Summary: One prophet forgot what God told him and paid the price.
Verses 1 – 3
“And behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. (2) And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord; 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. (3) And he gave a sign the same day, saying, this is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.”
In these first three verses, we see a couple of things which set the stage for the lessons that follow.
First, the prophet is unknown and unnamed. He was apparently a minor prophet that God selected for this particular task. Throughout this world today, thousands, perhaps millions of unknown, minor prophets or ministers are selected by God to carry out his word. That tells us that God works just as often through the little known as he does through the big name prophets.
Second, God assigned his prophet a particular task, and that was to go to Bethel and deliver a prophecy to the pagan priests. Jeroboam, the king, was one of those pagan personalities, and at the time the prophet arrived, Jeroboam was preparing to burn incense on this particular altar.
Verse 4 picks up the story by telling us that Jeroboam got angry at the prophet for delivering such a message and that he stretched out his hand toward the prophet and called for the other priests to seize him. “And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.”
That must have been a surprise. Here, the king, who was accustomed to having his orders obeyed instantly finding himself with a dried up, paralyzed arm sticking straight out from his body.
Then, to add insult to injury, the prophecy took place exactly as said. (5) 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 the Lord.”
If the withered arm didn’t get the king’s attention, the breaking of the altar did.
In the space of a couple of minutes, Jeroboam saw two miracles take place. His arm withered, and the altar split wide open. That was enough to convince him of the mighty power of God. He cried out to the man of God. “Pray! Plead to your god to restore my arm.”
The prophet prayed, and God answered by restoring the king’s arm to its previous state. That made three miracles in a row, one right after another. It should have been enough to convince any man that here was the one, true God. Unfortunately, we find that it wasn’t, because verse 33 tells us, “Jeroboam returned not from his evil way.”
The main part of this passage is not about Jeroboam however, but about this man of God who came out of Judah.
This man of God was in God’s will. He was doing what God wanted him to do, and when he prayed, God answered. There is a lesson about prayer here for us. When we are in God’s will, and doing what He wants us to do, he answers our prayers. When we drift away from His will, different things will happen, as we are about to find out.
(7) And the king said unto the man of God, Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward. (8) 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; (90 For so was it charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.”
You see, this prophet had specific instructions from God as to what he was to do, and he did not intend to stray from those instructions. He went on his way, taking a different path than the one he came by because that was what God told him to do.
The problem is that humans, even men of God, have a way of overlooking God’s instructions. They tend to do what they think is right, or possibly what they think God will overlook or what they can get away with. This isn’t an uncommon problem today, just as in the past. People look for excuses to get around God’s will. They interpret God’s words the way they want to interpret them.