1 Kings 12:25-33
The key to this passage and today’s thought is found in vv. 25-27.
Let’s try to see this situation from Jeroboam’s perspective. Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s officials who was well respected by the king and placed in a position of power in the government. In ch. 11 we read the story of God speaking to Jeroboam through the prophet Ahijah and saying,
“I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.”
So, Jeroboam knew that he had been given the divine green light to start this rival nation. At the moment that this new nation was formed, Jeroboam stood at a fork in the road. He had a choice to either follow the Laws of God in love and obedience, or to follow the common-sense wisdom that anybody would follow if they were setting up a new kingdom. Think about it. True worship of Yahweh was to be centered on the Temple. The Temple was in Jerusalem. Jerusalem was the capital city of the enemy. If the people’s hearts were attached to the Temple in Jerusalem, then how could Jeroboam ask them to fight against their holy city? You can’t build a nation that way. Solution? Create a new religion and divert the people’s attention away from the true source of their life and convince them that your alternative is just as good as the original.
It makes sense doesn’t it? Here were the advantages for the new form of worship:
- Less travel time to worship. Hey, now there are two convenient locations!
- More culturally relevant. The high places were the spots on which the Canaanites had been worshipping their various Baals for centuries. The bull was more of a universal symbol representing the “God concept.” Establishing the bulls on high places, and establishing localized high places made it possible for better cross-cultural relations and made life more conducive to peace.
- Less restrictive. Now that priests could come from any tribe, not just the Levites, there were more priests to go around. And, for the right price, you could purchase your own local priest to ensure a “nod to god” in the comfort of your own home.
- It’s just a lot more fun. Hey, what red blooded Israelite man doesn’t enjoy a good romp with a shrine prostitute once in a while, after all? And, so not to be sexist, we are now introducing male prostitutes to meet the needs of those women (or men, wink, wink) as well.
(If you have not detected the sarcasm in the last four points yet, please do.) Bottom line, Jeroboam sold out. He exchanged the revealed truth of God for a political solution that fit his agenda.
As a society, both in our churches and in our own hearts, we have made the mistake of Jeroboam too many times. We compromise God’s standards and rationalize it away.
Look what happened as a result of this major, systemic shift in focus and compromise for the nation of Israel. Because of Jeroboam’s choices, every king that followed him was more wicked than the last. The rest of the book of 1 Kings and the first half of the book of 2 Kings is the story of the fast decline of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. 1 Kings ends with the story of Ahab and his wicked queen Jezebel. This couple took the nation to an all time low and ended up being literally eaten by the dogs.
In what ways have you noticed the church in America make subtle compromises with our culture in order to “keep the peace”. In what ways have you noticed your church doing this? In what ways have you noticed yourself doing this? Ask God to expose these “golden bulls” in your life and give you the courage to root them out.