By Donald P. Ames
As we continue our study, we have noted the man of God and the tragedy that befell him. Now let us consider some other lessons that we can also learn from this chapter.
The Other Prophet
What do we really know about this other prophet? He was old (13:11). He knew about Jehovah. And he was a prophet! Maybe at one time he too had thought about speaking against Jeroboam, only to decline when he considered what it might cost him. Whatever may have happened, God did not select him as a reliable witness to carry his message to Jeroboam.
And why did he lie to the man of God (13:18)? Surely he knew the difference! Or, could it have been that he also lied to himself (2 Thess. 2:11-12)? Could it be that he wanted to visit with the man of God so badly, he actually convinced himself God was going to approve of his actions? How many times do we try to deceive ourselves even in the face of obvious facts (13:16-17, cf. James 1:22-27). Sometimes we feel we can get by with a little “white” lie and no one will ever know (Rom. 3:8). How easily we forget a lie is still a lie to God regardless of what “color” we may claim it is. It is still a lie, whether we falsely convince ourselves, only tell half of the truth (Acts 5), or deliberately lie with the full realization of what we are doing (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 1 John 4:1). When he later prophesied the death of the man of God, I wonder if the full depth of his own involvement also sunk in (Matt. 18:7). Truly he had much to answer for.
Certainly he is also a clear reminder that we should not believe every man who claims to speak for God. Some will lie deliberately. Some are servants of money rather than God. Some may be honestly self-deceived. But no man can stand up in the day of judgment and say, “It was all his fault.” God has told us his will, and we are the ones who must answer for whether or not we have done it.
And when God clearly says one thing, and man says something else, someone is wrong! And you can rest assured, it is not God! Had this great man of God but taken a few moments to consult with God, his life would have been spared. Maybe this prophet just coveted the presence of the man of God. Maybe he felt if the man of God could just come and visit, that would wipe away all those years of failure. Is this not implied when he also sought to be buried in the same tomb along side the man of God (13:31)? How many have you known who have never obeyed the gospel, yet felt if they could just “run in the company” of a good Christian, that would make them OK? It may be a man/ woman who brags about what a great Christian their spouse is. Or their parents. Or even their kids. Or neighbor. If only we could learn the lesson no one else can get us into heaven (see Ezek. 14:14, 20; Jer. 15:1). Each of us is going to have to answer for our own actions (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 14:12).
But notice also when the sad news of the death of the man of God was received, he set about to try to make amends by bringing him back, burying him in his own tomb, and mourning for him. But alas, it was too late! He cried, “Alas, my brother” (13:30). If only he could do some-thing to undo what he had done! If only he could have another chance! But sometimes we learn too late there is no way we can undo the harm we have caused. Many a parent has wept and prayed over an unfaithful child or loved one. “If only I had obeyed sooner!” “If only I had not started him down the wrong road.” “If only I had realized what I was doing then!” “If only …”
But even in this tragedy, the purpose of God is accomplished! Realizing the evil he had caused, and still seeking justification by association in his plans for his own death, he also reconfirmed God’s promise against Israel spoken by the man of God “For the saying which he cried out by the word of the Lord . . . will surely come to pass” (13:32). How sad that it sometimes takes the death of one we admire to finally enable us to speak against the evil about us. Has it suddenly changed? No, it was always evil! But when it finally “affects us,” we realize the need to speak out! But by then it may fall on deaf ears, as it did in this case.
No amount of longing, association, or mourning with-out true repentance is going to make us right in the eyes of God. He may use us as a warning to others of the consequences of sin (cf. Jude 5-11), but we shall indeed answer for our sins (John 5:28-29; Rom. 14:12). Don’t wait until you shed tears of remorse for those you have hurt to decide to change your way of living! Now is the only time you have use it wisely in God’s behalf!
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 16, p. 15
August 15, 1996