy is powerful. God was going to give Jeroboam an enduring kingdom just like King David’s if Jeroboam would follow after God’s ways.
Think of it—a promise to have a kingdom like David, a king who was loved, revered, and respected. It’s quite a promise.
Solomon, however, heard of the prophecy and sought the life of Jeroboam, who fled to Egypt. But after Solomon died, Jeroboam returned. As the prophet predicted, King Rehoboam caused a split in the kingdom, and ten tribes of Israel landed in the hand of Jeroboam.
As Jeroboam assumed the throne of the 10 tribes of Israel, he made a drastic decision that would affect generations to come. Jeroboam realized that, under Mosaic Law, pilgrimages to Jerusalem were required observances. Jerusalem was controlled by King Rehoboam. He feared that those periodic observances might turn the nation back to God and their hearts to Rehoboam.
Jeroboam chose his position and power over obedience to God. He set up altars with golden calves and instructed Israel to worship there. He took away the need to go to Jerusalem and thus advocated from the throne for idol worship.
In the short run, Jeroboam retained the throne. He ruled over Israel for 22 years. However, because of his willful disobedience, he paid a stiff price. When Jeroboam and his wife had their first child, the child became sick. Like any worrisome parent, Jeroboam sought relief, and he turned to the most powerful man he knew—the prophet Ahijah.
Of course, Jeroboam was torn. He couldn’t seek Ahijah’s help after spitting on the prophecy given to him. Yet his child was sick, and he was desperate. To hide his shame, he disguised his wife to go to the old prophet. Ahijah, whose eyes were now dim with age, was not fooled by the disguise and, at the sound of her feet crossing the threshold, cried out, “Why do you pretend?” The old prophet’s message was harsh.
Ahijah reminded Jeroboam of the promise for an enduring kingdom like David’s. Yet he reminded Jeroboam that he’d done more evil than all who were before him: he’d made other gods; he’d made molten images and cast God behind his back. Ahijah delivered this chilling message:
Therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the LORD has spoken it.
An enduring kingdom was gone. To the contrary, Jeroboam wouldn’t have any heirs. Anyone belonging to Jeroboam would die and wouldn’t even have a grave. At the conclusion of this prophecy, Ahijah delivered the final dagger to the young mother’s heart: when her feet entered the city, the child would die. Alas, only this child, because some good was found in him, would receive a proper burial.
Jeroboam chose position and power, and he affected generations. How much more if he’d chosen obedience—an enduring kingdom.