Scripture reading – 1 Kings 13

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Having rejected Rehoboam as king, the ten tribes in the north, now known as Israel, followed Jeroboam and made him king. The two tribes in the south, Judah and Benjamin, now identified as Judah, continued to serve Rehoboam.

King Jeroboam, fearing the worship of the LORD in Jerusalem, might unite the people (1 Kings 12:26-27), established an idolatrous religion, and encouraged the people to worship two golden calves (1 Kings 12:28). One calf he located in Bethel and the other in Dan (1 Kings 12:29-30). He then ordained that “the lowest of the people” should serve as his priests (for the sons of Levi refused to participate in Jeroboam’s idolatry, 1 Kings 12:31).

Acting as a priest himself, Jeroboam offered sacrifices on the altar he built in Bethel, and we find him there in today’s Scripture reading, 1 Kings 13.

Jeroboam’s idolatry and the altar he built at Bethel (1 Kings 13:1).

1 Kings 13 – Wickedness and Tragedy in Israel

The LORD Sent His Prophet to Condemn Bethel’s Idolatry (1 Kings 13:1-10)

We do not know the prophet’s name, but the LORD sent a preacher to declare the Word of the LORD and condemn Jeroboam’s idolatry and the altar he built at Bethel (1 Kings 13:1).

The prophet foretold a son of David’s lineage would be born in Judah and be named Josiah (1 Kings 13:2). Josiah’s reign would usher in a season of revival. He would destroy the illegitimate altar at Bethel, and the false prophets and dead men’s bones would be burnt upon the altar (1 Kings 13:2).

Jeroboam was furious with the prophet. When the king stretched forth his hand commanding the prophet be seized, his hand drew up and withered (1 Kings 13:4). Jeroboam cried for mercy, the prophet then prayed, and the Lord restored the king’s hand (1 Kings 13:6). Restored to health, the king invited the prophet to his home for food, drink, and a gift. However, the prophet of the LORD refused, for he was commanded to neither eat nor drink in Bethel (1 Kings 13:7-9). So, the prophet departed another way as commanded (1 Kings 13:10).

An Act of Disobedience, and A Tragic End (1 Kings 13:11-32)

The prophet was met along the way by “an old prophet in Bethel” (1 Kings 13:11). Despite the idolatry and wickedness Jeroboam established in Bethel, the old prophet and his sons continued to live there. Hearing the prophet from Judah had condemned the altar and confronted Jeroboam, the elderly prophet invited him to his home for bread and water (1 Kings 13:11-17). When he heard the hesitancy of the prophet, the old prophet lied and persuaded him that the LORD had sent him to bring the prophet to his home to “eat bread and drink water” (1 Kings 13:18).

Contrary to the LORD’s commands, the prophet heeded the old prophet’s words, disobeyed the LORD, and invited God’s wrath upon himself (1 Kings 13:19-22). As they ate, God suddenly filled the old prophet’s mouth with His judgment against the prophet from Judah, and he foretold that he would die along the way and not be buried in his father’s tomb (1 King 13:22).

The elderly prophet found and retrieved the lifeless body of the prophet

Soon after sending the prophet from Judah away, the old prophet heard there was a man slain outside Bethel, and a donkey and lion stood over his lifeless body (a scene contrary to nature, and therefore an act of God, 1 Kings 13:23-25). The old prophet believed it was God’s judgment and 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” (1 Kings 13:26).

Leaving his home, the elderly prophet found and retrieved the lifeless body of the prophet from Judah and lamented his death (1 Kings 13:27-28). He commanded the body of the dead prophet to be placed in his tomb (1 Kings 13:29-30) and instructed his sons to bury him one day in the same tomb (1 Kings 13:31).

Though he failed to condemn the sins and idolatry of Bethel, the old prophet acknowledged the words of the prophet from Judah and asserted the judgment of God would fall on that place as the prophet foretold (1 Kings 13:32).

The King and Israel Continued in Wickedness (1 Kings 13:33-34)

Yet, the prophet’s cry against the altar at Bethel did not dissuade Jeroboam or Israel from idolatry. Instead, the king led the people in “his evil way.” We are reminded again how Jeroboam chose “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” (1 Kings 13:33). So great was this wickedness, that the LORD determined He would cut off Jeroboam’s lineage, and “destroy it from off the face of the earth” (1 Kings 13:34).


Closing thoughts –

I invite you to take a moment and look at the world around you and examine your home, church, and any institutions with which you are affiliated. If we are honest, like in the days of Jeroboam and Israel, compromise has become the way of believers and most churches today. Preachers fail to speak against the wickedness of the world, and our homes, churches, and schools are embracing gross wickedness.

If God is faithful and just, and He is, He will pour out His judgment on this generation that justifies its sins and depravity under the pretense of liberty, love, and grace. In the words of the prophet Samuel:

 “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to hearken than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith 

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