In today’s religious society, the methods and means of “worshiping” God in the assembly are as varied as the religious organizations themselves. Man has given different types of services titles, such as “traditional,” “conservative,” or “contemporary.” Most people look around until they find something they like and find comfortable, and that is where they stay. But in the process of this religious free-for-all, there is one question that has been blatantly overlooked, “Do we have the right to change God’s worship?” In the New Testament God has given directions as to what activities are to be accomplished in the assembly. There are things such as the time of day, order of action, and so forth that are left up to the individual groups; but the overall mandate for what is to be done and how it is to be accomplished remains the same. So what right do we have to change that?
In First Kings 12 there is an example of a man who sought to do exactly what we are discussing. King Jeroboam had been given position as head of the 10 northern tribes of the people of Israel. God had given explicit instructions on how the Israelites were to worship him (see Exodus and Leviticus), but Jeroboam decided to make some changes to the worship of his people so that it would be easier for him to retain power over them. Consider the 4 changes Jeroboam made to worship.
Jeroboam changed the object of worship. Instead of going to the temple to worship God as the law dictated, verse 28 records Jeroboam erecting two golden calves, in the northern and southern extremes of the nation, to serve as their gods. They are presented to the people as the gods that brought them out of the land of Egypt. In order for the people to be willing to change their worship, Jeroboam had to first get them to change who they were worshiping. He did so with the golden calves.
Men do the same thing today when they turn the worship of God from being directed toward him to being directed toward them. Mankind often lives under the illusion that if we like it, God must as well. But God has told us what he desires and finds acceptable. For us to change the rules to accommodate our desires simply means we have changed the object of our worship from giving glory to God to giving entertainment to men.
Jeroboam changed the place of worship. The people of Israel were supposed to go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God, but verse 29 shows that Jeroboam changed the place of worship to Dan and Bethel. Jerusalem was in the southern kingdom of Judah, and Jeroboam was afraid that if the people continued to go down there they would not return; so because he feared losing his people, Jeroboam made it so they did not have to leave Israel.
There are those today who are guilty of this change when they decide God did not really mean that his people need to assemble to offer worship to him. These are the ones who will stay home most of the time and state that they do their own worship at home so as not to have to assemble with the saints. Others will argue that they feel closer to God alone, or out in nature, than they do gathering with his people. They have changed the place of worship just as Jeroboam did.
Jeroboam changed the priesthood that offered worship. Under the Old Law only the sons of Aaron, of the tribe of Levi, could be priests. They were responsible for the sacrifices and services of all the people of Israel. Jeroboam wanted to ensure that he retained the people’s support with his administrative changes, so verse 31 states that he made priests from among all the people, not just a select group. If you wanted to be a priest, you could be with no prerequisite conditions.
Under the New Covenant all Christians are priests (1 Pet. 2:9), and true worship can only be performed by those who are in the priesthood. But there are many today who want to change the conditions of priesthood. Many have endorsed the change that, instead of requiring certain conditions specifically required by God for priesthood (namely belief, repentance, confession, and immersion), all one has to do is pray to God and he is automatically a priest. Unfortunately, calling someone by a title does not make them such before God. Many have followed Jeroboam’s footsteps in this matter instead of God’s.
Jeroboam changed the time of worship. Instead of retaining the commands of God when it came to the feasts and ordinances, Jeroboam decided to incorporate his own desires. Verse 32 reports that he instituted a feast on the 15th day of the 8th month. The problem was that God had instituted no such feast. He had instituted a feast on the 15th day of the 7th month (Num. 29:12), but Jeroboam wanted to do it his way, so the time of worship was changed.
There are those in the religious world today who seek to follow the same pattern. The first day of the week is the day when the disciples of Christ gathered to worship. Though they would come together almost daily to fellowship, serve, and work for the Master; the first day of the week was when they gathered to fulfill the commands of worship. Today there are those who would argue that the day of worship does not matter. They hold worship services on Saturday, Thursday or any other day of the week, and do those things only authorized on the first day of the week. Such is following the example of Jeroboam, not Jesus’ disciples.
Jeroboam made many changes to the worship of God, the same forms and styles of changes that are prevalent in our society today. God lashed out against Jeroboam and punished him for his deeds. Man should not expect God to react any differently today. The judgment may not come while on this earth, but it will be laid to account on the day of judgment. We do not have the right to change the worship God relayed to us through his word. To do so is to put our trust, not in God, but in ourselves, something that never works out well for mankind. Let us retain true worship before God, in spirit and truth, after the pattern given in Scripture, that it might be acceptable and beautiful in his sight.