The unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 13 started out like a lot of Christians today. The Bible may not record his name, but he had a calling and a purpose for God in his time. But this guy’s story did NOT have a happy ending. It’s a cautionary tale for all of us who name the name of Jesus and seek to be of service to Him in this life. God can and will test His servants, and the enemy is all too willing to bring deception into the mix. It’s up to us to keep our eyes open for the devil’s lies and to remain steadfast to the Word of the Lord.
A Man of God on a Mission
The story begins in 1 Kings 13. A man of God from Judah with no other name visits King Jeroboam of Israel with a message of judgement. For political reasons, Jeroboam had set up an altar in Bethel. He was afraid that if the children of Israel went back to Jerusalem to worship God, the place God had designated for that purpose, they would also go back to David as their king. So, he set up two golden calves and led all of Israel into idolatry.
On that day, caught in the act of burning incense on this unauthorized altar, Jeroboam was dismayed at the prophet’s words. 1 Kings 13:2 says, “…O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’” The prophecy did come to pass some 350 years later. But the sign that it would happen occurred that very day. The altar split apart, spilling ashes on the ground.
In his anger, Jeroboam pointed at the prophet and ordered his arrest. But God immediately shriveled Jeroboam’s hand in retribution. In panic, Jeroboam begged the man of God to entreat the Lord for his healing. The prophet prayed, and God restored his hand, thereby showing both the severity and mercy of God. (Sadly enough, Jeroboam did not receive the message that day and continued in his idolatry.)
A Dinner Invitation and Three Wins
In gratitude for the prophet’s prayer, Jeroboam invited the prophet to eat and drink at his house. The prophet was adamant, however, that God had given him clear instructions. He was not to eat or drink and was to return a different way than he had come. He said, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place” (1 Kings 13:8). (The discerning reader will recognize foreshadowing here.)
The prophet started out with three very big “wins.” First, he received and successfully delivered a message from God to a sitting king. That took courage. Second, He prayed to God for Jeroboam’s healing and received it. Third, he stood strong in the face of the very blatant temptation by Jeroboam to eat, drink, and rest in the luxury provided by God’s enemy.
But Here’s Where the Story Goes Wrong
If the prophet had left Jeroboam and just kept on going right out of Bethel and back to Judah, the story would have a very different ending. But he didn’t keep going. He stopped to rest under an oak tree, and it wasn’t long before an old prophet of Bethel found him there. Earlier that day, the old prophet had heard from his sons that the man of God had prophesied destruction and headed out of town that way. When he caught up with him, he delivered an almost identical invitation to Jeroboam. “Come home with me and eat bread” (1 Kings 13:15).
Just as he had with Jeroboam, the man of God declined the offer. He repeated God’s warning to him not to eat bread or drink water on his mission. Then the old prophet lied to him. He told him that an angel from God had brought him a message that the man of God should come back to his house and dine with him. The man of God believed him and disobeyed the Word of the Lord.
The story ends when, in the middle of dinner, the Lord sent a true Word to the old prophet. Because of the man of God’s disobedience, he would not be buried with his fathers. Just a short time later, the man of God was attacked by a lion on his way out of town on the donkey the old prophet had given him. The donkey wasn’t hurt, and his corpse wasn’t consumed. In fact, the lion, the donkey, and the corpse stood in the road as a kind of memorial until the old prophet came and took the man of God’s corpse away to bury in his own tomb.
3 Tactics of the Enemy to Turn Us Away from God
As many faithful servants of God can attest, the enemy will often attack his greatest threats the hardest. He can even use other well-meaning servants of God to do it, and God will allow it to test our focus and resolve. Here are three tactics the enemy uses to get us to turn our eyes from what God has told us to do.
1. Insecurity (“Hath God said?”)
In the story, the man of God wasn’t tempted when Jeroboam invited him to eat. He saw the clear distinction between what God had told him to do and what the “enemy” was offering. But when an older prophet, maybe one who presented himself as having more experience and knowledge in the things of God, offered the same exact deal, the man of God may have started to question.
Did God change His mind? Did He send an angel? Does this seasoned man of God know something I don’t? But God doesn’t change His mind in the middle of a mission and certainly not without letting His people know. Galatians 1:8 tells us not to believe anyone who changes God’s words. “Even if an angel from heaven preach a different gospel, let him be accursed.” When we have a directive from God, it’s up to us to see it through and seek confirmation for ourselves about any changes.
After three big wins, the man of God was on a roll. When the old prophet offered him an alternative plan to eat and relax, could he have reasoned that surely God wanted to reward him for doing such a good job? Could he have thought himself so useful to God that even if he was disobeying at that moment, it would all be okay because God would forgive him? (God forbid!)
But being used by God doesn’t somehow make us immune to the same punishments others receive for disobedience. In fact, the prophet’s punishment was far greater than either Jeroboam (whose kingdom wasn’t judged until after his death) or the lying old prophet (whom God used to prophesy the prophet’s end). We must never let being used by God go to our heads. Successes in the past won’t save us from God’s displeasure if we fail to keep His Words.
Was it a coincidence that the old prophet caught up to the man of God when he was sitting under an oak tree? God uses the simile “strong as oaks” in Amos 2:9. And in Isaiah 1:30, God says to His people who are in idolatry, “For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water.” Here, we see a picture of someone who was formerly strong but now in decline. He wasn’t focused on his mission for God. Instead, he had stopped to rest, to indulge his flesh. When the old prophet offered a plausible story that immediately gratified his need for physical comfort, he was quick to change his plans. We must careful not to let our flesh take control of our actions when there are spiritual stakes at hand.
We Must Be On Guard
Whatever the reason the man of God had for disobeying God’s clear instructions, the consequences from God were swift and severe. Satan’s greatest weapon is deception, and he plays on our insecurity, pride, and fleshly desires to get us to disobey God. But finishing the race is the only way we will be able to earn the prize. We must keep a clear focus on Jesus and what He has told us to do. We must watch for the tactics of the enemy.
Like to look closer at Scripture? Try 2 Kings 18: When the Enemy Offers to Leave You Alone or Twinkly Trash: A Closer Look at Job 28. Please sign up to receive my blog in your inbox. You can find that at the upper right of your screen (or at the bottom on a phone). Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud. I also have a playlist of hymns from my church.