Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 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. I Kings 12:25-33 ESV
But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Philippians 3:7-11 ESV
Long ago in the very early church there was a bishop named Polycarp. When he was a very old man the church was being persecuted by the Roman Empire. Christians who refused to say that Caesar was lord and burn incense to Caesar as if he were a god were put to death. Polycarp was arrested for his Christianity, but he was such a gentle old man that the Roman proconsul felt sorry for him. He told him that he didn’t want to put such an old man to death. “Just say that Caesar is lord and offer him a pinch of incense and you can go free,” the proconsul said. But Polycarp answered, “Eighty-six years I have served Christ, and he never did me any wrong. How can I blaspheme my King who saved me?” Polycarp was burned alive for Jesus’ sake.
Jeroboam had a choice to make. God had given him a kingdom, and he could choose to be faithful to the God of Israel. But Jeroboam was afraid of losing his kingdom. If the people of Israel kept going to the festivals and worshiping at the Jerusalem temple, they might remember that they had once been part of the southern kingdom and want to reunite with them. Then Jeroboam wouldn’t be king anymore. So Jeroboam made the opposite choice that Polycarp would make many years later. He turned away from the true God who had blessed him so much and led his people to worship golden calves, just as they had done so long ago when they had been traveling through the wilderness to the promised land.
God has given us the greatest blessing there ever could be when he sent Jesus to die on the cross for us and to make us God’s people. We have God’s love and help every day no matter what happens, and all our sins are forgiven. God gives us many blessings, more than we can count, and our life with him will go on forever. How could we ever turn away from God? But sometimes it might seem as if we could get an advantage if we do. We might not have to consider other’s needs or we might not have to be honest, or we could stop people from laughing at us for believing in Jesus. At times like that it might be tempting to push Jesus away from us, but he sends us his Holy Spirit to help us stay strong and true to him.
Dear Jesus, thank you for everything you’ve given me. Please keep me faithful to you. Amen.