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"Follow God Not Your Own Smart Inventions"

Graduation Sunday - June 10/18 1Kings 14


When God made us in His image, He blessed us with many wonderful features, not the least of which is intelligence. Today on Graduation Sunday we commend those who’ve mastered certain levels of education and are ready to move on to the next set of challenges.

             The intelligence of humans can be pretty amazing. Albert Einstein worked in physics; he conducted what he called “thought experiments” in his head long before the equipment which could test his theories was even invented. Stephen Hawking the theoretical physicist died recently; he’d suffered from Lou Gehrig’s disease, which basically paralyzed him. Once he was dictating by memory some 30 or so pages of equations when he asked his secretary to back up about a dozen pages because he needed to correct something. Incredible!

             The inventions people come up with can be pretty nifty. The other night on social media I was watching a video someone shared demonstrating what looked like a miniature car. It had four wheels but was actually pedaled like a bicycle, with a fabric cover, and had electric assist so could travel 15 mph, do spins, navigate uneven trails, all sorts of fun stuff. Just one problem: it’s not legal in Canada because regulations would classify it as a car rather than a bicycle. They’re working on it.

             The Bible cautions us that, even though we can have wonderful ideas, they only go so far; we still need God. You can be stunningly brilliant in the wrong direction (like the scientists who experimented on the cutting edge in Nazi laboratories). Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that SEEMS right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Like a thief on the Titanic raiding the rooms of rich guests, filling his pockets to bulging with gold jewellery before jumping overboard as it sank only to find his life jacket would no longer float him: “It seemed like a good idea at the time!”

             Our best-laid plans can often turn out poorly. Yvonne & I were so blessed the other day to have a couple of dozen enthusiastic helpers come out to work on our flowerbeds and grounds. I could see we’d be needing some water eventually to water transplants so set about hooking up a hose. (Dave B needed some for spraying weeds.) I knew the outside tap hadn’t been turned on after winter, so first hooked up a garden hose at the laundry tap and ran it outside overtop of the garden shed. Great idea – EXCEPT the garden hose had a little crack about 2 inches from the coupler, so as soon as I turned on the laundry taps, it started spraying all overtop of our washing machine. No problem, on to “Plan B”.

             Plan B was to do things properly in the first place and turn on the shut-off to the outside tap. The shut-off has a little drain to relieve back-pressure so the section of outside tap doesn’t freeze and split. Guess who forgot to shut the little drain-cap first? Instant shower! Then when I did succeed in opening the shut-off, I discovered the inside washer had grown so hard over the years I had another leak out the valve stem, which no amount of teflon tape would cure.

             All of which is to illustrate – our best ideas can turn out poorly.

             On Graduation Sunday, we celebrate our grads’ accomplishments: but Scripture cautions us we need God’s leading in life more than the best and most brilliant human inventiveness.


In our “Follow” series, we’ve been seeing God at work through the lives of King David and Solomon, and those who came after. Solomon was a brilliantly wise ruler, with encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, and astute sense of judgment to solve the knottiest problems. A sort of Google-on-2-legs. But Solomon had his downfalls: he married foreign wives – probably partly in conjunction with savvy political treaties – who led him astray in worshipping their gods. And he adopted worldly methods of wielding power, including amassing horses and chariots.

             Jeroboam was a nobleman with exceptional ability whom Solomon had put in charge of the labour force of the house of Joseph. Ahijah the prophet met him one day wearing a new cloak. Ahijah tore his own new cloak into 12 pieces and told Jeroboam to take 10, symbolizing the portion of Israel God was tearing away from Solomon and giving to Jeroboam. Why? 1Kings 11:33 “I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.” Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but he fled to Egypt for safety until Solomon died.

             Because of the harsh labour situation, Israel rebelled against Solomon’s son and made Jeroboam their king. That brings us to the beginning of 1Kings 14, where Jeroboam’s son Abijah (not to be confused with AHIjah the prophet!) became ill. Jeroboam sent his wife to inquire of Ahijah the prophet; 14:2, “Go, disguise yourself, so you won’t be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam.” What does this suggest to you about Jeroboam’s character – trying to deceive one of God’s prophets, in fact the very one who had told him he would one day become king? Kind of sinister and shifty, no?

             V4 tells us, “Now Ahijah could not see; his sight was gone because of his age.” So the king is trying to trick, put one over on, a blind man! He supposed he could outsmart the prophet. Vv5-6 “But the LORD had told Ahijah, "Jeroboam’s wife is coming to ask you about her son, for he is ill, and you are to give her such and such an answer. When she arrives, she will pretend to be someone else." So when Ahijah heard the sound of her footsteps at the door, he said, "Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why this pretense? I have been sent to you with bad news.” Now, don’t you think that would just about knock the socks off of Mrs Jeroboam? She’s in disguise, so even sighted people wouldn’t recognize her; the prophet is blind; yet here he calls her by name before she even says anything! He calls her out for her pretending and deceitfulness, trying to be tricky. She thought she was on a mission, but here HE’s the one that has a message for HER!

             You can’t outsmart God! So don’t get uppity. Don’t suppose God’s not going to see clear through your cleverest strategy.

             Deceiving us to think we can be smarter than God is one of Satan’s favourite strategies. Back in the Garden of Eden the serpent asked, “Did God really say...?” (Gen 3:1) then contradicting God (v4) and adding Gen 3:5, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” There it is – we can be as smart as God!

             Think again. Psalm 139 has a more accurate perspective – God’s knowing far exceeds ours. Vv2-4,6 “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD...Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

             In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul cautions, Rom 12:3 “...Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Not the measure of IQ, but the measure of FAITH.

             So, it’s great your graduating, and moving on to the next level of challenge and development – but don’t imagine you’re ever going to be smarter than God. That’s one of the enemy’s oldest tricks, appealing to our selfish vanity and pride.


At high school graduations, students walk across the platform to receive their diplomas, and often there are scholarships and bursaries awarded to those who’ve had superior grades. In college, it’s great to make the Dean’s List, and a chunk of my Master of Science program at OAC was covered by an award from Hoechst, a German fertilizer company.

             But when it comes down to what really matters in life – what’s God most wanting? Is it marks? Does God love those with learning disabilities any LESS than those who ace their tests? No! 1Kings 14:8 suggests three things God’s looking for MOST from us: “I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes.” Catch the three things? 1) keep His commands; 2) follow Him with all your heart; 3) do only what is right in His eyes.

             Now, it’s not like this should have been a total surprise to King Jeroboam. Way back when the prophet Ahijah had met him out in the country, torn up his robe, and announced God was giving him the ten northern tribes to rule, Ahijah had said to him: 1Kings 11:38 “If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you...” Echoes of 14:8 – 1) keep His commands; 2) follow Him with all your heart; 3) do only what is right in His eyes. (Not YOUR eyes – HIS eyes!)

             Other Old Testament prophets expressed it a bit differently, but clearly it’s not about being smarter than the next guy/girl. What does God MOST want from you? Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Jeremiah 9:23f “This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight," declares the LORD.” It’s not about knowing the MOST, but about knowing the Lord, and seeking what He’s after.

             It’s a foolish goal to set out to make your first million before you’re 40. Likely you’ll end up divorced and alienated from your kids, because your focus has been material success, and you’ve stolen time from them. This past week a world-reknowned fashion designer, Kate Spade, was found dead in her apartment probably by her own doing. Choose your goals and definition of success carefully. Want what GOD WANTS for your life.


Jeroboam was SO smart. He was crafty and shrewd. He had strategy down pat. When the ten northern tribes rebelled against Solomon’s son, Jeroboam realized it would be easier to control the people if they never went back south for the religious festivals all Jewish men were to attend three times a year at Jerusalem. So – he improvised! He got very creative in the religious department. 1Kings 12:28-31 “After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves.He said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem.Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.”

             This represented a clear break not just with the worship rituals at Jerusalem, but also with the Law of Moses – for instance the Ten Commandments clearly prohibited the making of idols. It also set the stage for wilder religious prostitution and the fertility-cult Baal worship that would be introduced by Queen Jezebel.

             Ahijah pronounces God’s condemnation of Jeroboam’s religious improvisations in 1Kings 14:9, “You have done more evil than all who lived before you.You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back.” By making the golden calves, Jeroboam had clearly turned his back on Yahweh, Israel’s Lord of Hosts. He had intentionally distracted the nation from going up to Jerusalem to worship as God had instructed.

             The people worshiped the golden calf at Bethel; they even made a holiday of it and trekked all the way up to Dan in the northernmost part of the country to worship the golden calf there. Today we have metal idols of a different kind. You our younger generation are drawn to your smartphones, hence the nickname, “the tethered generation”. That metal god can become very distracting from your relationship with the true God! It’s just so easy to slip your phone out of your pocket and check your Facebook, like your friends’ photos on Instagram or VSCO, stare at that Snap from your buddy or bae before it disappears... And, down the bunny trail we go! That little 5-inch screen is a portal into a whole virtual world where there’s little or no policing, what one cyber-expert calls “the Wild, Wild West”.

             Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy social media, staying connected with family and friends remotely, and looking up things on Google as much as the next person – but I also know how invasive it can be, a snare tripping you up from doing less “hot” activities like reading your Bible or praying (with – good heavens! – eyes CLOSED).

             In v15 Ahijah foretells Israel would be uprooted and exiled “because they provoked the Lord to anger by making Asherah poles.” I’m sure these were enticing to look at, the latest and craftiest graphical technology. The goddess Asherah was the partner of Baal the fertility god, so these poles would be pornish wooden representations of her. Metal gods were leading them to turn their backs on God.

             In the New Testament, some Christians misunderstood Christ’s liberation from details of Jewish law-keeping to be an excuse for immoral behaviour. Paul wrote to the church in Galatians 5:13, “You, my brothers, were called to be free.But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Jesus wants you free to love Him and others, not be bound up by fleshly desires, getting that little shot of endorphin inside your brain by an immoral image.


Back when I was in school – started in a one-room school, 8 grades, out in the middle of the country, walking or cycling about 4 km to get there – we didn’t have Grade Point Average. Instead of GPA we had A B C D and F.

             What’s God’s grading scale? It’s just “G” or “B” – GOOD or BAD. Your IQ does not impress God. Your over-90-percents do not make the angels stand and applaud. The top of God’s grading scale has just one letter: G for GOOD.

             The prophet Ahijah reveals to Jeroboam’s wife the gloomy news that Jeroboam’s entire family is going to be wiped out as judgment for his evil actions. (See what usurper Baasha does in 15:29 for details – beginning a whole bloody series of assassinations and coups in the northern kingdom.) 1Kings 14:13 tells about the one individual in Jeroboam’s whole family who catches God’s attention at all positively: “All Israel will mourn for him and bury him.He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good.” Anything WHAT? “GOOD”!

             What’s going to catch God’s attention? Great GRADES? No – but whether you’re GOOD. God grades on the G scale. He’s not looking for brilliance, or biggest in business, or the most Instagram followers or likes – but whether you’re GOOD. And they don’t sell that at the store!

             A couple of verses from the Apostle Paul to back this up from the New Testament, and we’re done. Romans 12:2, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, [PHILIPS - don’t let the world squeeze you into its mould] but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is— [WHAT’S GOD’S WILL, WHAT’S HE WANT?] his GOOD, pleasing and perfect will.” And a few verses later, Romans 12:9 – “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is GOOD.”

             A lot of people might have said Jeroboam was a pretty successful guy. Ruled 22 years, created a new nation, started a lot of new religious institutions, fought wars – but in the end it all dissolved and his own family was wiped out. Don’t let YOUR life count for nothing. You can’t outsmart God! Set your sights on HIS goals – knowing Him, growing in Jesus, allowing the Holy Spirit to lead you step by step in what’s genuinely GOOD. Let’s pray.