When Worship Goes Bad

So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, ‘You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.” 1 Kings 12:28-33

Fearing competition to his power, the misguided, prophet-appointed, self-promoted Jeroboam, king of the northern kingdom, sought poor counsel. He liked what he heard, and foolishly set up gold calves in his region so his people would not pilgrimage to Jerusalem and maybe defect. He proclaimed them Israel’s deliverers, clouding Israel’s perception of the Almighty, then got on a roll supporting his false gods and instituted his own plan of religious practice. “Any who would, he ordained to be priests.” (1 Kings 11:26-40; 13:33)


Fear and self-interest are dangerous ruiners of worship, tainting pure motives and introducing false gods to replace the only One rightly to be feared. Pride spreads its tentacles to infect and take over sound reason, turning our thinking inward, elevating our devising to trump God’s rule, making much of our opinions and preferences to the point we no longer consider the Lord’s. Worship gone bad is no real worship at all. We’re called to worship in Spirit and truth, and Jeroboam stripped both away. When we do as we see fit, what is right in our own eyes, we crowd out the Holy One and His ways, to the detriment of ourselves and those we influence. (Judges 17:6; 21:5; John 4:24)

Where have I let slide true worship, my swaggering spirit replacing God’s pure one? Are there areas where I have let self-interest rule my affections, a relentless desire to control captivate my emotions and reason? In what places of ease, or comfort, or pleasure, have I constructed altars, afraid or unwilling to surrender them to God’s appointments? Do I sincerely seek His paths and patterns, or ask Him to bless mine? What false worship habits have I adopted that need removal and replacement?

One True LORD, Lion of Judah, You alone are greatly to be praised, worshiped above all worthless gods. May I ever seek Your counsel, behold Your beauty, submit to Your rule of my every device, moment, place, and offering. To You alone belong my allegiance, and all glory. (Psalm 96:4-5; Luke 4:8; Revelation 5:5)


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