1 Kings 13:18, 19
He said to him, I am a prophet also as you are; and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying…
The miraculous element in this chapter is, with many, a reason for its rejection. The same reason might lead us to reject the story of our Saviour's life, and deny the possibility of supernatural revelation. If miracles and signs ever occurred they would be likely to do so at the time described in this chapter. Idolatrous practices were being set up. Many who had been worshippers of Jehovah had been seduced. Worldly policy, social influences, moral enervation, following on the extravagant prosperity of Solomon's reign, and an inherent tendency to sensuous worship, were all combining to induce the people to put away all belief in Jehovah. Then, if ever He would fitly reveal His power, as He did at the later crisis when Elijah faced the false prophets on Carmel. The effect on Jeroboam was nil, but the godless had warning, and the secret worshippers of the Lord still left in Israel were encouraged. The story of the temptation and fall of this prophet, who at least delivered one message with fidelity, is tragic and suggestive. After reading it we have left with us the following thoughts:
I. THAT A STRONG TEMPTATION HAD BEEN RESISTED. Jeroboam had failed to reach the prophet by violence, but resolved to overcome him by craft. Terrible as had been the effect of Jehovah's wrath (ver. 4), the king's conscience was not stirred. His heart was not touched, though his arm was withered. Hence he did not ask the prophet to pray that his sin might be forgiven, but that his arm might be restored. Immediately after, with a show of civility and gratitude, he invited him to his house. Clearly this was not in order to honour the prophet, but to weaken the effect of his message. The people had heard it, and had been moved by it; but if they saw the messenger going down in seeming friendship with their king, this would diminish, perhaps destroy, the effect of his words. Lest this should happen, the prophet had been forbidden to enter any house. As the representative of Jehovah, he was to show that God would not dwell amongst the people. Firmly, therefore, he rejected the invitation of the king, saying, "If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread not drink water in this place," etc. The temptation was resisted; the victory won. Give illustrations of similar moral conquests. A young man tempted to impurity says, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Another sits silent among the scorners, and cannot be induced to join or smile with them, etc. There are times when we are specially able to resist: e.g., when we come fresh from the influences of a Christian home; when we are feeling the impression of an earnest sermon; when we are made serious by the death of a dear friend. Under such influences many obey the command, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you!"
II. THAT A NEW TEMPTATION WAS SUCCESSFUL. (Read vers. 11-19.)
(1) What were the motives of this old prophet of Bethel? Probably he was not a false prophet, though these existed; as tares amongst the wheat, as Judas among the apostles. Nor must he be charged with the malignant wish to bring this man to his death. Picture him as one who knew his Lord's will, but did it not. He had been silent, instead of protesting against the impiety of Jeroboam, and now felt rebuked by this daring stranger. To entertain him might reinstate him in his own good opinion, and in the eyes of the people. Hence he gives the invitation, and when it is resisted another sign of his moral decadence appears, and he tells a lie about receiving a message from the Lord.
(2) How came this temptation to succeed? Not improbably there was some self-complacency in one who had just resisted the king successfully, and a sense of false security which is indicated by his resting under the terebinth instead of pressing on homewards. Observe here -
1. The conquest of one evil may only bring on the assault of another; e.g., when sensuality is repressed, scepticism may arise and prevail. We sometimes forget that it is not a momentary but a life-long conflict we have to wage. If the Egyptians are drowned, the Amorites and Canaanites await us. A gross sin fails to conquer us, but a subtle sin may lead us to bitter bondage. We can never say to our soul, "Take thine ease;" but always, and everywhere, must listen to the command, "Watch, and pray, lest ye enter into temptation."
2. Lingering near scenes of temptation may imperil us fatally. Had the prophet not rested he might not have been overtaken, but would have crossed the border line of the two kingdoms. As the moth flutters round the candle, so do some hover about sin. They read of vices which they think they would never commit, and choose associates unlike what they mean to be, and yet dare to pray, "Lead us not into temptation." He who "standeth in the way of sinners," as one half inclined to join them, may at last "sit in the seat of the scorners," as one who has united with them. "Avoid it, pass not by it," etc. (Proverbs 3:15).
III. THAT A TRIVIAL ACT OF DISOBEDIENCE WAS A GREAT SIN. It seemed a small offence to go home with a brother prophet; but observe that he was in no doubt as to the will of God. He was not really deceived by that lie about the angel's message. He knew that he was forbidden to enter any house, and that the reason for that inhibition was weighty: he knew further that God would not contradict Himself, or alter his command, yet his sensuous wish for food and rest prevailed. An act may seem trifling, but the principle involved in it may be momentous. So it was in Eden. To eat the fruit, or to leave it untouched, might appear a question of small consideration; but man's decision of it, "brought death into the world, and all our woe." It is in trifles that we test the willingness of our children's obedience. If they refuse to do an unimportant act because to do it would be to disobey us, we are more satisfied with their sensitive loyalty than if the act were notoriously evil. To sin for the sake of a passing pleasure is morally worse than to sin for the sake of a kingdom, for the temptation is less.
IV. THAT A TRAGIC PUNISHMENT WAS INFLICTED. (Read vers. 23-25.) Note the points which marked out this event as the result of God's displeasure, and not of accident; e.g., that it was foretold (vers. 21, 22), and that the lion did not kill the ass, nor eat the dead body. Show how Jesus Christ used the judgments of God, as recorded in the Old Testament, for purposes of moral and religious instruction. Sin merits punishment. "We are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth, against them which commit such things," etc. (Romans 2:2-5). In the consciousness of frequent disobedience let the prayer arise, "God be merciful to me a sinner." - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him.
WEB: He said to him, "I also am a prophet as you are; and an angel spoke to me by the word of Yahweh, saying, 'Bring him back with you into your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.'" He lied to him.