Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A man of God and an old prophet

In reading 1 Kings 13 an interesting side note to Jeroboam's life occurs.

Jeroboam was the first king after the split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah. He ruled the northern kingdom. He told people not to go to the temple at Jerusalem and instead built a golden calf in the north and the south and urged people to worship there and offer sacrifices to the idol.

Of course God was not pleased and He sent "a man of God" to tell Jeroboam a few things. (1 Kings 13:1-3). The exhortation made no impression on King Jeroboam, and he stretched out his hand toward the man of God, and said "Seize him!" (1 Kings 13:4).

Immediately the King's hand shriveled up. The sign that the man of God had prophesied came to pass, and then the man of God told the King to beg the Lord for his hand to be restored. The King did, and the King then asked the man of God to come to the palace and eat with him at table. (1 Kings 13:6-9)

And here it gets even more interesting. The man of God replied to the King that God had said for him not to eat nor drink nor even to return the way he had come. So the man of God refused the King's food and drink, and went home another way.

You might think the story ends there. But it doesn't.

The man of God (who is never named) went home another way. So he's walking along, having accomplished his courageous act. He had confronted the King! He had been used of God in a mighty work! He had escaped without being killed! I guess the man of God was feeling relaxed by now. He might have let out one giant "Phew!" He might even have thought he was safe.

Just then...the enemy comes!

"Now an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.’” And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’” But he lied to him. So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water." (1 Kings 13:11-18).

First: what was an old prophet doing living at Bethel? That was one of the towns where Jeroboam put one of the two golden calves! By choosing to live there it was like he was tacitly approving of the idolatry. At the very least, a true prophet would be tortured in spirit by such daily blasphemy. Not so the old prophet. He had sons and a home and a donkey for transportation, and he lived quite well in idol central.

Second: the old prophet's sons came to him and told what happened in Bethel that day, and "the words that he had spoken to the king". Now that is hitting close to home! To use a phrase, 'something is disturbing the force.' Evil likes its evil and anything fresh and of the Light makes it very angry. The sons and the old Prophet investigated immediately.

Third: the old prophet still had a choice at this point. If he had a heart for the LORD he would have repented and offered a sacrifice at the Temple for his lax and evil ways. Even when he asked "Which way did he go?" he still had a chance. Perhaps he was seeking the man of God because he wanted first-hand knowledge of the incident to learn more and then to repent. I mean, at some point the old Prophet needed to acknowledge how far he was from God.

Fourth: It was not to be. He deliberately sought out the man of God (and not God Himself) and it was not to learn more and repent. It was to lie. His initial lie was hidden, he at first simply asked the man of God to come home and eat with him. And the man of God is still doing well, because he resisted. He'd been chosen, he performed courageously and he'd obeyed. And now at this point he was still obeying.

Fifth: And here is where satan shines. Just as he did in the garden, using the serpent, the old Prophet lied and said that an angel had told him to come eat with him. The man of God listened. And that was his undoing.

When you trade the word of God for word of man, you're undone. Perhaps in the man of God's defense he wanted to honor the old Prophet because of his office. Perhaps he wanted to defer to him because of the man's age. However,  motivations are never enough to set aside the word of God. The man of God should have resisted again. But finally, finally, he succumbed. Just like Eve listened to an angel, the man of God listened to an old prophet who said he had a message from an angel.

Paul reminds us, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:8).

If God says something a person or an angel cannot contradict it. He spoke in His word and we should listen to Him, not dreams and visions, not our desires and not an angel who says something different than the Word does. Only the Word of God is authoritative and thus it is the highest word of all.

Anyway, back to the scene, 920 BC or so. The man of God went with the prophet and ate at table with him. Perhaps the man of God was feeling relaxed or even self-congratulatory, certainly he felt relieved. But God chose to use the instrument of the man of God's downfall to pronounce his judgment: the word of the LORD came to the old prophet and he pronounced that the man of God will die that day and not lay in the tomb of his fathers, but instead lay a strange land. And indeed when the man of God left the house of the old prophet, a lion came and killed the man of God. And the donkey stood by and the lion did not eat the man of God and did not eat the donkey. The animals simply stood sentinel.

When the old prophet heard the talk of the strange behavior of the animals, he knew what had happened. He went and retrieved the man of God's body and laid it in his own tomb, and ordered that when he died to lay his body on the man of God's. Isn't that justice, the man of God forever entombed with the man of his undoing. Both sinners, and hence the old Prophet mourned "my brother!"

The chapter is rich, and there are many lessons here, and many to learn from men who write better and have a more incisive perspective. But for me, I learned first, not to relax after a spiritual battle. When the immediate job is done it's not done. Satan comes any time and all the time. He will persist and persist and he will lie and he will confuse you and he will seek you out. Remember, the old prophet saddled up the donkey and specifically asked where the man of God was, and then went to get him.

Prophets (preachers) of today lie. They seek out the unwary and they get them and they in effect offer them to lions. Watch out! Don't relax!

Through the passage, we also learn that God means what He says. When He says do not eat or drink until you get home, don't do it. Or whatever the LORD says not to do, don't do it. If you do, there will be consequences. Disobedience bring consequences! One reason I believe the people of today love their visions and dreams is that they can make up a God to obey more comfortably and obey what comes from their head and not from His mouth. But there are consequences to disobedience.

Sometimes the consequences are immediate, as evidenced by the man of God's death that same day. Sometimes the consequences are latent, as evidenced by the old prophet. We don't know what happened to the old Prophet but he didn't die that day, did he? But he sure knew that God's word comes to pass, as verse 32 records the old prophet saying, "For the saying that he called out by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass."

Last, I learned that the chapter ends with recording that none of this affected Jeroboam's attitude. He still installed priests in the high places and it's inferred that they still sacrificed to idols. Even if the man of God had lived and had not disobeyed God, he would have seen that his message would have had no apparent effect. But God uses his people to show His holiness unto repentance and He uses His people to show that even if they do not repent they are without excuse when His Day comes. Either way, whether it's accepted or rejected, we still have to proclaim His word.

So that is my foray into 1 Kings chapter 13. The Lord's word is tremendous. As a matter of fact, it is the only way to grow. What are you reading these days?

3 comments :

  1. Lot's of ironies happen when I visit your site. I was thinking of this chapter earlier to day for some reason. I find myself reading through Kings and Chronicles a lot and I've always sort of felt bad for the man of God, having been lied to and then punished after all. It's a pretty sobering thought how easily you can be duped if you're not always on guard, and who is?

    -V

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wonderful truth, Elizabeth! Thank you for articulating this lesson [rather, these lessons!] from God's own Word.

    ReplyDelete
  3. John 1:1
    There are a lot of people who depend on others to do their reading and pondering. Knowing God through His Word is the only way to discern that which is tainted. In the end at which these "old prophets" have been denied, they give themselves away. They become angry.

    ReplyDelete