This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. – Psalm 118:24, ESV
We have been starting each morning here in Galilee with an opportunity to worship God by singing songs together. At the request of Doug Holliday, I brought my guitar to Israel for this very reason. It has been super rich! I have loved leading worship on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and I have loved worshiping with my brothers and sisters in Christ from all around the USA each morning!
After a great time of singing together, we got in the bus and made our way to the Golan Heights for our first stop of the tour today.
The Golan Heights are very interesting, because Israel is the only country in the world who considers it to be a part of Israrl. To everyone else, it belongs to Syria. Syria is currently too busy with their own internal problems, but if not they would likely try to remove Israeli citizens from the Golan Heights and reclaim the land as Syrian.
What an interesting dynamic!
Biblically speaking, Golan was one of the 6 cities that were declared to be a “city of refuge”.
So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation. – Joshua 20:7-9, ESV (emphasis added)
There were 3 cities of refuge on one side of Jordan and 3 on other. Technically, the eastern side of the Jordan River was not included in the “Promised Land” that Joshua took over, but 2 1/2 tribes wanted to live on the east side of the river, so there were cities of refuge set up for them, as well.
We enjoyed a nice walk around Dan and stopped for a bit of a heart check moment at the Temple which Jeroboam would have set up after the kingdom was divided.
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. – 1 Kings 12:25-29, ESV
It is sickening and sad to see what developed here in this land. The tribe of Dan was supposed to inherit the land around modern-day Tel Aviv, but the my were never able to drive the Canaanites out, so they eventually turned their backs on the promise of God and went their own way. They drove out an unsuspecting, peaceful people in what became the land of Dan.
Years later the tribes were united under King David and enjoyed prosperity under King Solomon. The kingdom was divided after Solomon died and Solomon’s son Rehoboam ruled over the southern part, Judah, which included the location of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Jeroboam, who ruled over the northern part, Israel, did not want his people to travel to Jerusalem three times per year to worship, so he simply crafter new “gods”. This is incredibly arrogant, blasphemous, and evil. But he did it anyway.
He set one “god” at the southernmost part of his kingdom in Bethel. He set the other in the northernmost part of his kingdom in Dan. He appointed priests from whatever… he changed the dates of holidays to whatever…
For political reasons, Jeroboam created false festivals, false worship centers, false priests, on a false date. What a mess!
What Jeroboam started here was the beginning of the end for 10 tribes of Israel. It was paganism. Following in his ways, there was not a single good king to rule over Israel. They were all led astray by the sin of Jeroboam.
Not overly long after, the kingdom is split. Soon enough, pagan worship takes over. It is a slippery slope!
What shakes me in this passage is how his statement can almost come across as loving and fully of understanding and grace.
“It is too much for you to go up from here to Jerusalem, I will make it easier for you to worship. It doesn’t really matter how or where, right? I mean, did God really say that?”
Sin is always going to try to offer us an easier, more appealing route. Satan is always going to be whispering to us, “It is too much for you to do it that way… why don’t you just do it this way, instead.”