Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Hosea, and more specifically, begins with the first verse of the thirteenth chapter and continues through to the ninth verse of the fourteenth chapter. If you begin reading this particular set of verses within the prophetic book of Hosea, you will quickly discover that it deals almost exclusively with the idolatry of the land which had become so pervasive. The prophetic ministry of Hosea was one that directly challenged and confronted the various and countless whoredoms and harlotries the people of Israel committed within the land—acts that were directly expressed through the giving of themselves in and to idolatry. In order to truly understand the idolatry which was found in the midst of the nation of Israel, it’s imperative and necessary that we not begin with the prophetic words of Hosea, but first turn and direct our attention to two kings who would rule and reign over the people of God. The first king would be one who would rule and reign over a united kingdom of Israel, while the second would rule over a portion of that same kingdom which was divided. IDOLATRY IN THE MIDST OF A UNITED NATION! IDOLATRY IN THE MIDST OF A DIVIDED NATION! This particular reality finds its origin in the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings where we read of a king who emerged on to the scene to reign in the place of his father, David. That king who would sit upon the throne of David and reign in Jerusalem would be Solomon who would be born unto David and Bathsheba. If there is one thing one must recognize and realize concerning Solomon, it’s that while it is true that he was the king who oversaw the construction of the Temple of the Lord within the city of Jerusalem, it is also true that this same king would also oversee, and even participate in the building of that which was abominable before and in the sight of the Lord. If you turn and direct your attention to the Old Testament book of First Kings, you will find both the construction of the Temple of the Lord, but you will also find the building and setting up of high places of idolatry within the land. In order to understand the idolatry that would begin to permeate and saturate the land, it is first necessary to begin with the Temple, for idolatry is in all reality a stark departure from the Temple of the Lord, which is the place of His presence and His glory. In most cases, idolatry is a true and deliberate rejection of worship at the altar of the Lord in the midst of His holy sanctuary, and a new worship that is done upon high places and at unauthorized altars which have not been appointed by the Lord of hosts. Consider if you will what is recorded in the sixth chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings concerning the construction of the Temple—“And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month of Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the Lord. And the house which king Solomon built for the Lord, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits. And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house. And for the house he made windows of narrow lights…And the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither: so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard in the house, while it was in the building…So he built the house and finished it; and covered the house with beams and boards of cedar. And then he built chambers against all the house, five cubits high: and they rested on the house with timber of cedar” (1 Kings 6:1-11). As you continue reading the sixth chapter of the book of First Kings you will read of the continued construction and progress of the Temple until it was finally finished and completed. When you come to the thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth verses of this same chapter you will read these words—“In the fourth year was the foundation of the house of the Lord laid, in the month Zif: and in the eleventh year, in the month Bul, which is the eighth month, was the house finished throughout all the parts thereof, and according to the fashion of it. So was he seven years in building it” (1 Kings 6:37-38).
Scripture records how the house of the Lord took seven years to build until it was finally finished and completed within the land. If you transition to the Old Testament book of Second Chronicles, you will notice incredible activity taking place upon the completion of the Temple in the midst of the city of Jerusalem, as Solomon dedicated the sanctuary unto the Lord to whom the sanctuary belonged. In the fifth chapter of the book of Second Chronicles we find that after the house was completed, Solomon assembled the elders of Israel, and all the heads of the tribes, the chief of the fathers of the children of Israel, unto Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. When the fifth chapter draws to a close, we find something absolutely remarkable taking place upon the presence of the Ark of the Covenant within the sanctuary of the Lord—“And it came to pass, when the priests were come out of the holy place: (for all the priests that were present were sanctified, and did not then wait by course: also the Levites which were the singers, all of them of Asaph, of Heman, of Jeduthun, with their sons and their brethren, being arrayed in white linen, having cymbals and psalteries and harps, stood at the east end of the altar, and with them an hundred and twenty priests sounding with trumpets) it came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of musick, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good; for His mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord; so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God” (2 Chronicles 5:11-14). When you come to the seventh chapter of the same Old Testament book you will discover further action taking place at the dedication of the Temple, as Solomon had finished making prayer before the Lord of hosts. “Now when Solomon had mad an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices: and the glory of the Lord filled the house. And the priests could not enter into the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. And when all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord upon the house, they bowed themselves with their faces to the ground upon the pavement, and worshipped, and praised the Lord, saying, For He is good; for His mercy endureth forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).
The reason I have chosen to begin with the construction and building of the Temple is because in order to truly understand what took place during the reigns of two kings who reigned over the people of God, it is first necessary to understand that the idolatry that took place within the nation and kingdom of Israel—both within the united kingdom of Israel, as well as within the divided kingdom of Israel—took place after the Temple and sanctuary of the Lord had been constructed in their midst. When you come to the eleventh chapter of the book of First Kings you will notice the first account of idolatry entering into and infiltrating the land. What makes this idolatry so gross is the fact that it was brought forth and conceived in the land by the same one who had overseen the construction of the Temple—and not just the construction of the Temple, but also the placement of the Ark of the Covenant within the Holy of holies, as well as the dedication of the Temple itself. The same one who introduced idolatry into the nation and kingdom of Israel was the same one who had seen the glory of the Lord fill the sanctuary, and so much so, that the priests and the Levites could neither enter in, nor complete their duties and responsibilities. What we witness in the life of Solomon is eerily similar to what we read in the Old Testament book of Exodus, as the glory of the Lord was resting atop the mountain of God in the wilderness, the Law of the Lord was being given, and the pattern for the Tabernacle was being given unto Moses. With Moses atop the mountain—and being perceived as being a long time upon the mountain—the children of Israel engaged themselves in idolatrous worship of a golden calf before the mountain of God. In the eleventh chapter of the Old Testament book of First Kings we read these words concerning Solomon king of Israel: “But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidoinians, and Hittites; of the nations concerning which the Lord said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashroeth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods” (1 Kings 11:1-8).
It would be Solomon, son of David, king of Israel who would first introduce idolatry within the nation and kingdom of Israel—this same Solomon who also built for the Lord a house where He could dwell, and a house where He could place His name. This same Solomon would give himself wholeheartedly to the idolatrous worship of the false gods of the nations round about Israel, as he allowed his wives to turn his heart away from serving the true and living God. It’s important to note that what began with Solomon would only be perpetuated continued after his death when during the days of his son, the nation and kingdom of Israel would be divided. Because of, and as a result of Solomon’s idolatry which he introduced within the land, the nation would be divided, and ten tribes would be given to another who was not of the house or lineage of David. In the same chapter we discover the Lord’s words to Solomon concerning his actions within the land He had given unto His people: “Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen” (1 Kings 11:11-13). When you come to the twelfth chapter of the book of First Kings you will notice the fulfillment of the word which the Lord spoke unto Solomon, and how the nation was indeed divided into two. When Jeroboam son of Nebat began reigning as king over the northern kingdom of Israel, it was he who continued and perpetuated the idolatrous practices within the land itself. In other words, what began with Solomon would continue in the northern kingdom of Israel as a result of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Consider the words which are recorded beginning with the twenty-fifth verse of the twelfth chapter of this Old Testament book: “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, 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 king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, 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. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (1 Kings 12:26-33).
With the Scriptural accounts of these two kings we can clearly see how idolatry was introduced into the kingdom of Israel—both when Israel was a united kingdom under the reign of a single king, as well as when Israel was a divide kingdom under the reign of two distinct kings. It was Solomon who introduced idolatry into the kingdom of Israel during the latter years of his life, and it would be Jeroboam son of Nebat who would take that idolatry to an entirely different level, as he not only set up two golden calves within the northern kingdom, but he also appointed priests who weren’t after the order of the Levites. Thus, in the northern kingdom there were not only two golden calves [the transgression of the wilderness was multiplied], but there was also a false religious system that had been established within the land. Jeroboam sought to establish a religious system in direct connection to the idolatry which he had facilitated within the land through the golden calves which he set up in Dan and Beth-el. If you continue reading the Old Testament book of First Kings, you will notice that once the kingdom of Israel was divided, the northern kingdom never recovered—either from the division itself, or from the idolatry which was brought in and introduced by Solomon. If you study the history of the northern kingdom of Israel you will notice that there was not a single righteous king who sat upon the throne in the capital city of Samaria, and each successive king led the northern kingdom further and further down the slippery slope of idolatry. One such king would be found in the seventeenth chapter of the same Old Testament book—a king whose name was Ahab son of Omri. The author of the book of First Kings records these words concerning Ahab son of Omri—“And Ahab son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidoinans, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria. And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 17:29-33).
THE PERPETUATION OF IDOLATRY WITHIN THE LAND! If you study the history of the kings of Israel, you will notice that each king who reigned upon the throne in Samaria not only continued in, but perpetuated the sin and idolatry of Jeroboam son of Nebat. Concerning Nadab the son of Jeroboam, we read these words—And he did evil in the sight of the Lord,a nd walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 15:26). In verses thirty and thirty-one we read the Lord’s indictment against Jeroboam, and his declaration concerning the judgment that would be unleashed upon him as a result—“Because of the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned, and which he made Israel to sin, by his provocation wherewith he provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger” (1 Kings 15:30-31). When the fifteenth chapter draws to a close, we find regarding Baasha king of Israel that “he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his win wherewith he made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 15:34). Concerning Zimri who reigned as king over the northern kingdom of Israel we read these words—“For his sins which he sinned in doing evil in the sight of the Lord, in walking in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin which he did to make Israel to sin” (1 Kings 16:19). Concerning Omri, we read these words—“But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and di worse than all that were before him. For he walked in all the way of Jeroboam the son of NEbat, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin, to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger with their vanities” (1 Kings 16:25). Concerning Ahaziah the son of Ahab, we read these words—“And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in the way of his mother, and in the way of Jeroboam the son of NEbat, who made Israel to sin: for he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done” (1 Kings 22:52-53). Regarding Jehoram the son of Ahab we find these words—“And he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he claved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom” (2 Kings 3:2-3).
When you study the history of the kings of Israel, you will quickly notice that each successive king was guilty of one thing—they continued in the sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat. It’s interesting and worth pointing out that not only were the two golden calves which Jeroboam son of Nebat set up in the northern kingdom of Israel guilty of leading that generation into sin, but it would cause future generations to follow the same pattern. What began with Solomon and the idolatry he introduced in the land would continue in the following generation with Jeroboam with the two golden calves, and would increase all the more when Ahab and Jezebel introduced the northern kingdom of Israel to the worship of Baal. By the time of Ahab’s death, the northern kingdom of Israel was not only entrenched in the sin(s) of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but now they were entrenched with the worship of Baal which had been introduced into the land. In fact, the idolatry of Solomon, the sin of Jeroboam, and the iniquity of Ahab would reach its culmination during the days of Hoshea, and in the seventeenth chapter of the book of First Kings we read these words—“For it was so, that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, and walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God, and they built them high places in all their cities, from the tower of the watchmen to the fenced city. And they set them up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree: and there they burnt incense in all the high places, as did the heathen whom the Lord carried away before them; and wrought wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger: for they served idols, whereof the Lord had said unto them, Ye shall not do this thing. Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets. Nothwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the Lord their God. And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them, that they should not do like them. And they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger” (2 Kings 17:1-17).
When studying the history of the northern kingdom of Israel, it’s worth noting and pointing out the downward spiral and progression that took place within the land, for what began is the personal idolatry of Solomon would reach the point where it would become the public sin of Jeroboam which the nation and people would be led into. THE PERSONAL SIN OF SOLOMON! THE PUBLIC SIN OF JEROBOAM! THE JOINT SIN OF AHAB AND JEZEBEL! As we come to the thirteenth and fourteenth chapters of the prophetic book of Hosea we find the prophet indicting the northern kingdom of Israel concerning the idolatry which was not only found within their heart, but also within the land. It’s important to note and recognize that that idolatry did not find its way into the land and into the corporate mindset and psyche overnight, but was introduced slowly and gradually by various kings of Israel. It would be Solomon who would cause idolatry to enter the inheritance of the people of God within his personal life, but in the very next generation we discover Jeroboam leading the entire northern kingdom into idolatrous worship before the Lord by way of the two golden calves he set up in Dan and Beth-el. It’s worth noting that the personal sin of one would eventually become the corporate sin of a nation, as Jeroboam son of Nebat brought idolatry to an entirely different level within the nation. What’s more, is that Ahab would take this to an entirely different level, as Ahab and Jezebel introduced the nation to the worship of Baal, and thus caused generations to come to commit themselves to the worship of this foreign god. When we come to the first verse of the thirteenth chapter we read of the Ephraim “offending in Baal,” and this is actually quite significant, for we must understand that Ephraim and Samaria did not immediately offend with Baal, but found themselves generally progressing to that point. It must be noted and pointed out that they didn’t immediately start worshipping Baal, but would eventually reach the point by way of the golden calves. WORSHIPPING BAAL BY WAY OF THE GOLDEN CALVES! When we come to this passage in the prophetic book of Hosea we find Israel offending by way of Baal, for Israel had eventually reached the point where they allowed the name of Baal to be upon their lips.
Notice if you will how the prophet Hosea would go on to declare concerning Israel—“And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, and idols according to their own understanding, all of it the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves” (Hosea 13:2). Concerning idolatry, it’s absolutely imperative that we understand that it’s a severe breaking away from faithfulness before the Lord, and serving Him with our heart. We allow ourselves to engage in idolatry because idols are not only creation(s) of our own hands, but are so much easier to manage. One of the reasons idolatry is so attractive and appealing is because there is no accountability whatsoever to any idol we create within our hearts, nor which we fashion with our hands. Idolatry allows us to worship that which is other than the Lord without any demand or requirement of accountability and/or responsibility. Tell me—what idol or what image has ever revealed itself to those who bow down before and worship it? What idol or image has ever called for and demanded accountability and responsibility from those who bow down before and worship it? One of the greatest dangers we face with idolatry is that if we allow idolatry to enter into our hearts and lives—even to the slightest degree and measure—it can only be a matter of time before we eventually open ourselves up to even greater manifestations of idolatry within our lives. What began as the personal sin of Solomon in the city of Jerusalem would eventually reach the place where Jeroboam would introduce a new form of idolatry within the land. What was once only a single golden calf in the wilderness would manifest within the land—not as a single golden calf, but as two golden calves. It would be Solomon’s idolatry that would open up the door and prepare the way for the idolatry of Jeroboam, and it would be Jeroboam’s idolatry and false religious system that would eventually make room for the introduction of Baal worship during the days of Ahab and Jezebel.
The question we must ask ourselves is if we are allowing ourselves to open up to idolatry within our hearts and lives, for if we aren’t careful, what might begin as Solomon’s idolatry might eventually culminate into Jeroboam’s idolatry, and might even progress to Ahab and Jezebel’s religion. It’s worth noting that the sin which Jeroboam led Israel to committing was essentially acknowledging that god had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, but they were worshipping that god in the images they had created. We must understand that it is possible to acknowledge deliverance, and even the power of the Lord in our lives, and yet worship Him in the images and idols we have made. Jeroboam acknowledged the miracles present within the land of Egypt, and even in the wilderness, yet the gods he was calling the children of Israel to worship were images and idols of his own making. What would begin with the northern kingdom of Israel acknowledging the Lord delivered them out of Egypt, and even bringing them into the land would find the place where they would worship the Lord in the images they had made. We must recognize that they were still acknowledging the might and power of God, but they were worshipping a false image of who that God truly was. We play an incredibly dangerous game when we allow ourselves to acknowledging the might and power of the Lord, while simultaneously worshipping images of that God—images we have allowed ourselves to fashion and form within our hearts and lives. It is from that place that we find ourselves being opened up to an entirely new religious system—the religious system of Ahab and Jezebel—for it was they who introduced Baal worship to the northern kingdom. The danger we face, is that if we aren’t careful, and if we don’t acknowledge our idolatry during the [days] and time of Solomon, it may only be a matter of time before we find ourselves entering into the idolatry and sin of Jeroboam. It is that sin of Jeroboam—which if left not dealt with—can eventually lead us into, and open us up to an entirely new religious system that is positioned by Ahab and Jezebel. We bear the tremendous responsibility of recognizing and understanding these different phases and progressions, for if we fail to do so, we may very well find ourselves experiencing the reality that was expressed in the seventeenth chapter of the book of Second Kings. Let us this day examine our hearts and acknowledge any form(s) of idolatry we have entertained, or are presently entertaining within our hearts and lives.