1 Kings 12:25-33 (Part 1) – Taking the Easy Way Out

Posted: January 14, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 12:25-33 (Part 1 of 3)

Jeroboam Makes Gold Calves

Do you remember the peer pressure of school? The pressure to go along with the crowd is enormous all the way from kindergarten to high school and college. To go against the crowd is almost unthinkable. The mob mentality was alive and well when we went to school. Nothing has changed. It is still the same today. There have been many psychological experiments done that prove that the mob will most often crush the will of an individual. They will end up going along with the crowd where in an individual setting they would not do something that they felt was wrong or against their belief system. Sometimes, it’s just easier to take the easy way out and go along with the crowd.

Though many of are no longer in school, the easy way is often the route we take. Rather than standing up to the culture’s desires for satisfying self, we can often find ourselves, as Christ followers, having to make a stand or to compromise our faith. In today’s culture, the seeking and satisfying of our own personal desires is paramount. It is the new world order. When this country was founded, all the writings of the declaration and the constitution were aimed at the rights of individuals as part of a greater collective. The very structure of our government was to ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people. However, somewhere along the way, our society has changed focus from what is the greatest good for the greatest number of people to the idea that personal rights supersede everything even if may be detrimental to the society as a whole.

Against this cultural backdrop of individual rights being paramount, we exist as Christ followers. In society, we no longer truly believe that there is a higher power in the universe and that we are own determiners of our own destiny. Thus, Christians are just by nature set up against the whole of society as we know it today. As Christ followers, we submit ourselves to God. We recognize that He is the Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Since we believe in Him, we believe that God has the right to demand our obedience. We comply with God’s commands not because we are robots but rather because we love God and what He has done for us through Jesus Christ on the cross. But that fact that we believe in what and external authority says goes against the very grain of current culture. We are then often required to make choices to either go along to get along or set ourselves against the culture. To go along is often the easiest way out.

That was the thing struck me this morning as I read through this passage, 1 Kings 12:25-33 – how just by the nature of what being a Christ follower is all about sets us up against the culture in which we live. In this passage, the culture through Jeroboam was offering an easy way out from the hard part of being a member of the family of God. Jeroboam created these idols for worship as a replacement for the real worship of God in Jerusalem. How many people took Jeroboam’s easy way out. It was easier to go with the culture rather than stand up and say, “I believe in God” and what we are proposing here is not the true worship of God. How many times are we faced with this choice in our Christian walks? Go with the crowd or go with God? With that in mind, let us read this passage now:

25 Jeroboam then built up the city of Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and it became his capital. Later he went and built up the town of Peniel.[a]

26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. 27 When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead.”

28 So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people,[b] “It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!”

29 He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan—at either end of his kingdom. 30 But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there.

31 Jeroboam also erected buildings at the pagan shrines and ordained priests from the common people—those who were not from the priestly tribe of Levi. 32 And Jeroboam instituted a religious festival in Bethel, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month,[c] in imitation of the annual Festival of Shelters in Judah. There at Bethel he himself offered sacrifices to the calves he had made, and he appointed priests for the pagan shrines he had made. 33 So on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a day that he himself had designated, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar at Bethel. He instituted a religious festival for Israel, and he went up to the altar to burn incense.

In this passage, we should note that calves were used by many ancient Middle Eastern cultures as idols to symbolize fertility and strength. Pagan gods of the Canaanites were often depicted as standing on calves or bulls. Jeroaboam shrewdly tapped into this understanding and placed the gold calves in Bethel and Dan, strategic locations. Bethel was just 10 miles north of Jerusalem on a main road, enticing the citizens of the north to stop there instead of traveling on to Jerusalem. Dan was the northernmost city in Israel. There, the people living far away from Jerusalem could be attracted by the convenience location of this “place of worship.” As the leader of the northern kingdom, Jeroboam wanted to establish his own worship centers. Otherwise, his people would make regular trips to Jerusalem and, in his mind, his authority would be undermined. Soon, this substitute religion had little to do with true faith in God.

All Jewish men were required to travel to the Temple three times a year (Deuteronomy 16:16) but Jeroboam told people it was too much trouble to travel all the way to Jerusalem so he set up worship centers in the northernmost and southernmost parts of the new kingdom. Those who obeyed Jeroboam’s more convenient way to “worship” were disobeying God. Some ideas, though practical, may include suggestions that lead us away from God. When reading this passage, we must remind ourselves that we should not let anyone talk us out of following God’s instructions and commands by telling you that it is inconvenient, out of step with the current times, or that it requires too much effort and/or sacrifice. Let us be reminded to follow what God’s Word says and what God wants from us, no matter if it is inconvenient, unpopular, or if it costs us time, energy, reputation, or resources. Being a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ is often hard and difficult and requires us to stand with God rather than with the culture.

Help us Lord to stand with you when it is unpopular to do so. Help us to reach out to the world that has personal desire as it’s god in ways that are loving rather than condemning but yet help us to hold true to you in the process. Help to love the world around us and meet people where they are at but help us to stand firm in our faith. Help us to demonstrate that true freedom comes from obedience to Your Word.

Amen and Amen.

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