This past week I was intrigued by an account found in 1 Kings 13 that has some powerful applications for us even today.
I was pondering on how many today believe everything that they hear or read, whether it is presented on the news or on social media under the popular hashtag “facts.” There have been organizations created to “debunk” what is posted or broadcasted under the pretense that such is “truth” or “factual.”
The account in 1 Kings 13 is quite disturbing because of what one man of God perceived to be true/factual, although it was in direct opposition to what he was told, and he would believe a lie resulting in horrific consequences.
To briefly summarize what is recorded for us in 1 Kings 13, we are introduced to an unnamed man of God who travels from Judah to Bethel “by the word of the Lord” (1). While in Bethel, King Jeroboam is found practicing his idolatry, standing by an altar to burn incense. The man of God “cries out” against the altar “by the word of the Lord” and pronounces a chilling prophecy (2). Then there was a sign to validate the pronounced prophecy in which the altar would be split apart with the ashes on it being poured out (3). When King Jeroboam heard the man of God crying out against the altar and the idolatrous practices there in Bethel, it angered King Jeroboam and King Jeroboam “stretched out his hand from the altar” commanding that the man of God be arrested. However, King Jeroboam’s outstretched hand withered “so that he could not pull it back to himself” (4). Then in verse 5, the sign which the Lord had spoken occurred as the altar was split apart and the ashes poured out from the altar. King Jeroboam pleaded for the man of God to “entreat” the favor of the Lord his God and pray for him so that his hand would be restored, to which the man of God did and the King’s hand was then restored to him (6). King Jeroboam invited the man of God to “come home” with the king to be refreshed and the king further offered to give the man of God a reward (7). The man of God very matter-of-factly stated to the King, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came” (9). So, the man of God does just as the Lord said, and he departed from Bethel another way than the way he initially came (10). The first ten verses of this chapter shows a man of God doing as the Lord says & he backs all that he does by what the Lord had told him by giving the “thus saith the Lord” in what he says and what he does. The man of God stood firm to the word he had received from the Lord. It is the verses that follow that show the importance and significance of holding firmly to what the Lord says, rather than heeding to one who may be perceived as telling the truth.
Beginning in verse 11 we are introduced to an “old prophet” who dwelt in Bethel and this old prophet was told by his sons of all that the man of God had done while in Bethel that day. They also told him about “the words which [the man of God] had spoken to the king.” So, the old prophet finds out the direction the man of God went and upon his sons saddling a donkey for him, he rode out seeking out the man of God. In verse 14 the old prophet locates the man of God sitting under an oak tree and asked the man of God if he was “the man of God who came from Judah?” The man of God affirms. In verse 15 the old prophet invites the man of God to “come home” with him and “eat bread.” In verses 16 & 17 the man of God reiterates the command that he had received from the Lord. In verse 18, the old prophet tells the man of God: “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 bread and drink water.’ It is noted that the old prophet “was lying to [the man of God].” Although the man of God knew what the Lord had told him and in fact reiterated, he perceived that the “old prophet” was telling the truth and so he went back with the old prophet and at bread in his house and drank water (19). While they sat the table at the old prophet’s house, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah saying, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, eat no bread and drink no water,’ your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers” (20-22). In the following verses we find that after the man of God had eaten bread and after he had drunk, he saddled the donkey for him and departed only to be met by a lion on the road and killed. The man of God’s “corpse” lie there in the road with the donkey and the lion standing by it. The old prophet heard of what had happened and went to where the man of God’s “corpse” was and witnessed the lion and donkey standing by the corpse recognizing that the man of God was punished for his disobedience to the Lord’s word and acknowledged that what the man of God had said would surely come to pass.
This account began so well with the man of God standing firm against King Jeroboam and the idolatrous practices in Bethel, giving a “thus saith the Lord” and refusing to be bought by the king’s reward. What was the man of God’s downfall? The man of God’s downfall was that he believed a lie. Just because the old prophet claimed to be a true prophet of the Lord and may have been perceived to be true, the old prophet’s words were in direct opposition to what the Lord had told the man of God. It is easy to look at this account and say, “well, the man of God obeyed 99% of what the Lord told him and it wasn’t really his fault that the old prophet lied.” It is true that the man of God obeyed 99% of what the Lord told him and although it wasn’t his fault that the old prophet lied to him, it was his fault that he believed the lie which led to his demise.
Although there are many applications in this account and not enough room to tell in this brief article, take away from this account that God means what He says and says what He means. The Lord does not contradict Himself and if the Lord wanted for the man of God to go back with the old prophet, the Lord would have revealed that to the man of God. Even today, we are expected to test/prove whether the words being presented are the Lord’s word, not man’s (cf. Acts 17:11; 1 Thess. 5:21). The old prophet did what King Jeroboam could not: destroying the man of God with just one lie. Just because one may believe that something is true, doesn’t make it true. God’s word is what determines truth (cf. John 17:17). May we hold to God’s word and God’s word alone (cf. Proverbs 28:26; Psalm 17:5, 37:23).
I close with a wonderful poem composed by Sister Brenda Fannett regarding this very account entitled “Perception:”
When you perceive what’s right or wrong,
Have you gathered all the facts?
Be careful who you turn to,
For wisdom, he may lack.
Remember the young prophet,
Whom the old prophet implored,
To turn aside from his straight path,
Completely unaware, death waited as his reward.
He must have perceived
No harm would come,
His orders came from.
The neglectful young prophet
Believed the old prophet was true,
What he was told to do.
We can see his perception was wrong,
And ours just might be, too.
Heed the warning in this story.
Fear God, so no harm will come to you.
Cf. Eccl. 12:13,14; 1 Cor. 15:1,2; 2 Tim. 4:2-5
Something to think about. Have a great week! – DJ