By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: “Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: ‘A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.’” That same day the man of God gave a sign: “This is the sign the Lord has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.” When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, “Seize him!” But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back. Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord. Then the king said to the man of God, “Intercede with the Lord your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored.” So the man of God interceded with the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored and became as it was before. The king said to the man of God, “Come home with me for a meal, and I will give you a gift.” But the man of God answered the king, “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel. – 1 Kings 13:1-10
These are dark days for Israel and their kings. Solomon has crossed over, and like his father David, has conspicuously gone to join “his ancestors” rather than God. Solomon began an open rebellion against God during his rule by marrying hundreds of wives from other lands. These wives practiced other religions and worshiped other gods. Solomon built temples, idols, and monuments to honor gods described as “detestable”.
This turning away feels very different than the slow fade the Israelites began soon after entering the promised land. Jeroboam was an official under Solomon and was given the rule of most of Israel (10 tribes) after Solomon’s death and the tearing apart of Israel under the harsh rule of Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. The line of David remains unbroken in Judah, but the rest of the tribes have placed themselves under the rule of Jeroboam.
God sends this unnamed “man of God” to rebuke Jeroboam and inform him that the line of David will retake Bethel and the altar will be broken. For some odd reason this reminds me of the scene in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf returns to rebuke Saruman for joining with Sauron. Sauromon’s magic staff is broken because he has used it for evil. The altar here at Bethel will also be broken because it is being used for evil in God’s eyes. The man of God refuses to even drink water with Jeroboam. He does not want to be part of his dysfunctional and broken relationship with God.
How did the Israelites get to this dark and dry place? How will they get out? Perhaps most importantly, how can we avoid doing the same thing ourselves? As I have been reflecting and praying about this I think the theme that has bubbled to the top is one of generational sin and an active turning away from the source of living water, God.
Back in Exodus God said “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me” David began the slide into generational sin when he stole Bathsheba and killed Uriah. Solomon took this to a whole new level when he married hundreds of wives and adopted their religions. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam became like Pharaoh, abusing his own workers and listening to advisers rather than God and His prophets. How does one break this cycle of generational sin?
It seems to me that the first step is to acknowledge that you have sinned and confess that you cannot survive without “being connected to the spring” that is God. My wife and I are both teachers, my wife as a fourth grade teacher and I am a professor at a university. We both see the wreckage and brokenness of “no fault” divorce on kids and families. I think that divorce and broken families are one of this generation’s, “generational sins”. It is difficult to break the cycle of dysfunction once it has started in a family. The only hope of reconciliation is through trusting God enough to heal our brokenness, and that starts with an admission that we are broken.
Prayer: God help us to heal our broken relationships by trusting in You and allowing your healing water to wash over us and our relationships.