Jeroboam also has his responsibility. God has told him how to secure his blessing (1Kgs 11:3838Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.). However, he does not take God into account. He settles in Shechem. Rehoboam was made king there and that seems like a good residence to him. To protect himself against enemies from the northeast and east he strengthens Shechem and Penuel.
He also wants to secure his power. For this he consults himself (“in his heart”) and does not consult God. He assesses everything according to his own insight. There is no thought whatsoever of God asking Him what he should do. It seems that he knows the power of religion. The strongest bond that keeps people together is religion. In Daniel 3 we have a clear example of this. The devil doesn’t care what religion it is. As long as it is not the real service to God.
Jeroboam knows that it will soon be over with his kingship if he doesn’t act quickly on this terrain. Therefore he decides to introduce a new form of religion, to protect his kingdom against inner weakening and even the loss of his rule over it. He argues: if Jerusalem remains the religious center of the kingdom over which he has become king, the people will return “to their lord, [even] to Rehoboam king of Judah” and he will be killed.
In his consultation, Jeroboam decides to designate a few special places for the ten tribes realm to serve God. He designates one in the south of his kingdom, Bethel, and one in the north of his kingdom, Dan. Bethel means ‘house of God’. This name was given to it by Jacob after the LORD appeared to him there (Gen 35:77He built an altar there, and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed Himself to him when he fled from his brother.). Could not the LORD, as Jeroboam may have thought, and explained to others, reveal Himself in this holy place as well to the descendants of Jacob as he did to their ancestor?
The place is also cleverly chosen. There is already an image service there. Remember that the people who live nearby will not have to make that long journey to Jerusalem again and again. The convenience serves man. After all, it is possible to serve God much closer to home. It is a cleverly devised plan to prevent the people from going to Jerusalem for the annual celebrations with the danger that they will stay there.
To make the whole even more attractive, he, contrary to what God has said (Exo 20:44“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.), makes two golden calves after the Egyptian model, one for each place. It is much easier to serve a god you can see. Of these gods he says that these are the gods that Israel redeemed from Egypt (cf. Exo 32:44He took [this] from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.”). These are the new objects of worship (cf. Hos 8:5-65He has rejected your calf, O Samaria, [saying],
“My anger burns against them!”
How long will they be incapable of innocence?
6For from Israel is even this!
A craftsman made it, so it is not God;
Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces.
; 13:2-32And now they sin more and more,
And make for themselves molten images,
Idols skillfully made from their silver,
All of them the work of craftsmen.
They say of them, “Let the men who sacrifice kiss the calves!”
3Therefore they will be like the morning cloud
And like dew which soon disappears,
Like chaff which is blown away from the threshing floor
And like smoke from a chimney.
). He also makes new temples and new priests, who do not come from the Levites. To complete his own invented religion he also introduces a new feast at a different time and in a different place than God has prescribed (Lev 23:34,39,4134“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD.39‘On exactly the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the crops of the land, you shall celebrate the feast of the LORD for seven days, with a rest on the first day and a rest on the eighth day.41You shall thus celebrate it [as] a feast to the LORD for seven days in the year. It [shall be] a perpetual statute throughout your generations; you shall celebrate it in the seventh month.; Deu 12:55But you shall seek [the LORD] at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come.).
Everything he makes is an imitation of what God has prescribed to His people how He wants to be served. Jeroboam copies everything, so it seems that it has God’s approval. However, it is pernicious, because it is a self-willed religion. Any replacement of what God has said by human interpretation is an insult to God. Man knows better. The fact that the people simply accept this surrogate divine service is proof of how far away the hearts of the people have been from God.
That is how it went in Christianity and that is how it still goes. With ever new reasoning, more and more of what defies God has crept into Christianity. We see this especially in roman-catholicism. A religion has been made that is easy to lie on and tangible. Pagan idols are covered with a Christian sauce. Even meaner is the bringing in of the Old-Testament rituals, in which it is claimed that this is instituted by God Himself.
Religion must be easy and even enjoyable to do. For this you do not need to consult God’s Word. Nor should you be too laborious about priestly service. Anyone who is honest can be a priest and bring sacrifices. This is certainly not necessary in the place God has chosen. You can do that in a place where you feel good. The way in which you bring those sacrifices is not so important. Let yourself be guided by your feelings, that’s what God has given you. Finally, you don’t have to worry about when you do it. The self-conceived Christian holidays are an ideal opportunity to express your religious emotions and to caress your religious feelings.
As soon as we leave the service of the true God, we fall into idolatry, whatever form it may take. God makes clear how and where He wants to be served. Any deviation from this to make the service more pleasant comes from the realm of darkness and is idolatry. Such a service carries away from God. This can be applied today to church systems where the service to God is performed in a self-willed manner. These systems will finally result in the roman-catholic church, which in the end will be a refuge of demons (Rev 18:22And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.).
It can also be applied to churches where charismatic influences and mystical experience have been introduced, however orthodox some churches may present themselves. Modern forms of religious practice include the Jesus prayer, soaking and contemplative prayer. These are techniques that come directly from pagan religions and are very similar to meditation, with the aim of meeting God.
When the people worship a golden calf soon after the exodus from Egypt, God’s judgment comes upon it. Now that Jeroboam introduces two golden calves into the people of God, no judgment comes, but God will let evil develop to its fullest extent, so that at the end the judgment may be carried out. That is also how it went with the church. In the beginning evil is punished with death (Acts 5:3-103But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back [some] of the price of the land?4While it remained [unsold], did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”5And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it.6The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.7Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.8And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”9Then Peter [said] to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out [as well].”10And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.), but now God allows the many forms of evil that are introduced into the church to develop to their fullest extent, so that at the end the judgment about it can be carried out.
In his boldness Jeroboam climbs the altar. He does so on the occasion of the imitation of the Feast of Booths on the day he himself has determined for it. He leads his people in idolatry and at the same time wants to show them how to do it. After his surrogate temples and his surrogate priests and his surrogate feast he himself climbs the altar, which is also a surrogate altar, as a surrogate priest-king. In the course of time more altars have been added (Hos 8:1111Since Ephraim has multiplied altars for sin,
They have become altars of sinning for him.
). It is a through and through human religion, which has risen in the heart and mind of Jeroboam. However, it is a religion which did not come into the mind of God (Jer 7:3131They have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, and it did not come into My mind.; 19:55and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it [ever] enter My mind;; 32:3535They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through [the fire] to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.) and is utterly reprehensible to Him.