Sermon for Nellmapius & Mamelodi
June 2, 2013
Scripture reading: 1 Kings 12:25-13:34
The story we read in this chapter, raises many questions. And it should!
- Why is the man of God from Judah killed by a lion? The only mistake he made was listening to the old prophet in Bethel. This seems so unfair to me!
- How can God use this old prophet to send a message to his young colleague? First he is lying to him. But all of a sudden he is telling him the word of God!
- What should we learn from this rather strange story? Two prophets, a donkey, a lion and a king. Is there a message for us today?
Why? How? What? I hope to answer these questions in my sermon. And I want to help you to ask even more questions.
Let us start with the king. King Jeroboam, residing in Shechem in the northern part of Israel. If you read chapters 11 and 12 you will see that after king Solomon died, the kingdom split into two parts. In the South in Jerusalem king Rehoboam remained king. But ten out of twelve tribes followed Jeroboam in the North.
This king Jeroboam is preached against by the young man of God coming from Judah. Why does this prophet have a problem with the king? Jeroboam is making many, many mistakes:
- He built temples in Bethel and Dan for his people to worship God. The Lord had chosen the city of Jerusalem to live among his people.
- Jeroboam made two golden calves for his people to worship God. The Lord had said in the 2nd commandment of his law: no idols!
- The Lord had chosen the tribe of Levi to provide priests in his temple. The king appointed priests from all sorts of people.
- Jeroboam even changed the dates of the feasts that God had prescribed. “I do it my way!” Is that serving the Lord or what is it?
In one word: the king is disobedient. He does not listen to the word of God. Jeroboam follows his own thoughts. He refuses to obey the law of the Lord.
The man of God coming from Judah is telling him that.
He prophecies against the altar. Two things. The altar will split apart. Which happens: it collapses and the ashes fall down. Plus: king Josiah of Judah will burn human bones on this altar and sacrifice the false priests on it. Which also happened later, as you can read in 2 Kings 23. God does not accept disobedience.
Nevertheless, the Lord is giving them a second chance. The man of God cries out against the altar. Not against the king or the people. Not yet. Will they listen and obey the word of God?
So the sermon of the young prophet has one theme. It is all about obedience. King Jeroboam, why don’t you listen to the word of God? Disobedience will be punished severely!
But now let us focus on the man of God coming from Judah.
His sermon is clear. Obedience. Listen to the word of God.
But then after the sermon he makes a big mistake. He himself is disobedient to God’s word. It is like one preaches against adultery. But after church you will see the preacher going to a prostitute to have paid sex with her. In that way his sermon will lose its power. Practice what you preach!
He started well, this young prophet.
He spoke the word of God, loud and clear. No compromise. Without fear or favour.
The king tried to soften him by offering him food and even money. But he refused plainly.
Why? Read 13 verse 9: “For I was commanded by the word of the Lord …” God had made it clear to him. No eating and drinking in Bethel. No fellowship with those people.
This prophet talks the talk. And he walks the walk. He is obedient.
He started well, this young prophet.
But he did not continue well.
Another prophet – the older one from Bethel – came after him and invited him to his house. “Please come back to Bethel. Let us eat together.” This was against God’s own command.
The old prophet was lying to him, verse 18. He should not have listened, should he?
Because this old prophet was not faithful to the Lord. Living in Bethel. Seeing what king Jeroboam did. But not saying a word. Is that an obedient servant of God?
So there is no excuse for the prophet from Judah going back to Bethel. He is disobedient.
He did not continue well, this young prophet.
He did not finish well. The Lord cannot and will not accept disobedience. Even in his own servants. The man of God from Judah is killed by a lion. He is not even buried in the tomb of his fathers. His death is a sermon in itself. Again his theme is one and the same. Obedience.
This is a story about two prophets, a donkey, a lion and a king. Let me say something about the second prophet. The older prophet from Bethel.
To be honest, for me this is the most difficult part of 1 Kings 13.
What I can understand more or less, is that this prophet is not really a man of God.
He was living in Bethel. He had witnessed the sins of king Jeroboam. Okay, he did not attend the ceremony with the golden calf, like his sons did. So maybe he didn’t agree. But he kept quiet. Why didn’t he speak out?
After the ceremony he tries to bring the young prophet back. He wants to have fellowship with him by eating together. Does his conscience speak?
But then he starts to lie. He even hides behind his ministry: An angel brought me a message from the Lord. What a false prophet he is!
He is not really a man of God. If he had been killed by the lion, I would have understood. But now as a big surprise – verse 20 – the word of the Lord comes to him. He has to prophesy against the young man of God: This is what the Lord says …
I really don’t understand. Yes, I know that even in the ZCC or whatever, God can speak through false prophets. But why …
Let me just humble myself and say: the Lord is God. His Word is powerful. He can use whomever he wants to use. I will silence my questions with a word from the book of Amos, chapter 3 verse 8:
The lion has roared — who will not fear?
The Sovereign Lord has spoken — who can but prophesy?
So the sovereign Lord spoke to king Jeroboam and the people of Israel. They must have heard this story about the two prophets, the king and his outstretched hand, the donkey and the lion.
But did they respond to it? Did they obey the word of God? No, they did not.
Yes, the king asked for intercession: please pray for me! But to be honest, this only was to have his outstretched arm restored.
After that the ceremony continued. And even more … read verses 33 and 34:
King Jeroboam of Israel still did not turn from his evil ways, but continued to choose priests from ordinary families to serve at the altars he had built. He ordained as priest anyone who wanted to be one. This sin on his part brought about the ruin and total destruction of his dynasty.
The king continued in his disobedience. His people followed him. Which led to the downfall of his dynasty and even its total destruction. God will not accept us when we refuse to listen to his Word.
The story we read in this chapter – I said in my introduction – raises many questions. And it should! What? Why? How?
- How is it possible that people do not listen to the word of God? King Jeroboam. The people of Bethel. Both prophets, the old one and the young one. The sovereign Lord has spoken to us in the Bible – how can we be disobedient?
- Why is the Lord so patient with his people? He gave the king a second chance. He gave the man of God from Judah a tomb in Bethel. Even though he had been disobedient, he received honour from God and men (read again in 2 Kings 23 about king Josiah). The Lord did not yet destroy his people. He sent them prophet upon prophet (2 Kings 17:13). Finally he even sent his own son (Matthew 21:33-46). He gave us his patient love through Jesus Christ.
- What can we do but accept this good news and be obedient?
My sermon I can summarize in that one word. Obedience.
Hopefully my life will preach the same message. Obedience.
And yours. Talk the talk. Walk the walk. Live in obedience to the word of God. Amen.