1 Kings 11:37-39 and Covenant Promises and Prophecy

Ahijah giving Jeroboam 10 pieces of his cloak, symbolizing the 10 Tribes under his authority.

Ahijah giving Jeroboam 10 pieces of his cloak, symbolizing the 10 Tribes under his authority.

God makes covenant promises and God makes prophecies. Every once in a while both show up together. What is interesting about this is the fact that the covenant promises are always conditional and the prophecies usually are not. This passage is no exception. Solomon has fallen from grace by worshiping the false gods of his wives. Ahijah the prophet from Shiloh (hearkening back to Israel’s past before Solomon and David as the center of true worship of the Lord) comes to tell Jeroboam that he will be king. Here is part of what Ahijah reports the Lord saying:

But I will accept you, and you will rule over all that you could desire. You will be king of Israel.  If you listen to all that I command and walk in my ways, if you do what is right in my eyes, keeping my laws and my commands just as my servant David did, then I will be with you and I will build you a lasting dynasty just as I did for David. I will give you Israel.  I will humble David’s descendants by means of all this, though not forever.

The Lord makes a covenant with Jeroboam, and it is a lofty covenant. To have a lasting dynasty and to be the chosen instrument and family to lead God’s chosen people is a high honor, but just like all of the Lord’s other covenants, this one is conditional. God will do all of this for Jeroboam and his descendants provided they obey the Lord. If you are familiar with the story from here, you know they will not be faithful and instead of having a lasting dynasty, the family of Jeroboam is wiped from the earth.

Yet the Lord will still seek to make covenants with others who will rule the northern kingdom of Israel rather than have it come under the leadership of the house of David because of Solomon and his sons’ unfaithfulness. The covenant with David was conditional as well. But there is a twist here. The last line of this passage has a statement that is not conditional at all. The Lord will act in the future through David’s descendant to do something great. This is a prophecy of the coming of Christ, who from his human lineage was from the house of David.

God’s prophecies and God’s purposes will not be thwarted, but his covenants with us are fully dependent upon us obeying him. This is a tension in the Bible, but it is a tension with which I am comfortable.

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