The Withering Hand


First Kings 13:1-6

Around 960 B.C. Jeroboam became the first king of Israel (Northern Kingdom). On one occasion when leaving Jerusalem, he encountered Ahijah, “the prophet” of the ancient sanctuary of Shiloh. Ahijah stripped off his new outer garment and tore it into twelve pieces, ten of which he gave to Jeroboam with the assurance that, on obedience to His laws, God would establish for him a kingdom and dynasty equal to that of David (vv. 29-39). Jeroboam probably began to form plots and conspiracies, for Solomon sought to take his life. He fled to Egypt, where he received the protection of Pharaoh Shishak. He remained there until the death of Solomon (v. 40), about 926 B.C.

Upon the accession of Rehoboam, Jeroboam appears to have headed a deputation that asked for a redress of grievances. The harsh answer of Rehoboam inevitably caused a revolution, and Jeroboam was called to be “king over all Israel” (12:1-20). The policy of Jeroboam was to bring about a religious as well as political disruption of the kingdom. He therefore sought to discourage the yearly pilgrimages to the Temple at Jerusalem. To this end, he established shrines at Dan and Bethel. He set up “two golden calves,” doubtless thought of, according to a widespread Semitic custom of viewing deities enthroned on the backs of animals, as representing Jehovah’s invisible presence and established a priesthood for his crown (1 Kings 12:26-33).

While he was officiating at the altar, a man of God appeared and prophesied the coming of King Josiah, who would one day burn the bones of its ministers upon that altar. Jeroboam attempted to arrest the man. When the arm that he stretched forth was dried up, in answer to the prayer of the man of God he was healed (13:1-10). Jeroboam continued his idolatrous practices, making “priests of the high places from among all the people” (13:33), and his rebellion soon brought about the extinction of his dynasty.

Martin Luther once said, Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works; evil works do not make a wicked man, but a wicked man does evil works. Leonard Sweet said that his Gramma taught him five principles of good gardening. Don’t get rid of your seed corn. There’s no use watering last year’s crops. Feed the soil and the soil will feed you in return.
Rain is not something you should always come out of. God doesn’t settle all accounts in October.

They are principles of growing a soul which we chase away at the cost of a boomeranging stampede. Jesus tells a story of a farmer who went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil.
It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil.

God disciplines us because God loves us. How we react to that discipline determines our destiny.

On April 4, 1896, the literary digest recorded the actual account of a Mediterranean whale that demolished a harpoon boat and two men were lost. After the whale was captured one-and-a-half days later, one of the men, James Bartley, was found alive in the whale’s belly. He was swallowed alive with all his senses in conscious working order and transmitting every new feeling, sensation and experience to the central intelligence module in his brain. He was still able to see, hear, touch, taste, smell, and think. Sperm whales have no teeth so they must rely on the highly caustic, gastric fluids to dissolve their food. The intestinal liquids are composed of strong digestive chemicals which are corrosive, scalding, and burning to the flesh. These sour, bitter, and bleach-like juices singe the skin raw, scorch the eyes, dissolve the hair, and stimulate a burning that is relative to a raging furnace of fire. Hallucinations, delirium, and disorientation tormented his mind in the pitch-black, dreary, and lightless midnights that seemed like a thousand eternities in outer darkness.

Jonah too was swallowed by a whale in an act of discipline by God. To fuel the flame of affliction, Jonah found no sleep, rest, or repose for seventy-two jumpy, jittery, and hyper-anxious hours. There was no pause, intermission, recess, break, or calm. The ancient record declares, “Then Jonah prayed” (Jonah 2:1). When Jonah prayed, he submitted to the will of God and received the message that brought Nineveh to her knees.

Sometimes bad things happen for all the right reasons. A little boy is telling his Grandma how “everything” is going wrong. School, family problems, severe health problems, etc. Meanwhile, Grandma is baking a cake. She asks her grandson if he would like a snack, which of course he does. “Here, have some cooking oil.” “Yuck” says the boy. “How about a couple raw eggs? ”
“Gross, Grandma!” “Would you like some flour then? Or maybe baking soda?”
“Grandma, those are all yucky!” To which Grandma replies: “Yes, all those things seem bad all by themselves. But when they are put together in the right way, they make a wonderfully delicious cake!”

God works the same way. Many times we wonder why he would let us go through such bad and difficult times. But God knows that when He puts these things all in His order, they always work for good! We just have to trust Him and, eventually, they will all make something wonderful!”

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