All the priests and Levites living among the northern tribes of Israel sided with Rehoboam. The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and moved to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons would not allow them to serve the Lord as priests. Jeroboam appointed his own priests to serve at the pagan shrines, where they worshiped the goat and calf idols he had made. From all the tribes of Israel, those who sincerely wanted to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their ancestors. This strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and for three years they supported Rehoboam son of Solomon, for during those years they faithfully followed in the footsteps of David and Solomon.
(2 Chronicles 11:13-17)
Before the nation split, the center of worship was in Jerusalem, and people flocked there for the three great annual religious festivals. During the rest of the year, other worship services and rituals were conducted in the tribal territories by priests and Levites who lived throughout the land. They offered sacrifices, taught God’s laws, and encouraged the people to continue to follow God and avoid pagan influences.
After the nation split, Jeroboam, the new king of Israel, saw these priests and Levites as threats to his new government because they retained loyalty to Jerusalem, now the capital of Judah. So he appointed his own priests, effectively banning the Levites from their duties and forcing them to move to the southern kingdom. Jeroboam’s pagan priests encouraged idol worship. With the absence of spiritual leaders, the new northern kingdom was in danger of abandoning God.
The people who followed the priests and Levites to Jerusalem obeyed God rather than Jeroboam. By their actions, they preserved their integrity and strengthened the southern kingdom. In the future, most of the people in the northern kingdom would go along with the evil designs of the kings, hoping to benefit by cooperating with them.
Many of the people of Israel stayed true to the worship practices prescribed in the law of Moses. This story is a convincing argument for knowing the Bible for ourselves. We’re sheep, but don’t have to behave as sheep—blindly following erring leaders. God wants us to be discerning and to keep connected to him. How will you do that this week?