September 10, 2014.
There is an interesting story found in I Kings 13 that I would say is relatively unknown in Christian thought today as it is a short story that is not focused on very often. It was this story that cut me down to size when I was younger; I was sure that I had reached a point in my spiritual life where I knew everything about the bible, or at least every story it contained. I was very prideful and naive. One day in bible class my teacher announced that we would be studying about the man of God from Judah. I was dumbfounded. “The man of God from Judah? Who’s he? I’ve never heard this story before.” Since then I have learned that I should be much more humble when it comes to the word of God, as my finite mind will never come to the end of the works of God, not in this life at least. The more you learn, the more humble you should become as you start to realize that God is so much bigger than us. His thoughts are not our thoughts, and his ways not our ways. To claim full and complete understanding of everything in the bible is almost claiming to be God. We can certainly have a firm grasp on the major concepts laid out in ways that we are able to understand, but there are things that we will not ever reach a conclusion on here on this earth. But I digress, because today we are going to study the story of the man of God from Judah and derive some practical lessons from it.
As stated above, this story can be found in I Kings 13, the surrounding context in the preceding two chapters and the fulfillment of the man of God’s prophecy to Jeroboam in II Kings 23. Jeroboam had become king of the 10 tribes of Israel when the kingdom was divided between Israel and Judah, as prophesied after Solomon turned from the Lord. When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam reigned in his place and made some very bad decisions, causing the people to rebel and the kingdom to divide. So now it was Rehoboam who reigned over Judah and Jeroboam who reigned over Israel. As with most kings who would come later to reign over Israel, Jeroboam did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He brought the people to worship other gods with other alters and caused the people to sin. Jeroboam was so bad in the sight of the Lord that he is referenced many times in future chronicles of kings as a sort of measuring stick for evil. This is where we are at when the man of God from Judah was sent to speak out against Jeroboam while he was offering incense to a foreign god, who was no God at all.
Points of interest
I’m not going to use the full text of the story here, but I would encourage you to go and read at least I Kings 13 to understand what I’m talking about. It’s a very interesting story, so don’t be frightened to turn to the Old Testament. There are some interesting points that I would first like to address before we look as some of the lessons that I think can be learned from the story.
1. We never get the man of God’s name.
Have you noticed that I’ve used the term “man of God from Judah” a lot? That’s because we don’t know his name. We don’t know much about him at all for that matter. We know he was sent by God with specific instructions and was from Judah (which is interesting in and of itself since the kingdom had just split and God sent a man from Judah to confront Jeroboam of Israel). Perhaps what we can learn from his story is more important than who he was.
2. The Lord gave very specific and strict instructions.
It is interesting to me how specific the Lord was.
“And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.’”
(I Kings 13:8-9)
He couldn’t eat or drink in this place and had to find another route home? That’s strange. Maybe it was a statement of how bad Judah had gotten. Or maybe God never gave a reason for it, he just said to do it this way. He doesn’t always have to inform us of why we are told to do something, though he does give us this privilege of knowing often. The point here is, when God said do something this way, he expected it to be done that way. This will be very important later on in the story.
3. Jeroboam was prophesied to be King.
Perhaps this isn’t as interesting to you as it is to me, but Jeroboam was set up to be king, given the power by God. But he was evil, or at least he would become evil. God knew that. God knows everything. So why set him up as king? Again, the answer isn’t plainly told to us through the scriptures of which I am aware. Just note that Jeroboam, or anyone is a position of authority for that matter, could have no power unless it was given to them by God (ref. John 9:11).
4. This prophecy was fulfilled.
If you want to read the fulfillment, it is in II Kings 23. Note here that the word of the Lord came through this man of God and then it came to pass. God never makes a mistake. It is true that a lot of prophecy was conditional, but it was all true. A prophecy was made, warning were not listened too and the prophecy was fulfilled.
Now that you have read the story and know some key elements, let’s see what we can pull from this story and apply to our lives.
1. Take courage, God will provide.
The man of God did not live in the culture we have today where we have freedom of speech and are allowed to basically disrespect or speak out against whoever we wish. In this time period, if the King didn’t like the way you looked at him, you could be killed. It was not a light thing to go before the King for any reason, especially when you bring news of judgment. To even embark on this journey, the man of God had to have so much courage.
“And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lordand said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’”
(I Kings 13:2)
If this wasn’t bad news for the king, then I don’t know what would be. Jeroboam is being called out here by God through the man of God, but it would be the messenger who would be the object of punishment. He could be killed for less! And that is exactly what Jeroboam was going to do.
“And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.”
(I Kings 13:4-5)
God is in control. That is what gave the man of God courage. The Lord of heaven was on his side. He did not fear what man would do to him. He cried out against the alter, and God protected him instantly, with a display of great power. Everyone could see that he was sent by God, and Jeroboam instantly changes his attitude towards him once his hand withers, asking him to make intercession for him. Do we not serve the same God? Will not our Lord be on our side when we are doing his will? Now, I’m not saying we will not suffer persecution or even die for our faith, proclaiming his glory. But we will be protected, living securely in Him forevermore. God is in control. Always. No matter how bad things seem. We need to remember that.
2. It is in our best interest to heed the warnings of God.
There are many examples of warnings given in the Old Testament. Some warnings were heeded by the audience, such as Nineveh’s repentance at John’s preaching. But many were not. Such was the case here in our story today. The man of God from Judah cries out against the alter, Jeroboam’s had is withered, God’s power is displayed, but then the man leaves and nothing changes. He would later reap the consequences.
“After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.”
(I Kings 13:33-34)
The Old Testament is not alone in giving warnings. We too are given warnings through the words of Jesus and the Apostles. The New Testament serves as our guide. Do we listen to the warnings? Do we pay attention and apply them to our hearts? Or do we skim over them, passing them off as mere suggestions and relying on ourselves to get through this life? One of the most powerful things that the Old Testament does for us is show us examples of what happens in different situations. We would be wise to learn from this history and not make the mistakes that are portrayed in the words of the Scriptures.
3. Listen to God, not man, even if they claim to speak from God.
This is probably the most interesting point of the story to me. The man of God gets done rebuking Jeroboam, which was the hard part of his journey, and is headed home. He’s doing so good! He spoke to the King without dying, refused his offer to eat with him and is headed back a different way, just like God told him to do. Why this Old prophet comes on the scene I have no idea, except to perhaps teach us a lesson. So we should listen close. The Old prophet meets the man of God on his way back and asks him to come eat with him. The man of God is still doing great as he first denies his offer, telling him the same thing that the he told the King. But then things take a turn for the worse.
“And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him.”
(I Kings 13:18)
“Oh, God told you not to eat here? Ummm, yeah, he must have changed his mind, because I’m a prophet too, see, and God told me to have you come eat with me. So it’s cool, come on!” I cannot express how relevant this is in today’s society. There are so many people claiming to speak in the name of Christ, yet teaching something different than what he taught. The man of God from Judah should have known not to go with the Old prophet. God had given him a specific set of instructions that he was following to a tee. But then all of the sudden this Old prophet comes and claims he has too gotten a message from God, and now he was supposed to stay and eat. Understand this: God does not change. If he tells you to do something, you do it until he tells you to stop. You don’t listen to some preacher who says you don’t have to do it, or you don’t justify doing something else by your own logic. It doesn’t matter what society thinks about it or even what you think about it, though you probably should be wanting to do His will. You just do it. Period. End of sentence. This is where the man of God made his mistake. He trusted the word of man over the word of God.
The same applies to us today, and this is one of the most important lessons in this story in my opinion. God is not going to say one thing though the Holy Spirit in the scriptures and then tell us something contrary to what is written. It goes against his unchanging nature! So, when we read the Scriptures, we need to take them for what they are: inspired by God (ref. II Tim. 3:16-17). They might teach hard things or things we don’t understand, but those are no reasons not to follow them. The man of God made his mistake. May we learn from and not repeat it.
“And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.”
4. God’s will will be done, regardless of what we choose to do about it.
This is a point of God’s sovereignty. The will of God will be accomplished, whether we choose to help or to hinder. That is our choice, but it doesn’t change the overall outcome whatsoever. Think about all the people that God used in this story to bring about his will, even if they were acting contrary to him. God used the man of God from Judah who would eventually make the mistake of not following his instructions and paying the price for it. God set Jeroboam as King over Israel, though he would do evil in his sight. God even gave the Old prophet a real message to speak even after he had lied to the man of God and diverted him from his task, leading to his death. God’s purpose will not be thwarted, no matter how hard we go against Him.
So that’s our choice, and it really should be an easy one. We already know the outcome. The victory has already been one. It is up to us to decide which side we want to be one. The enemies devises and schemes may look very tempting indeed, but in the end they are worth less than nothing. For in the end comes punishment for those who choose the wrong side. That may sound harsh, but here’s the thing. We are given the ultimate cheat sheet. The ultimate “insider information.” We know which side will win! So we should know which side to choose. Choose wisely.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, andthose who find it are few.”
Suggested Daily Reading: I Kings 12-13, II Kings 23, Matthew 7.
The Lord bless you.