************ Sermon on 1 Kings 13 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 24, 2004
1 Kings 13
1 Kings 13:26
"A King, Two Prophets, and a Hungry Lion"
"What we read in 1 Kings 13 seems so unfair. How can God allow this to happen?" That was my reaction the first time I read the story. That was also my reaction the second time I read the story.
Tell me if this doesn't make you upset?! A man of God obeys the Lord and is on his way home. But he is seduced by another prophet who leads him into disobedience by lying to him about the will of God. Then the first prophet is held accountable for his disobedience, even though he is seduced and tricked by the second prophet. The first prophet is destroyed. The dead prophet is then grieved by the second prophet, the very one who caused his death. Again, I ask, doesn't this make you upset?!
Then it occurred to me: the Lord want us to get angry and upset and bothered about what we read in 1 Kings 13. BUT, in this instance, it is not injustice He wants us to get angry about; in this instance, it is not what seems so grossly unfair that He want us to get angry about. It is something else entirely that is supposed to fill us with outrage and anger. So as we read and study this chapter we must make sure we get angry about the right thing.
What is really going on in the passage in front of us? And what is its meaning for us today?
I The Occasion - Covenantal Disobedience
A To understand what is going on we have to go back to the reign of King Solomon and his son King Rehoboam. If you remember, the people cried under the yoke of taxes and work the king imposed upon them (there really is nothing new under the sun, is there?!). They asked Rehoboam to lighten their load. When Rehoboam failed to listen to their pleas, Jeroboam led the northern tribes in rebellion against the house of David.
B Once he had established his own kingdom, Jeroboam's next step was to make it secure and unified. Jeroboam knew that as long as his people traveled to Jerusalem and the temple for worship he could not sleep easy. Religion could so easily cause the people to return to the house of David (1 K 12:27). Therefore, he made two golden calves and said to the people,
(1 K 12:28) "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt."He decided to place the two calves in Bethel and Dan as alternative or rival worship centers to Jerusalem.
In establishing Bethel and Dan as worship centers, Jeroboam took great pains to imitate what God had established in Jerusalem: he had the same festivals observed; he had sacrifices offered at the same times; and, he kept the same hours of prayer (cf 1 K 12:32). Jeroboam wanted the people to be comfortable with worshiping at Dan and Bethel.
C In all of this – let there be no mistake about it – Jeroboam was committing covenantal disobedience. The golden calves, of course, broke both the first and second commandments of the Law: no other gods and no graven images. God established Jerusalem as the place where His Name would stand and even informed Jeroboam of this (1 K 11:32,36); but Jeroboam decided to oppose the Word and will of God by means of Dan and Bethel. Furthermore, God had commanded that only Levites could be priests (Num 16) but Jeroboam ordained all sorts of people to the priestly office; "anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated" (1 K 13:33; 12:32). In our Scripture reading we see Jeroboam playing a key role in dedicating Bethel; he did this to focus attention on himself and his kingdom; contrast this to the dedication of Solomon's temple where the focus was on God and His glory (1 K 8). Finally, Jeroboam tore apart the covenantal unity of the people of God; what God joined together as one holy people, Jeroboam tore apart and separated.
We see, then, that Jeroboam's rebellion was not merely political. It was also and especially religious. Jeroboam rebelled against the Lord and His Word. It was covenantal disobedience.
II Disobedience and its Consequences
A Jeroboam's covenantal disobedience was so repugnant that our holy God was forced to respond. After all, as later chapters testify, this sin lived on in Israel. We see this when the reign of king after king in Israel is summed up with these words:
(1 K 15:34) He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in his sin, which he had caused Israel to commit. (cf 1 K 16:2; 1 K 16:19; 1 K 16:26; 1 K 22:52; 2 K 17:21; 2 K 23:15)
God's response is a prophet, called a "man of God." Why is he called a "man of God"? This means he is a true prophet, not a false one like the many that served Baal or the cult of Jeroboam.
At the critical moment when Jeroboam himself was about to make an offering to dedicate the altar, the man of God appeared. He announced that the priests using the altar would themselves be burned upon it along with the bones of those who were buried near the sanctuary.
What is the meaning of burning bones? In Israel, the burning of anyone's bones is a serious matter; it effectively cuts off that person's inheritance in Israel; there is no place in the land for him, not even for his bones.
As a sign of this judgment, the man of God declared that the altar would burst and its ashes (which normally would have been carefully gathered and conserved) would spill on the ground and be desecrated.
In hot anger, Jeroboam pointed to the man of God and ordered his capture. But the accusing hand was paralyzed. And, just as the prophet said, the altar burst and its ashes spilled.
In momentary fright, Jeroboam pleaded for God's favor. Was Jeroboam frightened by the coming judgment? Was he sorry for his sin? Did he regret violating the covenant of our holy God? That's what the shriveled hand, the split altar, and the poured out ashes should have led to. Instead, Jeroboam was only worried about his paralyzed hand!
The prophet prayed and the hand was healed. Jeroboam offered the man of God money for restoring his hand. He begged the prophet to eat and drink with him. The prophet refused because that was God's will. Why was this God's will? The fact is, God had completely rejected Bethel. Therefore, the man of God was to have no fellowship – table or otherwise – with anyone in that accursed place. And, he was not allowed to be contaminated by its money.
B We are now introduced to a second prophet, a prophet who lived in Bethel. He chased down the first prophet, lied to him about the will of God, and seduced him to eat and drink in Bethel. Then he pronounced the judgment of God against the first prophet.
Why did the second prophet lie to the first prophet? Why did he want the first prophet to eat and drink with him at his home in Bethel? What was his intent? Scripture doesn't tell us.
Whatever the reason, the message of God is compromised by the actions of the first prophet. By his disobedience, the prophet becomes an object of scorn and mockery. By his disobedience, the prophet puts the judgment of God into question. Like Jeroboam, the prophet is unfaithful. Like Jeroboam, the prophet is committing covenantal disobedience against our holy God.
C Again, our holy God cannot and does not permit such covenantal disobedience to go unpunished. He couldn't let the disobedience of Jeroboam go unanswered. And, He can't let the disobedience of His prophet go unanswered either. So God appointed a lion to kill the prophet. The prophet even suffers the same fate as the false prophets and priests: his bones cannot be buried in the tomb of his fathers; his bones too cannot rest in the land.
Is this fair or just? Why is the first prophet held accountable for his disobedience, even though he is seduced and tricked by the second prophet? The fact is, as a true prophet, he should have sensed the lie. As a true prophet, he should have been able to distinguish truth from falsehood. As a true prophet, he should have inquired of the LORD instead of listening to an old prophet who lived in Bethel. As a true prophet he should have put obedience and holiness before anything else.
III Lessons for Us
A What are we to make of all this? What does this story reveal to us about the Lord, His Word, and His way with His people? What is the lesson we are to learn? There are five lessons for us.
The first lesson we are to learn: I said earlier that when we read this story we should get angry. But I also said we have to make sure we get angry about the right thing. So what is it about this story that should make us angry; what is it that should fill us with outrage?
We should get angry, congregation, about sin. Jeroboam sinned and broke the covenant. The first prophet sinned and broke the covenant. Depending upon his reason for lying the second prophet probably sinned and broke the covenant as well. Kings and prophets – leaders of God's people – sinned against our holy God and were covenantally disobedient. Is it fair to say that the lion is the only one in the story that obeyed God? At God's command it attacked and killed the first prophet; and, at God's command it did not eat the man's body nor maul the donkey. Leaders and people fail to obey God whereas an unthinking beast perfectly obeyed its Creator's will. This should make us angry.
We should always be angry about sin. Not just the sin of our leaders but the sin of the people as well. But are we? Often it seems we accept sin, shrug our shoulders about it, and act like it is no big deal. But it is a big deal! All sin is disobedience against our holy God. All sin breaks the covenant God has established with mankind. All sin is repugnant in God's sight.
Topic: SinSin is the same way. It is dangerous. Unchecked and unforgiven it leads to eternal doom. So we can't simply shrug about sin. We can't simply accept it as part of the status quo. It must make us angry and we must fight and resist it at every turn.
Title: Loaded for the Kill
During the Franco-German War two shells fell close to a house near the scene of the conflict. The owner decided to keep them as a curiosity. After polishing them, he put them near his fireplace. One day he showed these interesting objects to a visiting acquaintance. His friend was suddenly struck by a horrible thought. "What if they're still loaded?" he inquired in alarm. Being an expert in such matters, he quickly examined the shells. "Get them away from the heat of the fire immediately! They're as deadly as the day they were made!" he exclaimed.
B The second lesson we are to learn: We learn from this story that it is always dangerous to defy the Word of the Lord. This is true for kings and prophets, for young and old, for male and female. Jeroboam defied the Word of the Lord. The last verse of our chapter tells us the results:
(1 K 13:34) This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth. The man of God also defied the Word of the Lord and was torn apart by a lion.
It is always dangerous to defy the Word of the Lord. It is safer to "let goods and kindred go" than to trample under foot the Word of the Lord. For those who defy the Word of the Lord – like Jeroboam, like the prophet – have no place in the land of the living, have no inheritance in the Kingdom of God. I am reminded of what we read in the New Testament:
(Heb 10:26) If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left ...There is no forgiveness and no salvation for those who deliberately and persistently defy the Word of the Lord; rather, there is only judgment and destruction.
Topic: BibleIn the same way, it is always dangerous to defy the Word of the Lord!
If you've ever been to Yellowstone National Park, you were probably given a piece of paper by a ranger at the park entrance. On it in big letters was the warning "Do Not Feed the Bears." You no sooner drive into the heart of the park, however, than you see people feeding the bears.
You run great risk if you defy or ignore the word of the rangers. Because, sooner or later some of these people become a statistic -- when the bear attacks them and leaves them mauled or dead.
C The third lesson we are to learn: No matter who says it, it is always necessary to test everything by the Word of the Lord. This was the big mistake of the first prophet. He failed to test the words of the old prophet against the Word of the Lord. Therefore, he was deceived, seduced, and tricked. As for the old prophet, he too fell prey to a lying spirit and said what was contrary to the Word of the Lord.
There are so many false faiths, false prophets, and false claims in our world today. They are able to "deceive even the elect" says Jesus (Mt 24:24). Therefore, Paul tells us to "Test everything" (1 Th 5:21). And, John says,
(1 Jn 4:1) Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
D The fourth lesson we are to learn: Don't be bought off from our holy God's call to obedience. When Jeroboam tried to buy off the man of God, the man of God resisted. But he did not resist when the old prophet offered him food and drink. Maybe the man of God was tired and hungry. Maybe he was lonely and afraid. Maybe he craved the fellowship and guidance of a more experienced servant of God. But whatever the reason, he allowed himself to be bought off from total obedience to God.
Unlike the man of God, we are not to quit on God's will because of royal protest or government decree. We are not to turn back because of counter advice. We are not to be taken in by the generous or the hospitable. We are not to be led astray by those who seem to have a deeper authority. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is to prevent us from giving our holy God total obedience.
E The fifth and final lesson we are to learn: Though even servants of God may stumble and fall, God never fails and always accomplishes His decrees and carries out His purposes. That is so clear when we turn to 2 Kings 23. There we read of King Josiah, the king spoken of by the fallen man of God in verse 2. Even as the man of God said, Josiah slaughtered the false priests on the altar and burned human bones on it too (2 K 23:15-20). This isn't because the man of God spoke such a powerful word; rather, it is because the powerful God brought this word to pass.
Our holy God is working out His purposes. He wants a holy people for Himself. Even our sin and our disobedience cannot stop Him in this purpose. That's why He sent His one and only Son – to redeem a people and make them holy.
Is there any doubt about it, congregation? Disobedience – whether of a king, a prophet, or a people – always has fateful consequences. That's why we must learn the lesson of a king, two prophets, and a hungry lion.
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