Wednesday, December 01, 2010

“The Man of God: Obedience is Not an Option”

The Man of God: Obedience is Not an Option
Whenever human wisdom is exalted above God’s word, we face a sobering question: “How does a person know what to do? How is God’s will discerned amidst conflicting voices that claim divine authority?”
Jeroboam was the first ruler of Israel after the ten tribes rebelled against the house of David. Ellen White says that Jeroboam could have brought about wise civil and religious reforms. Instead, he “took counsel” and decided to keep his subjects away from the temple in Jerusalem by making two golden calves to take the place of the God who brought Israel out of Egypt. But the way of the transgressor is hard, and before Jeroboam became hardened in his downward course, God sent a startling message of warning and reproof.    I Kings 12:33 says that Jeroboam made offerings on the altar which he had made at Bethel “on the 15th day of the 8th month which he had devised in his own heart.” Jeroboam was standing by his altar to burn incense when an un-named prophet identified only as “the man of God” found him.
This “man of God,” like Moses and Elijah who bore the same title, faithfully carried the message given him by God, replete with signs and wonders which witnessed to its veracity. Jeroboam resisted and rejected the message. Pointing his hand at the “man of God” he shouted, “Arrest him!” Instantly, Jeroboam’s gesturing hand and arm withered up. The king was horrified, not by his sin, but by its results. He pleaded with the “man of God” for a miracle of healing and his petition was mercifully granted. He then asked the “man of God” to join him for dinner. The “man of God” declined because God said he must not stay or eat or drink. He immediately went another way home according to God’s direction.  However “the man of God” was defeated by a second invitation coming from a prophet who lived in Samaria. This other prophet professed to speak in the name of God. This time “the man of God” failed the test (complete details in I Kings 13). The story is rich with spiritual lessons. We will look at just three.
#1: Jeroboam’s sin meets the faithfulness of “the man of God.” God never leaves anyone to be lost without warnings and loving entreaties. In Deuteronomy 5:4-7 we see God saying to Israel, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.” The first commandment must always be read with this context. A personal, loving, compassionate God brought His people out of bondage. God did the work. Verse 15 says, “remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm…”
Baal worship is much more than bowing to golden calves. “Multitudes have a wrong conception of God and His attributes and are as truly serving a false god as were the worshippers of Baal” (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 177)   “Ministers of the gospel would be powerful men if they set the Lord always before them and devoted their time to the study of His adorable character. If they did this, there would be no apostasies” (Ellen White, 1888 Materials, page 433). “The man of God” prophesied that King Josiah would restore the true worship which is always vitally connected with righteousness by faith and a knowledge of the true character of God.
#2: The sin of the “man of God.” I Corinthians 9:27 says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest when I have preached to others. I myself should become disqualified.” The sin of the weary, hungry “man of God” came about as a result of the false words of the prophet from Samaria. The lesson asks, “How is God’s will discerned when there are conflicting voices that claim divine authority?”
“Those who fail to realize their constant dependence upon God will be overcome by temptation. We may now suppose that our feet stand secure, and that we shall never be moved. We may say with confidence, I know in whom I have believed; nothing can shake my faith in God and in His word. But Satan is planning to take advantage of our hereditary and cultivated traits of character, and blind our eyes to our own necessities and defects. Only through realizing our own weakness and looking steadfastly unto Jesus can we walk securely” (Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 382). 
Like this other “the man of God,” Moses and Elijah endured tests and trials. "It is at the time of greatest weakness that Satan assails the soul with the fiercest temptations. It was thus that he hoped to prevail over the Son of God... When the will power weakened and faith failed, then those who had stood long and valiantly for the right yielded to temptation. Moses, wearied with forty years of wandering and unbelief, lost for a moment his hold on Infinite Power, He failed just on the borders of the Promised Land. So with Elijah. He who had maintained his trust in Jehovah during the years of drought and famine, he who stood undaunted before Ahab, he who throughout that trying day on Carmel had stood before the whole nation of Israel as the sole witness to the true God, in a moment of weariness allowed the fear of death to overcome his faith in God” (Ellen White, Prophets and Kings, p. 176). 
“The man of God” in our lesson stood undaunted before King Jeroboam and all Israel as the sole witness to the true God. He did the job God asked him to do, but the enticing words of the prophet from Samaria, along with a little hunger tempted him to presumption. That is why in Hebrews 12:1,2 we are told that we are to run with endurance the race set before us and look to Jesus the author and finisher of faith.
#3: God’s amazing goodness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne” (Psalm 97:2). “ Mercy and truth have met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (and Psalm 85:10) “The man of God” lost much through a mistake, but I think that he, like Moses, probably repented before his death. I believe that the story of “the man of God” will have a happy ending. 
2 Kings 23:16-18 tells of the fulfillment of the prophecy of “the man of God.” Josiah “turned and saw the tombs that were there on the mountain. And he sent and took the bones out of the tombs and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the Lord, which the man of God proclaimed…then he said, What gravestone is this I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel. And he said let him alone; let no one move his bones. So they left his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.” 
The heart of God speaks through King Josiah, “Let him alone, let no one move his bones!”   He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. “The Lord is merciful and gracious slow to anger and abounding in mercy. He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children so the Lord pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14). May God grant us greater insights into this chapter in Israel’s history. It is also our history and we need to apply it personally. Amen
Lyndi Schwartz