Are you guilty of making use of God?
Do you regard God as someone whom you can use to serve for your own ends?
Do you go to Him for help in trouble, but turn away from Him when He comes with His commands?
Do you call yourself a Christian, but yet live pretty much your own way? Only when you are desperate do you seek God’s help?
Do you try to make use of God?
Or do you confess this sin, by His grace? And do you say, “In Him I live, I walk, I obey, I love. I place nothing before His holy will in my life”?
In the Scriptures we are told about a man called Jeroboam, a man who tried to make use of God. We read of him in I Kings 14. One cannot understand the history of the kings of Israel without grasping what we are told about this man Jeroboam, because constant reference is made to him in the books of I and II Kings. All of the kings of Israel are each summed up in these oft-repeated words, “He walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin.”
What was the sin of Jeroboam? God had told Jeroboam that He would give him ten tribes from the house of David due to Solomon’s sin of marrying many wives. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, in folly had answered the people of Israel roughly when they asked him to lessen their tax and work. And at that time Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, led ten tribes to break away from the house of David.
But he was confronted with a difficulty. His people would still be anxious to go up to Jerusalem and to Solomon’s temple to worship. This, in time, would mean that he would lose his grip on the people and on his kingdom. He reasoned this way, in I Kings 12:27: “Then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam.”
To prevent this, Jeroboam erected two golden calves, one in Bethel and the other in Dan. And he told the people, I Kings 12:28, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” Further, he ordained priests, not of the Levites, but men of a baser sort. And he appointed feast days in the month that he had devised in his own heart.
Jeroboam’s sin was that he broke the second commandment of God’s law; he instituted a worship of God which God had not sanctioned, a worship of God which was rooted in convenience and in his own heart. He forsook the true worship of God and corrupted the worship of God. That was the sin of Jeroboam who caused Israel to sin.
Now, in I Kings 14:1 we are told something even more about the character of this man. For we read, “At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.” And when his son fell sick, he told his wife to disguise herself and go to the prophet Ahijah, the prophet who had told him that he would become king over the ten tribes. She must try to deceive this prophet, not letting him know who she was. He was convinced that this prophet would be able to tell her what would become of their son, whether their son would recover or not.
In that action Jeroboam is really revealing his attitude towards religion. His son Abijah is severely ill. But he does not send his wife to the golden calves which he taught the people to worship. He does not send her to inquire of priests that he had ordained. No, he sends her to someone whom he knows to be a true prophet of God. Normally he does not need God. He can give God lip-service. He is not afraid to arrange the things of God to suit his own goals. But in a crisis, he turns to God. At bottom God, for Jeroboam, existed to be made use of, to serve his own ends.
This is very common. It is a sin against which we also must struggle. And it is an awful sin from which we must turn and serve God with a genuine and blessed faith which lives entirely in subjection to Him.
When Jeroboam sent his wife disguised to the prophet of God to find out if his child Abijah would recover, Jeroboam insulted God. Abijah his son was evidently his oldest son and heir to the throne. And we are told in Scripture that he was a goodly child. Verse 13 of I Kings 14 tells us that he alone of the house of Jeroboam had some good thing in him toward the Lord God of Israel. Even though his parents were not regenerate and believing people of God, Abijah their son, by grace, did possess some good thing in him – the life of regeneration and conversion. Even though he was brought up in a home where religion was only a show which the parents put on (the parents put on a front), yet God had worked in that boy the reality of which his parents only spoke with their lips.
Jeroboam loved his son. His son’s sickness was severe. So out of desperation he asked his wife to disguise herself so she would not be recognized as his wife, and then go to that prophet which told me, he says, that I should be king over this people. He shall tell thee what shall become of the child.
Now, remember what Jeroboam’s position was over against true religion – a position which he taught Israel and which they latched on to and never let go of. He taught them that it was a matter of personal convenience. To him religion was not a matter of heartfelt need but of convenience – to make him feel good about himself and to help him accomplish the goals that he had set for himself in life. His sin was not that he became an atheist and gave up belief in God. But he was a man who would deliberately change God’s commandments to suit his own conscience. He tried to manipulate God’s religion to suit his own plans and purposes. He did not tell the people of Israel that God was not God and they need not worship Him. But he said God could be worshipped in the way of their convenience. They did not need to go up to Jerusalem as God had revealed in His Word. They could substitute a different way more convenient and more conducive to their own enjoyment. God’s ways did not suit Jeroboam. So he will alter them to please himself. Really, he does not need God. But in a crisis, he turns to Him.
There are thousands of people within and outside the church who are like that. Here we have the type of people who are familiar with the Bible, believe what it says about love and mercy and kindness, want to go to heaven. Nothing pleases them more. They accept what the Bible says about that. But they do not like the Bible in its demands against their own sinful desires. They want a religion in their way and according to their desires. And they delete from the Bible all that does not please them or suit them at this moment in their lives. When the Word of God comes: “Be ye holy, for I am holy; abstain from every appearance of evil; flee fornication; do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; deny yourself,” they resent that. They persuade themselves that that is just too narrow. That is old-fashioned. That is the narrowness of the preacher. Like Jeroboam they imagine that they worship God, but in their own way, not His. And they go to God for what He can give, but they turn away from Him in what He commands. They remember God when things go wrong, but they forget all about Him and stifle their conscience when all goes well.
That is an awful insult to God! That is more than just rebellion and disobedience. That is a direct insult to the living God. That reveals a heart that is not interested in God at all, not in God Himself. It is interested only in the gifts. It does not desire Him, it desires help.
You can understand that from personal experience. Who hurts you and insults you more, the person who openly disagrees and dislikes you, or the person who says that he is on your side, he loves you, but who ultimately shows that he is not interested in you at all but has been using you to serve his own purposes, trying to advance his own end? That is the person who hurts you! That is treachery. That is like being nice to the neighbor friend because you want to get invited inside their house to play on their computer. What about treating God that way? To turn to Him when you need Him for help, to regard Him as existing to serve your own ends? That is an insult. That is an insult to His holiness. This must be stressed.
Many conceive of it this way. The love of God covers everything. God’s commands and His Word in which He expresses His will, well, that is narrow. And we are going to ignore that. We will accept the love part, the salvation part, but we will ignore the rest. I am not talking now about when we see our failure and bemoan that we have not lived up to God’s commandments. I am not talking about that. But I am talking about this – to picture God as one who is content merely to forgive us our sins and is not concerned to deliver us from our sins and make us holy. That God is prepared to save without making holy. Or, in other words, we imagine that God regards sin as lightly as we do by nature, that God does not mean what He says about a holy life. The love of God, then, would allow a person to continue in a life of sin without fear of punishment. Then one plays the love of God against the holiness of God. He picks and chooses in religion to make full use of the love and grace of God but ignores His righteousness and holiness.
Think about that! Imagine that! That is to think that we are the master and God is the puppet and we can handle Him and use Him as we will and when and where we will. That is to insult Him by accepting only that part of His revelation, of His Word, which suits us, which pleases us, while rejecting what He commands. To go to Him for our fortune, but not to see our faults. What self-deception that is.
Here in Jeroboam was a man who was very calculating and shrewd. Yet he is capable of a childish failure to apply a moment of common sense, we would say. First of all, he really knew the whole time that what he was doing was wrong. That is, when he made those golden calves he knew it was wrong. In his desperate need, where does he go? Does he go to the religion that he has invented? Does he put any stock in those golden calves? He told the people of Israel, “Worship the golden calves. This is God.” He told the people of Israel, “Consult these priests that I have made for you. Place your soul in their care.” Does he go to those priests that he has made? Oh, no! He set up this whole system of worship and told the people, “Now this is the equivalent of God’s own worship. And it can be really effective and make a dynamic impact in your life” – but he himself puts no stock in it. He persuaded the people but did not persuade himself. He knew it was a sham. He knew it was useless. Where does he go in a time of need? He stayed with it because it suited his purpose. But when his son got sick, he showed where he stood. He does not go to Dan or Bethel. He sends his wife to the prophet of God.
Now, we ask, if he knew it was utterly useless and that the only true religion was the one that God had instituted, why did he teach Israel to put their trust in it? There is only one answer. In spite of knowing in his heart of hearts what was right and true, he deliberately did the wrong because it suited his purpose. And he can persuade himself that it will be OK. He suppressed what he knew. He silenced the voice within. What he knew of God’s holiness stood in the way of what he wanted. And he convinced himself that he could set aside God’s holiness. He could ignore it. That is self-deception.
Oh, may God deliver us from this! We are told in the Scriptures what is right, what we must be and do in this world. We know the Bible is right, God’s ways are right. He is to be obeyed. We know that for certain. Purity and honesty is to be our life. But then we can proceed to do the same as Jeroboam, when we come to a point where God’s will does not suit us. God’s will does not agree with our plan. We might lose something if we do according to God’s law. So we invent a new religion and proceed to convince ourselves that it is all right. And we begin to debate and to argue and say, “Well, the old is just insufficient.” And we begin to wax eloquent and cleverly defeat all the arguments to the contrary. We persuade ourselves that we are right.
Now, hear me. So long as life goes smooth and there are no problems, all is well. But then, Abijah fell sick. And in the moment of crisis, self-made religion comes up empty.
Do not fool yourselves. Are you setting up golden calves? Compare what you do and what you defend in your life with the Word of God. Be honest. What is there to be said of the compromise, the self-made religion, the religion that is constantly tailoring itself to be suited with your own thoughts or with the thoughts of popular opinion? What can that religion say for itself? Let it stand up. What is it going to give for your soul? Let it stand on its own feet. When we take what we want from God and persuade ourselves that God will wink at the rest, that He loves us and that He understands that we choose not to obey Him on this part of our life because of certain circumstances now in our life – what happens to that kind of religion when we are in need?
Golden calves do not save. But the self-deception here is worse. Jeroboam was afraid what would happen if the prophet recognized his wife. He was afraid what the prophet would say if he knew that this was the wife of Jeroboam. Further, we are told, the prophet Ahijah was an old man and was blind and could not see by reason of his age. So Jeroboam is thinking that, if the prophet does not know who this woman is, his wife can wiggle out of him the knowledge and the help that they desired for their son. The prophet, he believed, could see into the future. He could tell what would happen to their son, possibly could heal their son, could see into the future whether death or life would be for the son. But he did not think the prophet could see through her disguise. He thought the prophet could see into the darkness of the future, but not through the veil of her disguise. The only person he succeeded in deceiving was himself. Behold the folly! He no doubt thinks he is being clever. He will play a fast one on the old prophet. This prophet has access to knowledge hidden from the eyes of man. But he is not able to see through this disguise. He thinks that a little paint, a little powder, a little mascara, a little rouge, and some old clothes will fool this prophet.
The Scriptures tell us that Jeroboam’s wife was not even at the door of the prophet’s house. At the sound of her feet at the door the prophet said to her, “Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings.” How foolish!
We persuade ourselves that we can play fast and loose with the law of God. We can stray from Him into the world. We can join hearts to what is wrong. Then we can come and offer a prayer and come to church and all is well. God will not see through it. We persuade ourselves that we can go in a way that is not right throughout all of our life and then at the end just turn to God when we need Him badly. We imagine we can fool God.
We cannot deceive Him. Do not fool yourself! For the inevitable end was that Jeroboam was brought face to face with what he had done. And he sees the utter uselessness of his actions. That is why he sent his wife.
You know this man does not repent. He does not go to Ahijah himself. He is too proud. He is too proud to admit that he is going to go to God’s prophet. The prophet is going to say to him, “What are you doing here, Jeroboam? Aren’t you the one who raised up the golden calves? You’re the one who taught Israel to sin by making golden calves and a whole new priesthood. Go to your own religion. You made it.” No, he is not going to go himself. He is not going to humble himself. He sends his wife.
The message that he receives is terrible. His son would die.
Sometimes when in trouble we go to God. Jeroboam did not go to God. But sometimes in trouble we go to God and a voice whispers “You miserable sinner. How can you come. You refuse so often to listen to God’s Word. You live in defiance. And now you come?” We feel ashamed.
So often we turn to God when we sense that we are utterly helpless. And for the rest we can pretty much go on our own way. Have you ever felt that way? If not, you do not know God at all. No one can come to the presence of God without feeling that sense of shame. That is our sin. We often make use of God.
Jeroboam did not repent. By the grace of God, let us go to God with repentance and say, “Father, I have sinned and am not worthy to be called Thy son. Father, my sin is so deliberate, I like to fool myself that I can have Thee in parts and I can have my sin, too. Forgive, be merciful, cast my evil away. Open my eyes to see what I am doing. Bring me to Thy throne on bended knee. Give me that I might live to please Thee.”
And God will show His blessing. I know that because of Jesus Christ of Nazareth who has purchased our pardon and forgiven our sins. Also this sin of making use of God. Now, before the cross we look upon Him. How vain it seems that we would ever place anything over Him. Before the cross we are brought low and there we see the wonder of salvation – the salvation of a double-faced, treacherous sinner. Then, before the cross, we respond,
“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far to small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
God grant it.
Our Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy word today. Apply it to our hearts. Amen.