At the Lord’s command, a man of God from Judah went to Bethel, and he arrived there just as Jeroboam was approaching the altar to offer a sacrifice. Then at the Lord’s command, he shouted, “O altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: A child named Josiah will be born into the dynasty of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests from the pagan shrines who come here to burn incense, and human bones will be burned on you.” That same day the man of God gave a sign to prove his message, and he said, “The Lord has promised to give this sign: This altar will split apart, and its ashes will be poured out on the ground.”
King Jeroboam was very angry with the man of God for speaking against the altar. So he pointed at the man and shouted, “Seize that man!” But instantly the king’s hand became paralyzed in that position, and he couldn’t pull it back. At the same time a wide crack appeared in the altar, and the ashes poured out, just as the man of God had predicted in his message from the Lord.
The king cried out to the man of God, “Please ask the Lord your God to restore my hand again!” So the man of God prayed to the Lord, and the king’s hand became normal again.
Then the king said to the man of God, “Come to the palace with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.”
But the man of God said to the king, “Even if you gave me half of everything you own, I would not go with you. I would not eat any food or drink any water in this place. For the Lord gave me this command: `You must not eat any food or drink any water while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’ ” So he left Bethel and went home another way.
As it happened, there was an old prophet living in Bethel, and his sons came home and told him what the man of God had done in Bethel that day. They also told him what he had said to the king. The old prophet asked them, “Which way did he go?” So they told their father which road the man of God had taken. “Quick, saddle the donkey,” the old man said. And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he rode after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak tree.
The old prophet asked him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I am.”
Then he said to the man of God, “Come home with me and eat some food.”
“No, I cannot,” he replied. “I am not allowed to eat any food or drink any water here in this place. For the Lord gave me this command: `You must not eat any food or drink any water while you are there, and do not return to Judah by the same way you came.’
But the old prophet answered, “I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this message from the Lord: `Bring him home with you, and give him food to eat and water to drink.’ ”But the old man was lying to him. So they went back together, and the man of God ate some food and drank some water at the prophet’s home.
Then while they were sitting at the table, a message 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 Lord’s message and have disobeyed the command the Lord your God gave you. You came back to this place and ate food and drank water where he told you not to eat or drink. Because of this, your body will not be buried in the grave of your ancestors.”
Now after the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet saddled his own donkey for him, and the man of God started off again. But as he was traveling along, a lion came out and killed him. His body lay there on the road, with the donkey and the lion standing beside it. People came by and saw the body lying in the road and the lion standing beside it, and they went and reported it in Bethel, where the old prophet lived.
When the old prophet heard the report, he said, “It is the man of God who disobeyed the Lord’s command. The Lord has fulfilled his word by causing the lion to attack and kill him.”
Then the prophet said to his sons, “Saddle a donkey for me.” So they saddled a donkey, and he went out and found the body lying in the road. The donkey and lion were still standing there beside it, for the lion had not eaten the body nor attacked the donkey. So the prophet laid the body of the man of God on the donkey and took it back to the city to mourn over him and bury him. He laid the body in his own grave, crying out in grief, “Oh, my brother!”
Afterward the prophet said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried. Lay my bones beside his bones. For the message the Lord told him to proclaim against the altar in Bethel and against the pagan shrines in the towns of Samaria will surely come true.”
But even after this, Jeroboam did not turn from his evil ways. He continued to choose priests from the rank and file of the people. Anyone who wanted to could become a priest for the pagan shrines. This became a great sin and resulted in the destruction of Jeroboam’s kingdom and the death of all his family (1 Kings 13:1-34).
The message here is for all of us. We need to be careful who we listen to. The man of God got strict instructions from God Himself not to eat or drink in Bethel yet when an old prophet told him contrary he believed him. At first he refused but then the old prophet told him a clever lie which the man believed. When you look carefully at what the old prophet said, you can see a few interesting things:
“I am a prophet, too, just as you are.
- And an angel gave me this message from the Lord: `Bring him home with you, and give him food to eat and water to drink.’
He said he was a prophet so that made the man think he could be trusted. Many ministers and preachers teach things that are not biblical but people believe them because they say they are men of God. Eve got strict instructions from God not to eat the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When she repeated what God had said, this is what she said, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'” What God actually said was, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Eve added the words, “nor shall you touch it.” The serpent probably encouraged her to touch the tree and when nothing happened, he encouraged her to take a fruit.
The old prophet said that an angel gave him the message. In all accounts given by the prophets of the Bible, they all got their messages directly from God—not angels. It doesn’t make sense that God would speak to an angel, then the angel would speak to the prophet and then the prophet would speak to the person or persons. What is the point of having a prophet when the angel could give the people the message directly? The angel Gabriel approached Mary directly. He didn’t speak to a prophet and then the prophet spoke to her. In the Bible angels speak to the prophets directly to explain things that are to come to pass—this happened to Daniel and the apostle John in the books of Daniel and Revelation.
Note: it wasn’t until the man of God disobeyed God that the old prophet did receive a message from the Lord.
The Bible tells us about the Bereans, people who didn’t just take the word of Paul. “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” We should follow their example and read the Bible for ourselves and not just rely on the sermons of the Ministers. I know of pastors who encourage their members not to take their word but to read the Scriptures.
One more thought: If God had decided that He wanted the prophet to eat and drink in Bethel, it stands to reason that He would have told the man himself instead of giving the message to someone else. The man of God should have asked himself this question, “why is God now telling me that I could stay here and eat and drink when He had given me clear instructions not to do so? Why the sudden change and why didn’t He tell me Himself?” When God gives us clear instructions or guidance and then someone comes along and contradicts God, we need to really think before we act. People have paid dearly for disobeying the Word of God. Adam and Eve brought sin into the world and the man of God lost his life. It wasn’t until the old man said that an angel gave him the message that the prophet agreed to go home with him. The old man lied to the prophet just as the serpent lied to Eve.
When you believe that you have received a message from God, search the Bible to make sure that the message is in harmony with the Scriptures. Pray about it too. You can be saving yourself a lot of trouble in the long run. Remember God does not contradict Himself. He wouldn’t tell you to do something today and then tell you to do the opposite.