1 Kings 12:25-22; 13:1-6, 2 Chronicles 11:13-17

Jeroboam and the northern kingdom abandoned the worship of the Lord as revealed in His Word and covenant and instead replaced it with idolatry. All those who wanted to remain true to God left their homes, separated themselves from the northern kingdom and joined the kingdom of Judah. The challenge to remain true to God in the midst of apostasy or moral decline has faced God’s people through history.

Loyalty to God and commitment to the revelation and authority of His Word sometimes require separating from places that compromise God’s truth as revealed in His Word through Jesus. Jesus taught in Matthew 21:43 that the kingdom will be taken from the faithless and given to those who respond to the Gospel. It causes us to ask the question, how are we stewarding the truth we have been given? How are we guarding it? How are we speaking it? How are we living it? It might have been easy for the Israelites to say, “Well, it looks very similar to the truth we already know in Jerusalem, so what is the harm?” Similar does not mean the same. In choosing a worship that was “similar” they were choosing a worship that was nothing at all like what God had commanded. God was not in it at all. It was not based according to His Word. It was not based on truth. It looked similar on the outside, but it was full of lies.

Let us pray for discernment and understanding in times when there are many things that look “similar” to God’s truth, but when it comes down to it, are nothing but falsehoods. This requires constant study of God’s Word and time with Him. We will not be able to discern the counterfeit if we do not know the real thing. To those who have experienced God and the truth of His Word, nothing could take His place.

The Israelites at Bethel saw the temple that looked similar to God’s temple in Jerusalem; they heard the priests say the words of worship that sounded similar to the words of the priests in Jerusalem; they saw the sacrifices being made that were similar to the sacrifices being offered at the temple in Jerusalem, and they worshiped golden calves that were similar to……what? Nothing. There were no golden calves or images being worshiped at the temple in Jerusalem. God had strictly forbidden the people to make and worship idols. There will always be something within the counterfeit that is completely opposed to the truth. This is the deception. What might at first appear like the real thing, upon closer inspection is in fact opposite to it.

Sadly, many people were led astray into idol worship in the northern kingdom because they failed to discern the true God from the false. May we ever be a people whose commitment to the truth will be a light to a world lost in darkness.