Jeroboam said to himself, "Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. If this people continues to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah; they will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah." So the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold. He said to the people, "You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt." He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan. He also made houses on high places, and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not Levites.
Jeroboam appointed a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the festival that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar; so he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.
Even after this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people; any who wanted to be priests he consecrated for the high places. This matter became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.
Our sin is the sin of our fathers;
we have done wrong, our deeds have been evil.
Our fathers when they were in Egypt
paid no heed to your wonderful deeds. (R./)
They fashioned a calf at Horeb
and worshipped an image of metal,
exchanging the God who was their glory
for the image of a bull that eats grass. (R./)
They forgot the God who was their saviour,
who had done such great things in Egypt,
such portents in the land of Ham,
such marvels at the Red Sea. (R./)
When there was again a great crowd without anything to eat, Jesus called his disciples and said to them, "I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way - and some of them have come from a great distance." His disciples replied, "How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?" He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven."
Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Opportunities arise from day to day and our moral character determines how we respond to changing circumstances. In the Book of Kings ch. 12, we read how Jeroboam seized power in the northern kingdom of Israel. For selfish reasons he threw aside an opportunity to do something really worthwhile. Instead of trying to reunite the fractured people of God, he used the structures of religion, sanctuaries and feast-days, in order to control the northern kingdom of Israel and so prolonged the tragic partition of his people. He kept the people of north and south at each other’s throat, although they both believed in God’s guidance through Moses.
The human tendency to selfishness and ambition is not just “out there”, or exclusively the prerogative of politicians and tycoons, but it is also a temptation to each of us. There are choices to be made each day, showing how we respond to God and are willing (or not) to share with others as we ought, setting ambition aside.
A good example of positive response in time of need is in the feeding of the crowd, as reported in Mark’s gospel today. Notice how quickly and simply this miracle story ends. After the marvel of feeding “about four thousand” from seven loaves and a few fishes, Jesus did not wait about to bask in the applause. He got into the boat with his disciples to went off to the neighbourhood of Dalmanutha. Jesus was driven by compassion, not by a love of fame or celebrity. He did not perform miracles for show. Seing others restored to life and strength was his constant motivation. Promoting life was nourishment to him.