Some of the stories in I Kings may remind you little of Hollywood. There are no cameras or props, but there are some rather good actors. They deserve an Oscar award for the way they acted the part -- the way they fooled everyone. But God wasn't fooled, of course. In the midst of Israel's masquerade, God was behind the scenes pulling the strings.
(I Kings 13)
I remember touring for my Christian college one year in a singing group; we traveled through some 30 states - it was quite an education as we sang in nearly 200 churches and schools. Eventually we made our way from the east coast all the way to the “LEFT” coast - now that really was an education! While we were there we decided we wanted to see one of the major Hollywood film studios - if you knew much about my Christian college, you’d know why we didn’t ask permission - so we went on a tour of one of studios - the tour was Disney like - it had exhibitions, stunt shows, animal tricks and a behind the scenes look at how movies were made. I’ll never forget the way my mouth just seemed to stay in a dropped open fashion - primarily out of shock - no, not because I was thrilled and amazed but because of the way they had so cleverly fooled the American public - how they made something inanimate, come alive - now this will date me somewhat, but they showed us how the 6 Million dollar man jumped from the ground to the top of a building - even though he was sort of a lousy actor he looked like he actually jumped. They took us to the water where much of Jaws was filmed - Jaws was a big sharks head made out of different materials and then painted with water resistant paint. I’ll never forget walking down the small street and being shown Leave it to Beaver’s home - you know the front lawn - the big two story house - that house and the houses next to it were nothing more than sheets of plywood nailed together, propped up and painted to look like the front of a house - but if you could see behind it you would see nothing other than wooden braces holding the facade upright. It all looked so real, but in reality, it was all make believe.
We approach a chapter or two in I Kings that reminds me a little bit of Hollywood - there aren’t any cameras or props, but there are some rather good actors - they deserve an Oscar for the way they were acted the part - the way they fooled everyone - except one - they never pulled the wool over the eyes of God.
And God, by the way was running the tape so to speak, so that today, centuries later we can see it for ourselves - and He even lets us in on some things that happen behind the scenes.
I Kings chapter 13 is a drama about two prophets and a king. Supporting actors include a son whose very ill, some young prophets, a crowd of people, a lion and a donkey.
I want to encourage you - if you’ve ever read I Kings 13 as if it included separate events, then you’ve missed the overall plot - the theme - the moral - you need to see it all in one sweeping motion picture - simply one scene connected to another scene.
The first scene opens Let’s begin reading in chapter 13:1 as scene one opens. Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. 2. And he cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, “Behold, a sons shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.” 3. Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken, “Behold the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out. .”
Let me set the scene for you . . . Jeroboam, the creator of that man-made religion we studied last Lord’s day; is inaugurating his high altar at Bethel. He seems to be imitating his predecessor Solomon who dedicated the temple at Jerusalem.
Like Solomon, he chose the feast of tabernacles as the time for this ceremony, although he boldly altered the date of the feast so that it occurred one month later.
Just imagine the throng of people arriving from all around this new kingdom, the northern kingdom with its 10 tribes called Israel. Imagine all the dignified, newly elected priests, the gorgeous shrine that Jeroboam constructed, the garments and ceremony related to this great day of offering - then the new proud King, dressed in his finest royal robes - the head of the nation ascending the stairs of that massive altar to burn incense before the gods.
At that moment, the Bible tells us, in verse 1, just as Jeroboam was standing by the altar, perhaps even with his hand outstretched to toss the powdery incense into the flame - at that moment, when the crowd would have been quiet with expectation and anticipation for this awesome sacrificial act - then, an un-named, unknown man shouts the words we just read. He’s simply referred to as “the man of God.”
He shouts, in effect, “Jeroboam, you up there - your altar is a sham - your religion with all it’s outward appearances and priestly offices and shrines is a phony religion - and you are masquerading as a man of God to perform such a sacrifice - but God knows you’re a hypocrite - and that fake altar is going to split open in just a few moments to prove my words are from the true God of Israel; and to prove Jeroboam, you’re masquerading as a high priest.
Can you imagine that moment?
verse 4. Now it came about when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, that Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. (the Hebrew word is difficult to translate in this context - whatever happened, Jeroboam’s arm froze or became rigid so that, as it says in verse 4b, “. . .so that he could not draw it back to himself; imagine the sight - this verse also indicates that the same hand that Jeroboam was using toward the altar was the hand that pointed at the prophet of God - now the king is unable to control that hand - it’s frozen in midair - before all the people, this frustrated, probably very frightened King is trying to get his arm to go down, move, bend, anything) but there’s more - 5. The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.
Before the soldiers could even move to arrest this “man of God,” the altar begins to rumble and crack apart.
God is providing some special effects - and there are no trick camera shots on this one - that magnificent altar, the proud, robed king are revealed as powerless!
Jeroboam changes his tone of voice now! v. 6. And the king answered and said to the man of God, “Please entreat the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” key insight into Jeroboam is in his use of the word, “your” - did you notice. . .look again, “Please entreat the Lord your God, and pray for me. . .”
So there in front of everyone, v. 6b. So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before.”
Stop here for a moment - Slip into the royal sandals of Jeroboam for just a moment - imagine all of this has just happened to you - you’ve been rebellious against God; you’ve formed a false religion - you’re the chief kahuna in your world - answerable to no one - God really gets your attention - your hand is disfigured - you plead for healing - it happens - and in that moment the reality of your false religion collapses around you - the altar you’ve been worshipping at comes crashing to the ground. . .you see your life for what it really is - it’s nothing more than stage props, costumes, it’s a masquerade.
What would you do next? Well look over at verse 33. After this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way, but again he made priests of the high places from among all the people; any who would, he ordained, to be priests of the high places. 34. And this event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.
But back to you and me - can I ask you a question, that only you know the answer to - Is God trying to get your attention? Some of you had a stint in the hospital - some of you had a brush with death - some of you have gone through earth shattering experiences - while God brought you through it - you knew He wanted your attention - what will verse 33. of your biography read, “After this event, you ????? Repented? Obeyed? Trusted? Believed?
v. 33 reads and I’ll amplify it: “After this event, Jeroboam went back to his old ways, unmoved, unchanged!”
Now the initial reaction of Jeroboam is to save face by, perhaps, manipulating this godly man’s allegiance. Perhaps Jeroboam will try to buy this man’s loyalty. . .verse 7. Then the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” 8. But the man of God said to the king, “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place.”
If you’d like to know how to refuse an invitation from someone who invites you over to their house to eat, this is not necessarily the way to do it!
Actually, there’s a bigger issue at stake here - the man of God will not fellowship with an idolatrous King. . .why?! verse 9. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, “You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.” 10. So he went another way, and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.
SCENE TWO now opens. . .at first, I didn’t understand why this scene was included in the text - this man of God will be deceived by a prophet who had long ago compromised his role and position - this courageous prophet who stood up to Jeroboam will soon die from a lion attack as an act of God’s judgment . . . it seemed cruel. . .until I understood it as another scene of the same drama.
Let’s begin reading at verse 11. Now an old prophet was living in Bethel: and his sons came and told him all the deeds which the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king, these also they related to their father.
Now stop a moment. This one verse tells us a lot about this old prophet.
1) he ignored his position as a true prophet . (the text tells us that he was a prophet. Later he will speak for God. But he’s also referred to as old - undoubtedly then, the man had lived and ministered before the apostasy of Jeroboam - before the division of the kingdom, before the false religion was instigated by Jeroboam. . .yet here we find he has chosen to live in Bethel, the very town of this great false altar. . .and his voice was silent!
2) he neglected his role as a godly father. (verse 11 informs us that his sons were at the altar dedication - they had observed the godly man speak out against the King. . .question is, “Where were you Dad?!” “You should have seen the man of God speak with the signs of God’s power - question is, “Why haven’t you spoken to the king?”
Where are the men today who can gain the respect of their children by being, in their homes and in their worlds the voice of righteousness.
You say, well, Stephen, he was an old prophet - he couldn’t move around easily - maybe he was bedridden. Well, let me show you how slow and incapacitated he was; v. 12. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” Now his sons had seen the way which the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13. Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the
donkey for him and he rode away on it.” You get the picture of an old man here who can hardly move. . . I’ve had my share of riding horses, and if horses are automobiles, donkey’s are go-carts. They don’t come with shock absorbers - besides that, they’re stubborn - and it takes a strong hand to control them.
This old prophet . . . before you know it - he’s saddled up and headin out. . .
The third thing that struck me about this old prophet was this:
3) he disregarded true revelation from God and invented his own.
Notice v. 14. So he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15. Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16. And he said, “I cannot return with you, nor go with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.” 17. For a command came to me by the word of the Lord, “You shall eat no bread, nor drink waster there; do not return by going the way which you came.” By the way - he repeats the same words he gave to Jeroboam - Inasmuch to say, “God said it, I’ll obey it; period! “
It was that obedience to the word of God that kept this man of God faithful - it will be that very thing that Satan now twists into a potential snare. v. 18. And he said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, “Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.” BUT he lied to him. 19. So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house and drank water.
This passage serves as a warning: avoid and disregard the advise of other when it directly conflicts with what we know already to be God’s will.
Even when it’s a gray headed prophet, who bears dignity and reverence in his walk and speech. Satan is called the angel of light!
Bette Eadies Book “Embraced by the Light” is simply one more book written to teach a gospel differently than the word of God. She supposedly had had a near death experience where she, among other things, was embraced by “the light” - that light was supposedly Jesus Himself, who taught her among other things that all roads are leading to heaven; we’re all becoming divine; all religions are pleasing to God. Her book by the way is being read and quoted by the religious community and “Christians”.
I recently read most of the book, entitled “Embraced by the Light and the Bible” - which is an answer to her “visions” in the light of scripture - an expose that basically reveals how she has re-packaged traditional Mormon doctrine in new-age terminology.
But think about it for a moment - what if an angel were to come into your bedroom around 2:00 o’clock in the morning - you’re fast asleep and then suddenly your room is filled with light - you are overwhelmed with feelings of love and acceptance - the light is dazzling and beautiful and warm. And then an angel, with an incredible voice that moves you to tears explains to you that the world, though divided by many religions, is entirely acceptable to God who will allow all people to enjoy divine status one day - everyone will enjoy their own paradise one day - no one will be judged by God the Father - all are accepted and loved.
You lose all track of time - it seems like only a moment before the angel disappears, but you notice the clock and realize it’s now 4 in the morning. For 2 hours you have been mesmerized by this incredible visitor. Then suddenly he leaves. . .what would you do? 4:00 in the morning? Call your pastor is not one of the answers. You can call me by the way - but that’s not really the answer.
Everything the angel told you, sounded like the Bible yet it contradicted the Bible’s themes of sin and redemption; heaven and hell; faith in Christ alone, etc.
Hold your finger here and turn over to Galatians chapter one.
Galatians 1:6. I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7. Which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” In other words, people are using the same terminology, they talking about the same thing, only they’re twisting it and turning it and rewriting it. Now notice 8. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be ACCURSED.
Accursed! In other words, tell him to go on to hell ahead of schedule. The angel who delivered the message was from hell though he seemed from heaven; the preacher who preached, Paul wrote, is going to hell although he’s clergy. . .Paul pulls no punches. In fact, just to make sure they got it, he repeated it v. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be (a best selling author; let him be a well-received speaker in churches) accursed.
You don’t think Paul knew how this sounded? You don’t think Paul knew the division he created between theological truth and theological error; you don’t think he understood the enemies he would make. . .look at verse 10. For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond servant of Christ.
In other words, Paul is admitting that these were hard words to write - but he reminds the Galatian believers, he’s not writing to please them - he’s writing to protect them.
To protect them from falling into the trap that this faithful man of God fell into - return please to I Kings chapter 13. verse 20. Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, “Becuase you have disobeyed the command of the Lord, and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers.” 23. And it came about after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, for the prophet whom he had brough back. 24. Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body. (now notice). 25. And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown on the road, and the lion standing beside the body; so they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.
Now, in order to understand the object lesson that this man’s disobedience will teach to the nation; let’s ask questions that everyone else was probably asking that day.
First question - who is this man? Answer would soon follow - this is the prophet of God who prohecied bodly before King Jeroboam.
Now since the lion stands like a sentinel over the body, harming neither the body nor the donkey, and the donkey isn’t running away - God must be behind this.
SO. . .the second question would be - what did this man of God do between this morning and this evening to bring about judgment and death from God?
The answer would soon be provided by the aged prophet who came to bury him - he disobeyed God’s commands.
Oh! If he disobeyed God and God took him, and we are disobeying God in our idolatry, we have no hope of living!
Question #3 - Here’s the impact now. “What would cause this man of God to disobey the command of God?” Answer: “He was decieved by a false prophet; with false visions; with false spirituality - a phony who was masquearading as a prophet.”
One of my commentator friends who wrote nearly 200 years ago, said it this way:
Now, in the New Testament believer’s life, there aren’t kings with golden calves and great altars - but there are deceivers.
Did you know that the New Testament warned the believer on several occasions to be alert. . .the Greek verb, “Be alert” appears in some interesting contexts:
Here’s how to avoid the snare of this man of God, along with other potential pitfalls: we don’t have time to do anything more than jot a challenge or two into your notes as I read several verses:
In I Corinthians 16:13 - "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith. . ." (context - previous verses is that these believer have an open door for effective service)
Challenge - Be alert to emerging ministry and it's potential.
Howard Hendricks - "In very generation, the church of Jesus Christ has missed the mark somewhere, do you know where it is missing the mark today?" Where is potential ministry being overlooked. . .passed by. . .by sleepy, un-alert believers.
Next week . . .SPORTS MINISTRY PLUG - Be on the alert for ministry potential!
Colossians 4:2 - "Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving".
Challenge - Be alert to prayer and it's priority.
Communication for spiritual direction outside the bounds of prayer and scripture and godly counsel are strictly forbidden! No wonder prayer is so emphasized in scripture. . .that’s the connection!
Did you know that spiritism has gone on-line. The New Age Forum on CompuServe has drawn 45,000 participants worldwide. The 3-year-old network includes information about astrology, tarot cards, mysticism, electronic conferences, and a library. A growing number of on-line services cater to spiritual seekers. Users say the discussions have changed their lives.
I was in Winn Dixie last night - one of those quick runs for necessities - you know, milk for the baby, a dozen doughnuts for ... as a reward! I was standing in line - reading the headlines on all those magazines. One magazine’s headline caught my eye - Life Magazine this month -
READ FROM MAGAZINE - I was in Winn Dixie. . .
Ephesians 6:10-18 - "With all prayer and petition, pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance."
Challenge - Be alert to spiritual enemies and their purpose.
Someone once asked tongue in cheek - “Why is it that opportunity knocks only once yet temptation bangs on the door constantly?”
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrims Progress wrote a lesser known allegory entitled THE HOLY WAR. In it he wrote about MANSOUL, a city the enemy was trying to overthrow.
MANSOUL had 5 city gates:
-the ear gate -the eye gate -the nose gate -the feel gate -the mouth gate
The enemy of Mansoul would daily attack at one of the gates. . .he would speak through the Ear Gate or paint vivid and alluring pictures to the Eye Gate. . .interesting thing is that Mansoul, in Bunyan's allegory, could never be toppled by attacks. The only way the enemy could conquer the city was if someone opened one of the gates.
Paul said to be on the alert with all perseverance. One of our greatest struggles is endurance. We are by nature, sprinters, not long distance runners.
I think it’s interesting that if this man of God had kept riding until he returned home, rather than stop and sit under an oak tree in Bethel, he would have avoided disaster.
Acts 20:28 & 29 - "And from among you men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. . .therefore be on the alert."
Challenge - Be alert to false teachers and their plans.
Did it ever occur to you that your enemy has enough information about you to know when, where, how much and how often to fire the darts.
No wonder the Bible says, "Guard your heart, for out of it are the issues of life."
Christian - Be Alert!
I want to mention one more thing about the drama that occurred in I Kings: a King masquerading as a priest; an old prophet masquerading as a recipient of fresh visions.
Even in the death of this godly man, who disobeyed the Lord’s direct command and thus became an illustration of what God would do to Jeroboam and the idolatrous Israelites - even in his death, he spoke.
Just as he prophesied, a King came - his name was Josiah - three hundred years later Josiah came to Bethel . . . let me show you what happened 300 years after the lion took this man’s life: GO BACK TO 2 Kings 23
2 KINGS 23:15. Furthermore, the altar that was at Bethel and the high place which jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah. 16. Now when Josiah turned, he saw the graves that were there on the mountain, and he sent and took the bones form the graves and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things. 17. Then he said, “What is this monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.” (imagine - 300 years later, the people of Bethel still repeat that man’s prophecy; and did you notice, he’s remembered, not as the dishobedient servant but as the “man of God”!) 18. And Josiah said, “Let him alone; let no one disturb his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.
Even though dead, for 300 years he had spoken.
For us today, be alert - be on guard - remember that the best safeguard for tomorrow is the godly use of today.
In my life Lord, be glorified, be glorified; in my life, Lord, be glorified today.
In my heart Lord. . .
And so the men of Bethel, and the strangers among them - and thousands of strangers who would be present in Bethel at this special time of sacrificing on this new altar - would understand that this man of God, although a prophet, had paid the penalty of his disobedience with his life. They would percieve that their new teacher who had appeared among them, in the person of their King, had also presumed to countermand the law of the Almighty. Jeroboam was acting the part of priest, sacrificing to a new God, deceiving the people with a new worship. The people would understand that as God had not spared His own messenger, He would not spare them as well.
MAGAZINE FRONT: In big letters across the front page was the word DREAMS. The byline’s read; detect illnesses before doctors can; overcome depression; unlock the mysteries of the brain. Listen my brain has no mystery - I just need a glazed doughnut every so often. . .and things seem to work out!
The lengthy article basically exposed the age old theory that we have within us all the answers - we just need to tap into them - and dreams are becoming a popular way to see into ourselves and our future.
By the way, I couldn’t help but feel badly for woman in our society - their is terrific pressure - overt and subtle to look perfect - I noticed this woman pictured on the front - she’s supposedly fast asleep - her hair is brushed perfectly to one shoulder; her mascara and eye liner are just right and she’s wearing lipstick. . .I hope none of you ladies look at sublimal messages like this and think, “Well, I’m not even measuring up when I’m asleep!” NO! I hope you ladies look at this stuff and say, “give me a break.” In reality, when this lady who is a professional model, is really sleeping, she, like every other human being, looks like she’s being run over by a truck. . .that’s why we got up early - to repair the damage!
Well, as I expected, the article ended by saying, “The chasm is being straddled between scientists and New Agers, for whom dreams are as vital a tool for self-realization as crystals or yoga. They title their dreams, conferring on them the status of fine art. They hang Native American dream catchers or shells by their beds along with cloth and feather webs designed to snare bad dreams. Some even drink water before going to bed in hopes that they’ll have to awaken thus having a better chance to remember their dreams! Listening to the most zealous of them, one might believe that if we could spend 24 hours a day dreaming, we could cure cancer, end pollution and achieve world peace.”