What God says He has done. What God promises He will do. God words are true. Let us study a prophecy made by a young, unnamed prophet in the early days of the divided kingdom. When Solomon died, Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, led a revolt against Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and heir. Ten of the twelve tribes joined his revolt and the nation it became was called the kingdom of Israel.
Jeroboam, who was an acclaimed king by the rebelling tribes, was fearful of his position and went about to secure it. The twelve tribes were divided politically but still worshiped at the same temple. Jeroboam reasoned that were this to continue, differences would be forgotten, and they would become one nation again. So Jeroboam devised a plan to prevent that. Cunningly he chose two places called Dan and Bethel where his subjects could worship. He set up altars upon which sacrifices could be offered and golden calves at each place for his subjects to worship.
He said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). Jeroboam’s substitution was a grievous sin against Jehovah. First, the creation of golden calves to worship was strictly forbidden by the ten commandments. The second of those commandments forbad the making of an image of God (Deut. 5:8). Furthermore, God commanded the nation in the wilderness when He gave His law to them, that in the place he chose in Israel they would come, bring their offerings, and worship Him (Deut 12:5). God chose Jerusalem as that place.
When Jeroboam had set up his altar and golden calf at Bethel, he came there to worship with the people. This sin was not ignored by God. He sent a young prophet with a message to the king and to cry against the altar there. He said, “O Altar, altar, thus saith Jehovah. Behold a son shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he sacrifice the priest of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall they burn upon thee” (1 Kings 13:2). As a sign the prophecy would come to pass, the prophet said the altar against which he cried would be rent and its ashes would be poured out (1 Kings 13:2). Scarcely had he uttered these words that the altar split open and its ashes poured out! Jeroboam was indignant! He stretched out his hand toward the young prophet and commanded his officers to seize him.
But an astonishing thing happened. The king’s arm froze in place. He could not draw it back to his side. The king begged the prophet he intended to injure to pray to God for the restoration of his arm. The prophet did and the king’s arm was restored.
Tragically, the young prophet was deceived and disobeyed a commandment of God. He lost his life as a consequence. God had told him he was to neither eat nor drink in the place where he went. He was also to return home a different way. Jeroboam asked the young prophet to go home with him, but he refused. However, there was an old prophet who lived near Bethel, and his sons had gone to worship that idol and had heard the young prophet’s prophecy, seen the altar rent, heard the king’s invitation to the young prophet, and the young prophet’s refusal of the king’s invitation. The old prophet immediately set out to find the young prophet, which he did. He extended the same invitation to the young man the king had and received the same answer: No. But the old prophet lied to the young man. He told him he was also a prophet and that God had revealed to him he was to invite the young prophet to eat with him. His lie deceived the young prophet and he accepted the old prophet’s invitation. As a consequence, when the young prophet started home, a lion met him on the way and killed him. He had failed. Would the prophecy God gave him fail as well?
The centuries passed. At first the fortunes of Jeroboam’s kingdom prospered, but evil times lay ahead of it. Its history was a violent one, changing dynasties about eight times. Many of its reigning kings were assassinated and ultimately the nation would cease to exist, carried into captivity by the Assyrians.
But what about the prophecy the young prophet made? Had it failed? Three hundred and fifty years passed. Then one day a young, godly king of Judah arose whose name, yes, you guessed it, was Josiah and, you’ve guessed it, he was a descendant of King David! And guess what? He desecrated that altar at Bethel with bones of dead men. You can read this story in 2 Kings 23:15-17. God’s word is true, friends, just as the psalmist wrote: “Thy word is true from the beginning.” You will never go wrong by putting your faith in the book we call the Bible.