We’ve all heard of those scientific trials where one patient gets an experimental medication and the other gets the imitation in the form of a sugar pill, AKA, placebo. Of course, what the doctors are looking for is what effects, if any, (good or bad!) take place in the ones with the “real thing”. The guinea pigs patients are not aware of who is getting what. Naturally, some of the side effects of the authentic medicine can put the recipients through some uncomfortable experiences, but it can be worth it in the long run if you are out of all other options!
That’s what comes to mind as I contemplate this part of Israel’s history on the long road to redemption. Solomon has died, his son Rehoboam is crowned king, but because he’s not quite up to par with his dad (putting it mildly), a large portion of the nation has seceded from Jerusalem and put his rival, Jeroboam, in charge. A few chapters back, God had told Jeroboam this was going to happen, and that if he stayed true to God, he would be abundantly prospered.
Talking to his followers, Jeroboam chose a different track…
“‘It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!’… And Jeroboam instituted a religious festival in Bethel,… in imitation of the annual Festival of Shelters in Judah.”
Never mind doing what God wanted; it was just too inconvenient. Going ALL THAT WAY to Jerusalem? Let’s just pitch a tent here. And you’re not into the whole courtyard, Holy Place, Holy of Holies thing? No problem, here are a couple of golden calves you can worship (because that played out so well the first time…)
And that was on the front end of a fairly quick downward slide to Babylon.
Perhaps Jeroboam didn’t read his history book, because he would have found that such actions were not too successful the first time. Maybe he would have remembered the message God told him at the outset of this adventure, and maybe not.
Unfortunately, that whole “history repeating itself” is fairly well lost on our culture today as well. God has a set plan for our redemption, a way to come to Him as the “restorer of the breach” in our lives. In no debatable terms, the way has a name, Jesus Christ, and anything else is an imitation, a placebo that may taste sweet in the mouth, but has absolutely no medicinal value.
And, no, being a disciple of this “way” is many times not convenient. Oswald Chambers mentions that, when we come into God’s family, we are quickly “maimed” by some of the immediate changes that must take place. In other words, there are side effects to the real thing. The difference is that this is not an experiment…
…because God always knows what He’s doing.
1 Kings 12:28,32 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.