This morning I read the account in I Kings 13 of the prophet who visits Jeroboam. This prophet had an important message. God was not happy with Jeroboam's idolatry and judgement was going to come.
There's a lot of interesting things about this event. I heard a sermon (I believe it was at Camp YES) that highlighted the fact that initially Jeroboam was furious at the man of God, but when God punished him by disabling his hand, Jeroboam immediately turned to the prophet for help. The point being that even though Jeroboam didn't like what the man of God had to say, when trouble came, he knew that only God could help him. Even those living in disobedience to God know that they need God in their time of crisis. So, why not just follow God to begin with...?
Today as I was reading this chapter, I was struck by a thought from the end of this story. After the man of God does all his pronouncing of judgement and then subsequent healing of Jeroboam's hand, we see him taking a firm stand against staying at the palace when Jeroboam asked him to tarry. Why? Because God had commanded him to immediately return to his home and not stop anywhere on the way. A few verses later we see a similar invitation extended to this prophet from a fellow prophet who was older than him. The older prophets invitation was much like Jeroboam's. A place to stay and some food and probably good fellowship. I'm sure two prophets of God would have lots to talk about. We already know that God had forbidden the younger prophet from stopping along his journey. Jeroboam's invitation didn't entice him to disobey God, and Jeroboam even offered him a reward! However, something about the older prophet caused the younger prophet to disobey God's clear word. What was it? What was different about these two invitations that one could be so resolutely refused and the other accepted?
I think it was because the younger prophet trusted the older prophet, and why shouldn't he? The older prophet was older. That means he was probably more established in the faith, closer to God, more experienced. He also said he had a word from God, although, his word did contradict what the younger prophet had already been told by God. But, that wasn't such a big deal. After all, wouldn't God be more likely to speak to an older, more experienced, more spiritual prophet than to the younger prophet? Sadly, this story doesn't end well. We find out that the older prophet lied on purpose, and the younger prophet suffers the consequences for disobeying the clear word that God gave him. That consequence was his death. Wouldn't it have been better to obey?
The lesson I learned from this today is that often temptation doesn't come to the Christian through the obvious source. The prophet knew that Jeroboam was not to be trusted. After all, he was there pronouncing a judgement against him. When Jeroboam asked him to stay it was easy to say no, because Jeroboam was already disobeying God. However, when the exact same temptation to disobey came from a trusted source, the prophet gave in. Many times we will withstand temptation from the world, because we know that they are wanting us to do wrong and sinful things, but often we will fall to sin because of being led astray by those we trusted, or at least thought we could trust. How sad. But, I've seen this happen. I've seen Christians led into sinful things they probably never would have done if it weren't for other Christians who were doing it. In fact, this has even happened to me.
Another lessons I learned from this account is never, ever, ever, EVER doubt what God says in His Word. People can't be trusted. Even spiritual leaders (pastors, Sunday school teachers, etc.) will let us down. The younger prophet SHOULD HAVE been able to trust the older prophet, but the truth was he couldn't. If he had stuck to what GOD told him, he wouldn't have died. We need to do the same thing. We absolutely cannot ever doubt God's Word. When men and women try to convince us of something different we need to reject that teaching. Even if they are men and women we trust. I think a lot of Christians are led into a lot of bad things because they are afraid to question, and because they blindly trust their leaders. After all, we've been taught to respect our pastors and to submit to them. We've been taught that they know the truth and they will teach us the truth. I'm not saying that we should discount everything they say, nor am I saying to be disrespectful. I'm not saying that at all! But, blind trust in a person is not wise, and we need to be sure that the words we are hearing from people are matching what God said in His Word. If the younger prophet had just tested what the older prophet told him against God's Word, he would have saved his life. It's that simple.