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.
— 1 Kings 13:14-18
The Bible includes numerous stories that answer every question but why. In this instance, God sent a man to prophesy against the city of Bethel. After doing so, he began heading home as God had told him to do. But then a second prophet entered the picture. This one intentionally went to the first prophet and lied to him. He told the first prophet that God had, for some undeclared reason, sent an angel with an updated message for him, one contradicting the message that God had given to him directly. The first prophet believed the lie, obeyed it and thus disobeyed the direct command of the Lord. As a result, he was struck down that very day by a lion that killed but did not eat him.
The story doesn’t tell us the names of either of the prophets. It doesn’t tell us why God commanded the first one to return straight home without eating or drinking anything along the way. It doesn’t tell us why the second lied to the first or why the first man’s gullibility cost him his life. These are all interesting mysteries, but the fact that God didn’t tell us these things does tell us something else. It tells us that despite how much they pique our curiosity, they are not important details. They are not the significant lesson we are to learn from the story.
So what can we learn from this event, and does the lesson make a difference today? Well, one thing we can certainly learn is that we must be very careful about what we believe concerning the voice of the Lord. Last week Ron taught on the subject of hearing God’s voice. Contrary to what some people believe, Ron said, God still speaks to His people today. Hearing from God should be the normative Christian experience, not the exceptional. Sometimes He speaks to us through a still small voice. Sometimes it’s through teaching we hear in church. Sometimes it’s through others. More often than not, however, it is through the Bible, the Word of God.
Far too many people claim to speak for God when God has not spoken. Sometimes it’s an innocent mistake in which they misinterpret their own thoughts and emotions. Sometimes one misinterprets what they actually hear from God. Sometimes it’s a deliberate attempt to manipulate. The late Jamie Buckingham once wrote an article chastising pastors who manipulated their flocks by always shielding their ideas behind the declaration that “God told me to…” This pronouncement of God’s will made it nearly impossible for anyone to question the wisdom of the pastor’s decisions. This is an example of the abuse that is all too often done in the name of the Lord. That’s one of the reasons why Ron warned us that we should always speak of God’s leading in a humble, not-so-self-assured tone. “I think maybe God is leading me to… Does that sound possible to you?” leaves room for others to help us evaluate whether we are accurately discerning between our own desires and God’s, our own thoughts and His voice.
But when we do hear unmistakably from the Lord, we must be set like stone, resolute in our determination to trust and obey God. God is speaking to you every day. Every. Single. Day. Pick up the Bible and read it, and He will speak to you through its divinely inspired words. Then if someone else declares a revelation they claim is from God but it contradicts what you’ve read, you will know they are misleading you, intentionally or not. Cult leaders like David Koresh, who died with his followers in a stand-off with the FBI in Waco, Texas, and Jim Jones, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after convincing his followers to drink poisoned Kool-Aid, deceived intelligent people. Their followers believed everything they said about God because the followers weren’t familiar enough with what God Himself had already told them in His Word. No one who reads the Bible regularly will fall for false prophecies about God wanting them to commit suicide. They will not be fooled by such counterfeits because they have become so familiar with the real thing.
Sometimes God may send others to encourage us or to confirm what He has already told us. In a few days we’ll read in the book of Acts about a prophetess who did that with Paul. She prophesied about the imprisonment that awaited him in Jerusalem. This wasn’t a revelation to Paul; it was a confirmation. He responded that he was already aware of his fate and was ready to endure it. So yes, God will speak to us through others sometimes, but we do not have to be gullible sheep who get led astray. We have personal relationships with God. He speaks to each of our hearts. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” — Romans 8:16.
Two lions wait to see whether we listen to the Lord. One is Jesus, the Lion of Judah who comes to give you an abundant life. The second is the devil who comes to steal and destroy. But the devil can never defeat us because we are Jesus’ sheep, and we know the voice of our Shepherd.
- The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. —John 10:10
- Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. —1 Peter 5:8
- My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. —John 10:27