Idolatry in Israel
1 Kings 12:26-33
And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:…

I. THE MAN — JEROBOAM. The man inaugurates the policy. The idolater precedes the idolatry. The sin does not force itself into Israel, but is introduced by the king. Jeroboam was the son of Nebat. Dean Stanley says his mother had been a woman of loose character. The son had courage, ability, and industry. He held an important office, under Solomon, and "was known as the man who had inclosed the city of David."

II. THE PEOPLE — ISRAEL. The people followed their king. (There is a tradition that one family held out against calf-worship.) The national conscience was not sensitive, the national faith not vigorous, the sense of loyalty not strong, the spirit of obedience not quick. The people, though knowing better, were easily led into disobedience. They knew the law, and the history of Aaron's golden calves. Their eyes were open, but they lacked the moral fibre and high spirit that will refuse to follow a false leader in his wrong plans. Many of them must have surrendered conscience in following this apostate king. Let us not be too severe in our judgment of them. Hosts of informed people are being led in evil ways by modern Jeroboams. Men like him still frequently decide public policy, even in matters of morals and religion, and the multitudes follow even into the ditch. Conscience goes to the wall. The king, the government, or the party chooses the policy, offering plausible excuse for violating God's law, and the people follow. The result is certain. A nation surrendering conscience loses conscience. A people disobedient to God suffers His wrath. Israel did.

III. THE SIN — IDOLATRY. This evil surrounded the Jews. They knew the nature and results. God was training them for pure worship. The spiritual God was trying to get a spiritual people. He had always to resist a tendency to idolatry. His word is full of warnings against it and woes upon it. He knew its nature and deadly result. Evermore He tries to prevent it, not in petty jealousy, but for the love of His children. Worship is love. God does not so jealously guard mere forms and ceremonies. He does guard the love of His people. Worshipping Him is loving Him. And that is the deepest relation between God and man. His supreme expression toward man is the utterance of His love. Man's supreme response is love. Love brooks no divided heart. Love needs no images. "God is a spirit." Love is spiritual. Worship, in its essence, is love. He "seeketh such to worship Him as worship Him in spirit and in truth." "For two hundred and fifty-seven years this terrible indictment, 'he made Israel to sin,' follows Jeroboam and his kingdom through all the pages of this sacred record, until the kingdom was utterly destroyed and the Ten Tribes blotted from the map of human history, even as Moses and the prophets had predicted." Why does this result follow idolatry? Because right relation to God is the root of character. If that relation be wrong life itself is wrong. This is fundamental. Error or fault here is fatal. There are not two centres to this circle. Men cannot keep the first commandment and break the second. In idolatry men satisfy their religious feeling by a false worship which pretends to be true. The essence of it is disobedience; self-choice instead of self-surrender. It denies God by choosing other ways than His. It looks religious; it is the essence of sin. It begins with materialism and ends in polytheism or atheism. A close student has said: "Idolatry does not begin as idolatry. There is evolution down as well as up. The argument for image-worship is specious, and it is always in essential spirit the same. Every tendency toward materialisation is a backward tendency in religion. The golden calves which Jeroboam sets up as a representation of God lead naturally and speedily to the horrible pagan rites which come in with Ahab and Jezebel." "Idolatry in the ancient Church," says the Britannica, "was naturally reckoned among those magna crimina or great crimes against the first and second commandments which involved the highest ecclesiastical censures." The danger of idolatry has not ceased. St. John's message is still to men: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." The golden calf still exists in "covetousnesst the which is idolatry." It exists to destroy.

(W. F. McDowell.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

WEB: Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.

Idolatry Established
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