There’s a short story in the Bible, in first Kings chapter twelve that’s being play out nearly verbatim before our very eyes today! The story is of a king by the name of Jereboam. Due to the sin of King Solomon Israel was split in two. Jereboam was king of the north, which was all of Israel except for the tribe of Judah, which was considered the south.
It’s significant to note that the presence of God remained solely within Jerusalem’s temple, which was located in Judah, outside of Jereboam’s realm!
Jereboam feared that while the people journeyed down to Jerusalem for the annual feasts, they might experience the presence of God and reject him for Reheboam, who was king of the south.
This fear led Jereboam to set up a false religion, that was very similar to the true religion of Israel, but was in fact counterfeit! So he built a house of worship to replace the true temple of God. He also made two golden calves to replace God as the object of their worship. He ordained unauthorized priests who didn’t qualify to minister in order to replace the priests ordained by God.
He also offered sacrifices upon the alter to replace the sacrifices that God ordained to be offered at the true Temple. Finally, he ordained feasts like those ordained by God in Jerusalem so the people wouldn’t have to travel to Jerusalem. All of this fake religion sufficed the people and kept them from the presence of God. MOST of the people of Israel embraced it! It was only a small remnant in Judah who did not.
This may seem extreme, but the devil is doing the very same thing today! He’s doing it by raising up preachers who don’t have the Spirit of God. He’s doing it by raising up churches that do not have the Spirit of God in them. He’s doing it by replacing sound Biblical teaching and preaching with worldly self-help and motivation. He’s doing it by replacing the necessity of the rebirth with the idea that everyone who has some sort of religion has Christ.
The result of all of this, is that people never see the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ, because they never truly see their own wretchedness and the truly damnable state that they are in as a result of their sin. And so, they never truly experience the presence of God.
Some focus on intellect. Others focus on stirring up good feelings. Some focus on moral obedience. Others on works of the flesh. And all of these things are great! But unless the presence of God accompanies them, they are all vain, and empty.
But those Israelites had an option! Those who were not satisfied with fake religion and who craved the presence of God and WOULD obtain the presence of God by any means necessary, they made the trek to Jerusalem, and all of those who came, experienced the God of the Universe in a very real way!
If you believe you may be one of those stuck in one of the various flavors of dead religion, I want to invite you today to get to a quiet place, to get on your knees, and to make that trek to Jerusalem, just as they did, but by prayer and to experience the presence of God, just as they did. Come to Christ right now in prayer, by confessing every sin that you know you’re guilty of before our Holy God, and then resting in Christ and the finished work that He accomplished for you when he paid the ultimate price for you on that cross at calvary.
As He hung in agony on that cross because of your sin and my sin and the sin of the world, he cried out, “IT IS FINISHED!” He paid it all so you could come to Him and receive new life that is not based on you and your righteousness, but on Him and His righteousness! He now says to you, “come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”