Summary: A young prophet dies because he broke his fast... but he was lied to! He was deceived! Why should he pay such a harsh price for such a little mistake?
OPEN: As raw recruits were preparing for their first jump from a C130 aircraft at 1200 ft., the sergeant explained what to do if the main parachute didn’t open: “Snap back immediately into a tight body position,” he said. “Then pull the rip cord of your reserve chute and it will open, bringing you safely to the ground.”
A private stirred nervously and slowly raised his hand, “Sergeant, if my main parachute doesn’t open, how long do I have to pull my reserve?”
The sergeant looked directly into the young private’s eyes and replied earnestly, “The rest of your life, soldier. The rest of your life.”
APPLY: How many of you believe that soldier would remember to pull his reserve cord IMMEDIATELY upon discovering his main chute had malfunctioned? You better believe it! There is something shocking about hearing such an absolute statement: “You have the rest of your life to pull that cord. Because if you don’t pull the cord… that will be the end of your life.”
(…pause) And there’s something shocking about our story from Scripture this morning. A man of God confronts Jeroboam (the King of the Northern nation of Israel) because he had encouraged the idolatry that had been practiced at this altar at Bethel. The prophet tells Jeroboam that the false priests who offered sacrifices there would die on that altar, their bones burned upon that the altar.
King Jeroboam had the audacity to try to order God’s prophet seized… only to have his outstretched arm wither as he gestured at the prophet and watch helplessly as the altar itself split in two.
Jeroboam quickly rethought his rash behavior and repented.
He pled with the prophet to pray that God would heal his withered hand.
And Jeroboam was so humbled he tried to offer the prophet a meal and a gift.
But the prophet refused: “Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here. For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” (I Kings 13:8-9)
Then the prophet returned home by another route than how he came.
Now there was another old prophet who lived in the town of Bethel. His sons came to him and told him about everything the young prophet had said and done at the altar. Quickly he got his donkey saddled and went after him and when he found the younger prophet he asked him to come home and eat with him.
The younger prophet refused, repeating God’s command. But the older prophet lied to him and told him “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (I Kings 13:18)
So, the younger man went home with the older prophet, ate with him.
And immediately afterward God sent a lion to kill younger prophet.
And, to add insult to injury, the God sends a message condemning the younger man to the older prophet (who lied to the young prophet and got him to disobey to begin with.
Now, excuse me… but this hardly seems fair.
How many of you DON’T think that was right?
(almost everybody raised their hands).
Well, what’s going on here????
I. Well, let’s start with the man who lied. The 2nd (and older) prophet.
We’re not given his name, all we’re told is that he was a prophet who lived in the city of Bethel.
And – of course – we’re told that his lie led to the death of another man.
But why would he lie?
I mean, did God send him to lie to the younger man?
If he had been sent by God, the Bible would probably have said so.
And, in addition, the older prophet’s actions don’t sound to me like he was a man following God’s directions.
So, why did he lie?
My guess... jealousy.
ILLUS: I once heard about a retired preacher who became a bitter man. At one time he had been a stalwart defender of the faith and a decent preacher. But when he’d retired, the church hired a man to replace him at a much higher wage than he’d received while serving there.
And the new preacher was more successful than he’d been. That started his anger. As time went by, the old retired preacher became bitter and jealous… and sought opportunities to undermine the new preacher.
ILLUS: And I've seen preachers work behind the scenes to get youth ministers fired because they found the young man to be a threat to their egos. In my home church the senior minister fired 3 youth ministers in 5 years time.