Forming a new country isn’t easy. When South Sudan became an independent country in 2011, certain steps needed to be followed. One of the first things they needed to do was to declare independence. That might seem like a no-brainer, but they had to make this step official. They did that after two civil wars in the Sudan that seemed to revolve around religious issues. They needed to have a government in place, which they did. They needed to be recognized by other countries – not every other country, but enough that people could recognize that they were actually a country. On February 2, 2011, President Obama declared that the United States would recognize South Sudan as a country. Others also did.
It ain’t easy becoming a new country. ISIS attempted to form a caliphate and become a new country. They declared themselves to be a country. They established a government, of sorts, but they weren’t recognized as a country. Just recently, they were pushed out of the major city that they held that they hoped would give them legitimacy. Becoming a country nowadays isn’t easy. Back when countries formed around kings who rose up, it was a bit easier. Jereboam rebelled against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and the nation of Israel became Israel, the Northern Kingdom, and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. Jereboam wanted to ensure that people didn’t go back to Judah, so, to establish his kingdom, he created the kingdom’s religion. “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, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’ One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.” (1 Kings 12:28-30)
Let’s face it: Rehoboam messed up big time. He had the opportunity to unite the kingdom in the face of severe disunity. Instead of listening to wisdom, though, he listened to the hard liners. Rather than becoming a servant, he would become an even tougher master than Solomon. Once he made that decision, Israel split from Judah and Jereboam set up the new government. He recognized something important: the religion of the people would drive their allegiance. If the Israelites kept going back to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, they might discover that Rehoboam wasn’t so bad, and before long the separation would be over and Israel and Judah would be united again. Not wanting that to happen, he set up Israel’s religion. I don’t know what it is with golden calves, but he set up two of them, making their false worship more convenient than true worship in Jerusalem – maintaining his kingdom.
We like convenience in life. Religious convenience is the best. We don’t even need to go to church anymore: we can watch a worship service on our TV, our computer, or even on our phone and not have to worry about the inconvenience of getting dressed up and traveling to church. There are good reasons for this availability. People who are shut-ins and can’t make it to church gain a lot of comfort from being able to connect with their church in this way. Usually, though, they had a long history of getting together with God’s people. Even going to church can be convenient. You get a good religious inoculation so you can claim a relationship with God, but you don’t let it affect your whole life. True worship makes a difference in your life. It will probably be inconvenient. You will go to church, but there will be more. You may change your occupation. You will sacrifice time, money, and talent to further God’s kingdom. When you commit your life to Christ, you will leave your old life, you will inconvenience yourself, and you will follow Christ completely. Just like Rehoboam worried about for the people of Israel.
Oh Lord, help me to live each day totally committed to following You and experiencing You in all I do.