Proceed With Caution!

The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of the Lord: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’” The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house. (1 Kings 13:16-19)

When God gives us a job to do, we never know what we may encounter. We must always proceed with caution and be alert to anyone or anything that might want to throw us off the path. The man of God in question was a prophet of the Lord and was told previously to go from Judah to Bethel. Once in Bethel, he went to an altar where he found King Jeroboam preparing to burn incense. The man of God cried out against the altar, as we read in 1 Kings 13:1-3, because Jeroboam led the people to worship other gods even saying they were the ones that brought them out of Egypt when it was God who had done this. As the king did not like what the man of God had to say, he stretched out his hand from the altar telling his men to arrest the man of God. In doing so, the king’s hand shriveled up. The king asked the man of God to pray to God to restore his hand, the man of God prayed and the king’s hand was restored. The king, pleased that his hand was restored, asked the man of God to come back home with him to be refreshed and he will give him a reward. The man of God stuck to his mission telling the king he could not go back with him and why and then went on his way in another direction, not returning by way of Bethel.

An old prophet from Bethel hears from his sons the words said to the king and the works that the man of God had done and the old prophet wanted to go to him. When he found the man of God sitting under a tree, he asked him to come back home with him and eat bread. The man of God stuck to his story telling him he couldn’t go back with him and why. The old prophet, however, said the following in vs. 18:

He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.)

The man of God believed the old prophet and went back to Bethel with him and ate bread and drank water and it was there that the old prophet spoke the word of the Lord to the man of God saying in versus 21-22:

 “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water,” your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.’”

The story goes on to say the man of God saddled up his donkey when he was done and left, encountered a lion on the way and was killed.

Every time I’ve read this story, I’m left with the same questions:

1. Why did the old prophet lie and convince the man of God to come back home with him?

2. Why did the man of God not stick to his directions with the old prophet like he did with the king?

3. Why was the man of God punished so severely when the old prophet didn’t seem to be punished at all for lying and deceiving the man of God?

Unfortunately I still don’t have the answers but the message is pretty clear which may point to some possibilities. I actually questioned God about this on my way home from bringing my husband to work this morning. There was a 2 hour delay for schools as the roads were icy (I hadn’t even been aware of the weather report like I use too) and by the time I brought my husband to work, the roads were a little less icy but slick so we needed to proceed with caution. As I was asking God about the story I had read, I came up over the hill, hit some black ice, swung back and forth from side to side and then propelled into a ditch. Yes, I called out “Jesus!” (which I forget to do sometimes). After a nice woman stopped and I got out of the ditch, I continued to proceed with caution and went back to thinking. Only now it was about what just happened. And then more began to come.

Sometimes we may be on our way somewhere but without realizing it, get pushed off the path. It can come without any warning or sign. Yes, there was a 2 hour delay due to some ice, but the roads were pretty clear where I was traveling and I wasn’t traveling at a high rate of speed. Yet, I hit some black ice…something that is hidden and unable to be seen. The roads looked fine which was deceiving because underneath they weren’t, which not only caused me to slide around but put me and anyone else on the road in danger as I slid into a ditch. We were warned about the ice, always told what and what not to do, but maybe I let my guard down due to how the roads looked although I wasn’t going as fast as I normally do.

Sometimes, we can be given directions by God (or anyone in authority) and be firm with some people who want us to do the opposite of what we were told to do. Yet other times we can let our guard down and listen to others who we may feel have more authority or are trustworthy and end up doing what we weren’t supposed to do and be led astray. Why did the man of God allow himself to be disobedient to God and led astray from the directions God gave him? I’m sure it wasn’t his intention as we can see how he told the king “no” and stuck to it. So this shows he knew what his directions were and he was sticking to them. Besides, the king was not following the Lord so it was pretty easy to say no to him I suppose. So why not the old prophet? Could it be the man of God felt comfortable with the old prophet figuring he surely wouldn’t lie to him because he was a long time prophet of the Lord? The last thing on his mind was that he would be manipulated by another prophet. Maybe he thought God had changed His mind…which we know God has done on occasion. Maybe the man of God felt a bit intimidated by the old prophet after all he was older and more experienced and could have heard from God. The fact remains, he let his guard down most likely because of the position of this old man…a prophet. We have to be careful because just like my minor accident this morning, sometimes looks can be deceiving. We can trust someone or a situation because we are comfortable and the person (or situation) can appear fine, but there could be underlying things hidden from our view that may be used to propel us off the path, putting us in danger. Sadly for the man of God his disobedience caused him his death. Not everything is always as it seems and that’s why we must always go back to the original source be it God or another person to confirm any other set of directions contrary to what we were given. Why did the old prophet lie? Jealousy comes to mind (although that may not be the case). Sometimes people do have ulterior motives that we don’t see until it’s too late. He could have had a fleshly moment and had been the only prophet in the area for a long time. Then to hear of someone else coming along, speaking to the king, prophesying and doing works of the Lord, could have made the old prophet feel threatened in some way, leading to fear and jealousy. Or maybe God simply used the old prophet to test the man of God…it’s not unheard of as God does test our minds and hearts to see what we will do. So many possibilities!

Finally, why wasn’t the old prophet punished for lying and deceiving the man of God? Whose to say he wasn’t? His punishment could have come later on in his life or after he died. We just don’t know and cannot assume for God is a just God.

We must always proceed with caution and be on alert whenever we are following the directions of the Lord (or any authority figure). Although people or situations may appear ok on the outside, we never know when there may be underlying motives from some to throw us off the path. Any change in direction should always be confirmed. God takes obedience very seriously because He knows what dangerous things can happen when we aren’t obedient to His Word or instructions and how it can affect others around us. King Saul allowed fear and jealousy to enter into his heart when saw the people liked David more. From that point his emotions consumed him and he set out to try and kill David. Pride also entered his heart which made him think he could do what he wanted even doing the job of a priest and disobeying a direct order of God. God regretted His decision in anointing Saul as king and replaced him with David. However, we see in 1 Samuel 15:22 Samuel makes it clear to Saul that God finds it more important to obey than to offer sacrifices:

“So Samuel said: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.”

Doing opposite of what God has instructed us to do can cause major problems in our lives. It doesn’t matter if we have been a Christian for years and were walking on the straight and narrow path. When we begin to disobey and do it continuously, we will suffer the consequences of our actions. Children suffer the consequences when they do wrong. If we don’t correct them, they will continue to disobey over and over which will lead to disrespectful, disobedient adults who refuse to follow the law and do what they’re told to do. We are God’s children and though He is a just, loving, merciful and forgiving God as we see throughout the Bible, He only tolerates sin for so long.

Is there anywhere in your life where you are being disobedient to what God has told you to do? Are you allowing others to lead you away from His instructions? Go to the source, God, and ask Him to help you be realigned with Him again. If someone or a situation is causing you to be confused, go to God and ask Him to remove the confusion and to bring confirmation and/or clarity.

Lord, I don’t want to be disobedient to your word or any direction you’ve given to me. Help me not to be deceived by others, a situation or the enemy but help me to see clearly the way I am to go. Remove all confusion and bring clarity to my mind. Forgive me, Lord, if I have been led astray whether I was aware of it or not. Remove any fear within me that causes me to feel intimidated by another who may be trying to manipulate me to do something contrary to what you’ve called me to do. I ask that you replace it with the courage to say “no” and to have faith in your instructions. Thank you Lord for always guiding me and protecting me. I ask this in Jesus name…Amen!”