Robert Wurtz II
Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king. And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” For his sons had seen which way the man of God went who came from Judah. Then he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him, and he rode on it, and went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak. Then he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. For I have been told by the word of the LORD, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’ “
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.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water. Now it happened, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back; and he cried out to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “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.’ “So it was, after he had eaten bread and after he had drunk, that he saddled the donkey for him, the prophet whom he had brought back. When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse (1 Kings 13:11-24).
I have chosen this passage to illustrate an axiom of scripture. God insists that we obey Him when He has spoken to us no matter who comes along and challenges it. The young prophet in our story listened to a lying old prophet probably because he figured the old prophet was more spiritual or more authoritative because of his age. Maybe the donkey spoke of humility and added to his credibility? Yet the authority and accountability rest not in a man or woman of age or stature, but in the VOICE of God. You and I are accountable for what God has spoken to us. This story illustrates once and for all God’s mind on the matter.
I’ve encountered some of the “old prophet” types in my life so I can relate to the vulnerability. During this global pandemic, and especially during this Easter weekend, I’ve had times of deep and sobering reflection. I’m sobered and in some cases angered at myself for allowing toxic and dangerous people, like this lying old prophet, to influence me into missing God’s will at critical times. When I first read the story as a young Christian it seemed harsh, but it makes perfect sense to me now. A lot is put at risk when we listen to some other voice than God’s voice. It’s too late to go back and change anything now, but I come away with some great life lessons that I wish I had learned twenty years ago. Or better yet, having known this story of the lying prophet had taken the word to heart when I was young.
Understand that you and I are responsible for working out our own salvation with fear and trembling. We, as individuals, are accountable to God for obeying Him and following His leading. Full stop. Nobody can walk in the Spirit for you or me. We must do it ourselves as individuals. All anyone can do is either encourage you and me to follow God’s will or discourage you and me from doing it. At the end of the day, it is our individual choice and individual responsibility. We all will have old prophets who lie to us. Are we going to listen to what God spoke to us or will we listen to them?
The Greatest of All Dangers
The most toxic and dangerous thing in the world right now is not the Coronavirus, it’s people in your life who challenge God’s direction for you. We need to be protected from them and their words like we seek protection from the Coronavirus. We need to distance ourselves from them and renounce their influence altogether. Understand that people who challenge God’s will for your life do it in a variety of ways. Unbelievers will shame you with what they view as “the foolishness of wasting your life on serving God.” I recall the day I announced I was leaving a very lucrative job in 1994 to follow the leading of the Lord. It badly angered some of my coworkers who pleaded with me to “think of my family.” One even gave me the finger (pardon the expression) as I was saying goodbyes. In retrospect, It was easy for me to brush-off the influences of unbelievers and do God’s will. It was when Christian leaders’ influence and comments challenged God’s plans for me that I struggled.
One of the well-worn strategies of the enemy is to use well-meaning Christians to question whether or not God said what He said. “Hath God said?” is a favorite line of Satan and he will put those words in almost anybody’s mouth. What makes the statement more challenging (and it can be phrased in many different ways) is when it comes from the mouth of highly respected believers or even mentors. “Spiritual people” or men and women “of wisdom.” They will tell you all kinds of anecdotal stories about their life experiences to discourage you from following God. Older Christians are often more cynical than wise. They only see the negative. This is why God often resorts to young people to do his will. Keep in mind that bad experiences are not the same thing as Godly wisdom (that is a gift of the Spirit). Wisdom is a good thing, but it is devilish when it contradicts God’s leadings. Wisdom is what Job’s counselors relied on when they lacked prophetic insight into Job’s situation. God called it, “Darkening counsel with words without knowledge” (Job 38:2).
Why on earth would that old prophet lie to the young prophet in 1 Kings 13? I have always wondered that. Was he angry that the young man was being used by God and he wasn’t? Was it jealousy? We will never know what motivates people to challenge God’s will for us. They probably don’t even know themselves. Most people assume they are following God or are acting in good faith. They may be deceived by the devil. Understand that mentors don’t always agree with what God wants for you and they will often be the first people Satan uses to steer you away from God’s will. That’s a tough pill to swallow but you and I need to be alert to this fact. It’s too close to the coming of the Lord to piddle-paddle around with people. Learn the lesson of the young dead prophet. Do what God is saying.
Moreover, when it comes to Christian associations and secular friends (especially those we know from social media), the Devil will work to lull you and me into a “get-along and go-along” outlook that militates against God’s word, His plans, and makes us ineffective for Him. The young dead prophet needed the intestinal fortitude to tell the lying old prophet, NO! I will not go along with you on this. I have had to repent recently of this very thing. Far too often I needed to say, “I don’t agree with that.” I need to stop coddling people who are wrong and need correction. I’m not talking about becoming insensitive or arrogant. I’m talking about taking a relentless stand for truth and let people challenge if they feel it necessary.
The Best Friends
The best friend in your life is the person who most encourages you to do God’s will without hesitation or reservation. You and I need people in our lives who will encourage us to follow God’s will no matter what. Full stop. We live in an age where Christendom has drifted from the idea of counting the cost to serve God to a utilitarian religion where God serves man instead of the other way around. It bears little resemblance to the book of Acts. I have needed desperately people in my life who encouraged me to follow God’s dealings and leadings, but they have been few and far between. What I have found are people who would challenge what God was saying or leading. Seriously. It’s very disappointing in retrospect, but not surprising. It’s the selfishness of human nature coming out I suspect. This is why selfless leaders are the greatest leaders. They don’t insert self into God’s plans.
Many Christians and even leaders are carnally minded when it comes to following God’s leading—even though they view themselves as spiritual or even prophetic. Sadly, like that lying prophet who spoke of hearing from an angel, they may dress up their comments, counsel, or “prophetic words” in all kinds of spiritual sounding garb (possibly even in old Engish terminology); but at the end of the day, they lean on their own understanding and are governed by their own plans and hopes. I have known of “the prophetic” to be abused in abominable ways and the bad actors never repented. This is why you never “just receive” a so-called prophetic word unless it is to confirm what God is already revealing to you. In Acts 20:22-24, Paul was told multiple times he was going to suffer trials and afflictions in Jerusalem. His response? None of these things move me. Maybe that should be our response next time someone gives us a “word.”
Sad to say, many people want you and me around for how we can benefit them or how you can help facilitate their plans and dreams. It has little to do with God’s plan. What many leaders fail to realize is that it’s impossible for them to achieve God’s will for their life if they insist on you and me being a part of their ministry when God is moving us on. Selah.
Follow God to Accomplish God’s Will
We all have to follow God’s will if there is to be any hope of accomplishing His plans. Politics and favoritism have no place in the Kingdom of God—nor does an attitude that thinks they know God’s will for everyone else. Some of the most dangerous people on earth are those who believe they are hearing from God on your behalf. Think about the foolishness of that. This is what that lying old prophet was doing to the young prophet.
What did Jesus say? “My sheep hear My voice and they follow me.” Imagine an under-shepherd counseling the sheep to disobey the Great Shepherd. What should they do? Encourage the sheep to follow God’s leading at any and all costs. Don’t make people feel obligated to stay involved in something that God is leading them out of, whether it be a ministry, church, or a job. I tremble to think about Christian leaders who inserted themselves into peoples’ lives at critical times when God was leading them and caused them to miss God. Ultimately the accountability lies with the individual, but leaders are accountable for how they exert their influence.
Going forward we need to be people who encourage others to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. We need to encourage people to follow the voice of the Great Shepherd. To read their Bible for themselves, pray, and walk in the Spirit. There needs to be wholesale repentance in sackcloth and ashes for those who have made a life of steering people away from what God was leading them to in order to build their own ministries or protect their numbers. This is a great lesson from the pandemic. Leaders won’t always be around to steer people. They must be encouraged to hear the Great Shepherd and follow His leadings. Away with the lying old prophets ways and may the lessons of 1 Kings 13:11-24 be ever before our eyes.