Introduction: If I dood it, I get a whippin’. I dood it! Bugs Bunny hits the magician in the face with a pie.
Why’s it funny? Because we all share the experience, right? We all know that when we are faced with a decision between right or wrong, we first weigh our choices between the punishment we’ll receive or the joy we’ll experience when doing the wrong thing. It’s not a matter of what is right and what is wrong for us. It’s a matter of what actions will bring us the most joy. Is hitting the guy with the pie worth the whippin? Yes!
Or on a more serious note than throwing pies, will I disobey the word of God if doing so brings more pleasure than the consequences of disobedience?
I know God has spoken, but will the consequences of disobedience be worth it to experience the thrill of sin?
- Will getting my parents worked up and frustrated be better than doing what they say?
- Will certain decisions in relation to lust or intimacy outside of marriage prove more fun than obedience?
- Do I really need to align my sexuality, my time, my treasure, my talents, my friendships, and work, and worship with the word of the Lord? Or should I instead weigh my losses against the benefits of disobedience?
Will disobeying the word of the Lord lead to any significant consequence?
Turn to 1 Kings 13 but do not read ahead.
Prologue: Confrontation at Bethel – 13:1-10
This story begins with Jeroboam setting up his kingdom of Israel separate from the kingdom of Judah and thinking to himself, “The kingdom will turn back to the house of David and kill me” if I don’t do something to stop them from traveling down south to Jerusalem to worship (12:25-27).
It was like saying, “I know these people look up to me as their ruler, but if they attend church down south across enemy lines, they might be influenced to hate me. I’ve got to take matters into my own hands.”
Fear of your comrades turning on you can be a powerful motivator to do some pretty self-serving, vile things against God. In fact, if you are more fearful of what others might do to you than you are fearful of God and His Word, you will invent a more agreeable god of your own to replace Yahweh which will make you more pleasing in the eyes of your followers and friends.
So Jeroboam invents his own religion. And he thinks of everything. He makes up a new religious calendar, institutes a false system of sacrifice, and sets up worship centers for people to attend in the north so they won’t travel to God’s capital city down south.
Oh, and of course a new worship system requires a new god, so he creates golden cow statues – images of provision based on Egyptian gods.
Then Jeroboam runs into a problem. The majority of the folks who normally lead the worship of Yahweh bolt and leave town. The Levitical priests flee enmasse down south to enemy territory because they refuse to run this false religion for him (2 Chronicles 11:13–17).
But that’s OK with Jeroboam, because he prefers religious folks who will do what he says and agree with his policies anyway. So he hires all new priests to run his system, and the general population believes he’s got the religious vote on his side.
Then the “man of God” from down south (Rehoboam’s Judah) confronts the man-made religion instituted by king Jeroboam which stands in rebellion towards God.
Last week you saw what happened. There was a scary prophecy about human bones being burned on the altar, and the altar itself being torn to bits. Jeroboam thinks he’ll stop the troublemaker, and gets his hand locked in place, and his altar is toppled and the ashes spilled, so he realizes he’s no match for God and cries out for prayer.
He tries to get the man of God to stick around to be wined and dined, but he’ll have nothing of it.
*sniff, sniff* You smell that smell? Burning meat. Ashes spread on the ground. Palpable fear, and accelerated heart rates around as people try to figure out what just happened.
CNN and Fox News are already trying to put their spin on it and talking to their people on the ground as the man of God departs a different way than he came.
Some young fellas who were watching wide-eyed as the event transpired watch him depart down the road heading south back towards Judah on foot. Then, they leave in a hurry to their dad’s house in Bethel.
SCENE 1: Old Prophet in Bethel – “Saddle the donkey for me” – vv 11-13
I can see the dust flying as these couple of brothers run down the road to dad’s house in Bethel.
“Dad, dad, you won’t believe what happened at work today! This guy showed up from down south and really caused s stir with the king!”
They share the prophecy and signs.
The old man hears the words “prophecy” and “man of God” and jumps out of his chair.
“Which way did he go?”
“We knew you’d want to know that, Dad! Because didn’t they used to call you a prophet in your younger days?”
The old man says nothing, but you could tell by the look on his face, that he’s indeed remembering his younger days as a prophet of Yahweh. Why was he still living in this God-forsaken northern kingdom instead of following all his brothers down south when Jeroboam invented his religion? Why had he not confronted Jeroboam and his false religion himself? Perhaps out of fear? Perhaps out of apathy? Perhaps because he had his own selfish interests. We really don’t know why. But here in this moment, he MUST see, no he must speak to, no, he must invite to his home this mysterious man of God from Judah.
“We can actually show you the road he took!”
“Saddle the donkey for me! because if he’s on foot, I’m sure I can catch him. In fact, I’ll take our second donkey as well, and provide him with a ride back with me.”
The old man climbs up on the donkey and heads out at steady pace.
SCENE 2: Under the oak tree – Lying about the word of LORD – vv 14-18
The old man was correct. After not more than about 3 or 4 miles, he can see in the distance a lone figure sitting under that great big oak tree in the distance.
That’s got to be him. He looks southern, and he’s sitting out here all alone, probably getting some rest before he finishes his trip on foot back to Judah. Strange that he’s sitting down already; after all, it’s only a few more miles to go before he would pass from Israel back into Judah.
“Hey! Hey, you there! Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”
The old prophet’s eyes light up. He thought he might have already missed the opportunity to bring this man of God to his home as a favored guest.
He can hardly get the words out in his excitement and haste, “Come home with me and eat bread.”
The man of God flinches. It’s obvious this is not an agreeable conversation for him. Which is very strange, very strange indeed. Sharing a meal with a traveling guest at your table, particularly when that guest is far from home is customary! It’s basic hospitality! Why even Abraham offered a meal to strangers when all he had was a tent in the desert!
The man of God explains.
“I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.’ ”
The word of the Lord! – That’s why he is so adamant! The word of the LORD is the spoken authority of God Himself! He has to weigh the consequences of disobedience.
I must have this man stay with me! What will it take to convince him?
“I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ”
Yes, the old man was lying, but surely the LORD did not mean the man of God could not come to HIS house for food and drink.
That word from the LORD was undoubtedly meant to keep him from being wined and dined by evil king Jeroboam! The old prophet knew the ways of Yahweh, didn’t he? He had spoken for Yahweh himself in the past, hadn’t he? Surely Yahweh would not intend for this man of God to skip a customary show of hospitality and spend time in the old prophet’s home!
Still, this man of God seems resolute. He had turned down a meal with the king himself previously, and now he’s standing here repeating the exact same message he’d received from Yahweh.
The old prophet prepares himself to work harder at persuading the man of God to come home with him, but to his surprise, the man of God puts up no resistance!
The story about the angel must have worked! He genuinely believes that an angel told me to tell him the exact opposite of what the word of the Lord told him!
SCENE 3: Old prophet’s house – Disobedience – no family grave prophesied – vv 19-22
The man of God mounts the second donkey, and the two return back to the old prophet’s house.
Doesn’t this picture make you happy? Two prophets of God enjoying one another’s company, sharing a meal, building together, maybe reminiscing about shared experiences in their roles as prophets.
But as they are sitting at the old prophet’s table, finishing off another round, an expression comes across the old prophet’s face that hasn’t been there in a long time. He sits up tall, looks at the man of God from Judah with a holy piercing gaze, and through no effort of his own, his lips begin to move, and words come cascading out of his mouth in a shout that causes the man of God’s blood to run cold.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’ ”
Then, all is silent. Perhaps the old prophet’s eyes flicker, and he slouches back into his seat, returned to his normal composure. It’s obvious that the word of the Lord has just now proclaimed a horrible fate on the man before him. It’s not clear when or how, but the man of God will die in such a way that his body will not receive the customary burial in the family tomb like any decent Israelite would desire and anticipate.
Because this man of God disobeyed the word of the Lord, he will find no rest.
SCENE 4: Saddled the donkey – on the road, killed by lion and thrown from donkey – vv 23-25
Without any further conversation among the pair, the old prophet leaves the table for the stables.
He places a saddle on the second donkey, and helps the trembling young man of God mount up on it.
The old prophet watches as the man of God disappears down the road towards Judah.
The man of God makes his way down the road, trying to focus on the steady sway of the donkey beneath him instead of his rapid heart rate.
Why did he not obey the Word of the Lord? Why did he not simply go home instead of believing the old prophet when he said an angel had contradicted the original word of the Lord with a new word?
The lie had been so believable! I mean, yes, the new word completely contradicted what God originally said, but God can change his mind, right? This older prophet could have received a fresh word for his life, right? He couldn’t constrain his life to an old word from God when someone with believable new insights from God were shared with him, right?
Perhaps the man of God was thinking these types of thoughts when the flying fur hit him and rolled him off the donkey.
He hit the ground in a panic and utter fear, but his life was over in an instant.
The word of the Lord was ringing in his ears as the lion standing over him took his life.
‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your God commanded you, your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’ ”
Disobeying the word of the Lord leads to no rest.
What’s that sound? Voices. Footfalls. Travelers are coming down the road.
Then the voices grow animated and the pounding of their feet becomes louder and faster.
They’ve spotted the saddled donkey with no rider. Where is the rider? Why is the donkey standing in the road like that?
Then they see the lion and stop in their tracks.
Lions aren’t in the area everyday, but when they do appear, they can be vicious, and they will always eat their prey.
They begin to slowly back away the direction they came from, hoping the lion doesn’t see them, but what’s this? There’s a body on the ground! A man is lying there next to the lion! The poor guy must have been attacked.
He’s obviously dead, by the looks of things, but the lion isn’t eating him!
The lion is just…sitting there! And the donkey is just standing there! And the corpse is lying next to them!
Why is the lion not eating the man? Or attacking the donkey?
Why is the donkey just standing there unafraid?
They return to Bethel and share the gruesome tale with anyone who will listen.
A lion is sitting near a donkey whose rider is dead on the ground, but the donkey is alive and well, and the lion is not eating the corpse!
It’s the most bizarre thing!
SCENE 5: At prophet’s house, reports received – Word of the Lord Confirmed – “Saddle the Donkey” – vv. 26-27
When the words reach the ears of the old prophet, he knows the truth.
“It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him” through me.
With a low sigh, he speaks to his sons, “Boys, saddle the donkey for me.”
SCENE 6: On the road, not eaten – Laid on the donkey v 28-29
The old man makes his way a second time down the road toward Judah.
Shortly the gruesome scene comes into view.
Over there lies the corpse in the middle of the road. The donkey and the lion are both standing beside the body as if these things happen everyday.
But these things do not happen every day. They are bizarre. And they point with precision to the fulfilled word of the Lord.
The strange lion is the signature of God. No one can say, “Wow, that poor guy got killed by a lion.” With the lion and donkey standing there at attention in such a bizarre way, it’s unavoidable that Yahweh has rendered judgment.
Disobeying the word of the Lord leads to no rest.
The old man knows what he must do.
To have an unburied corpse lying in the road with no burial is an extreme shame. Similar to today, to leave a dead body exposed with no care for hours on end would lead be a shock and horror.
No, this is unacceptable. Bodies must be treated with respect and dignity. The man of God must be buried.
The old prophet walks right past the lion, who is standing at attention, and scoops up the body of the man of God.
He lays the man’s body across the donkey’s saddle, and starts the return trip back home.
SCENE 7: At the prophet’s grave– vv 30-32
Arriving back in town, the prophet buries the man of God in his own personal grave.
Can you hear the wailing? Can you hear the sorrow over this turn of events?
Alas, my brother! Alas! Not only have you died, but your bones will not be ceremoniously buried in a dignified way in the tomb of your fathers as is customary, but instead you will be buried here in the vile, godless northern kingdom in a grave that does not belong to your family just as the word of the Lord said.
Once the time of mourning comes to an end, the old prophet speaks to his sons once more, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass.”
Did you catch that?
In other words, “Boys, it doesn’t matter how disobedient that man of God was or how he died as a result, when the word of the LORD speaks, it’s going to come to pass. And the word of the LORD said that bones in this region will be dug up and burned on those vile altars of Jeroboam’s. There will be no rest for this entire region because the people have disobeyed the Word of the Lord. May my bones at least rest in death when the word of the Lord proves true. When I die, you put my bones with his bones.” (2 Kings 23:15–18).
SCENE 8: THIS THING does not change Jeroboam, but becomes sin to his house. – vv 33-34
So how did Jeroboam respond when this horrible story made it back to his ears?
Did he turn and repent of his wicked ways?
Did he fear God instead of man?
Did he tremble before Yahweh and destroy his evil altars?
Did Jeroboam receive the mercy bound up in the judgment of God?
Did he allow God to barge into his idolatry and block him from his golden calves?
Did he respond to the word of the Lord with confession, repentance, and turning to God?
Would this story of someone disobeying the word of the Lord and being torn apart for it lead Jeroboam to turn from his wicked ways and finding rest?
Would Jeroboam become the leader who would become known for resting in the word of the Lord?
We read in verse 33-34, “After this thing [the very man of God who spoke the condemning word of the Lord was killed by a lion and buried in the north] Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.”
Jeroboam will not obey the word of the Lord, and therefore, he will not experience rest.
Disobeying the word of the Lord leads to no rest.
God’s speech is a fundamental means of his self-disclosure. God speaks, and worlds leap into being (Genesis 1). God’s Word carries enormous weight.
1. Christian, Test What Your Told by the Mold of the Word.
- The man of God was not swayed by an extravagant offer of a meal with the king, but was turned aside by a lying prophet.
- God does not change his mind and state something 180 degrees to prior commands.
- Test What Your Told by the Mold of the Word.
- Watch out for people who claim to speak for God when in fact, the things they teach are the exact opposite of what you know God has said already in the past.
- Paul says in Galatians even if an angel from Heaven offers you good news different than the Word, let that angel be damned!
- Test What Your Told by the Mold of the Word.
2. Christian, Stop Playing and Start Obeying the Word.
- The very man of God who first condemned Jeroboam now serves as an example: when you disobey the word of the Lord, your bones will not rest with your fathers. Later we’ll find out that Jeroboam’s bones will also not rest.
- Disobeying the word of the Lord leads to lack of rest, both in this life and the life to come.
- Stop Playing and Start Obeying the Word.
- Do not expect to live in direct disobedience to Yahweh and then live with your soul at rest.
- Disobedience and rest are mutually exclusive.
- Many times we give God the finger with our lives, but grow more shocked and angry at him when we have no rest.
- Nearness to Yahweh is rest.
- Stop Playing and Start Obeying the Word
3. Christian, Be Obedient or Be An Object Lesson.
- You might say, but I’m a teacher of the Word. I know the Word so well, I’m a man of God! God uses me to speak his Word for him!
- Yes, and God used a lying prophet to speak truth in spite of himself, and he used a man of God’s disobedience to condemn a corrupt king.
- You should be terrified if you have the truth and yet that truth does not grip, control, and transform your life and lead you to a life of obedience.
- This text warns us that the ministry of proclaiming or teaching the word does not exempt us from the duty of obeying that word.
- Be Obedient or Be An Object Lesson
- God is not thwarted by our disobedience, but turns our disobedience into a sermon for other sinners.
- Sinners will either be shocked to repentance or condemned for their apathy because of our lion stories.
- Notice that the sovereign, unyielding word of the Lord gets its glory in this story despite every character standing against it.
- Every character except the lion disobeys and becomes an object lesson.
- The man of God disobeys the word of the Lord and becomes a sovereign sermon against Jeroboam even in his death.
- The old lying prophet becomes a sovereign sermon against the man of God because he can’t stop the word of the Lord from speaking truth through him.
- Everyone in this story is false. And yet the word of the Lord comes true at every turn.
- The only thing you “won’t stop, can’t stop” is the word of the Lord.
- The word of the Lord cannot be thwarted even by your disobedience.
4. Flee the Tragedy. Follow Jesus.
- The audience would never have seen the Messiah in this text. They would have seen tragedy upon tragedy. Not only is the king turned to his own way, hiring his own priests, but the prophets also have turned away.
- There is no hope for Israel in this text, even from Judah. Israel will be exiled because the word of the Lord has been abandoned. Period. This story bears no good news.
- It’s similar to watching a movie when I was a kid like “Arachnophobia” and thinking, “I want to pull out of this narrative! I want to wake up to the real world where I have a mom and dad that will take care of me, and the threat will no longer be real.”
- We should want to wake up from this narrative where no one obeys the word of the Lord, and Israel is not running break-neck speed away from God.
- And we should say, thank God we do have the lion of Judah who took our place in this mess!
- But perhaps our take away is not just that Jesus dies for us, but perhaps our take away is that the path to Jesus is filled with faith in and obedience to the word of the Lord.
- Jesus is the embodiment of that word.
- Yes, Jesus is perhaps in this story, but not as the lamb that was slain, but as the word of the Lord like in Revelation 19.
- Revelation 19:11–14 (ESV) 11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.