Since loving obedience is the key to our relationship with God, it should come as no surprise that Satan will do everything in his power today to sidetrack you from full and continual surrender to the Lord—inclusive of sending well-intentioned but misguided friends to tempt you with justifications for fudging on total allegiance to the command of God. Obey God—not out of fear or duty, but out of gratitude and joy—it is the most beautiful and loving sacrifice you can offer God today.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 13:20-22
Then while they were sitting at the table, a command from the Lord came to the old prophet. He cried out to the man of God from Judah, “This is what the Lord says: You have defied the word of the Lord and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate and drank where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors.”
This story is strange in so many ways, as we have come to expect from the Old Testament: a man of God is divinely called to announce judgment on King Jeroboam. He is to pull no punches—God is angry with the evil ways of this king, and he must deliver the harsh word precisely. He is to speak with no one; he is to just deliver the message and then get out of Dodge. He obeys God initially—and the judgment of God that befalls Jeroboam is immediate and as dramatic as it gets—but then as he is returning home, he gets sidetracked by an old prophet’s invitation to dinner. By the way, the old prophet lies to get the man of God to come to his home. While he is eating, the Spirit comes on the old prophet who rebukes the man of God for his disobedience in accepting the duplicitous dinner invitation. As the man of God leaves, a lion attacks and kills him in fulfillment of the prophetic judgment. Then the old prophet retrieves his body, mourns over it, buries it in his own sepulcher, and instructs his son to bury his old prophetic bones in the same grave, next to the man of God’s remains, when he dies. Weird!
Now as we read these strange narratives from our twenty-first century perspective, we must keep in mind that the people we read about were from an ancient world. They were also uniquely God’s chosen people, and God gave them special rules to follow that would not only honor his holiness, but keep them as his holy people. They were not a modern, pluralistic American democracy with the rights of freedom of religion. They were a theocracy, obligated to follow God’s law; they were not free to do as they pleased. They were servants of the Most High God, and with that privilege came the imposition of very high standards upon them. When they obeyed, the divine blessings that came upon the nation were beyond belief, but when they stubbornly disobeyed, divine punishment was unleashed upon them, often in the most severe way.
So does the Lord still deal with people today like he did with Israel, like he did with this disobedient man of God? Not usually. If he did, every church would need a morgue in its basement. Rather, we have these stories to teach us about God’s character—his grace, mercy, generosity, and yes, justice. They also teach about the seriousness of our sin before a holy God. And often in the Old Testament, this story being one of them, God really knows how to get our attention. When he does, there is a point that he is making that we would do well to discern.
One of the points that I take away from this story is that when God gives us a word, he expects nothing less than our complete obedience to it. Commenting on this, Charles Stanley insightfully writes,
When we know we have heard from the Lord, we cannot let anyone convince us that He has changed His mind—regardless of the source of the supposed new revelation. Remember the warning of 2 Corinthians 11:14, 15, “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore, it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds.”
Do you think there is a fair amount of that going on in our land today, especially in light of some of the cultural issues that church is wrestling with? Far too many churches and denominations are twisting themselves into knots over a response to these issues that they hope our culture will find acceptable. That itself is curious given what Paul said about Satan disguising himself as an angel of light and the servants of Satan disguising themselves as prophetic voices.
God had clearly warned the Israelites, “Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles. and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before—do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul. Serve only the Lord your God and fear him alone. Obey his commands, listen to his voice, and cling to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4) That Old Testament word is as valid today for the people of God as it was back then.
The Apostle Paul sternly warned us in Galatians 1:8, “Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.”
Let me reiterate the point: God is divinely serious about our obedience—corporately as the community of faith and as we stand individually before him. Will he send a lion to attack you if you disobey? Not likely. But disobedience does unleash death in our lives—we begin to spiritually decay. We open the door to Satanic intrusion and forfeit the protective covering of the Lord. Since loving obedience is the key to our relationship with God, it should come as no surprise that Satan will do everything in his power today to sidetrack us from full and continual surrender to the Lord—inclusive of sending well-intentioned but misguided friends to tempt us with justifications for fudging on total allegiance to the command of God.
Bottom line: obey God—early, often and every time! Obey out of love. Augustine said, “Wicked men obey from fear; good men, from love.” Obey God, for it is the most loving thing you can offer him and the most benefiting thing you can do for yourself.