And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom may return to the house of David: If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
Therefore the king asked advice, made two calves of gold, and said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. He made shrines on the high places and made priests from every class of people, who were not of the sons of Levi.
Jeroboam ordained a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the feast that was in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did at Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And at Bethel, he installed the priests of the high places which he had made. So he made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised in his own heart. And he ordained a feast for the children of Israel, and offered sacrifices on the altar and burned incense. (1 Kings 12:26-33)
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a “knockoff” is a copy that sells for less than the original; broadly, a copy or imitation of someone or something popular. It is not the real thing but looks and feels like the original and is made at a much cheaper price and of less quality. The market for knock-off goods impacts consumers’ products in the billions of dollars lost every year. Bogus luxury goods fill the markets luring customers to buy what they believe to be the real product when in reality they are counterfeits. The market for fake merchandise is not new to the modern world. Men have always found ways to fool the public into buying what they believe to be real for something phony.
King Jeroboam was an early trader of the system of forgery when he fooled a large part of God’s people to follow after a religion that was nothing more than a knock-off religion. Worried the tribes he had been able to influence to his cause would return to Rehoboam and the tribes of the south, Jeroboam made a false religion that looked like the true religion of Jerusalem. His marketing ploy first appealed to the carnal nature of the human heart to want religion to be easy and comfortable. The king insisted it would be too far to go up to Jerusalem and it would be more convenient for the people to worship in Bethel and Dan. These two cities were the southern and northern reaches of his kingdom but kept the people out of the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Who would not want to have worship to be an easy thing to do?
Jeroboam took a gamble in making two golden calves but he trusted the hearts of the people would see more to the difficulty of traveling to Jerusalem and the expense, time, and effort to worship in the Temple instead of the blatant sin of idolatry. He was right. His perception of the fickle nature of man played right into his plan. There was no uprising against him for introducing calf worship. No one stood against his plans for idol worship in great public unrest of rebellion. Many stood against the king but the religion of convenience introduced by Jeroboam began the northern tribes on their downward spiral of destruction in 200 years.
Under the Law of Moses, priests were to come from the tribe of Levi alone. No other tribesman could be a priest unless they were born of the house of Levi. Jeroboam relaxed the law and allowed anyone who desired to be a priest to serve. Every class of people became priests. This would be acceptable for the people as they could serve in the priesthood without restriction. The change of law went unchallenged by the masses as the calf worship in Dan and Bethel became the national religion. Jeroboam changed the celebrations of the feasts. The feast on the 15th day of the 8th month was like the feast in Judah but unlike the feast of Tabernacles in Judah which was held in the 7th month. Jeroboam subverted the Law of Moses in changing the feast and the character of his knock-off religion took roots. The prophets of God would decry the acts of Jeroboam and all the kings that followed but to no avail. Following a convenient religion appealed to the heart of the people leading to their destruction.
The false religion of Jeroboam is still active in the world today as many knock-off churches look like the real thing, have parts of their makeup that look like the real thing and beguile the people to believe what they are part of is the will of the Lord. In the days of Jeroboam, it would have only taken an examination of the Law of Moses to see how corrupt and sinful the religion of the north had become. There was no divine authority that established the worship of the golden calves. The king was guilty of leading them astray but the people were also guilty for not standing against the king and his false religion. There are many churches today who have a semblance of the New Testament church mingled among their garments but the cloaks they wear are filled with false doctrine and lies.
The Bible teaches plainly the nature of the New Testament church and if a church does not look like the one found on the pages of holy writ, it is a knock-off religion. Many religious leaders have led their flocks astray in great numbers and their lives will be judged accordingly before the throne of God. The people who blindly follow the teachings of men rather than holding to the truth of the gospel of Christ will not be found innocent before the divine judge. Every person has a responsibility to hold in check the teachings of those who lead them whether it is truth or a lie. The motto of attending the church of your choice is the propaganda of the great deceiver who would allow men to worship God but to worship the Lord in their way. Satan knows there is one way and one truth but he wants his followers to follow their way and their truth. Like Israel of old, the end is worse than the beginning. You might want to check your religion. It might be a knock-off.