1 Kings 13 has an interesting little scene. The book was written about 550BC. It’s rich with drama, meaning, and life lessons even for us at this telescoped end of time. The chapter 13 I’d read yesterday regarded the coming destruction of the false altar at Bethel, and the king Jeroboam, who’d allowed it and even served as priest there. “A Man of God” was tasked with bringing the King a message about the false worship at Bethel and God’s extreme disapproval of it.
There are so many lessons in this chapter. We could look at the chapter in terms of the idolatrous worship … or the precision of God’s pronouncements …or how we must believe His word … or what constitutes right worship … or how God formerly authenticated His word by signs … but I’m not focusing on any of those wonderful lessons today. First, I’ll recap.
God sent a Man of God (AKA prophet) to speak truth to King Jeroboam. ‘Man of God’ is a title Paul designated to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:11) and also was given in the Old Testament to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), David (Nehemiah 12:24), Elijah (1 Kings 17:18) and Elisha (2 Kings 4:7). The phrase designates the man as set apart and having a unique relationship with God and bringing missives originating in God and from God. The Man of God AKA prophet is God’s special representative, one whom God has personally chosen and sent.
The Man of God pronounced judgment upon the King by prophesying a future King emerging from the house of David (which Jeroboam hated) who will be born 360 years into the future named Josiah who will pull down the false altars, pour out the ashes onto the ground (unclean) and burn human bones on them (indicating a slaughter of the false priests).
The King did not take the message lightly and stretched out his hand, pointed to the Man of God, and said ‘seize him!’ The King’s hand withered, a sign that the messenger was true. After some pleading and tears, the King’s hand was restored and the Man of God went his way.
God had said not to stop for hospitality anywhere at any time, in fact, to go home another way. The Man of God refused hospitality at the King’s table (after the King’s hand was restored), a huge snub in the Middle East and a further message not to consort with Jereoboam. But then we see the Man of God idly sitting under an oak tree. He is not hurrying, he has no sense of urgency to leave the idolatrous area.
Here comes is the interesting part.
“He … found him sitting under an oak” (1 Kings 13:14). It must be considered significant that the man of God was idly resting under an oak tree instead of returning to Judah, and the man could not have been blameless, because God had dearly instructed him to waste no time on his mission. Many a servant of God has been overcome with disaster in a moment of idleness. Coffman Commentary
Compare with Abraham’s servant sent to fetch a wife for Isaac. In Genesis 24:33, the servant would not eat until he had spoken his piece. Afterward, he was urged to delay his departure, but the servant still would have none of it, even though the wife had been obtained and seemingly, his mission was done. He said, “Do not delay me, since the Lord has prospered my way. Send me away that I may go to my master.” (Genesis 24:56).
Abraham’s servant kept the LORD first.
Back to the 1 Kings 13 chapter. There lived another prophet from the immediate area. The prophet’s sons came to him and told what had happened with the King. The old prophet purposed to go find this Man of God. The prophet did not repent. He did not fall on his face. He did not go to the King. He made a plan, a dastardly plan instead, to seek out the messenger.
He asked his sons which way the Man of God went. He asked his sons to saddle the donkey. He went out searching for the Man of God. He took time and effort to seek out the Man of God. Note this. When the prophet found the Man of God, he asked the Man of God to eat with him at his house. The Man of God said no, I can’t. I must go my way.
Here is where the prophet’s plan gets dastardly. Up to now one might defend him, might, thinking he wanted to speak further with such a Man of God, learn from him, pray with him. Perhaps a case could be made for the old prophet’s good will. But here the Bible plainly says, the old prophet lied.
He told a whopper. The old prophet claimed to have heard from God, via an angel, bearing a message that directly contradicts the Man of God’s previous command. The old prophet said the angel told him that God said it was now OK to come and eat and stay.
There is such a thing as an earthly chain of command. The command hierarchy is there for a reason. Even more so in dealing in spiritual warfare. If you have orders from the General of the Army, and you receive a contradictory order from a Captain, what will you do? Seek verification, of course.
One might wonder why the Man of God didn’t seek verification from the LORD of hosts.
In any event, the man of God was quite foolish to believe the words of the lying pretender. Would God have told the man of God one thing and then have contradicted it by sending an authentic word by another? “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1). Although not stated, there appears to have been an unworthy desire on the part of the man of God to return, and, where there is an antecedent willingness, there is always provided by the Evil One an opportune invitation to do wrong.
The Bible never said why the old prophet lied. He had his reasons. Likely jealousy, power, or greed, the usual sins behind why people lie. How devastating to know the old prophet used God as a cover in his lie!
As Coffman said above, the Man of God is not without culpability. He lingered, he listened to the old prophet, and he failed to seek verification of the message allegedly from God. He did not keep God first, but disobeyed God to satisfy an appetite. Soon after, he was killed on the road home by a lion.
Today there are a lot of the types of ‘old prophets’ running around claiming to be men and women of God and teaching lies. They say, ‘an angel from God told me to tell you’ … When you listen to one of today’s (false) Bible teachers, and they pronounce some kind of revelation from God they’ve allegedly received, it will be obscure and ambiguous. “I see a coming outpouring…” or “I believe that the Lord has placed it on my heart to tell you…”
Remember the clarity and precision with which the Man of God in this chapter pronounced God’s word to Jeroboam. It was given expressly, authenticated by a miraculous sign, and came true perfectly as stated 360 years later.
–The man (and woman) of God needs to keep God first.
–Obey God as exactly as possible.
–Be purposeful in our duties.
–When listening to other ‘men of God’, verify the message.
–There are people who claim to be of God who are just liars who work hard at catching you in order to speak lies and divert you (and me) from our duties.
–Let us not be caught lingering under a tree. Being purposeful and productive makes us harder to catch.
The warning for present-day Christians in this is clear enough. There are many pious, attractive, and pretentious religious propositions in our own times that, in the last analysis, are nothing but lies, dressed up with every plausible appearance of authenticity by the devices of Satan, but still unqualified lies. Coffman’s Commentary
The Old Testament is a wonderful wonderful book. I’ve been camped out on this chapter for two days and I barely scratched the surface of meaning and illumination. What a great gift the Bible is!