1 Kings 13:1-34 – Reading Books About The Book But Not Reading The Book

Posted: January 22, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 13:1-34

A Prophet Denounces Jeroboam

The Christian book industry is a booming one. Last year was a big one for religious books in the U.S., as sales jumped more than 10.5% from the previous year to eclipse 52.4 million units, according to Nielsen BookScan. Sales in the overall book market couldn’t keep pace by a long shot, as they grew only 2.4% from the previous year. Across the broader religious category, Christian books have seen particularly strong sales, especially juvenile and nonfiction titles. For example, while all adult nonfiction religious titles experienced a combined average growth of almost 8.9% over the past five years, the nonfiction Christian subcategory saw growth of almost 11.3%. Needless to say, the Christian book industry is a money maker for publishers. Go to any Christian bookstore and you see thousands of titles across large stores. Go to any secular bookstore and the “inspirational books” section now takes up several aisles of the store.

Yet at the same time, Christians claim to believe the Bible is God’s Word. According to a July 6, 2015 article at christianitytoday.com, “We claim it is God’s divinely inspired, inerrant message to us. Yet despite this, we aren’t reading it. A recent LifeWay Research study found only 45 percent of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week. Over 40 percent of the people attending read their Bible occasionally, maybe once or twice a month. Almost 1 in 5 churchgoers say they never read the Bible.” In that article entitled, “The Epidemic of Biblical Illiteracy in Our Churches”, the author, Ed Stetzer (one of the most respected Christian authors/theologians of this era), the trend is not limited to the United States but Europe as well. The United Kingdom Bible Society surveyed British children and found many could not identify common Bible stories. When given a list of stories, almost 1 in 3 didn’t choose the Nativity as part of the Bible and over half (59 percent) didn’t know that Jonah being swallowed by the great fish is in the Bible. The article goes onto say that British parents didn’t do much better. Around 30 percent of parents don’t know Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, or the Good Samaritan are in the Bible. To make matters worse, 27 percent think Superman is or might be a biblical story. More than 1 in 3 believes the same about Harry Potter. And more than half (54 percent) believe The Hunger Games is or might be a story from the Bible.

That idea of knowing the difference between what is and what is not God’s Word was what came to mind this morning as we read about the prophet who was sent to warn Jeroboam that he was leading the people of the northern tribes astray. The prophet heard from God, as we shall see, but yet after he delivered the message, he was willing to listen to a word from a so-called prophet whose words were in opposition to what God had told him. Let’s read about it now in 1 Kings 13:1-34:

Chapter 13

1 At the Lord’s command, a man of God from Judah went to Bethel, arriving there just as Jeroboam was approaching the altar to burn incense. 2 Then at the Lord’s command, he shouted, “O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.” 3 That same day the man of God gave a sign to prove his message. He said, “The Lord has promised to give this sign: This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out on the ground.”

4 When King Jeroboam heard the man of God speaking against the altar at Bethel, he pointed at him and shouted, “Seize that man!” But instantly the king’s hand became paralyzed in that position, and he couldn’t pull it back. 5 At the same time a wide crack appeared in the altar, and the ashes poured out, just as the man of God had predicted in his message from the Lord.

6 The king cried out to the man of God, “Please ask the Lord your God to restore my hand again!” So the man of God prayed to the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and he could move it again.

7 Then the king said to the man of God, “Come to the palace with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.”

8 But the man of God said to the king, “Even if you gave me half of everything you own, I would not go with you. I would not eat or drink anything in this place. 9 For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’” 10 So he left Bethel and went home another way.

11 As it happened, there was an old prophet living in Bethel, and his sons[a] came home and told him what the man of God had done in Bethel that day. They also told their father what the man had said to the king. 12 The old prophet asked them, “Which way did he go?” So they showed their father[b] which road the man of God had taken. 13 “Quick, saddle the donkey,” the old man said. So they saddled the donkey for him, and he mounted it.

14 Then he rode after the man of God and found him sitting under a great tree. The old prophet asked him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”

“Yes, I am,” he replied.

15 Then he said to the man of God, “Come home with me and eat some food.”

16 “No, I cannot,” he replied. “I am not allowed to eat or drink anything here in this place. 17 For the Lord gave me this command: ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’”

18 But the old prophet answered, “I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the Lord: ‘Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink.’” But the old man was lying to him. 19 So they went back together, and the man of God ate and drank at the prophet’s home.

20 Then while they were sitting at the table, a command from the Lord came to the old prophet. 21 He cried out to the man of God from Judah, “This is what the Lord says: You have defied the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. 22 You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors.”

23 After the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the old prophet saddled his own donkey for him, 24 and the man of God started off again. But as he was traveling along, a lion came out and killed him. His body lay there on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. 25 People who passed by saw the body lying in the road and the lion standing beside it, and they went and reported it in Bethel, where the old prophet lived.

26 When the prophet heard the report, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the Lord’s command. The Lord has fulfilled his word by causing the lion to attack and kill him.”

27 Then the prophet said to his sons, “Saddle a donkey for me.” So they saddled a donkey, 28 and he went out and found the body lying in the road. The donkey and lion were still standing there beside it, for the lion had not eaten the body nor attacked the donkey. 29 So the prophet laid the body of the man of God on the donkey and took it back to the town to mourn over him and bury him. 30 He laid the body in his own grave, crying out in grief, “Oh, my brother!”

31 Afterward the prophet said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried. Lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the message the Lord told him to proclaim against the altar in Bethel and against the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.”

33 But even after this, Jeroboam did not turn from his evil ways. He continued to choose priests from the common people. He appointed anyone who wanted to become a priest for the pagan shrines. 34 This became a great sin and resulted in the utter destruction of Jeroboam’s dynasty from the face of the earth.

In this passage, we see that this prophet had been given strict orders from God not to eat or drink anything while on his mission (1 Kings 13:9). He died because he listened to a man who claimed to have a message from God. This prophet should have followed God’s commands instead of relying on hearsay of a man he did not know. We must trust God’s Word rather than what someone claims to be true. We should disregard what others claim are messages from God if their words contradict either something specific in Scripture or the general tenor of God’s Word.

In reflecting on the idea that came to mind this morning, the popularity of Christian literature today vs. the documented extent of biblical illiteracy among (1) the general population of society and (2) specifically among Christians, this passage really demonstrated what can happen to us. We can be misled about what IS in Scripture when we do not know the Scriptures. There are many claims as to why we as Americans or western culture in general do not read the Bible. We are too busy with life and we do not have time. Another big one is that we do not understand the Bible at all and thus do not read it.

There are surveys out there about what people believe is in the Bible but is not. For example, While Western art has traditionally depicted the fruit Adam and Eve ate in the garden as an apple, the Bible is not that specific. Genesis 3:6 merely describes Eve eating some of the “fruit” and sharing it with Adam. We often hear that “money is the root of all evil”. Close, but the frequently quoted phrase is missing a few important words. 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Another is that “God works in mysterious ways”. Not in the Bible. It’s one of those true-ish statements, but it’s not a Bible verse. Sure, Scripture is full of God doing things in unusual (to us) ways. Isaiah 55:8-9 reminds us that God’s ways are different from ours. But no biblical prophet ever uttered this specific phrase. Another is “God helps those who help themselves” Where does the phrase actually come from? Variations are proverbial statements in ancient Greek tragedies. The Quran (13:11) has something similar. An English politician gave us the exact wording, which Benjamin Franklin quotes in Poor Richard’s Almanac. The message of Romans 5:8 is the exact opposite. While we were still sinners and unable to help ourselves, Christ died for us—proving how much God loves us, how amazing grace is, and how incapable of helping ourselves we truly are.

These are minor commonly accepted proverbs of life that developed in Western culture and many believe that they are in the Bible when they are actually not. However, these little pithy sayings typically would not lead you astray from God. What if though we really get it wrong about theology? What if we get major beliefs wrong and lead people astray. Just look what happened with the northern tribes. By the day of Jesus, they had developed their own religion that resembled nothing of God’s Word.

We can be in danger of the same thing for ourselves and anyone we influence if we read books about The Book but don’t read The Book. To learn mathematics, we must study. To learn English grammar, we have to study. To learn anything in any field of endeavor, we must study. We must study and then put into practice what we have learned. It is through the combination of study and practice that we learn what works and does not work in whatever we have chosen to learn. If you do not study and practice, you will never grow in your field and understand the difference between error and truth in your field. Why is it that we think we can know God’s will and God’s commands and the consistency of His Word if we don’t read it? And not just read it to say we read it but really study it and use resources that help us understand it.

Just as we must make commitments to get healthy but getting up early and going for a jog or a walk every morning, it is the same with God’s Word. We must make it a priority in our lives to set aside time each day to study the Bible (and again I emphasize study rather than just read to say I have read a passage or a chapter today). Exercising to get fit takes time and commitment and so does Bible study.

In the end, the commitment is worth it. God’s Word comes alive to us when we study it. God’s Word comes to mind more easily when we have been studying it. God’s Word, through the Holy Spirit, will guide us toward more Christ-like responses to things that happen to us and happen around us in the world. We will begin to know the general way of God, too, through Holy Spirit guidance, if a situation is unique and we cannot find a specific reference to it in the Bible. When we study the Bible, the Holy Spirit illumines in us the ways of God. Through Bible study, we learn the ways of God and how they apply to any situation by simply better understanding of the nature of God.

Sure, books about the Book are great and I am not saying don’t read Christian literature. It is always good to see and understand different perspectives on God that we may not have known or understood previously. However, books about the Book are no substitute for the Book itself.

Amen and Amen.

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