By Donald P. Ames
So many times we focus on one or two people in an account, and fail to see other equally plain lessons. We have noted the man of God and the old prophet, but there is another tragic figure also in this chapter.
Jeroboam had been selected by God and promised the northern ten tribes of Israel (1 Kings 11). God even promised, “If you heed all I command you . . . I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David” (11:38). God kept his promise, but Jeroboam distrusted God, and set about trying to secure his own throne by methods unacceptable to God (1 Kings 12). Now, God is forced to prophesy against his own anointed!
How far had Jeroboam gone? Note in 13:6, he begs the man of God to entreat “the Lord your God”! He no longer claimed any fellowship with God. Why did he not then turn to the “gods” he had set before the nation of Israel (12:28)? He knew they could not help! Certainly this is seen by the way he tried to use his wife to deceive Ahijah (1 Kings 14). It is sad that many are caught up in sin despite all that God has given them. There may be many reasons they got into it. Frequently, rather than turn back away from it, they seek to deny God, as though that would make them OK. But though we may seek to deny there is a God and the fact that someday we will have to stand before him, our denial will not alter any of the facts (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Thess. 1:8). And deep down inside, most of us know such to be so regardless of how confident we may seem in our denials.
Now, angered at the man of God for daring to rebuke his sinful ways, he seeks to strike out and seize him. He should have heeded the warning (Amos 3:7)! There was still time! The kingdom could still be his! But too many react rather than repent, retaliate rather than regret, and rebel rather than obey! They resort to name calling and character assignation rather than to answer the statements from the word of God. Yes, he was only digging his own grave that much deeper. The man of God exercised great control in dealing with him (cf. Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).
For his arrogance, God withered Jeroboam’s hand, and caused the altar to be split just as the man of God had said would happen. Note now his plea: “Please entreat the fa-vor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me” (13:6). He knew the effect of a righteous man’s prayer (James 5:16). He also knew that when one “turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Prov. 28:9). What right did he have to ask anything of God, considering the way he had repaid him for making him king over the northern ten tribes? Like so many today, he was guilty of taking, but offering nothing back to God in return! But God is not man! God bestows blessings even on the wicked sometimes to try to bring them to repentance (Matt. 5:45; Rom. 2:4). He even loved us while we were still his enemies (Rom. 5:8-10). And Jesus, on the cross, cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). That love moved us to repent and obey him. And John challenges each of us to try to learn that same kind of love for one another (1 John 4:7-11).
And so, in spite of all that Jeroboam had done in rebel-lion against him, God healed his hand in response to the man of God’s prayers. How happy Jeroboam was! He wanted to reward the man of God, to invite him into his home, to give him a meal to eat, to give him an opportunity to refresh himself before he headed back to Judah (and completely ignored the sin that had caused all the before mentioned events). But, oops! Wasn’t that God who had healed him? Aren’t we willing to show our appreciation to men and often forget God is the source of all our blessings (James 1:17)? Perhaps because we feel more obligated if we acknowledge Jehovah as the source rather than man, we tend to dismiss God from our thinking and reward men. Again, his thanksgiving was too shallow.
Even after having heard the message from the man of God, seeing the altar split in two as confirmation God had spoken it, having had his hand withered up and then re-stored again by the power of God; Jeroboam hardened his heart again. It is a sad thing to note that some men will not repent, regardless of what God does to bring them to repentance. “It is impossible . . . to renew them again to repentance” (Heb. 6:4-6). This doesn’t mean we should not try, but it is a fact of life that everyone is not going to render obedience to the gospel of Christ It is not our role to force such obedience. Ours is to do the preaching whether they “hear or whether they refuse” (Ezek. 2:5). The final choice of action is up to them, and the consequences for such. The man of God was not a failure because Jeroboam did not repent, but rather because he himself had failed to do what God instructed. If we have faithfully done our part, God will reward us accordingly, even if those we convert turn out to be wood, hay, and straw rather than gold and silver (1 Cor. 3:9-15).
God will bear with men, and try to bring them to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9), but not forever (Isa. 59:1-2). Jeroboam was offered a warning, a sign, and a blessing; but turned his back on God and continued his wicked way. He “again made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places” (13:33). As a result, “thisthing was the sin of the house of Jeroboam, so as to exterminate and destroy it from the face of the earth” (13:34). Not only did Jeroboam pay for his sins, but it also affected his offspring as well (1 Kings 14:10-11). In trying to secure it all for himself, he lost it all, and his family as well. God begs, “As I live . . . I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, 0 house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11). But God is also just, and will keep his word! You can not by-pass God and come out on top! Let us learn the valuable lesson Jeroboam passed up!
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 17, p. 12-13
September 5, 1996