This is a sad story. The Kingdom of Israel had been divided in 1 Kings 12. Rehoboam, son of King Solomon, had inherited rule of the entire kingdom. Alas, because of Solomon’s late life disobedience and idolatry, God promised to wrest part of the kingdom from his son, Rehoboam, and give it to Jeroboam son of Nebat. Thus, ten tribes (to be designated as “Israel” moving forward) were given to Jeroboam and the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (to be known as “Judah”) were to be retained by Rehoboam in Jerusalem. This we are told was “of the Lord” (1 Kings 12:24) as fulfillment of Solomon’s punishment for his late life disobedience.
But Jeroboam turned out to be a disappointment. In order to keep the hearts of Israel from being tethered to the southern Kingdom of Judah he set up a new worship dynamic in the north. He built two golden calves and set them up in Dan and Bethel. He did not want his people to continue to journey to Jerusalem to worship fearing their ultimate allegiance would lie there.
For this disobedience on the part of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 13 introduces “a man of God”. This was a nameless prophet from Judah who came to the false altar at Bethel Jeroboam had set up. There he condemned it and Jeroboam for setting it up. This man of God faithfully delivered the message. When Jeroboam reached out his hand to seize the man of God for prophesying against him, his hand shriveled. He begged the man of God to entreat the Lord that he would restore his hand, which the man of God did, and Jeroboam’s hand was restored.
Grateful, Jeroboam invited the man of God to stay with him and he would give him a reward. The man of God refused because the Lord had commissioned him to eat no bread nor take any water until he returned forthwith to Judah. Thus, he went on his way headed back to Judah.
On his way he was confronted by an old prophet who lived there. This prophet had heard what the man of God had done with Jeroboam and came to him to invite him to stay in his home and take bread. The man of God repeated to him that which he had said to Jeroboam; that he had been commissioned by the Lord to return immediately to Judah and to take no bread or drink until he did so.
At this point the old prophet told the man of God that the Lord had spoken to him through an angel that the man of God was to change his plans and come and eat and drink with the old prophet. But the old prophet was lying. Believing the old man’s word rather than the direct word he had received from God, the man of God went with him and ate and drank. The next day on his way back to Judah, God prepared a lion to attack and kill the man of God.
Now, this hardly seems fair to those of us that read this account. I mean, after all, this man of God did everything the Lord asked of him. He went from Judah to Israel to confront Jeroboam with God’s message of punishment. When Jeroboam extended the invitation of great reward, he refused it keeping to his commission to not eat or drink until he returned to Judah. He repeats this commission to the old prophet when he is confronted with his invitation to come dine with him. It is only when the old prophet lies and claims to have a new directive from God that the man of God succumbs to his ruse.
Certainly, many truths can be drawn from this account, not the least of which is God’s determination to punish all disobedience in those he commissions whether that be Solomon, Jeroboam, or the man of God. This leads me to the devotional thought of the day: yesterday’s obedience does not cover today’s disobedience. Our obedience to Christ has no “shelf life”. We cannot “store up” obedience so as to “cover” our disobedience. The man of God was obedient yesterday, but he was not obedient today. He believed the word of an old prophet instead of the direct word from God and for today’s disobedience, there was judgment even though he had been obedient yesterday. Solomon had been obedient most his life, but in the end, he faltered and received judgment.
We cannot “store up” obedience and think we’ve got some obedience “on account” that would shield us from God’s frown for some current disobedience in which we are found. Every day, we must be found obedient. Every day we must be faithful to that to which God has called us. How many fruitful lives have endured shipwreck after long years of obedience had been followed by a short period of disobedience? Yesterday’s obedience will not suffice for today. Today’s obedience is all that will do.
So, follow the example of Christ who was faithful in all things, every day. It is his perfect obedience every day that opened the door of eternal life to all of us who believe. It is our obedience every day that will bring glory to God and gladness to us and his people.