What can we learn from the man of God and the lying prophet?Question: "What can we learn from the man of God and the lying prophet?"
Answer: In 1 Kings 13 we read of a person called only a “man of God” who was sent by the Lord from Judah to prophesy against King Jeroboam of Israel. He declared, “O altar, altar, thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you’” (verse 2). The unnamed prophet also gave a sign: “Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out” (verse 3).
Jeroboam sought to seize the man, “but the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back” (1 Kings 13:4). At the same moment, “the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the Lord” (verse 5). The king asked for the man of God to pray for him and his hand. When the man of God healed the king’s hand, the king attempted to reward him, but the man of God replied, “So was it commanded me by the word of the LORD, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came’” (verse 9).
This man of God was careful to keep God’s three-fold command. He ate nothing and drank nothing, and he began to walk a different way home. However, on his way home, another, older prophet came to him, saying, “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’” (verse 18). But this second prophet was lying. No angel had visited him, and God had not spoken to him regarding the matter. But the man of God believed the old prophet and went home with him. At supper the old prophet suddenly received a true word from God: “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 13:21–22). When the man of God left, “a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body” (verse 24).
The prophet who had lied buried the man of God in his own grave and instructed his own sons to, upon his death, bury him beside the man of God. In doing these things, the old prophet showed his sincere belief that the prophet who died had been a true man of God—his prophecies against the idolaters of Israel would come true (1 Kings 13:31–32).
This account concludes with a note on the king’s stubborn refusal to obey: “After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth” (1 Kings 13:33–34).
So we have a prophet who lied and a prophet who died. In this account we see that both the godly and the ungodly face consequences for disobedience to the Lord. The evil king faced judgment because of his idolatry. And the man of God likewise faced judgment for his disobedience. No one is above the rules.
We also see that sometimes temptations come from surprising quarters. The king tempted the man of God to break God’s command, but the man of God refused. His guard was up, and there was no way he would disobey God for the sake of dining with an evil king. However, when a fellow prophet tempted the man of God to sin, he gave in. His guard was let down, and he did disobey God for the sake of dining with a (seemingly) genuine prophet.
When God speaks, the matter is settled. There is never an excuse for disobeying God’s Word. Even a fellow believer—even an angel descending from heaven—cannot nullify God’s Word (cf. Galatians 1:8–9).
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What can we learn from the man of God and the lying prophet?