He was an important and influential leader in the church. Jerry was basically an elder. In fact, we would say that he was the chairman of the consistory. When Jerry spoke, people listened and they followed his lead. As he looked around at the ecclesiastical scene, it became apparent that there was competition. There was another church down the road where most of Jerry’s people used to go. Some of them would likely go back if given half a chance. He had to do something to keep the people and also to preserve his power and influence. Jerry had specific instructions on how the church was to be run and how God was to be worshipped. But Jerry set all of that aside. He decided to do things his own way. He decided to make things easier for the people. Rather than follow God’s instructions, Jerry decided that the church could worship the way he wanted it to.
That story could be taking place in any number of churches in North America today. But it’s actually an old story that took place nearly 3000 years ago. Jeroboam did not become the king of the northern tribes by accident. Because of his idolatry, Solomon was judged and told that one of his servants would rule most of the tribes in the coming generation. Solomon’s son Rehoboam was left with the one tribe of Judah and Jeroboam became king of the ten northern tribes. God promised Jeroboam that he would be the king and he would be blessed if he would follow God’s ways. However, when Jeroboam finally became king, all of that was forgotten.
Even though God had commanded that his people worship at the temple, Jeroboam decided that the ten tribes had to be kept away from Jerusalem. So, he set up centers for worship at Dan and Bethel. He knew that people like visual helps in worship, so he made two golden calves to represent God, one for Dan and one for Bethel. He set up shrines on high places – mixing the worship of God with the worship of idols. He introduced priests who were not from the tribe of Levi. Then he set aside all the dates and times that God had commanded and introduced his own. Jeroboam created his own way of worshipping God.
Note that Jeroboam didn’t abandon God. He had not started worshipping Molech or Baal instead of Yahweh, the true God. Yahweh was still to be worshipped. In other words, this was not a sin against the first commandment. The first commandment tells us that we are to only worship the one true God. But the second commandment is about how he is to be worshipped. That’s where Jeroboam went off the rails. He didn’t want to worship God in God’s way, the way described in the Bible. Instead, he followed the way of self-willed worship. He did what was right in his own eyes. Rather than God-willed worship, he chose self-willed worship.
That’s what the second commandment is addressing. The second commandment guides our worship and tells us that we are to worship God only in the way that he has commanded in his Word. We call that the regulative principle of worship. We are to worship God only as he has commanded in his Word, not adding or taking away anything. This regulative principle of worship is what we find in Lord’s Day 35, a faithful summary of what the Bible says about worship in God’s way.