There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. Proverbs 14:12
Some 600 miles south of Cairo, on the banks of the ancient Nile, stands the ancient temple of Karnak, one of the most splendid structures of the ancient world. Across the river is the majestic valley of the Kings and the awesome tombs which were monuments to the egos of the pharaohs.
On the wall of the temple is a picture, etched in stone, some 3000 years old. It depicts Shishak, the king or ruler of Egypt, in the center, with ropes or chains attached to the necks of lesser kings who had been subjugated by his military campaigns. Most of the vanquished are unknown to us today, yet one of them, we know. He was Rehoboam, the son of King Solomon in Israel, and the first king of Judah during the “divided kingdom.” Rehoboam's story is recorded in the Old Testament in both 1 Kings 14 and 2 Chronicles 12. One account was written by a priest, the other by a scribe, but both are accurate and in agreement.
Behind the pictographic image on the temple wall is the story of a man's failure, the sad tale of one who never lived up to his potential, whose bad choices determined his destiny.
Here's the story behind the story. At the death of his father Solomon, the kingdom was divided. Jeroboam built an altar at Dan in the North and ruled the 10 tribes of Israel, and Rehoboam kept the palace in Jerusalem, inherited from his father, and ruled Judah in the south.
The record reads, "Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites" (1 Kings 14:22-24).
Sometimes God's justice seems slow in coming. In other cases, it is immediate. In Rehoboam's case, it didn't take long. In the fifth year of his reign, Shishak, the Egyptian ruler, made war on Judah and he won. He plundered the temple--the one Solomon had built--and he took all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.
A historical footnote to the defeat was written by a priest who noted that the shields of gold which had been in the temple were replaced with ones made of brass--an alloy of copper and tin or zinc, probably tin from Solomon's mines in the Negev, south of the Dead Sea.
When Rehoboam turned his back on God, he ended up trading the gold for the brass which may have looked good but was far, far less in value. But doesn't the same thing happen when a man walks out on his family for someone who promises a thrill? Or we cast integrity to the wind, thinking that we can make some money fast? Or we think, "This one time won't matter!" We end up losing the gold, replacing it with brass. Choices always determine destiny.
Seldom does an individual think of the implications when he or she turns his or her back on God, choosing to walk a different path. Rehoboam should have heeded the words of his father, Solomon, who wrote, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12).
The message on the wall of the temple at Karnak says it so well. The world remembers its own for their greatest accomplishment, but it remembers God's children for their greatest failure. Remember that when you are tempted to trade the gold in your life for brass.
Resource reading: 1 Kings 14:21-31