Don’t ignore God’s Warnings in the Bible1
Introduction: God promised Jeroboam that he would be blessed as Northern Israel’s King if he followed God’s Ten Commandments and His statutes (1 Kgs. 11:38). Yet, he rejected God’s offer and set up a counterfeit religion in the north to consolidate his power. God then sent an unnamed prophet from Judah to warn him. Jeroboam again rejected God’s warning. From the prophet’s encounter with Jeroboam, God reveals seven lessons and warnings about His Word.
First, the unnamed prophet told Jeroboam that God would raise up a future king in Judah named Josiah who would smash his counterfeit altars and destroy his counterfeit priests. This man accurately foretold the events that would happen under King Josiah’s reign approximately 300 years later. From this fulfilled prophecy, God reveals that His Word is sovereign and always comes true. Second, the prophet confirmed God’s Word by smashing Jeroboam’s altar in two. God then also condemned Jeroboam by withering his hand when he lifted it up to condemn the prophet. Through this and many other similar accounts in the Bible, God reveals that His Word is confirmed through countless signs and wonders. Yet, Jesus warns that skeptics should not continue to demand them today. Third, after Jeroboam pleaded for mercy, the prophet prayed and restored his withered arm. Yet, he refused Jeroboam’s offer to dine with him because Jeroboam had not repented. Through this, God reveals that He is merciful. His Word is meant to guide people to repentance. Yet, He does not accept or tolerate sin. Fourth, after God’s prophet left Jeroboam, a false prophet lied and caused the true prophet to break God’s command to him. From this, God warns that His Word is twisted by the Devil to draw people away. Fifth, the true prophet accepted a lie that God had changed His mind. He failed to test the false prophet’s lies against God’s promise that His Word does not change. In the modern world where God’s Word is constantly dismissed as out of date, He wants you to know that His Word is unchanging and cannot be contradicted. Sixth, the false prophet saw the true prophet condemned because of his lies. He then confessed that God’s Word is true. From this account, God reveals that His Word will eventually be proclaimed as true by all. Finally, despite personally observing God’s power and hearing it proclaimed by both the true prophet and his false prophet, Jeroboam returned to his sins. God then judged him and promised to blot out his household. From this, God warns that His Word will one day judge and condemn those who refuse to repent.
The man of God proclaims that the future King Josiah would judge his false religion. After King Jeroboam squandered his opportunity to lead northern Israel by setting up a counterfeit religion, God sent a prophet to warn him that a descendant of David named Josiah would destroy his counterfeit religion: “1 Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense. 2 He cried against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, ‘O altar, altar, thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’’” (1 Kgs. 13:1-2). The term “man of God” is used for a prophet (e.g., 1 Sam. 9:6-11). The man of God showed that he was a prophet because he accurately foretold the name and judgments of a future king named Josiah (circa 640 to 609 B.C.) who would not appear for another 290 years (2 Kings 22:1-23:30). This future king would bring God’s divine judgment upon the counterfeit priesthood, altars, and religions that Jeroboam started (1 Kgs. 12:31-32).
God’s unnamed prophet issues a warning and prophecy against Jeroboam2
The future fulfillment of God’s Word through King Josiah. Approximately 300 years later, God confirmed this prophecy through King Josiah after he consolidated power and then brought judgment upon Jeroboam’s counterfeit priests, his counterfeit altars, and his counterfeit religion: “All the priests of the high places who were there he slaughtered on the altars and burned human bones on them; then he returned to Jerusalem.” (2 Kgs. 23:20). “Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem.” (2 Chr. 34:5). This also fulfilled a prophecy that God gave through Moses: ‘“I then will destroy your high places, and cut down your incense altars, and heap your remains on the remains of your idols, for My soul shall abhor you.”’ (Lev. 26:30).
God’s Word is true and is always fulfilled. Throughout the Bible, God reveals that His Word is true and always comes to pass: “Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.” (Josh. 21:45). “Blessed be the LORD, who has given rest to His people Israel, according to all that He promised; not one word has failed of all His good promise, which He promised through Moses His servant.” (1 Kgs. 8:56). “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” (Is. 48:3). “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you.” (Is. 42:9). No other holy book can make similar claims of fulfilled prophecy as the Bible does. There would be no way for this man to accurately predict events 300 years into the future unless God directed him.
Lament when God is forced to send foreign missionaries to your land. King Jeroboam caused all of the true Levite priests to flee. God also could not find a true prophet to use in the remaining 10 tribes in Northern Israel. Thus, He was forced to send a prophet from the rival tribe of Judah. This was a sad commentary on the spiritual decline in Northern Israel. When you see God using foreign missionaries to witness in your country, it is a time to both lament and respond to God’s calling to be His witness in your country.
The man of God confirms he is a prophet through his fulfilled prophecy. When King Jeroboam rejected God’s Word, the prophet showed that he spoke on behalf of God through a confirmed sign of judgment to warn Jeroboam to repent: “3 Then he gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the Lord has spoken, ‘Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out.’’ 4 Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, ‘Seize him.’ But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5 The altar also was split apart and the ashes were poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.” (1 Kgs. 13:3-5). The immediate fulfillment of the man of God’s words showed that he was a prophet speaking on God’s behalf (Dt. 18:21-22). The withered arm, the broken altar, and the fallen ashes (which rendered the sacrificial place unclean (Lev. 4:12; 6:10-11)) were all signs to Jeroboam that God had judged and condemned him and his idolatrous system of worship.
God’s prophet causes Jeroboam’s altar to be split apart3
God will protect His prophets when they do His will. While the man of God spoke God’s Word, Jeroboam could not touch him: “Do not touch My anointed ones, and do My prophets no harm.” (Ps. 105:15). Yet, he lost his protection when he disobeyed God.
God’s signs are confirmed through the Bible. Jesus repeatedly warned believers not to look for further signs to confirm God’s Word: “Sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, ‘Why does this generation seek for a sign? Truly I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”’ (Mk. 8:12) “But He answered and said to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet;”’ (Matt. 12:39; 16:4; Lk. 11:29). The Old and New Testaments contain all the signs and wonders that you need to confirm God’s Word as true.
The man of God shows mercy on Jeroboam, but refuses to fellowship with him. Without repenting, Jeroboam pleaded for mercy. God showed His mercy by withholding judgment. Yet, He refused to allow His prophet to fellowship with the unrepentant idolaters in Northern Israel: “6 The king said to the man of God, ‘Please entreat the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.’ So the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him, and it became as it was before. 7 Then the king said to the man of God, ‘Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.’ 8 But the man of God said to the king, ‘If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. 9 For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’’ 10 So he went another way and did not return by the way which he came to Bethel.” (1 Kgs. 13:6-10). Like any sinner, Jeroboam pleaded for his punishment to end. Yet, he did not show a change in his heart toward God. Thus, he asked the man of God to petition “your God” (1 Kgs. 13:6). He did ask His God for forgiveness, and he did not repent. Although God showed mercy to give him a chance to repent, God did not want His prophet to show approval for Jeroboam by dining in fellowship with him.
God does not accept or tolerate sin. Dining with a person was a sign of friendship and fellowship (Rev. 3:20). By rejecting an offer to dine with King Jeroboam, the prophet rejected an offer to fellowship with him. Doing so would have symbolized God’s acceptance or tolerance of his sins. Yet, sin cannot be in God’s presence (Heb. 11:29). God also does not want you to accept sin or be yoked together with sinners (2 Cor. 6:14). He wants you to show love to a sinner without accepting the sin. Failing to stigmatize sin will only mislead a person into believing that God will accept rebellion against His Word.
A false prophet deceives the man of God to violate God’s command. Acting under the influence of the Devil, a false prophet deceived the man of God into fellowshipping with an idolater from the north: “11 Now an old prophet was living in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the deeds which the man of God had done that day in Bethel; the words which he had spoken to the king, these also they related to their father. 12 Their father said to them, ‘Which way did he go?’ Now his sons had seen the way which the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 Then he said to his sons, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ So they saddled the donkey for him and he rode away on it. 14 So he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak; and he said to him, ‘Are you the man of God who came from Judah?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ 15 Then he said to him, ‘Come home with me and eat bread.’ 16 He said, ‘I cannot return with you, nor go with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. 17 For a command came to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water there; do not return by going the way which you came.’’ 18 He said to him, ‘I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’’ But he lied to him. 19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house and drank water.” (1 Kgs. 13:11-19). The “old prophet” was a former disciple of Yahweh. Yet, he refused to leave the north with the other Levites. He instead decided to remain in the territory of the idolatrous king and his counterfeit system of worship. He may have lied about God’s calling to the man out of jealousy or out of pride. Or, he may have sought to undermine the man of God because the old prophet was now invested in his counterfeit religion and did not want to see it discredited. Whatever his motive, his lies led a man of God astray (1 Jo. 4:1-6).
Test every spirit and every prophetic claim. This account illustrates the importance of testing every person who claims to speak on God’s behalf: “20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ 22 When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Dt. 18:20-22). God allows false prophets to exist to test your heart (Dt. 13:3). His warnings to test all things is repeated in the New Testament. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jo. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:16). Like the old prophet who offered food and water to the man of God, deceiving spirits will also come across as “angels of light” (2 Cor. 11:14-15). Thus, you must always be wary of being deceived, even when a person appears kind or nice.
Seven signs of a false prophet. There are several signs of a false prophet. First, a false prophet encourages you to pursue things that are contrary to God’s will (Dt. 13:2). That is exactly what the false prophet did in this account. Second, a false prophet teaches things based upon human traditions that are contrary to what appears in the Bible (Mk. 7:6-8; Gal. 1:8-9; 2 Tim. 4:3; Jer. 23:16). Many of these false prophesies ignore sin: “Your prophets have seen for you false and foolish visions; and they have not exposed your iniquity so as to restore you from captivity, . . .” (Lam. 2:14). “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.” (Jer. 8:11; 14:13-14; 20:6; 28:15; 29:8; 23:17; Is. 30:10; 1 Thess. 5:3). Third, a false prophet causes dissention that is unrelated to correcting or restoring a wayward person or a church (Rom. 16.17). Fourth, even if a person shows outward acts of piety or righteousness, the person is a false prophet if he or she is inwardly motivated by self-interest (Matt. 7:15; 2 Pet. 2:1-3, 13-15, 19; Jer. 23:26). Fifth, a false prophet denies that Jesus is the son of God (1 Jo. 4:2-6). Fifth a false prophet offers alternatives to salvation besides Jesus’ death on the cross (Matt. 24:5). Finally, a false prophet makes predictions that do not come true (Dt. 18:22). Believers are warned to be aware of these tests because false prophets will come and deceive many in the end times.
Don’t reject all who claim to speak on God’s behalf. Obedience in testing every spirit does not mean that you should reject every person who claims to speak for God. If you do this, you close the door for the Holy Spirit to speak to you: “do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;” (1 Thess. 5:20-21; Eph. 3:4-5). It was the Word that allowed the Bereans to verify Paul’s claims that Jesus was in fact the Messiah (Acts 17:11). If the Bereans had rejected all prophetic utterances, they would have never learned that Jesus was the Messiah. Likewise, if David had rejected all prophetic utterances, he would not have been convicted of sins when the prophet Nathan confronted him after he slept with Bathsheba and killed her husband (2 Sam. 12:1-7). Are you regularly reading the Word to keep the path for your feet lighted? (Ps. 119:105). For times when the Word does not address your issue, are you looking for the prophetic Word from the Spirit and then testing it against Scripture?
God punishes the man of God for believing that His Word could be contradicted. As a warning to others, God punished His prophet for believing that His Word could be changed or contradicted and for breaking God’s command: “20 Now it came about, as they were sitting down at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; 21 and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the Lord, and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, 22 but have returned and 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 grave of your fathers.’’ 23 It came about after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24 Now when he had gone, a lion met him on the way and killed him, and his body was thrown on the road, with the donkey standing beside it; the lion also was standing beside the body. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown on the road, and the lion standing beside the body; so they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.” (1 Kgs. 13:20-25). God made an example out of the disobedient prophet by killing him. He even used the false prophet to condemn the real prophet (1 Kgs. 13:21). The fact that the lion did not eat the prophet’s body showed that God was in control. While the man refused to obey God’s will, the wild animal was willing to do so: “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” (Is. 1:3). Although the false prophet engaged in the greater sin, God’s prophet allowed his desire to be fed to cloud his judgment. The flesh can lead any believer astray. “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (Gal. 5:17).
God uses a lion to kill the disobedient prophet4
God’s Word does not change, and God does not contradict Himself. If the prophet had studied God’s Word, he would know that “the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.” (1 Sam. 15:29). “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Nu. 23:19). Thus, you should never doubt God’s Word. If any person says that it was written in a different time and should not be followed today, ignore that person. Jesus does not change with public opinion: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8).
God judges His own people before He judges others. Although God will eventually judge nonbelievers, he judges sin amongst His own believers first “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17). God not only judged His prophet with death, He also kept him from being buried and honored by his family in Judah. Just as God judged His prophet for failing to keep His commands, He will judge the Christian nations for failing to keep His Ten Commandments.
God requires His leaders to keep His Commandments to be an example to others. God commanded that His people follow all of His commandments: ‘“So you shall keep My commandments, and do them; I am the LORD.”’ (Lev. 22:31; 19:37). Moses also repeated God’s command to the people to obey all of His Commandments and statutes: “So you shall keep His statutes and His commandments which I am giving you today, . . ..” (Dt. 4:40; 5:32-33). Joshua also repeated this command before his death: “Be very firm, then, to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, so that you may not turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left,” (Josh. 23:6). In case anyone believes that these are relics of the Old Testament, they are repeated even more often in the New Testament: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24-25). “[F]or it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.” (Ro. 2:13). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22; see also, Rev. 14:12; 22:14). God doesn’t want you to be obedient for the wrong reasons. Motivated by love and not obligation, are you being obedient to God’s Word?
The false prophet proclaims the Word given by the true prophet as true. After seeing God’s punishment on His prophet and His Word confirmed, the false prophet recognized the supremacy of God and His Word: “26 Now when the prophet who brought him back from the way heard it, he said, ‘It is the man of God, who disobeyed the command of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him.’ 27 Then he spoke to his sons, saying, ‘Saddle the donkey for me.’ And they saddled it. 28 He went and found his body thrown on the road with the donkey and the lion standing beside the body; the lion had not eaten the body nor torn the donkey. 29 So the prophet took up the body of the man of God and laid it on the donkey and brought it back, and he came to the city of the old prophet to mourn and to bury him. 30 He laid his body in his own grave, and they mourned over him, saying, ‘Alas, my brother!’ 31 After he had buried him, he spoke to his sons, saying, ‘When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the thing shall surely come to pass which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria.”’ (1 Kgs. 13:26-32). The old prophet immediately recognized that God was responsible for the death of the true prophet (1 Kgs. 13:21). Yet, he failed to acknowledge his lies or repent for causing this man’s death. If God was willing to punish the true prophet who engaged in the lesser sin in such a severe manner, he realized that an even greater punishment awaited him. Recognizing his responsibility for the true prophet’s death, the old prophet ensured that the man of God received a proper burial and mourning (1 Kgs. 13:29-30). The reference to “my brother” was a family cry used at a burial to honor a man (Jer. 22:18). He knew that he was unworthy of any funeral. Thus, he considered himself lucky if he could be buried next to the man of God without any normal honors in having his own grave (1 Kgs. 13:31). Thus, even though he failed to repent, the old prophet showed remorse for his sins.
The old prophet confessed God and His coming judgment upon Israel’s idolatry. The old prophet saw God’s power and warned his people that God would surely judge them for their sins: “32 For the thing shall surely come to pass which he cried by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places which are in the cities of Samaria.”’ (1 Kgs. 13:32). Yet, Jeroboam did not listen to his own prophet.
Every knee shall one day bow and confess Jesus as Lord. Isaiah later prophesied that all would one day confess the one true God in heaven: “I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” (Is. 45:23; Ro. 14:11). The name that they will confess in heaven is Jesus: “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” (Ph. 2:10). Like Jeroboam, there are many who refused to submit to God out of pride. Yet, they will submit when faced with their sins at the Great White Hall judgment (Rev. 20:11-15).
Jeroboam refuses to repent and is condemned. Despite experiencing God’s power and hearing God’s warnings from both the true prophet and his own false prophet, Jeroboam refused to repent. Thus, God condemned him and his entire family line: “33 After this event Jeroboam did not return from his evil way, but again he made priests of the high places from among all the people; any who would, he ordained, to be priests of the high places. 34 This event became sin to the house of Jeroboam, even to blot it out and destroy it from off the face of the earth.” (1 Kgs. 13:33-34). Jeroboam no doubt remembered his withered hand for a while. Yet, his fear of allowing his people to worship God at the correct place in Jerusalem caused him to eventually revert back to his own counterfeit religion. His sins were so damaging to the entire nation and so unforgivable because of his direct encounter with God, that God promised to blot out all of his future descendants.
Jeroboam squandered his chance to succeed. Although Jeroboam was an evil man, God gave him a chance to succeed if he kept God’s Commandments and statutes (1 Kgs. 11:38). Sadly, both he and every future leader of Northern Israel was evil and rejected God’s laws. Thus, God revealed that Northern Israel would not last (1 Kgs. 11:39). A descendant of David, Jesus, would ultimately rule over all 12 tribes (Ezek. 37:15-28).
Jeroboam became a symbol of evil and cursed generations to come. One commentator notes that: “In his failure, Jeroboam became the prototype of the disobedient kings of Israel. The phrase He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin by which he had made Israel sin was used by many subsequent kings of Israel. These include:· Baasha (1 Kings 15:33-34)· Omri (1 Kings 16:25-26)· Ahaziah (1 Kings 22:51-52)· Jehoram (2 Kings 3:1-3)· Jehu (2 Kings 10:29-31)· Jehoahaz (2 Kings 13:1-2)· Jehoash (2 Kings 13:10-11)· Jeroboam II (2 Kings 14:23-24)· Zechariah (2 Kings 15:8-9)· Menahim (2 Kings 15:17-18)· Pekahiah (2 Kings 15:23-24)· Pekah (2 Kings 15:27-28).” (David Guzik on 1 Kgs. 13).5
God’s future fulfillment of His judgment upon Jeroboam’s descendants. God’s prophet later again came and promised that the descendants of Jeroboam would be judged for their idolatry. Their punishment would include all of Israel being placed into exile: “The high places of Isaac will be desolated and the sanctuaries of Israel laid waste. Then I will rise up against the house of Jeroboam with the sword . . . For thus Amos says, ‘Jeroboam will die by the sword and Israel will certainly go from its land into exile.”’ (Amos 7:9, 11). “Make yourself bald and cut off your hair, because of the children of your delight; extend your baldness like the eagle, for they will go from you into exile.” (Micah 1:16). Because his descendants failed to repent, God sent all of Northern Israel into exile and entirely blotted out all of Jeroboam’s descendants, just as He promised to do.
Rebellion is like witchcraft, placing you into communion with demons. The prophet Samuel explicitly linked rebellion to witchcraft and idolatry when he told Saul why he could not be king: “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.” (1 Sam. 15:23). Are you rebelling against God?
God’s future judgment of the counterfeit priests of the world’s counterfeit faiths. This account should also be a warning to anyone who follows after a faith that has altered the teachings in the Old and New Testament. God will severely judge those who lead His people astray by twisting His Word: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.” (Mk. 9:42). “And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.” (1 Cor. 8:12). By your own example, are you encouraging people to follow all of God’s Word?