Worldly substitutions will never be equal to The Lord. Books about the Bible cannot replace the Bible. Listening to worship cannot replace worshipping. Idols cannot replace God. Men cannot replace the Holy Spirit. And pastors, popes, and apostles cannot replace Jesus Christ.
The last couple of days we’ve been reading about Jeroboam, the man to whom The Lord gave 10 tribes of Israel and who disregarded the Lord to create a false religion in order to keep Israel from returning to Jerusalem and joining Judah. But in the meantime Rehoboam was still king over Judah. Verse 21 reads,
“Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. His mother's name was Naamah the Ammonite.”
Rehoboam was the son of Solomon and Naamah the Ammonite. Interestingly enough he was not the son of Solomon’s favorite wife the daughter of Pharaoh, for whom Solomon built her own palace. But Naamah may have been Solomon’s first wife. She was the only queen mother to be a foreigner and this may have played a part in Rehoboam’s choices. Rehoboam was forty-one when he began ruling after Solomon’s death. Solomon had reigned as king for forty years, placing Rehoboam’s birth in the last year of King David’s reign. (1 Kings 11:42). That means that Rehoboam had every advantage. He was raised while Solomon was still following the Lord, while his father was using his vast wisdom to prosper Israel and he understood the importance of The Temple. But his mother must have had more influence on him than Solomon. We already read how foolish Rehoboam was, even at forty one when he should have had a measure of wisdom, he made a stupid choice that resulted in losing Israel to Jeroboam. (1 Kings 12). He replaced the joy of the Lord with the pleasures of the world.
Verses 22-24 read,
“And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. 23 For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 24 and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the Lord drove out before the people of Israel.”
Israel had a past filled with times of evil, rebellion, and idol worship, yet Rehoboam led Judah to be worse than at any time in her sordid past. They followed the false religions of the nations who had been driven out of Canaan. They went further than Israel had ever dared to go, including sexual worship of cult idols. So the Lord had to move against Rehoboam and He did it using Egypt. Verses 25-26 read,
“In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. 26 He took away the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king's house. He took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold that Solomon had made,”
Shishak took away the treasures and riches that Solomon had collected. He stole Judah’s prosperity, the Temple’s opulence, and the protection of the king. Rehoboam made his own protection. He had shields made of bronze and gave them to the guards in place of the gold shields that had carried before. We can’t replace the perfection and holiness of God with brazen objects and efforts of our own making. Bronze will never be as good, pure, or valued as gold. But without the Lord, Rehoboam had no wealth. He could not prosper like Solomon because he was okay with substitutions, like bronze shields instead of gold ones and gods instead of God. Rehoboam gave those bronze shields to the guards and they were used to parade him back and forth to The Temple whenever he went there. He kept up appearances, he made a show of going to The Temple, but he didn’t worship the Lord in truth. He just made it look good. The pageantry of going to the Temple meant nothing to God. God doesn’t want ceremony and ritual, He wants us to know Him and love Him. (Hosea 6:6). He wants genuine worship with an understanding of who it is we worship. He wants us to worship Him in truth and in spirit, meaning we adore The One True Living God, not an icon we have imagined. We worship Him in the way He has prescribed. John 4:22-26 reads,
“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
True worship of God requires a union with Him. That peace and reconciliation can only happen through Jesus Christ. That authentic knowledge of Him can only happen through The Holy Spirit. Jesus is the way and the truth, and the life. He is the only way to The Father. (John 14:6). The Holy Spirit completes our worship and perfects us. (Acts 19:1-7, Ephesians 1:13-14).
If you have not made Jesus your Lord (Master) and Savior (The Christ who died and resurrected and forgave your sins), then you are not worshipping the One True God in spirit because Jesus is God and it is through Him you receive the Spirit. If you have not been indwelled with the Holy Spirit, you are not worshipping in truth because you cannot know God without His Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 2:9-16 says it this way,
“But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”--
10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.”
To worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, requires the mind of Christ, The Holy Spirit who helps us to understand the Word, discern the truth, and receive instruction from God. Do you worship The LORD? Or do you worship a substitution? Have you replaced the parts of God you don’t understand with bronze surrogates? Have you accepted less than the fullness of blessings of Christ?