Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                                          March 9, 2008                                           NO. 7

Jeroboam's Arguments For Innovation

    Psychiatrists tell us that most people who are deceived wanted to be deceived. At least they had their minds set to try to believe a certain type of message. This is the tremendous advantage the medical quack has with the seriously or incurably ill -- they want to believe him. The false teacher enjoys exactly the same advantage when he says what is pleasant and desirable to his hearers. These purveyors of false hope are not without ability and usually exercise themselves to develop a smooth, reasonable and credible presentation. But the real element of deception is not ordinarily so much the ability to intellectually confuse as it is the ability to understand and pander to peoples' wants and weaknesses. This is the key to successful religious innovation, ancient and modern.

    Jeroboam's arguments in leading Israel into tragic apostasy is a vivid case in point. Notwithstanding his position as king, his success is astonishing in bringing about a drastic and popular change in the religious devotions of a nation in a single generation. His own appointed places stood as rivals with Jerusalem as seats of worship (Deut. 12:14; I Kings 12: 28,29), and the people have three holy places instead of one. He instituted his own distinctive features, such as images and non-Levitical priests (I Kings 12:28,31). He changed the dates of the feast days according as "he had devised of his own heart" (Lev. 23:34,39; I Kings 12:33). So instead of religious loyalty and unity among the people, we have a deep division: three holy places instead of one, two orders of worship instead of one, utterly unauthorized imagery, rival priesthoods and competitive feasts. And one of Jeroboam's establishments was in Bethel, a scant twelve miles from Jerusalem, a brazen declaration of the division and disregard for true worship. For a man to accomplish so much, even for the wrong, requires ability and an insight into the wants and weaknesses of a people. The arguments of Jeroboam reflect his possession of this insight.

1. He appealed to comfort, convenience and self-indulgence: "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem" (I Kings 12:28). Jerusalem was indeed a long way away for those who had no problem of pollution from automobile exhaust. It was a trip that consumed considerable time and expense. No doubt many of the less zealous were glad to hear a man of Jeroboam's prominence and personal vitality and force say it was 'too much' to expect. He understands. And who would be so narrow-minded as to say that God would condemn worship in Dan but accept it in Jerusalem?

2. He appealed to their sense of piety and worship: "Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (12:28). Do not underestimate Jeroboam's cleverness by charging him here with trying to tell Jews that Jehovah is not God. This would likely have so offended a point of fact and faith so basic that it would have been nearly impossible to believe. But the people did delight in having a tangible representation of deity. Perhaps it was patterned somewhat after the cherubim, as some suggest, which would have augured well for Jeroboam in appealing to the people to identify God with his calves and to seek him therein.

3. He appealed to pride: The Israelites had already bolted from Judah in a huff upon hearing the rash words of Rehoboam. They had rebelled, saying "What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel" (I Kings 12:16). Yes, Judah offers us nothing! Let's go home! Jeroboam offered them holy places in their homeland! Israel is as good as Judah. Dan and Bethel are as satisfactory as Jerusalem. Sectional pride can run strong.

4. He appealed to nostalgic and precious memories by the very selections of Dan and Bethel as holy places, and Shechem as capital. Aside from its convenience to the people in the north, Dan would be associated with the worship of God through the teraphim covered with silver (Judges 18:15-31). Jeroboam devised a calf of gold. Bethel was strongly associated with Jacob and Samuel and thus was tender in their sentimentalities historically, and became the site of a pretentious temple. Shechem recalls the days of Abraham, and was a priestly city. These are "our" cities.

5. He implied that all is well: it is simply the old worship for those who have no portion in Judah and no desire to support her establishments. It was a religious revolution, but it is doubtful that most of the people really knew it. What he said, they liked, and wanted to believe, and did believe. Deceived, and in error, all the while thinking all is well and we serve God!

    All successful innovations more or less possess the same ties to popular taste, convenience, pride, apparent reasonableness and innocence, and piety. Howbeit all were not deceived. Some stubbornly resisted the innovations, preferring God's authority for man's "just as good as ..." Though to all appearances and for his purposes Jeroboam succeeded, he never had the authority or approval of God, and his apparent success not only led Israel to its downfall but wrested the kingdom from Jeroboam and destroyed his posterity from off the face of the earth. And still some say, "You can't argue with success." You'd better argue with it, my friend, and go all the way back to Jerusalem.

---Jere Frost

From Searching the Scriptures, Volume XIII, No. 12, December 1972,

Eastside Enlightner Jan. 20, 2008

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You Can Understand the Bible For Yourself

    One of the greatest misconceptions about the Bible is that it is a locked book. The average person is believed to be shut out from comprehending its message. It is thought to be too mysterious, too difficult for the common man or woman to understand.

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The apostle Paul was one of the individuals who was chosen to write down the message of Christ for the New Testament. The word of Christ was revealed to Paul by the Holy Spirit. The gospel had been hidden for years like a mystery, but it was now being unveiled for all to see and know. Speaking of the gospel, Paul wrote, "how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I wrote before in a few words, by which when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)," (Ephesians 3:3-4).

    The Bible was not written to stump man or frustrate him in any way. Certainly there are sections of it that are challenging and even parts that leave most of us at a loss as to what it is about. Yet, the vast majority of what is found in the Bible is understandable for anyone.

    God's supreme intelligence makes the Bible understandable. He knows how we reason and communicate and He has constructed it in such a way that we can comprehend it. It is filled with narrative, illustrations, and colorful language that makes it easier for us to relate to what is being said.

    Though He is so far above us, God has always been able to connect with man if man was willing to listen. You don't have to have some special teacher to unlock the secrets of the Bible for you. You may benefit from another's assistance, but you can read the Bible for yourself. You do, however, have to make an effort and invest some time into studying the Bible in order to understand it.

    Like learning anything new, you will struggle at first. Yet, if you are committed and stick to it, you will soon begin to see it come together. You will discover that the Bible is fascinating and enlightening. You will find that it is understandable and that it is the word of eternal life (John 6:63).

---Phillip Mullins

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