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The Word to the Altar
God sends out of Judah a man of God. He comes “by the word of the LORD” from Judah to Bethel. “The word of the LORD” is the power that comes upon the man of God and by which he is driven to speak his message. He becomes a killjoy. The name of the man of God is not known, the name does not matter. It is about his message and on behalf of Whom he comes.
Are there not prophets in Bethel? Yes, there is an old prophet, but God cannot use him. How could that be possible? He may be disturbed, but he is not taking any action. He stays with that horrible imitation religion, without we hear him protesting. Possibly he is a man like Eli. He sees the evil, but has no strength to act against it. The fact that he is not in the right relationship with God is shown by the fact that he lies to the man of God from Judah to let him return with him (1 Kings 13:18).
Fearlessly, the man of God from Judah moves into the celebrating crowd. He is qualified to testify, he can be God’s mouth, for he is connected with the true service of God and not with the idolatry of Jeroboam (cf. Jeremiah 15:19). He directs the word, which is the word of God, to … the altar. Why to the altar and not to the calf or to Jeroboam? Because the altar symbolizes the whole service and because Jeroboam stands on the altar (1 Kings 13:4); it is his service, he is the boss of the altar. Jeroboam moderates to be able to bring a sacrifice. Later king Uzziah will perform the same presumptuous act that will bring him the plague of leprosy (2 Chronicles 26:19).
God has clearly indicated in His Word where and how He wants to be worshipped and served. Every believer may desire to be a man of God – man or woman – a witness of God’s rights in the midst of a Christianity that serves Him at will. To be a man of God God has given us His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-Esther :). Someone is a man of God when he or she reflects daily on the Word of God. At the same time, such a person will open himself up to the mighty working of God’s Spirit. Then formation is possible into the image of the Lord Jesus, the true Man of God.
The man of God prophesies the judgment over the altar. It is remarkable and rare that the prophecy mentions the name of the man by whom God allows the judgment to be carried out: king Josiah from the house of David. The genus of David, despised and forsaken by Jeroboam and his kingdom, will again have so much power that it will destroy this altar which he believes he is installing. It will take about three hundred years before this prophecy is fulfilled, but already we are told what will happen and by whom (2 Kings 23:15-Job :). For God, the future is present.
Another exception where God mentions the name of someone He uses for future events is in the case of Cyrus. God mentions His name as the deliverer of His people from the Babylonian exile, far before Cyrus is born (Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1-Joshua :). He knows the future from afar.
The prophet gives a sign: the altar will split apart and the ashes shall be poured out. According to the prescription the ashes should be taken up (Leviticus 6:10-1 Kings :). It is proof that God desecrates this altar.
Jeroboam doesn't get scared of the word of God. He believes that he can silence this intruder and disrupter of his plans. He stretches out his hand and orders the arrest of the man of God. His outstretched hand is a sign of his authority. However, his hand dries up, making it completely powerless, indicating that God’s authority is greater. God’s authority also shows that meanwhile happens what the man of God has said. The altar splits apart and the ash is poured out. Then Jeroboam tempers his tone and asks for intercession. He speaks to the man of God about “your God” and not about “my God”. He Himself has no relationship with God as His God.
He does not ask to pray for him that his sin will be forgiven, which would indicate that his heart had changed. He only asks that his hand be healed again while he hardens his heart. So Pharaoh wanted Moses to pray that God “would only remove this death from me”, but not his sin (Exodus 10:16-Job :). The prophet, as a real man of God, has rewarded evil with good. He speaks to God directly for him. He acts in the spirit of what Christ has said to His disciples, that they will pray for their persecutors (Matthew 5:10; Matthew 5:44).
The Invitation Rejected
When Jeroboam’s hand is healed, he changes his attitude towards the man of God. He tries to catch up with him and gain his favor. He invites him to come along for a refreshment and a reward. Therein lies a great temptation, but the man of God refuses. He doesn’t imagine that he will get another chance to talk to Jeroboam and take him off his bad road.
He keeps the word of the LORD, Who gave him clear commands. He knew what to say, what not to do and the way to take, both to and from. The fact that he was not allowed to return by the way he had come, but had to return by another way, indicates that God doesn’t come back on His word.
The LORD had told him that he could not eat bread nor drink water there. This means that he must not have fellowship with evil. This also applies to us (2 Corinthians 6:14-Job :; 2 Timothy 2:19-Song of Solomon :; 2 John 1:9-1 Kings :). This concerns certainly someone like Jeroboam, who leads the people in evil and encourages them to do so. It also concerns all those who live there, such as the old prophet.
The man of God refuses any form of fellowship with Jeroboam, as Abraham refused to accept anything from the king of Sodom (Genesis 14:22-Isaiah :). Everything that gives the impression that it is not so bad to connect with evil is an insult to God. In addition, it supports the other in his false position.
The Lie of the Old Prophet
The old prophet hears from his sons what has happened. They were present at the feast of Jeroboam. Would he have sent them? In any case, he could not keep them away from being there. Apparently he did not go himself. In this context, a practical remark: Do we allow our children to go to places where we do not want to go ourselves? We may ask the Lord to help us make the right decisions.
The sons inform their father of what they have seen and heard, including the words with which the man of God rejected the offer of Jeroboam. The old prophet is so misted in his thinking because of his long stay in this wicked environment that he devises a plan to get the man of God in his house. It is a false plan. His plan is to “make the Nazarite drink wine” (Amos 2:12), that is to say, to get a believer devoted to God to the point where he becomes unfaithful to his calling.
He does so to justify himself in his false position and to soothe the voice of his conscience. If he can get the man of God to come to his house to eat with him – to eat together is a picture of fellowship – then he is not so bad. The old prophet possesses the same spirit as Jeroboam. He is led by the same selfish motives as Jeroboam and comes to the same blatant disobedience as Jeroboam.
The old prophet finds the man of God sitting under an oak. The man of God sought some rest, but that is the beginning of the deviation. He has brought his message by God’s command to a place that cannot be a place of rest. It may be that his service has demanded so much of him that he has become tired. It is understandable that he had to rest for a while. Here we see that a weakness that is admitted becomes a reason for sin.
When the man of God tells what the LORD has said to him, the old prophet tells who he is in his reverence. He is also a prophet. That is not a lie. But then he lies about a word he says he received from God through an angel.
He is an example of all those people who say that you can read the Word of God differently than the way it came to you. If they also have an honorable age, there is a great danger of accepting what they say. They distort the truth and appeal to their own relationship with God. How misleading it is when people call on it to gain access to others.
The old prophet is so preoccupied with himself that he does not think about what the consequences for the man of God will be if he believes in his lie. A person who is in a false position and is looking for a justification for it is blind to the evil he does to others he wants to use for that justification.
The man of God should have known that if God had come back on His word, He would have told him so Himself, just like the first command. To go with him on the basis of a lie is a gross disobedience that he has to pay for with his death. He is much more responsible than the old prophet, because he knows better.
The Announcement of Judgment
God is holy. The old prophet suddenly receives a word from the LORD, something that must not have happened to him for many years. If God can let the false prophet Balaam and the false priest Caiaphas say things He wants them to say (Numbers 23:5; Numbers 23:16; John 11:50-1 Thessalonians :), He can also let this old prophet say a word He wants. This intervention by God gives the meal a dramatic turn. The old prophet must make himself known as a liar and the man of God is confronted with God’s judgment. The heavy punishment is exacerbated by the fact that he will not be buried in the grave of his fathers.
This time it is a word from God. If it had not been God’s word, he would certainly have apologized. There is no personal word of the man in what he says to the man of God. God does not come back on His word. The sin of the man of God is so great that God can no longer use him as His man. There is nothing of any reaction of the man of God to the announcement of the judgment, nor do we hear of any reaction of the old prophet.
The Death of the Man of God
When the man of God leaves, he knows that he is going to die. It happens as it is predicted. The way it happens is clearly from God. The lion is a tool in His hand. The lion acts according to his nature when he kills the man of God, but he acts against his nature when he does nothing else. He stands by the corpse and also leaves the donkey alone. The donkey also stays there. The lion remains there as a witness, without doing anything more than what he is told to do.
When the prophet hears of it, he speaks of the man of God as one who has been rebellious against the LORD’s command. That is true. Then the old prophet acts according to his responsibility. He is also guilty and takes care of the dead body of the man of God. He takes him up and lays him in his own grave.
He instructs his sons to bury him, when he himself is buried, beside the man of God. He does not speak of “my” grave – it was “his own grave”, 1 Kings 13:30 – but of “the grave in which the man of God is buried”. This identification prevents his bones from being burned when Josiah acts according to what the man of God has announced (2 Kings 23:17-Job :).
The Sin of Jeroboam
Jeroboam can’t be stopped by anything. He has not learned anything from the events and does not care about what God has shown and said. He perseveres in his sin. Then God speaks to him even more clearly. This is shown in the next chapter.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Kings 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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