False and True Worship





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False and True Worship

Text: 1 Kings 12: 26-33; John 4: 23-24

 Dr. Alex Tang


False worship is when we devise our own rituals and festivals, sacrifice and golden calves. True worship is when we worship in spirit and in truth. Spirit when God is the Person of worship, without need of golden calves. Truth is Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice, doing away the need for rituals and festivals.

The Chinese has a saying that any business will not last 3 generations. The first generation will start the business. The second generation will consolidate the business. And the third generation will break it up. Look at the Lees, the Mui, and C.K.Tang. Seems to apply to the Jews too. David built up the kingdom, Solomon consolidated it and Rehoboam broke it up.


1KI 11:9 The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD's command. 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."



1KI 12:1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you."

    1KI 12:5 Rehoboam answered, "Go away for three days and then come back to me." So the people went away.

    1KI 12:6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. "How would you advise me to answer these people?" he asked.

    1KI 12:7 They replied, "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants."

    1KI 12:8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, "What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, `Lighten the yoke your father put on us'?" 1KI 12:10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, "Tell these people who have said to you, `Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter'--tell them, `My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' "

    1KI 12:12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, "Come back to me in three days." 13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, "My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions." 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

    1KI 12:16 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!"

So the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.



1KI 11:26 Also, Jeroboam son of Nebat rebelled against the king. He was one of Solomon's officials, an Ephraimite from Zeredah, and his mother was a widow named Zeruah.

    1KI 11:27 Here is the account of how he rebelled against the king: Solomon had built the supporting terraces and had filled in the gap in the wall of the city of David his father. 28 Now Jeroboam was a man of standing, and when Solomon saw how well the young man did his work, he put him in charge of the whole labor force of the house of Joseph.

    1KI 11:29 About that time Jeroboam was going out of Jerusalem, and Ahijah the prophet of Shiloh met him on the way, wearing a new cloak. The two of them were alone out in the country, 30 and Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 Then he said to Jeroboam, "Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: `See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hand and give you ten tribes. 32 But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. 33 I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molech the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in my ways, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my statutes and laws as David, Solomon's father, did.

    1KI 11:34 " `But I will not take the whole kingdom out of Solomon's hand; I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of David my servant, whom I chose and who observed my commands and statutes. 35 I will take the kingdom from his son's hands and give you ten tribes. 36 I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name. 37 However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 38 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. 39 I will humble David's descendants because of this, but not forever.' "

Jeroboam rose to prominent during Solomon’s reign as an organizer of forced labor in Ephraim and Manasseh. He is designed future king by Ahijah, a prophet from Shiloh, and had to flee from Solomon and take refugee in Egypt. When he heard that Rehoboam had succeeded Solomon, Jeroboam returns to Israel and takes part in a meeting between Rehoboam and ‘all Israel’ in Shechem, which ends in the revolt of the ten tribes. Jeroboam was made king. At the third generation, the kingdom was split into two parts – Judah and Israel.

1KI 12:20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.

Jeroboam is an insecure king. Remember God has promised him the kingdom. Yet he worried.

1KI 12:26 Jeroboam thought to himself, "The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam."


There are six annual festivals and holy days inaugurated as part of the Mosaic worship system : the Passover (and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread), the Fest of Firstfruits, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev.23)


Three of these festivals required all Israelite males to travel to Jerusalem and worship at the Temple: the Passover/Unleavened Bread, Pentecost and Tabernacles (Exo 23:17)


    1KI 12:28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there.

    1KI 12:31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites.


The priests as specific in the mosaic laws consist of two groups of people. The descendents of Aaron and members of the tribe of Levi. Generally they are known as the Levites and they have no land allocated to them. One from the Aaronic lineage was chosen and ordained high priest for life (Lev 21:10). Those from the tribe of Levi serve in the function of the sanctuary in a subordinate role. The high priest supervised sacrificial worship.


32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.


Jeroboam’s false system counterfeited the pattern established by God in the Old Testament Law. Instead of the people of the northern kingdom (ten tribes) looking towards Jerusalem to worship and to travel there 6 times a year (Jerusalem is located in Judah, the southern kingdom), he wants to set up alternate worship sites. He established worship centers at Dan and Bethel, but rather than erect temples, he put up idols—golden calves on whose backs the invisible God was imagined to ride. Jeroboam turned out the Levitical priests who would not go along with his apostate plans, and ordained volunteers from among the people. And he set up his own priestly class and sacrificial system. Finally Jeroboam copied the great feasts of the Law in which all Hebrews were commanded to participate. He established his own festivals, set for different times than those ordained by God.

The following are elements of Jeroboam’s false system:

A. Two calves of gold served as idols, even though the invisible God was supposed to be riding astride them. Jerusalem was replaced by Dan and Bethel as worship centers. The Canaanite religion has Baal as the symbol of the bull with goddess Asherah riding on the bull.

B. Priests not of the priestly line were appointed to serve at Bethel and Dan, as well as at “high places” (like roadside shrines).

C. A system of festivals that counterfeited those ordained by God was established.

D. Sacrifices were offered at the northern worship centers, which was again a direct violation of God’s Law.

  1. Jeroboam offered the burnt offers at the altar, usurping the role of the high priest

This whole pattern is summed up in 1 Kings 12:33, which contrasts the system Jeroboam devised in his own heart to replace that which had been devised and revealed by God. It starts with an intention to set up or modify or improve the existing belief system.

This false religious system had a dual impact on the Northern Kingdom, Israel. First, the godly slipped over into Judah and settled there, so they could worship the Lord as He had commanded. These immigrants were a significant number. At the time of the division Judah was able to mobilize only 180,000 men (2 Chron. 11:1). But just 18 years later, Judah’s army entered the field with 400,000 fighting men (2 Chron. 13:2).


2CH 11:13 The priests and Levites from all their districts throughout Israel sided with him. 14 The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property, and came to Judah and Jerusalem because Jeroboam and his sons had rejected them as priests of the LORD. 15 And he appointed his own priests for the high places and for the goat and calf idols he had made. 16 Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD, the God of their fathers. 17 They strengthened the kingdom of Judah and supported Rehoboam son of Solomon three years, walking in the ways of David and Solomon during this time.


A second impact was on the character of the Northern Kingdom. The first king made a conscious and overtly rebellious decision to break with God and His Law. Each succeeding king continued in the pattern Jeroboam set!


What is worship?

The vocabulary of worship in the Bible is very extensive, but the essential concept in Scripture is ‘service’. The Greek and Hebrew meaning of worship both originally signified the labor of slaves or hired servants. And in order to offer this ‘worship’ to God his servants must prostrate themselves and thus manifest reverential fear and adoring awe and wonder.

The New Testament worship can be briefly summarized as:

John 4:24 [principle of worship]

24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

How do we worship in spirit and in truth? True worship is worship in spirit and in truth. King Jeroboam thought he could do otherwise. Thought he could set up an alternative system of worship that will be pleasing to the Lord. For that he was condemned. The sins of Jeroboam became the yardstick by which all other kings of Israel were measured. The sins of Jeroboam became his curse.


We can learn the following lessons:

1.                  Ritual and Festival

Sometimes we pay too much emphasis on how the church worship service is

conducted. Being a small church, you often compare yourselves to a big church

and thought that your worship service will be better if …

q       have more musical instruments

q       backup singers or choir

q       good worship leaders

q       better equipment like LCD projector.

q       dynamic singing

All these are not essential to a proper worship service. You can have a good worship service without musical instruments. Worship is meeting a Person. This person is both spirit and truth. Worship is meeting God. God is spirit. Jesus Christ is truth. And you do not really depend on all these things we do in a service to meet him. He is with us all the time. We only need to quieten down ourselves. To reach out to him and he will respond.

            In tabernacle and Temple worship ritual was prominent. Apart from the daily morning and evening sacrifices, the celebration of Passover and the observance of the Day of Atonement would be highlights in the Jewish religious calendar. The ritual acts of shedding of blood, presenting incense, pronouncing the priestly blessing, etc., would tend to emphasize the ceremonial to the detriment of the spiritual aspects of worship, and even tend to introduce a sense of tension or conflict between the two attitudes (Psa. 40:6; 50:7-15; Mi. 6:6-8).


2.                  Sacrifice

Jesus Christ is truth. And this truth is that Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice offered for our sins. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the High Priest (Heb 5,7), the Temple (Heb 9) and the Ultimate Sacrifice for sin (Heb 10). That is the wonderful truth. God seeks us out. God draws us to him. God offers us salvation through his son. God offers it by grace alone. We do not need to work to gain this sacrifice. It is given free. True worship is accepting that Jesus Christ has died for our sins. We are forgiven by God.


3.                  Golden Calves

God is spirit. True worship is when our spirit commune with God. God wants a personal relationship with us. Our relationship with God is like a person to person. Like a father and a son. It is not limited to one and a half hour on Sunday. This relationship goes on 24 hours everyday. Day and night.  Therefore worship is something we do 24 hours a day.

It does not depend on our level of spiritual maturity. A young Christian can worship as well as an older Christian. When we talk to God in our prayer, our reading of the Bible, our fellowship with other Christians and seeing God in our everyday life, we are worshipping God.

Concluding remarks

False worship is when we devise our own rituals and festivals, sacrifice and golden calves. True worship is when we worship in spirit and in truth. Spirit when God is the Person of worship, without need of golden calves. Truth is Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice, doing away the need for rituals and festivals.


                                                                                                                                                      Soli Deo Gloria


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