Yesterday we saw the unnamed prophet’s warning to Jeroboam, king of the ten tribes of Israel, who was insulting the Lord with blatant idolatry. Before we move from this, I want to look at a couple more points.
The prophet’s chief message was for the future: “‘O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you’” (I Kings 13:2b, NLT).
It was 350 years before this prophecy was fulfilled, but fulfilled it was. Meanwhile, though, to prove the veracity of the prophet’s message, “The Lord has promised to give this sign: This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out on the ground” (I Kings 13:3b).
The Lord immediately fulfilled the sign. Just as Jeroboam screamed for the prophet to be arrested, the king’s hand froze in place and “At the same time a wide crack appeared in the altar, and the ashes poured out” (I Kings 13:5a).
Jeroboam didn’t live to see the fulfillment of the prophecy, but he lived every day of his life dreading and worrying about when that time would come. Seeing the altar break open before his very eyes had to have been a very convincing sign that the prophet was genuinely delivering a message from God and that, just as He had fulfilled the sign, He would also fulfill the prophecy itself. But worry and dread, my friends, don’t constitute repentance.
To show you how far away from the Lord Jeroboam had turned, look back at his words when his hand was suddenly paralyzed: “Please ask the Lord your God to restore my hand again!” (I Kings 13:6b).
“Ask the Lord your God.” Jeroboam didn’t even bothering claiming Jehovah as his own. Even though he’d started out convincing the people that he was merely creating a new place and way to worship, he had been moving himself and the people away from true worship from the beginning.
And even after the prophet did as Jeroboam asked, “prayed to the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and he could move it again,” (I Kings 13:6c), he “did not turn from his evil ways” (I Kings 13:33a).
Folks, there’s idolatry, but there’s also the motions of worship. We can warm a pew every time the church doors are open. We can never miss a Bible study class. We can belt out hymns and songs right along with the rest of the congregation. And we can bow our heads and pray or shout our prayers from the rooftop. In other words, we can perform every single act of worship and still be doing one thing and one thing only: performing.
Real worship isn’t simply about what’s happening on the outside. Real worship begins in the spirit and the heart.
“True worship can only take place when we agree to God sitting not only on His throne in the center of the universe, but on the throne that stands in the center of our heart.” (Robert Colman)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates