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(1 Kings 12–13) Gimme that Man-made Religion

(1 Kings 12–13) Gimme that Man-made Religion

by Scott Wylie Ref: 1 Kings 12–13

King David was the epitome of a King who worshipped God in a pure way. Jeroboam was the epitome of the opposite. As we study the decisions Jeroboam made which impacted an entire generation of people, we will see clearly the differences between true religion - which places man in God's image - and false religion - which places God in man's image.



(I Kings 12-13;  2 Chronicles 11-13)

Gary Graff is a pastor in Lancaster Minnesota; he wrote about a man he knew that went shopping one day at the local neighborhood mall.  When he returned to his car he noticed a rather foul oder coming from under the hood and so he checked the engine.  Immediately upon raising the hood he discovered a dead cat rather mutilated from being caught in the fan belt.  The poor cat had sought shelter from the snow and cold and didn't realize the dangers of resting on the engine block.  Fortunately, one of this man's shopping bags was made of  heavy plastic and so he emptied its contents into another bag and then proceeded to scrape, pull and push the remains of that cat into his bag.  Finally he got all the grisly remains, and he slammed the hood down and walked back toward the mall to wash his hands.  Just as he reached the door, he happened to look back, and when he did he noticed something unusual.  He had tied a knot in the top of the bag and had left it on the hood of the car.  A middle aged woman was walking by and he saw her stop, look both ways rather cautiously in both directions; then she grabbed the bag  and walked quickly towards the mall.  "Well this is too good to be true!"  the man thought as he laughed at the lady.  He decided to follow her and see what would happen next.  She went to a restaurant and was seated in a private booth.  Once seated she proceeded to to untie the knot and survey her prize.  As soon as she oppened the bag and saw the dead cat she screamed and then fainted.  Of course, the management was equally alarmed that a customer had fainted in their establishment and so they called the paramedics.  The woman in no time at all was strapped to a cart and ready to be hauled off to the ambulance.  This man just couldn't resist.  He had taken the bag from the booth and just as they were putting her inside the ambulance he ran over and said, "Hey lady, don't forget your bag!"  Just as they were closing the ambulance doors, he laid the bag on top of her.  He could hear her screams a block away.

Okay, that's not funny!  But it sure is great.

This woman thought she'd gotten away with a prize, but instead, she got a bag of bones . . .

This morning we begin to work our way way through the maze of Israel’s history; we will observe one king after another, snatch the throne from each other, believing they have stolen the prize - but instead, they discover their palace is more like a bag containing the remains of what was once life, but is now decay and death.

What happened to give the great and magnificent kingdom of David and Solomon a stench of death and decay?

As with any history lesson, a good teacher uses the chalkboard - since I don’t have one, I’ve used the back of your study notes to sketch for you an overview of some 400 years - all in a glance.

At the top of your page there is the time line that shows Saul, David and Solomon all reigning for 40 years.  The kingdom of 12 tribes was united and strong.  God was the only true God of Israel and the people worshipped Him.

However, as you and I have studied together, Solomon’s later years introduced the beginnings of idolatry in the nation - you remember his foreign wives and the altars that Solomon built for them?!  Solomon literally sowed the seeds of destruction that would bring about a terrible harvest - God’s judgment was clear - take your Bibles and turn to God’s condemning words to Solomon:  I Kings 11:9  Now the Lord was angry with Solomon becuase his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.  10. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded.  11.  So the Lord said to Solomon, “Becuase you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.  12.  Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sakd of your father Davdi, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  13.  However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sakd of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.”

God then told an old prophet named Ahijah to go and seta apart Jereboam as the King of the 10 northern tribes; to be acted upon only after Solomon’s death. 

And what was Jereboam’s response - he immediately rebelled against Solomon and tried to wrestle the throne from him - and what was Solomon’s response - 11:40. Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt.”

What a mess!  Even before the death of Solomon, the initial stench of a disunified kingdoms was beginning to plague the air.

 God’s word was fulfilled and following Solomon’s death, the split occurs.  Now, last Lords day we observed the drama that led to the revolt by the 10 northern tribes.

Perhaps you remember the people asking Reheboam, Solomon’s son and the king elect to lighten their tax burden and the forced labor among the men.  You remember what that plasitc, imitation arrow said to the people, “You think my Father Solomon was great - I have more in my little finger than he has in his whole body;  he made your yoke heavy - I’ll make it heavier.”  Well, that speech got rave reviews by the press.  Notice 12:16.  When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king saying, “What portion do we have in David?  We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; To your tents, O Israel!  Now look after your own house David!”  So Israel departed to their tents.  17.  But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Juday, Rehoboam reigned over them.

So the kingdom is divided.  Look at your study notes again - notice that the Northern Kingdom is referred to as Israel - it’s easy to get confused as you work your way through Kings unless you understand that Israel now refers to the 10 northern tribes.  Samaria will become it’s capital.  The southern kingdom retains its capital as Jerusalem and Judah and little Benjamin remain there.

What the Biblical writer, Jeremiah will attempt to do over the next several pages is recount the kings who reigned - he will switch back and forth between the north and the south. 

And the formula will be repeated over and over again - this king did evil in the sight of the Lord; or, this king did that which was right. . .look over to chapter 15 (I Kings).  verse 3a.  And he (Abijam) did that which was right in the sight of the Lord.   skip to verse 26.  And he (Asa) did evil in the sight of the Lord;  skip to 34.  And he (Baasha) did evil in the sight of the Lord.  

Now if you want to do well on your Kings exam next Sunday - just kidding - actually you could get a 95% on the test by simply writing beside each King’s name in your notes there - he was a wicked king.  All 19 kings of Israel were wicked.  Only a few kings in Judah were godly.

But remember this - Jeremiah wants us to learn a lot more than history.  He wants us to understand this divided kingdom from God’s perspective . . . that history is His story.

God has things to teach us from the unfolding acts of times and epochs and kingdoms.  Paul wrote that the story of the Israelite ws given to us to teach us through example.

So for the remainder of our time - let’s take a look at the first King of Israel - the northern kingdom.  While Rehoboam, whom we studied last Lord’s day . . .that plastic arrow was reigning in the south, Jeroboam was leading the 10 tribes in the north.

Frankly, if I were an Israelite, it would be hard to choose which King to follow.

Kind of like Ed Koch, that colorful mayor of New York City, who years ago was trying to decide which Democratic candidate he would support for the 1984 presidency.  He, tongue in cheeck was quoted as saying, “If I support Ted Kennedy, I’ll be rewarded with expensive cruises, invitations to jet-set parties, and long summers in the Carribean.  If I support Fritz Mondale - I’ll just have a long winter in Minnesota.  It’s a tough choice.”

Well, here in the promised land you had Jeroboam or Rehoboam.

Let’s follow the spotlight of scripture as it focuses the reign of Jeroboam.

I Kings 12:25.  Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there.  And he went out from there and built Penuel.

So far so good  -  he’s acting king-like; building cities and fortifying his real-estate.

What happens over the next verses provides for us an incredible description of something that is happening in American culture every day.

No, you won’t find the name, America here - so stop looking.

Think about this - What would you expect from a man who had been informed by a prophet that he would lead the 10 northern tribes as their king - only becuase Solomon had turned to idolatry.

What would you expect from that King?  Look back at chapter 11:38 where the prophet of o God is speaking to young Jeroboam.  “Then 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.”

What would you expect him to do as King?   Follow God?  Worship God?  Sure!!

Look at 12:26.  And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.  27.  If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam King of Judah.  28.  So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold you gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”  29.  And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.  30.  Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.”

Jeroboam here provides an incredible example of false religion and how to create one!  While you may not see golden calves in America, Jeroboam will go down in history as the creator of a his own man-made religion - and he will provide an example that is occuring in our culture even today.

Let me show you from his life, five ways to detect man-made religion.

Characteristic #1 - Man-made religion is created in the imagination of the heart.

That is - false religions and cults alike are always, somebody’s invention.

Look at verse 26 again - “And Jeroboam said in his heart.”  Look over to verse 33 (middle part)  “Even in the month which he had devised in his own heart!”

Jeremiah makes it very clear that Jeroboam’s intricate system of worship was his own invention!

Have you ever heard the phrase. . .

"I can worship God any where I want"

Now most men who tell me that are avid fisherman or golfers.  I had one man tell me that he got close to God . . .he worshipped Him on the golf course.  Which is hard for me to understand, becuase when I play golf I don’t get close to God. . .I usually backslide.

Now, granted, there is an element of truth in that statement - you can worship God anywhere - in fact, our hour of worship on the Lord’s day is simply an overflow of our life of worship during the previous week.  In fact, the quality of your worship on Sunday morning is determined by the quality of your life on Saturday night.

But it begs the question.  Worshipping as a body of beleivers; accountability to a church family, involvment in excercising our gifts for the sake of the body and not suggestions from God but directives.

So the Lord warned through the author of Hebrews 10:25  "Don't forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, provoke one another unto love and good works."

How do you encourage or provoke one another?  By serving one another.  There is a  need for people by the dozens to step forward in these next two weeks . . .this morning’s Communique is one large billboard that says, “We need help!”  God has brought so many wonderful people to this fellowship, yet there are still too many people who are sitting and not serving.  We need people who will provoke and encourage through serving.  

I read in this communique that nearly a dozen men could be used immediatly in directing traffic in the parking lot - now there's a great place to provoke people!  So many people already are!

Another fallacy is this quote I've often heard:

"I can create my own religous beliefs, as long as I am sincere in what I believe."

The other night I was out with appointments, Marsha told me the next morning about a news magazine she had watched;  I think it was 20/20.  As hard as it is to fathom, there are thousands of people who believe that over a period of time their body cells are going through some sort of metaphysical transformation that will allow them to live forever. . .the leaders, a middle aged man and woman have become enormously wealthy off the fees they extract from their sincere followers. 

And what about a devout follower who happens to die?  They've got an answer for that - that person didn't achieve full transformation in time becuase they lacked the committment and faith necessary to transform.  That's why they died.

All of those people may be totally sincere - but one day they'll all die!  God said, "It is appointed unto man once to ? "die" and after that the judgement.  (Hebrews 9:27)

They are sincere!  They are sincerely wrong.

Characteristic #2 - Man-made religion is an appeal to the independence of the human will.

Notice verse 28 again,  “So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods.”

In other words,  why make the long journey to Jerusalem to worship - why sacrifice your own conveniences - lets’ do our own thing!!!

I read recently in the newspaper an advertisement from the Universal church, I believe. . .the woman was writing from her own personal view saying how wonderful this church was becuase it allowed her the freedom to pick and choose certain things that she liked from a variety of religions. . .”

A gallup poll revealed that an amazing 82% of Americans said, “Growing into a deeper relationship with God was important to them.”   60 % said that were more interested in spiritual things than five years earlier.”  Before you get too excited, you need to know that 60% also rejected the idea that a person should be limited to a single faith.”

One author I read put it this way - “Today, everyone’s beliefs must be given equal standing. . .everyone is so right.  It doesn’t matter if you’re praying to your inner light, to Sophia, to the Trinity, to whomever.  If it works for you, it’s fine.”

So - religion in America is increasingly nothing more than a declaration of man’s independence from the God of this Book.

Cal Thomas, a Christian syndicated columnist wrote, “Most of the religion that seems to making a comeback today is nothing more than people who have found permission to explore ther inner selves without having to acknowledge the existence of a personal God who might require something from them.”

That’s really not a new problem - Jeroboam had created a religion without spiritual reality.

Characteristic #3 - Man-made religion provides a hidden system that protects it’s heirarchy.

You need to understand Jeroboam’s problem.  First of all he’s forgotten that this division in the kingdom was political and social; God didn’t expect it to become religious - the spiritual center was to remain at Jerusalem.

But if the people returned to Jerusalem every year for the Feast of Tabernacles - that huge national celebration that thanked God for His goodness to them - they might just reconcile.

Here’s Jeroboam’s solution - notice verse 31.  And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.  32.  And Jeroboam instituted a feast in the 8th month on the 15th day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar.”

He makes his feast one month later - that would be more convenient to the northerners whose crops would come in a month later. . .Was Jeroboam concerned about thanking God - is that why he invented their own feast of Tabernacles?  NO!  He was worried about saving his own throne. . .he wanted the prize for himself - even if he had to steal it from God!

Which leads me to the fourth characteristic of man-made religion:

Characteristic #4 - Man-made religion is an attempt to appear genuine and holy.

Notice again all the counterfeiting that Jeroboam painstakingly developed:

31.  And he made houses on high places (little shrines), and made priests form among all the people  skip to 32 - he instituted a feast in the 8th month on the 15th day of the month LIKE the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar...skip to verse 33 last phrase - he went up to the altar to burn incense.

It’s all here - feasts, sacrifices, prayers, priests, incense, ritual, ceremony.  Everything is here - except true worship!

We were driving last month back through Washington D.C. - if you’ve been on that beltway that circles it you’ve probably seen the top of that huge Mormon temple - it has a three-fold spire that stretches way into the sky - implying, falsely, the trinity; in the middle is a pole that stretches even further into the air and on top is the golden form of the angel who brought revelation from God.  If you were to visit that temple, you would be awestruck by it’s beauty and form - let’s face it, how many of us have enjoyed recordings from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

False religion, on the outside, it’s a bag from a fancy department store - colorfully designed, attractive - but inside, it is filled with death.

By the way, as you discern truth from error, remember, the primary distinction between false religion and true religion is Jesus Christ.  Is Jesus Christ equal with the Father - is Jesus Christ God.

John wrote in his first epistle, “Who is the liar by the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ (God in the flesh).  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son (that is, their equality).  23.  Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father, the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.

There aren't many paths to heaven - there is only one, the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Characteristic #5 - Man-made religion diregards the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man.

One author wrote, “There are four wrong ways to worship:”

1) Worshipping false gods.

2) Worshipping the true God in the wrong form.

3) Worshipping God in a self-styled manner

4) Worshipping the true God in the right way with the wrong motive.

We need to remember that today as believers - we can worship God in the right way with purely selfish motives. . .we forget sometimes that the Lord knows the difference between praise and flattery; between worship and bribery.

CONCLUSION:   Just what is the Biblical Directive!

How Do We Worship God’s Way

1) It involves preparation

Turn to Hebrews 10:19-20 "Therefore, brethren we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh...let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith..."

No need for priests anymore!  No need or ritual and sacrifice - no need of fear, no need of one representative going into God's presence. . .now! Jesus Christ is the mediator and his blood paves the path for us to commune with the Father.

This is new...Jesus said, and I'm here to introduce an entirely new way to worship God.

By the way, this verses also gives us some terrific insight on how to Prepare for worship

Look  at verse 22 & 23

Three things that provide readiness to worship.

Preparation #1- a transparent heart


            22a.  "Let us draw near with a sincere heart..."

            We come with a transparent heart - we come as open books before God. . .so the question that precedes worship is "What's the condition of my heart?"

In other words, hypocrisy and worship never occur simultaneously.

Pretenders never experience worship.

Preparation #2

22b.  "In full assurance of faith..." - full assurance of faith

We prepare to worship with confident heart - confident in what, ourselves?  No, we are worshiping not because of our goodness but because of our faith in Christ's perfection.  Our assurance is Christ.

that’s explained fully in the next preparation:

Preparation #3

            "Having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" - hearts and lives cleansed

Jesus Christ allows us to worship, not becuase we are worthy but becuase He is worthy - and becuase He is worthy and everything about us that is unworthy is cleansed.

Now he's not saying here that you must literally take a bath before you worship;  although a Saturday night bath will certainly help the worship of those around you...

We come, with faith in Him, grateful that our sins though as scarlet have been washed as white as snow.

Now leave that passage and turn to John chapter 4.

Verse 23 of John 4.  But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

Isn’t that wonderful. . .whom does the Father seek?!



                rich Christians who can contribute large amounts to the                     church;       

            the talented

                      the bright, the influential. 


That's who we would seek.  But God the Father seeks transparent, confident, grateful worshipers!

Imagine, God longing for fellowship with us!  But how selfish we are!  We often go to church to see what is in it for us; we ask, “What’d you get out of the service; failing to remember, that we didn’t come to get something for ourselves but to give worship to God! 

So . . .Worship requires preparation, but it involves celebration.

Just how do we celebrate communion with God?!

John 4:24.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

Two key phrases here - we must worship the Father in spirit and we must worship Him in truth.

1. Worship in spirit

Now, what does it mean to worship in the spirit?  First of all you need to notice that the "s" on the word spirit is lower case.  That's because in the Greek text, the predicate lacks the definite article which would have caused us to translate it "The Spirit" - that is, a reference to the Holy Spirit.

This is a reference to the human spirit - that immortal, invisible part of you and I that was brought to life when we trusted Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:5).

Worship then is that communion, that connection between our spirit and God's Spirit.

It is not a matter of being in the right place, at the right time, with the right music, with the right clothes, the right formalities, the right mood, with the right prayer, and with the right preaching, the right solo.

All those things may aid in promoting worship, but they cannot produce worship! 

Worship is created in your spirit, which like dry wood is sparked into flame by the fire of communion with the Holy Spirit.

The next phrase says, “we worship Him in spirit and . . . in truth

What does it mean to worship God in truth.  Let me suggest several things:

            1. Worship "in truth" is initiated by truthful people.

Dishonest people can’t experience worship. . . .remember, pretenders do not worship God.  Here’s that need for “transparency again before God.”

            2.  To worship Him in truth is to study His revelation.

Did you know that the word orthodox - that word normally related to correct doctrine - is actually derived from two words:

             ortho - correct

            doxa - praise.  The word orthodox literally means, correct                     praise or worship.

When correct doctrine is correctly taught the result is not a headache - the result is praise!

Let me show you a verse that ties spirit and truth together in one beautiful phrase: Turn to Col. 3:16 then we’re finished.  "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another (that’s truth) with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God (that’s spirit)."   Colossians 3:16

A couple of months ago. . .visiting in the home of a couple that had come from a Roman Catholic background to Colonial.   Maybe you can identify with this story - Colonial was the first protestant worship service they had ever attended in their lives. To hear him tell me how he described it to his wife who was home at that time, very pregnant with their first child, was so funny to me and so precious.  He said, I got to Colonial and went in the front door - peple were friendly, some even said hello (he probably learned later, those were the greeters)  I went into the auditorium and sat down.  People next to me said hello and I was shocked by the fact that people were talking - I had been raised to say nothing in the sanctuary unless you whispered.  Then a man got up and everybody began singing - in English - then after a bunch of singing, this guy walks down the aisle - he said, “it was the priest”, but he wasn’t wearing a robe - he got up on the stage and began to teach right from the Bible. . .ths man’s wife would come later and just a few weeks ago I had the privilege of baptizing both of them, both new believers, both hungry for the word, both enjoying worship with you.

Ladies and Gentlemen, when we explore the Word, we will experience worship; when we focus on Jesus Christ, we experience worship, when we serve one another, we participate in worship. . .not man-made worship, but God-made.

We ought to sing, “Gimme that God-made religion. . .that’s what we want, that’s what we really, truly need.”

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