Counterfeit Worship

The Sins of Jeroboam

James E. Farley

1 Kings chapter twelve records the beginning of what is commonly called "the divided kingdom" period. While the unity was not always perfect, nor peaceful, there had been a prior period of 120 years when God's people were united. This was, of course, under Saul, David, and Solomon.

While Solomon lived, God revealed to him that He would "surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant." The Lord said, "Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son." (1 Kings 11:12-13). God revealed this fact also to Jeroboam in a unique way. (1 Kings 11:28-40).

1 Kings 12 reveals how these events providentially unfolded. Rehoboam's unwise decisions caused ten tribes to rebel and follow Jeroboam. God's people were divided; split north and south.

Jeroboam, afraid if the people would go up to Jerusalem to worship they would abandon him and follow Rehoboam, set up a different kind of worship for those in the ten northern tribes. He did not stop them from worshipping; he only changed it "a little." He built altars with calves of gold at Bethel and at Dan. Jeroboam also built a "house of high places" and established a priesthood with men from all tribes. Remember, God had ordained that the priesthood must come only from Levi. Jeroboam even "ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah ..." He, himself, offered up sacrifices unto the calves he had made!

As we read 1 Kings 12:25-33, we see that Jeroboam allowed and even encouraged the people to worship, but his was counterfeit worship. It was very much like the worship God had ordained, but the most dangerous counterfeit is the one that is most like the genuine!

Furthermore, all of Jeroboam's actions were heart-felt. He did what he felt was right in his heart. (1 Kings 12:26, 33). However, Jeroboam's actions were sinful because they were a transgression of God's law. (1 John 3:4). Because they were sinful, they served to separate him and all who followed him from God and from all true followers of Jehovah! (Isaiah 59:1-2; Proverbs 14:12). From this time forward, these things became known simply as "...the sins of Jeroboam" (cf. 1 Kings 12:30; 13:33, 34; 14:16; 15:25-26; 22:51-52; 2 Kings 3:3; 13:2, 11; 15:23-24; 17:21; etc.)

Some years later, Amaziah ascended to the throne of Judah. He prepared to go to war, and the Word reveals he had 300,000 "choice men, able to go forth to war ..." However, he seems to have thought these were not enough, so he hired 100,000 mercenaries out of Israel. "But there came a man of God to him saying, O king, let not the army of Israel go with thee; for the Lord is not with Israel, to wit, with the children of Ephraim." (2 Chronicles 25:5-7).

This record is interesting in light of current efforts among us, by some, to re-unite with those of the "Christian Church" denomination. A split occurred one hundred and one years ago between the churches of Christ and the Christian Church, primarily as a result of a change in the worship. The Christian Church digressed from God's will and added musical instruments to Christian worship. Today, there are calls from some to see these erring ones as sincere and dedicated servants of God, and that we should have some sort of fellowship with them. "After all," they will say, "they are our brethren ..."

Romans 15:4 teaches that we can learn a great deal from the record in the Old Testament. Israel and Judah were brethren, too. Amaziah seems to have wanted to have some kind of fellowship with his erring brethren. I am sure he would not have worshipped with them after the "sins of Jeroboam," but he does seem to have tolerated false worship. (cf. 2 Chronicles 25:2; 2 Kings 14:3-4).

Those among the "Christian Church" are actually guilty of "...the sins of Jeroboam..." in that they, too, have changed the worship. Oh, it is similar to true worship, but it is counterfeit! We need to heed the words of the man of God: "...for the Lord is not with Israel, to wit, with the children of Ephraim."

An interesting thing also is the fact that when Amaziah did tell these mercenaries to go home, they had "great anger" and did all they could to destroy the property of Judah. (2 Chronicles 25:10, 13). Let us beware and learn from this divinely recorded example from God's Word. -P.O. Box 285, Crum, WV 26559.


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