Saturday, February 27, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 27. The Prophet And The Man Of God

Prophets And Kings
Day 27
The Prophet And The Man Of God

Yesterday a man of God came up to Bethel from Judah to warn Jeroboam bouts the judgment to come for worshippin idols and sacrificin on pagan altars. Today the story of the man of God takes a strange turn as him meets up wif an old prophet.

1 KINGS 13:11-34
"Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king." (1 Kings 13:11) This mans sons must have been in the assembly when Jeroboam made sacrifice at Bethel that day because they know everything that happened there. Apparently the old man stayed home from this pagan festival, maybe in protest over the sinfulness of Jeroboam's kingdom.

"Their father asked them, 'Which way did he go?' And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken. So he said to his sons, 'Saddle the donkey for me.' And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, 'Are you the man of God who came from Judah?' 'I am,' he replied. So the prophet said to him, 'Come home with me and eat.'" (1 Kings 13:12-15) The old prophet wants to sit down and enjoy a meal with a kindred soul, someone like himself who has not abandoned the God of Israel. We can imagine how lonely this old man was in the new kingdom with its new gods and new priests. Even his own sons went down to the pagan festival, so not even his family is in the faith with him. 

But the man of God tells him the same thing he told the king when Jeroboam invited him for a meal, "The man of God said, 'I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: 'You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.'" (1 Kings 13:16-17)

Here is where things take a strange turn. The old prophet lies to the man of God in order to persuade him to go home with him. "The old prophet answered, 'I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by word of the Lord: 'Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.' (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house." (1 Kings 13:18-19) The Bible doesn't explain why the old prophet lied and in my research I found several different opinions on what his motives might have been. I tend to disagree with the few who think the old prophet had bad motives toward the man of God. Instead I think his desire to talk with him and learn the future of Israel was so strong he was willing to say anything. 

What he says here is very important, I think, in figuring out his motivations, "I too am a prophet, as you are." Probably at one time he was a legitimate and well known prophet, but we get the impression that he had given up and gone home. There's no indication he was standing up and speaking out against the idolatry in the nation. He has somehow failed to impart his faith on his own sons and has lost control of his household, similar to how the high priest Eli once was a good priest but gave up and failed to keep control over his own household. I think this prophet is a "has been". He is no longer receiving revelations from the Lord because he is no longer standing firm for the Lord. His soul thirsts to hear the word of God and this is why he wants the man to come home with him. But since the man of God refused the dinner invitation, the prophet isn't above lying to get what he wants. So when he says, "I too am a prophet, as you are," this actually a bigger lie because he no longer is a prophet like the man of God.

We aren't told the age of the man of God but maybe he was a lot younger than the old prophet and this is why he falls for the lie, especially if the old prophet is a well known figure. The man of God may have looked up to the older man in respect, trusting his words. I feel sympathy for the younger man, although he's making a terrible mistake. He knows that the Lord Himself spoke to him when sending him up to Bethel. Why then would the Lord change His instructions? And if the Lord did change His instructions, why wouldn't He personally speak to the man of God again instead of speaking through someone else? The punishment for this disobedience will be harsh, which is why I don't think the old prophet intended harm, but I do think the old prophet has fallen far enough from the Lord that he is letting himself be used in Satan's plot to have the man of God killed. We should be immediately on guard whenever anybody gives us advice that contradicts the word of God. This passage reminds me of the serpent talking to Eve in the garden. He planted doubt in her mind by saying, "Did God really say you must not eat from any tree in the garden?" (Genesis 3:1) The man of God from Judah was doing God's work and I think the devil wants him taken out of the way. The devil would like all of Israel destroyed by God for their sins, both the northern and southern kingdoms, to prevent Messiah from coming as predicted. He knows that eventually the southern kingdom of Judah will also fall into the idolatry trap if things are allowed to continue as they are. The last thing he wants is for a man of God to preach until the people repent. The old lazy prophet who hasn't maintained a close relationship with God is a pawn in the devil's hand.

"While they were sitting at the table, the word of the Lord came to the old prophet who had brought him back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, 'This is what the Lord says: 'You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where He told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.'" (1 Kings 13:20-22) I bet this is the first time the old prophet has heard the voice of God in many years. I wonder which of the men was more surprised by this revelation. The man of God has fallen for a lie and knows it now. The old prophet knows he has led the younger man into temptation and harm, because there's no doubt in his mind that he truly hears the word of the Lord as they sit at the table. He hasn't yet forgotten what the voice of the Lord sounds like. 

"When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it. Some people who passed by saw the body lying there, with the lion standing beside the body, and they went and reported it in the city where the old prophet lived." (1 Kings 13:23-25) The prophecy that the man of God would not be buried with his ancestors was ambiguous enough that he didn't know it meant he would die today in a city far from home. It was a distressing prediction because it would have been very important for this man to know his bones would rest with those of his ancestors in the family tomb. Don't we feel it's important to be buried with our loved ones? Aren't we kind of bothered by the thought of somehow ending up buried among strangers? The man of God doesn't know his doom will come today but the judgment of God is swift in the matter of his disobedience. We find in the Scriptures that God often hands down particularly harsh discipline on His people who hold high spiritual or political positions in the nation. They are calling themselves by His name and have a great deal of influence on the people, but they are not living up to who they claim to be. They are misrepresenting the God they serve. Because of their power over the people, God has to make a public example at times to keep them from leading the nation astray. He judged the sins of David quite harshly because, as the prophet Nathan said, he had given an excuse for people to mock the name of God. People could laugh and say, "See, these godly people aren't any better than the rest of us and their God isn't any better than our gods." 

The author is careful to tell us that the lion doesn't harm the donkey. The lion also doesn't harm the people passing by. He wants us to understand that the death of the man of God by the lion is divine judgment. The lion isn't there to harm anyone or anything but this one man.

"When the prophet who had brought him back from his journey heard of it, he said, 'It is the man of God who defied the word of the Lord. The Lord has given him over to the lion, which has mauled him and killed him, as the word of the Lord had warned him.' The prophet said to his sons, 'Saddle the donkey for me,' and they did so. Then he went out and found the body lying on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. The lion had neither eaten the body nor mauled the donkey. So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, 'Alas, my brother!'" (1 Kings 13:26-30) The prophet knows he was instrumental in this man's death and I think he feels an almost unbearable guilt. We may wonder why the Lord judged the man of God more swiftly than He judged the old prophet for what happened today, but a clue could be that the old prophet was no longer in a position to be used by the Lord. He had stopped doing the Lord's work. Faced with the changing times and the rampant idolatry, he went home and gave up instead of speaking out against it. But in some ways maybe the judgment of the old prophet was worse, because day and night for however long he lives he will know he is responsible for the death of a good man. He will bear the heavy burden of murderous guilt for the rest of his life. The most he can do to try and make up for it is give the man of God a proper burial in his own tomb. It's too late to do anything else for him.

"After burying him, he 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 he declared by the word of the Lord against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.'" (1 Kings 13:31-32) The old prophet respects the man of God so much that he wants to be buried in the same tomb with him. After all, by the time the old prophet dies, there may not be many godly people left to share a tomb with. His own sons seem to be involved with the new ways, not the old ways. 

The king must have heard about all these happenings but none of it has any effect on him. "Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways, but once more appointed priests for the high places from all sorts of people. Anyone who wanted to become a priest he consecrated for the high places. This was the sin of the house of Jeroboam that led to its downfall and to its destruction from the face of the earth." (1 Kings 13:33-34) 

When the prophecy of the man of God comes true in the time of King Josiah, the tomb mentioned today is still there. The king's zeal for the Lord is so great that he takes the bones of all the wicked priests out of their tombs and burns them on the pagan altar to defile it from further use. He then spots a particular tomb, "The king asked, 'What is that tombstone I see?' The people of the city said, 'It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.' 'Leave it alone,' he said. 'Don't let anyone disturb his bones.' So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria." (2 Kings 23:17-18) The man of God and the old prophet both sinned against the Lord, but neither renounced Him. Neither lost their salvation and their hope in the resurrection. But they did lose their ability to be useful for the kingdom of God. In Christ, we whom He has "saved to the uttermost" need not fear our salvation being wrenched away from us, but we do need to make sure we remain in a place of usefulness to our Lord. We need to be vigilant about maintaining our daily relationship with Him so we aren't deceived as the man of God and the old prophet were today. The man of God was deceived because he trusted in the words of the prophet more than he trusted in what the Lord had personally said to him. The old prophet was deceived because he had become spiritually lazy and had given up on doing anything else for the Lord in his later years. I don't believe either lost their salvation but they did endure discipline. This could be why we are never even told their names; the author of 1st Kings didn't feel they should be given the privilege of being named in the word of God. King Josiah, a man who turns the nation back to the Lord, shows these men honor by respecting their tombs and I don't think he would do so if he thought they were apostates. 

We will conclude with a passage written by the Apostle Paul who is speaking to those who are saved in Christ. He speaks of our works being judged, not our souls being judged. He speaks of reward and loss of reward, but not loss of salvation for the Christian. He says our works will be tested and, "If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved." (1 Corinthians 3:14-15a)

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