Man is a creative and innovative creature. This is a function of the image of God within him. God is a creative God. His insights and wisdom are infinite. God can conceive of anything and everything of which we could not possibly conceive. And while we do not have infinite creativity we have significant creativity which even the highest animals do not have. The image of God within us separates us from all other life forms.
That creativity, like everything else in this universe, is tainted with sin. So what we get with all that creativity often is “clever devils”. Our creativity is often used in the wrong way; a way unauthorized by God.
In some things, our fallen creativity is not much of an issue. As a matter of fact, even our fallen creativity has resulted in incredible advancements in knowledge, technology, industry, arts, and sciences. This God-given creativity is a good thing… until its not.
Jeroboam was the first king of the 10 northern tribes which constituted Israel (also called Ephraim. Because of Solomon’s idolatry, a prophet of God told Jeroboam that he would be given the 10 northern tribes over which to rule as king. Fleeing the nation in the reign of Solomon, Jeroboam returned to Israel after Solomon’s death. He led a contingent to the throne of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and the new king. They wanted relief from Solomon’s onerous administration of them. When Rehoboam listened to his young contemporary counselors rather than his father’s older counselors, he told Jeroboam that his rule would be far stricter than his father’s. At this, Jeroboam led in the revolt of the 10 northern tribes to form a separate nation.
However, Jeroboam realized that if the people of the northern tribes continued to go up to the temple in Jerusalem to worship in festival, the hearts of the people would remain in the southern kingdom of Judah. So, it only made sense to him to establish a new system of worship and tell the people that it was too far and too difficult to continue to go to Jerusalem. So he formed two golden calves, placed one in Bethel and one in Dan, and organized his own priesthood (who were not Levites) and his own system of worship including sacrifices and festivals (1 Kings 12:25-33).
What is instructive to us in this context is what is said of Jeroboam in 12:33: “So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised from his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.”
What Jeroboam did was to “devise from his own heart” a customized religious worship of God. He made it up. He employed his creativity to invent his own way to worship God. Because of this God sent a prophet named Abijah who told Jeroboam that God was going to completely eliminate every descendant of Jeroboam in gruesome fashion. There would be none of Jeroboam’s progeny to follow him.
What Jeroboam was guilty of doing, many, many evangelicals are guilty of today. We have used our creativity, innovation, and imagination of our hearts to “devise” worship “from our own heart” rather than to follow the prescribed worship to be found commanded in Scripture. Worship in evangelical churches has often come down to who can be the most creative, interesting, funny, and entertaining. And it seems, the churches who have the most interesting and fun innovations find the largest following. But whenever a church forsakes the commanded way of worship in Scripture in favor of their own way of doing it, they commit the sin of Jeroboam.
But it is not just in the area of worship that we have “devised from our own heart”. We have done this in other ways as well. Think of the function of the home. Children are being reared more with the philosophy of the world than the commands of Scripture. How many parents absolutely refuse to spank their children even though the Scriptures command it? Where do you think they got that philosophy of child rearing? What about authority in the home? Many (if not most) evangelicals today have adopted the world’s view of authority in the home; the wife and husband being equal in authority. The husband is to be “keeper at home” at least half the time with his wife even though the Scripture clearly makes that the responsibility of the wife, (“Train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” Titus 2:4, 5).
There are many other areas of life where we have made it up out of the imagination of our own hearts (not the least of which is our views of human sexuality today). Suffice it to say, that whenever we are “making it up as we go along” using our own innovation and creativity to order our lives, we are in a bad position. We are not submitting to Scripture. We are not submitting to God. We have become a law unto ourselves.
Creativity and innovation are wonderful gifts. But they are abused and misused when we employ them to find ways to override or circumvent God’s revealed truth and way of doing things. May we always order our lives according to the Scriptures.