There is an interesting passage in the book of 1 Kings about the voice of God, a man of God and a prophet. It was the in time of the divided kingdom, Jeroboam was the first king of the northern nation of Israel after the people had revolted against Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam (over taxes . . . Go figure.) (1 Kings 12:6-17)
The figure of Jeroboam is a conflicted one. He was told by the prophet Ahijah of the coming divide of the kingdom and that God would give him a portion. (1 Kings 11:26-39) Up to this point, he had been a faithful servant of Solomon; however, Solomon must have heard of this word because like Saul before him who made repeated attempts to kill David, Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam. (1 Kings 11:40)
The full dynamics of Jeroboam and is reign are a story for another day, what is relevant to this story is that after becoming king, in order to secure the allegiance of the people of Israel and to keep them from traveling to Jerusalem and the Temple, he built not one, but two alternate places of worship in Israel, one in Bethel and one in Dan. (1 Kings 12:29-30) Not only were they altars, but he created golden calves to worship. (1 Kings 12:28) (We know how well a golden calf worked out for Israel last time don’t we? (Exodus 32) )
There had been some other things that went on prior to this, but this was the last straw.
Now enters the man of God.
He is never named, but it says:
At the LORD’s command, a man of God from Judah went to Bethel, arriving just as Jeroboam was approach the altar to burn incense.
God said “Go,” so he got up and went, arriving “just in time” to confront Jeroboam at the altar (just one more example of the synchronicity of God.) Once there, he does exactly what the LORD commands him to do:
Then at the LORD’s command, he shouted, “O altar, altar!” This is what the LORD says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense and human bones will be burned on you.” 1 Kings 13:2-3
Not only was Jeroboam trying to facilitate Israel abandoning worship at the Temple of the LORD as they were commanded, (Lev 17:2-4, 1 Kings 3:2) but the places were ones where pagan priests were sacrificing as well. They were mixing the holy and the profane.
So God sent some nameless guy from Judah to go to pronounce judgment. Not only does He give the man a word, but He also gives and performs a sign to confirm that this man is truly speaking for Him.
That same day the man of God gave a sign to prove his message. He said, “The LORD has promised to give this sign This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out on the ground.” 1 Kings 13:3 NLT
Not only did God give the one sign, but when Jeroboam in his anger tried to seize the man of God, he gave a second:
When King Jeroboam heard the man of God speaking against the altar at Bethel, he pointed at him and shouted, “Seize that man!” But instantly the king’s hand became paralyzed in that position and he couldn’t pull it back. At the same time a wide crack appeared in the altar and the ashes poured out, just as the man of God had predicted in his message from the LORD. 1 Kings 13:4-5 NLT
The king cried out to the man of God. “Please ask the LORD your God to restore my hand again!” So the man of God prayed to the LORD and the king’s hand was restored and he could move it again.”
A word from God and three miraculous signs (the altar splitting, the paralysis of the king’s hand, and it’s healing,) I think that would attract some attention don’t you? Well it did. Now, rather than arresting him, Jeroboam invited the man of God back to the palace and wanted to give him a gift:
Then the king said to the man of God, “Come to the palace with me and have something to eat and I will give you a gift.”
But the man of God said to the king, “Even if you have me half of everything you own, I would not go with you. I would not eat or drink anything in this place. For the LORD gave me this command; ‘You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’ So he left Bethel and went home another way. 1 Kings 13:7-10 NLT
Danger Comes in Complacency
There is much in this story to take example from. This man wasn’t a big name or a somebody, he was simply someone who was listening to and following after God. He was God’s man, nothing more, nothing less. God told him to get up and go to a country with a rival government and give them a rebuke and a message that they didn’t want to hear. Not just the people, but the king himself. This “nobody” had to go and tell a “somebody” what God had said.
Who wants to do that? No one does ever. People never want to hear they are in the wrong and unless you have a naturally antagonistic personality, we do not want to be the one that has to say it to people we are close to. We talk about Jonah and how he ran from God’s instructions, but are we any different?
How many times have you felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit to speak God’s truth into a situation when you know it won’t be well received? We live in a culture that runs counter to Biblical principles. Our nation has fallen so far spiritually since the turn of the century that if we aren’t seeing the apostasy of the End Times right now . . . God help us.
It is not an easy thing to stand firm against the tide, to be the sole dissenting voice, but that is what this man of God was willing to do and did.
He went where God told him to go. He said what God told him to say. He did what God told him to do.
So how did this story end up? Surprisingly, not well for the man of God. Why? Because he got complacent. He went, confronted the king, gave the word, saw the word confirmed with the sign of the altar splitting, was saved from the persecution of Jeroboam, and healed the king’s hand. If this were a Hollywood movie, that would have been the end of Act III, the climax and it would have been over.
But this is life and it is God’s script . . . Not a Hollywood screenwriter’s.
The man of God probably thought he was done, that the drama was over. He had stood up to the king and resisted his enticements. He was on his way home.
Temptation Comes From Unexpected Places
Then he ran into the prophet.
While Bethel was probably busy due to the altar, I’m sure it wasn’t huge. I’m also fairly certain that the showdown at the altar attracted a lot of attention and caused a lot of talk. The talk spread and the prophet heard of it:
As it happened, there was an old prophet living in Bethel, and his sons came home and told him what the man of God had done in Bethel that day. They also told their father what the man had said to the king. The old prophet asked them, “Which way did he go?” So they showed their father which road the man of God had taken. “Quick, saddle the donkey,” the old man said. So they saddled the donkey for him, and he mounted it. 1 Kings 13:11-13
The prophet’s sons had seen the confrontation. They had been at the altar. Had they been participating in it? Had the prophet known? It seems as if he would have. So he was “the guy,” a prophet, one who spoke for God, and someone from down south comes into his turf and not only gives a Word from God, but multiple signs accompany it.
Put yourself in his situation and imagine what kind of emotions might be running through you. Do you think he might have felt a little fear? After all, he didn’t get on his donkey and set off to stop the false worship. Do you think he may have felt that this man of God threatened his position in the community?
Whatever his feelings were, it was obvious he wanted to get a handle on the situation and bring it under his authority and control because he set out after a guy who was already heading home.
Then he rode after the man of God and found him sitting under a great tree. The old prophet asked him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”
“Yes, I am,” he replied.
Then he said to the man of God, “Come home with me and eat some food.”
“No, I cannot,” he replied, “I am not allowed to eat or drink anything here in this place. For the LORD gave me this command: You must not eat or drink anything while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.”
But the old prophet answered, “I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this command from the LORD: “Bring him home with you so he can have something to eat and drink.” But the old man was lying to him. So they went back together, and the man of God ate and drank at the prophet’s home. 1 Kings 13:14-19 NLT
There are several things to note here. One, which I hadn’t noticed before I began writing this, is that the prophet caught up to him when he was sitting under a tree. Now, the intent of God’s instruction not to eat or drink anything I believe meant that he was not to let anything delay him from returning home. God was saying, “God do what I tell you and get in and get out.” In other words, high tail it home. It was only 12 miles from Bethel to Jerusalem and he was supposed to return a different way than the one he came so he wouldn’t be on a known route where someone could come and delay him.
But he was sitting under a tree when the prophet found him. It wasn’t outright disobedience to what God had told him, but he was ignoring the spirit and urgency of the message which then left him open to temptation.
Now the man wasn’t tempted by Jeroboam, the king, but he was by the prophet. I see this man as someone who had a heart after God, who was listening when God spoke, and I am sure he was thrilled to see how God used him and that the LORD’s word came true.
But then this prophet came. He was older. Maybe he was well known. Maybe this man of God had heard of him before. For whatever reason, this man of God was swayed by what this prophet said. As we can see in the passages below with the mention of multiple donkeys, the prophet seemed to be established and comfortably well off while the unknown man of God was hoofing it. I’m sure the prophet’s age, status, and affluence all played a role in influencing him.
Also note that the prophet had to one-up what the man of God said. The man said he had a Word from God. The prophet claimed to have an angelic encounter that countermanded that word. This tells me that there was some pride and jealously on the part of the prophet motivating his actions.
There is no reason to believe that this was entirely a false prophet, as we will see later he does actually hear from God. However, it is important to remember that regardless of someone’s past actions, no one is too good or too spiritual to fall. We see this over and over in Scripture where God uses someone and they fall from righteousness and sin. We can’t place what a fallible human says over what God says, even if that person has spoken truly in the past.
We never stop needing a Savior and we always have to remain humble before God, submitting ourselves to him. (James 4:7) When we begin to think it is all about us, that is the moment when Satan steps in.
Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about Him. He can use a donkey if he needs to so don’t get too full of yourself regardless of how many times he’s used you in the past. (Galatians 6:1-3 NLT)
So let’s read what happened next.
Then while they were sitting at the table, a command from the LORD came to the old prophet. He cried out to the ma of God from Judah, “This is what the LORD says: You have defied the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the LORD your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate and drank when he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors.”
After the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the old prophet saddled his own donkey for him, and the man of God started off again. But as he was traveling along, a lion came out and killed him. His body lay there on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. People who passed by saw the body lying in the road and the lion standing beside it, and they went and reported it in Bethel, where the old prophet lived.
When the prophet heard the report, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the LORD’s command. The LORD has fulfilled his word by causing the lion to attack and kill him.”
Then the prophet said to his sons, “Saddle a donkey for me.” So they saddled a donkey, and he went out and found the body lying in the road. The donkey and lion were still standing there beside it, for the lion had not eaten the body nor attacked the donkey. So the prophet laid the body of the man of God on the donkey and took it back to the town to mourn over him and bury him. He laid the body in his own grave, crying out in grief, “Oh, my brother!”
Afterward the prophet said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried. Lay my bones beside his bones. For the message the LORD told him to proclaim against the altar in Bethel and against the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.” 1 Kings 13:20-32
That seems kind of rough doesn’t it. Complicated, just like life. God’s word is simple, but when we try to put our own interpretation on it and allow human motivation and agendas to step in . . . Things get complicated.
Was the man of God faithful? Yes, but he failed at a critical point. We have to stand firm and follow through. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Was the prophet totally evil and corrupt? Of course not, but he allowed pride and jealousy, arising from his fallen human nature, to lead someone else to their destruction. He had remorse once events played out and he didn’t intend the man’s death, but the consequence was still the same.
What is God Saying to You
The moral of the story is do exactly what God says, not what you think He means.
If you start walking in God’s will, it is dangerous to take a pit stop along the way.
The other thing that stands out to me about this passage is the importance of paying attention to what God is saying to you . . . And that takes both making a habit of abiding in him and developing a relationship.
As one of my pastors says, when someone gives you a Word from God, it should be a confirmation of what God has already been talking to you about.
There are many people who run from conference to conference and teacher to teacher looking for a “word” or a “sign.” They may be true, but there is also the possibility that they are like this old prophet and lying to you, making stuff up as they go along to preserve their position.
No human should take the position of mediator between you and God, that position is for Jesus Christ alone. (1 Tim 2:5, Hebrews 12:24) The veil was torn almost two thousand years ago, (Matt 27:51, Mark 15:38, Heb 10:19-22) why install a makeshift one when Jesus died so we could be in fellowship with the Father? (Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:16)
Take a lesson from this man of God, it is not enough to hear and do. We must also have the confidence and trust in our relationship with God that we stand firm on his word to us, even if other believers try to sway us.