The greater part of Israel, led by Jereboam, rebel against Rehoboam (Solomon's son) and the house of David; this is God's doing.
What can I learn from it?
This chapter (esp vv 15-20) provides me with the knowledge of the beginnings of the divided kingdom. In the north, with his capital at Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, King Jeroboam (son of Nebat, an Ephraimite who had been one of Solomon's officials as per 1 Kings 11:26) ruled over Israel. "So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day." (v19.) In the south, with his capital at Jerusalem (where the temple and palace were), King Rehoboam (son of Solomon, line of David as per 1 Kings 11:43) reigned over Judah and any such Israelites who lived in the towns of Judah, including some of the tribe of Benjamin (v23). "Only the tribe of Juday remained loyal to the house of David." (v20.)
When Jeroboam and Israel rebelled, Rehoboam set out to make war against them but God sent a prophet to stop the army. " 'This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.' " This verse (v24), along with v15, "So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD," (which explained Rehoboam's choice to answer the people harshly) show that even though it was people who were consulting, talking, listening and ignoring, it was God who had formed the plan of events and was seeing it carried through to completion.
There is an immediate contrast with this scene and the first events of the new nation of Israel. King Jeroboam of Israel, faced with the possibility of losing his subjects to King Rehoboam when they journeyed to Jerusalem for temple worship, sought advice also (v28) and decided to build two idols. He lied to his subjects, " 'Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' " (v28) and enticed them to worship the golden calves in Bethel and Dan, rather than the One True God at His holy temple in Jerusalem. King Jeroboam compounded his sin by building shrines on high places and appointing priests who were not Levites (v31), as well as instituting a religious festival at a time of his own choosing (v33). King Jeroboam thus set the pattern for the nation of Israel's rebellion, not just against the annointed kingship of the family line of David (as they chose another king), but also against God (as they worshipped idols). This is a classic example of sin - it isn't just rebellion against God's choices and will, it is rebellion against God himself.
How can I apply this to my own life?
The first section teaches me that it is better to listen to the wisdom of the elders than to listen to the advice of my own peers, but that God's will prevails even when we listen to bad advice!
On a more serious note, this passage seems to indicate that how we worship makes a difference, along with the obvious Who we worship. God is pleased when we worship Him according to the true knowledge that He has given us - giving Him glory for Who He really is. It wasn't golden calves that brought Israel up out of Egypt, it was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman (John 4:22-24), " 'You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and in truth.' " I must worship the God I know, who has revealed Himself to me through His Son Jesus, not some conveniently made up idol of "I like to think God is like..." Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman continued (John 4:25-26): "The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, 'I who speak to you am he.' " Only Jesus Christ makes truth-based, spirit-filled worship of God the Father possible.