Summary: Prophetic messages on the Internet are abundant posing new challenges as well as possible benefits. Pastors must equip their congregations to test these messages using biblical principles. This series teaches principles for doing that. This message uses lessons from the story in 1 Kings 13.
Last week we taught on the subject of testing prophecy. How do we know that a dream, a vision, a word that someone is sharing is truly from the Lord? And even if it is from the Lord, are we interpreting it correctly and applying it wisely. We found that all three aspects of a prophecy must be examined.
Today we continue with that theme of testing prophecy. I had planned to share several principles for testing prophecy today. But in my preparation felt we should spend some time with a story recorded in Kings 13. In it we find a crucial lesson about operation in and receiving prophetic messages.
PROPHETIC WORD GIVEN TO THE UNNAMED PROPHET
The story begins with a prophet receiving a word from the Lord. Follow with me as we read 1 Kings 13:1-3.
“And behold, a man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 2 Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, [so we have here a true word from God] and said, ‘O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: 'Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you.’’ 3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.’”i
A little historical background will help us understand what is going on here. God had established that the temple in Jerusalem was to be the place where all Israel came for worship. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king the people asked him to reduce the heavy taxation that Solomon had imposed on them. Rehoboam arrogantly and foolishly refused to do that. As a result, the northern ten tribes led by Jeroboam revolted and formed a separate kingdom. That left only the tribes Judah and Benjamin in the southern kingdom with most of the tribe of Levi.
In order to maintain control, Jeroboam imitated a separate system of worship centered at Dan and at Bethel. He set up a golden calf at each location to provide something tangible to represent the Lord. Of course, that violated the second commandment. Providing these two centers of worship made sense politically, but it was contrary to the command of God to worship at the temple in Jerusalem.
Therefore, in our text God is sending this unnamed prophet from the southern kingdom with a word to denounce this false worship system. The word began with a prediction that a king named Josiah would be born. This Josiah would define the altar at Bethel by burning men’s bones on it.
That prediction would be fulfilled nearly 300 years later. King Josiah was born to the house of David, and we read the fulfillment of this prophecy in 2 Kings 23:15-16: “Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down; and he burned the high place and crushed it to powder, and burned the wooden image. 16 As Josiah turned, he saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar, and defiled it according to the word of the Lord which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.”
That is the fulfillment of this prophecy. Then 2 Kings 23:17-18 we have this interesting comment about the grave of this unnamed prophet. “Then he [Josiah] said, ‘What gravestone is this that I see?’ So the men of the city told him, ‘It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.’ 18 And he said, ‘Let him alone; let no one move his bones.’ So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.” We will be introduced to this prophet who lived in Samaria later in our current story. In 1 Kings 13:31 this prophet asked to be buried next to the prophet who denounced Jeroboam’s alar. That request was obviously honored.
Now look at the sign given in 1 Kings 13:3 that validated the long-term prophecy: “And he [the unnamed prophet from the southern kingdom] gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.’” This immediately came to pass in verse 5.