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Inventing New Styles of Worship PDF  | Print |  E-mail
INVENTING NEW STYLES OF WORSHIP
By
Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Ph.D
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference
Author, Must We Be Silent? and Receiving the Word


    Much discussion is taking place over what forms of worship are appropriate. Some alternative styles being tested are a combination of incompatible elements from other faiths. As long ago as December 17, 1990, a feature article in Newsweek magazine spoke of the 1990's as “an age of mix'em, match'em salad-bar spirituality--Quakerpalians, charismatic Catholics, New Age Jews--where brand loyalty is a doctrine of the past and the customer is king.” [1]

    In contrast to the present trend toward cafeteria-style worship, the Bible recognizes only two kinds of worship, true worship and false worship. An attempt to marry true and false worship is known technically as syncretism, and biblically as "Babylon."

    Because God's faithful followers have always resisted drifting towards syncretism, throughout history there have been clashes between true and false worship. The Bible teaches that in the end-time--our time--there would be a final conflict over worship. [2]

    Satan’s rebellion against God centered on worship–the desire to be like the Most High (Isa 14:12-14). The first death in human history, the death of Abel at the hands of his brother Cain, was the result of a clash between true and false worship (Gen 4). The contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal had to do with worship (1 Kings 18). Daniel and the three Hebrew men in Babylon were tested on the issue of worship (Dan 3 and 6). In the days of Esther and Mordecai, the issue was worship (Esther 3-8). One of the temptations of Christ in the wilderness was over worship. Is it any wonder that the last conflict in human history is also over worship (Rev 13; 14)?

    This chapter focuses on worship styles, drawing some valuable lessons from Jeroboam’s innovative approach. We begin by explaining why this issue is so important.

An End-Time Crisis over Worship


    Some of the most fearful prophecies ever addressed to mortals are found in the book of Revelation. There, we are told that at the end of time there would be two rival powers, each demanding our highest allegiance in worship.

    On one side of the conflict is a power masterminded by Satan (Rev 12:9). Concerning this power, we are told: "And there was given to him [beast with lamb-like horns] to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed. And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand, or on their foreword. And he provides that no one should be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name" (Rev 13:15-17; NASB).
    On the other hand, the Lord warns inhabitants of the earth through the third angel of Revelation 14: "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon his hand, he also will drink of he wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; and they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name" (Rev 14:9-11; NASB).

    Here is found "the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on the earth" (Rev 3:10). This crisis over worship will manifest itself as a great conflict of loyalties.

    The Nature of the Crisis. Without getting distracted by the identity of the "beast," "the image of beast," "mark of the beast," and the cryptic number 666, it is worth exploring the nature of the worship crisis.

    1. A Global Conflict. The rival powers in the end-time crisis will expect every inhabitant of the world to follow their respective commands. The adversary of God and His people will demand the worship of the "beast" and its "image." On the other hand, God will warn against such a worship, commanding instead the worship of Him who "made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and he fountains of waters" (Rev 14:7)--a strong allusion to the claims in the fourth Commandment (Exo 20:8-11). Inasmuch as everyone will worship one power or the other, we can conclude that in the last days, everyone will be religious. But while everyone will profess a belief in God, not everyone will believe God--His Word, His claims, His promises, and His power.

    2. Worship: The Ultimate Test. It is significant that the crisis in the last days will end where it all began--over the issue of worship. Worship is a fitting issue upon which one's faith is put to test. Worship reveals who or what is number one in a person's life. It discloses where a person’s ultimate allegiance lies, and to whom one will offer the highest devotion and service. It probes into what a person will live and die for. Moreover, in worship the worshippers conform to the likeness of the objects they worship (Rom 1:24-25; 2 Cor 3:18). When all is said and done, our stand on contemporary worship styles may determine where we shall stand in the end-time conflict over worship.

    3. God's Law: The Key Focus. Human institutions and governments may legitimately legislate and enforce the last six of the Ten Commandments--those touching upon the relationship among individuals (honor to parents, prohibition against killing, adultery, stealing, lying, covetousness). However, the crisis over worship pertains to our moral duty to God. Since the end-time crisis is over worship, it stands to reason that the issue will center on the first four commandments of the Decalogue--who to worship, why to worship, how to worship, and when to worship. It appears that the end-time ethical crisis over worship will raise major questions about religious liberty.

    4. No Neutrality. Each person in the world, regardless of race, gender, or status, will have to choose who to obey in this crisis over worship. In other words, everyone will have a choice and will be called upon to use their freedom of choice to declare where they stand. No one can legitimately excuse his wrong moral decisions and actions by blaming them on his environment, circumstances, or even genes. At that time "theological neutrality" will be finally exposed to be a myth embraced by those unwilling to take a stand for biblical truth.

    5. Costly Decision. There are dire consequences for either of the choices one makes. There is a price to pay--economic or survival concerns, as well as life or death. Since the kings and powers of the earth will all be involved, we should expect to see attempts in legislative halls and courts of justice to legislate and enforce human laws in defiance of God’s law. The fusion of religious and secular powers suggest that those who conscientiously disobey will be pronounced obstinate, stubborn, contemptuous or enemies of society or state, and may thus be subject to fines, imprisonment, and capital punishment. It will become evident, then, that questions over worship styles go far beyond one's personal, cultural, or generational preferences for a particular kind of worship style.

    6. Beliefs and Lifestyle.
After the warning us against the beast and his image, the prophecy declares, "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev 14:12; cf. 12:17; 19:10). Since those who "keep God’s commandments" are placed in contrast with those who worship the beast, his image, and receive his mark, it follows that the loving obedience of God’s law, on the one hand, and its violation on the other, will make the distinction between the true worshipers of God and the worshippers of the beast.

    Also, the reference to the "testimony of Jesus" suggests a faithfulness in maintaining the authoritative standard of the Christian faith. Ultimately then, the final crisis in the end-time will demand that God's people uphold sound doctrine and practice. [3]

    6. Assurance of Victory. The reference to God's people as "saints" suggests that through a living faith in Christ, they will be able live ethically holy lives amidst the most trying circumstances. They will ultimately triumph in the great conflict over worship (Rev 20:4; cf. 12:11), proving to the entire world that, indeed, ethical holiness is possible even in this sinful world. [4]

    Yes, true worshipers will prevail in the last great conflict over worship. Having faithfully persevered in the "great tribulation," these victors will forever be with their Lord: "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes" (Rev 7:13-17; cf. 21:3-7).

    While the prospect of a triumph of God and His people is a strong motivation for the saints to be "faithful unto death" (Rev 2:10), false worship has its own enticement. Otherwise, why would an overwhelming majority of people in the end-time prefer spurious worship over the genuine (cf. Rev 13:8, 12, 15)?

    To better understand the attractiveness of some of today's contemporary worship styles, I have chosen to provide an "update" on "The People's Community Church." Some readers may already be familiar with worship in this "church" since the Bible itself discusses it in 1 Kings 12. It is an account of the innovative worship style instituted by the charismatic King Jeroboam (931-910 BC), the son of Nebat.

"Jeroboam’s Innovative People's Church"


    As soon as Jeroboam, son of Nebat, heard that king Solomon was dead, he returned from his forced exile in Egypt and took up his residence in his native town of Zeredah, in the hill country of Ephraim.

    Meanwhile, Israel's political crisis had taken a turn for the worse. The people were already upset by Solomon's oppressive taxes. With the death of Solomon, they were expecting the new king to be a little more caring. But Rehoboam, son of Solomon, apparently did not understand their felt needs. He indicated that he was unwilling to lighten the tax burdens. "My father made your yoke heavy," Rehoboam told the people. "I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpion" (1 Kings 12:14; NIV).

    Rehoboam’s insensitive answer was the straw that broke the camel's back. Most of the people revolted: "When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse's son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!" (vs. 16).

    Unwilling to recognize this rebellion, Rehoboam sent aged Adoram, the finance minister who had been over the tax system, to quell the disaffection. However, this attempt failed. Adoram was stoned to death by the people. Fearing for his life, Rehoboam flees to Jerusalem, where he became king only of Judah.

    It is at this time that Jeroboam comes into the picture again. "When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned [from Egypt], they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remailed loyal to the house of David" (vs. 20).

    Jeroboam seemed to be the perfect choice as leader of the northern kingdom. He was experienced, having served and excelled in Solomon's administration as minister of labor. Besides, God Himself had divinely set him apart to be king over Israel (1 Kings 11:26-40). And now, by the people's popular choice, he was unanimously elected as leader.

    What else could this charismatic leader have asked for? God Himself, through the prophet Ahijah, had at an earlier time guaranteed his success: "If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you" (1 Kings 11:38).

    Regrettably, instead of recognizing his rise to power as a divine call to faithfulness, Jeroboam chose to secure his position and success by inventing new styles of worship which, though popular with the people, were founded on principles contrary to God's Word.

    Not only was Jeroboam the people's popular choice, his name can be interpreted to mean "the people contend" or "one who pleads the people's cause." He was true a charismatic leader, one who got along well with "the people," who had "the people's" interest at heart, and one who, lamentably, invented style of worship to please "the people" instead of God. His church would be, in the truest sense, the best example of what I term a "People's Community Church."

    Popular as it was, Jeroboam’s people’s church departed from God’s ideal in at least seven respects: (1) its motivation for worship, (2) its blueprint for worship, (3) its object of worship, (4) its demands on its worshipers, (5) the center of its worship, (6) its ministers of worship, and (6) its time for worship. We shall look at each one briefly.

    1. The Motivation for Worship. True worship, we all know, is based on love and is always actuated by a true conception of God. [5] Jeroboam's false worship, however, was motivated by fear. He feared that the appeal of worship in Jerusalem would draw people away from him to Rehoboam, his political rival (1 Kings 12:26-27), resulting possibly in his own overthrow and assassination. He feared for his political career, if not his for life. And fear is an expression of lack of faith in God.

    How often have leaders, driven by a fear of losing members or the votes of their constituencies, compromised the faith by adopting unbiblical practices, even as Jeroboam did. We are told that "every failure on the part of God's children was due to a lack of faith" (Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 657).

    Think of the times you failed God--lying, cheating, stealing, engaging in immoral relationships, etc. Was it not the result of fear, that is, a lack of faith in God? And in the end-time, is it not the fear of not being able to "buy or sell" or the fear of death that would lead many to opt for the worship "the beast and his image"?

    2. Blueprint for Worship. "The king took counsel,” we read, “and made two calves of gold" (1 Kings 12:28). Quite obviously, the king did not seek counsel from the Lord. Instead, he consulted his team of “experts” for strategies to revitalize worship.

    If Jeroboam had lived in our day, his church growth specialists would have encouraged him to learn from the successful strategies of the mega-churches of today’s Canaan and Egypt. His experts would have encouraged him to adopt age-specific, gender-inclusive, and culturally-sensitive innovative schemes to attract the "bored, burned, and by-passed." Certainly, the sociologists and public relations experts would have urged him to take surveys and opinion polls to find out what unconverted church members really want.

    Perhaps Jeroboam did not consult Moses or the Spirit of Prophecy (available to him in the person of prophet Ahijah; 1 Kings 11:29ff.) was that he felt that these sources of information belonged to the "Victorian" era of king David, and therefore, not relevant to his current challenging situation. At all events, as we noted a moment ago, after consulting his advisors, Jeroboam made two golden calves, and said to the people, "Behold your gods" (1 Kings 12:28).


    3. Changing the Object of Worship. Jeroboam's interest in, and favorable disposition toward, calf-worship may have been developed during his exile in Egypt. Though he did not study at an Egyptian Theological Seminary, he no doubt would have come in contact with the Egyptians' worship of Amon-Re, the sun-god, and its impressive worship ceremonies that included the representation of an invisible deity by a visible bull.

    The challenge for the Jeroboam was how to introduce into Israel an identical style of worship. If only he could successfully combine Jehovah worship with "positive" elements from Egyptian sun-worship . . . Only if he could find justification for a visible representation of the invisible God . . . Where could he learn the carefully nuanced theology that he so desperately needed?

    Where? In the example of Aaron at Mount Sinai, of course (Exo 32). Aaron's worship style was characterized by the ancient version of today's powerful synthesizers, bass guitars, electric drums, contemporary Christian rock and rap, and holy dances (cf. Exo 32:6). [6]

    Of course, in order for such a creative worship style to be warmly embraced by mainstream believers in Israel, Jeroboam would have to construct a carefully nuanced theology of worship. As before, Jeroboam discovered some "new light" from Aaron as in 1 Kings 12:28 he used the identical language of Aaron: "Behold thy gods, O Israel . . ."

    Let's follow this ingenious theological exercise to make worship "relevant." Inasmuch as the word "gods" (Elohim) is singular in meaning, the phrase could have been translated, "Here are your God." The plural verb ("are") with a singular object ("God") may have been designed to express his new theology. Jeroboam may have reasoned: "Though you see two golden-calves, I am not introducing idolatry or polytheism in Israel. What you see is simply an artistic expression, a creative symbol, of our historic belief in the one true God of Israel--even as we had the cherubim and seraphim on the cover of the ark. It is the same truth we are trying to express for our visually-sensitive MTV generation."

    But despite Jeroboam's rationalization, God still condemned the worship of images. Through His Word, God had warned: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . Thou shall not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them . . ." (Exo 20:4-5).

    The second commandment is not primarily against the worship of false gods (this is the concern of the first commandment) as it is against the worship of the true God in a false way. This commandment, rightly understood, forbids all kinds of man-made images--whether metal, mortal, or mental.

    It does not only condemn Jeroboam's metal image, it also denounces the worship of likeness of things in heaven (sun, moon, stars), and in earth (mortal human beings, animals, birds, insects, stones, rivers, metals), and in the sea (fishes, mammals crustaceans).

    I need to direct an essential parenthetical comment to those of us living in the Western world, who are often tempted to believe that the second commandment is directed solely against animistic practices in some far-away jungles. We need to think again.

    One leading Evangelical scholar has wisely observed that “just as it [second commandment] forbids us to manufacture molten images of God, so it forbids us to dream up mental images of Him. Imagining God in our heads can be just as real a breach of the second commandment as imagining Him by the work of our hands." [7]

    Too often, expressions like, "My view of God is . . ."; "I like to think of God as . . . "; I have experienced God to be . . . "; "My reality of God is . . .," etc. are but gross distortions, if not subtle denials, of what the Bible itself teaches of God.

    Our author continues: "It needs to be said with the greatest possible emphasis that those who hold themselves free to think of God as they think are breaking the second commandment. At best, they can only think of God in the image of man--as an ideal man, perhaps, or a super-man. But God is not any sort of man. We were made in His image, but we must not think of Him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of Him, not to know Him. All speculative theology, which rests on philosophical reasoning rather than biblical revelation is at fault here. . . . To follow the imagination of one's heart in the realm of theology is the way to remain ignorant of God and to become an idol-worshipper--the idol in this case being a false mental image of God, ‘made unto thee' by speculation and imagination." [8]

    If this scholar’s observations are correct, those of us who feel at liberty to fashion the biblical faith according to the metal or mental images of our day are but repeating the mistake of Jeroboam, and our theological innovations are bound to produce a cheap religion, as did Jeroboam’s.

    4. Changing the Demands on its Worshipers. When Jeroboam told Israel, "it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem" (1 Kings 12:28), he was offering them a discount religion, a religion of convenience rather than obedience.

    By taking away the seventh-day Sabbath, Sunday-keepers today may generally be said to be offering a 10% discount on the Ten Commandments. And what about those within our own ranks who offer Christian lifestyles at sale prices, encouraging a moderate use of alcohol, a tasteful use of ornamental jewelry, the occasional eating of unclean meats, and endorsing homosexual lifestyle for people who claim to be born gay, and legislating divorce and remarriage for incompatible unions and for reasons of abandonment?

    The seriousness of discount religion lies in the assumption that in order to be a truly "caring church," a church must accept people "just as they are" without any sort of do's and don'ts. The Newsweek article we read from earlier noted that "unlike earlier religious revivals, the aim this time (aside from born-again traditionalists of all faiths) is support not salvation, help rather than holiness, a circle of spiritual equals rather than an authoritative church or guide. A group affirmation of self is at the top of the agenda, which is why some of the least demanding churches are now in greatest demand." [9]

    In this kind of worship, the Newsweek article continues, "each individual is the ultimate source of authority." Or as it quotes from an advertising campaign capturing the ethos of a consumer-driven church: "Instead of me fitting a religion I found a religion to fit me." The article explains that in this kind of worship members "inspect congregations as if they were restaurants and leave if they find nothing to their taste." Participation does not derive from a sense of commitment but if it meets their felt-needs. "They don't convert--they choose." [10]

    Even more insightful is this observation from the magazine: "Theologically, the prospects are even blander. In their efforts to accommodate, many clergy have simply airbrushed sin out of their language. Like politicians, they can only recognize mistakes which congregants are urged to ‘put behind them.' Having substituted therapy for spiritual discernment, they appeal to a nurturing God who helps His (or Her) people cope. Heaven, by this creed, is never having to say no to yourself, and God is never having to say you're sorry." [11]

    Such is the nature of a cheap, Jeroboam-like worship style that murmurs sweetly, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem" (1 Kings 12:28).

    5. Changing the Center of Worship. Jeroboam was well in advance of today's "bold" innovators of worship in yet another way. The designated center of worship was in Jerusalem, where Solomon's temple stood. But Jeroboam changed it to two locations when "he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan" (1 Kings 12:29).

    These sites were chosen strategically. Bethel, on the southern border, was historically the site where the patriarchs worshiped (Gen 28:10-12; 31:13; 35:1-7; Hos 12:4). On the other hand, Dan, in the north, was a place of worship associated with a renegade Levite who lived in the days of the judges (Judges 18). Bethel would appeal to unconverted "traditionalists" who could feel that they were holding the "old time religion." Dan would attract the "progressives," unconverted professionals mature enough to "adventure in truth" by "refining and renewing" old beliefs and practices.

    In this way, Jeroboam, our charismatic leader offered a choice for those who wanted "traditional" worship and those who enjoyed "contemporary," alternative worship. If the two worships could have been conducted on the same location, perhaps he would have had two different types of services for each of the two groups—perhaps the traditional worship would be the first service and the contemporary one would come afterwards. Of course, the architecture of the building would have had to incorporate elements of the old as well as the new (resembling a suburban shopping mall and or movie theater).

    Jeroboam had a very practical reason for choosing his two locations: "Why should the people go all the way to Jerusalem to worship? We need a community church, a church we can truly claim as our own--free from the control of authoritarian hierarchy of Jerusalem." Moreover, since Bethel was just 10 miles north of Jerusalem on the highway, the site would tempt Israelites to stop there instead of traveling the rest of the way to Jerusalem. And Dan, being the northernmost city in Israel, would be a more accessible place for people who would otherwise have to walk all the way to Jerusalem.

    Apparently, convenience in worship was more important to Jeroboam than obedience in worship. This is why his "People's Community Church" would be very alluring to Israel.

    Notice, however, that although this compromise worship from a shrewd political leader may have been popular with "the people," the Bible describes it as the "sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, wherewith he made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 12:30; 16:26). Whenever political expediency takes priority over faithful obedience to the Lord, the result, as we shall soon discover, is fatal to the innovators of the new styles of worship and also to all of God's people.

    6. Changing the Ministers of Worship. Another of Jeroboam’s innovations was his redefinition of the practice of ministry, making it more nearly "inclusive." We read that "he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi" (1 Kings 12:31

    We are not surprised that Jeroboam faced some strong opposition from many of the dedicated conservative priests (2 Chron 11:13-17). But how did he respond? He systematically silenced the voice of the conservatives and, at the same time, trained and ordained a new generation of priests. "Why,” he apparently asked, “should ordination continue to be reserved for only males from the tribe of Levi?"

    Perhaps, he reasoned, as some do today in another context, that the "priesthood of all believers" means that everyone can be a minister. "Certainly, anyone with an appropriate training or the gift of the Spirit should be ordained as elder/minister," Jeroboam rationalized. The old tradition that priests could only be males from the tribe of Levi was "culturally conditioned," going back to the time of Moses, the rigid and irritable administrator who dared to withstand the bold, innovative Aaron. And had not Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, notable men in Israel’s history who had boldly challenged Moses, argued that “all the congregation are holy” (Num 15:3)?

    Jeroboam embraced the egalitarian ideology of his day which taught “full equality.” As far as he was concerned, in his new golden-calf religion, "there is neither Israelite nor Canaanite, slave nor free, male nor female." In his opinion, such an "inclusive ministry" would empower people for mission, restore Israel's credibility among the Canaanite churches, and appeal to the sense of fairness of all "justice-inspired" believers. To do otherwise was to be held hostage by the “fundamentalist fringe” of Israel.

    7. Changing the Time of Worship. One more change that Jeroboam introduced had to do with the time of worship. He dared to change the date of the great annual fall festival from the seventh-month, where God had placed it, to the eighth month (see 1 Kings 12:32). "It does not matter which day a person worships--the important thing is Christ," contemporary Jeroboams would say. "Why be fussy over a specific day?"

    For Jeroboam, failure to recognize the real principle behind God's call for specific times of worship can easily lead to triumphalism, bigotry, and intolerance towards God's many "remnant" peoples. In the context of discussions about the seventh-day Sabbath, modern Jeroboams would argue that holding on to God's appointed day of worship leads to "ethnocentrism," "xenophobia," and "paranoia." These inflexible attitudes would undermine the spirit of ecumenism and also ultimately hinder the church's witness to a twenty-first century world.

    Conclusion. It is interesting to observe how the author of the book of Kings evaluates this new style of worship. "So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart . . ." (1 Kings 12:32-33).

    Jeroboam's was a man-made religion. By inventing an alternative worship style in order to advance his own career, Jeroboam prostituted God’s true worship. His independent"people's community church" altered the shape of true worship, by changing the (1) the motivation for worship, (2) the blueprint for worship, (3) the object of worship, (4) the demands on worshipers, (5) the center of worship, (6) the ministers of worship, and (7) the time of worship. For this cause, both his family and the entire nation of Israel were eventually punished.

    What did Jeroboam gain? What did his people gain in the long run? Answered God through the prophet Ahijah:

"’Go, say to Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over My people Israel, and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you--yet you have not been like My servant David, who kept My commandments and who followed Me with all his heart, to do only that which was right in My sight; you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger and have cast Me behind your back--therefore, behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. . . . For the Lord will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and He will uproot Israel from this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the Euphrates Rive, because they have made their Asherim, provoking the Lord to anger" (1 Kings 14:7-10, 15).


    There are other lessons for us: "When today's politicians join the church to get votes, when high achievers unite with a prestigious congregation for ‘social reason,' when opportunists identify with a certain religious group because it is popular, are their actions any better than Jeroboam's? Not really. Not really. A religion of convenience, devised in one's own heart, is an abomination to God and is condemned by history as was the substitute faith of Jeroboam. He was branded forever as, ‘Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin' (2 Kings 23:15)." [12]

    Before embracing the gospel gimmicks and other innovations in use among the mega-churches of our modern Canaan, would we not do well to remind ourselves of the following counsel, as we reflect on the fact that the end-time worship crisis looms dead ahead?

    "If God has any new light to communicate, He will let His chosen and beloved understand it, without their going to have their minds enlightened by hearing those who are in darkness and error. . . . God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go. . . and the light around us become contaminated with the darkness" (Early Writings, pp. 124-125).

Endnotes


[1]    Newsweek (December 17, 1990):50.

[2]    For detailed discussion of this age-long conflict between true and false worship, see Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy.

[3]    The reference to the "commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus" (cf. Rev 20:4) suggests that God's end-time people will be "characterized by the restoration of the historic commandments of God and by the historic testimony of Jesus, that is, of the everlasting gospel." See Hans La Rondelle, How to Understand the End-Time Prophecies of the Bible (Sarasota, FL: First Impressions, 1997), 290. Notice that besides the apostle Paul who uses the phrase "testimony of Christ," "testimony of God," and "testimony of our Lord" (1 Cor 1:6; 2:1; 2 Tim 1:8), John the Revelator also uses the phrase in at least two major ways. In it's broader usage, the term "testimony of Jesus" (or "testimony of God") refers to the book of Revelation itself, as an objective and authoritative body of truth from Jesus Christ, given through the gift of prophecy, to His church (Rev 1:2; 19:10; 22:16). In its narrow usage, it emphasizes the body of truth that distinguishes true worshippers of God from the apostate. Thus, John was on the island of Patmos "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Rev 1:2, 9). Countless martyrs sacrificed their lives in the course of Christian history "for the word of God, and for the testimony they held" (Rev 6:9). During the end-time conflict with the antichrist, the remnant church will "keep the commandment of God, and have the testimony of Jesus" (Rev 12:17). Those who reigned with Christ during the millennium, had earlier refused to worship the beast and its image and had been killed "because of the testimony of Jesus and the word of God" (Rev 20:4; NASB). We may conclude from these passages that God's people, from the beginning till the end of the church age are characterized by the same authoritative standard of Christian faith. When, therefore, God's end-time people are described as keeping "the commandments of God" and having the "faith of Jesus," the latter expression should be understood in the manner described by William G. Johnsson: "They keep the faith of Jesus. The expression does not mean that the people of God have faith in Jesus (although they do), because the faith of Jesus is something they keep. 'The faith' probably refers to the Christian tradition, the body of teaching that center in Jesus. Jude 3 may provide a parallel: 'the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.' When God's loyal followers keep the faith of Jesus they remain true to basic Christianity--they 'keep the faith'" (W. G. Johnsson, "'The Saints' End-Time Victory Over the Forces of Evil," in Symposium on Revelation, Book II, ed. Frank B. Holbrook [Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1992], 38, 39; cf. Gerhard Pfandl, "The Remnant Church and the Spirit of Prophecy" in Symposium on Revelation, Book II, chapter 10). For a helpful summary discussion, see Hans LaRondelle, How to Understand the End-Time Prophecies of the Bible, 130-131, 281-290.

[4]     See my "Shining Like Stars: Ethical Holiness in Dark Times," Adventists Affirm 11/3 (Fall 1997):13-19.

[5]    God is worthy of worship because of His: (a) Eternal Existence; He is worthy because He is the God "who was and who is and who is to come" (Rev 4:8); (b) Creatorship; He is worthy because He did "create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created" (Rev 4:11; 14:7); (c) Redemptive work; He is worthy because He is the Lamb who was slain, and whose blood purchased "men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Rev 5:9); (d) Sovereignty as Lord and Judge; He is worthy of worship because He alone determines the destiny of human kind and renders just and true judgment (Rev 11:16-18; 15:3-4); 5. Glorious triumph; He is worthy of worship because "His judgments are true and righteous" and because "He has avenged the blood" of His people by being victorious over His enemies.

[6]    It is, perhaps, more than a coincidence that Jeroboam's eldest sons bore identical names as Aaron's. The sons of Aaron were Nadab and Abihu (Exo 6:23; Num 3:2; 26:60); Jeroboam's were Nadab and Abijah (1 Kings 14:1, 20; 15:25). There are other parallels: (a) They were both responding to public opinion (Exo 32:1-6; 1 Kings 12:28); (b) They both made identical responses (Exo 32:4; 1 Kings 12:28); (c) Altars and feasts were part of the calf-worship (Exo 32:5: 1 Kings 12:32, 33; 2 Kings 23:15); (d) A non-Levitical priesthood was established (Exo 32:26-29; 1 Kings 12:31; 13:33); (e) The resulting sin adversely affected the entire nation (Ex 32:21, 30-34; Deut 9:18-21; 1 Kings 12:30; 13:34; 14:16; 15:26, 30, 34; 2 Kings 3:3; 10:29-31); (f) The golden calves were destroyed in a similar fashion (Exo 32:20; Deut 9:21; 2 Kings 23:15); (g) The punishment upon the people were also similar (Exo 32:35; 2 Chron 13:20). For more on the parallels between Aaron and Jeroboam, see article on "Jeroboam" in Walter Elwell, ed., Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1988): 2:1121.

[7]    James I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 42.

[8]     Packer, Knowing God, 42.

[9]    Newsweek (December 17, 1990):56.

[10]     Ibid., p. 56, 52.

[11]    Ibid., 56.

[12]    Communicators Bible Commentary, page, 164.