THE DANGER OF “HAVE IT YOUR WAY” WORSHIP- JEROBOAM’S SIN; THE PROPHET’S TEST and THE MINISTRY OF PETER AND PAUL
Entrepreneur. Innovator. Creative thinker. These are qualities that are highly regarded in our culture. God can be glorified in their use when they are subject to His rule. But in the case of Jeroboam, his creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship led to his destruction and the destruction of the kingdom of Israel.
Jeroboam was accustomed to taking charge of projects. He had many promising leadership skills. Solomon had made him overseer of fortifications and public works in Jerusalem. Ahijah prophesied that the kingdom would be torn out of Solomon’s hands and that ten tribes would be put into the hands of Jeroboam. He dramatically pictured this by wearing a new garment, waiting until he and Jeroboam were in an open field and then tearing the garment he was wearing into 12 pieces, giving ten pieces to Jeroboam.
Solomon’s heart had turned away from God. His affections were misplaced as he accommodated the false gods of the surrounding nations. Because of this, God promised that He would bless Jeroboam instead, and make him an enduring household, the kings of Israel, if he would walk in obedience to His Word (11:37-38).
Jeroboam was from Ephraim and became familiar with the discontent of the northern tribes. He was a leader of the opposition, lifting up his hand against King Solomon (1 Kings 11:26). When Solomon learned of this, he sought to put Jeroboam to death. Therefore, Jeroboam fled to Egypt only to return when Solomon died. Frustrated with the severe rule of Rehoboam, all the tribes of Israel, except for Judah and Benjamin, make their break with the Davidic line of kings and make Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the king of Israel. (1 Kings 12:20). The kingdom was now divided into two separate nations; the ten tribes in the north under the rule of Jeroboam, the first king of Israel, and the two tribes of the south under the rule of Rehoboam, son of Solomon of the house of David.
Rehoboam was ready to mobilize his army to fight against those who rebelled against him, but the man of God, Shemiah, told him that this division of the kingdom was the Lord’s doing. He was not to fight against his relatives. (It is wise to let the Lord choose your battles!)
Jeroboam found a new project for himself. His entrepreneurship took a turn in direct opposition to God. He initiated a new form of worship. He invented his own new, improved religion for Israel.
The Sin of Jeroboam becomes a benchmark for the future sins of Israel. There are at least 21 instances recorded in Scripture in which Jeroboam is accused with causing Israel to sin. What was the sin of Jeroboam? Jeroboam rejected the authority of divine revelation, moved the center of worship to Samaria, set up a counterfeit altar, with a counterfeit Feast of Tabernacles, on a counterfeit day of the year with a counterfeit priesthood! It was a new kind of Judaism. It had great appeal to the masses. It seemed to be more kind, convenient and accessible.
He innovated his own system of worship. He changed the object, calendar and place of worship. The Word of God was no longer the central authority. Jeroboam had his own creative think tank for consultants. He established his own priesthood. The apostle Paul refers to this in the New Testament as “self-made religion” (Colossians 2:23).
1 Kings 12:28 (NASB) 28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
Instead of worshiping the one true God, the God who revealed Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, he manufactured two golden calves, conveniently located at nearby Bethel or Dan so the people would not have to go up to Jerusalem and worship according to the Law of Moses. (12:28). Rather than adhere to the Lord’s calendar which placed the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month in Jerusalem, Jeroboam made his mark on the Feast of the Lord by moving it to the fifteenth day of the eighth month to be held at Bethel. (12:32) Rather than recognizing the Levites as God’s appointed priesthood, Jeroboam launched his own priesthood in which anyone could participate (13:33). The Mosaic Law forbade kings serving as priests (2 Chron 26:16-23). He also made his own sacrifices (12:33).
We have already seen the devastating consequences that came upon those who had little regard for God’s Word and worshiped Him on their own terms: Cain, Aaron’s sons- Nadab and Abihu, and King Saul, to name a few. There were others who would suffer due to their ignorance of God’s standard of worship, such as Uzzah and the men of Bethshemesh.
Chapter 13 tells us a lot about the Old Testament role of the prophet. Disobedience, including compromised obedience, cost prophets their lives. The man of God from Judah gave a true word about the false altar of Bethel and predicted the reign of Josiah 300 years in the future (640-609 BC), but he failed to obey the details the Lord had given regarding his journey. This reminds us that it is not just the message that is important but the way we conduct ourselves as its ministers.
Jeroboam wanted to have the man who spoke out against his false system of worship killed. He pointed at him and shouted, “Seize that man!” but instantly Jeroboam’s hand was paralyzed in that pointing position (13:4) and at that moment the prophecy about the altar cracking in half and spilling the ashes was fulfilled. The king’s hand remained paralyzed until the man of God interceded for him (13:6).
There is a further instructive incident in which the man of God from Judah is tempted into disobedience by an old prophet from Bethel. Whereas the motive for temptation is not clear, the result of disobedience is. The man of God from Judah has “received a command by the word of the Lord” not to eat or drink with those at Bethel and that he must return by a different route than the one on which he came (13:9). This would show that the Lord would not give any endorsement, have any fellowship or have anything to do with Jeroboam’s religion. The old prophet from Bethel heard from his sons the report of the man of God from Judah. He saddles his donkey and catches up with his fellow prophet and fabricates a story saying, “an angel has spoken to me, by the word of the Lord, saying ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.” The old prophet has shifted the authority from the word of the Lord to another source, an angel, and tests the obedience of the prophet from Judah to the specific instruction he had been given, the word of God once spoken.
There is a consistency to God’s Word. All suggested revelations must be tested by those which have already been received. God does not contradict Himself. The message once delivered to the saints should not be tampered with. It reminds us of the words of the apostle Paul,
Galatians 1:6-9 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;  which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!
Jude also writes of the perpetuity of God’s revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ which is given “once and for all” to Christ’s church.
Jude 1:3 3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
- Campbell Morgan writes,
“We are taught that no command of God must be disregarded by His messengers, even when, or if, an angel suggests a change of method. A divine purpose directly communicated is never set aside by intermediation of any kind. How necessary therefore, that those who are called of God should “prove the spirits whether they are of God!” When direct assault of evil would utterly fail to seduce servants of God, the enemy constantly transforms his appearance into that of an angel of light and claims to bring to the soul a Divine revelation.”
NEW TESTAMENT READING: Acts 9:26-43
Barnabas demonstrates his grasp on the wonder of God’s grace in the way he welcomes and defends Saul of Tarsus as his brother in Christ as he comes to Jerusalem. Already the Holy Spirit has given Saul boldness to preach Christ. Some of the Greek speaking Jews wanted to kill Saul, so the believers in Jerusalem escorted him to Caesarea and sent him to his hometown of Tarsus.
The church became stronger as it lived in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 9:31 (NASB) 31 So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.
Peter continues to preach the gospel as he goes from place to place. He prays for Aeneas, a man who had been paralyzed for eight years and he is instantly healed (9:34). The effect of seeing Aeneas walking caused the whole population in Lydda and Sharon to turn to the Lord.
Peter comes to the harbor city of Joppa (meaning ‘beautiful’), that sits 125 feet above sea level overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, 35 miles northwest of Jerusalem. He stays with a tanner. Tanning involved touching dead animals. It was an unclean profession according to the Law of Moses. Peter was already experiencing under the Holy Spirit’s guidance his new liberty. Soon he would be called upon to act on that knowledge and defend it!
Many people in Joppa believe in the Lord Jesus, especially as the power of His Name is affirmed with the miraculous resurrection of Tabitha (Dorcas) a beloved sister in Christ who made clothes for those in need.
This Psalm stands in contrast to what we read about Jeroboam and his self-appointed worship center in Bethel. Here the Psalmist extols the city chosen by God, Jerusalem and the promises of the Davidic covenant (2 Sam 7:8-29). It prophetically pictures God’s satisfaction (rest) and peace being made through His perfect work of redemption, the offering of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross, that brings peace and bold access to God for believers (made a royal priesthood).
TODAY’S PROVERB – A great verse for Father’s Day
Proverbs 17:6 Grandchildren are the crown of old men,
And the glory of sons is their fathers.
PRAYER FOR THE NATIONS- We continue to pray for Haiti today. (OPERATION WORLD p. 394-396)
Haiti needs godly leaders who will prioritize the good of the nation and address its massive problems. Two centuries of misrule, tyranny and recent flawed democratic attempts have brought hopelessness and despair. Corruption is rampant, and robberies and millings are commonplace. The economic plight of most Haitians deepens each year.
Haitians overwhelmingly identify themselves as “Christian”, but many if not most Catholics have also dabbled in voodoo (although many others actively oppose it). Haiti is often referred to as “90% Catholic and 100% Voodoo”. The credibility and impact of the Catholic Church are sorely compromised. Pray for renewal, reformation and the cleansing work of the Holy Spirit to sweep through this massive and influential denomination.
Leadership training is too limited because of the poverty of the churches. Many pastors have little training; some are barely literate. Pray for the 20 or so Bible Schools/seminaries and the many TEE programs that seek to meet the need. Pray for Haitian leaders to be men of faith and spiritual authority, who are not diverted by material inducements. Pray for resources in Creole that will foster lay training and leadership development.
Since its founding, New Life Community Church has been involved with missions in Haiti. We continue to support Dr. Jacob Bernard and the orphanage and school in Port-au-Prince, “Hope for the Children of Haiti”. We continue to pray that God will raise up laborers among the Haitians who will have the kind of vision and demonstrate the life of sacrifice that can be seen in Dr. Bernard.
PRAYER– Lord, You have shown us through Your Word, that Your counsel stands. Thank you for the gospel, the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. Help us to recognize that your message is not evolving. Your Word is forever settled in heaven. Being eternal, it is eternally relevant. We pray that we will walk in humble obedience and demonstrate a whole-hearted commitment to the Lord Jesus such as what we see in the Book of Acts.
Thank You for the gift of children and grandchildren, a crown for old men and women! (Proverbs
17:6). Give us the heart, the gifts, the wisdom and opportunities to make disciples in each generation!
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742