Look at the book of First Kings 12:25-33 after the Kingdom has divided. Reheboam, listening to the council of the young men, has raised taxes and increased the burden on the Israelites forcing the predicted split of the kingdom which was promised by God because of Solomon’s sin. Jeroboam, now in charge of the northern kingdom of Israel noticed that the people would inevitably have to go South to worship on the altar at the temple.
So, in his ?wisdom?, he copied the priesthood of God and the feast days and made a new priesthood and new feast days and put up a couple of places of worship with altars all of their own. He himself became a priest and offered sacrifices, and here’s the worst part, the people joined in the worship. Why? Because it was closer than going all the way to the Temple in the South. Here was a place of worship in Dan and here was another one in Bethel .
Let us put this in contrast to the children of Israel who settled East of Jordan (Joshua 22:10 ? 34). They had also built an altar which resulted in an immediate and angry reaction from the tribes who were in the mainland West of Jordan. They gathered together in full force, ready to wipe out those supposedly wicked people until finally discussing the matter with the leaders. They discovered on that meeting that the altar was not there to offer sacrifices to the Lord at all but to be an a witness to the people (Josh 22:26 ,27). They built the thing out of fear for their future generations which would forget their connection to the Israelites West of Jordan (Josh 22:24 ,25). This altar was not to be used for worship but merely to point to the true altar which they would journey westwards to offer their sacrifices of worship (Josh 22:34 ), an altar of remembrance in contrast to Jeroboam’s alter of worship.
We may find it easier to go here or there based on what is convenient or how a place feels when we gather there, but this is once again taking away the focus from God and putting it on men. Church is not about what it does for us, but what it does for God. To think that somehow we can replace the gathering with what is easier or more efficient, denies the very direction of God.
Altar:commandment; ?commanded not?; convenience ; choice