Summary: Prophet


When Bill Gates' dad asked Warren Buffett and Gates what the most important factor for their success was, they both gave the same answer, “focus.” Bill Gates' focus was depicted in a book (The Innovators) and by Gates' fellow Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. Allen had many ideas and passions, but Gates was a serial obsessor.

“Where I was curious to study everything in sight, Bill would focus on one task at a time with total discipline,” said Allen. “You could see it when he programmed. He would sit with a marker clenched in his mouth, tapping his feet and rocking; impervious to distraction.”

Steve Jobs was the same way; he was relentlessly focused on attacking problems searching for the best answer. Apple's founding marketing philosophy had three main tenets the second of which is focus: “In order to do a good job of those things we decide to do we must eliminate all of the unimportant opportunities,” Jobs said.

Focus was key for Buffett as well, Alice Schroeder writes: "He ruled out paying attention to almost anything but business—art, literature, science, travel, architecture—so that he could focus on his passion."

After King David’s death his kingdom broke into the southern kingdom ruled by his grandson Rehoboam and the northern kingdom ruled by the rival king Jeroboam. On the day that Jeroboam inaugurated a big feast to create a rival religious center that would turn the Israelites from God and Jerusalem forever (1 Kings 12:33), an audacious and anonymous man of God from faraway Judah (v 12) with a stern message of judgment and punishment from God traveled to the northern capital of Bethel to break up the party.

What makes one a faithful servant of God? How would you measure obedience? Why is it possible for a person to be disqualified from ministry?

Speak and Not Surrender the Truth

13 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. 2 By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’” 3 That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the Lord has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.” 4 When King Jeroboam 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. 5 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. 6 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.

Bishop Latimer once preached a sermon before King Henry VIII that greatly offended his royal auditor by its plainness. The King ordered him to preach again the next Sunday and to make public apology for his offense. The Bishop ascended the pulpit and read his text, and thus began his sermon: “Hugh Latimer, dost thou know before whom thou art this day to speak? To the high and mighty Monarch, the King’s most excellent Majesty, who can take away thy life if thou offendest. Therefore take heed that thou speakest not a word that may displease. But then, consider well, Hugh! Dost thou not know from whom thou comest—upon whose message thou art sent? Even by the great and mighty God, who is all-present and beholdeth all thy ways, and who is able to cast thy soul into hell! Therefore take care that thou deliverest thy message faithfully.”

And so beginning, the bishop preached over again, but with increased energy, the selfsame sermon he had preached the week before: the fear of God delivered him from the fear of man. (Illustrations of Bible Truths # 523)

I love the first verse’s “behold” (KJV), which is the only time it appears as the first word in any chapter in the historical books, but it is my type of context-less introduction. It perfectly captured the surprising, startling and shocking sight of the man of God’s daring and darting presence before the king just as Jeroboam was hell-bent “TO make an offering/TO burn incense” (infinitve) that day. The prophet’s action – “cried + out (v 2, called out)” is unique to him in the Bible. It did not make sense for the king to give the first imperative or order in the chapter – “seize” (v 4) – and tried to capture the prophet with his bare hands, but the prophet so infuriated the king that, despite the availability of guards, the king stretched out his hand against the prophet (v 4). Immediately his hand had lost its flexibility, function and feeling.

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