Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Kings 13:4 - 13:4

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Kings 13:4 - 13:4


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DISCOURSE: 339

JEROBOAM’S IDOLATRY REPROVED

1Ki_13:4. And it came to pass, when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Beth-el, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.

TO be raised to a situation of eminence and authority is generally thought a subject of congratulation: but if preferment be not accompanied with a proportionable increase of grace to fit us for it, it is rather to be dreaded than desired. Distinctions of every kind open a wider sphere for the exercise of our own corruptions, and too frequently become to the possessors of them an occasion of deeper condemnation. This is strongly illustrated in the case of Pharaoh, who was raised up to the throne of Egypt on purpose that he might have an opportunity of shewing all that was in his heart, and that God’s power might be displayed and magnified in his destruction [Note: Rom_9:17.]. In like manner Jeroboam was raised to the throne of Israel, not, alas! for any benefit either to himself or others, but for the ultimate augmentation of his own guilt and misery. Whilst in a humble situation, he was industrious, and trust-worthy [Note: 1Ki_11:28.]: but when he was preferred to a higher post, he became ambitious [Note: 1Ki_10:3-7.], turbulent, rebellious [Note: 2Ch_13:6.]: and when he was placed on the throne of Israel, he drew away that whole people to idolatry; and has from that hour been never mentioned but with abhorrence, as the man “that caused Israel to sin.” In considering the account here given of him, we shall notice,

I.       His unbelieving expedient—

Scarcely was Jeroboam raised to the throne, before he established idolatry throughout his dominions—

[Wishing to make the breach between Israel and Judah irreparable, he determined to cut off all intercourse between them; and to establish a worship of his own devising, that the people might not go up any longer to worship at Jerusalem. He knew that it would be in vain to prohibit religion altogether; but that to establish a false religion would be comparatively easy; since, if men have something wherewith to satisfy their own minds, they are not very scrupulous about inquiring what is agreeable to the mind of God. Having recently come out of Egypt, he introduced the idols that were there worshipped, even golden calves; and set them up in Dan, and Beth-el. One would have supposed that such an innovation would have shaken his throne to its foundation; but it seems to have created no uneasiness at all, nor to have produced one single remonstrance throughout the land. Do we not in this behold a true picture of human nature in every age and place? The worst of men must have some forms, by the observance of which they may satisfy their own consciences: but the easier and cheaper their religion is, the more suited it will be to their taste. To be told they need not comply with the self-denying commands of God [Note: 1Ki_12:28.], will be agreeable to their corrupt hearts: “Master, spare thyself,” is to them a gratifying advice; and, wherever the Gospel is faithfully administered, the effect of this advice is clearly seen: the express commands of God oppose, in many instances, but a feeble barrier to the solicitations of carnal ease — — —]

To this he was instigated by unbelief—

[He was afraid lest his subjects, by going up to Jerusalem at the stated feasts, should be drawn away from him, and be induced to return to their former prince. Nor were these fears altogether groundless. The very exercises of religion would tend to convince them that they had sinned in casting off the yoke of Rehoboam; and the familiar intercourse which they would have with the other two tribes, would tend to reconcile their minds to the idea of being again united with them under one head. But Jeroboam was bound not to listen to any such considerations as these, because he had the express promise of God, that “his house should be built up, like the house of David [Note: 1Ki_11:38.],” provided he would walk in the path of duty. This was a sufficient security to him, that the evil which he dreaded should never happen, whilst he remained faithful to his God. In God therefore he should have put his trust. But he gave way to unbelief, and sought for that in the violation of God’s commands, which was only to be obtained in the observance of them; yea, he madly sought the establishment of his throne by the commission of those very crimes which had subverted the throne of Solomon. This is a weakness to which even the best of men have yielded on some occasions: the great father of the faithful himself repeatedly denied his wife through fear, as Isaac also did; and Jacob gained by deceit and falsehood the blessing, which he could not wait to receive in God’s own time and way. But such unbelief, even in the smallest instances, is most sinful; and, in the instance before us, it brought the curse of God upon that whole people. Let us therefore guard against its influence on our hearts; for its suggestions are always evil, and its effects are uniformly destructive — — —]

His conduct, when reproved for this device, leads us to consider,

II.      His vindictive wrath—

A prophet was sent from Judah to reprove him—

[God had decreed that the utmost indignity should be offered to the altar at Beth-el, where Jeroboam was now officiating in his own person. He had appointed the priests, and sacrifices, together with the sacred feasts, without any reference to the divine commands, having “devised them of his own heart:” and now he was warned before all the people, that the very priests who offered their sacrifices upon it, should have their own bones burnt upon it by a prince of the house of David, whose name was Josiah. Now it is remarkable that no king of the house of David had a son named Josiah, for the space of three hundred years; and that then it was a wicked [Note: 1Ki_11:38.] king who so named his son: so far was man from making any attempt to fulfil this prophecy. But God had ordained that such an one should m due time arise; and that he should execute what was now foretold: and, as a certain pledge of its ultimate accomplishment, the altar was miraculously rent in the very presence of Jeroboam, and “the ashes that were upon it were poured out [Note: ver. 3, 5.].” This was humiliating to Jeroboam, not only on account of the indignity that should be offered to his altar, but because its being offered by one of the house of David was a pledge, that Judah should regain the ascendant, and thereby be enabled to execute the threatened judgments.]

This, instead of humbling him, incensed him in the highest degree—

[Instantly “he stretched out his hand to lay hold” on the prophet, determining probably to put him to death. Thus it is that the carnal heart is ever ready to rise against God. Men will insult God by every means in their power; yet, if reproved for it by a servant of the Most High, they account it an indignity, to be expiated only by the death of the offender. This was strongly exemplified in Jeremiah, and John the Baptist [Note: Jer_26:7-8; Jer_26:11; Mat_14:3-5; Mat_14:10.]: and indeed in every company we go into, we see the hand stretched out by wicked men against every one that dares to advocate the cause of God — — — Not that the servants of God are on this account to refrain from bearing their testimony against iniquity: they must do so wherever they are, without fearing the face of man, or regarding any consequences that may come upon them.]

This rage of his brought on him, what we are next to consider,

III.     His exemplary punishment—

God instantly smote his arm, so that he could not pull it in again to him—

[On many occasions has God vindicated the cause of his afflicted people, and shewn himself the avenger of their wrongs. Ahab menaced Micaiah; but God cut him off, according to Micaiah’s word. Pashur smote Jeremiah, and put him in the stocks; but God “soon made him a terror to himself [Note: Jer_20:2-4.].” In truth, God regards every thing that is done against his people as done to himself. When Paul was persecuting the saints, the language of Jesus to him was, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes! thou me?” We do not indeed expect that God will often interpose in the visible manner that he did in the instance before us; but he will record every thing in the book of his remembrance, and requite every man according to his works. Then shall it be seen, that, however contemptible the saints may now appear, “it were better for a man to have a millstone hanged about his neck and be cast into the depths of the sea, than that he should offend one of those little ones who believe in Christ.” “He that toucheth you,” says God, “toucheth the apple of mine eye.”]

Now was this proud persecutor constrained to ask for the prayers of him, whom he had just before endeavoured to destroy—

[Thus was Pharaoh reduced to seek the intercession of Moses: and thus are many amongst ourselves compelled in a season of adversity to desire the prayers of those very ministers, whom in time of prosperity they have reviled and persecuted. And happy will it be for those who find their error now, and have grace given them to repent of it: for assuredly they who will not humble themselves in this world, will be made monuments of God’s wrath to all eternity.]

Improvement—

1.       Let nothing ever induce us to sin against God—

[The hope of preserving his temporal interests led Jeroboam into all his sins: and similar hopes are apt to produce the like baneful influence on us. But, supposing we should succeed, what can repay us for the loss of the divine favour? To adhere with steadfastness to the path of duty is our truest wisdom. Whilst faithfully serving God, we may safely leave events in his hands. If we suffer for well doing, we may console ourselves with this reflection, that to lose by virtue is infinitely better than to gain by sin. Our losses will be soon made up in the eternal world; but our gains will terminate in everlasting woe.]

2.       If we have sinned at any time, let us be thankful for reproof—

[How thankful should Jeroboam have been to the prophet, who at the peril of his life declared the unalterable purpose of his God! So should all be who are reproved for sin. It is no pleasing task to denounce the judgments of God against sin or sinners: but it is necessary: and it is at the peril of his own soul, if the watchman forget to warn the citizens of their approaching danger. A necessity is laid upon God’s ministers; and woe be to them, if they neglect their duty! Let reproof then be ever welcome to you; and let all watch over each other with tender love, and inflexible fidelity.]