Read – 1 Kings 13:1-34
Key Verse – For I have been told by the word of the LORD… (1 Kings 13:17a).
Key Thought – God takes obedience very seriously.
Background – Jeroboam was king of Israel. Saul had been the first king of Israel, but his unfaithfulness to God had caused God to replace him with David, who was Israel’s greatest king. Upon his death, his son Solomon took the throne and reigned over an unprecedented time of peace and prosperity in Israel. Then Solomon died, and the kingdom went to his son Rehoboam, who was as stupid as Solomon had been wise. Rehoboam’s first official decision caused the kingdom to split, with 10 of the tribes of Israel revolting and following Jeroboam as their king, while the remaining 2 tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam.
So Jeroboam was king, one of the first things Jeroboam did as king was to build altars at Dan and Bethel. He feared that because the temple of God was in Jerusalem, his people would eventually return to Rehoboam because they would be constantly going back to his capital city to worship. Hence the altars were meant to stave off that eventuality, but this was a violation of God’s instructions to worship at the altar in Jerusalem. And it developed into full blown idol worship. He constructed golden calves, and led the people in worshipping them instead of Jehovah God.
Jeroboam’s sinful establishment of this idolatrous system of worship is described in 12:28-33.
It was against this sinful backdrop, and into this idolatrous situation that God sent a prophet… a man of God from Judah. He was a nameless prophet. Nothing more is said about him in Scripture but what is written here and later in 2 Kings 21 when his prophecy was fulfilled to the letter. Josephus, in his Antiquities of the Jews, says his name was Jadon, but that may or may not be accurate, as Josephus was sometimes fanciful and embellished his histories. We don’t need to know the man’s name, anyway, for if we did, the Holy Spirit would have provided the information.
So let’s see what happened when this nameless man of God came upon Jeroboam worshipping idols on the altar at Bethel. If you’re taking notes, we’ll look at this account in three ways:
- What happened here?
2. WHY did it happen?
3. What is God saying to us from this?
What happened here?
The man of God came upon Jeroboam while he was in the very act of sacrificing to his idols. Now as we mentioned, we don’t know much about this guy, but there are a couple of interesting points seen in the text. First, it says several times that he spoke “by the word of the LORD” (vss. 1-2,9). So when he spoke out against the wicked altar and the more wicked idolatry that was being practiced thereon, he was speaking for God and from God. Secondly, he is referred to in this text as the “man of God” or literally “man of Elohim.” There is another prophet mentioned in the text, but he is never described that way, but rather is described simply as “prophet.” This distinction must have some significance, which might become clearer as we move through the details.
As seen in our New King James Bible, his prophecy consisted of only 46 words, but he got a lot in there. And what he said is amazing for its detail. He named Josiah, who was not even alive yet, and would not be known for another 290 years. “Nothing more contingent and arbitrary than the giving of names to persons, yet Josiah was here named above 300 years before he was born. Nothing future is hidden from God.”^[Matthew Henry, *Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume* (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 500.]
The events described in our text took place approximately 931 B.C.. Josiah would be king of Judah from 640-609 B.C.. He would be the last of Judah’s godly kings, and he would be responsible for great reforms in Judah. He would fulfill this prophecy exactly, by destroying this altar, and slaughtering the priests there. This amazing fulfillment of the equally amazing prophecy is described in 2 Kings 23:15-20. (READ)
Of course, this was not the only time such precision was seen in the words spoken by God’s prophets. Isaiah spoke of Cyrus by name in Isaiah 44:28 and 45:1. About 150 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, there would indeed come a Persian king named Cyrus who would deliver the Jews from Babylonian exile just as Isaiah prophecied.
Well, Jeroboam’s response to God’s Word from the man of God was to try and arrest him (vs. 4)! Rather than listen to God’s Word, he tried to silence God’s preacher – a common response by many to this day. His stretching out of his hand toward the man of God was a hostile act, and God protected the prophet by rendering that arm useless. God showed Jeroboam that he was really powerless before God and His word, by striking him physically. And God showed Jeroboam and all standing near, that the prophecy was indeed from Him, by the sign the prophet had said would be given as evidence (vs. 5). Jeroboam was probably standing on the altar when it split apart. (When we were in Israel, we visited Dan (cf. 12:29)and viewed an archaeological site believed to be the altar Jeroboam built there. It was quite a large structure, maybe 12-20′ square, and would have been elevated. The priest, in this case King Jeroboam, would have no doubt been up on that raised area.)
Jeroboam recognized God had done this, and asked the prophet to pray for restoration of his hand. But notice he did not accept him as HIS God. Please entreat the favor of the LORD YOUR God…. Many, like Jeroboam, hear of God, see the reality of God, maybe even experience the undisputed evidence of God and power of God in their lives, but cling to their idolatry and sin. They might seek the prayers of others for their needs, but they do not come to God themselves, personally. He asked that the prophet pray for the healing of his withered hand, but did not ask for forgiveness of his sin and idolatry, to which he still clung (vss. 33-34). He sought only a temporal and physical answer from God, not a change to his sin-black heart.
“Pray to your God, for me,” cried the king. And the man of God prayed, and God restored Jeroboam’s arm and hand to normal health.
But then something interesting happened. The King offered to repay the man of God with earthly reward (vs. 7). And the man of God turned down the offer. Verses 8-10 are key verses to understanding what happened later. The prophet had been TOLD BY GOD to not eat or drink in that place, and not even to return by the same way he had come. So he refused Jeroboam’s offer of reward and hospitality and went on his way.
In verse 11 we meet the second prophet. It’s hard to read about him without getting a bit peeved… without a feeling of revulsion welling up. Of this character, one commentator said, “If this were a true prophet, he was a bad man.”^[Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, *Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible*, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 222.] Josephus in his somewhat embellished account says that he was a “wicked man in that city, who was a false prophet, whom Jeroboam had in great esteem…”^[Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, *The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged* (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), 230.] Josephus also described him as bedridden and infirm in his old age.
Whether or not Josephus’s facts are accurate is questionable, but we do know some things from Scripture about this prophet. He was old, and he was living in Bethel. And we know that this prophet was not used of God to rebuke Jeroboam, even though he lived in the very center of Jeroboam’s idolatry.
He was old – perhaps he had grown lazy. Many people think old age is play time… time to sit and relax. The golden years are the time they could be MOST USEFUL to God, but they fritter it away.
He was old – perhaps he had grown incompetent. Many people NEED to sit down, for they are no longer useful. They need to know when to quit! Here in the United States we have an entire congress filled with this problem. Too many old fools who long ago lost all ability to do their jobs. It is always a concern for any pastor, who wants to serve as long as God and the church would have him, but who also feels old age and infirmity creeping. One of my former pastors rode his dying church to the ground, watching it’s attendance fall from several thousand to just a handful, because he could not recognize his time had passed.
Regardless of which, if any, of these thoughts ring true about this old prophet, he was not doing anything for God. He was seemingly enjoying retirement right smack in the middle of Jeroboam’s idolatrous kingdom.
He had sons, who had apparently been there when the miraculous prophecy was uttered at the altar, and they told their father what they had seen. He decided to chase the man of God down. Why? The text does not say, and it’s not really important to the story. He chased him down, found him, and asked him to come home. Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread” (vs. 15).
Now this is important. Notice that Jeroboam had asked him to come home with a vague promise of some reward (vs. 7). But this guy uses very specific language when trying to persuade the man of God to come with him. Notice how specific God’s command had been to the man of God in vss. 9,17. And so this man’s offer of bread no doubt made the man think immediately of the command from God, and he told the prophet what God had told him, and to go pound sand.
Then the prophet told him that God had also spoken to him, and that it was ok for him to come and eat breat and water. (He was lying to him.) (vs. 18)
But… preachers would never lie, would they?
Sadly, it’s not all that uncommon, really. You don’t have to go far to find examples. There are many churches around us that teach you can be good enough to go to heaven. If you just keep your nose clean and live a good life, when you die you’re in… if your good deeds outweigh your bad, you’re in. But they lie to you, for that’s not what Jesus taught.
Yesterday I was mowing my lawn, and as I often do, I was listening to a sermon through my headphones while I mowed. Mark Dever, pastor of Capital Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC was preaching. He mentioned a church right around the corner from his. He said it was one of the largest churches in the city, and he knew it had many good and wonderful people in it. He said he would defend to the death it’s right to exist and proclaim its message. But then he warned his church to not believe anything that church taught. Love them, be good neighbors to them, and treat them with respect and kindness, said he, but DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING THEY TEACH, for they (like others I’ve mentioned) LIE. Brother Dever is a much better preacher than me, so he said it with more kindness and love than I probably am showing, but the truth is the truth.
This wicked prophet lied to the man of God. And the man of God believed him and went with him.
Now think this through. The man of God KNEW the word of the LORD (vss. 1-2, 9, 17), but allowed another prophet to deceive him into disobedience. That phrase “the word of the LORD” is mentioned 11 times in this chapter. It is a key phrase to understanding the chapter. He had a WORD FROM GOD, and held it up to a word from an unknown man, and discarded God’s Word in favor of this man’s word. He had told King Jeroboam that nothing could entice him to disobey the word of God (vs. 8), but even when the riches of a king couldn’t do it, the subtle false teaching of another prophet could.
False teachers are dangerous. There is a reason we are warned to stay away from such. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1 NKJV).
Well, even though he was a false prophet, God now spoke through him, and declared judgment on the man of God. Notice the explanation of why God’s judgment was to be so harsh. Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD (vs. 21). Because you have not kept the commandment which the LORD your God commanded you (vs. 21). You ate bread, and drank water which the LORD said “Eat no bread and drink no water” (vs. 22). Three times the charge was repeated for emphasis. You knew the word of the Lord, but you ignored it and listened to the word of a man.
The man of God left and the prophecy against him was fulfilled when he was killed by a lion. This part of the story is usually where people fix their attention, for its odd… it’s supernatural. The man was killed by a lion, which then stood beside his body in the road, miraculously not eating either the body of the man of God or the donkey on which he’d ridden. This signifyed to all passersby that something miraculous had occurred… that this was a God-thing… this was the judgment of God. One wrote, “All the circumstances of this tragic occurrence (the undevoured carcass, the untouched ass, the passengers unmolested by the lion, though standing there) were calculated to produce an irresistible impression that the hand of God was in it.”^[Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown, *Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible*, vol. 1 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997), 222.]
(Note – there are no lions in Israel today, but there were then. If you ever go with me to Israel, you won’t have to worry about lions.)
Finally, we see from vs. 26 that the old backslidden deceiving prophet knew exactly what had happened. And his words accurately describe it – the man of God from Judah had disobeyed, and judgement had resulted.
WHY did it happen?
Before we can answer that question, I think we first need to ask another – who is this story about?
It is tempting to suggest the obvious, and say that the man of God is the central character in this story. But as I think through the entirety of the story, I don’t think he is. I don’t think the story is ultimately about him, or the old lying prophet. I think the story is about Jeroboam and his sin of disobedience. The entire narrative sits between Jeroboam’s building an altar at Bethel in defiance of God’s instructions and for the purpose of instituting idol worship, andvss. 33-34 which tell us that even the amazing things taking place in this narrative did not turn Jeroboam from his sin. He was confirmed in his disobedience and idolatry and therefore God’s judgment on his kingdom and lineage was to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth (vs. 34). Considering Jeroboam the main character in this story, and God’s dealing with Jeroboam’s sin as the main thrust of the story, makes answering the next question easier.
The question most ask when they read this story goes along these lines – Why did God so harshly judge this faithful man of God? I mean, it doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Well, we must first of all remember that God is sovereign and knows all things, even the things we can’t see or understand. So we must let God be judge.
But I believe God was using not only the words spoken by the man of God, but the subsequent judgment of the man of God to speak very specifically to Jeroboam, who was leading his people into such terrible disobedience. Verses 33-34 indicate that everything in this chapter was meant as a message to Jeroboam, including God’s judging the man of God, which was an illustration of God’s message to Jeroboam.
God asked a lot of His prophets. Elijah had to sit by a stream and be fed by a raven. Jeremiah had to spend time in the muddy pit of a well. Some were thrown into prison. John the Baptist was beheaded for his preaching. Read Hebrews 11 and you’ll find all sorts of troubles that they faced, up to and included death, even as they served God faithfully. It’s not hard to see that God would similarly use this man’s disobedience as an illustration of Jeroboam’s, and as a warning of where that disobedience would lead not only the king, but the kingdom.
What is God saying to you and me?
I studied this passage because earlier this week Josh Richards texted me a challenge. He must have read it in his morning Bible reading, for he sent me an early morning text asking if I’d ever preached about this strange story. I responded I had not, and he challenged me to preach from it. So… game on… challenge accepted. And as I studied it I realized it fit in wonderfully with the little series on words we’ve been in… little big words that we need more of. We’ve studied words like “kindness”, “forgiveness”, “joy”, “following”, and now from this passage, the word “obey.”
If there is one application that fairly shouts at us from this text it is this – God takes obedience very seriously.
I read somewhere recently that we have so many laws in the USA, that nobody really knows how many there are. Multiplied thousands of laws. But in the beginning there was only one. Obey. God’s command to Adam and Eve to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil had nothing to do with the tree or the fruit thereon. It was a simple test of one thing – would they obey God and God’s word?
You see, when we KNOW God’s word, we must not allow anything else to pull us away from it… not a friend or family member… not the norms of our wicked culture… not the accepted teachings of “science, falsely so called”… not social media… not another preacher. (Even if it’s me!) Paul told the Galatian Christians, But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8 NKJV).
We’ve seen that the key to understanding this passage is recognizing that this man of God KNEW God’s word, yet chose to listen to a word from an unknown and unprovable source, rather than hold to the Word he KNEW was from God. There is a clear application here to all of us. As one man put it, “Listen to the voice of God and live; listen to the voice of people and die.”^[John D. Barry et al., *Faithlife Study Bible* (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), 1 Ki 13:26.]
Where are you on this, my friend? Are you obeying the word of God? Or are you ordering your life around the words of men… of culture… of lying prophets?
It really drives home how desperately we need to read and KNOW our Bibles, doesn’t it? How can you determine what is false if you don’t first know what is true? This is one reason faithfulness to church is so important – we all need the preaching and teaching of God’s word. I include myself in that, which is why I listen to so much preaching on the seat of my tractor! And it’s a reminder of how much we need to read our Bibles on our own. You’ll never be able to withstand false teaching if you don’t know the true from the false.
Are you obeying the word?
“A missionary translator was endeavoring to find a word for “obedience” in the native language. This was a virtue seldom practiced among the people into whose language he wanted to translate the New Testament. As he returned home from the village one day, he whistled for his dog and it came running at full speed. An old native, seeing this, said admiringly in the native tongue. “Your dog is all ear.” Immediately the missionary knew he had his word for obedience.”^[Paul Lee Tan, [*Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times*](https://ref.ly/logosres/tans7700?ref=Page.p+910&off=1054&ctx=3927+”All+Ear” ~A+missionary+translator+w) (Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc., 1996), 910.]
Are you all ear when it comes to God’s word? Are you obeying His word?
There are so many areas of life we might probe as we ask ourselves that question.
He says we ought to turn from sin and live holy lives. Are you obeying His word there? He says we ought to love one another, even those who do us wrong. Are you obeying His word there? He says we ought to faithfully assemble with God’s people regularly worshipping Him. Are you obeying His word there? He says we ought to tell others about what Jesus has done in our lives. Are you obeying His word there? He says we ought to live life with the constant knowledge that He may return today. If we really believe that it sure changes our priorities, doesn’t it? Are you obeying His word there?
I could go on, and so could you, pondering that question. But here is the most important area we need to apply it. He says that we need to believe on Jesus Christ, and receive Him as our Savior and Lord, calling upon Him, and being born again. Are you obeying His word there, my friend? For that is the matter that is of first importance. It is the foundation upon which all other acts of obedience rest. If you don’t first obey THAT, you won’t and can’t obey anything else.
So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:31 NKJV)
Have you believed in Jesus? That He lived, loved you, died for you, rose again to give you eternal life, and now stands ready to save you?
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10 NKJV)
*For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:13 NKJV)*’
Have you prayed and asked Him for that give of salvation? ‘
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 NKJV)
Have you been born again?
As we study this little word obey, the more we study it the bigger the word becomes. God takes obedience very seriously. And those of us who are saved invest our entire lives in learning and living it.
But it all starts with that first act of obedience at the foot of the cross. Are you “all ears” there… obeying His word there?