“I too am a prophet as you are, 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 and drink.“ (But he lied to him.) 1 Kings 13:18
There are some disquieting stories in the scriptures, and this one is particularly tough. It involves two prophets, a lie, and a deception that are difficult to reconcile between men of God. Yet, as Paul taught us, these accounts are valuable to us as examples and cautions. (1 Corinthians 10:6, 11)
Jeroboam had become king of the northern tribes of Israel; severed from unity with Judah and cut off from Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord. So, in short, Jeroboam decided to create his own religion, priesthood, rituals and sacrifices. Not so good.
So, the Lord sent an unnamed man of God to confront Jeroboam’s sin, and he publicly pronounced God’s judgement on the king’s misbehavior. The king threatened him, but God powerfully confirmed the prophet’s declaration!
Subdued, the king invited the prophet to remain for some refreshment and a possible reward. The man of God emphatically declined. “For it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall not eat bread or drink water, nor return by the same way you came.’ “ So, the prophet went his way.
Curiously, an old prophet who lived in that city heard through his sons about the word which the man of God had delivered to Jeroboam, and the specific instructions that governed his assignment. For some reason, the old prophet saddled his donkey and pursued the man of God.
Finding him under an oak tree, the old prophet invited the man of God to come to his home for rest and refreshment. Again, the man from Judah declined, rehearsing for the old prophet the instructions God had given him against it.
It is precisely at this moment in the story when you and I are confronted with a scenario we will likely face, perhaps often, in our walk with the Lord. Our response to the pressure it exerts will impact our journey and its trajectory far down the timeline.
The old prophet’s reply to the man of God who had faithfully completed his Divine assignment is a truly disturbing bit of Biblical history. “Oh, I know God told you specifically what to do, but I’m a prophet just like you and an angel told me to let you know it’s okay to take some refreshment. You’ve done your job; kick back for a bit, okay?”
Well, the man of God consented and followed him home. As they sat together at the table, these grim words issued from the old prophet’s lips; “The Lord says, ‘You’ve disobeyed Me in failing to do as I instructed you, and today it will cost you your life.’ “
Whoa! One could argue that whether he ate or drank or returned to Judah the way he came had little bearing on the message the man of God effectively delivered. Why the harsh judgement? Fact is, we don’t know. The relationship between God and His Old Covenant prophets was often a curious business, and difficult to wrap a modern brain around. Was it a test, a competition of sorts? The scriptures offer us no clue.
The old prophet wept over the man of God upon hearing of his death from the paw of a lion. He retrieved his body and buried him in his own tomb, grieving the loss! – “Alas, my brother! The saying which you cried out will surely come to pass!”
Okay then, what is the ‘take-away’ for you and me within this grim little story?
It would be easy, in some crudely literal way, to interpret this story as a threat to us, making our every act of disobedience a calamity! Thankfully, the New Covenant in Christ Jesus instead envelops our blunders in a tender process of realization, conviction, repentance, renewed faith, and an ever-growing appreciation of God’s grace.
So, I think the very strenuous lesson herein is this:
When God makes clear His will, our assignment, or the right person or pathway, don’t entertain even the most reasonable, more convenient, or apparently authoritative alternative!
Obedience is important, always. Not only does it impact our open fellowship with the Lord, but it also has profound implications for the people and situations we influence, and for the dynamic work of the Kingdom around us. Just as ‘prayer changes things,’ so does obedience, perhaps in a more practical, measurable way.
Don’t relinquish your precious personal revelation for anyone’s more plausible substitute.
When God instructed Jeanie and me to ‘tell no one your needs’ as we housed and fed drug offenders in the 1970’s, it wasn’t a particularly ‘smart’ thing to do. We flirted with lack fairly often, but the development of our faith and the miraculous provisions we experienced over those four years became a most valuable currency going forward.
Rely on the Word, listen to godly counsel, use the good sense God has given you. But when you hear, when you know, when clarity comes, stand by what God has revealed or instructed at all costs. The influence of such obedience will be far-reaching (though you may not see it) and of real Kingdom significance. Humble obedience is power.
This is what sets you apart from other souls. Don’t be a clone; God cherishes responsive co-laborers!