Jeroboam and the Golden Calves / Paul & Timothy in Macedonia: June 24th 2021

1 Kings 12:25-14:20

Jeroboam, who was ruling the Northern kingdom of Israel, wanted to stop his subjects travelling south to Jerusalem. He didn’t want them to worship at the official temple and so he made two golden calves for people to worship. He did this after seeking advice. This shows that not all advice is good advice. We need to test any advice we receive against the Word of God. The Israelites had previously sinned by worshipping a golden calf in the time of Aaron (Exodus 32:4). This had infuriated God.  

Jeroboam set up one of the calves in Bethel, which was a famous religious site since Jacob’s time, and the other in Dan, as far north as anyone could get from Jerusalem. Jeroboam told his people to worship the calves rather than travel to Jerusalem in King Rehoboam’s territory: ‘Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt’ (1 Kings 12:28).

Jeroboam set up a new priesthood from all sorts of people and made new high places for worship (even though these had been banned by God). He even allowed people who were not Levites to be priests. He instigated a new festival that was similar to the official Feast of Tabernacles but that was one month earlier. Jeroboam had set up a new religion and we can safely predict this would infuriate God.

A man of God came from Judah to Bethel just as Jeroboam was about to make an offering at his unofficial altar. The man prophesied that a son called Josiah would be born to the house of David. He would sacrifice the priests of the high places. He also prophesied that the altar in Bethel would be split apart and the ashes poured out, which duly happened. God performed another miracle through the intercession of the man of God. Jeroboam’s hand became shrivelled when he stretched it towards the man of God in fury. The man prayed for healing and the king’s hand was restored.

The man of God had been told not to eat anything in Bethel or return the same way he had come. He fully intended to comply with this but a lying prophet tricked him into eating a meal. As he had broken God’s command, the man of God was then killed by a lion. The lying prophet repented for his actions (1 Kings 13:30) and prophesied that the man of God’s prophetic words would come true.

Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, despite the altar being split apart and his hand being miraculously shrivelled and healed. He appointed all sorts of people to be priests of the high places. He was destined to be destroyed for his actions (1 Kings 13:34).

Jeroboam’s son became ill and he sent his wife in disguise to ask Ahijah the prophet what would happen to him. Ahijah was blind but he had been told by the Lord to expect her. He told her to tell Jeroboam what a disappointment he had been to God. God had made him a leader over Israel but he had ‘done more evil than all who lived before you’ (1 Kings 14:9). He had provoked God to anger by his outrageous behaviour. God was going to bring disaster on his house. His son would die and he would be the only one of Jeroboam’s house who would be buried because he was the only one who had any good in him (1 Kings 14:13).

God would now strike Israel, uprooting them and scattering them. Jeroboam had led Israel into open and flagrant sin, but they had allowed themselves to be led and joined in. Jeroboam ruled for twenty-two years and was succeeded by his son, Nadab. However, the clock was ticking down to complete disaster not only for Jeroboam’s descendants but for the whole of Israel.

Countries have a simple choice to make. If the majority of people in a country worship the one true God, the country becomes prosperous and influential. If the majority in a country worship other gods, the country declines and the people suffer. As Western democracies turn away from God, they will decline as world powers. We will see a new balance of power as massive numbers of people turn to Christ in countries such as China and India, which will bring their countries up due to God’s favour and provision.       

Acts 16:1-15

Paul met a disciple named Timothy whom he could mentor. Timothy’s mother was a Jewish Christian but his father was Greek. Paul had him circumcised, despite the apostles just having agreed at the Council of Jerusalem that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised. However, your religion traditionally comes from your mother and so Timothy should have been a Jew and circumcised already. He would have more credibility with the Jews in the area they were trying to convert, if he showed himself to be a convert from Judaism. Paul was happy to make both him and Timothy Jews, to win the Jews for Christ (1 Cor.9:20).

As they travelled, they delivered the decisions reached by Council in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit guided their itinerary. He stopped them going into Asia. Paul had a vison of a man from Macedonia asking for help and so he got ready at once to leave for Macedonia. It may have helped Paul’s mission in that he was unmarried. He might not have been so mobile and flexible if he had to take a wife and children everywhere with him. In contrast, we know from the Bible that Peter had a ‘mother-in-law’ and so must have been married at some point. Paul wrote that he had the same right to take a believing wife as Cephas (Peter) (1 Cor.9:5). Clement of Alexandria (Stromata, III) (c. 202), wrote that St. Peter was married, had children and witnessed his wife’s martyrdom in Rome. Taking your family with you on missionary work has many benefits but also has risks. Paul did have ‘family’ travelling with him. Timothy became like a son to him and he was always surrounded by brothers and sisters in Christ.

Luke also travelled with Paul. Luke being the eponymous writer of the Gospel and also the book of Acts. He was a Gentile doctor, who wrote the most words of any one individual in the New Testament. The apostles travelled to Philippi, the leading city of that district of Macedonia. The gospel had arrived in Europe! They went outside the city on the Sabbath to the river, where they expected to find a place of prayer. Even though they had intended to pray, their evangelism never stopped. They spoke to the women who had gathered there and converted Lydia and her household. Lydia was a dealer in expense purple cloth and so would have been wealthy and influential. She persuaded the apostles to stay at her house. When we become believers, we find that we want to be even more hospitable particularly to fellow believers who are in need.

Psalm 78:1-8

Jesus spoke in parables to tell us eternal truths from of old (Psalm 78:2). This was to fulfil this psalm spoken through the prophet (Matt.13:34-35).

It is important to take children to church and Sunday School so that they hear the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord. We continue to be amazed today at his power and the wonders he performs (Ps.78:4).

If Israel had kept God’s deeds and commandments from the time of exodus, they would never have been exiled. However, without their rebellion and disobedience, God might not have sent our Saviour, Jesus, to win salvation for all the world.

We should pray that our own children are loyal, faithful and their hearts trust entirely in God.

Image: By Unknown author – http://arhiva.svetigora.com/node/921, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3752678

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