1 Kings 12:25-33 (Part 3) – It’s Kind of Like the Chicken or the Egg Debate

Posted: January 16, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

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

Jeroboam Makes Gold Calves

In the “which came first” category, there is the age old debate about the chicken or the egg. Then, in the 21st century church, a similar question is always raging. Which is more important? Do we adapt the message to the culture or do we adapt the culture to the message? There are quickly growing churches out there that are willing to sacrifice the entirety of Scripture to be in synch with the culture. Yet, at the same time, there are dying churches out there that do not interact with culture and see life as us vs. them outside our walls. Do we sacrifice the whole counsel of Scripture just to maintain relevancy? Do we close ourselves off from the outside world and write off the world outside our walls?

In defense of reaching outside our walls, we as churches or we as individual Christians should try to reach people far from God through unique and innovative ways that strikes a chord with those who do not know Christ as their Savior. Jesus himself went out of his way to make contact with those that were outcast from mainstream Jewish religious life. We are called to go. We are called to make contact. We are called to interact. We are called to demonstrate uncommon love. We are called to establish relationships. We are called to draw them toward the fellowship of believers. We are called to expose them to the gospel. We are called to do what the Holy Spirit directs us to do as He does His work in the sinner’s heart. We are called to celebrate with them as they become a believer in Jesus Christ. We are called to make disciples. We are called to make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

We must be aware of cultural trends and work out ways to take the unchanging message of God’s Word and present it in ways that are understandable to the changing nature of culture. But we must always let the Word of God speak for itself in its entirety. We can love people to God’s Word in myriad ways that are relevant to the culture but we must always let the entirety of God’s Word speak for itself. Allow it to convict hearts and change hearts. Our preaching and teaching is to take the truth of God’s Word and apply to current circumstances and let the Holy Spirit do His thing in people’s hearts. Do we change our methods of communicating with the world around us? Yes. We must figure out how to connect with the world we are called to disciple. Do we add to, omit, revise God’s Word to do it? No.

That idea of omitting, relaxing, revising of God’s commands just to meet a goal of maintaining the loyalty of the northern tribes is what struck me this morning and how that is similar to the debate we have in modern church in 21st century – about relevancy, about engaging the culture vs. the whole counsel of God’s Word. Let’s read what happened back in the day in 1 Kings 12:25-33:

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 see that Jeroboam goes the lengths of establishing a brand new religious system just to maintain the loyalty of the 10 northern tribes. That certainly is not what God had in mind. In establishing this new religion to meet some political expediency of the moment, he led the people of the north astray. So much so that by Jesus’ time, their “religion” resembled nothing of the worship of the one true God. It was a man-made religion created to meet a political need, a popularity need of one king at a critical point in the history of Israel.

When thinking of this issue in light of the debate that swirls about cultural relevancy and the gospel message in today’s Christian world, we must realize that at some point, the whole counsel of Scripture will offend. Why? Because we are all enemies of God in the absence of Jesus Christ. Plain and simple. We are all sinners destined for hell in the absence of accepting Christ as our Savior. Thus, as enemies of God in the absence of Jesus Christ in our lives, we are going to find His Word uncomfortable and find it so uncomfortable that we will walk away from it if our hearts are closed to the Holy Spirit. Our thinking, our attitudes, our dispositions, our conduct, our ideologies, are all in opposition to God. James 4:4-5 tells us the same thing. We are enemies of God in the absence of the acceptance of grace through Jesus Christ. Thus, at some point, the Bible is going to offend us, even after we accept Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit begins the long journey of sanctification in our lives. The Word of God must be allowed to do its work that offends, convicts, and changes us. Each of us when we accepted Christ as our Savior were brought by the Holy Spirit before God and we were able to see the truth of God and our life in comparison to His truth. It is at the cross that we are completely and totally humbled by our own sinfulness and realize that hell is the rightful place for us in the absence of throwing ourselves at the mercy of God through His Son.

Thus, the answer to the debate is yes and no. Yes, we should be like Paul who connected the message of the gospel to whomever he met. He used Greek methodology with the Greeks. He used Roman methodology with the Romans. He used Jewish methodology with the Jews. But the message itself was always the same, always whole. Regardless of who we are or where we come from or how we can identify with Jesus Christ, we all have a need for Him. Yes, we use and should use differing methodologies to reach differing people. We should care THAT much about souls in the balance. We do not change the message itself though. We must allow the whole counsel of God to be front and center, not avoided, not omitted, not stepped around. We love people to the cross and then allow the whole counsel of God’s Word change them from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen and Amen.

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