The American refrain “from sea to shining sea” refers to the east-west borders of the United States. In ancient Israel, the phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” described in practical terms all Israel from north to south.
But after Solomon died, the nation of Israel divided in two. Two nations, two kings, two capitals, but . . . only one place God allowed for worship.
King Jeroboam felt his northern kingdom of Israel was threat-ened by the worship of God at Jerusalem in Judah. So Jeroboam made two golden calves and said to his people, “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” (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam appealed to the laziness of the human spirit and established an alternate and more convenient religious experience. One calf he set up in Bethel, which sat right on the road to Jerusalem. The other calf he set up in a temple in the far north at Dan.
When you see Dan with its lush springs, rivers, and shade trees, you understand why the Hebrews traveled “even as far as Dan” (1 Kings 12:30 NIV). In the way of amenities, it had everything Jerusalem lacked. It was like worshiping at Palm Springs.
In addition to offering substitute temples, Jeroboam made substitute priests and a substitute feast as well. Worship for Israel became self-worship at the altars of convenience and recreation. What Jeroboam said to Israel, the world and the Devil continually tell us, “It is too much for you to obey the Lord; try this instead.” Sin always provides us a convenient and appealing substitute—in other words, a counterfeit.
Ease must never determine our spiritual priorities. Our relationship with the living God remains a matter of obedience before convenience.¹
- Adapted from Wayne Stiles, Going Places with God: A Devotional Journey through the Lands of the Bible (Ventura, Calif.: Regal, 2006). Used by permission.