Played a major part in pagan religions:
They gave him seventy shekels of silver from the temple of Baal-Berith, and Abimelech used it to hire reckless adventurers, who became his followers. – NIV Judges 9:4
Politics played a major role in pagan religions such as the worship of Baal-Berith. Governments often went so far as to employ temple prostitutes to bring in additional money. In many cases a religious system was set up and supported by the governments so the offerings could fund community projects. Religion became a profit-making business. In Israel’s religion, this was strictly forbidden. God’s system of religion was designed to come from an attitude of the heart, not from calculated plans and business opportunities. It was also designed to serve people and help those in need, not to oppress the needy. Is your faith genuine and sincere, or is it based on convenience, comfort, and availability?
Absalom’s political strategy of rebellion:
Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way towards all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. – NIV 2 Samuel 15:5-6
Absalom’s political strategy was to steal the hearts of the people with his good looks, grand entrances, apparent concern for justice, and friendly embraces. Many were fooled and switched their allegiance. Later, however, Absalom proved to be an evil ruler.
We need to evaluate our leaders to make sure their charisma is not a mask covering graft, deception, or hunger for power. Make sure that underneath their style and charm, they are able to make good decisions and handle people wisely.
How Jeroboam’s priests fell into:
Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth. – NIV 1 Kings 13:33-34
Under penalty of death, God had forbidden anyone to be a priest who was not from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:10). Levites were assured of lifetime support from the tithe, so they did not have to spend time farming, worrying about tribal interests, or fearing for their financial futures. Jeroboam’s new priests were financed by the king and his fees. They had to mix priestly and secular duties, and they quickly fell into party politics. Because they didn’t have job security, they were easily corrupted by bribes. Jeroboam’s disobedience was the downfall of true religion in the northern kingdom.
Districts of Israel in Jesus’ day:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem – NIV Matthew 2:1
The land of Israel was divided into four political districts and several lesser territories. Judea was to the south, Samaria in the middle, Galilee to the north, and Idemea to the southeast. Bethlehem of Judea (also called Judea, 2:6) had been prophesied as the Messiah’s birthplace (Micah 5:2). Jerusalem was also in Judea and was the seat of government for Herod the Great, king over all four political districts. After Herod’s death, the districts were divided among three separate rulers. Although he was a ruthless, evil man who murdered many in his own family, Herod the Great supervised the renovation of the temple, making it much larger and more beautiful. This made him popular with many Jews. Jesus would visit many times because the great Jewish festivals were held there.
More important to Pilate than what was right:
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him. – NIV Matthew 27:19
For a leader who was supposed to administer justice, Pilate proved to be more concerned about political expedience than about doing what was right. He had several opportunities to make the right decision. His conscience told him Jesus was innocent; Roman law said an innocent man should not be put to death; and his wife had a troubling dream. Pilate had no good excuse to condemn Jesus, but he was afraid of the crowd.
Jesus became centre of political power struggle:
“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.” – NIV John 18:30
Pilate knew what was going on; he knew that the religious leaders hated Jesus, and he did not want to act as their executioner. They could not sentence him to death themselves – permission had to come from a Roman leader. But Pilate initially refused to sentence Jesus without sufficient evidence. Jesus’ life became a pawn in a political power struggle.
©Kingsway International 1973.