The beauty of the history books of the Old Testament is that these sections of the inspired word of God give us a myriad of opportunities to see real men and women make godly or ungodly choices and so learn from them. I like to think of the history books as “narrative theology,” stories that implicitly teach the principles of living as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The historical book of 1 Kings begins with the rise of Solomon to the throne in Jerusalem and ends with the death of Ahab, one of the evilest kings of the northern kingdom of Israel. Almost in the middle, we find 1 Kings 13, which has the curious story of a man of God who declares the LORD’s message to Jeroboam and who then eats with another prophet of the LORD. Let’s take a look at the story.
After delivering his prophetic message from the LORD to King Jeroboam, the man of God refuses the king’s invitation to come to his home, because he has been “commanded by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came (13:9).’” So far, so good. The man of God has both delivered the LORD’s message to the king and he has refused to do what the Word of the LORD forbid him to do. The man of God then meets an old prophet who also invites him to come home with him and to eat bread. At first the man of God refuses, telling the old prophet what the word of the LORD forbids him to do (13:17). Still okay. But then the old prophet deceives the man of God and tells him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water (13:18).’” The man of God carelessly believes this deception, goes to the home of the old prophet, eats and drinks with him, and then is killed by a lion as a consequence of his disobedience.
The dominant theme of this narrative is the serious nature of disobedience.
THE MAN OF GOD’S DISOBEDIENCE
The man of God had directly received the word of the LORD (13:9) and he had understood the word of the LORD, for twice he articulates the word of the LORD that he had received (13:9, 17). Therefore, he was not unclear on the command and he even obeyed the command twice. Unfortunately, the old prophet introduced a third test with a twist. The man of God is not diligent or vigilant with the lie from the old prophet. Perhaps he thinks his mission is over, so he lets his guard down. But he should instead be alert because the enemy is constantly prowling (1 Peter 5:8) and constantly seeking to deceive to bring about ruin.
Next, the man of God forsakes the clearly revealed word of the LORD for a lie that directly contradicts the revealed word. Consider the nature of the old prophet’s deception so that you, too, will not be ruined by a similar lie. The man of God had received the word of the LORD directly, but the old prophet claimed that he got the word of the LORD from an angel.
Here is the principle: The word of the LORD always comes directly, and messages from an angel are always suspect (Galatians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 11:14; Joseph Smith claimed to receive his Mormon message from an angel; Mohammed supposedly received the Koran from the angel Gabriel). We have, in the Bible, the directly revealed word of the LORD. Thus, any truth claim is always evaluated based on how well it agrees with the directly revealed word of God. If there is disagreement with the word of God, and especially if there is direct contradiction to the Word, the other truth claim is a deception. It is a lie coming from the father of lies (John 8:44) and it is to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). The man of God made this fundamental mistake: he forsook the clearly revealed word of the LORD for a lie (Romans 1:25). We must not make this mistake.
THE DANGER OF DISOBEDIENCE
Mark it down: The LORD takes disobedience to His word very seriously. We may forget this because we so often receive mercy and patience from the Lord. It may seem to us that the Lord always acts toward us with patience and forbearance (Romans 2:4), and we may forget that the only reason the Lord ever withholds His judgment from our disobedience is His grace. But while the LORD may be gracious toward us and show us patience when we are disobedient, He may also bring swift judgment and wrath. And this applies to unbelievers and to believers (Romans 13:5; Colossians 3:25). For this reason, the disciple is to fear the LORD and to tremble before His justice and is to be ever diligent to obey His Word. Consider these scriptural examples of how the LORD has dealt with disobedience in judgment:
• Saul thought he could obey the LORD on his own terms (1 Samuel 15, especially verses 22-23), so the LORD tore the kingdom from him.
• Uzzah just put his hand out to steady the teetering ark of the covenant and the LORD struck him dead (2 Samuel 6:6-7).
• Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, put strange fire in their censers and were consumed by fire before the LORD (Leviticus 10:1-2).
• David’s disobedience with Bathsheba and Uriah resulted in the death of four of his sons and having his kingdom taken away for a time by Absalom.
• Ananias and Sapphira both died (Acts 5) because they lied to the Lord, the Spirit.
• Moses was denied entrance into the Promised Land because of his one disobedience in striking the rock at Meribah (Numbers 20:11-13).
• Adam plunged the entire human race into sin because of his one act of disobedience (Genesis 2:17; 3:6; Romans 5:12-19).
In most of these cases, the LORD gave no warning of His sudden judgment, and the things that elicited His wrath often seemed minor. Nevertheless, God’s justice is perfect, and His judgments are just.
Just so, in the case of the man of God, it may seem that his offense was almost trivial, and that he was even tricked into his disobedience. But what may seem to us to be a small infraction is, in fact, open rebellion and disobedience to the word of the LORD. The LORD of the universe has spoken His word, and all mankind is obligated to hear and obey. The glory and the authority of the One who has issued His Word establishes the haughty defiance of any disobedience. When YHWH speaks, man is to listen and is to diligently obey, and anything less that diligent obedience is open rebellion.
My conviction is that this narrative in 1 Kings 13 is in the word of God to again remind us of how seriously the Lord takes disobedience to His Word. Since the LORD has revealed His Word in the Bible, all men everywhere are accountable to obey the revealed Word. Therefore,
• We must know the Word, so that we are familiar with the commands and what the Lord expects from His disciples in obedience.
• We must strive to understand what obedience to the commands looks like. We must meditate on the Word (Psalm 1:2) so we can know what it means.
• We must be alert and diligent to obey the Word. This is said well in Psalm 119:11:
“I have stored up Your Word in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.”
• Realizing that the LORD takes obedience to His word very seriously, let us develop a hunger and a thirst for obedience.
• Rejoice in the fact that we, as disciples of Jesus, are now ABLE TO OBEY the Word.
• It glorifies the Lord when His adopted children are evidently obedient (John 14:21).
SDG rmb 5/20/2020