The Hardest Rebuke to Hear

Jeroboam

One of my favorite memes are those of the There, I Fixed It variety. I enjoy them so much because there are likely things around my house which could make it on their website. I am slowly waking up to my propensity to spend an inordinate amount of time and effort “fixing something” which would be far better to just replace.

It’s amazing to me the dedication that I’ll put into making an old rust bucket still functional. It’s a rust bucket! But it was my rust bucket. And in that moment it seems far easier and more frugal to come up with a life hack than to admit that I need to get a new one. It still technically “works” even if it’s not up to a certain code.

Jeroboam Wanted to Live by His Own Code

Jeroboam was one of those There, I Fixed It guys. He had a political problem and came up with a great life hack. The Law of Moses called for worship in Jerusalem. But that was in the Southern Kingdom—that wasn’t a good idea for him to allow his people to see the glorious temple of Solomon. That would have led to them questioning the wisdom of breaking away from the family of David.

So Jeroboam grabbed his duct tape and got to work. He crafted two golden calves—one for Bethel and one for Dan. Then he tells all the people—“It’s too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt.” No sense in going to Jerusalem, the building code is just a suggestion anyways. God is everywhere so why not just set up a temple here and worship him in our homeland?

Jeroboam made religion a matter of convenience. He allowed the people to set the plumb line. God’s Word was no longer the standard because Jeroboam had come up with a genius fix. It was no longer about what God wanted—or what was right—it was now about what worked. Bethel was shorter, so worship there. It’s easier.

Religion became convenient and then it also became non-judgmental. They forgot the God of justice. They weren’t hating on Jerusalem. It was fine to worship there. Bethel is fine to worship at. So is Dan. It doesn’t really matter…so long as you are sincere.

And it’s “working.” At least practically speaking. The Northern Kingdom experiences a time of great prosperity. There isn’t much conflict. Everybody is getting along just fine. “No judgment here.” So apparently God doesn’t care much about where he is worshipped. It’s a new day…a new era.

Amos Steps in With God’s Word of Judgment

And then a prophet named Amos comes to town, from Judah of all places, and tells them their life hack isn’t up to code. Amaziah cannot believe that he’d have the audacity to say such a thing. Everything is working. “Check your plumb line again, Amos. Cause stuff is going great in the Northern Kingdom.”

And isn’t this true of us even today? The idols which are the most pernicious and hard to fell are the ones still working. When our idols come up empty and we see them for what they are it isn’t nearly as difficult to abandon them (usually for another shiny thing). But it’s really hard to hear a word of judgment (truth) when we are in the midst of prosperity. “Maybe we were right to move our moral compass—look at how great the economy is going!”

It’s also really hard to hear a word of judgment from somebody outside your camp. In Amos 7:12, Amaziah uses different words for prophets. He’s basically telling him that he needs to stay in Judah and they don’t need his voice up in the Northern Kingdom. “Do we really need to hear from minorities or immigrants about how to run our country?” “Is it really OK for someone without a uterus to speak about abortion?”

Listening to Amos’ message would have been tough. He is coming into a land where everything seems to be working and he tells them they need to change everything in order to be up to code. It’s so much easier to just say, “Your code is stupid, my life hacks are working, stay in your lane and leave me to my own business!”

Amaziah’s response to Amos is concerning to me, because I feel in my bones how easy it is to take up such a response when confronted with the plumb line of God’s Word. It’s far easier to go with the cultural tide than to stand with God’s Word. And none of us are immune to the “cultural tide.” Bleeding-heart liberalism isn’t the only godless culture in our nation. God-belittling conservatism is just as deadly.

Amaziah resorted to blame-shifting, silencing and an ‘only God can judge me’ theology. When we see our own hearts responding similarly we really should pause and try to discern whether we’re combating “the other side” or we’re actually warring against God’s plumb line. We try to silence what we fear. We blame-shift when we don’t have a foundation to stand upon. And we hide behind weak theology when the living version is far too terrifying for our comfortable universe.

The most grating rebukes are always the ones which come from the hand of a God not like us.

This article originally appeared here.

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Mike Leake
Mike Leake serves as an associate pastor at the First Baptist Church of Jasper, Indiana, and is pursuing a Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Nikki, have two young children. Mike’s writing home is mikeleake.net. Mike is also the author of Torn to Heal:God's Good Purpose in Suffering.