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In his zeal to solidify the worship of the Lord in the Northern Kingdom, Jeroboam inadvertently dooms the Israelites’ relationship with God by making changes to God’s laws. Instead of worshiping no idols, the Northern Kingdom has two golden calves. Instead of worshiping at the temple in Jerusalem, the Israelites worship at various shrines like the one at Bethel. Instead of relying on the Levites, others can become priests and approach the altar. Finally, instead of following God’s calendar, Jeroboam brings with him the Egyptian calendar from his time in exile, thus altering the observance date of every sacred festival in the Northern Kingdom. The unwillingness to conform to God’s worship requirements will devolve into outright rebellion on the part of Israel.

13 A man of God from Judah arrived in Bethel because the Eternal One had told him to go there for a divine purpose. He arrived in the city while Jeroboam was burning incense at the altar. The prophet proclaimed the message of the Eternal against the altar.

Man of God: Altar, altar, listen closely! This is the message of the Eternal: “A boy named Josiah will be born of David’s royal bloodline, and he will sacrifice the priests of the high places upon your back. O what irony: the bones of the priests will burn at the very spot where, just the day before, the priests burned incense.”

The prophet offered a sign that day.

Man of God: The Eternal One has revealed what the sign will be: “The altar will split in two, and the countless ashes of fat will fall out.”

The king heard the threatening message that the man of God boldly proclaimed against the altar in Bethel.

Jeroboam (raising his hand): Grab hold of him! He’s dangerous!

When Jeroboam raised his hand from the altar, it shriveled up instantaneously, and he could not bring it back to his body. The altar broke apart, and the ashes of fat fell out of the altar. This sign occurred exactly as the man of God said it would in the message he gave from the Eternal One.

Jeroboam (to the man of God): I beg you to intercede quickly with the Eternal, your True God, and ask Him to make my hand normal again.

So the man of God called upon the Eternal, and Jeroboam’s hand became normal again, as if it had never changed.

Jeroboam: Now accompany me to my house for refreshment, and I will give you something in return for the good you have done me.

Man of God: Even if you offered to give me half of your estate, I would not accompany you. I would not eat a crumb or drink water from your table. The Eternal gave me clear instructions. He said, “While you are there, do not eat a crumb or drink water. Do not travel back the way you came.”

Certainly God’s requirements seem to be unreasonable. In fact, they are! Only by requiring something so arbitrary can God test the man’s dedication to Him.

10 So the man of God took a different path from the one he had originally traveled to Bethel.

11 There was an old prophet who lived in Bethel. The old prophet’s sons heard about the sign the man of God had performed and about the words he spoke to the king, and they relayed these things to their father.

Prophet (to his sons): 12 Where did the man of God go? I would like to see him.

The old prophet’s sons had seen which way the man of God from Judah had gone, so they told their father which direction to take.

Prophet (to his sons): 13 Get the donkey ready. I’m going to find the man of God.

The old prophet’s sons saddled the donkey, and the father got on it and went to find the man of God. 14 Along his journey, he found the man of God resting beneath an oak tree.

Prophet (to the man of God): There’s been talk of a man of God from Judah who performed a sign for Jeroboam. Are you that man?

Man of God: Yes, I am.

Prophet: 15 Accompany me back to my house, and eat my bread. Surely you must be hungry.

Man of God: 16 I will not accompany you to your house, and I will not eat your bread or drink your water here. 17 The Eternal One gave me clear instructions when He said, “While you are there, do not eat a crumb or drink water. Do not travel back the way you came.”

Prophet: 18 But you see, I, too, am a prophet, just as you are. One of the Eternal’s heavenly messengers brought me this word of the Eternal: “Escort the man of God back to your house, feed him your bread, and let him drink your water.”

But the old prophet lied. 19 The man of God trusted the old prophet and accompanied him back to his house, where he ate bread and drank water.

20 While they were sitting at the prophet’s table, the Eternal gave a grim message to the prophet who brought the man of God to his house. 21 He spoke it to the man of God who was from Judah.

Prophet: This is the urgent message of the Eternal One: You have strayed from His strict instructions. You have not honored the command of the Eternal, your True God. 22 Instead, you have eaten bread and drunk water here, even after He gave you this instruction: “Do not eat a crumb or drink water while you are there.” Therefore you will not be buried in the place of your fathers.

To be buried away from one’s family is the ultimate curse. In ancient Israel, a connection is retained between the living and the dead. The ancestors are to be buried somewhere on the family land, legally securing forever the land for the living family members. The living family members, by taking care of that land, care for their ancestors in the afterlife. If someone is buried away from his ancestral home, then the quality of his afterlife is in question.

23 After having a sobering meal and some water, the prophet prepared his donkey for the man of God. 24 While the man of God was traveling on the donkey, he was killed by a lion and his body fell to the ground, right in the middle of the road. 25 It was the strangest sight, for the donkey and the lion both remained standing beside the man’s body. People walked by on the road and saw the body of the man of God with the lion standing beside it. The people brought word of this strange sight to the city of the old prophet.

Prophet (hearing the news): 26 The dead body is that of the man of God. He strayed from the Eternal’s strict directions so He has sent the lion to tear him to pieces and kill him, just as He said would happen.

27 (to his sons) Prepare the donkey so that I can ride it. I must go retrieve the body of the man of God.

And so his sons saddled the donkey for him. 28 The prophet traveled to the body of the man of God. The donkey and the lion remained standing beside it on the road. The strange thing is that the lion had not tried to eat any of the dead body or kill the donkey. 29 The prophet gathered up the lifeless body of the man of God and placed it on the donkey, then he led the donkey back to the old prophet’s city where he grieved for the man of God and gave him a proper burial. 30 The prophet buried the man of God in his own grave; and everyone grieved for him, crying out, “I’m so sorry, brother!” 31 After the prophet had buried the man of God, he spoke to his sons.

Prophet: When death takes me someday, I want you to bury me in the same grave as the man of God, so that my bones rest next to his bones. This will be an honor for me. 32 The words he cried out against the altar in Bethel and against the high places in the Samaritan towns will surely happen, for those words were the Eternal’s message.

33 Even after all of this, Jeroboam still did not repent from his wickedness. He continued to choose priests for the high places out of anyone and everyone. Any man who was willing to be a priest, Jeroboam ordained him so that the man could act as a priest of the high places. 34 This was wicked enough to annihilate Jeroboam’s entire house and reign from the history of the world.

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