Jeroboam, having been entrusted by the Lord with kingship over the ten tribes of Israel (two, Judah and Benjamin, were now considered to be the land of Judah, ruled by Solomon’s son Rehoboam), immediately insults the Lord with blatant idolatry, setting up gold calves for the people to worship; appointing priests who weren’t of the Levite tribe; apparently making himself high priest; and establishing festivals of his own choosing.
“At the Lord’s command, a man of God from Judah went to Bethel, arriving there just as Jeroboam was approaching the altar to burn incense. Then at the Lord’s command, he shouted, ‘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.’ That same day the man of God gave a sign to prove his message. He said, ‘The Lord has promised to give this sign: This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out on the ground.’
When King Jeroboam heard the man of God speaking against the altar at Bethel, he pointed at him and shouted, ‘Seize that man!’ But instantly the king’s hand became paralyzed in that position, and he couldn’t pull it back. At the same time a wide crack appeared in the altar, and the ashes poured out, just as the man of God had predicted in his message from the Lord” (I Kings 13:1-5, NLT).
“A man of God from Judah…” The faithful of the Lord had left the northern kingdom of Israel. “All the priests and Levites living among the northern tribes of Israel sided with Rehoboam. The Levites even abandoned their pasturelands and property and moved to Judah and Jerusalem, because Jeroboam and his sons would not allow them to serve the Lord as priests. From all the tribes of Israel, those who sincerely wanted to worship the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem, where they could offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their ancestors” (II Chronicles 11:13-14, 16). In essence, Israel was left in a sorry state with a sorry leader.
The arrogant king, “approaching the altar to burn incense,” was appalled that the prophet would speak against his altar. Instead of fearing the message of the Lord, he ordered the man arrested. “But instantly the king’s hand” froze in place and “a wide crack appeared in the altar, and the ashes poured out, just as the man of God had predicted.” Suddenly Jeroboam changed his tune:
“The king cried out to the man of God, ‘Please ask the Lord your God to restore my hand again!’ So the man of God prayed to the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and he could move it again.
Then the king said to the man of God, ‘Come to the palace with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.’
But the man of God said to the king, ‘Even if you gave me half of everything you own, I would not go with you. I would not eat or drink anything in this place. For the Lord gave me this command: ‘‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’’ So he left Bethel and went home another way” (I Kings 13:6-10, NLT).
Jeroboam may have momentarily showed some fear of the Lord, but like the chameleon he was, he immediately reverted back to his old self: “But even after this, Jeroboam did not turn from his evil ways. He continued to choose priests from the common people. He appointed anyone who wanted to become a priest for the pagan shrines. This became a great sin and resulted in the utter destruction of Jeroboam’s dynasty from the face of the earth” (I Kings 13:33-34).
“We fear men so much, because we fear God so little. One fear cures another. When man’s terror scares you, turn your thoughts to the wrath of God.” (G. K. Chesterton)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates