Tuesday, 6 May 2014

(127) May 7: 1 Kings 12-13 & Luke 24:36-53

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider why and how the northern kingdom turns from the LORD.

To ponder:
The dominant theme throughout is how the kingdom was divided through a lack of wisdom seen in taking bad advice. Obviously, this is significant in showing God had removed the blessing he had imparted to Israel through the wisdom of Solomon.
At first “all Israel” are ready to make Rehoboam king in the significant city of Shechem (see Gen 12v6-7). But Jeroboam returns from Egypt and with the “whole” assembly of Israel offer Rehoboam their service if he lightens the load Solomon had put upon them – probably in serving his building projects (12v18). During his three days reflection, however, Rehoboam determines to reject the wisdom of his father’s advisors, who counsel him to be favourable. Instead, he takes the advice of the “young men” to be even harsher than Solomon (12v10-11). Young men were not expected to be as wise in Hebrew culture; and so it turned out. The king repeated their words, showing that he “did not listen” to the people. However, we’re told this was “from the LORD” to fulfil his word to make Jeroboam king (11v26-40). And so Israel once more repeat their rebellions refrain (12v16, see 2 Sam 20v1), go “home,” stone Rehoboam’s supervisor of forced labour, and leave him escaping to Jerusalem and reigning over only Judah and Benjamin (12v17, 21). 12v19 affirms the ongoing nature of this divided kingdom and so the devastating consequences of Rehoboam’s foolishness.
“All the Israelites” then make Jeroboam king, and Rehoboam musters all Judah and Benjamin to “make war” against them – a terrible thing between fellow Israelites. However, Judah and Benjamin show wisdom by “obeying” God’s prophet who told them this was God’s doing, and so go “home” themselves. The point throughout is that God’s word and wisdom should be heeded.
Jeroboam, however, fails in this. God had promised him a great dynasty if faithful (11v38). But rather than trust God, he acts to ensure the people aren’t tempted to return to Rehoboam when going to make sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. Once more bad “advice” is the problem (12v28). And so, echoing the sin of Exodus 32 (compare 12v28 and Ex 32v4), Jeroboam sets up alternative “gods” in alternative locations with alternative shrines, alternative priests and even alternative festivals! Moreover, he offers sacrifices to these false gods. Even within today’s church, it can be argued that false teachers create an alternative religion to true Christianity. Indeed, they themselves say they do it to attract unbelievers.
At this point a “man of God” (prophet) comes from the southern kingdom where God is rightly worshipped and “cries out” against the alternative altar at Bethel. He predicts that a future southern king, Josiah, will executed judgement against these false priests, burning them on the altar. He adds that the altar will be split as a sign. Not only does the sign take place, but Jeroboam’s hand turns leprous when he calls men to seize the prophet. However, rather than repent of his sin he asks only for prayer that his hand would be healed, confirming his rebelliousness.
The strange story that follows is framed to prove the prophet is genuine and so that his word would come true (13v31-32). It also illustrates the fate of those who disobey God’s commands by following the lies of a false prophet. This was a lesson to the future nation as it is to us when enticed after false teaching in the church. Here Jeroboam’s response adds warning. He still did not repent, appointing all sorts as priests to his high places. And this explains the coming destruction on his house.

Praying it home:
Thank God for those he sends to warn us about our sin. Pray that you and others would heed them and obey his word, and be discerning enough to reject the lies of those who teach error.

Thinking further: The man of God from Judah
Any careful reader must ask why the whole of chapter 13 is given to the bizarre circumstances surrounding the prophet. Commanded by God not to eat or drink he refuses Jeroboam’s offer, but accepts that of an old prophet from Bethel (the place of false religion) when the man lied that God had told him to host the Judean prophet. God then gives a true word to the old prophet that the Judean prophet would die for disobeying God’s command on eating! On his way home, a lion therefore killed him. The key point is seen in the old prophet’s declaration that the body was of “the man of God who defied the word of the LORD,” and who has been mauled “as the word of the LORD warned him.” In other words, he was a genuine prophet, because the word God originally gave him was binding, and disobedience to it meant death. So, his word in 13v2 will also come true because Jeroboam had disobeyed God’s word. This is stressed by the old prophet then honouring the man as a genuine “man of God” and saying his message would “certainly come true” (13v32).
            Of course the fate of the Judean prophet seems very unfair, as he sought to obey God but was misled by lies. Just as prophets often acted out their prophecies, so his death therefore becomes an illustration of the problem with the northern kingdom. They were ignoring God’s word and being deceived by falsehood. Having said all this, we should not assume the Judean prophet is ultimately rejected by God. The text stresses that the lion ate neither him nor his donkey so he could be given an honourable burial. It seems then, that he may be an example of one who, though involuntarily, gave his life in order to bring home the word of God.

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