Not everything that looks like worship is worship of The One True Living God. Not everything that looks like Christianity is of Jesus our Christ. People can, even with good intentions, twist, misinterpret, or misunderstand scripture and make something out of it that is not there. Some people just flagrantly make up their own system of worship, rules, or rituals either for their own gain or out of misguided notions of “good.” Be careful! Looking and sounding Christian doesn’t make it Christian. If it does not proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, then it is not from God but from the enemy. (1 John 4:3).
King Jeroboam had a predicament. Israel needed to worship God, but to do that they had to travel to the Temple in Jerusalem which was in Judah. He knew when the people went there, they would want to reunite with Judah under the Davidic king and abandon and kill him. So he had a plan. Verses 28-30 read,
“So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one.”
Although clearly not the worship God had prescribed it looked and sounded like it could be godly. People didn’t question, people didn’t look to scripture, people didn’t remember that the golden calf Aaron had made was an idol and had caused war within Israel leading to the deaths of 3,000 people. (Exodus 32). Israel simply accepted Jeroboam’s word and it looked enough like their religion to seem okay. We are told to question. We are told to test what is being fed to us. 1 John 4:1-6 reads,
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
But Jeroboam didn’t stop with the sin of the golden calves in place of The Temple. Verses 31-33 read,
“He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.”
The feast Jeroboam instituted was a perversion of The Feast of Tabernacles, a feast that required the Temple which Israel no longer had access to. It was a celebratory feast of thanksgiving and fellowship and very prominent in proper worship of The Lord. Solomon had dedicated the Temple during The Feast of the Tabernacles and Jeroboam needed what he did to look godly in order to lead the people away from The Lord and to him and his new system. Jeroboam was not only king of Israel, but he set himself up as high priest of his new religion and appointed non-Levite priests who would not question or inquire of The Lord for the truth.
His actions are a shadow of the coming antichrist. Jeroboam seemed like a good king to the people of Israel. He made them believe that their lives under God’s appointed king Solomon had been terrible. He had made them think Solomon’s yoke had been heavy. (1 Kings 12:4). But the fact was that the prosperity in Israel had been great. (1 Kings 10:21). And even the forced labor of building the Temple and palace had not been drawn from Israelites. (1 Kings 9:22). Jeroboam lied to the people with a silk tongue and the people believed his lies because he spoke to their vanity.
Consider this, Jeroboam was king of the Northern Kingdom, ten tribes of Israel. Revelation 13:1-2 describe the antichrist, the beast this way,
“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. 2 And the beast that I saw was like a leopard; its feet were like a bear's, and its mouth was like a lion's mouth. And to it the dragon gave his power and his throne and great authority.”
The antichrist empowered by Satan will rule ten nations. This is not the only similarity. Jeroboam made a new festival to replace The Feast of the Tabernacles, he changed the date by a month.
Daniel 7:23-25 describe him like this,
“Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast,
there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms,
and it shall devour the whole earth,
and trample it down, and break it to pieces.
24 As for the ten horns,
out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise,
and another shall arise after them;
he shall be different from the former ones,
and shall put down three kings.
25 He shall speak words against the Most High,
and shall wear out the saints of the Most High,
and shall think to change the times and the law;
and they shall be given into his hand
for a time, times, and half a time.”
The people didn’t have to fall for Jeroboam’s lies and so sin right along with him. They could have prayed. They could have asked the prophets to inquire of God. (There were prophets in the Northern kingdom, tomorrow we’ll read about one of them.) The prophets could have spoken up. The Levites could have spoken up. The people could have checked the scriptures with the help of the Levites to see that Jeroboam was distorting God and creating an idol.
But they didn’t. They would pay for their sin of deliberant ignorance. Be careful there are false teachers, false prophets, and false religions. They sound good, but are corrupt. They seem like they lead to Truth, but they are lies which lead to death. Jesus warned us in Matthew 7:13-23.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”