Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Compromise & syncretism

In the time of Jeroboam, the priests of Israel left behind their houses and lands in order to serve God without compromise. And other Israelites followed them in an act of seeking God and turning away from heresy. But the crux of the matter was that the Levities were excluded from the religious life of Israel. New places of worship, with a syncretistic religion had, for the ten tribes of Israel, replaced the Temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. 

Jeroboam led away ten tribes from the 12 tribes of Israel and thereby Judah and Benjamin were left standing alone. Jeroboam’s cause was right and God had promised to make his kingdom and house like David’s if he remained faithful. But he did not remain faithful; instead he provided an alternative religious system for the ten tribes. He tried to prevent his people from returning to Jerusalem to worship, fearing they would abandon his leadership.

Jeroboam provided the Israelites with several different places of worship and different gods, calves or Baals, idols linked to fertility worship. In doing so he excluded the Levites, choosing whoever he pleased to be priests. Abijah, one of the godly kings of Judah, would later accuse him of making priests of whoever would bring an animal for sacrifice.(2 Chronicles 13) The one who needed to come in repentance with his sacrifice instead became the priest who made the sacrifice.

So the sacrifices that were meant to be to Yahweh were mixed with the worship of Baal a fertility god, and those who offered the sacrifices failed to live up to the requirements of God. They were not Levities. As the text states:

For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made. Those from all the tribes of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord God of Israel followed them to Jerusalem, to sacrifice to the Lord God of their Fathers. (2 Chronicles 11: 14-16)

In the early beginning of the ten tribes as a separate nation, religion was simply a ruse to prevent loss of kingly power. Jeroboam did not care for his people; he certainly did not care for the Lord. Eventually Jeroboam lost his power and the Northern kingdom of Israel, faltered, slipped downward through the years and was conquered because of disobedience and faithlessness. (2 Kings 17)

The people were carried away by Assyria. The Assyrians replaced them with other conquered peoples. The syncretism developed earlier continued to evolve. The text explains that since the worship of the Lord was unknown among the various groups, God sent lions among them. And the ruler of Assyria sent one of the former Israelite priests to live among them and teach them about the God of Israel.

But how could a priest who had himself existed and ministered within such a false religion teach others without encouraging a destructive pluralism. Afterwards the people worshiped the Lord but they also worshiped their own gods even burning their children to the gods Adrammelech and Anammelech. And as the Tyndale Commentary puts it, “Worship of the Lord must be faithful and exclusive, never part of paganized worship (vv. 37-40).Those who do not do this do not in fact worship God, whatever they profess.”

History is full of God’s setting aside peoples, churches, (denominations) who will not serve the Lord as he has commanded in his word and through his covenant with his people. The O.T. worship was to be followed by those truly seeking to worship God with hearts totally given over to him. The design was a shadow of God’s promised coming Messiah. It was the faithful heart obedient to the word of God that made the difference.

With the coming of Christ all was fulfilled; the faithful now have a true sacrifice, a true and innocent Priest. Now the command to worship is fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ. He is the exclusive One, the One who cannot be denied. Jesus is the only Way to the Father, and the One whose word demands our exclusive obedience. The faithful will give up, “ pasture lands and their property,” everything for this One who saves from sin.


Jeff Ogden said...

Powerful words. The quote from 2 Chronicles 11 is telling. It looks like for the safety of the sheep, the Levites where willing to leave home and settle in a new area. Some individual prophets were sent by God back to the Northern kingdom but it looks like most of the faithful relocated to stay faithful. There's a sermon in there somewhere.

Jeff Ogden
Newman, CA

Dave Moody said...

Yep, somewhere. Thanks Vi.
Dave Moody,
Fairbanks, AK

Viola Larson said...

Yes, somewhere there: )