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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Daily Devotion for July 29, 2014

<i>Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice to the Idol</i> by Jean Fragonard, ca. 1852.
Jeroboam Offering Sacrifice to the Idol by Jean Fragonard, ca. 1852.



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Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


Prayer for the Morning

Father, as I face this new day, let me be aware of the work you have done for me as I slept. I praise you that your loving care never slumbers, but has been with me while I was least aware of it; and that you renew me and the whole world, fresh every day, preparing your plans for me.

I pray that I may seek your will this day, your plan for my life, and carry out your plan in my every action. I lay my hopes and fears on an altar before you, that your Holy Spirit may guide my hopes toward the light of your holiness, and may quiet my fears with the knowledge of your infinite peace, in total confidence that your grace will save me from the evils of this world. In Jesus' name I pray,


For God‘s Protection

O  God, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord.



[Service of the Lord is perfect freedom.]


May the Passion of Christ be ever in my heart. May your law and your goodness guide my every thought, O Lord. And may the power of your Holy Spirit flow through my words and my actions today, and always.


Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.

The Flight of Moloch by William Blake, ca. 1815. Done as an illustration to John Milton's ode, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity, Blake depicts the infant Jesus as a sacrifice to Moloch; but Jesus overcomes death, and Moloch flees.

Exodus 32:1-2, 4 (ESV)

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.”

So Aaron . . . received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

Blue Latin Cross

1 Kings 12:21-33 (ESV)

Israel after Solomon (2): Rehoboam and Jeroboam

(This passage is editedTo eliminate repetition and padding, the passage has been heavily redacted without ellipses or other marks of omission. . Click here to read the full passage.)

Rehoboam assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to restore the kingdom. But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: “Say to Rehoboam and to the rest of the people, ‘Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

And Jeroboam said in his heart, “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.” 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.” He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.

Notes on the Scripture

Rehoboam has not shown himself to be unusually pious, but (at least in this passage) he obeys the will of God. He certainly is not an outright apostate like Jeroboam. At God's command, Rehoboam accedes to the split kingdom and avoids civil war.

Jeroboam is, in every way, a villain. He has no claim to the throne of Israel. He rose to prominence as a civil servant under Solomon, then became a spokesman for the Hebrews disaffected by the severe forced labor imposed by Solomon in building first the Temple, and then various opulent secular buildings. When his rebellion failed, he fled to Egypt where he lived in exile; and when Solomon died, he returned, formed a great coalition of rebels, and usurped the throne. He was the Vladimir Lenin of Israel.

As we discussed yesterday, his religious views are Machiavellian. He does not want his subjects going to Jerusalem for feasts, for fear that they will be influenced favorably toward Rehoboam.

Baal and Asherah
Ba'al images from Babylon and
Sumeria, and a Canaanite El.

And so, the ten northern tribes, after everything that they have been through in the previous centuries, turn from God back to idolatry. Ironically, Jeroboam builds golden calves, unmistakably reminding us the Hebrews who built a golden calf at the base of Mt. Sinai and their violent destruction soon after. Idolatry seems to be the surest way in invoke God's terrible wrath.

There are three primary idols that the Hebrews will turn to, when they turn away from God. The golden calf is an emblem of El, the bull god, who is the father of gods in the indigenous Canaanite religion; El was connected to the Egyptian deities Ptah and (later) Osiris. (The bull is also the form of the hideous Ba'al of child sacrifice, Moloch, who would usually have an oven in his belly for burning infants alive.) The Hebrew word el was also the generic word for “god” and they used it as we do, as both a common noun to describe a god and, also, as a proper noun by which to address God.

The golden El statues might thus be the most offensive of all idols, since they were called “God” in Hebrew, just as Yahweh was.

The second name we hear in connection with Hebrew idolatry is Baal (or Ba'al); but again, this is a generic noun, not a specific deity. It was used as a title for any god who was a child of the bull-god El. But unlike “El”, “Baal” always refers to a pagan idol.

The third great target of idolatry in Canaanite Israel was Asherah, the wife-consort of El. She was embodied by the erection of poles, usually in high places, called asherim or Asherah poles. These were not symbols of a disembodied god, as a cross might be for us, but actual goddesses who governed human fertility.

endless knot

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Psalm 19:14: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

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