Lectures Introductory to 1 Kings: Chapters 12-15

1 Kings 12‑15  •  14 min. read  •  grade level: 7
2.-CHAPTERS 9-15. (continued)
But further, “Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made; and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar.” For why not, Jeroboam? Solomon had done so. “So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el, the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which,” as Scripture says so graphically, “he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel; and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (1 Kings 12:32, 3332And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. 33So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense. (1 Kings 12:32‑33)).
But God was not wanting to give a testimony even to this wicked king (13). “And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of Jehovah unto Beth-el: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of Jehovah, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith Jehovah; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee” —the grand vindication of God against the wicked religion of Jeroboam! “And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which Jehovah hath spoken.” That prophecy might await its accomplishment in due time, but there is a present sign given, as God constantly does—a present pledge of a future accomplishment. “Behold the altar shall be rent and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.” The moment jeroboam hears this he wants the man arrested. He puts forth his hand from the altar, saying, “Lay hold of him,” but the power of God was with the word of God. “And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of Jehovah. And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Intreat now the face of Jehovah thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again.”
Thus it is not only that we find the chastening of God's people for their good, but the punishment of the wicked, at any rate, for their warning to break down their proud will; and so it was with Jeroboam. “The man of God besought Jehovah and the king's hand was restored to him again, and became as it was before"; but it left the king as he was before. There was no bending of his heart to the Lord. Nevertheless the king could not but be civil, and so he says to the man of God, “Come home with me and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.”
This brings out a principle of the deepest moment for you and for me, beloved friends. “And the man of God said unto the king, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: for so was it charged me by the word of Jehovah, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou earnest.” And no wonder. Here was Jehovah slighted. Where? Among the Gentiles? That were no wonder. Among His own people—direct apostasy from the Lord God of Israel. Here was a man that went forth in the strength of the word of the Lord. Absolute separation was therefore enjoined, and eating and drinking in all ages have been most justly regarded as the sign of fellowship. It may be as in the most solemn way fellowship between God's people and the Lord Himself at His own table; but even in other lesser ways eating and drinking are not so slight as man supposes. “With such an one no not to eat.” Who? A man that is called a brother. If an unbeliever hid you, even supposing the unbeliever might be the worst man in the world, you are free to go, provided you believe that God has a mission for you—an object. Supposing it was the man's soul—nothing more important in its way—you are free to go to the very worst on the face of the earth if you can serve God by going. You had better be sure of that first. But there is another thing, and that is, suppose a man that is called a brother is living in wickedness, “with such an one no not to eat.” This does not mean the Lord's table; it means the common ordinary table. It means that there is not to be a sign of such fellowship as this—fellowship in ordinary life—because one of the most important means of dealing with the conscience of one that is called a brother is not merely separation from him at the table of the Lord, but it is intended to govern all one's ordinary social life with him. Not with the world; there is no greater folly than putting the world under discipline; but there is nothing more important in the church of God than walking in holy discipline, not merely at the table of the Lord, but at all other times.
I know that the world makes light of this, and counts it extremely uncharitable; and I am aware, too, that it has been so abominably perverted by popery that one can understand why most Protestants are rather alarmed at anything that is so close and trenchant; but nevertheless it does not become those that value the word of the Lord to shrink from the danger, and I think that there cannot be a doubt that what I am saying is correct as to the 5th of the 1st Corinthians. I know that some apply it to the Lord's table. I will just give one or two reasons that are decisive. First, there would be no sense in speaking of a man that is called a brother only; no sense in saying that he is not a man of the world because there could not be a question about eating the Lord's Supper with him. The question might arise with a brother, no doubt. But in speaking of an erring Christian “no not to eat” means that fellowship is not to take place in so little a thing as to eat. “Not so much as to eat,” meaning that it was a very small thing, and so it is a small thing to take an ordinary meal. Who could suppose the Holy Ghost treating the Lord's Supper as a very little thing? Why there is nothing of more importance on earth, so that I am perfectly persuaded “no not to eat” means so small a thing as to eat, which at once shows that the meaning is in no way the Lord's Supper. The Spirit of God never could treat that as a small matter. No, it means an ordinary meal.
I am not now speaking of relatives, because that modifies the thing. Supposing, for instance, a Christian person had a heathen father or mother. Well he is bound to show them reverence, even though they were heathens; and so with other relationships in life. Take, for instance, the wife of a man who perhaps was a despiser of the name of the Lord. She must behave properly as a wife. She is not absolved from that relationship. She is in it. Nov that she is in it she is bound to glorify God in it. But where the scripture speaks so peremptorily as I have been now describing, it is where there is freedom. This is jealousy for the Lord that we should not err in an act that might seem open to us, because it was a slight one. It is jealousy that we might not forget the glory of the Lord in seeking also to arouse the conscience of him who evidently has fallen into such grievous sin.
So, then, the man of God was put upon this as the point of honor for a man of faith. He was not to eat bread or drink water, or even to go the way he came. He was evidently to pass through the land, not to be as one that was even repeating his footprints in the path which he had trodden before, but he was to go through it as one that had a mission to perform, and to have done with it. This was God's purpose in it. It was a most marked and solemn token, too, because it was meant to be a testimony, and therefore he was not to repeat it merely to the same persons who had seen it, but it was that others should see it too. This man of God was to pass through the land that was now apostate. And this, beloved friends, is of very great moment to us to bear in mind, as we have to do now with a most guilty state of Christendom. A very large part of Christendom is in a state of idolatry. Perhaps we do not see so much of it in these lands, yet it is increasing habitually, and it takes the shape of apostasy more particularly where there are Protestants; where those that came out of idolatry are going back to it in any form. It may begin in very trifling matters; it may show itself in little ornaments about the person, but what Satan means is not ornament but idolatry, and what Satan will accomplish by it is idolatry, and it is a very small thing which scripture shows most clearly that both the Jews, who are, apparently, the greatest enemies of idolatry in the world, and Christendom, who ought to have been altogether above idolatry, will go straight back into downright idolatry. Scripture is perfectly plain as to this, so the Lord told the Jews that the unclean spirit should return. That means the spirit of idolatry; and to return not as he formerly was alone—but return with seven other spirits worse than himself. Antichristianism—the worship of a man as God—will accompany the idolatry of the last days, and this in Israel. And neither more nor less than this is what is taught in the 2nd Epistle to the Thessalonians as to Christendom. For what is the meaning of apostasy, and what is the meaning of the man of sin that is to set himself up, and that is to be worshipped? Not so is it with the revelation which strongly speaks of their worshipping gods of gold and silver and brass that could not see and hear and so on. This is not the Jews only, but Gentiles also, and Gentiles that once bore the name of Christ and are so much the worse for that.
But although these are the extremer things, there are other things now, for this is what we are called upon as Christians. The world itself will see when things come out so plainly, though there will be no power to resist, for all the motives of man and all the prosperity of men and all the countenance of the world will depend upon persons acquiescing, and men will not endure the dissent from it, and those that give a testimony will be intolerable. And, therefore, beloved friends, it is now our place to judge these things (that will be) in their principles—not merely in the open result that will be by and bye. But there is the working now of what will lead to that, and the only security is Christ, and the way in which Christ practically works is in the obedience to the word of God.
This was what the man of God, then, was called to—the most decided separation from the apostate people, and this because being the people of God they were now idolaters. But “there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel” —ah! these old prophets are dangerous people. “Now there dwelt an old prophet in Beth-el; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Beth-el: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass, and he rode thereon, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak.”
He was not told to sit under an oak. There was the beginning of it. There was his first failure, and there is no failure—there is no ruin—that takes place at one step. There is always a departure from the word of the Lord which exposes us to the power of the devil, and it is not first, I repeat, Satan's power. It is first our own failure, our own sin, our own disobedience. He was sitting, then. He had been told that he was not to return by the same way that he came. He was evidently to get away as fast as possible. A man that is forbidden to eat and drink was not intended to sit under a tree. But this old prophet found him sitting under an oak, “and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that earnest from Judah?” Nothing could be apparently a more thorough recognition of his mission and of his work from God. He was a servant of the most high God that had, no doubt, come to show them the right way. There was great respect. “And he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place. For it was said to me by the word of Jehovah, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest.”
He does not now come in the same power. When he came it was not merely so. It is a stronger expression. But, however, I will not dwell upon that now. “Thou shalt eat no bread,” he repeats as before, “nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou earnest.” “He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of Jehovah saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water.” And there his testimony was broken—his sword utterly broken in his hand—for it was not merely a word that he was called to, but to deeds, and men will care little for your word if you do not show them by deed that you feel that word which you would fain press upon them. There is nothing that men will not bear you to say if you do not act it out; for this it is that always troubles, not only the world, but still more the old prophets—for they are the people that feel. The old prophet could not bear the fact, for if this was the case with the man of God where was the old prophet? And it is not said that he was a false prophet; and the issue of the story would rather seem to show the contrary. But the old prophet was determined to try the man of God and see whether he could not make him as unfaithful as himself, for that is what would have been a miserable salve to a bad conscience. There is nothing that so troubles Christians that are not walking with God as when there are any that do; and there is nothing so important as not merely the testimony, but the living testimony, the walking in what you say.
[W. K.]
(To be continued)