05 September 2011

Multitude Monday - 1000 Gifts ~ Uncomfortable, Somewhat Unseemly Grace

Sometimes those Old Testament stories just... just... well? They just about leave me wordless. The death of Jeroboam's boy was one of those accounts...


I dated a guy once who's name began with "J." After he dumped me, at least for awhile in my mind and when talking to my mom, I called him "J- the JERK!" Jeroboam, however, wins that title hands down.

He had so much opportunity - God had exalted Jeroboam, offered him so much, and Jeroboam (because of pride, arrogance, lust for power?) violated the trust God had given him. God’s description of Jeroboam was “You have not been like my servant David… you have done more evil than all who were before you.” Sobering. Instead of serving others, he sought to serve himself, grasping for power; in that grasping, with calculated intent, he deliberately planned a form of idol worship to turn the hearts of the people he ruled far from God. The Bible says he cast God behind his back. He terribly, totally, offended the Almighty – and not as in a “mean you... you’ve hurt my feelings” type of offense. He consciously, volitionally chose to commit grave errors that violated the direct word of God. But isn’t that what all sin is? “He hath told thee, o man, what is good and what the Lord requires of thee. But to do justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” We know what the Lord requires of us and yet we choose to go our own way.

Sadly, consequences for our sins impact those around us, those we love… and we see this in the story...  His wife’s name is never given, but his son’s name is: Abijah. The name Abijah means “the Lord is my Father.” Abijah falls sick, gravely so, and Jeroboam attempts to deceive God by sending his wife in disguise to the prophet to find out what will happen to the boy. God first reveals this attempted deception to the prophet and then the prophet speaks what, to this mama’s heart, must have been terribly hard words to hear. God was about to visit Jeroboam with the consequences for his sinful choices and actions. The message the prophet gives to Jeroboam’s wife is a harsh one – and a severe consequence for her, also. Every male in Jeroboam's family would die - including her child. Their dead bodies would be defiled. Then, she is commanded to return to her husband, knowing that the moment her feet entered the city, her son will die.

I think my response would have simply been: "Fine, then. I'm just not going back, ever. I'd rather never see my boy again than have my action somehow bring about his death." She didn't respond as I probably would have. In the midst of that mind-boggling, heart-breaking prophesy and the envelopping pain it must have caused, God gives her some amazing words to which to cling... the opportunity to see His grace even in the midst of punishment. Her boy WAS the one good thing the Lord found in the house of Jeroboam... and his death would be mourned greatly by all Israel.

Jeroboam was a coward – he sent his wife to do what he should have done; I don't believe he had the courage to face the prophet directly... or he somehow believed the prophesy was like magic and if he fooled the prophet, he could be fooled or bought into giving a good prophecy. I wonder about Abijah's mother. Was she innocent of Jeroboam’s sins, simply a submissive wife to a ruthless, powerful man… was she an encourager and willing participant? We have no clue, but I want to lean towards the first because God preserves her life and gives her hope: her child IS precious to God, the only good found in the house of Jeroboam. I wonder what she thinks and feels, knowing that her return will result in her child’s death? She won’t even have the opportunity to hold him one more time. At the same time, is her heart filled with thankfulness that her child will be spared the horror about to fall on the rest of her husband’s house, the knowledge that God knows all about and loves her precious one, and that He is taking her boy home to a much safer and better place? I wonder about the testimony of this boy. What was it about him that God described him as good?  

In all of my mental wanderings and wonderings, I know I am both astounded and thankful that amidst the deepest darkness and the most awful sin, God will see the good that is present... any heart inclined towards Him. What a reassuring truth.

What, in your life today, seems to be a similar strange combination of blessing and curse? Can you consciously choose to give thanks to God when you see the goodness of His hand but your heart still hurts so very badly?

this week's gratitude list
(#s 1523 - 1552)

challenging thoughts from 1 Kings 14:1-13

that God sees and knows my heart, as scary as that might be

God's goodness wraps itself around any pain He ordains

decisions made

direction given

french fries and brochettes

bright blue envelopes full of encouragement and love

cheese on sale, lots of cheese...

feeling like they are transitioning

the end of Ramadan

good prices bargained for fresh fruit

frozen chicken

Koolaide as a treat

learning from the example of students around me

their joy resulting from a movie night

looking forward to seeing a friend I've not seen for several months

growlie tummies in the morning

how she runs to me and snuggles, even when she is furious at me or even feeling hurt by me

baguettes and peanut butter and honey for breakfast

kids excited about homework

recharging my kindle and a new book

walking laps at night... talking and listening...

bandaids for blisters

cool breezes - always easy to be thankful for those here in Niger

lesson planning ~ and getting a few steps ahead of the game

praying for my children

friends who pray for my children

the reminder that often what seems to big and imminent to me is really nothing in the light of my Savior's nearness and an eternity with him

Internet that blinks back in just as I'm finishing this post


  1. We know that no child becomes good by accident. Based on his actions, I don't think Jeroboam had anything to do with raising his son. I think that the fact that God found something pleasing in Abijah was a testimony to his mother's parenting. And the prophet made it clear that it was Jeroboam's actions that resulted in her son's death, not her returning home. I think that was just to comfort her that her son would not die while she was still on her way home. And while she was not able to see him again before he died, she was able to see him before he was buried, and to see that he was buried, just as the prophet had said he would be. If Jeroboam had gone to the prophet himself like a man, then she never would have heard that her son was pleasing to God. I just have to wonder how she kept from killing Jeroboam herself, knowing that it was his fault that her son died.

  2. I guess I'd have to say that no child becomes good except but by the grace of God. Tim and I work hard at our parenting - but more of what I see that is "good" in our children comes from Holy Spirit intervention and in spite of us, not by our efforts, as much as I wish that were the case. I do think God rewards sincere devotion to Him, but I know that my efforts towards raising godly children cannot be totally attributed my desire for their welfare or to a desire for God's glory - that prideful me inside also wants people to look at my good kids and think Richelle is an amazing mama...

    while the cause of the boy's death is not her return, the timing is inextricably linked within the prophesy... and in my heart, as a mom, that makes the two inseperable. as a mother, i would have found it much easier to swallow had the prophet said something like: "your son will die, but as the one good thing found in the house of Jeroboam, he will not be subject to the full effects of these consequences to his father's sins. his death will be mourned, he will be honored by the entire nation in his burial and he will be with me. return home quickly. hold your child one last time before he dies... his time remaining in this world is not long..." i would find it very hard to separate the fact that my entrance into the city is the trigger the Lord says will result in his death - in both my mind and my heart.

    but that comes back to the title of this post - sometimes what God intends to be grace is unseemly to me, from my finite, incredibly limited and selfish perspective - and I do, clearly, see God's hard grace in the story of Abijah... I wish I knew the rest of the mother's story.


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