My study of I Kings 12 has been an interesting process. Funny how God works the medicine of the Bible. Quite often I spend a lot of time thinking how the passage applies to the church, or culture, or nations, or how it might impact my theology, or points of application I can craft for others...... but before long... the spiritual message finally finds the target, like a holy laser guided smart bomb.. right to my cold, hard heart.
This passage was a sneak attack.
My first post was about the popularly titled "Rehoboam's Folly" where the King of the South disregarded the counsel of the elders and chose to follow the pride and power of his peers.
The 2nd post was an interesting observation of God's providence. How He sovereignly controls all things in spite of sin and rebellion. His allowances may be perplexing, but our view is incomplete.
We read the response and reactions of the people to Rehoboam's choice- pure rebellion.
19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.20 And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God:23 "Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people,24 'Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.'" So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.
Very interesting response and allowance by God. Ten tribes rebel, leaving only Judah and Benjamin behind. Rehoboam amasses an army to restore unity. A Biblical times 'civil war' where Rehoboam is 'Lincoln'. But GOD says 'NO" and an amazing statement- "this thing is from ME"
SO we have unintended consequences. The Kingdom in the North has resources. But the Kingdom in the South has the place of worship. The North has gold... but the south has Jerusalem.
25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel.26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah."28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt."29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one.t31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.
This is a wicked thing that Jeroboam does. Rehoboam chose poorly. But, for his own survival, Jeroboam institutes false worship and this is a sin with long, devastating consequences.
I always think HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? Didn't these people remember the golden calf the first time at Sinai? But I am also reminded time and time again. People are like sheep...they just follow. And we have very short memories. And just as the old adage goes- those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.
It is a dangerous to ever treat God as an expedient. If we arbitrarily move boundaries or institute new practices or procedures based on practical preferences... we are in grave danger of kindling the Lord's anger or departure.
How does this passage portray my biggest struggle?
Jeroboam pulls this off is because the people readily succumb to worship by convenience instead of worship by spirit and truth.
And I see myself right in their midst.
When Jeroboam says 'you have gone up to Jerusalem long enough' the UP is literal. It was a long, hard climb. Jeroboam provided a way out of what was a hardship. And our love of leisure and comfort makes it so easy for the same substitutions to take place in our lives.
Keith Green used to sing, "Jesus rose from the dead, and you can't even get out of bed."
Indeed, in my life, there is little evidence of any sacrifice of leisure and comfort in my practice of worship. Do I strain in my giving? Do I make an effort to always be there on time and prepared? DO I participate? Do I let the slightest discomfort distract and interrupt my focus? Where is my focus?
SO much of what passes for good worship today is 'I was entertained'. I like the music, the message was entertaining (and short) and I was able to get in and out without too many inconveniences.
The passage is very reflective of what we do. Jeroboam served the people's needs for his political agenda. There was no consulting of the Scripture's to see if the thing prescribed was authorized by God.
AND... is this possible?.... worship became a SIN! It became man centered...not God centered. It became ritual and routine with NO spirit and truth.
Sadly, this is my biggest struggle... another Sunday... going through the motions. I can try to blame the service itself...but I know the problem- my heart loves leisure and luxury and I want 'worship' to cater to me.
I come expecting to get. Worship is supposed to be me coming to give.
If I really understand the nature of God and it I really have embraced the gospel- I should be able to worship in a tin roofed hut, 100 degrees, with off key music, and straight reading of scripture and my heart should LEAP at the opportunity to praise and thank my King.
Lord, please help me.. I need a real heart change here. The routine/ritual is hurting our relationship.