Those who have read any number of my essays may have noticed that I’ll often comment upon unusual or obscure passages of Scripture to tease out what may be the thinking behind what is written. Of course, I have no unique communication with the authors of old and must sometimes speculate what’s going on behind the scenes. As in any endeavor any of us undertakes, we have to combine what we know with critical thinking to derive an understanding as best we can. With that in mind, let’s look at 1 Kings 14:13:
And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.
In context, what’s going on is that King Jeroboam of Israel – the Northern Kingdom, that has now separated from Judah, the Southern Kingdom – has perpetrated abominations against the Lord. Rather than commit himself and the people to Yahweh, he made two golden calves for Israel to worship so they wouldn’t go to Jerusalem to honor God there (1 Kings 12:28). In response, Yahweh sent a man of God to Jeroboam who declared the altars to these idols would be torn down (1 Kings 13:2). But, the Lord didn’t stop there because of Jeroboam’s great iniquities.
Jeroboam’s young son Abijah became sick. As so many of these apostate kings did, they turned to Yahweh only when it was convenient for them. In this case, for the healing of his son, Jeroboam sent his wife to inquire of the Lord to the prophet who first anointed him as king. Rather than good news for her, the prophet declared the worst possible outcome, i.e. that the child would die. Moreover, the prophet gave the reason. We see this in 1 Kings 14:9-10 in which the prophet said:
“… but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back, therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone.”
God had given Jeroboam the opportunity to rule with His favor and anointing upon him. Instead, he had greatly angered God through his foolish and willful acts of idolatry that were intended to turn the hearts of the people from Him. Jeroboam deliberately made people sin through the making of the golden calves. As always when someone purposely causes others to engage in his sin, the consequences are extreme. We have only to think of what Jesus later said in Matthew 18:6 about those who cause children to stumble and fall
“But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
So it was with Jeroboam. In this case God decreed that none in Jeroboam’s family line would live. Thus, when his wife approached the prophet about their son, she learned in 1 Kings 14:12 that he wouldn’t recover from his illness: “… the child shall die.”
It’s in the next verse in 1 Kings 14:13 that we find our interesting tidbit for today. The prophet informed Jeroboam’s wife that their son Abijah was the only one in their family who would have a proper and reverent burial. The reason? “… in him there is found something pleasing to the Lord… “
This child, in all of Jeroboam’s family, was the only one that Yahweh, in His omniscience, saw as having any (future?) goodness. Because of that goodness, God allowed Abijah to die.
Doesn’t that make you pause and think? It certainly does for me.
The implication I see is that this child had the potential to be a Godly person who could have pleased the Lord. But, God allowed him to die. This implies to me that the wickedness all around him in Jeroboam’s family would have been so great, that he would have sinned as a result and turned away from God – perhaps because of the way he would have been raised. Proverbs 22:6 says:
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
It’s obvious to me this certainly wasn’t going to happen with Abijah, so God mercifully permitted him to die in his (future?) righteousness, and thus be with the Lord forever. Apparently, if the child had remained alive, his fate would have been the fires of hell along with Jeroboam and all the rest of his family.
Looking at Abijah’s death in this light gives us another way to consider the deaths of at least some other children. Losing a child is always hard. Yet, it may be that God in His mercy preserves that child by allowing him or her to die young. Because God knows the end from the beginning, the fate of a child who dies at an early age may actually be preferable than the alternative. Perhaps, the family in which the child is born, or other circumstances in life, would have caused such great apostasy that God wanted to safeguard the innocence of that soul.
This doesn’t mitigate the pain of loss for any parent. However, God sees and knows all things past and future. He is merciful and loving. It may very well be that in the act of the death of a child, God is actually causing that young one to be with Him forever.