When was the book of Kings written?
I ask this question just here in order to remind us all that there is a difference between the time a book is written and the time it is read, and the difference is not just “production” time. 2 Kings 17 takes us to 722 B.C. and the end of the northern kingdom of Israel. But that story, and the books of Kings, was written almost two hundred years later, sometime between 560 B.C. and 539 B.C. And so, when you read in chapters 16 and 17 that the Edomites live in Elath or that the people in the northern part of Israel worship idols “to this day,” you’ll understand that by the writer of Kings day, this has been going on for two hundred years.
There is a word that specifically addresses the problem in Israel. It is the word “syncretism.” Syncretism, in the case of religion, is the attempt to be socially correct by merging current trends and ideas with elements of a faith to make it more socially acceptable. And that’s what Israel did. Whereas God specifically commanded sacrifices were to be offered in Jerusalem, Israel found it more convenient to spread the worship centers out. Whereas God specified only He was to be worshiped, Israel found other gods more to their liking.
Syncretism is always a danger, and we find managing it difficult. Will we worship in buildings or “house churches”? Will the buildings be air-conditioned? Will we have instrumental music or praise teams? Will leadership in worship be a male prerogative, or will it be bi-gendered? God is particular about His worship. When He is specific, He expects His people to be obedient. But all too often, what His people think He has specified is really just a syncretized tradition – already a perversion of God’s word.
It’s easy to say “it doesn’t matter,” but 2 Kings 17 would indicate it does.