Walk of Imitation


1 Kings 12:28,29 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan.”

You may be surprised to see that we are focusing on two verses today that we referred to in the course of explaining Jeroboam’s failure in yesterday’s meditation, but we need to consider more deeply just what was going on in this man’s mind, that can so often go on in ours. As we noted yesterday, Jeroboam had been made king over the northern ten tribes of Israel , while Rehoboam, the son of Solomon reigned over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south – which included Jerusalem. That, as we observed yesterday, had been Jeroboam’s concern, that Israel might drift back down to Jerusalem to worship the Lord in the Temple there, and thus align themselves with Rehoboam.

Now there is something very important to notice here at the outset: God had declared His will in respect of Jeroboam and the northern tribes and so the Lord would not just sit back and let the tribes all drift back together again. The first thing to note was that Jeroboam was half-hearted in receiving the word of God. He had not fully taken on board what that word had said and had not thought through the significance of it.

If there are common failures in the Christian world, one of the main ones is that so often the people of God do not take in the word of God and the significance of that word. That is one of the main reasons for the presence of these meditations, that we provide a resource where people are refocused on God’s word and its significance. The question for you, therefore, is how important do you consider the Bible? Do you read it daily or just once in a while? Are you at this meditation page by chance or because you have disciplined yourself to read your way through them and take in God’s word? The same thing applies to the preached word and the prophetic word, I have observed. People’s reception of both is often quite casual, and that was Jeroboam’s first problem! If Jeroboam had realised that he was living in God’s declared will, he would not have had the worry he had.

Now the second thing to note is that having saddled himself with this worry, he then began reasoning how he could deal with it and he did not turn to the Lord and seek and answer from Him. If he had, he would probably have received a word of reassurance. The Lord hasn’t got a problem with us seeking reassurance, as long as we do seek Him.  No, here is another common tendency – failure to turn to the Lord for answers. Now if you don’t get help from the Lord you are only left with yourself (or perhaps other counsellors) and so Jeroboam started reasoning and came to the wrong conclusions.

Conclusion number one was that the people would drift south, and conclusion number two was that he would have to do something about it, and conclusion number three was that he would have to provide a substitute religion for his people to stop them going to Jerusalem. So he sets up what is clearly an imitation of the true religion that God had instituted at Sinai through Moses. It has altars, sacrifices and festivals. Why not, reasons Jeroboam, it will still enable the people to worship the Lord. Do you see that? That is the subtle error that sounds so right – they’ll still be able to worship the Lord. However as the text goes on to show us, that was not all right with the Lord. What He had given them was what should happen, not some pale imitation of what He had given – because He wasn’t in the pale imitation!

Can you see a parallel to this in what has so often happened in the church down through history? The Eastern Orthodox Church focused on the use of icons to help them focus on God. The Holy Spirit and the word of God were not sufficient. The Roman Catholic Church built great church buildings (our cathedrals were mostly built in the time of the Catholic Church being the only church), the church leaders wore special clothes to make them distinctive, and a managerial hierarchy was set up to maintain control and exercise authority. We take all these things for granted, but they are all things that come from the thinking that, “The people will need something more to encourage their faith and keep them true to God.”

None of these things were anywhere in Jesus’ thinking in his teaching. There was just a bare, simple, straight forward faith, expressed collectively when the people of God gathered together, under men who were raised up by God without any external trappings, only the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Some of those men were gifted to be pastors and teachers, some to be evangelists, some to be prophets and some to be apostles (see Eph 4:11,12), so that they could help everyone else become what they were called to become, those who do the works of God.   Instead we very often have an imitation of the real thing, an imitation that is devoid of the power and presence of God. The final question must be, do we each as an individual, know the power and presence of God in our lives, or are we walking a walk of imitation?  A serious question!