Jeroboam thought to himself, "Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord , they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead." -- 1Kings 12: 26-27 (NLT)
Apostasy refers to a falling away from a religion or set of beliefs. It does not occur overnight. It is always a gradual erosion based upon what may have been good intentions without foresight. The motivations are usually based in carnal thinking and the benefits of this world instead of focusing on the eternal considerations of God. A church does not merely wake up one day and decide to become apostate anymore than an individual would. It is a process of allowing leaven into doctrine, in small manageable and defensible increments until the end product is simply not of God. We have talked before about the broad path and how there are so many people on it without realizing it. We have talked about the "Lord Lord" verses and how so many people will spend their lives thinking they are serving God only to get to the end and discover that He never knew them. It is apostasy that leads to these things. No one decides one day that they want to be on the broad path that leads to destruction -- they simply find out they are on it already. No one decides they want to play church -- they simply find out when they stand before Christ that they were.
Thankfully, God always gives us ample warnings and examples to learn from in His Word. We find one such example today in the key verses. The backdrop for this story is simple. After the death of Solomon, the nation of Israel was fractured. Jeroboam had influence over the ten northern tribes and Rehoboam was set to be named king of the other two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. Jeroboam offers to have the ten northern tribes be the subjects of Rehoboam if he would promise to not be as harsh as Solomon was. Rehoboam rejects this offer after following the poor advice of his friends and the result is the permanent split of the nation of Israel. The ten northern tribes would keep the name Israel and the two southern tribes would be called Judah.
Jeroboam however, had a sticky political problem to deal with. The capital of Judah was Jerusalem, where all of the Israelites worshipped the Lord. Jeroboam does the political calculations and determines that if he allows his people to travel to Jerusalem to worship then they might turn against him as king, as we see in the key verses today. This is the genesis of apostasy. It usually starts with human logic infiltrating spiritual decisions. Carnality and the Spirit of God do not mix beloved. We see this play out today as well, far too often. Pastors use carnal metrics to measure their spiritual success and are led to erroneous conclusions. They buy into secular leadership principles, taught by secular experts, and think somehow they will transcend all of the secularism to have a spiritual outcome. Nonsense. Just as Jeroboam thought that the people would turn on him if they went to Jerusalem, modern day church leaders think that people will choose a different church unless they figure out a way to draw them in. Maybe a silly Easter egg hunt here or a secular movie night there. The journey to an apostate church begins by falsely calculating spiritual problems using carnal methods. When we start down the road of minimizing God in our decision making process it is no wonder that the eventual solutions discount Him completely.
So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, "It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!" He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan--at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there. -- 1Kings 12: 28-30 (NLT)
I think we read stories like this and gloss over them because they just seem so over the top. Who couldn't see that worshipping two golden calves wasn't apostasy? Who couldn't see that it violated the Ten Commandments! Then we look around our church and we think we are ok because there are no golden calves there. That is a view limited to the natural world. It is on the spiritual level that we need to examine the golden calves in our lives and in our churches. When we compromise our worship with songs that demand the blessings of God or overly sexualize Jesus we have in fact set up a golden calf which we bow down to. When we engage in carnal holiday practices that have nothing to do with God we have indeed set up a golden calf in our church which we bow down to. When we overemphasize money -- either through prosperity doctrine or abusive tithing doctrine -- we are setting up golden calves in the church which we bow down to. We cannot play church beloved. We cannot operate while paying lip service to the true nature of spiritual warfare and then when there is a desperate spiritual need think we can just call for a prayer vigil and God will move on our behalf. Or use Scriptures when they are convenient for our needs but ignore them when they are not. Look what these verses say! This became a great sin. So do ours before a holy God. We must realize that one compromise will lead to another. The initial one may seem small or justifiable even, but eventually leaven spreads:
Jeroboam also erected buildings at the pagan shrines and ordained priests from the common people--those who were not from the priestly tribe of Levi. And Jeroboam instituted a religious festival in Bethel, held on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in imitation of the annual Festival of Shelters in Judah. There at Bethel he himself offered sacrifices to the calves he had made, and he appointed priests for the pagan shrines he had made. So on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a day that he himself had designated, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar at Bethel. He instituted a religious festival for Israel, and he went up to the altar to burn incense. -- 1Kings 12: 31-33 (NLT)
Note first here how the Lord refers to these shrines. They are pagan shrines. The intent of Jeroboam is irrelevant before God. This is a difficult concept for many in the church to grasp. Our intentions do not matter to God -- only our obedience. When I question the watering down of the Gospel of the compromises the church allows the usual defense offered is the church is just trying to reach as many for Jesus as possible. But when you change the bride of Christ into a pagan shrine -- what Jesus are you reaching them with? Not one that can save them but instead one that will lead them to the broad path.
Look at all the compromises Jeroboam allows in these verses. Not content with merely breaking the commandment regarding the worship of idols, now we see that he is ordaining priests who are not from the Tribe of Levi. God is the one who decreed that only the Levites may be ordained priests. We see this same disregard for God running through the modern church today as well. People who demand to be called apostle or prophet but are interested in the name and prestige only. Certainly not the sacrifice. People who then visit churches and run around laying hands on people while muttering incoherently. That might be a spiritual experience beloved but remember there are many other spirits out there besides the spirit of God. If you do not know who it is, don't let them lay their hands on you! Are they from the Tribe of Levi? Have they been decreed by God? In the days of King Jehoshaphat of Judah and King Ahab of Israel, the two gathered together to decide if they should join to make war against Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat wisely suggested conferring first with the prophets of God.
So the king of Israel summoned the prophets, about 400 of them, and asked them, "Should I go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?" They all replied, "Yes, go right ahead! The Lord will give the king victory." -- 1Kings 22: 6 (NLT)
These were yes men however and not true prophets of God. Shall I buy into the latest church fad and subject my congregation to it? Yes go right ahead! Shall I team up with a secular based organization to resolve a spiritual problem in my church? Yes go right ahead! Shall I stay away from preaching sin and repentance and instead focus on works and tithing? Yes go ahead! Jehoshaphat however realized these men were no prophets and asked if there was a true man of God they could inquire of. Here was Ahab's response:
The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, "There is one more man who could consult the Lord for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah." Jehoshaphat replied, "That's not the way a king should talk! Let's hear what he has to say." -- 1Kings 22: 8 (NLT)
I hate him because he never prophesies anything but trouble for me? Shouldn't the issue be whether or not his prophecies come true? Whether they are from God or not? Oh beloved, the church is filled with the spirit of Ahab in these days. The spirit that doesn't want the truth. The spirit that despises the truth and just wants positive affirmation and confirmation that the apostasy they are engaging in is from God when it cannot be. Give me the 400 prophets who tickle my ears and assure me that victory will be mine. Nevertheless, they send for Micaiah:
Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, "Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success." But Micaiah replied, "As surely as the Lord lives, I will say only what the Lord tells me to say." -- 1Kings 22: 13-14 (NLT)
Make sure you agree with them? The spirit of false unity has deep roots and is alive and well today. Don't make any waves! Don't name names! We are all on the same team! People ask me who my favorite prophet is and I always say -- Micaiah. He doesn't have his own book and his story is very small but as surely as the Lord lives -- he will only say what the Lord tells him to say. He lets Ahab know that if he pursues Ramoth-gilead he will die there. He assures him that a lying spirit has entered into his 400 prophets as surely as that same lying spirit attacks our churches today. Ahab throws Micaiah into prison and says he will stay there on bread and water until Ahab returns safely from battle. Undeterred, here is the answer from the true Prophet of God: