AUSTRALIAN BIBLE CHURCH MAY 23, 2010
A Presbyterian Church following the Bible without Qualification
and the Lord Jesus Christ without Compromise by Faith
I Kings 13
THE LION, THE CALL AND THE COMPROMISE
There was a prophet in Judah.
In the time when the two parts of Israel had split, and the Northern sector had expressly set up idols for worship, even reminding of the time in Egypt and of its gods in the most explicit fashion (golden calves), a young man in Judah was sent on a mission. He had to show a sign in the presence of the evil altar, and so in effect both warn those who were participants, and demonstrate the power of God. The way it happened, it would show that the way they were going was on course to lead to horrible results: indeed, the coming King would sacrifice the priests who dealt in it, and men's bones would be burnt on it. In fact, he did execute priests, and burn bones not only on this altar, but on others in Samaria, when he purged the place and the devastations of profanation duly arrived.
Firstly, the man of God uttered a prophecy that Josiah, a coming King, would destroy this altar. In fact, he was able to do this because by that time, the Samaritan schism and idolatry would have received its come-uppance, the people exiled, indeed largely removed, aliens being brought to replace them by the conquering King of Assyria. Judah then could do such things in Samaria.
That prophecy was a piece of information, and it was duly delivered.
Men's bones will be burned on you! he declared to this altar of aura, evil in intent and in action. They were, those who were dug up. Many priests were put to death.
He also gave a CURRENT sign, a signal testable, a verification observable, a miracle NOT understandable in any ordinary and natural way. If in the day of Jesus Christ on earth, He healed, a sign of the healing needed in heart and soul as of a compassion which was consistent, then in this day of repudiation in Israel, there was a work of partial ruin. The altar, said the prophet, will split apart and its ashes will be poured out. So Israel would be split apart, its schism to provide more than a neighbouring but similar stock, for its ingredients: it would be taken away, split up in form. The North would be lost, and become instead of an adjacent Israel, 'Samaria', its horrid city of religious vice giving to it its new name!
THIS is a sign that this is from the Lord, said the prophet! What more! He had succeeded, had he not ?
This sign occurred, the miracle was seen. It was a success story of spiritual warning with power supplied, and observable results to warn those with eyes and ears, of their own peril in such a place, and site, in such a way of life!
Nor was this all. When Jeroboam, the King of the schismatics, author of the altar, stretched out his hand from the altar area and demanded the arrest of the prophet, that hand withered. Its power left it. As the altar would go, as the sign had come, so the hand that sought to grab the prophet whose sign had just been given, was stayed. One miracle split the altar, the other shown the inherent weakness of the King, whose people after all were to be taken over by another country! but not yet.
THIS was warning. It was made fast in all directions. GOD was in it. That was most clear. Worse, Jeroboam could not even bring his arm back. In other words, not only could he not STOP the man of God, but he could not even help himself, all symbolic of the truth, that God would work, and he, the errant king, was merely a feeble fellow, despite his braggadocio. If THIS did not wake people up, what would! In kindness the Lord warned, and He did it thoroughly.
The King, brought to this pass, asked the man of God to ENTREAT the Lord for his hand. His request was granted, showing the enormous patience of the Lord, His intense desire for freedom, and the marvellous opportunities He gives to those straying, making things easier and not harder, at the outset, if by any means they might repent and be healed.
Indeed, this action of divine healing, following blight to arrest misused power, is altogether parallel to that of Christ who healed the ear of the Temple guard soldier, when Peter struck it off. Ponder before corruption is complete; for the goodness of the Lord is great, and He acts if by any means it should lead to repentance (as in Romans 2:4). We see here that there is NO room for collapsible, human power when the point is faith! not carnal power, not competitive power, not impulsive power which makes a contribution. Faith is faith and power is power, and the power of faith is simply that of God when rightfully and lawfully approached.
What amazing events, what tremendous warning was this! Now you might say, What is the use ? They are going the wrong way and they or their descendants are all going to be doomed. Not so. It is not NECESSARY to remain in this KIND of situation. Like Lot, they COULD have left what for him was Sodom, what for them was Samaria, shortly after this and avoided the whole scenario of doom. Similarly how, many might say, Well, we are facing a horrid tempest of judgment in this world, so what is the point of it ? It is coming, and we suffer it. Not at all.
To be sure, if you have heart and courage and mind and will, and are enlisted as a soldier, a spiritual soldier of Jesus Christ, then certainly you may suffer. He did; and if we endure with Him, if we are faithful, as faith overall is, then we shall rule with Him (I Timothy 2:12). Those who live in godly manner will suffer persecution (II Timothy 3:12). If you believe in Him, what does suffering really matter! You do not refuse to dig because your hand is hurt, or to write, because your back is tired, do you ?
SO just as the Samaritan who listened to these things, COULD have left, so things for such people as that, could have been different. It might have been a matter of faith and leading and enabling, as was this author's leading to Westminster Seminary, when cast out of seminary in Melbourne, falsely attacked for insisting that the Bible is infallible and not inclusive of devious lies and fraud, and showing this in the case contested. God has His own ways, and we must be awake, and NOT allow what is palpably wrong to be 'chosen' because we do not SEE the right way to follow. You insist on the right, and seek the way, and by faith will find it, though it may take you to the ends of the earth. In this case, for those in Bethel, it would have been far from that, just across the border into Judah...
Just as there is need to be spiritually realistic (that is, face facts, not make mere wry faces), so there is need of quality in one's deeds. In the case of the prophet, there was a strict condition for his own personal conduct. In I Kings 13:9 we learn that God had told him what it was: 'You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.'
Thus when the King himself asked this very prophet to share a meal with him, telling him that he would give him a reward, he declined, as he ought. Indeed, he he not only declined, but indicated that though half the king's house were his reward, yet he would not come. What! is there to be reward from the coffers of unrighteousness, when they are cornered ? Is it not for their sakes that the warning is given, and not for one's own, and will one accept what they offer in order to show the underlying fellowship and communality which now is no more! In that way, the truth is molested and the heart is proving weak.
Imagine now that someone had denounced Hitler in 1934, and Hitler had said, Oh come now (fearing the publicity), come and I will show you some of our better things of which you may approve, and I will give you a gift not to be forgotten. Would this not be a practical demonstration that your words were one thing, but that the very evil entity itself was a matter of variation and might not be quite so bad after all. In just such a way, the point could be lost, and the practice impugn integrity.
So far the prophet of the split altar is doing very well, and not a hair can be seen out of place.
However, sadly, when he did, as directed, go back another way, he had another test. An old prophet was apparently living nearby, and hearing of these mighty deeds wrought in Samaria from his sons, he sought to make haste to meet that man sent by God, and to invite him. The host was another Samaritan, it seems, one living nearby to come as the King had done.
Now here was the danger of lapse. Had this prophet from Judah not come, not spoken, not believed, not brought the sign with the miracle given, had not God wrought a second miracle, had he not resisted official fellowship and reward, and had he not shown compassion without compromise ? Yes, he had; and so he might relax, even feeling a certain composure and pleasantness within, as if he perhaps now had a little leisure. Was it not a prophet who asked him ? Might this not be different from the case of the King asking him to a meal ? Yes, it might, and perhaps it would be pleasant.
Thus he fell. Before, when asked to a meal by the King, he might well say to himself, Is THIS a time for rewards, or breaching the barrier by which those are cleaved who willingly err and put their heart into pollution in principle or practice of the Lord's commands, from those who do not! But now!
'I have been directly and strictly forbidden to do this, and I will not touch any of it!', some may say, but quibbling distance or defer action, till their hearts smudge the command, like wet ink on rubber, and leave merely a vague stain. The word of God is thus suppressed.
Is it then shame that they seek ? Beware lest it be granted! The path of a soldier is not to be coddled, but that of a task force in truth and triumph (I Corinthians 2:14); for treachery lies within these things, whatever may be the conscious rationalisation or retort.
In New Testament terms, the case is covered in principle in such texts and rules as seen in I Thessalonians 2-3, Romans 16:17, I Corinthians 5-6, I Timothy 6. Correctly then, he said no to the King. The words of a mission then, and all Christians are on mission (Philippians 1:27-28, 2:15-18), these are not all the pivotal action. There are also standards, qualities, procedures, there is atmosphere, there may even be rules. In this case, this certainly was so.
Was this a case for exception ? Was not the man a prophet ? was he not old ? did he not live a little way off from the scene ? could this not be an opportunity for rest and joy and fellowship ? Now he repeated the negative, and the grounds for it, to the old prophet.
Here then was this apparent model of fidelity, and there is the old prophet, perhaps in disobedience living near to this appalling religious scene, not only the altar itself, but the whole frame and spirit of misalliance which put it in place, and so ruled. He lied to the young prophet, telling him that an angel had instructed him to meet with him so that they might have a meal together. Nevertheless, the return had not yet been accomplished; and the order was to go and act, and not to eat bread in this way, but to return by another way.
HENCE this was excluded. But to the eye of moderation, to be humanly realistic, to take a little rest, to enjoy a little fellowship, to be in the presence of some spiritual person, this appealed. He varied as do those who make up parts of fallen denominations, as if it is all right since they SAY they are spiritual and indicate, contrary to fact, that the Bible allows this sort of communion in the unity of unbelief.
It does the opposite. Not only is fellowship with unbelievers strictly forbidden (II Corinthians 6:14), but with various deviants from biblical commands, one is not even to eat ( I Corinthians 5:11). This includes people CALLED Christians who are sexually immoral, drunkards, idolaters (putting anything above the word of God and following this in contravention of the words from the mouth of the Lord), revilers and the like. One is avoid those who reject the sound words of Jesus Christ, and to have no fellowship with those who depart from the truths apostolically confirmed.
Like those who steadfastly refuse to leave these forbidden arenas, so the young prophet was enticed, fell, went where he had been forbidden to go by the lying false teacher, and ate with him. Suddenly, as the meal progressed, this tempting old man declared that because the young prophet had in this disobeyed what God had said, therefore he would die - "your corpse will not come to the tomb of your fathers", a ghoulish seeming rebuke. Thus we learn never to listen to 'reason', that is to tempting offers with palliatives and alternatives to what is written; for what reason is in rebellion against our Maker! Do not stay in fallen denominations or sects, and where another mode of holding to the faith is in view, where man's wisdom and vision replace what may be proven from the Bible, in part or in whole: AVOID it.
Next week, DV, we shall consider the result of this way of handling things when on mission, and the lesson to be learned, in combination with other examples of variability in specious 'interpretations' of the word of God, to meet appearance.