By Donald P. Ames
Frequently we approach a passage and see but one good lesson in it. 1 Kings 13 is often thusly used. But I’m convinced there are other lessons therein we also need to consider all related to the horribleness of sin.
The Man Of God
The most popular character in this passage is a prophet whom we don’t even know. He is unnamed, but not unknown. God sent him to prophesy against the northern kingdom of Israel for their apostasy, and he set out from Judah to Bethel to fulfill God’s mission. God was indeed with him, and instructed him to cry out that the very altar upon which they offered their sacrifices to idols would be the place of sacrifice for the bodies of the pagan priests themselves. As proof of such, the altar was to be split in two and was as a sign from God. Jeroboam did not like the message, and ordered the prophet to be seized; but God withered up his hand so he was unable to move it. After entreating the man of God, the king’s hand was re-stored again. He sought to reward the prophet, and invited him home to a feast; but the prophet told Jeroboam God had ordered him to neither eat nor drink in the country and that he was also to return by a different route than he had come, and thus he departed faithful to his instructions from God.
I’m sure an invitation by the king himself would have been a tempting offer, and one would be forced to weigh it very carefully before refusing, lest the king become even more upset. But this man of God was interested in pleasing someone even greater than King Jeroboam! He had courage and dedication, and for such is to be commended. He had faithfully completed his task of prophesying, and for that was also to be commended. It could have cost him his life, being imprisoned, or some other tragedy; but he had successfully resisted the temptation to worry about such, and had faithfully sought to do his duty. His message was plain, forceful, and unmistakable. Truly he had accomplished a great feat!
But, we must also remember the devil is not one to give up easily. Even though the man of God had met this big temptation to yield, resisted, and was now on his way home exactly as God had prescribed, Satan had a matter he also wanted to settle he wanted to destroy this man of God who had so devastated his foothold! And he was not going to give up that easily! And with a great victory behind him, the man of God was on his way home “free.” That is when the other prophet got involved and invited him back to eat. He even lied (13:18), and said God said it was OK.
How many times do we meet the big temptations, only to get tripped up on the little ones later? The man of God for-got to ask God, and feeling he had done all God wanted (and perhaps even that this was God’s reward), returned to eat and perished before he returned home for his disobedience. It did not matter that he had faithfully done all God said up to that point. It did not matter that the prophet had lied, and he apparently sincerely believed he was OK to return. It did not matter that he had acted in ignorance be-cause he had forgotten to ask God first (cf. Acts 3:17, 17:30-31). He perished because he had not remained faithful to the end!
He had not asked God about a change in plans previously made known (even though God had placed a warning there. If this prophet was speaking for God, why had God not used him instead to cry out against Israel?). He failed to be “faithful unto death” (Rev. 2:10).
Never underestimate the devil! He does not give up easily, and when we think we have done something great for God, he is still trying to throw a monkey wrench in the works. He knows the past will not save a man if he stumbles on down the road (Ezek. 18:24). And we cannot “balance the record” when such happens, nor point back to the great things we have done. We cannot argue, “God, I didn’t know;” for his word has clearly informed us of his will. And though we may take off and hope we can escape the consequences of our actions, “be not deceived, God is not mocked” (Gal. 6:7). This great man of God goes down nameless, but not forgotten. Let us truly learn his lesson today, lest we too come to the same sad end.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 15, p. 5
August 1, 1996