1 Kings 13:14-22 (ESV)
14 And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15 Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16 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, 17 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.’ ” 18 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. 19 So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water.
20 And as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21 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, 22 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.’ ”
In this strange passage of 1 Kings, we meet a prophet of God. The man, in the verses before this section, called out the judgment of God on the northern kingdom and on Jeraboam, the wicked king who was setting up an idolatrous altar.
God sent the prophet to the north on a mission and with some specific instructions. The instructions included that the prophet was not allowed to eat food or drink even water while within the borders of the northern kingdom. This would be an uncomfortable but not impossible task.
Suddenly the prophet from the south meets a man from the north. The northern man tells the prophet from the south that he too has heard from God. He tells the man from the south that God has told him that the southerner was to join him for a meal within the borders of the northern kingdom. And the southern prophet sits down to dinner.
The problem is, the man from the north was lying. He had no word from God. He wanted to mislead the southern prophet. And he succeeded. The southern prophet’s refusal to follow the clearly-given command of God results in his death.
How often is it that the command of God and its clarity is not at all our issue? How often is it that we look for ways not to follow Scripture simply because we do not want to? How often do we, when life gets uncomfortable, look for someone who will tell us what we want to hear, that our desires are OK and we have obviously not understood Scripture rightly?
I once remarked that the process of tuning a guitar string for me was like what I see many believers, including myself, do. I pluck the string and check the tuner’s answer. I then ask again and again and again until I get an answer I like. Then I stop asking. And I’ve certainly seen the same thing among church members.
A simple example is often in matters of the heart. A Christian woman desires to date a man whose life shows no genuine evidence of conversion. The Scripture obviously forbids Christians from marrying non-believers. The woman asks people if they think it is OK for her to date the man. She wants to. She feels deep down that it is God’s will for her to date this guy. Regardless of the direct command of Scripture against the pairing, she asks person after person after person until she runs across one person who will tell her that what she wants to do is OK. Then, armed with confirmation, she begins a relationship that leads to her hurt and which goes against the commands of the Lord.
There is no doubt that you can come across somebody who will tell you that the Bible supports just about anything you want. Those who do not care about honest biblical interpretation, contextual analysis, and faithful hermeneutics are easy to find. People who will compromise the teachings of the word for the sake of their strongly felt desires are all over the place. If we are honest, all of us will be tempted to read what we want in the word.
But, if we want to honor God, we have to let the word of God speak for itself. We have to interpret the text as its authors and its Author intended. We have to be faithful and find the true, genuine, honest commands of God. Then we are called to obey.
And do not let yourself pretend that the Bible is too hard to understand simply because there are people out there that will twist it. So very much of the Bible is crystal clear. Yes, there are hard topics. But, for the most part, the Bible is blatantly obvious if we will just let it say what God intends for it to say.
The southern prophet in our passage above knew exactly what God commanded. For the most part, you and I know exactly what God has commanded. May we not compromise and listen for the person who will offer us what we want more than what the word says. May we, instead, hear and obey the word. The truth is, following God’s word leads to life and joy that is far greater than any compromise we could ever make.