The Man of God from Judah
1 Kings 13:1-19
1. (v.1-2) The man of God
By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering.
a. A man of God went from Judah to Bethel: Apparently, there were no qualified messengers within the northern kingdom of Israel. This is a sad commentary on the spiritual state of Jeroboam’s kingdom.
2. (v.3-5) – Signs to confirm the prophet’s word
That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is a sign that Lord has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.” When the king heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord.
a. He gave a sign the same day: The prophecy of the man of God would not be fulfilled for hundreds of years, so an immediate sign was given to confirm the word to the present-day hearers.
b. Arrest him! Jeroboam’s reaction was immediate – he sought to silence the messenger rather than respond to the message.
3. (v.6) – Jeroboam’s plea.
Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before.
*Jeroboam didn’t really repent here; or if he did, it was only for a moment. He just wants to have his hand restored. Wanting to receive something from God is not the same as repentance.
4. (v.7-10) – The man of God declines Jeroboam’s invitation
The king said to the man of God, “Come home with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.” But the man of God answered the king, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: “You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.” So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.
a. I will give you a reward: Jeroboam quickly – and naturally, given the circumstances – embraced the man of God as a friend, without any repentance from the sin the man of God denounced.
b. If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place: The man of God refused the invitation, based on a prior warning from God. To accept Jeroboam’s invitation would demonstrate fellowship with his idolatry.
B. The Man of God’s Disobedience and Death.
1. (v.11-17) – An old prophet in Bethel invites the man of God to dinner.
Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. So he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree. So the prophet said to him, “Come home with me and eat.” The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: “You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.”
a. Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel: It seems that he was a faithful prophet to the Lord.
* According to one Bible commentary – “Probably once a prophet of the Lord, who had fallen from his steadfastness, and yet not so deeply as to lose the knowledge of the true God, and join with Jeroboam with his idolatries.” (Clarke)
b. Come home with me and eat bread: This prophet invited the man of God to his home, as Jeroboam had invited him. The man of God refused, under the same reason he refused Jeroboam.
2. (v.18-19) The prophet from Bethel lies to the man of God from Judah.
The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: “Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.” (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.
a. He was lying to him: The prophet from Bethel gave a false word from God, trying to persuade the man of God to change his mind from doing exactly what God told him.
b. An angel spoke to me: Perhaps this was true, and perhaps it was a deceiving angel. Satan and his messengers can appear as angels of light. (2 Cor. 11:14-15)
c. So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water: The man of God from Judah listened to the lie from the prophet of Bethel. He did this for several reasons:
d. The prophet from Bethel was probably older and had the respect of the man of God.
e. The prophet identified with the man of God (I too am a prophet as you are).
f. The prophet from Bethel claimed a spectacular experience (an angel spoke to me).
g. The prophet offered no reward, other than simple food (he may eat bread and drink water).
3. (v.20-24) The death of the man of God.
While they were sitting at the table, the word if the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have defiled the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers.’” When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was thrown down on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.
Some lessons from the passage.
1. “Man of God” – in (v1-2), the anonymous man of God was used in an important way. He demonstrated that one does not need to be famous to be significantly used by God. We don’t need to be popular or talented, but humble and willing to be used by God.
2. In (v3-5) – When Jeroboam’s hand withered for stretching his hand toward the man of God. God did this, partly; to teach him a lesson for being violent to the Lord’s prophet; and partly, that in this example God might show how highly He resents the injuries done to His ministers, messengers or prophets who are faithfully doing their service to Him.
3. In (v14) He found the man of God sitting under an oak tree. He was sitting down and resting, probably because of fatigue. But this phrase could also mean having our faith just “sitting down or resting” and it is quite dangerous. This was the moment that the prophet from Bethel came to tempt the man of God. The moment we “sit down” and “rest” spiritually, it is also the moment that the devil, like a roaring lion, comes to us to tempt us. Our faith should not be “sitting down and resting”
4. In (v18-19) The temptation of the man of God. Maybe you are wondering why he was punished severely, when he was just deceived by the lying prophet from Bethel. You see, no matter how convincing and truthful the invitation may seem to be, it was the duty of the man of God to resist it. He had a direct word from God to guide his actions, and should receive no other word except through direct confirmation by God’s Spirit. His failure at this point ended his usefulness as a man of God.
i. “When we have received a direct command fresh from the lips of Christ, we must act on it, and not be turned aside by a different suggestion, made to us, even through the lips of professing Christians…Even from our fellow missionaries. We must deal with God at first-hand.”
All our actions must be tested and weigh by “Thus saith the Lord” or “It is written”
5. This is an example of an important principle of the way God works. We think that strict judgment should begin among the most ungodly, but often God begins strict judgment among His own people. (1 Peter 4:17). Usually this is because God knows that the world will not be reached when His people are compromising and disobedient.
Rev. 3:19, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent.”