Monday, February 27, 2012

A PROPHET'S SAD STORY: FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY IN JUST ONE DAY.

A PROPHET’S STORY:
FROM TRIUMPH TO TRAGEDY IN JUST ONE DAY
A. Brother

TEXT:  1 KINGS 13

This is about a man of God.  An unknown man, whose name is not even recorded in Scripture, yet who was given an important task in the Kingdom of God

This man of God went from his small town up to Bethel, a center of business and idol worship in Israel.  He was given a message, and he was to deliver it to the King, who was busy sacrificing animals on the large altar there.  The man of God stood in front of the most powerful man in the country, with all his soldiers and attendants, plus a large crowd of people there to witness it, and cried out against the altar and proclaimed God’s judgment on the King and all those who participated.

The King tried to have the man seized, but his hand shriveled up in midair, and the altar fell apart in front of his eyes.  The King was terrified.  King Jeroboam then sought the prayers of the man of God and his hand was restored.  Suddenly the contrite King was offering gifts and a meal to this unknown man, and trying to bribe his favor. 

“But the man of God answered the King,
‘Even if you were to give me half your possessions,
I would not go with you, nor would I
eat bread or drink water here. 
For I was commanded by the word of the Lord:
‘You must not eat bread or drink water
or return by the way that you came.’”
1 Kings 13:8,9

Yet the man of God stayed true to his instructions from the Lord, and refused, and even followed God’s Word to go back to his town by a different way, avoiding his usual route.

Here was a man of courage and determination.  Here was a man who stood the test.  This man of God came through when confronted with evil and power, and never backed down.  He delivered the message.  He didn’t run away from the King’s anger. 

Yet this man was dead in the road by the end of the day, his stellar prophetic career over.  And it was disobedience in the small things that did him in.  It was deception from the most unexpected source that derailed his calling.

There was an old prophet in Bethel.  A true prophet, who worshiped God, and not pagan idols.  This old man found out what had happened, climbed on his donkey, and went to find the man of God, who was sitting and resting by the roadside under a tree. 

The old prophet I’m sure embraced the man of God, and as fellow prophets they knew the common bond of comfort between them.  I’m positive that the old prophet gave the man of God praise for the day’s events, for standing up to the King, and was very kind and gracious to the bone-weary traveler, who had just accomplished the biggest task God could give a man.  He had stood up to the King, and delivered God’s full message.

So, the old prophet then said, “Come home with me and eat.” (13:15) The man of God was still on task.  He declined.  Can’t do it.  God said not to eat or drink here. 

The old prophet then pulled out all the stops.  Using his most prophetic face, and his most holy voice, he said:

“I, too, am a prophet, as you are. 
And an angel said to me…”
1 Kings 13:18

Oh no—it was the old “an angel said to me” ploy.  And the old prophet plays it to perfection.  He probably had tears in his eyes, and one of his sons might have been playing the piano softly in the background, while his other sons hummed one of the man of God’s favorite spiritual songs, moving artfully side to side in the latest choreographic moves.  The townspeople were probably there, too, watching breathlessly to see if the man of God would rudely turn down this rare invitation from their famous old prophet.  What a show.

The prophet continues, and I can imagine him waving his Old Testament scroll.

“And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord,
‘Bring him back with you to his house
So that he may eat bread and drink water.’
(But he was lying to him).”
1 Kings 13:18

Wow.  The old prophet was lying.  Why?  We don’t know.  Maybe he was just a frustrated old man who’d never been given the kind of glorious task the unknown man of God was given and he was jealous.  Maybe he was assigned the deception by God himself, to test the man of God.  Maybe he was a tool of Satan.  We aren’t given that information, and so it is not important.

But what is important is that the man of God believed the angel story, and returned to the old prophet’s home (after all, he was hungry, and the old prophet was a man of God, too).
They were at the table, eating and drinking, when God spoke to the old prophet, and gave him a word for the man of God that must have turned his blood to ice water with fear. 

“You have defied the word of the Lord….”
1 Kings 13:21

This is the warning to us today.  As Paul teaches us in Galatians, in one of the most forceful passages of the New Testament, we are to follow the Word of God, the true gospel, the full message of this new life, no matter who tells us God has some different message.  No matter if a wise, respected old prophet tells us he saw an angel.  No matter if the pastor teaches something we don’t see or hear clearly in Scripture.  No matter if a television evangelist, with music playing softly, and tears in his eyes, preaches a different gospel.  No matter if our best friend, our most trusted ally, our wife, our husband, our son, our daughter, our parent, or the pope tells us anything out of line with what we know is the truth of God’s Word.  No matter who, what, why, when or where it happens, we are to hold firmly to Christ, and His Word, and obey only His voice.

Paul warned us in this harsh and uncompromising Word from God:

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven
should preach a gospel other than the one
we preached to you, let him be
eternally condemned.”
Galations 1:8

Not even an angel is to be trusted if he strays from God’s Truth.  Even stellar prophets and old, seasoned veterans in the Word of God can be led astray and can lead others astray.  In fact, in our day, we have many who are celebrity figures in this man-made ‘Christian subculture’ who are leading hundreds of thousands astray, and building kingdoms for themselves, instead of the Kingdom of God.  Easy words, smooth preaching, mesmerizing shows, fancy cathedrals, comfortable music, and the velvet-coated offering plate that symobolizes the altar at Bethel in this story.  We give ourselves wrongly to ideas and programs of men that lead even God’s own astray as the man of God was led astray.  We forsake the simple Christ-life for the glitter and glamour of the Hollywood lifestyle, instead of walking in love, humility, and forsaking the world to be with Jesus.

The end of the story is as interesting as the rest.  After pronouncing God’s judgment on the man of God at dinner, the meal is completed, and the man leaves.  A short time later, a lion kills him and his donkey on the road home.  The old prophet then has the man’s body brought to him, and he weeps over him, and buries him in his own tomb, mourning over him like a brother.  What a guy this old prophet is.  Like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood.

The point:  We put our whole trust in the One and Only Son of God, Christ Himself, and we cling to Him and the simple, full message He brought us, and as was handed down to us by the apostles.  We follow Christ alone, not men. 

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.
Therefore be as shrewd as snakes
and innocent as doves.
Be on your guard against men…”
Matt. 10:16,17




2 comments:

  1. This is one of my favorite stories. It is a clear example of the seriousness of Absolute Obedience. We all have the natural tendency to make assumptions, to insert our own judgment and understanding, little considering that when we do, we are in essence, turning away from obeying 'in all things.'
    I've pondered this scenario a lot. It is included in the scriptures for our benefit, that we do not make the same mistake. How often do we start out right, and end up wrong, wondering how it happened??? I lean towards believing that God sent the old prophet, (he could have handled it if the man of God had refused his invitation). Because he truly grieved over the man when he found him slain by the lion, to the point of having him laid to rest in his own grave and when he died being laid upon his bones.
    This is all about 'obedience'...we will not be rewarded for partial compliance.
    Deut.13:6 If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
    Deut.28:14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, [to] the right hand, or [to] the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
    1Kings 9:6 [But] if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments [and] my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them:
    No matter who or where or what would try to turn us aside to this or that reasonable alternative, we have the duty/responsibility to OBEY, or suffer loss. Thanks for sharing, we don't see this one used, at least I never have.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Cathy. I've never seen this discussed or used either, so it seemed appropriate to at least look at. I think you're right--that the old prophet was used by God to test the new prophet. We must be on our guard, as Paul says, at all times. All Christ-followers have lived in perilous times, even though some, because they were naive and unsuspecting, didn't know it until it was too late.

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