The reign of King Solomon’s son Rehoboam was fairly doomed from the start. On the one hand, many in Israel had grown weary not only of Solomon’s system of taxation (1 Kings 4:7) but also the labor force Solomon required to accomplish his building achievements (1 Kings 5:13; 9:15-22; 11:28). On the other hand, Solomon’s open embrace of idolatry had caused God to promise to tear the kingdom away from Solomon’s son, leaving Rehoboam with only one tribe to rule over while the ten northern tribes broke away and started a new kingdom. That one tribe would be Judah, with the exceedingly small tribe of Benjamin basically being absorbed into it.
This is not to say, though, that Rehoboam himself played no role in his own demise. He was 41 years old when he ascended to the throne of the still united kingdom, and he promptly tossed away his one chance at keeping national unity. Rather than acknowledge the peoples’ complaints against his father and take the advice of the elderly counselors who had served his father, Rehoboam favored the advice of his arrogant childhood friends and promised to be an even more demanding king than Solomon had been (1 Kings 12:1-15). That foolish bravado forced the hand of the northern tribes and off they went to institute a new kingdom complete with a new king (Jeroboam).
Rehoboam’s bad decisions didn’t stop there, either, as over the course of his seventeen-year reign he forsook God’s law (2 Chronicles 12:1) and allowed idolatry and cultic worship practices to run rampant in Judah (1 Kings 14:21-24). Five years into that reign God sent him an almost fatal rebuke by way of the army of Shishak, the king of Egypt, coming against Jerusalem with a force of 12,000 chariots, 60,000 soldiers on horses, and a sea of foot soldiers. Rehoboam temporarily repented of his sins long enough for God to let him survive that invasion, but God decreed that Rehoboam and Judah would come under the thumb of Shishak and Egypt (2 Chronicles 12:1-8).
Here is where the story of Solomon’s gold shields comes into play. According to 1 Kings 10:14-17, at the height of Solomon’s success he had ordered that 200 large shields of gold and 300 smaller shields of gold be made and stored in his royal residence. Rehoboam inherited that home when Solomon died and in so doing inherited the shields. However, as a part of Shishak’s plundering of Judah, Shishak’s soldiers confiscated all the gold shields as well as all the treasured items from Jerusalem’s temple (1 Kings 14:25-26).
To replace the shields, Rehoboam ordered that bronze shields be made. Thus, the replacement shields served as an object lesson of how the kingdom of Judah — i.e., Jerusalem, the Jewish temple, the temple priesthood, the royal line of David, etc. — had fallen out of favor with God and had lost His hand of protection and blessing. Summing up the situation, the days of golden splendor had become the days of bronze inferiority.
It would probably hurt our feelings to know how many of our churches, churches that once exhibited God’s “gold” standard, are now relegated to exhibiting His “bronze” standard. After all, it doesn’t take a ton of spiritual discernment to see that many churches that once ran spiritually hot now limp along tepidly. Many churches that once stood doctrinally strong now fall for every wind of doctrine. Many churches that were once filled with congregants are now virtually empty. How does such a thing happen? It’s called losing the blessing of the Lord. That’s the price that sin, whether it be Rehoboam’s idolatry or a church’s worldliness, exacts. The bar is lowered. The status quo is lessened. The subnormal becomes the normal.
Individual lives can fall victim to this problem as well as Christians who once faithfully served Christ can sin their way into backsliding. Because of the eternal security of the believer, these Christians won’t lose their eternal salvation, but what they will lose is heavenly treasure. This treasure will have to be lost because the earthly service that produces it will be lessened. In that sense, these Christians will become somewhat like Rehoboam, who didn’t lose his home but certainly lost some of the treasure inside it.
The takeaway from all this, Christian, is that now would be a good time for you to do a thorough inspection of your own life and service to Christ and see if sin has somehow demoted you from God’s gold standard to His bronze standard. Needless to say, if confession and repentance are in order, do them swiftly. Hopefully, with the confession and repentance, the golden sheen upon your life will be either spared or reclaimed. And do you know why that will be such a big deal? It’s because once you’ve known gold shields, bronze ones will simply never satisfy.