God sends out of Judah a man of God. He comes “by the word of the LORD” from Judah to Bethel. “The word of the LORD” is the power that comes upon the man of God and by which he is driven to speak his message. He becomes a killjoy. The name of the man of God is not known, the name does not matter. It is about his message and on behalf of Whom he comes.
Are there not prophets in Bethel? Yes, there is an old prophet, but God cannot use him. How could that be possible? He may be disturbed, but he is not taking any action. He stays with that horrible imitation religion, without we hear him protesting. Possibly he is a man like Eli. He sees the evil, but has no strength to act against it. The fact that he is not in the right relationship with God is shown by the fact that he lies to the man of God from Judah to let him return with him (verse 1818He said to him, “I also am a prophet like you, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” [But] he lied to him.).
Fearlessly, the man of God from Judah moves into the celebrating crowd. He is qualified to testify, he can be God’s mouth, for he is connected with the true service of God and not with the idolatry of Jeroboam (cf. Jer 15:1919Therefore, thus says the LORD,
“If you return, then I will restore you—
Before Me you will stand;
And if you extract the precious from the worthless,
You will become My spokesman.
They for their part may turn to you,
But as for you, you must not turn to them.
). He directs the word, which is the word of God, to … the altar. Why to the altar and not to the calf or to Jeroboam? Because the altar symbolizes the whole service and because Jeroboam stands on the altar (verse 44Now when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar in Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” But his hand which he stretched out against him dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself.); it is his service, he is the boss of the altar. Jeroboam moderates to be able to bring a sacrifice. Later king Uzziah will perform the same presumptuous act that will bring him the plague of leprosy (2Chr 26:1919But Uzziah, with a censer in his hand for burning incense, was enraged; and while he was enraged with the priests, the leprosy broke out on his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, beside the altar of incense.).
God has clearly indicated in His Word where and how He wants to be worshipped and served. Every believer may desire to be a man of God – man or woman – a witness of God’s rights in the midst of a Christianity that serves Him at will. To be a man of God God has given us His Word (2Tim 3:16-1716All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;17so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.). Someone is a man of God when he or she reflects daily on the Word of God. At the same time, such a person will open himself up to the mighty working of God’s Spirit. Then formation is possible into the image of the Lord Jesus, the true Man of God.
The man of God prophesies the judgment over the altar. It is remarkable and rare that the prophecy mentions the name of the man by whom God allows the judgment to be carried out: king Josiah from the house of David. The genus of David, despised and forsaken by Jeroboam and his kingdom, will again have so much power that it will destroy this altar which he believes he is installing. It will take about three hundred years before this prophecy is fulfilled, but already we are told what will happen and by whom (2Kgs 23:15-1815Furthermore, the altar that [was] at Bethel [and] the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down. Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah.16Now when Josiah turned, he saw the graves that [were] there on the mountain, and he sent and took the bones from the graves and burned [them] on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things.17Then he said, “What is this monument that I see?” And the men of the city told him, “It is the grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.”18He said, “Let him alone; let no one disturb his bones.” So they left his bones undisturbed with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria.). For God, the future is present.
Another exception where God mentions the name of someone He uses for future events is in the case of Cyrus. God mentions His name as the deliverer of His people from the Babylonian exile, far before Cyrus is born (Isa 44:2828“[It is I] who says of Cyrus, ‘[He is] My shepherd!
And he will perform all My desire.’
And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’
And of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’”; 45:1-61Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed,
Whom I have taken by the right hand,
To subdue nations before him
And to loose the loins of kings;
To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:
2“I will go before you and make the rough places smooth;
I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars.
3“I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name.
4“For the sake of Jacob My servant,
And Israel My chosen [one],
I have also called you by your name;
I have given you a title of honor
Though you have not known Me.
5“I am the LORD, and there is no other;
Besides Me there is no God.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
6That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
That there is no one besides Me.
I am the LORD, and there is no other,
). He knows the future from afar.
The prophet gives a sign: the altar will split apart and the ashes shall be poured out. According to the prescription the ashes should be taken up (Lev 6:10-1110The priest is to put on his linen robe, and he shall put on undergarments next to his flesh; and he shall take up the ashes [to] which the fire reduces the burnt offering on the altar and place them beside the altar.11Then he shall take off his garments and put on other garments, and carry the ashes outside the camp to a clean place.). It is proof that God desecrates this altar.