HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
A SAD, SAD STORY
Stories, whether happy or sad, are powerful means by which extremely important lessons can be learned. In the Old Testament book of I Kings, chapter 13, there is an especially sad and poignant story that packs a powerful punch with reference to understanding and faithfully performing the will of the Lord.
An unnamed prophet of God was sent by the Lord from Judah to Bethel in the northern apostate kingdom of Israel to speak against it. Following an incident in which the prophet from Judah healed the withered hand of Jeroboam, the evil king of Israel, Jeroboam invited the prophet to come home with him, refresh himself, and receive a reward from the king.
“But the man of God said, ‘If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, “You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.”‘ So he went another way and did not return by the way he came to Bethel” (I Kings 13:8-10).
There is no question but that the prophet clearly understood what the will of the Lord was in this matter!
Now in the town of Bethel there was an old prophet whose sons told him all that the prophet from Judah had done and the words he had spoken to the king. The old prophet asked his sons, “Which way did he go?” Learning the route of the prophet, the old prophet commanded his sons to saddle his donkey for him, and he went after the man of God from Judah and asked him to come back home with him and eat bread.
The prophet from Judah explained to the old prophet why he could not do that: the word of the Lord forbade him doing so. But the old prophet said, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’ But he lied to him” (verse 18, emphasis mine).
Based on the old prophet’s lie, the man from Judah returned with the prophet to his house and ate and drank with him.
“Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, ‘Eat no bread and drink no water,’ your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers’ ” ‘ ” (verses 20-22).
The prophet from Judah again begins his journey home. On the way, he is met by a lion that kills him. His corpse is left on the road, with his donkey and the lion standing by the corpse.
Word came to the old prophet in Bethel of what had happened, and he went and recovered the corpse. “Then he laid the corpse in his own tomb; and they mourned over him, saying, ‘Alas, my brother’ ” (verse 30).
What an incredibly sad story. The man of God from Judah knew his mission and perfectly understood the instructions of the Lord with reference to carrying out the mission. However, he allowed himself to be deceived by an old prophet (perhaps as a test from God to see if he really would do exactly what God told him to do). The old prophet in Bethel deceived the prophet from Judah by saying, “An angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord.”
In the New Testament, the apostle Paul warned, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Any message contrary to the gospel message vouchsafed to us in the New Testament is a false message, constitutes “another gospel,” and is to be rejected, regardless of its professed source of origin.
It is noteworthy that the writer of I Kings was careful to point out that the old prophet lied to the prophet from Judah: “But he lied to him” (I Kings 13:18). In a sobering text in the New Testament, Paul spoke of those who “did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved,” and went on to say, “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2:10-12).
As the prophet from Judah was tricked into believing a lie, many today have been sent a “strong delusion” and have believed religious lies. And they take greater pleasure in believing these lies than they do in believing the truth.
Because of a “strong delusion” and the desire to believe what one has already made up his or her mind to believe, we gain insight into why there are so many conflicting religious notions and so much religious error and confusion in the world. Many people have been deceived by Satan’s lies and choose to believe them rather than to believe what God’s word actually says. How sad, how so very, very sad!
“Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
January 14, 2014