The If Hinge

Who he was got him noticed and promoted. Industrious. Clever. Hard-nosed. Pragmatic. Who he was also got his family line annihilated. Forever.

It all started when the king was impressed with his work ethic. “Now the man Jeroboam was capable, and Solomon noticed the young man because he was getting things done. So he appointed him over the entire labor force of the house of Joseph.” (1 Kings 11:28 HCSB).

Not long after, a reliable prophet told Jeroboam his career would escalate. For God was “about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hands” (1 Kings 11:31 HCSB), and Jeroboam would reign as king over ten of the twelve tribes. That came to pass upon Solomon’s death when the kingdom split.

Latching onto the prophet’s promise that God would build him “a lasting dynasty just as I built for David” (1 Kings 11:38 HCSB), Jeroboam took steps to make it happen. His ten northern tribes must not mingle with the two southern ones and get any idea that things should go back to how they used to be. Those cracks had to be sealed.

So, Jeroboam built a place of worship in two cities and made a golden calf for each. “He said to the people, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’” (1 Kings 12:28 NIV).

None of the Levites—those whose priestly line had been handpicked by God in the days of Moses—would help him. So, he appointed his own priests no matter their tribal identity.

And then there was the matter of the most joyous feast of the year. Jeroboam had to separate them from that. So, he kept the day but changed the month. Why go to Jerusalem for the harvest celebration when their produce had not yet ripened? Better to wait another month for their own bountiful thanksgiving feast.

Now Jeroboam’s lasting dynasty was a sure thing. Not really.

Within twenty-five years, Jeroboam had no descendants. A king “killed Jeroboam’s whole family. He did not leave Jeroboam anyone that breathed, but destroyed them all” (1 Kings 15:29 NIV). What! Hadn’t God promised to build Jeroboam a lasting dynasty?

Yes. But Jeroboam had ignored the if hinge. God’s promise hinged on “if you obey all I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight in order to keep My statutes and My commands” (1 Kings 11:38 HCSB). Jeroboam did not consult with God. Determined he knew what was best, he drew up his own plan.

What did God’s blueprint look like? What would God have done to bring about this lasting dynasty? Jeroboam never found out. No one has.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;
 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV



Who Heard God’s Fifth Double Knock?

The Bible records only eight times when God reiterates someone’s name. Four were spoken in the Old Testament era:  to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, and to Hannah. A thousand years later, Jesus–God with skin on–repeated the name of a frantic hostess.

Near and far Martha was praised as the hostess with the mostest. She was the epitome of Miss Hospitality. Entertaining was her passion, and she immersed herself in it. She oozed with management and organizational skills. Not to mention money.

A wealthy widow, she could well afford to give lavish dinner parties without a smidgen of restraint. Oh, how she loved every part of the planning and preparation and presentation! That is, until today.

Today’s extravagant meal had gone to pot. The heightened hustle-and-bustle sounds were grating on her nerves. The permeating culinary aromas turned her stomach. Simply put, her usual joy had withered like a drying fig.

The chief kitchen servant had suddenly taken ill, throwing her schedule off and leaving her shorthanded. Martha’s sister had offered to help. And she did stuff the dates. But where were the pickled olives she had sent her for? The hors d’oeuvre trays had to be set up next. They were already half an hour late. How was she going to get everything done?

And where was Mary? That girl! She could never depend on her to finish anything. Not an ounce of responsibility in her! Her head was always in the clouds.

Maybe this was her fault. Maybe years ago she should have let her stand on a stool and stir the lentils instead of shooing her outside time and again to play. But she wanted the child to know carefree fun. Soon enough she would meet the sorrows and demands of adulthood.

There! She found her! She wouldn’t have if James and John hadn’t stepped apart at that moment. But there Mary was as if she had nothing better to do than leisurely sit at the feet of the guest of honor and look up at him with saucer eyes. Martha’s immediate urge was to order her sister back to the kitchen. But she knew she wouldn’t because she couldn’t.

She had never been able to deny the girl anything since their parents’ tragic death. No, she couldn’t do it. However, there was someone, she quickly calculated, who could.

Untying the towel hanging from her waist, she tossed it over a clay jar and dashed into the courtyard. She sliced a zigzagged path through the pressing crowd until she reached Jesus.

And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me” (Luke 10:40 ESV ).

Jesus, perfectly understanding his hostess’ anxiety, prefaced the answer with a double knock created in love and concern:

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42 ESV).

Martha’s frenzied spirit heard Jesus’ double knock saying, “I do care about you. I pity you. And I am now going to gently correct you.”