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 13:2
These words are a prophecy against the form of worship set up in the kingdom of Israel. Consider what this kingdom and this worship were, and how this woe came to be uttered by a prophet of God.
I. When Solomon fell into idolatry, he broke what may be called his coronation oath, and at once forfeited God's favour. In consequence a message came from Almighty God revealing what the punishment of his sin would be. He might be considered as having forfeited his kingdom for himself and his posterity. In the reign of his son Rehoboam ten tribes out of twelve revolted from their king. In this they were quite inexcusable. Because the king did not do his duty to them, this was no reason why they should not do their duty to him. Say that he was cruel and rapacious, still they might have safely trusted the miraculous providence of God to have restrained the king by His prophets and to have brought them safely through.
II. That Jeroboam was an instrument in God's hand to chastise Solomon's sin is plain; and there is no difficulty in conceiving how a wicked man, without its being any excuse for him, still may bring about the Divine purposes. God had indeed promised him the kingdom, but He did not require map's crime to fulfil His promise. Jeroboam ought to have waited patiently God's time; this would have been the part of true faith. But he had not patience to wait; he was tried and found wanting.
III. It is not surprising, after such a beginning, that he sinned further and more grievously. His sins in regard to religious worship depended on this principle, that there is no need to attend to the positive laws and the outward forms and ceremonies of religion so long as we attend to the substance. He was but putting another emblem of God in the place of the cherubim. Yet after all his wise counsels and bold plans he has left but his name and title to posterity, "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin."
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. III., p. 60.
References: 1 Kings 13:6.—R. Heber, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 92. 1 Kings 13:7, 1 Kings 13:8.—A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxix., p. 165. 1 Kings 13:7-15.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 23. 1 Kings 13:8, 1 Kings 13:16, 1 Kings 13:19.—Ibid., vol. ix., p. 23. 1 Kings 13:18.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 72.
1 Kings 13:20-22I. Consider what was the mission or work of this prophet of Judah. Jeroboam, like many a statesman since his time, looked upon religion, not as the happiness and strength of his own life, but simply as an instrument of successful government. He saw that if, after the separation of the ten tribes, Jerusalem should still continue to be the religious centre of the whole nation, sooner or later it would become the political centre too. The prophet was to Jeroboam what Samuel was to Saul after the victory over Amalek. He announced God's displeasure at the most critical moment of his life, when an uninterrupted success was crowned with high-handed rebellion against the gracious Being who had done everything for the rebel. The prophet placed the king under the ban of God. It was a service of the utmost danger; it was a service of corresponding honour.
II. Consider the temptations to which the Jewish prophet was exposed in the discharge of his mission. It was not difficult for him to decline Jeroboam's invitation to eat and drink with him. The invitation of the old prophet was a much more serious temptation, and had a different result. This old prophet was a religious adventurer who had a Divine commission and even supernatural gifts, yet who placed them at the service of Jeroboam. He wanted to bring the other prophet down to his own level. Looking at the sacred garb, the white hairs, of the old prophet of Bethel, the prophet of Judah listened to the false appeal to his own Lord and Master, and he fell.
III. Notice the prophet's punishment. By a solemn, a terrible, irony the seducer was forced to pass a solemn sentence on his victim. If the sterner penalty was paid by the prophet who disobeyed, and not by the prophet who tempted, this is only what we see every day. The victims of false teaching too often suffer, while the tempter seems to escape. The lesson from the story is that our first duty is fidelity to God's voice in conscience.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 667.
References: 1 Kings 13:20-22.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 95. 1 Kings 13:21, 1 Kings 13:22.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 2nd series, p. 20. 1 Kings 13:23, 1 Kings 13:24.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 214.
1 Kings 13:26Of all men living, Jeroboam was the last to whom such a message as the prophet's could be delivered with impunity. Doubtless as the prophet trod the solitary upland road from Judah to Bethel he forecast within himself all the coming struggle. And he bears his witness. As before the great altar on the feast-day of the king's own devising the king's own arm is raised to offer incense, from the dark, unbidden form which had thrust itself into the inmost circle of worshippers there wakes up the awful voice of denunciation. Jehovah's power is seen in the withering of the king's arm; the prophet sternly rejects the proffered gifts, and takes his triumphant departure. But his triumph is soon turned into shame, for he yields to the soft suggestions of the old prophet of Bethel, and meets the doom of disobedience. From his story we may gather these lessons:—
I. There is in this history a witness of the presence with us all our life through of the God of truth and righteousness.
II. Notice how terribly distinct are the evil features of the old prophet who dwelt at Bethel. What a history is his of illuminations of grace darkened, of visitings of the Spirit resisted and banished, of the transition from a teacher to a seducer, from being a prophet of the Lord to being a prophet of lies!
III. Is there not written, as in a legend of fire, on this nameless tomb the glory or the shame which must be the portion of every prophet of the Lord? How great are his ventures, how grand his triumphs, how irresistible his strength, how strict his account. Let us watch especially after successes. Let us beware of resting under wayside trees. Let us press on and cry mightily for God's grace.
Bishop Mackarness, Oxford Lent Sermons, 1869, p. 1.
References: 1 Kings 13:26.—H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxx., p. 136, Penny Pulpit, No. 1167, and Contemporary Pulpit extra, Jan. 1887; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. vi., p. 76; W. Scott, Sermons for Sundays, Festivals, and Fasts, 2nd series, vol. iii.,p. 57. 1 Kings 13:30.—Sermons for the Christian Seasons, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 729; H. Whitehead, The Sunday Magazine, 1871, p. 91. 1 Kings 13:33.—J. Edmunds, Sixty Sermons, p. 309; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. ii., p. 102. 1 Kings 13:34.—H. Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines of Sermons for Parochial Use, vol. i., p. 356. 1Ki 13—Parker, vol. vii., p. 358; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 71. 1 Kings 14:6.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 33; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x., No. 584.
And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, 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 he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.
The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.
And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of the LORD thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the LORD, and the king's hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.
And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.
And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place:
For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.
So he went another way, and returned not by the way that he came to Bethel.
Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.
And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah.
And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon,
And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am.
Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread.
And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place:
For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.
He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.
And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back:
And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee,
But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.
And it came to pass, after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, that he saddled for him the ass, to wit, for the prophet whom he had brought back.
And when he was gone, a lion met him by the way, and slew him: and his carcase was cast in the way, and the ass stood by it, the lion also stood by the carcase.
And, behold, men passed by, and saw the carcase cast in the way, and the lion standing by the carcase: and they came and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt.
And when the prophet that brought him back from the way heard thereof, he said, It is the man of God, who was disobedient unto the word of the LORD: therefore the LORD hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake unto him.
And he spake to his sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled him.
And he went and found his carcase cast in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the carcase: the lion had not eaten the carcase, nor torn the ass.
And the prophet took up the carcase of the man of God, and laid it upon the ass, and brought it back: and the old prophet came to the city, to mourn and to bury him.
And he laid his carcase in his own grave; and they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!
And it came to pass, after he had buried him, that he spake to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the sepulchre wherein the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones:
For the saying which he cried by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.
After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way, but made again of the lowest of the people priests of the high places: whosoever would, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places.
And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth.