Thursday, February 25, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 25. Two Golden Calves

Prophets And Kings
Day 25
Two Golden Calves

Jeroboam is king over the ten northern tribes of Israel. When the Lord previously spoke to him through the prophet Ahijah, God told Jeroboam if he obeyed Him, Him woulds give him as great a dynasty as that of David. But we finds out today that Jeroboam tries to keep the hearts of the people wif him by playin on theirs weakness for idolatry. 

1 KINGS 12:25-33
Yesterday Rehoboam had to flee to Jerusalem in his chariot when he attempted to have his tax man Adoniram collect the taxes the people were protesting. Adoniram was seized by the people and stoned to death and since then Rehoboam has remained at Jerusalem. Jeroboam needs to set up a capitol for his kingdom and he builds himself a place at Shechem. "Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel." (1 Kings 12:25) He has chosen two strategic cities as fortress cities, for Shechem was vitally important to his trade route and Peniel was near the entry point to Egypt.

Rather than settling down to govern properly as God's chosen man over the northern tribes, Jeroboam frets in his heart about losing the support of the people. He doesn't have the faith to do what God asked him to do, "If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to Me and do what is right in My eyes by obeying My decrees 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." (1 Kings 11:38) God made this man a great promise and all he has to do to retain control of the kingdom is obey the Lord. Instead Jeroboam makes a terrible choice because of his fears. "Jeroboam thought to himself, 'The kingdom will not likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Jeroboam." (1 Kings 12:26-27) It's at this point we may wish we could shake Jeroboam and ask him, "Did you not hear anything the Lord said to you? He said He will be with you if  you obey Him." But then we have to step back and think about the times we ourselves have doubted God's word. I think that's when we make some of our most regrettable mistakes, when we walk in fear instead of faith. 

Jeroboam is concerned because the temple is at Jerusalem in Rehoboam's territory. Jewish men were required to attend three holy festivals a year there, plus Jerusalem is the place God designated for sacrifices and offerings. Jeroboam doesn't trust the Lord to keep the people true to him while making these journeys. Jerusalem is Rehoboam's capitol and Jeroboam thinks this will give the king of Judah an opportunity to win the people back. 

King Rehoboam chose some unwise advisers in yesterday's passage, but he isn't the only man in 1st Kings to choose unwise advisers. "After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other." (1 Kings 12:28-30) Jeroboam could have set up a religious capitol in Shechem to worship the God of Israel, although this still would have been a violation, because in Chapter 12 of Deuteronomy the Lord commanded that the people bring their sacrifices and offerings to the place He would choose in the promised land, and that place is Jerusalem. Rather than trusting God and allowing the people to go up to Jerusalem as He commanded, Jeroboam does away with the real God who brought them out of Egypt. He essentially sets up a state religion and that religion is idolatry. Having spent some time in Egypt, he casts two golden calves similar to the bull deity Aphis of Egypt. This is ironic when we consider that the symbol he uses for deliverance from Egypt is actually a symbol of the godlessness and oppression of Egypt.

In his attempt to make normal the complete transfer of worship to these golden images, Jeroboam quotes the words of Moses' brother Aaron, the words Aaron spoke after casting the golden calf, "These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." (Exodus 32:4b) He seems to be trying to convince them that he's simply taking them back to their roots, not instituting a new religion altogether. He's trying to make them comfortable with the change. 

"Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites." (1 Kings 12:31) Only the tribe of Levi was chosen to serve as priests before the Lord but Jeroboam ignores this statute. The tribe of Levi was part of his kingdom but I think it's possible it was difficult to persuade the Levites to serve as priests before the golden calves. It could be they balked at such apostasy and Jeroboam had to choose men from other tribes, but the Bible does not say whether this was the case. 

"He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made." (1 Kings 12:31-32) This festival imitates the Feast of Tabernacles held in Jerusalem at the same time. Lest the people be tempted to go up and observe the true feast where God's temple is, Jeroboam made it very convenient for the northern tribes to remain in their own territory and observe a counterfeit feast. What an abomination this is! But as we noted during our study of Revelation, Satan always tries to imitate the things of Christ. He imitates them in order to substitute something else for them. The last thing Satan wants is for us to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, so he devises all sorts of distractions and substitutions.

"On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings." (1 Kings 12:33) The author is careful to tell us this practice is "of his own choosing", because Jeroboam is not acting in accordance with the laws and commandments of the Lord. 

Solomon began the practice of introducing idolatry to Israel and Jeroboam has completely surrendered himself and the nation to idolatry. This is the legacy Solomon has left behind. He set up a system which led the nation into temptation by allowing his many foreign wives to have pagan altars and shrines to their gods. What he began, Jeroboam expands upon. 

The legacy we leave behind is very important. Here in the United States we often hear of presidential legacies. Some of our presidents instituted valuable things during their time in office. Some left us in appalling debt. Some cost us a great deal of money and a great deal of lives in wars. But as Christians, our legacy is even more important than that of a president. What do we leave behind? What examples do we set for those coming after us? As Solomon learned late in his life, only what we have done for the kingdom of Christ truly matters. 

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