May 12 - Nº 132 1 Kings 12:25 – 13:8, 33-34
Soon after becoming king of the northern kingdom of Israel, Jeroboam realized he had a problem. The Israelites were required to worship God at the Temple in Jerusalem which was in the south. Jeroboam was afraid that if his subjects traveled into Judah several times a year, they might be tempted to reunite with the southern tribes. Then under the leadership of King Rehoboam, they might revolt and kill him. Instead of trusting God to work things out, Jeroboam decided he could solve this problem himself by creating his own religion. He would make it convenient for his people to worship in their own cities instead of traveling all the way to Jerusalem. So he crafted two golden calves—copying the one Aaron had made at Mount Sinai (see #49 - A Golden Calf). He set one up at Bethel in the southern part of his kingdom and one at Dan in the north. Then he announced, “Since it is so hard for you to travel to Jerusalem several times a year, I have brought the gods that led the Israelites out of Egypt here so that you can worship them easily.” He built shrines on the hilltops and appointed his own priests. Then he instituted celebrations that would take place at exactly the same times as the festivals in Jerusalem. King Jeroboam completely disregarded God’s commands. As he brought the golden calf to Dan, people lined up along the road and followed it to its new location. When it arrived, Jeroboam made sacrifices to their new “god.” He did the same thing at Bethel. As he was standing beside the altar in Bethel, a young prophet from Judah (the southern kingdom) walked up and yelled, “Altar, altar! Hear what God says to you. ‘A king will be born in Judah named Josiah. On this altar he will sacrifice the bones of the priests who are making offerings.’” He added, “The Lord gave me a sign that these things will happen: this altar will split apart and the ashes will pour out of it.” King Jeroboam was angry. He pointed at the prophet and yelled, “Grab that man!” But as he pointed at the young prophet, his hand froze. He could not pull it back. Right then the altar split in two and ashes poured out on the ground. King Jeroboam begged the prophet to ask God to restore his hand. As the prophet prayed, the king was healed. Jeroboam invited the young prophet to go back to the palace with him for a meal. He also promised to give him a gift. He obviously hoped he could bribe the young man into using his “magical” powers to help the northern kingdom. But the young man refused. “Even if you offered me half of your kingdom, I would not go with you,” he told the king. “God told me not to stay and eat bread or drink water with anyone. He also told me not to return to Judah the same way I came.” So the young prophet left a different way. Even after this dramatic encounter with God, Jeroboam did not repent or change what he was doing. He continued to disobey God’s commands. He promoted false gods and appointed unfaithful priests. Because of Jeroboam’s sin, God destroyed his dynasty.
Jeroboam designed a religion that would help him achieve his own purposes. He cared more about pleasing himself than obeying God. It is wrong for us to pick and choose the parts of God’s Word we like—then disregard the parts we don’t. Are you careful to obey all of God’s instructions even when they don’t align with the expectations of our culture?