1 Kings 13:11
Now a certain old prophet was living in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the deeds that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told their father the words that the man had spoken to the king.
Sermons
The TempterJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 13:11, 12
The Old Serpent AgainJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 13:11-19
Disobedience in One PointF. F. Emerson.1 Kings 13:11-32
Disobedience VisitedSketches of Sermons1 Kings 13:11-32
On the Character of the Man of God that Came from JudahJ. Puckle, M. A.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Disobedient ProphetR. Jones, M. A.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Disobedient ProphetT. Grantham.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Disobedient ProphetH. P. Liddon, D. D.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Disobedient ProphetG. Hunsworth, M. A.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Disobedient Prophet of JudahJ. O. Coghlan, D. D.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Fatal Result of DisobedienceW. A. Griffiths.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Law of ObedienceN. D. Hillis, D. D.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Nameless ProphetA. Rowland, B. A.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Penalty of DisobedienceR. W. Evans, B. D.1 Kings 13:11-32
The Prophet's Temptation and FallT. H. Barnet.1 Kings 13:11-32


As the ways of the serpent are tortuous so are those of Satan. If he cannot effect his purposes by moving in one direction he will move in another, and thus by crooked ways he advances (Isaiah 27:1; Psalm 125:5). He had already tempted the man of God by means of the schismatic king, and failed; his next work is to see what influence an old prophet may have upon him. So versatile are his devices that it is our wisdom to be ever on the alert. Observe the adroitness with which he lays his plans. His astuteness is seen -

I. IN CHOOSING HIS INSTRUMENTS. These were -

1. "The sons of the old prophet."

(1) They were near the altar. Whether by the contrivance of Satan, or that, finding them there, he made them his tools, is not revealed. Or whether they were there out of curiosity, or sympathy with the apostasy, is not revealed. But they were there - on the devil's ground. We must keep from that if we would escape mischief.

(2) They were witnesses of the words and works of God. So, might have been rebuked for sympathy with evil and admonished to separate themselves from it. They also saw the way the man of God took in returning to Judah.

(3) They lost no time in reporting to their father, urged, unconsciously to themselves, by Satan. We cannot always tell when we are prompted by the devil, or when he uses for his purposes our natural promptings. We should pray God to spare us the humiliation of serving Satan's purposes.

2. The old prophet himself.

(1) He was an "old" prophet, or had been a prophet in the old time before the apostasy of Jeroboam. Probably he had backslidden from God; for, though he did not appear at Bethel, he allowed his sons to be there. Had he not lost his old fire would he not have lifted his voice against the national sin? Backsliders from God become the devil's dupes.

(2) The energy of Satan is seen in the promptness of this old prophet's action. He quickly got information. He lost no time in the pursuit. The sluggishness of age was shaken off under the excitement of the devil's spur.

(3) But what was the old man's motive? Probably the desire to display that hospitality which the Easterns cultivated so carefully, mingled with a curiosity to know more about the wonders the man of God was commissioned to discover. But Satan's motive was very different. Beware that your motives become not subservient to those of the devil. Let your motives be pure and godly.

II. IN USING THEM.

1. See the stratagem in Eden, repeated.

(1) Had Satan tempted Eve in his proper character he would have failed (1 Timothy 11:14). So the man of God was proof against the solicitations of the king whom he discerned to be the "man of sin" of his time.

(2) Satan therefore concealed himself under the sleek, lustrous form of a serpent, and deceived our mother. Then transferring himself to the fallen Eve, under her lovely disguise, overcame Adam. So, enshrining himself in the old prophet, he vanquished the "man of God." Beware of Satan's disguises. Especially beware of the religious devil.

(3) The offence, again, was eating. In Eden it was eating the forbidden thing. Note: The place may be right, the thing wrong. At Bethel it was eating in the forbidden place. Note: The thing may be right, the place wrong.

2. See the spirit of the devil.

(1) The spirit of cruelty. The old prophet knew that the man of God was forbidden to eat in Bethel, yet he importuned him to eat bread with him. Cruelty is no less real because sheathed in professions of kindness. Over-indulgent parents are their children's cruelest enemies.

(2) The spirit of treachery. The man of God had refused a king: will he withstand a prophet? (Jeremiah 23:18; Amos 2:11.)

(3) The spirit of lies (ver. 18). Now is Satan transformed into an angel of light. Could the old prophet have been himself thus deceived? He deceived the man of God. Beware of the devil of hospitality. Perhaps the man of God the more readily yielded being weak with fatigue and fasting (compare Matthew 4:2-4). No example, save that of Jesus, may be followed implicitly. - J.A.M.







Now there dwelt an old man in Bethel
This passage forms part of a very remarkable narrative. The miraculous element is so prominent that certain critics would have the chapter expunged from Holy Scripture. The natural and the supernatural are closely interwoven, as are the woof and web of a fabric, and the destruction of either would be the practical dissolution of the whole; indeed, nowhere is this more manifestly true than in the life and death, in the resurrection and ascension, in the works and claims of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Who was this bold prophet? Josephus identified him with Iddo, the seer; but the statement is merely conjectural. The man must remain nameless, as he is left in this chapter.

I. THE MESSAGE DELIVERED BY THIS NAMELESS PROPHET.

1. Its divine origin is expressly asserted in the second verse: "he cried... in the word of the Lord." This is a remarkable phrase. It is not said that he cried the word of God, but that he cried "in" it — as if his message were the sphere in which he lived, the atmosphere he breathed. Nothing could more forcibly suggest the source from which all religious teachers draw their power. It is the consciousness of having a Divine message, the sureness of a Divine call, the confidence that what they have to say is "the Word of the Lord," which is the sign of the true prophet.

2. The definite nature of this message deserves attention. The very name of the avenger, Josiah, is mentioned, though it was 300 years before he was born; and it was distinctly foretold that idolatrous priests would be slain on the altar erected in defiance of God, and that the site now being set apart for heathen worship would be defiled and dis-honoured by the bones of the dead. Centuries elapsed before the fulfillment of this threat, but it came at last, and came at the appointed time, proclaiming to all future ages this solemn truth, which it is madness to ignore: "the wages of sin is death." God's punishments are never arbitrary. They are the legitimate issues of the crime or vice they belong to. The sinner is destroyed by his own sin. And this is in harmony with all that we know of God's works. Science is showing the links between cause and effect with ever-growing clearness and certainty; and the doctrine of evolution reveals that limbs may perish by disuse or may be developed by necessities of life in new surroundings. This is true everywhere, not least in the punishments and privations threatened in Scripture, here and hereafter.

II. THE COURAGE HE DISPLAYED. His boldness it is not easy to overrate. It was the consciousness the prophet had that he was God's messenger that gave him this heroism. It was this which prepared Moses to dare the wrath of Pharaoh, this which nerved Elijah to stand alone face to face with the prophets of Baal; this which enabled Peter and John undauntedly to face the Sanhedrim; and this which made Ambrose, and Knox, and Luther, and Zwingli types of a truer heroism than any field of battle has revealed.

III. THE SAFETY OF THE PROPHET was assured, and credentials of his commission were given, when the altar was suddenly cleft in twain, and all the ashes poured out. We see nothing incredible here, or in many other miraculous signs mentioned in the Old and New Testaments. Supernatural signs are surely the legitimate evidences of a supernatural revelation. They are simply the assertion of the supremacy of the spiritual and unseen over the material and visible; and if we really believe that the things seen were not made of things which do appear, we need not be incredulous when evidences of the existence of these are given. Among the phenomena of Nature, we all know that a mountain may be still and silent for ages, villages cluster around its base, men toil and children play on its sides, and they have no suspicion that it is volcanic; but at last the subterranean fires may burst out, and just as that force, long hidden, asserts itself within the limits of half-known law: so it may be, so it has been, within the limits of unknown law. Our Lord Jesus Christ boldly said of His own miracles: "If ye believe not Me, believe the works," the works which modern admirers of His moral teaching would rule out of court! — and the apostles put the resurrection of Christ, which some would explain away, into the very forefront of Christian evidences.

IV. THE TEMPTATION HE RESISTED, to which our text alludes. Jeroboam failed in the use of violence; but, nothing daunted, he sought to overcome the messenger of Jehovah by craft. Doubtless there are many who have had such conflicts and conquests. Tempted to sin, you have replied: "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Sitting among the sinners, when you could not avoid them, you did not approve their mockery even by the faintest smile. Able to win wealth and position, you resolutely refused to stoop to do what you knew was base and false. In such hours of triumph I would entreat you most vividly to remember, and most humbly to acknowledge, that the victory came only through Him that loved you, or you may ultimately experience the fall which came to the prophet after his first victory was won.

V. THE SECOND TEMPTATION, which we must not overlook, was successful and fatal. It came from an "old prophet," who lived near by, who approached his fellow-servant when he was tired, and who, professing to have received message from God, induced him to enter his house in Bethel, and thus to disobey the command of the Lord. If it be asked why this temptation succeeded, while that of Jeroboam failed, we should attribute it to the self-complacence and self-confidence engendered by successful resistance to the king, and to the sense of false security which generally succeeds in a crisis of peril. Evidence of this is seen in the fact that he rested under a terebinth, instead of pressing homeward, as he had been told to do.

1. Learn from this that the conquest of one evil often leads to an assault from another.

2. Learn also that it is a perilous thing to linger in a scene of temptation, though for a time we may have to go into it in order to do God's work. If this prophet had not rested, instead of hurrying forward, he would not have been overtaken before he crossed the border line of safety between the two kingdoms.

VI. THE TRIFLING DISOBEDIENCE which brought about so terrible a retribution. It seemed a very small offence to go home with a brother prophet for pleasant, and perhaps profitable, intercourse. But there was no doubt about the will of God in this matter. An act may seem as trifling as that; and yet it may involve a momentous principle. It was a small thing for Eve to take the fruit of the tree; but it was an act of direct disobedience, and therefore brought death into the world, and all our woe. It is in what we call trifles that God tests our obedience and love.

(A. Rowland, B. A.)

It may seem, at first sight, that the prophet was hardly visited for breaking such a commandment as this; and yet we may remember that Adam brought death on himself and us all by an act of disobedience much akin to this; for he was commanded not to eat, but he did eat: why should any of his children fare better, especially when sinning like this prophet, to whom the word of God came not as to other men, immediately into his heart from the Holy Spirit of God? He grieved the Holy Spirit. But though he did not sin wilfully, but was most artfully tempted into his sin, God's justice could not spare him; an example must reeds be made of the punishment of faithlessness in so high a commission- Such is the example: now how does it concern the Christian?

1. The Christian is a prophet, for he has the gift of the Word of God and of His Holy Spirit, and the revelation of the world to come. And his profession is to protest and struggle against the corruption of the world, against which he must denounce the wrath of God which cometh on the children of disobedience.

2. As the prophet had the commandment given him, "to eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that he came," that is, to have no fellow. ship with the sinners whose idolatry God had sent him to denounce, so the Christian has a special injunction on this head; it has been given him both in the word of his Saviour, and in the example of his Saviour. We must not as Christians eat and drink by the way; we must not waste our precious time and heavenly substance in the carnal enjoyments of this life; but we must go on the way which God hath pointed out to us, without turning to the right or to the left for refreshment, for if we do, then we are out of His way, then we are in the forbidden habitations of sin; still less must we return by the same way that we came.

3. The prophet was tempted by a false brother; and even so are Christians tempted by false brethren, and persuaded by them to sit down to the meat and drink of sinful indulgence, and to return by the same way that they came, going backward, though at a much quicker rate, through the same steps that they have come forward in the Christian race.

4. And whom did God choose to pronounce sentence of death upon him? His very deceiver. And is not this continually the case? Is not the tempter into sin often the very first to reproach the tempted with his sin, and to mock at him when it is beyond remedy? Is he not often the first to open his eyes to his real state, and laugh at him? This is the way of Satan, the grand tempter of all, and therefore the way of his children also. Thus sin is felt by the tempted as the sting of death indeed!

5. And now see the end: a lion met the prophet in his way and slew him. And is there no lion ready for the faithless Christian too? Yes; the lion is at the door ready for all the unwary, gaping upon them with his mouth, staring upon them with his eyes, on the crouch, and ready to spring at the first favourable moment, and rend and tear the soul in pieces.

6. If God could visit with such strict justice the disobedience of a man who was tempted to believe that he was obeying God, how will He visit those who yield to temptation with the clear knowledge that they are disobeying God, and hearken to men who they know cannot be prophets of God, as was the man to whom this prophet listened, but are evidently prophet of Satan.

(R. W. Evans, B. D.)

Holy Scripture gives some terrible warnings as to the power and danger of temptation. Notably, the fall of men of God through temptation. This narrative is such a warning. Brings before us —

1. Generally, the subject of temptation.

2. Specially, temptation.

(1)By means of our fellow-men.

(2)To disobedience of God's express command. It is thus illustrative of, and illustrated by, other passages of Scripture.

I. TEMPTATION PROMPTLY REPELLED.

1. Plain command had been given to this "man of God" (ver. 9). But no reason assigned. This is in keeping with many positive obligations of God's law..

2. King Jeroboam desires him to act in opposition to God's command.

(1)It is an open temptation, recognised as such.

(2)It is a temptation of the world.

(3)It appeals to self-interest: something is to be gained (ver. 7). Like the temptation of Eve (Genesis 3:5), of Balaam (Numbers 22:16, 17), of Christ (Matthew 4:8, 9).

3. He understands it, resolves, acts. He turns away from it (ver. 10). Like Joseph (Genesis 39:9-12). Learn — our real safety is to flee from temptation.

II. TEMPTATION FEEBLY RESISTED.

1. Again the same temptation comes: but not now from standpoint of the world, of open enmity with God. A seeming prophet is tempter (vers. 11-15).

2. The man of God feels some inward desire to comply with the temptation. There is hesitation In his resistance; he says, "I may not," and therefore "will not." Learn —(1) The beginning of our fall is when our will begins to be out of accord with God's law; when we would sin, but dare not.(2) There is danger in parleying with temptation.

III. TEMPTATION YIELDED TO.

1. For third time same temptation assails him, and with additional inducement. Satan becomes as an "angel of light," his emissary assumes the position of a minister of God (ver. 18). This case resembles Satan's quotation of Scripture (Matthew 4:3, 6).

2. The man of God is deceived by the insidiousness of the lie.

(1)Temptation at first repelled, then entertained, is at last successful.

(2)He yields, and disobeys God's Word.

(3)His sin meets with direct judgment (ver. 24).Learn —

(1)The transgression of God's law in any particular is sin.

(2)The wages of sin is death.Conclusion — Two passages in the New Testament sum up and enforce the whole subject: —

1. 1 Corinthians 10:13.(1) Temptation is a law of all human life. The man of God is not exempt.(2) Temptation is in God's mercy regulated according to our ability to resist.(3) A way of escape is ever open to us. Generally by our promptly turning away from the person or thing tempting us.

2. Galatians 1:8.(1) Temptation often comes by the example or persuasion of our fellow-creatures.(2) It will come as though with the authority of God. This specially in temptations to scepticism and disbelief as to the truth of Romans 6:23.(3) God's Word cannot contradict itself. Should it seem to do so, or any human interpretation make it appear to do so, we may doubt our own views or the interpretation of others, and should adhere to the plain truth of Holy Scripture.

(T. H. Barnet.)

I. THE MISSION OF THIS MAN OF GOD TO BETHEL IS A MOST IMPORTANT ONE. He is entrusted by his heavenly Master with unfolding the Divine judgments to King Jeroboam, on account of his great sin in making the lowest of the people priests of the high places, and in consequence also of his open and zealous patronage of the most abominable idolatry.

1. The time of the prophet's arrival at Bethel. It happened when Jeroboam stood at the altar to burn incense. To face a guilty monarch and unveil the Divine denunciations threatened on account of his rebellious conduct, is by no means an easy task.

2. The mode of address. He addresses himself not to the guilty monarch, but as if he wished Jeroboam to feel he had forfeited the honour of being addressed like a rational agent, the prophet accosts the inanimate altar, that altar by which the king now usurpingly stood to burn incense. "O altar, altar!" he cries, not in his own name, but in the name of that God who sent him, "Thus saith the Lord."

3. The matter of the prophet's address. Now it is well worthy of remark, that though this predicted king is so particularly mentioned by name, none of the kings of Israel thought fit to assume the name, until the real and good Josiah himself. appeared as the executor of all the vengeance of a righteous God against sin. This name was given by the wicked Manasseh to his son quite undesignedly, a name which was to be the terrible watchword of the downfall of idolatry practised by Manasseh and Jeroboam: it was a name given by Manasseh to his son, in spite, as it were, of Manasseh himself, in diametrical opposition to Manasseh's policy

II. REGARD HIS TEST OF OBEDIENCE. The man of God having executed in a bold and faithful manner the grave commission on trusted to him, is preparing to take his departure, when Jeroboam, anxious it would appear to render the man of God some recompense for his kindness in having petitioned the Majesty of Heaven to restore his hand, approaches him with the friendly invitation. The prophet having manfully, by the grace of God, resisted the temptation of the king's invitation, is already on the way back to Judah, the way pointed out by the Lord for him to take. But although he has resisted one temptation and got apparently clear of Bethel, he is not yet safe. We are never secure while we are pilgrims and travellers in this world, which is not our rest, against the varied and constant assaults of Satan's temptations; as soon as one temptation is overcome, another is ready to overtake us on life's road; which teaches us ever to be watchful and prayerful.

III. THE PROPHET'S DISOBEDIENCE, AND ITS RESULT. How does the faith of the man of God now stand against this tremendous trial? He, who had a little previous so triumphantly combated the temptation to eat bread and drink water at a royal table, now, alas! totters in his obedience, and listens to the unlikely lie of an aged prophet, sanctioned, as he diabolically pretended, by an angel's revelation, and consents to return with him. The most dangerous form temptation can assume, is that of a lie, disguised in the mantle of truth, uttered by the ravening wolf clad in the sheep's clothing. By the snares of this temptation, the prophet now fell into the labyrinth of disobedience. It is Satan's master temptation. By this truth-gilded lie our first parents fell, and sin and death entered into the world. The devil put on a goodly outside, entered into the then attractive serpent, approached our unsuspecting mother in that so sleek form, and led her to fail in the first great test of human obedience, which was to be the proof of man's love, the eating of the forbidden fruit. The man of God, disobedient to the Divine command, accompanies the old prophet back to Bethel. There, dead to the fearful consequences of what he is doing, he refreshes the exhausted body at the board of hospitality. Swift indeed, and signal is the punishment inflicted on the man of God, and some may think the punishment severe; but the disobedience of the prophet in eating bread and drinking water was aggravated by the circumstances under which it was committed. Learn a lesson from this sorrowful circumstance, which Jeroboam failed to learn, even the lesson of obedience to the Word of God. Keep only in the track pointed out by that Word, though an angel from heaven might tell thee to do contrary to its Divine message to thy soul. Obey its every precept, small or great.

(R. Jones, M. A.)

We have in this account a very striking illustration of the truth enunciated by the Apostle James, the Lord's brother, at the first council at Jerusalem, namely, that "known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18). The prediction uttered by the man of God against the altar at Bethel was not fulfilled for the space of 360 years; and yet, when the time fixed in the counsels of Omnipotence arrived, not one thing. failed of accomplishment of all that he had declared should come to pass. Now, this truth may afford comfort to all who love and fear God. Many of God's people, when they hear of the overflowings of ungodliness and unbelief, may be almost inclined to think that God hath forgotten His gracious promises, and that He will in truth shut up His loving-kindness in displeasure. But they may chide away their unbelieving fears as David did: "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God" (Psalm 42.). But I must point out a few lessons of instruction which this portion of holy writ may furnish us with.

1. And, first, it may teach us that, whenever God hath plainly declared His will, no grounds of supposed expediency, and no less fully authenticated declarations, however they may profess to proceed from Him, should ever induce us to depart from it. This we may learn both from the conduct of Jeroboam, as well as from that of the man of God. And, assuredly, we have abundant examples of its danger. We know that the Jews, who lived at the time when our Saviour was upon earth, are accused by Him of making void the law of God by their traditions; and even to the present day, by listening to the same fallacious guide, though they nominally admit the Divine authority of the Old Testament scriptures, they fritter away all their most important requirements. But how, it may be asked, does it arise that men can satisfy themselves to pay any attention to such a pretender? And the answer is, because, like the old prophet, it comes forward with a bold assertion of its Divine authority, though with as little regard to truth as he displayed. Tradition, among the Jews, professes to be an interpretation of the law given by God to Moses, and transmitted through elders, prophets, and wise men.

2. Another lesson to be learned from what is here recorded is that we cannot judge of a man's eternal state from the way m which he may be taken out of this world. A man of God sins; and within a few hours a lion slays him: the lying prophet that seduced him lives on, and goes to his grave in peace; yea, wicked Jeroboam continues his idolatrous worship, and treads upon the grave of his reprover. What shall we make of this? Doubtless such events teach us that there must be a judgment to come, when all these seeming inequalities will be corrected, and when rewards and punishments will be dispensed with impartial justice and unerring wisdom. At present God's people are chastened; but it is that they may not be condemned with the world; whereas the ungodly and the profane are in many instances unpunished.

3. A third lesson which may be learned from this narrative is, not to be induced heedlessly to follow any guide, whatever may be his pretensions, or whatever his apparent sanctity. The Apostle John gives the following caution: "Beloved, believe hot every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). And, if such advice was needful in apostolic times, much more is it required now.

4. The last lesson which I would point out to you as derivable from this passage of Scripture is, that no command of God is to be lightly regarded, and that the nearer people are to God the more certainly will their transgressions be punished. Implicit, unquestioning obedience has been in all ages the characteristic of God's most eminent servants.

(T. Grantham.)

The fate of the prophet of Judah has always been deemed a hard one. That it should be so is by no means surprising. We should certainly expect so striking a punishment to have been inflicted upon a very different kind of person. And it is that very circumstance which makes it the more important that we should look into the case. To sum what may be said for him, it comes to this:(1) he fulfilled faithfully the essential part of his mission;(2) his trifling transgression was excusable considering the plot laid to deceive him; and(3) in any case his punishment was extreme in severity. In thinking of the severity of the punishment, I have no doubt that we unconsciously infuse into our thoughts the assumption that the prophet of Judah suffered eternal death, because it was deemed necessary to execute him. As to his future state we know nothing whatever. No doubt at the great day his destiny will be settled, not by one act, but by his life. "But he fulfilled the essential part of his mission." Even supposing that we could so far enter into the Divine mind as to say what is essential in any command; still it is plain that there may be a wide difference between that part of the Divine command which was the more important in, so to speak, its missionary and public aspect, as regarded Jeroboam, and that part of it which regarded the prophet personally, and would be the more likely to try him. But surely, setting aside all thought of religion, we know that "trifles" lead into serious evils, and are often the turning-points of life as well as the tests of principle. And, as men of the world and men of honour, we shall admit that the importance of a principle does not depend upon the importance of the thing to which it is applied in some particular instance. You decide upon a man's dis. honesty, not by the magnitude of his fraud, but the fact. When once we receive, no matter how, what we believe to be a Divine command, it is plain that we have no right to decide how much of it God meant to be attended to, and how much we may set aside as immaterial. Here is the case of no vulgar sinner, no thoughtless transgressor of the Divine law, but one whom we are justified in regarding as a man of pre-eminent virtue, honoured by the King of kings by being chosen to discharge a difficult and dangerous duty, and supplied with minute instructions. The difficult and dangerous part of his mission he performed; he even so far discharged the seemingly less important part as to refuse the royal invitation. The crisis, as we should naturally think, had been passed. But it was not in the great matter, but in the small matter that he was tried, and that he failed; as he who has escaped perils of waters over thousands of miles of angry ocean, sometimes is drowned in the narrow unrippled river, within sight of home. It is not in the hour of persecution only, or of open and obvious peril that we need to be on our guard. We often brace ourselves for that. It is in the smaller occurrences of life that we need to be careful and watchful unto prayer, if principle be involved. And in how few things is it not involved, after all? The thought, doubtless suggests danger in these "small things"; but does it not also invest them with dignity? Does it not raise them out of the dust? What can be small in action or in suffering by which the character can be tested and the soul tried?

(J. O. Coghlan, D. D.)

Now, in order to come to a right understanding of the conduct of "the man of God which came from Judah," and to appreciate the error of which he was guilty, and for which he suffered; it will be necessary to remember how critical were the circumstances under which he was called to act; how extensive and sacred were the interests which were, more or less, to be involved in the discharge of his mission to Bethel. He came on an express mission, to denounce the apostasy of the times. He came to confront the very author of all this mischief as he stood by the altar of his own pride; to tell him, and his benighted worshippers, of their blasphemy and iniquity; to prophesy the day, when God s signal vengeance should be poured on the altar at which they so blindly knelt; when one of His anointed servants, of the kingly race of David, should fearfully purge that land of its crimes; should destroy the houses, and all the priests of the reigning idolatry, and bum the very reliques of their bodies on the altars of their profane worship. Nothing, therefore, could have been more important, nothing more full of trust, than the mission of him who was thus sent from Judah to Bethel. His instructions must have been of the most solemn kind; and we have reason to know that they were in all things express and minute. Now, in reviewing the conduct of the prophet, we are fur. Dished with a key to a right apprehension of its error, and the cause of its signal punishment. In the outset of his conduct, when the temptation was manifest, and the snare but clumsily laid, he acted in every respect with fidelity and decision. Here, then, it becomes a natural question, — in what had the great guilt of the man of God consisted? True, he had disobeyed the Divine command; but was not the force of that command in a manner cancelled by what the old prophet professed? Could the prophet of Judah have judged that his aged brother was lying to him? if not, wherefore this great and summary punishment? The answer to this is that the "man of God" ought so to have judged. He should have remembered, that on the one part he would be obeying his Maker, whose will he fully knew; on the other, he would be listening to a mere mortal, whose truth and authority he did not know, but which he even had good reason to suspect. Against the dictates of conscience, and calm judgment, he yielded to the latter; and therefore brought himself under the displeasure and condemnation of his God. In such times of apostasy and disbelief as those, slight actions assumed the importance of great ones; especially if depending on the known will of God. The prophet of Judah was placed in a conspicuous and important pest; and it was essential that his conduct in it should be signally marked. As to the punishment itself, we only know that it affected the body; not a word do we know of the destiny of the soul. Lessons —

1. What God has commanded and sanctified, can be no trifle. If it be but a particle, a tittle of His will, it is enough. The least compromise on our part may tend to evil that we know not of; and our only safe and right course is in simple, implicit obedience.

2. Again, we must be always on our guard against the effect of any apparent sanctity in profession. "I am also a prophet as thou art," was the rock on which the prophet of Judah foundered. Let us not be so deceived. We know where to look for God's revealed will; we know where to look for its authorised interpretation and enforcement.

3. Finally, looking at the example in a more general point of view, let it teach us the peril of all dalliance, vacillation, and delay. Let us not be found sitting under the wayside oak; loitering on the world s highroad. We cannot toy and idle as we pass, in a region of contamination and guilt. Wherever there is one thoughtless, vacant, indifferent to his everlasting salvation, that man is first marked for a prey by his eternal foe.

(J. Puckle, M. A.)

I. THE GREAT PROFESSIONAL AND SPIRITUAL EMINENCE OF THIS YOUNG PROPHET WHO CAME OUT OF JUDAH. He belongs to that great company of men and women of all ages and countries who have contributed much to the service of God, much to the well-being of their fellow-creatures, while on earth. It is only remembered what they did and not who they were. But as to his high standing among his fellows there can be no question.

1. This would appear, first of all, from the Divine mission with which he was entrusted.

2. And the high character and capacity of the nameless prophet of Judah appears, secondly, from the manner in which he discharged his mission.

II. AND NOW CAME HIS TRIAL. Now, it is natural to ask, what was the old prophet's motive in taking so much trouble to induce the younger man to do what was wrong? Was the old prophet a false prophet of the type which a few years later abounded in Israel during the ascendency of the Baal-worship? Were his sympathies really on the side of Jeroboam and the new religion of the Egyptian calf, and did he think anything fair if he could only ruin the courageous young man who, on an occasion of such capital importance, had covered both the upstart religion and the upstart king with such great and public discredit? This is what has been thought by some eminent authorities, but it cannot easily be reconciled with the Sequel of the history: for how should a false prophet be entrusted with the message announcing to the prophet of Judah the punishment of his transgression? How would a prophet who was opposed to the whole mission and work of the prophet of Judah have insisted on giving him honourable burial in his own grave? Once more, if the old prophet were at heart on the side of Jeroboam and the calf worship, how are we to explain his confirming the prediction of the prophet of Judah, about the coming destruction of the altar at Bethel? It is impossible to suppose that the old prophet was other than a true prophet of God, who had settled at Bethel. And here we must observe that this old prophet, although a true prophet, was evidently a person with no keenness of conscience, with no high sense of duty. There he was, settled at Bethel, witnessing the triumphant establishment of the new idolatry and of the false, uncommissioned, intrusive priesthood. It does not appear that he had the heart to say a word against the profane proceedings of Jeroboam, while yet he had no hesitation about claiming heavenly authority for a message which he knew was solely dictated by his own wishes. He was evidently an easy-going old prophet, not embarrassed by scruples when he had an object in view, and the appearance on the scene of a younger man, conspicuous for the courage and energy in which he himself was personally deficient, would naturally have affected him in a double manner.

III. SEE HERE A TRAGICAL INSTANCE OF THE MISUSE OF AUTHORITY. The prophet of Bethel had the sort of authority which accompanies age and standing. It is an authority which comes in a measure to all who live long enough; it is an authority which belongs especially to fathers of families, and to high officers in Church or State, to great writers, to conspicuous philanthropists, to public eminence in whatever capacity. It is a shadow of a greater and unseen authority which thus rests upon His earthly representatives, and invests this or that creature of a day with something of the dignity of the eternal. What can be more piteous than when, with deliberation or thoughtlessly, it is employed against Him whose authority alone makes it to be what it is? What more lamentable than when the old make truth and goodness more difficult of attainment to those who look up to them, or when, like this prophet of Bethel, they deliberately allure youth into the paths of sin, by appealing to its simple confidence in the wisdom of riper years, or to its reverence for a claim to teach, which would speedily disappear if the world at large were to join them in undermining loyalty to God's commands? Ah! there are prophets of Bethel in all ages. This disposition to discourage high and generous ideals of duty which have not presented themselves to an older generation, or still worse, have been neglected by it, is not unknown in the history of the Christian Church. A great movement may have taken place, in which God the Holy Ghost has placed before a generation of younger men a higher conception of what God's truth and God's service really mean than had occurred to their predecessors. It is always possible, or more than possible, that in a movement like this men will make mistakes, and that such a movement is all the better for the restraining, steadying, guiding influence of authority. But when authority, instead of guiding, discourages, instead of making the best use of the sacred fire — of which, after all, there is not too much in the world — sets to work deliberately to extinguish it, the consequences are disastrous.

IV. THE PROPHET OF JUDAH, WHO HAD BRAVED DEATH AND HAD REJECTED ROYAL COURTESIES AT THE ALTAR OF BETHEL, FELL WHEN TEMPTED BY THE OLD PROPHET. It may be thought that the younger prophet sincerely believed his own instructions to be cancelled by the alleged message of the angel to his older brother at Bethel. A moment's thought would, should, have told him that this could not be. He knew that God had spoken to himself; he knew that God does not contradict Himself. He might have been embarrassed for the moment by the confident story of the old prophet about the angel, if he did not suspect, as he might well have suspected, that all was not right, and that there was dishonesty somewhere. When any of us know certainly one piece of the Divine will, we simply have to act upon it, let others say what they may. No earthly authority can cancel, or suspend, or dispense with a duty which is perfectly clear to our own conscience. It has been maintained that the punishment awarded to the prophet of Judah was a disproportionately severe punishment. He forfeited his life, men say, not for committing murder, not for committing adultery, but only for eating bread in a particular place. After all, the command to abstain from eating and drinking at Bethel was not a moral precept, it was only a positive precept. But there are times when positive precepts assume high moral importance, and there are persons upon whom the observance of positive precepts exerts, or may exert, the very highest obligation — persons in whose ease a precept positive assumes a distinctly moral character.

(H. P. Liddon, D. D.)

Sketches of Sermons.
I. HIS GENERAL CHARACTER — "The man of God." The designation itself may serve to denote, in those to whom it refers:

1. Their special employment.

2. Their special qualifications. As God engaged them in His work, so He furnished them for it.

3. Their eminent devotedness.

(1)Observe his fidelity and zeal

(2)Observe his meekness and placability.

(3)Observe, too, his fortitude and disinterestedness (vers. 7-9).

II. His TEMPTATION (vers. 11-18). This temptation was —

1. In suitable time and circumstances.

2. By a suitable agent; — an old prophet. Venerable through age, — a prophet in garb and appearance, — and professing a direct and special revelation (ver. 18.)

III. His FALL. Here we must blame —

1. His unwatchfulness.

2. His easy credulity and compliance.

3. His positive transgression.

IV. His PUNISHMENT.

(Sketches of Sermons.)

I. HE DISCHARGED A TRULY HEROIC DUTY AND THEN FAILED TO DO A MOST ORDINARY ONE. Jeroboam was not in the mood to listen to a prophet from the land of Judah. There was a breach at that time between Israel and Judah, and he did not desire that breach to be healed. He was full of the pride of his newly-acquired power as king over Israel, and full of envy and of hatred of the rival kingdom of Judah. He had established religious services at Dan and at Bethel, so that his people might not need to go up to Jerusalem. We may do the truly heroic deed in some great crisis of our life and show that we are ready to die rather than be disobedient unto God, and yet in the manifold trials and duties of our daily life we may fail to cherish the spirit and reveal the mind of Christ. It is the little duties, the trivial cares, the small disappointments and vexations of our daily life which most severely try our faith, and it is in these that we are most in danger of doing dishonour to our Lord.

II. THIS MAN OF GOD VERY NOBLY RESISTED ONE TEMPTATION AND THEN WAS OVERCOME BY A SECOND AND MORE SUBTLE TEMPTATION.

III. THIS PROPHET IS AN EXAMPLE OF THOSE WHO COME ALMOST TO THE CLOSE OF LIFE WITH HONOUR AND THEN END IT IN SHAME. How often do we find that towards the evening of life men yield to temptation which covers them with shame and which mars the whole of the glory of their life! Dr. Dale once said that special sermons were often preached for the benefit of the young, but it was equally needful to give special counsel to men of mature age, for the temptations which assail men when the fires of youthful enthusiasm have died away, are often more perilous and more deadly in their effect than those which attack the young.

(G. Hunsworth, M. A.)

I. THE SUCCESS OF THE PROPHET.

1. His sudden disappearance. History is silent regarding his birth, education, and family; his very name is concealed — simply, "The man of God, who came from Judah." Travellers tell us that the river Jordan, after springing out of the mountains of Anti-Lebanon, runs underground for miles, and then rushes forth suddenly, a strong, transparent current, and meanders towards the Dead Sea. Even so the early history of this prophet runs through the dark tunnel of silence, unseen by mortal eye; but at Bethel he rushes forth into public life with suddenness and force, and it is easier to imagine than describe the effect of his unexpected appearance both upon the king and populace. It was a moral ambuscade.

2. His stern honesty. When he arrived on the scene of action he did not shrink from his duties, but proclaimed his message as a man who felt the awfulness of his position.

3. His forgiving temper. Instead of taking advantage of the misfortune which befel the apostate king, the man of God prayed that his hand should be restored.

II. THE TRANSGRESSION OF THE PROPHET. Under our changing western sky, we have often seen the sun shining brilliantly in the morning, and at noon its smiling face was veiled by dark clouds. So the morning of this man's life was successful and promising, but soon and suddenly the meridian splendour of his character became tarnished by the clouds of misfortune. The best of men have their faults.

1. His indecision of character. Indecision is great blemish in a man's character — a crack through which the steam of resolution escapes — and an impediment in his way to accomplish any heroic deed.

2. That temptation is strongest when it comes in the guise of friendship. This renegade prophet enticed him into the net by false pretensions. Are we not troubled by these false prophets in modern times? Yea, they are found in the pulpit and under it, and yet they will not leave religion alone, but persist in offering strange fire upon the altar of God, like the sons of Aaron, and will, like them, receive their reward.

III. THE JUDICIAL DEATH OF THE PROPHET. The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. His death shows —

1. That disobedience is a great sin.

2. Once a man steps off the path of duty he is out of the path of safety. We hear people often complain of Providence, whereas their misfortunes arise from their own folly. All the trouble which comes from God to meet us, He gives strength according to the days to bear and to conquer them; but the troubles that arise from perverse temper and wilful caprice in us, we cannot make God responsible for them, and so we must carry or drag them ourselves. Duty is like the "magic circle " of the old magicians — all that was inside it was perfectly safe, but all that was outside the ring was liable to be destroyed. Duty likewise is a magic circle — whilst we are inside destruction is impossible.

3. God showed mercy in judgment. Though the lion was permitted to slay him, he was not allowed to feast upon the dead body. Natural historians say that the king of the forest will not attack anything except when hungry. In this case we are not positive whether he was hungry or not, but we are told this much, that "the lion had not eaten the carcase nor torn the ass." Cruel animal! "hitherto shalt thou come, and no further." The man of God had a burial; the prophet of Bethel performed the ceremony, and pretended to mourn, saying, "Alas, my brother!" Nations and families often profess to weep after those whom they had ill-treated in their lifetime.

(W. A. Griffiths.)

Because the dead leaf obeys nothing, it flutters down from its bough, giving but tardy recognition to the law of gravity; while our great earth, covered with cities and civilisation, is instantly responsive to gravity's law. Indeed, he who disobeys any law of Nature flings himself athwart her wheels, to be crushed to powder. And if disobedience is destruction, obedience is liberty. Obeying the law of steam, man has an engine. Obeying the law of speech, he has eloquence. Obeying the law of fire, he has warmth. Obeying the law of sound — thinking, he has leadership. Obeying the law of Christ, he has character. The stone obeys one law, gravity, and is without motion. The worm obeys two laws, and adds movement. The bird obeys three laws, and can fly as well as stand or walk. And as man increases the number of laws that he obeys, he increases in richness of nature, in wealth and strength and influence. Nature loves paradoxes, and this is her chiefest paradox — he who stoops to wear the yoke of law becomes the child of liberty, while he who will be free from God s law wears a ball and chain through all his years. Philosophy reached its highest fruition in Christ's principle. "Love is the fulfilment of the law."

(N. D. Hillis, D. D.)

Does it make any difference where the murderer's knife touched me? Whether in the face, or on the arm, or over the heart? He may say that he only touched one part. Yes, but it was I whom he attacked; he only touched one part, but he was guilty of injuring the whole body, for it was the whole body that received the shock and felt the pain. Does it make any difference where Prussia strikes in her war on France? Whether at Strasburg, or Metz, or Fontainebleau, or Epernay? She might say, "Oh, I have only taken one or two cities." Yes, but France is a unit, and her government is one body; so that wherever Germany strikes, whether a petty village, or a railroad, or a fort, or a city, she means to strike death to the heart of France. So is the law of God one body, containing the outspoken will and nature of the Lord. If you treat it with violence at any point you strike a blow at the whole government, the very throne itself of God. The law of God is a perfect sphere, and if you mar or disfigure it at all, you mar and disfigure it as a whole, and strike a blow at its whole symmetry and beauty. We all understand this unity of government. If a master makes rules for his pupils, and a pupil offends purposely against the least of them, he opposes his teacher. If my father has certain rules for my guidance, I need not break them all in order to array myself in opposition to him, for on the very least of them I may confront and oppose his authority; and in disobeying one rule of the house, I dispute my father's just right to enforce the remainder. So with the law of God. Disobedience even in one point is the man in his entire nature against God in His entire nature.

(F. F. Emerson.)

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