The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.1 Kings 13
This chapter opens with a strange incident. A man of God came out of Judah by the express command of God, and when he came to Bethel, behold Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And the man of God having been told what to do cried against the altar and said, "O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; Behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee." And the man of God gave a sign (1Kings 13:3) and Jeroboam put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him, but the hand was dried up so that he could not pull it in again to him, and it was only by the prayer of the man of God that the king's hand was healed again.—Learn: (1) God knows all the uses to which his altars are being put; (2) He knows for what purpose we profess his name, or take up our places in his sanctuary; (3) Even kings must be smitten if they defile or degrade the altar; (4) Men of God must speak the word of the Lord whatever consequences may ensue.
Almighty God, it is our joy to know that though our sin be great thy grace is infinitely greater. Where sin abounds, grace doth much more abound, as where death abounds, life doth much more abound. This is thy method in thy universe, that life shall always be in excess of death, and that out of death itself shall come elements that shall tend to extend life. Thou movest marvellously: our eyes cannot follow the rapidity of thy movements, nor can our understanding bring within its judgment all thy methods and purposes. But we have seen enough to give us quietness and to deepen our childlike and loving trust. When the mystery is thickest and the cloud is densest, then we say, This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working; in his own due time he will turn these clouds into stars, and all his heaven will he bright with the shining of a great glory. Thou hast done so much in our life that we are able to say this with all the emphasis of unquestioning confidence.
Thou hast trained us when there was no hand to take hold of our little life; thou didst understand us when our prayer was but a dumb sign to our eager mother. Thou hast fed us with food convenient for us: when we have said there was no water, thou has caused the rocks to melt into streams. We have said, We shall die here, for there is no road beyond, and behold thou didst make a way for us in the mountains, and we walked by the feet of the great rocks which we expected to shut up our way. Thou hast dealt wonderfully with us; all thy mysteries are in our own life; we need not be startled or stunned by the mysteries in thy great book, for every one of them is repeated in the living book of our own experience. We have now learned wisdom enough to put ourselves absolutely into thy hands; we do not want any plan or purpose for to-morrow—we do not want to have any tomorrow in our possession or prospect at all. We would crowd our urgent life into the present trembling moment and make it the greatest crisis of our experience. Help us to work with both hands diligently; may we be good and faithful servants, using our talents, few or many, with all industry and with ever-growing zeal.
Thou knowest us altogether as a company of Christian worshippers. The old man is here, to whom life was once a dream; now it is a hope, for its life is not here, it is risen. The child is here who has no history, whose life spreads out like a golden dream, a prospect of glee and laughter exceedingly; the patient heart-broken woman, the sorrowing mother, with a grief she cannot tell; the prodigal who has edged his way in here, hoping not to be seen by reason of the crowd—we are all here; speak to us, thou tender One, and let thy speaking, every tone of it, be a gentle gospel that shall bring light into dark hearts, that shall dry tears from eyes used to great weeping, that shall stimulate every one of us to a higher industry and rebuke us gently for the despondency which comes of our want of faith. If any soul is here in peculiar trouble with a distress it may not put into words, let the Lord himself heal the great wound, lest it end in death.
As for our sin, there stands in front of us the infinite cross, the great sacrifice, the complete atonement, the great transaction never to be explained but always to be felt. The Lord touch every heart with the redeeming blood, and the sin shall be found no more. Pity us, great Father; if we are very tired, take us into thine arms awhile till we get our breath again, and according to the necessity and the pain of every life, command thy gracious blessing to rest upon us all. Amen.