In 1 Kings 12 the nation of Israel is divided between the northern nation, which took on the name Israel, and the southern nation, which took on the name Judah. Jeroboam is the first king of the northern nation. One of his first acts was to build golden calves in the northern and southern parts of the land so that the people would not return to Judah to worship the Lord as they were commanded. Jeroboam feared that when the people went to Judah to worship they would want to remain under the ruler of the southern nation. Once Jeroboam installed this calf worship, the word of the Lord came to a prophet whose name we do not know to condemn Jeroboam. This is where we pick up the story in verse 1 of 1 Kings 13.
Jeroboam Condemned (13:1-10)
The man of God declares the word of the Lord to Jeroboam that because he has done these things, a son will be born to the house of David named Josiah would burn the bones of Jeroboam’s priests on those altars. To prove that this would happen, the man of God gave a sign that the altar would be torn down and ashes poured out. When Jeroboam heard this prophecy, he stretched out his hand and ordered the arrest of the man of God. However, when Jeroboam stretched out his hand, his arm withered so that he could not draw it back. The altar splits apart and the ashes poured out from the altar. This catches the attention of Jeroboam and he begs the man of God to pray to God so that his hand would be restored. The man of God prays to the Lord and Jeroboam’s hand was restored. Jeroboam turns to political maneuvering at this point. He asks for the man of God to come home with him, refresh himself, and he will give the man of God a reward. Basically, Jeroboam is trying to get the prophet to be on his side. The man of God responds that he will do no such thing because the word of the Lord was very specific to him. God told him to not eat bread or drink water and not return by the way that he came. Therefore the man of God is being obedient to the word of the Lord. He does not eat with Jeroboam and he returns another way back toward Judah.
The Trap (13:11-19)
In verse 11 we are told that there was an old prophet who lived in Bethel. His sons come and tell him all that happened between the man of God and Jeroboam. The old prophet sets out to find the man of God. When the old prophet finds him, he tells the man of God to come home with him and eat bread. The man of God gives the old prophet the same answer that he gave Jeroboam. He is not allowed to go with him, he is not allowed to eat bread or drink water, and he is to return by a different way than he came. The old prophet tells the man of God that an angel spoke to him by the word of the Lord telling him that he should get the man of God and bring him back to his house to eat bread and drink water. Verse 18 is very clear. The old prophet is lying. Unfortunately, the man of God listens to the old prophet, goes to his house, eats bread and drinks water.
The Condemnation (13:20-32)
As they sat at the table eating, the word of the Lord does come to the old prophet. The message is directed to the man of God. “Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, but have come back and have 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 tomb of your fathers. (1 Kings 13:21–22 ESV) So they finish eating, the man of God saddles his donkey, and returns home. On the way home a lion meets him on the road and kills him. Here is an amazing part of the story. The lion kills the man of God. The donkey stood beside the body and the lion stood beside the body. The lion does not kill the donkey and does not eat the man of God. The lion was on God’s mission as a sign to all about disobeying the word of the Lord.
Lessons From 1 Kings 13
First, this is a challenging story for us to accept. The consequences do not seem right. The man of God was tricked. The old prophet lied to him. The lion should go eat the old prophet who lied, not the man of God who was deceived. However, there is an important lesson being taught that we can easily miss if we do not know the commands of God. Turn to Deuteronomy 13:1-4 because this is the basis for the condemnation.
“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:1–4 ESV)
There were important tests that the people were to exercise concerning those who were prophets. The first was to pay attention if the prophet foretells about things to happen. However, this was not enough. Notice that the second key test was to pay attention to what the prophet said. If what the prophet said conflicted with previous revelations from God, then the people were not to listen to that prophet. There is a critical principle being taught by God that the people of Israel were to know.
KEY PRINCIPLE: Once God has spoken, any new word claiming to be from God must conform to the previous revelation of God or else it must be rejected as false.
Nothing was to be accepted that contradicted God’s prior decrees. The people were to hold fast to the revealed word and not listen to the new word from the prophet. Do you see why the man of God was condemned? The man of God failed to test the prophet’s words. God told the man of God an important instruction. He was not eat food or drink water and was to go a different way back home. A prophet comes along and says that an angel told him that the man of God was to eat food and drink water. Which message was the man of God to listen to? The man of God was to listen to the first message. Deuteronomy is teaching that anyone who comes along later with a different message is to be rejected. But the man of God did not obey Deuteronomy 13:1-4 and the consequences for disobeying God’s words are serious and grave.
This principle is the thrust of Paul’s words to the Galatians in his letter. Listen to the words of Paul in Galatians 1:6-9.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6–9 ESV)
Once you have God’s revelation, it does not matter what new revelation comes along or where the revelation comes from, if it differs from the first revelation it is to be rejected. It does not matter if an angel tells you a message. If the message is different from what was revealed previously that message must be rejected. The effects of this principle are far reaching.
- The system of the Roman Catholic Church is invalidated. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that scripture is equally authoritative with church tradition and the declarations of the pope. However, our scripture today shows that God does not reverse his decrees. When one revelation from God is given, that revelation is to endure and all future revelations are invalidated and deemed false if those revelations are contrary from the first revelation. No one can claim to be a prophet or vicar of Christ and give a new revelation that contradicts God’s word. Scripture, therefore, is the supreme authority. First Kings 13 teaches us that we reject any authority that is placed up against the word of God.
- Scripture cannot be rejected for experiences, feelings, or opinions. Too often we approach the scriptures with our emotions and opinions interfering with the word of God. We want to soften some teachings of God and make other teachings more strict. We want to make things black and white where God left the issue gray and make gray issues that God spoke on clearly. We must do things according to God’s revelation in worship, in life, in money, in structure, and in teaching. This is what it means to return to the old paths (Jeremiah 6:16). Not that we do things according to tradition or the way we have always done things. Rather, it means that we follow the path of God’s revelation in all we do. The man of God got himself killed because he put what he thought ahead of the word of the Lord. He thought the old prophet was telling the truth. He thought he should listen to this old prophet. He thought going and eating was a good idea. He thought wrong.
- Know the word of God. Everyone wants a new revelation. Everyone wants to have an experience with God. But no revelation or experience can be different from what has already been revealed. This teaches us about the need to know God’s word and the sufficiency of the scriptures.
- A greater emphasis must be placed upon the knowledge of the scriptures. Biblical preaching is down and biblical illiteracy is up. My job is not to come up with some great teaching ideas and find some text that validates my ideas. Such an attitude would be bad for you because your learning would rely upon me. The vastness of the scriptures become constrained by my pion brain and lack of knowledge. What can Brent come up with today? The scriptures must be the leader in our teachings. The scriptures declare the message of God, I learn from the scriptures, and share that message with you. We cannot reverse this so that the preacher wants to share a message so he searches the scriptures to prove the point he wanted to make. False teaching so easily can arise with this poor approach. Let the scriptures teach us.I think I know one reason why we get things reversed. We live in a society that we just want to get to the point. Just tell me what I need to know. In our desire to get to the point, we have simply ignored the beauty of the scriptures. God revealed himself through letters from his servants to churches and to groups of Christians. God revealed himself through songs and narratives about the lives of Jesus, the apostles, the kings, the judges, the prophets, and other heroes of faith. God revealed himself through parables and proverbs, beautiful sayings and stories about the ways of the Lord. Why does this matter? Did any of you use Cliff’s Notes when you were in high school or college? Reading Cliff’s Notes about some literature will give you the point, but you will miss the beauty of the book. Cliff’s Notes are not going to help us withstand false teaching. We must know the scriptures in all of its beauty and vastness.
- Do we believe that God has given us what we need in the scriptures? Or do we think the scriptures need to be supplemented with sociological techniques, pop psychology, political tools, or financial seminars. Is the word of God sufficient for evangelism or do we need to add entertainment? Christian decision making comes from thinking in a biblical way and conforming our lives to the image of Christ, not conforming to books and seminars.
- Once God has spoken, all new revelations must be rejected if they do not conform to God’s word.
- Therefore, we must know God’s word, its beauty, depth, vastness, meaning, and messages.
- Therefore, the scriptures are all we need for life and godliness.