A Disobedient Prophet
“After this thing 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” (v. 33).- 1 Kings 13
The next episode from the reign of King Jeroboam I that the author of 1–2 Kings tells us about has to be one of the strangest stories in all of Scripture. Several nameless prophets are introduced. The motivations for their actions are not given. And by the end of the story, Jeroboam continues to reject the prophetic word even though the word is confirmed by miraculous signs.
Jeroboam’s altars to the golden calves were a clear violation of God’s law (1 Kings 12:25–33; see Deut. 12:8–14; 2 Chron. 3:1), so a prophet came and denounced him when Jeroboam was worshiping at Bethel. He told Jeroboam that eventually, King Josiah would come from the house of Judah and defile the altar there (2 Kings 13:1–3). This was a prophecy of events that would occur some three hundred years later, evidencing the truthfulness of the prophet’s word (2 Kings 23:15–20). Moreover, God confirmed the word of this prophet by destroying the altar and causing Jeroboam’s hand to wither when he tried to arrest the prophet and by healing the hand when the prophet interceded for the king (1 Kings 13:1–6).
After this, the prophet—from here on, we will call him the altar prophet—set out for home, initially obeying God’s command not to stay in Bethel (vv. 7–10). However, an old prophet—the reasons for his actions never revealed—was able to convince the altar prophet to stay with him a while in Bethel. The old prophet lied to the altar prophet, thereby showing that the old prophet was a false prophet, at least at this juncture (vv. 11–19).
We do not know why the altar prophet was convinced by the old prophet’s claim to have a word from God changing His original instructions to the altar prophet. The fulfillment of the promise of the altar’s destruction (v. 5) confirmed the surety of God’s word to him, and Jeroboam offered no sincere repentance that the Lord might have responded to by giving a new word to the altar prophet. Because the altar prophet did not remain faithful, a true word from God came suddenly to the false prophet that predicted the death of the altar prophet, and that word was fulfilled (vv. 26–32). The chapter concludes by telling us that even after all this supernatural intervention, Jeroboam remained committed to false worship (vv. 33–34).
All of this shows that even those who have been given God’s revelation will not escape judgment if they fail to follow it. The altar prophet died when he disobeyed God.
God does not contradict Himself, so we cannot believe a new “word from God” as the altar prophet did when it violates what God has already spoken. In our new covenant era, this means that we cannot accept the claims of those who say they are hearing from God and yet are teaching things contrary to the gospel. We must test everything by what God has said, believing only what is in conformity with the written Word of God.
Passages for Further Study
1 John 4:1