Jeroboam has just received a definitive message from God. The messenger is going home as directed. But another diverts him, claiming to speak for God.
This story breaks my heart and makes me angry at the same time. The first servant of God came in good faith to do the work he was sent for. The second “man of God” tricked him but the first paid the price.
God requires that we test the words brought to us. IF they line up with His word then we can take them to heart. IF not, reject it and put as much distance between yourself and the one claiming to speak for Him. The man of God who came to Jeroboam was familiar with God’s voice. He knew who had sent him to Jeroboam. The signs that followed his message proved it out too. But he listened to ‘second hand’ information when dealing with the second man of God. By their greeting, I’m guessing that they were not acquainted with one another. The first blindly trusted the integrity of the second when he should have checked with God first.
I’m curious what the second man hoped to gain by his deceit. Was it his intention to get the first man in trouble with the Lord? Was he planning evil for the first man? Was it ‘retaliation’ for the first man not dining with the king? Or was he looking for a sign of his own? If it was this latter reason, lying to get the man into his home was NOT the way to go about it.
Let’s walk this story today. I want to sit at the table with our two men as they encounter God.
The man of God is gone. He left without once looking back. Jeroboam, his servants, his sacrifice, and his guards are making their way back to Shechem. The priest who was to perform the sacrifice is raging in the temple to the other priests.
“How dare he come here and disrupt my work! The king may never grace us again with his presence after such a display. We will be ruined!”
Jared and Ibri, two brothers who were called to serve in the temple listened in. They had been chosen to help the priests with the king’s sacrifice but now there was nothing for them to do. They heard the man of God as he spoke. They even heard his reply to the king when he was invited to into the king’s presence. They had not witnessed such determination in their lives.
While the priests were preoccupied with their outrage the two brothers stole away. Once out of the temple they hurried home to their father. He too was a man of God. He was a prophet but the people rarely listened to him since the kingdom of Israel was split in two. He was certainly not in good favor with the king, who was trying to get everyone to forget about Israel’s One God.
As soon as their feet crossed the threshold of their father’s home, the events of the day came pouring out. Jared told most of the story with Ibri filling any missing detail along the way.
“A man of God came to the altar at Bethel today father. King Jeroboam was there preparing to offer his sacrifice. The man walked right past him and started talking directly to the altar.”
“He was talking loud enough for the king to ‘over hear’ and anyone else who was standing about” interjects Ibri.
“He was but his words were spoken to the altar as if it were a person. He said that the house of David would have a son named Josiah that would tear down the altar and also desecrate it by burning bones on it.”
“Tell him about the sign he did!”
“I’m getting there” scolded Jared. “He said that the Lord would give a sign in that the altar would be broken down and ashes fall from it. And it did! Lightning came out of a clear sky and struck the altar. One side was burned away and the ashes poured out and off of it.”
“But that was only one of the signs we saw today of the power of the God of Israel” interrupts Ibri.
“That’s for sure! When the man of God finished speaking the king tried to have him arrested. He pointed to him and told his men to ‘seize him’. Before he even finished speaking, the king’s arm dried up and had no more life in it than a branch that has been severed from a tree.”
Homam, their father had been silent throughout their tale so far. But fear for the king’s safety loosened his tongue. “Is the king alright? Did the man of God do anything more to him?”
“No. He is fine. He pleaded with the man of God to ask the Lord to restore his hand. The man did and the Lord listened. His hand looks find now. The king invited the man to his home for a meal and a reward. The man refused.”
“He said that the Lord told him ‘not to eat bread or drink water here or to return by the way he came’” supplied Ibri.
“Did you see which way he went?”
“He went on the road leading west” offers Jared. Ibri nods in agreement.
“How long ago was it that this happened?”
“Not more than an hour or two ago” replies Ibri.
“Then we must be quick. Saddle my donkey. I’m going to ride after him.”
Jared and Ibri saddle their father’s donkey and he sets off right away. He scans the road ahead so he doesn’t miss the man. Not too far outside the city Homam sees a man sitting under a tree. This man is dressed as a traveler, having both a cloak and walking staff resting next to him.
Homam stops his donkey and dismounts. He approaches the traveler with an open smile. “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” (verse 14b).
The man looked at him and easily responded. “I am” (verse 14c).
“Come home with me and eat bread” (verse 15b) invited Homam.
The same look of determination he wore while refusing the king, once again settles over his face. “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came’” (verses 16b-17).
Homam desires this man to come to his home. He is hoping he will receive a blessing from him before he departs. But he also sees the determination in the man’s eyes. He will NOT come unless he believes he has been released from his restrictions. Homam thinks quickly.
“I also am a prophed as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water’” (verse 18). Homam felt this was only a white lie because he was a man whom God had used before and surely the Lord wouldn’t want His servant going away hungry and thirsty.
The man of God smiled and nodded his head. He then rose from the ground, gathered his things and accompanied Homam back to his home. As the two walked along, Homam pointed out sights he felt would be of interest to a stranger.
They reached Homam’s home in short order and the man of God was shown to the place of honor at the table. Jared and Ibri quickly gathered bread that was fresh this morning, ripe dates, and a flask of water. These they arranged on a platter and set it on the table with glasses for the water. The man of God appeared happy as he tore pieces from the bread and poked them into his mouth.
Conversation was light as the two men enjoyed their meal. Suddenly Homam sat bold upright and his eyes locked on the man of God from Judah. “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord and have not kept the command that the Lord your god commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers’” (verses21b-22).
The man of God’s heart fell. He had sinned. He had not inquired of the Lord as to the truth of the man’s words. He also knew that the words given to him by the Lord were sure and he should never have deviated from them. There was nothing to be done now. He would accept the Lord’s judgment.
The meal continues in silence. Homam doesn’t know what to say. His guilt weighs on him like a millstone. If it were not for his lie, the man of God would not have returned and broken the commandment the Lord had given him. All thought of blessings are gone.
Once the table is cleared the man of God rises to leave. Homam has but one thing to offer that man. “Please, take my donkey for your travels. He at least will make your journey shorter and more comfortable.”
The man nods and the brothers quickly saddle a fresh donkey for the man. Together the three men watch as their honored visitor rides away.
The man of God rides quietly on the back of the donkey. He is thinking about his sin. He blames no one but himself. Yes, Homam lied to him, but he knew in his heart the words of the Lord and he chose to disobey them. He chose momentary comfort over obedience. He wonders how and when he will meet his end. He is certain it will be before he makes it home. He prays it is a quick and painless death.
Just beyond the gates of the city the road turns. As the donkey rounds the turn, a lion leaps over the donkey’s back and knocks the man to the ground. His neck snapped as the lion collided with him, killing him instantly. Once his body impacts the ground the lion stands beside it as if guarding it. The donkey also stands guard beside the lion. Both watch over the man.
Shortly after the man’s death a group of travelers round the bend from the other direction. The stop short when they see the lion in the road. They quickly scramble down from their animals and prepare to do battle should the lion attack. But the lion doesn’t move. Their eyes then take in the body of a man lying at the lion’s feet and the donkey standing beside the lion. This is a sight that has NEVER been seen before! There is no blood. The lion shows no signs of even recognizing the ‘meals’ within easy reach.
The men carefully skirt the scene and continue quickly into the city gates. As soon as they are safely inside they share their tale. Word of the lion, the donkey, and the body they guard spread throughout the city.
Ibri was the first in the family to hear of it. He found Jared and together they brought the news to their father.
“Father, there is a tale of a man who lies at the side of the road dead with a lion and a donkey guarding his body.”
Homam’s eyes grew wide. “It is the man of God who disobeyed the word of the Lord; therefore the Lord has given him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word that the Lord spoke to him” (verse 26b). Homam sighed deeply then added; “Saddle the donkey for me” (verse 27b).
The brothers wasted no time in following their father’s command. Homam set off on the donkey as soon as it was brought to him. He hurried to the place his sons had indicated and found the scene just as described. The lion stood on one side of the man of God’s body and the donkey on the other. The lion had not eaten the body of the man nor torn the donkey.
Homam was not certain if the Lord would protect him from the lion as his lie had led the man of God into sin. He was prepared for his own death if that be the Lord’s judgment against him. He would not leave the man of God lying in the road for the scavengers to ravage. He deserved a decent burial.
Homan slowly got down from his own donkey. He took a deep breath, then boldly though slowly walked to the place where the man’s body lay. His insides were quaking as he approached. He kept his eyes averted from the lions, lest his gaze be seen as a challenge. He stood at the man’s head, bent down, worked his arms under the man’s shoulders and then clasped them around his chest. He straightened his legs and began dragging the man over to his own donkey.
The lion and both donkeys remained placid as Homam lashed the man of God to his donkey’s saddle. After the man was secured, Homam picked up the lead rope of the donkey the man had ridden and tied it to his donkey’s saddle. The lion turned away and wandered off as if nothing had happened.
Homam KNEW the Lord had protected him for the sake of the man of God. It was a testament to his life. His one act brought judgment but it didn’t wipe out his connection to the Lord. Homam was deeply honored to be able to provide for the man after his death. He had a hand in its timing but his own safety also spoke of the Lord’s forgiveness for his own actions.
Homam brought the man back into the city and prepared him for burial in his own tomb. He and his sons performed the traditional mourning rituals for the man. They washed and anointed his body and wrapped him in linen strips. Just prior to sunset they made their way to Homam’s own tomb. A small band of mourners, whom Homam hired, followed them. Curious onlookers who had heard of the man, the lion, and the donkey watched from a distance.
Jared and Ibri carried the man into their father’s tomb and laid him on the slab prepared for his final resting place. Homam and his sons cried over the man. Homam called out, “Alas, my brother!” (verse 30b). Once they were outside the tomb, three strong men rolled a rock over the entrance to seal it.
As Homam and his sons made their way back to their home he charged them with a serious task. “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass” (verses 31b-32).
You would think that the events that happened at the altar in Bethel would have gotten the king’s attention. You would expect that he would change his ways after such a confrontation. But he didn’t. He only got worse. Not even the story of the lion and the man of God convinced him to change his ways. He probably figured that the prophecy was a long time off so why worry about it. It would be a long time coming but Jeroboam would personally pay too. But that’s a story for another day.
I like the fact that the man’s sin didn’t completely separate him from God for eternity. His sins were included with those Jesus carried to the cross. Both of these men’s sins were. Mine hung right next to theirs.
Thank You Jesus for purchasing my salvation! I am just as deserving of death as the man of God was. Probably even more. I KNOW I have ignored the leading of the Holy Spirit on more than one occasion. And I have the Spirit inside me to check out the words that come. Help me truly hear Your words and follow them ALL my life.