Wednesday, April 27, 2022

2022.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 12:25–33

Read 1 Kings 12:25–33

Questions from the Scripture text: Who built up what, where, in 1 Kings 12:25? Where did he go/build after dwelling in Shechem? Where does the speech in 1 Kings 12:26-27 take place? What end result is he worried about (verse 26b)? In what way is he worried that this will happen (1 Kings 12:27a)? What sequence of events does he think that this obedience to God’s worship commands will produce (verse 27b)? How does the king come up with his new way of worshiping Yahweh (1 Kings 12:28)? What did he end up making? How does he make it sound like he’s really just interested in making things easier for them? With what words does he remind them that this is a many-centuries historic and traditional way of worshiping Yahweh (cf. Exodus 32:4–5)? In what southernmost and northernmost towns of the northern kingdom did he set this up (1 Kings 12:29)? What did this thing become (1 Kings 12:30)? What else did he make (1 Kings 12:31a)? What else did he make from among whom (verse 31b)? And not from whom (verse 31c)? What else did Jeroboam start (1 Kings 12:32a)? When (verse 32b, cf. Numbers 29:13; 1 Kings 8:2)? Whom did he install for this (1 Kings 12:32c)? How does 1 Kings 12:33 summarize his action? From where was all of this devised?

Why would anyone who had gotten such a marvelous offer as in 1 Kings 11:38 proceed to create religion “from his own heart” (1 Kings 12:33)? There are important lessons here for guarding against our heart’s turning to wicked worship?

Poor self-talk (1 Kings 12:26). Verse 26,  Jeroboam spoke fear in his heart. And not just fear of the unknown, but fear that directly contradicted the promises of God to him (cf. 1 Kings 11:29–39). He ought to have known in 1 Kings 11:40 that Solomon couldn’t carry through on that threat. And he ought to know now that Rehoboam could not take back the ten tribes from him. But instead of recounting to his heart the Word of God, he instead spoke his fears to himself. 

Pragmatism (1 Kings 12:27). Jeroboam’s fears made orthodox worship practice seem undesirable. Oh, how this has afflicted generations of pastors and church leadership boards! Many have thought, “if we just worship how God says then everyone will leave, and if we disciple only by the program that God has established in His church, then no one will do it, and no one will grow.” 

They may not have said it in exactly those words, but Jeroboam almost does. He basically says that if the people worship the way that God has said to, then he’s going to lose his throne and his life. Rather than consider what worship God says is right, he went with the worship that he thought he could use to get “good” results.

But why would the people of the northern kingdom be willing to adopt such false worship? Didn’t they know that false worship had gotten the previous inhabitants of the land exterminated by Yahweh? Now, we have important lessons for guarding against accepting and even appreciating wicked worship.

Popular demand (1 Kings 12:28a). Where our translation says “asked advice,” it’s actually a doubling of the word for “consult.” He “consulted consultations.” Except in Hebrew, this sort of doubling is extremely emphatic. He did all of the polling, market research, etc., until there was no more to be done. He found out what people liked and didn’t like so that he could customize the worship to their preferences. Beware the church that is interested to know how you want them to worship (unless they want to correct you for that). What a believer needs is a church that wants the people to worship the way that their God says.

Creativity (1 Kings 12:28b). Of course, by the end of the chapter, the creativity is off the charts, but here is where it starts. Jeroboam made two calves of gold. Beware of valuing “creativity in worship,” which is a reasonable working definition for “idolatry.” Creativity in worship “arts” often goes hand-in-hand with creativity in worship “theology,” which is one of the reasons that the “calves” thing works.

Bulls, like bunnies and eggs, were symbols of fertility. Several ancient near-eastern religions included metal or stone figures of their male fertility god (usually the most powerful/active of their pantheon) standing on the back of a bull or even twin bulls. But Yahweh is “invisible,” so there’s no one on the back of this bull. And He’s not just invisible but immense, so perhaps He is thought to be straddling the entire northern kingdom from Dan in the north to Bethel in the South. And then, this bull isn’t stone or bronze but gold. Worship like the pagans? They weren’t worshiping like the pagans. They were using the smallest little connection to show how opposite the LORD is! Or so they could have creatively thought. Many such justifications can be made when we get “creative” with our thinking about how we should worship. 

Convenience (1 Kings 12:28c). “It is too much for you.” Worship is hard work. Elderly, disabled, and those with domestic chaos know that it can be hard work getting there. The recent covidification of many churches has tempted a multitude to fall in love with the convenience of virtual worship. Jeroboam couldn’t Zoom you in, but he could at least save you a trip to Jerusalem! 

And once you get there, it can be hard work, especially if you worship God’s way. Singing in which the congregation are “the praise team.” Praying along with extended, led prayer—even if it’s well led—not only keeping up with your thoughts but stirring and lifting up your heart. Listening to a sermon that is explaining all about the Scripture text, and why it means what it means, and what we’re supposed to do about it is a lot more work than being entertained by jokes and stories or pumped up by you-can-do-it-ism. Churches that sell convenience are similar to Jeroboam, and it can be very tempting to go for it.

Tradition (1 Kings 12:28d). Here’s another stroke of genius. Jeroboam quotes Israel’s first high priest, Aaron, “Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” It’s right out of Exodus 32:4 (including the plural, which is in the original in both texts). Like Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:32-33), Aaron had also instituted a new feast, even explicitly calling it a “feast to Yahweh” (cf. Exodus 32:5). So, it had the sentimentality of four hundred years of “church tradition” behind it. And it celebrated a great act of redemption: the exodus from Egypt. 

It’s ancient; it’s been done by “good men”; it’s unto the right God; it celebrates a great moment of His redeeming work. But for the rest of the life of the northern kingdom, we will be hearing just how much God hated it.

Involvement (1 Kings 12:31). There were (for now) Levites in the northern kingdom. But one of the ways the people got sucked into Jeroboam’s worship plans was by involvement. He made satellite campuses (small group meetings?) on the high places (verse 31a) and opened up church office far beyond the narrow strictures of the conservative movement (verse 31b). Now people of all sorts could become priests, not just Levites! He even brought them all to Bethel for a special commissioning ceremony for all the local group leaders (end of 1 Kings 12:32). 

Holidays (1 Kings 12:32). A new feast—what fun! A great time for getting the whole family together, and celebrating deliverance from Egypt and atonement from sin! But where did the significance of the 15th day of the 8th month come from? Not God. Sure, it was the man whom God had very specifically called to rule over ten tribes. But men are just men, and designating holy days is the purview of God alone. 

In these nine verses, we’re reminded of just how easily we can get sucked into inventing religion, and how easily we can get sucked into accepting and approving of manmade religion. So, let us be constantly reminding our hearts from Scripture that God is good, and that God is God. And thus using the Spirit’s means, let us seek that He would convince us to let God alone be God and trust that this is always for good!

How are you countering poor self-talk with Scripture self-talk? How do you go about preparing for and putting forth the hard work necessary for biblical worship? If our hearts are tempted to value manmade worship or religion, of what can we remind ourselves to help resist that?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for showing Yourself God by creating for us the worship style and worship calendar by which You are rightly praised and by which You do us good. Forgive us for being tempted to think that our creativity in worship could bring a better result, or for being tempted to enjoy worship that is designed to cater to us. By Your Spirit, make us content with the religion that You have designed, and make us to rejoice that it is You Yourself Whom we have in it, in Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH151 “Lord of the Sabbath, Hear Us Pray”

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