“And as they sat at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back. And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'” 1 Kings 13:20-22
This story out of the book of 1st Kings is a passage that confuses many of us. In all honesty, for a long time I couldn’t honestly admit I understood its implications or what exactly was supposed to be conveyed here.
We read the story of a prophet sent by the Lord to speak a harsh word of judgment against the backslidden kingdom of Judah. This young man operated mightily and prayed for the king’s leprous hand to be healed. He was clearly not a novice to the ministry!
The prophet went to Bethel and there he challenged King Jeroboam of Judah, delivered a word that the reader will see would come to pass generations after this concerning the later king Josiah’s reforms to the nation, but more notably he proclaimed judgment on the current king.
The moment Jeroboam tried to seize him, his hand was withered, and the prophet mercifully entreated the Lord and healed him. When the king sought to reward him and offered him a meal, the man refused and resisted, while repeating what the Lord had commanded him to do.
This prophet was unflinching in his focus to only do as the Lord commanded him, and refused to have any communion with wicked idolaters.
No doubt this would cause him either persecution or at the very least, inconvenience.
Too Bad The Story Doesn’t End There
The narrative changes focus and zeros in on this “old prophet” who lived in Bethel. It’s observable that the Lord did not use this old prophet to speak to the king. In fact, it’s clear he was unworthy of being used mightily of the Lord for the purpose of which the Lord had to send this other young prophet who still had character issues to be worked out.
This old prophet’s sons came and told him about what the other young prophet had done, such as the predictions he offered and the healing power he operated in. Why the sons of ‘the prophet’ were at the king’s sacrifices is pure speculation. It could have been as spectators, or maybe as participants.
When the old man rode his donkey to the place the young prophet was found, it should be noted the young man was sitting under an oak tree, likely fatigued since he was fasting and had been on a long journey as well. In his physically weak state it’s probable he was more vulnerable and impressionable.
The old prophet not only invited him to his house like the king had done, but deceived the man and claimed the Lord told him it was alright:
And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, for it was said to me by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.'” And he said to 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.'” But he lied to him. So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.
At first the man told the older prophet the same thing as he said to the king, only this time, a man who is supposed to be seasoned in the ministry of the prophetic — or at least wears the title — told him “no no, the Lord told me to tell you…”
Unfortunately such “the Lord told me” talk is a common form of manipulation in the Body of Christ. The older prophet used the “God card” and coerced the young man into obedience.
Each and every one of us will at some point face people we should be able to trust but who will throw the ‘God card’ at us in order to manipulate us to do their desires. Not only that, but the old man said an angel of the Lord spoke to him. The young prophet probably didn’t think he could argue that! However, verse 18 indicates the old man was lying. It might be possible that the man did hear from an angel — an angel of darkness seeking to discredit the young prophet’s ministry and destroy him early in his ministry. The old man, for whatever reason, was open game to it. Who knows for sure?
Now if you’re like any good charismatic, you’ve been told that you can prophesy accurately and be in sin. In fact, it’s commonly misbelieved that the sign of a false prophet is that they prophesy inaccurately. But what do we do with this man? He prophesied accurately and it cost the younger prophet his life.
In verse 20 the man who brought the young prophet back, at the dinner table stood up and told him:
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.‘”
Isn’t that interesting?
The deceiving prophet proclaimed a word from the Lord and it came to pass! And not only that, he had a word of knowledge about what the Lord told the young prophet.
Put that one in your Bible and read it!
When reading this passage, did you notice the young prophet just gets up from the table and goes on his way? If someone just prophesied to me that I disobeyed God and would be killed for it, I’m sure I’d be more concerned than that! Maybe the writer of this passage is simply omitting other details and forgot to write “and he left trembling in fear uncontrollably” but the text doesn’t specify or go into more detail than we have here.
Obey Your Leaders Without Question?
Sometimes the hardest people we must refuse to be persuaded by are those who are mature leaders or spiritual pioneers in our lives. Though it is important to be submissive to our leaders and to trust those who’ve gone before us in the Lord, they’re capable of being wrong! Not only that, they’re capable of being in sin or deceived. Recent headline news of scandals and leaders falling from grace make that abundantly clear.
It is very easy to fall for what leaders and people we look up to in our lives tell us.
It’s easy to fear contradicting people we should trust, and just believe what we’ve told and not ruffle any feathers or disappoint anyone we respect when we develop an understanding or convictions of our own.
I’ve been in situations before that will remain vague due to the fact I don’t know who may read this. I’ve run with a few different Christian circles the following applies to, so people may read this and believe I’m talking about them. I am, and I’m not. I’ve been told more than once in my life I was in rebellion to certain people or persons when I stepped out and obeyed and did what the Lord told me to do.
Or if you look at it from another angle, you could say I didn’t do someone else’s wishes because I could not in good conscience before the Lord.
In situations like these it’s very easy to be persuaded by the people who have gone before us or who wear spiritual titles because we trust they know better and are out for our best interests.
It’s easy to stand tall in a wicked society that rejects God, but it’s even harder to do so in the midst of a compromised Church.
It’s not so easy to resist people when they cast doubt on if we really heard the Lord or not, because they throw the “God told me” card—implying WE haven’t heard the Lord for ourselves if we contradict what the Lord allegedly told them. While I don’t judge the hearts or intentions of any such people, it bears noting that just because people older and mature in the Lord advise us to do or not do something does NOT guarantee they’re hearing from, or have heard from, the Lord.
They could be old useless prophets who’ve missed their calling and are encamped at Bethel, instead of having moved on. They could just be jealous and envious that you are willing to step out and be used mightily in ways that they are missing out on.
It’s a strong possibility.
“I Was Just Following Orders” Won’t Cut it On Judgment Day
I’ve been told a few times in my life — by people who sincerely believe this no doubt! — that “when you have authority over you and they tell you not to do something, even if it’s wrong, God will judge them and you’ll be protected so long as you stay under their authority”. Supposedly, even if they’re wrong, YOU won’t be affected by the judgment or consequence that falls on them.
Is such a notion Biblical, or even true if we look at history? What of the Nazi soldiers who committed unspeakable atrocities to Jews, and used as their defense “I was just following orders”? They did not avoid consequence for their actions and faced the death penalty and life sentences for their crimes.
We see in passages like this that such “covering” and “protection” teachings are not only untrue — even though someone listened to someone else more seasoned in the Lord tell them “God told me to tell you to do this” — but that there was still grave consequences for not obeying the direct word from the Lord he was initially given.
I know many believers who sincerely believe God will judge you if you disobey the orders of a so-called apostle or prophet — especially the former — because the way God has set up his “church government” you will venture into unsafe territory if you leave your “covering” of your pastor or apostolic ministry.
As we see in this passage it’s even more unsafe if you disobey the Lord — even while listening to a so-called leader or more experienced minister.
Who are you going to listen to?