The late Dr. John Ashbrook, long–time pastor of Bible Community Church in Mentor, Ohio, wrote a little book called Axioms of Separation. The current publisher has kindly given us permission to serialize the book here on Proclaim & Defend.
(Links to previous articles in the series below.)
Axioms of Separation John Ashbrook
THE NAMELESS PROPHET
[If you know me personally you have probably heard this message preached. Cod laid it on my heart about 1962, and I have preached it almost everywhere I have gone since that time. The reaction to this message, preached at a National IFCA Convention in California, started my own demise from the organization. A new member of the Executive Committee, from which I was retiring. said, “That message would take the IFCA back twenty years.” This was at the same time that the leadership was smugly repeating that familiar cliché of organizations, “We stand where we have always stood.”]
As you read this chapter I would like you to open your Bible to I Kings 13. I want you to journey back with me through the musty corridors of time to relive three scenes from the life of a prophet whom God has allowed to be nameless. To set the scene of the chapter we must take our minds back to the dosing days of Solomon’s reign. They were not his best days, for he had succumbed to the temptations of the flesh. Instead of being satisfied with the abundant riches God had given him, he determined to gather more by laying an oppressive burden of taxation on his people. As long as Solomon lived, the rebellion was hidden. Upon his death, taxation became the issue of the hour. That issue set the scene for a young opportunist by the name of Jeroboam to seize ten of the twelve tribes. I Kings 13 takes us into Israel, the Northern Kingdom, the new kingdom of Jeroboam. Jeroboam was by no means godly; but he was by all means wise in the ways of the world. He saw dearly that if his people were to journey to Jerusalem for the historic feasts, the nation would soon unite, and he would be a king without a kingdom. We read his solution to the problem in I Kings 12:28, 29, 32:
“Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan … And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar.”
His solution was an idolatrous religion designed to counterfeit the things to which his people were accustomed. God’s answer to this crisis was what it usually is, a man. We meet him in I Kings 13:1:
“And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to bum incense.”
A SCENE OF VICTORY
This brings us to the first of our three scenes. We see the nameless prophet in a scene of victory. It appears to me that the day on which this scene took place may well have been the great dedication day of the altar of Bethel. King Jeroboam himself was present to lead his people in the idolatry. Uninvited, our prophet strode to the center of the stage and did four things. His first action was to make a prediction.
“And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.”
The prediction was very definite. It promised the birth of a man, identified the family into which he would be born, gave his name and told exactly what he would do. Three hundred years later that prophecy was fulfilled. You may read it in II Kings 23:15, 16. But, people are hardly moved by predictions which are one hundred years down the road. So, the prophet’s second action was to give a sign. That sign was not years down the road. It was immediately fulfilled as verses 2-4 tell us:
“And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out. And it came to pass, when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him. The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.”
God had given this prophet some credentials to present and he did so right there. There was a terrifying crack, the top of the altar shattered and the ashes went pouring down through the split. At almost the same instant the King cried out a command to arrest the prophet. The arm with which he pointed out his victim withered in place so he could not draw it in again. This introduces our prophet’s next action. The prophet’s third action was to pray for a healing. We read it in verse 6.
“And the king answered and said unto the man of God, Entreat now the face of the Lord thy God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored me again. And the man of God besought the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored him again, and became as it was before.”
I must admit that this part of the story is always disappointing to me. I hope that the prophet will not pray a word and will leave Jeroboam standing there with his arm at half mast. I hope that, for the rest of his life, every time he tries to turn over in bed he will be reminded not to lay hold of prophets. But, God is more gracious than his servants. He restored Jeroboam’s arm.
A TRIUMPHANT REFUSAL
At this point in the passage our prophet did one more thing, and it is the key to the whole chapter. The prophet’s fourth action was to make a refusal. King Jeroboam was scared to death. God had fulfilled a prediction before his eyes. His arm had been instantly withered by God and then graciously healed. He knew that prophet was God’s man. He spoke to his tormentor in a conciliatory tone saying, “Come home with me, and refresh thyself, and I will give thee a reward.” Right here we come to this prophet’s finest hour. I think he stuck his index finger in King Jeroboam’s mustache and waggled it, and he spoke the words of verses 8 and 9 with obvious contempt.
“And the man of God said unto the King, If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place: For so it was charged me by the word of the Lord, saying, eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.”
Then, turning on his heel, our prophet departed the scene. I have called this, “a scene of victory.” It is always victory in spiritual things when a man simply obeys the Lord. I hope that you see, in this booklet, that my crusade is one for simple obedience to God’s Word. New evangelicalism takes God’s Word and mixes it with equal parts of human reason and modern culture to determine the way to go. We fundamentalists need to be reminded that we have only to take God’s Word and obey it. That is victory. Observe carefully, in this first scene, that the temptation to compromise came from the enemy. Jeroboam represents apostasy, unbelief, counterfeit religion. In our day the National Council of Churches and the ecumenical movement are the sworn enemies of the Bible-believing church. Yet the enemy sings to us the siren song of cooperation. There has never been a time in this dispensation of grace when the enemies of the Gospel have so actively sought the support of the Lord’s people. The doctrine-free, false prophets of ecumenism are the respected apostles of our age. They turn to us with invitations to cooperate, share pulpits, join campaigns, reach communities and support good causes. The new evangelicals have heeded these siren songs and gone over to dialogue. The fundamentalist, as the prophet of old, must see them as the Devil’s invitations.
To be continued…
Next in this series: Axioms – Chapter 5 (Part 2)
Dr. John Ashbrook served the Lord for many years as pastor of Bible Community Church of Mentor, OH. His ministry made a strong contribution to Biblical fundamentalism.
Previously on P&D: