Two factors contributed to Israel’s apostasy. First, Jeroboam attempted to use religion in the service of politics. Jeroboam reasoned that if people were required to return to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices, they wouldn’t identify with Shechem as their new capital. Jeroboam missed the point of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It wasn’t to align the people with an earthly kingdom but with a heavenly one.
Second, Jeroboam appealed to his people’s desire for comfort and convenience. Instead of requiring them to go to one place to offer sacrifices, he established two shrines—one at Dan, on the northern border of Israel, and the second at Bethel, on the southern border. He placed a golden calf in each one, saying, “Behold your gods [or God] … who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (v. 28). You have to wonder if Jeroboam knew he was repeating the words Aaron used when he made the first golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:4).
The problem with Jeroboam was that he saw the worship of God as a means to some other end. To him, worship of God was a means by which he could realize the end of a united people under his rule. Put simply, he made worship, and the God of that worship, a crass tool to bring about his purposes. Worship is never a means to an end. Worship is the end. May we remember that.
What do you need to do this week to make sure you are worshiping God with a pure heart?