And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’” And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’” And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. I Kings 13:1-5 ESV
Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. Isaiah 55:6-7 ESV
In the late 1800s and early 1900s in the United States, a woman named Carry Nation was worried about the effect that saloons were having on men and their families. Her first husband had been an alcoholic, and she saw other husbands who spent all their money on alcohol so that nothing was left for their families. She also saw men having too much to drink and going home to hurt their wives and their children. Carry Nation thought that the United States would be a better place without saloons and alcohol, so she started a campaign in which she would go into saloons singing, praying, and telling the men off. She would take a hatchet and smash the stores of alcohol and the bar fixtures. Saloon owners would have to rebuild their fixtures and replace their stock to continue their business.
Carry Nation did what she felt was right, but the prophet who spoke to Jeroboam about his altar for a false god was speaking the words of God himself. He foretold that someday a king named Josiah from the southern kingdom would destroy the false priests and burn their bones on the altar. This horrible picture was confirmed by God when suddenly the altar was torn down and the ashes were poured out. If Jeroboam and his false priests wanted to keep using this altar, they would have to rebuild it. When the angry Jeroboam stretched out his arm and ordered the man of God to be arrested, his arm became paralyzed and he couldn’t move it.
When God spoke through the man of God to show his great anger at Jeroboam’s sins, it was also a warning. God tore down the altar because he was angry at the idol worship that was happening there, but it was also a chance for Jeroboam to repent and end the false worship in his kingdom. God even made Jeroboam’s arm paralyzed. He might have thought that what had happened to the altar was some kind of trick, but he knew there was no trick about what happened to his arm. Jeroboam had a chance to turn away from his sins and turn to God for forgiveness.
When God speaks out in his word about people’s sins, his wish is not to hurt people and punish them. God is always ready to forgive sins, and he wants people to turn away from their sins and look to him for forgiveness and help. God poured out all his anger against sins on Jesus at the cross, and because of that we never have to fear God’s punishment. We can always come to God and be sure that he will forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake, and help us to turn away from our sins and follow his ways.
Dear Heavenly Father, help us to turn away from our sins and turn to you for help. Thank you for sending Jesus to be our Savior. In His Name, Amen.