1 Kings 12:28-29 “So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.”

We continue our Jump Start series on lessons I learned from a trip to Israel. One of the places we went to was the area of Dan. Rich in Biblical history, the possession of one of the tribes of Israel, Dan is more known for apostasy and departure from God.

After the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel divided. Ten tribes to the North, under the leadership of Jeroboam and two tribes to the South, led by Rehoboam. Israel and Judah, is what they became known as. Both nations had about twenty different kings. All of the kings of Israel were apostate. Their hearts were not centered upon the Lord. King after king led the nation deeper into idolatry and trouble. Wars and prophets did little to turn the hearts of these godless people.

At Dan, archaeologists have uncovered what is believed to be the very temple which Jeroboam built. Our passage in Kings tells the story. All Israel, that included the ten tribes that Jeroboam was leading, was required to go to Jerusalem for feast days. There they would worship in the temple, the law would be read and they would be reminded of the ways of the Lord. Sensing that the people would return to Rehoboam, Jeroboam built two alternative temples, one in Bethel and one in Dan. He made it convenient for his people. They did not have to travel all the way to Jerusalem. Not only that, Jeroboam, appointed priests from the other tribes. More people could be priests. Convenient. More opportunity. And, the wicked king placed idols in his new temple. More realistic. Rather than a God which the people could not see, now they had a visible image of a god.

Archaeologists found something interesting at the temple at Dan. When Daniel prayed at his window, he was facing towards Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish faith. When synagogues were later built, they faced towards Jerusalem. But here at Dan, walking up the steps to Jeroboam’s temple, one would have his back to Jerusalem and he would be walking away from Jerusalem. How insightful. How sad. To enter this ungodly temple, the people had to turn their backs on God. They walked away from the truth. They walked the wrong direction.

And, that simple, symbolic act, reminds us of the importance of direction. We either walk towards God or we walk away from Him. Consider this:

First, when a person walks out of their marriage, simply because they no longer want to be married, they are walking away from the promises they made and the vows they were supposed to keep. Maybe years of fighting and arguing killed the love that should have been there, but in walking out, they walk as Israel did, away from the Lord.  This person may find happiness in the arms of another person, but how empty his promises must be if he broke them once, he could break them again.

Second, when a person leaves the truth of the N.T. they are turning their back on God and walking away from the Lord. The pop and fizzle of emotional and exciting religion appeals to many, especially the younger crowds. They like the lights. They look the food. They like the feel of church not being like church—whatever that is supposed to mean. Less doctrine and more fun. Less truth and more personal stories. Less substance and more feelings. Looks great. Feels great. Just as I expect those first worshippers who marched up the steps of Rehoboam’s new temple. How different that was. How exciting that was. All the rules discarded. Wrong now becomes right and no one is around to say anything is ever wrong again. Walking away from God. Walking the wrong direction. Right is not determined by how we feel or what something does to us. Right is based upon God and what He has said. One cannot be right with God and wrong with His word.

Third, when a person is walking in the right direction with the Lord, there is confidence, assurance and hope. And, these are not found simply in how one feels, but in the foundational truths in the word of God. One can know what is right. One can do what is right. Jesus promised His disciples that they could know the truth and the truth would make them free. And, when one embraces what is right, it becomes easy to recognize what is not right. A temple in Dan was not right. A temple with an idol in it was not right. Some today would call that judgmental, mean spirited and even unkind. But truth is narrow. Truth is exclusive rather than inclusive. Truth is measurable, observable and knowable. Error is very fluid. It changes with the person. It changes with the season. It changes with the times.

Fourth, Jeroboam’s temple today is a heap of rocks that for centuries was covered up with layers of dirt. It wasn’t an enduring or lasting monument. Today, it is ruins. Today, it looks nothing like it once did. God’s temple today is not in Jerusalem. His temple is abiding in the hearts of His followers. His temple is everlasting. His temple is spiritual. Time does not impact the temple of God. Nations come and go, but God’s temple is everlasting. Death itself does not change God’s eternal kingdom.

Walking up the steps towards God or walking away from God—Which is it for you?


         Roger Shouse is minister of the Charlestown Rd. Church of Christ in New Albany, IN.