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If you are new to The Celebration of God or are just rejoining us, I want to encourage you to go back and listen to episodes 64 and 65. Those are the first two parts of the study we’re continuing today.
The first episode looks at God’s definition of worship, and the second part talks about the nature of Failed Worship. And with that foundation, we’ll all be able to understand, identify, and address Split Worship in our lives.
But before we get into part 3 of our “What is Worship?” series, I want to share with you that I love connecting with listeners and their churches at conferences. I love to travel and speak at churches, camps, and para-church ministries to discuss the topics of faith, discipleship, worship, and celebration. If you or your pastor or director would be interested in seeing if I could visit your ministry, you should check out AMBrewster.com to get started.
One of the greatest joys of ministry is being able to interact with God’s people face-to-face. That’s not really part of a podcast ministry, so I hope that if you’ve been blessed by what we’re doing, we’ll have a chance to meet in person one day.
But — until then — I hope you take advantage of our free episode notes and transcripts on our blog at CelebrationOfGod.com.
And — with that — it’s time to talk about Split Worship.
What is Split Worship? Is it those times when we worship God part of the day and worship ourselves the other? Well, that’s definitely something we all do, but that’s not the definition of Split Worship we’re discussing today.
To find the answers we’re going to go back to Kings and Chronicles.
Last time we learned that there were a bunch of Old Testament Jewish kings who set up High Places in Israel and Judah and encouraged the people to worship themselves there by practicing all sorts of idolatry at those High Places.
And we understand that the imagery of the altar and High Place and sacrifices and incense is easy to update to modern terms. Though we may not worship ourselves by practicing pagan religious rites to stone or wooden idols, we do worship ourselves by sacrificing things to our own glory instead of God’s.
But — in addition to the many kings who frequented the High Places (including Solomon) — there were six kings who refused to worship at the High Places.
In I Kings 15:14 and II Chronicles 15:17, we learn that — in Judah — Asa is called a good king because he removed the Asherah, idols, and sacred prostitutes. But — unfortunately — we learn that even though he didn’t use them, he did not actually destroy the High Places (I Kings 15:9-14; II Chronicles 15:17). Of course — according to II Chronicles 14:2-5 — I do have to admit that he may have initially destroyed the High Places, but did not complete the task when they were rebuilt later.
Later we meet Jehoshaphat. We’re told that he was a man of God who followed the ways of David by seeking after God, but we learn as well that he followed a pattern similar to Asa of initially removing the high places (II Chronicles 17:1-9) but not totally eliminating them from Judah (I Kings 22:43; II Chronicles 20:33).
This policy may have made it easier for his son Jehoram to build new High Places which caused the people of Judah to worship other gods (II Chronicles 21:11).
Then we have the Judean kings Amaziah (II Kings 14:3-4), Uzziah (II Kings 15:3-4), Jotham (II Kings 15:34-35), Ahaz (II Kings 16:3-4), and Manasseh (II Kings 21:2-7) who also allowed the people of Judah to continue worshiping at their High Places even though they — themselves — didn’t participate.
The Bible tells us that several of these kings were called good kings, and yet the chronicle of their leadership shows that their obedience was incomplete.
“But Aaron, listen, these kings did what was right. They couldn’t be held responsible for the failed worship of the people.”
Well, my friend, if that’s what you believe, I’m sorry to say that God doesn’t agree with you.
Consider the following verses:
I Kings 22:43, Jehoshaphat “walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”
In II Kings 12:2-3 we read, “And Jehoash [Joash] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places.”
II Kings 14:4, Amaziah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, yet not like David his father. He did in all things as Joash his father had done. But the high places were not removed; the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”
II Kings 15:3-4 tells us, Azariah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”
And II Kings 15:35 records “In the second year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, Jotham the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Jerusha the daughter of Zadok. And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not removed. The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”
If it really is true that these kings shouldn’t be judged according to what the people did, then why does God do just that. How many “buts,” “yets,” and “neverthelesses” did we just read?
We have to understand that each of these kings was expected by God to remove the High Places from the land. In fact — to be fair — it was every Israelites responsibility to destroy the High Places. They were commanded to tear them down when they moved into the land, they were commanded not to set them back up, so you can believe God expected all of His people to not only not worship at the High Places, but also to participate in cleansing the land from them.
So, here are some important lessons about Split Worship we learn from these kings.
1. It’s good to tear down the self-worship in your own life.
Each of the kings did what was right in the sight of the Lord.
There’s a tension in each of theses passages because it’s clear that these kings did right in their personal lives, and yet all of the passages make the point that the other people kept sinning nevertheless — which definitely leaves us with the feeling that the kings could have done more.
And, I’m obviously going to make the argument that they should have done more.
Here’s the takeaway: last time we talked about Failed Worship. If you want to start fixing the problem, you must start with you.
Telling your friends or kids or classmates to stop serving themselves for your own selfish benefit will never help anything.
Change must start with you.
And the good news is . . .
2. When you tear down your own self-worship, you make it easier for those around you to tear down their own.
Jehoshaphat “walked in all the way of Asa his father.”
Azariah did “according to all that his father Amaziah had done.”
Jotham did “according to all that his father Uzziah had done,” and his mother likely had a good influence on him as well as she’s named in this passage. And it’s also interesting to know that Zadok was the High Priest at the time, and Zadok was Jotham’s Grandfather.
We’re also told that Amaziah “did in all things as Joash his father had done.” However, in this case we need to note that it’s said of Amaziah that he didn’t do as well as David had done, but only as well as his grandfather Joash had done.
This should be a sobering reminder that it’s not a guarantee that those in our sphere of influence will worship God when we do, but our influence can be a huge help.
Still, my friends, I’m going to argue that refusing to visit the High Places yourself isn’t good enough.
3. You mustn't tolerate self-worship in others.
Each of these kings allowed the people to continue worshipping at the High Places.
Because the kings didn’t do the hard work of tearing down the High Places, the people had free access to them.
And it’s also appropriate to assume that there weren’t nationwide laws in place concerning the High Places or consequences for the people who used them. Had that been the case, the High Places would have been torn down and people would have been afraid to use them.
But the mere fact that people continued sacrificing at the High Places, and the fact that everyone knew where they were, shows us that — with the exception of possibly Asa — these kings didn’t even try to influence the people’s Failed Worship.
And because of that, the nation had Split Worship — some of the people worshipped God and some of the people worshipped themselves via their High Places.
Now, like I mentioned earlier, it may be easy to say, “It was the people’s decision. The kings had made their choice to side with God. We shouldn’t judge them too harshly.”
I agree that the kings made a personal choice not to blaspheme their Lord by sacrificing at the High Places, but my first observation is that their decision to not banish the High Places from the land was an example of their own self-worship.
I can’t say exactly what their motivation was for leaving the idols, but it may have very well been fear of the people, fear of revolt, fear of unrest. By this point in Israel’s history there are already been massacres, overthrows, and coup attempts. These kings likely were playing it safe.
But the other observation I want to make is that . . .
4. Tolerating another’s self-worship is the same as encouraging them to worship themselves.
My friends, we have to acknowledge the reality that silence is acceptance.
When my children speak unkindly to each other in my presence, and I don’t address it, I’ve given tacit permission for them to continue.
You would completely expect a police officer to arrest someone if they killed another person in the officer’s presence. And if the officer did nothing about it, we would all assume the officer was either afraid or that he was okay with what happened.
And I know how easy it is to do this.
For fives years I worked at a boys home for at-risk teens. Every year I had up to eight very disobedient boys move into my home. I know the very real fear a parent can feel when it comes to addressing the sin of a kid who is unsubmissive.
That’s one of the biggest reason I recorded TLP episode 37. It’s called “Parenting a Terrorist,” and it flowed from my own personal conviction from reading God’s Word.
Because even if I don’t like what’s being done around me, when I say nothing, I’m giving permission for it to continue.
This is equally true when my fellow church members are engaged in sin or my coworkers or my students or my classmates.
It’s just like Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
Tolerating self-worship from the disciplees that God has put into your life is the same as encouraging them to worship themselves.
Which is why . . .
5. We must not be content to allow our fellow disciples to continue in their self-worship.
If they are offering the experiences and possessions and relationships in their life on the altar to self, they are worshipping an anti-god, and it will end in destruction.
We need to love our friends and families enough to do whatever it takes to protect them spiritually.
Now, you may be thinking that removing a physical High Place is not the same as removing self-worship from another’s heart. And I completely agree.
The metaphor breaks down a little because true idolatry is not worshipping an actual, physical idol. True idolatry is worshipping self via the idol. And even if the idol is removed, self-worship can still continue.
So, please know that I acknowledge the difficulty in what I’m proposing today, but we’re going to talk about that in more detail next time.
For now, though, these verses do teach us that . . .
1. It’s good to tear down the self-worship in your own life.
2. When you tear down your own self-worship, you make it easier for those around you to tear down their own. However . . .
3. You mustn't tolerate self-worship in others, because . . .
4. Tolerating another’s self-worship is the same as encouraging them to worship themselves. Therefore . . .
5. We must not be content to allow our fellow disciples to continue in their self-worship.
And — if we want to help our fellow disciples remove the High Places from their lives . . .
6. Our disciplees are going to need loving guidance to remove their self-worship.
Jehoshaphat, Amaziah, Azariah, and Jotham all had their dads, and clearly they were a good influence on their sons. Jotham also had his mom and grandfather. And I have to assume that it wasn’t a silent influence. All of these influencers likely taught these men to do things they didn’t expect of the Israelites.
Jehoash was an interesting example because he was able to succeed because he listened to Jehoiada’s counsel. Jehoiada was the High Priest at the time, but he was also so much more.
Jehoash’s dad was one of the kings we discussed last time. Ahaziah was a wicked king who worshipped at the High Places, and his mother, Athaliah — an even more wicked woman — tried to kill all of the royal blood line so she could be queen. Not only did Jehoiada and his wife save Jehoash from physical destruction, but they reared him to love the Lord.
My point is that your fellow followers of Christ — left to themselves — will naturally and easily worship themselves. They will talk and act and feel and desire and believe things in line with what feels good to them and “benefits” them in the short term.
That’s why we all need spiritual people to be God’s Ambassador in our lives, to come alongside us, educate us, reprove us, correct us, and train us.
We all need someone to introduce us to God and His Word, and that's how God designed the spiritual Kingdom of God to work. Romans 10:14 says, “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
And that’s where we’re going to leave this discussion off today. There is still so much more to say because Split Worship is going to end in destruction. They’ll hurt themselves, but — like all sin — they’ll also hurt everyone else in their life.
On Part 4 of this series I plan to talk about how to actively work to remove the High Places from your life as well as the lives of those with whom God allows you to interact. And since this is so incredibly important, I’m really excited about sharing that with you.
Remember, though, if you’d be interested in having me speak to your church group, camp, family conference, or parent workshop, all you have to do is check out AMBrewster.com. I hope you’ll at least visit the page to see the possibilities.
Please also share this episode with your fellow disciples of Christ and check out the episode notes on our blog.
Split Worship is generally the first step as you work away from Failed Worship. It’s going to need to start with you, but there is also hope to help your family, your fellow church members, and anyone else in your life to tear down their High Places as well.
And make sure you join us next time as we introduce a brand new holiday called Scripture Day!
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The Year Long Celebration of God is a dynamic, holistic resource that utilizes the Bible, our holiday calendars, and even the most average moments of the most normal days to equip Christians to worship God all year long
and disciple others to do the same.
AMBrewster is the creator and host of the Celebration of God. He originally designed the COG to be a discipleship tool for Christian parents to train their children to know and love God, but he quickly realized how valuable it is for all Christians. Whether it's a small group, church, classroom, one-on-one, or community relationship, this resource is guaranteed to draw people closer together as they draw closer to God.
Aaron is the President of Truth.Love.Parent. and host of its podcast.