How Jeroboam persisted in his contempt of God and religion we read in the close of the foregoing chapter. Here we are told how God proceeded in his controversy with him; for when God judges he will overcome, and sinners shall either bend or break before him.
I. His child fell sick, 1 Kgs. 14:1. It is probable that he was his eldest son, and heir-apparent to the crown; for at his death all the kingdom went into mourning for him, 1 Kgs. 13:1-34 His dignity as a prince, his age as a young prince, and his interest in heaven as a pious prince, could not exempt him from sickness, dangerous sickness. Let none be secure of the continuance of their health, but improve it, while it continues, for the best purposes. Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest, thy favourite, he whom Israel loves, their darling, is sick. At that time, when Jeroboam prostituted the profaned the priesthood (1 Kgs. 13:33), his child sickened. When sickness comes into our families we should enquire whether there be not some particular sin harboured in our houses, which the affliction is sent to convince us of and reclaim us from.
II. He sent his wife in disguise to enquire of Ahijah the prophet what should become of the child, 1 Kgs. 14:2, 3. The sickness of his child touched him in a tender part. The withering of this branch of the family would, perhaps, be as sore an affliction to him as the withering of that branch of his body, 2 Kgs. 13:4. Such is the force of natural affection; our children are ourselves but once removed. Now,
1. Jeroboam’s great desire, under this affliction, is to know what shall become of the child, whether he will live or die. (1.) It would have been more prudent if he had desired to know what means they should use for the recovery of the child, what they should give him, and what they should do to him; but by this instance, and those of Ahaziah (2 Kgs. 1:2) and Benhadad (2 Kgs. 8:8), it should seem they had then such a foolish notion of fatality as took them off from all use of means; for, if they were sure the patient would live, they thought means needless; if he would die, they thought them useless; not considering that duty is ours, events are God’s, and that he that ordained the end ordained the means. Why should a prophet be desired to show that which a little time will show? (2.) It would have been more pious if he had desired to know wherefore God contended with him, had begged the prophet’s prayers, and cast away his idols from him; then the child might have been restored to him, as his hand was. But most people would rather be told their fortune than their faults or their duty.
2. That he might know the child’s doom, he sent to Ahijah the prophet, who lived obscurely and neglected in Shiloh, blind through age, yet still blest with the visions of the Almighty, which need not bodily eyes, but are rather favoured by the want of them, the eyes of the mind being then most intent and least diverted. Jeroboam sent not to him for advice about the setting up of his calves, or the consecrating of his priests, but had recourse to him in his distress, when the gods he served could give him no relief. Lord, in trouble have those visited thee who before slighted thee. Some have by sickness been reminded of their forgotten ministers and praying friends. He sent to Ahijah, because he had told him he should be king, 1 Kgs. 14:2. “He was once the messenger of good tidings, surely he will be so again.” Those that by sin disqualify themselves for comfort, and yet expect their ministers, because they are good men, should speak peace and comfort to them, greatly wrong both themselves and their ministers.
3. He sent his wife to enquire of the prophet, because she could best put the question without naming names, or making any other description than this, “Sir, I have a son ill; will he recover or not?” The heart of her husband safely trusted in her that she would be faithful both in delivering the message and bringing him the answer; and it seems there were none of all his counsellors in whom he could repose such a confidence; otherwise the sick child could very ill spare her, for mothers are the best nurses, and it would have been much fitter for her to have staid at home to tend him than go to Shiloh to enquire what would become of him. If she go, she must be incognito—in disguise, must change her dress, cover her face, and go by another name,not only to conceal herself from her own court and the country through which she passed (as if it were below her quality to go upon such an errand, and what she had reason to be ashamed of, as Nicodemus that came to Jesus by night, whereas it is no disparagement to the greatest to attend God’s prophets), but also to conceal herself from the prophet himself, that he might only answer her question concerning her son, and not enter upon the unpleasing subject of her husband’s defection. Thus some people love to prescribe to their ministers, limit them to smooth things, and care not for having the whole counsel of God declared to them, lest it prove to prophesy no good concerning them, but evil. But what a strange notion had Jeroboam of God’s prophet when he believed that he could and would certainly tell what would become of the child, and yet either could not or would not discover who was the mother! Could he see into the thick darkness of futurity, and yet not see through the thin veil of this disguise? Did Jeroboam think the God of Israel like his calves, just what he pleased? Be not deceived, God is not mocked.
III. God gave Ahijah notice of the approach of Jeroboam’s wife, and that she came in disguise, and full instructions what to say to her (1 Kgs. 14:5), which enabled him, as she came in at the door, to call her by her name, to her great surprise, and so to discover to all about him who she was (1 Kgs. 14:6): Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam, why feignest thou thyself to be another? He had no regard, 1. To her rank. She was a queen, but what was that to him, who had a message to deliver to her immediately from God, before whom all the children of men stand upon the same level? Nor, 2. To her present. It was usual for those who consulted prophets to bring them tokens of respect, which they accepted, and yet were no hirelings. She brought him a handsome country present (1 Kgs. 14:3), but he did not think himself obliged by that to give her any finer language than the nature of her message required. Nor, 3. To her industrious concealment of herself. It is a piece of civility not to take notice of those who desire not to be taken notice of; but the prophet was no courtier, nor gave flattering titles; plain dealing is best, and she shall know, at the first word, what she has to trust to: I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Note, Those who think by their disguises to hide themselves from God will be wretchedly confounded when they find themselves disappointed in the day of discovery. Sinners now appear in the garb of saints, and are taken to be such; but how will they blush and tremble when they find themselves stripped of their false colours, and are called by their own name: “Go out, thou treacherous false-hearted hypocrite. I never knew thee. Why feignest thou thyself to be another?” Tidings of a portion with hypocrites will be heavy tidings. God will judge men according to what they are, not according to what they seem.