Burning Man

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. He cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD: “O 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 now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’ ” 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.”

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. 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.

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. (1 Kings 13:1-6)

God’s gift of a throne didn’t come without strings. Solomon’s son lost the ten tribes of the north because of his idolatry. God had told Jeroboam that he would become their the king. But Jerusalem remained the place where people went to worship God. It was also where the king of Judah, David’s heir, ruled. Fearful that his new kingdom would be undermined by continued faithfulness to God in Jerusalem, Jeroboam decided to establish new places of worship to secure his political position. He built golden calves and set them up in Dan and Bethel. He established a separate priesthood to officiate at the shrines he had built. (see 1 Kings 12:25-33)

He did all this, despite the fact that God had given him his kingdom. He simply didn’t trust God. For his unfaithfulness to God, because of the sin he led his people into, God eventually sent a prophet to proclaim judgment against him.

Jeroboam’s reaction to the words of the prophet are predictably unwelcoming. But God protected his spokesperson and even granted healing to Jeroboam in the midst of the pronouncement of judgment. But Jeroboam never repented of what he had done: he maintained the false religion he had created for political purposes, and so the prophet’s words came true.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm the interim pastor at Quartz Hill Community Church. I have written several books. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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