Today I want to continue where I left off yesterday by launching into 1 Kings 13. We saw in chapter 12 how the kingdom had been split into two halves, the northern and southern and how Jeroboam introduced a new apostate religious system in the northern kingdom.
Chapter 13 begins with an unidentified prophet being instructed by the word of the Lord to go north to Bethel to pronounce judgment against Jeroboam as he offers incense at the altar of his false gods. The judgment will be meted out through a future godly Davidic king named Josiah, who will slaughter the false priests and offer them as sacrifices on their own altar. As a confirmatory sign the altar is split in half and the ashes are poured out on the ground. Jeroboam stretches out his hand and orders his men to arrest the prophet, but when he does this his hand is withered and frozen in place. Jeroboam begs the prophet to pray to the Lord for the restoration of the hand, which he does. Once the hand is healed Jeroboam urges the prophet to come and dine with him and receive a monetary reward. The prophet refuses, having been commanded by the Lord previously not to eat or drink with anyone while on his mission, and to return by an alternate route.
An old prophet living in Bethel is informed by his sons about the episode, and he goes out to meet the visiting prophet and extend an invitation of food and lodging. The visiting prophet refuses, citing the Lords prohibition, but the elderly prophet lies and says he has received a word from God to the effect that the visiting prophet is to eat with him and spend the night in his home. The visiting prophet accepts the invitation, and the next day as he is en route to Judah he is attacked and killed by a lion. The lion does not eat the man and does not attack the donkey. Instead the lion and donkey stand by the corpse of the prophet as people pass by on the road.
I see several practical applications from this story. The first is that God will not tolerate the worship of any other gods, nor will he excuse any form of worship other than what he has prescribed in scripture. Jeroboam and his false priests were in violation of the first three of the ten commandments, and for their idolatrous practices they were under the sentence of death: they were to be slaughtered like beasts and burned on their own pagan altars. In our country we hear tolerance of other faiths praised, but this attitude does not come from God. Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism, and all other religions that do not embrace and honor the true God of scripture are false and abominable before the Lord. There is only one true God and one way of access to Him, as prescribed in scripture; and all other paths lead directly to death and hell.
We also see that God punishes disobedience. The false priests had been judged, and to show the earnestness of the promise of death the Lord punished his own prophet as a sign to wicked Jeroboam. If God would take the life of the prophet for what seemed like a trivial act of disobedience, how much more sure was the fate of those who worshipped and offered sacrifices to the calf idols at Bethel, condemning not only themselves but also the masses of Israelites led astray by their apostacy?
We also see the foolishness of listening to others instead of the Lord. God had spoken to the prophet with explicit instructions. When the elderly prophet approached him with an alleged word to the contrary, he should have not heeded it. Personally, I do not believe God is talking to anyone outside His word in an audible voice. But I can tell you this: if God ever wants to tell me something He knows my address–He can speak to me directly. The last thing I want to hear is some pious moron coming to me with a spoken word from God to him for me.
We see that at the end of the story Jeroboam, despite God’s mercy in sending a prophet to warn him and then heal his withered hand, refused to repent, even after the prophet had been killed by the lion for his disobedience. Sin hardens the heart, and repeated stiff-necked rebellion callouses the heart even more.
This story makes me even more conscious of the deceitfulness of sin. We need to stay close to God and His Word. We need to worship no one but the God of the bible who is one and the same with the Jesus of the Bible. Let our justification be by faith alone in Christ alone. Let us share the good news of the gospel with those around us who are lost and in darkness in the bondage of the world’s false and satanic belief systems. God will call His sheep to Himself in His own time and way, and blessed are we to be instruments of redemption in His hand.