The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

Understanding 1 Kings 13: Why Yahweh Fed His Prophet to a Lion

AUDIO VERSION: YouTube  Podbean

If you record the phrase, “Always check with God before you accept a message as being from Him,” and then play that recording out loud on a continual loop, you’ll get a good sense of what we teach you in our material.  God is the Supreme Authority.  God is the One you’re supposed to be serving, obeying, and following, not humans. Humans lie—both intentionally and unintentionally. Humans don’t begin to have a complete grasp of truth.  Humans are very limited, foolish creatures who possess no spiritual wisdom of their own.  This means that when a human says to you “I have a message from God for you,” your immediate response should be to say to God in the privacy of your own soul, “Hey, God, this person is claiming to have a message from You.  Are they legit or not?”  You always need to ask God.  Always, always, always.  It doesn’t matter if the person talking has given you 1,000 messages before that were all legitimate.  For all you know, their next message could be pure hooey.  Humans will never be reliable sources of truth, which is why giving them your blind trust is guaranteed to lead you spiritually astray.  So no matter who is talking, no matter what titles they’re using, what degrees they’re waving, or how nice their website looks, you must check with God. 

Dependency is one of the four critical soul attitudes we’re always talking about.  The soul attitude of dependency is the correct response to the fact that we humans are totally dependent on our Creators to sustain us.  Dependency says, “I recognize that I am a creature who is dependent on my Creators for all things.  I can do nothing without Them.”  Apart from Yahweh, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can do nothing, we know nothing, we are nothing.  We need our Creators to help us in every area of our lives—from eating and breathing to thinking and learning.  Our Gods could have chosen to make us very capable, independent, clever little beings.  But instead, They chose to make us frail, helpless numskulls who can’t do anything without Them.  We are all born as spiritual idiots and we remain that way until our Gods choose to start exposing us to truth.  As They teach us, we choose to either embrace what They’re saying and be receptive to Their lessons, or we decide to tune Them out and remain in our foolishness.

Now when you’re a weak, fragile, foolish human being who is totally dependent on your Creators to take care of you, provide for you, teach you, and defend you, then how much hope you have in life is determined by the Character of the Gods you’re forced to depend on.  If your Creators are a bunch of malicious Creeps, then you have no hope at all.  Your life is going to be a bleak, frightening affair, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  But if your Creators are kind, gracious, loving Beings who happen to take some strange delight in caring for a dot like you, then suddenly being a human becomes a very positive thing.  Happily for all of us humans, the latter situation is true.  The three Supernatural Beings who created us thoroughly enjoy taking care of dots like us.  How They could possibly find us so enjoyable is an utter mystery, and yet They do.  Our Gods love us, and because of that, we have great hope.  But while our Gods love taking care of us, They also insist on a two sided relationship.  They don’t want to just act upon us—They also want us to react to Them.

Relating to God is like a dance that He leads.  He has a firm grip on us, and every time He makes a move, we are forced to have to decide how we will respond.  We either move with Him and glide across the dance floor, or we fight Him and end up roughly shoved around.  God will not be led by us, and He won’t let go of us. We’re locked in His grip and that means we are forced to react to Him.  Once we become aware of Him, it is no longer possible for us to respond neutrally to Him.  Every time He convicts our souls, we forced into a position of having to choose a positive or negative response.  We simply don’t have the option of not hearing Him when He wants to be heard.  The only choice we have is how we’re going to respond to the fact that He is speaking to us.

Submission is a soul attitude that says, “Because You are the Supreme Authority, I will bow to Your will in my life.”  But how do we know what God’s will is?  We need Him to tell us.  Dependency is a soul attitude that says, “I can do nothing apart from You,” and that means we cannot properly discern God’s will on our own.  We need Him to tell us.  Another human getting in your face and saying, “Thus says the Lord” is not the same as God telling you to do something.  Instead of treating that human as God, you need to recognize that he or she is not God and say to God, “I have no wisdom on my own. I can’t discern truth without Your help.  I need Your help to know if this message is really from You or not.”  When you respond like this, you are practicing dependency, which greatly pleases God.  Then, once He tells you “Yes, do as that person says” or “No, ignore what that persons says,” you have the opportunity to express your love for God by obeying His instructions.  The point is this: dependency plays a critical role in spiritual discernment.

Now the Church does a horrific job of teaching you the soul attitude of dependency.  In fact, what she actually does is try to stomp dependency out of you by punishing you anytime you dare to try it.  In the Church, you are immensely pressured to depend on human leaders, not God, to guide you in spiritual matters.  Whenever some bloated ego gets in your face blabbering on about how anointed he is and declaring a bunch of words from God, the Church pressures you to just accept what the so-called “prophet” is saying (see Anointed: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean).  Don’t you dare question, because you’re just some low ranking gnat who will bring curses down on your head if you dare to question God’s anointed.  This is the game Christian leaders love to play and it is a complete lie.

Leaders who are actually listening to God will know better than to try and jam their way between you and Him.  It is false shepherds  who scream, “Focus on me!  Listen to me!  Don’t dare to question me!”  False shepherds want to lead you astray by pulling your attention away from God.  False shepherds often have raging egos, and many think they are above error, which is why they actually think you could be safe in blindly trusting them.  Then, in their blind stupidity, they lead you over to a pit that they can’t even see and you all fall into it together.

The apostles Paul and John both promoted themselves as inerrant teachers who no one should dare to question.  Today there are countless leaders in Christendom who are making the same obnoxious claim.  And yet humans are not who you will answer to in eternity: God is, and He is a jealous Being who demands that you rely on Him alone to guide you in truth.  He is the Keeper of all wisdom, and if anyone has a kernel of wisdom, it is only because He chose to give it to them, therefore He alone deserves the glory.  What God gives, He can also take back at any time, and when we start taking credit for the wisdom He has given us, He responds by ripping it away and turning us back into spiritual morons.  Look around at the Church and you see this happening all the time.  A pastor who started off sounding so dialed into truth starts getting a fat head and soon he starts saying the most idiotic things from the pulpit without even being able to hear what’s wrong with his own teaching.  How can the same Christian be growing in truth one moment, only to end up derailed into utter foolishness?  How does a fellow start off promoting God only to end up promoting himself?  It all comes down to soul attitudes.

When we refuse to embrace the right soul attitudes—when we start giving God a bunch of smack in the privacy of our own souls—He responds with discipline.  He trips us up. He blinds us to truth. He surrounds us with liars and entices us down roads that lead to our own destruction.  The simple point we’re making is this: don’t be foolish enough to start a war against your own Creator.  You’ll never win against the God who controls your quality of life.  When He speaks, you need to listen.  But before you decide that He has spoken, you need to ask Him for guidance.  This is a basic issue of respect.  After all, would you want your friend to immediately believe some slanderous gossip about you without even bothering to ask you if it was true?  Of course not.  You’d want your friend to check with you before he just believed some rumor about what you’d said or done.  If, as a human, you feel you deserve this kind of respect, how do you think God feels?  God demands respect from us, and once He helps us understand this, we need to be serious about respecting His wishes.

So then, you should never just believe some human’s claim to be passing on a message from God.  In the first place, humans can’t be trusted in spiritual matters.  They don’t have access to wisdom on their own—all wisdom comes from God.  In the second place, how can we not give God at least the same degree of courtesy that we’d give to our human friends?  Whenever someone claims to be quoting God in or outside of the Bible, we need to be asking Him for validation.

“Is this really what You said, God?  Are You being accurately quoted here?  Is this person properly interpreting Your words?  Is that really what You meant?  How would You like me to respond to this message?  What should I be learning here?  How can I use this information to improve the way I treat You?” 

These are the kinds of soul questions that greatly please God.  But far too often we refuse to ask any of these questions.  Instead, we act like our need for God vanishes as soon as some mortal opens his or her mouth.  Sister Pompous is talking, and she claims that she’s anointed, so whatever malarkey she’s slinging about Jesus must be true.  Dr. Know-It-All has a degree from a famous seminary so obviously his own delusional interpretations of Scripture must be right.  Why should we bother to ask God what He thinks about all of the claims humans are making about Him?  Why not just exalt humans as infallible God interpreters?  God merely runs the universe—why should He take offense that we aren’t giving Him the time of day?   This is how it works in the Church: you’re taught to treat human halfwits as stand-ins for God in your life.  You’re taught to never question gossip about God, but to just believe what you hear while never giving God even half of the respect that you want other humans to give you.  Clearly if we’re going to get anywhere with God, we need to make drastic changes to the way we are operating.

Okay, so what if we do start practicing dependency and showing God respect by asking Him for His take on things? Does that mean He’ll instantly answer us?  Of course not.  God is not a track on our mp3 player that we can make play at our command.  God isn’t a robot that we can turn on and off at will.  God speaks when He wants to speak, and He reveals truth to us according to His schedule, not ours.  Be clear on this point: asking God for His feedback is about respecting Him, not about trying to control Him.

A lot of Christians start to fuss when God doesn’t instantly answer their questions.  They act like He’s in the wrong for not following their lead.  Well, no, He’s not in the wrong.  This is God we’re talking about, not our servant.  We ask Him for His feedback because it’s the respectful thing to do, and respect is what we ought to be giving God Almighty.  We ask Him for wisdom as a way of acknowledging that He is our only Source of Truth.  We ask Him for guidance as a way of expressing that He is the One we care most about pleasing in life.  Whether God answers us or not is His affair.  If He gives us no answer, then we will have to set a message aside in the “undecided” pile.  We can’t cast a judgment without God’s input, and in real life, God leaves many of our questions unanswered.  But unanswered questions will cease to bother us when we keep our focus on the right goal.  Life is not about amassing knowledge, it’s about pleasing our Maker.

Maybe you read an article on our site and you ask God what He thinks about its contents.  Maybe He doesn’t give you an opinion because that topic just isn’t one that He wants to work with you on right now.  In such a case, you need to set the material aside.  You can’t say it’s true without God’s confirmation.  You can’t know it’s wrong without His input, either.  You simply have to set it aside and submit to God’s priorities for you.

Or maybe you read an article on our site and God uses it to teach you many fascinating things.  You don’t then go around telling people “Hey, there’s a bunch of geniuses at The Pursuit of God.” No, because we’re not geniuses, we’re just mortal halfwits.  God is the Source of wisdom, and if He shows you wisdom on our site, then you should be giving Him alone the glory.  If He shows you errors in our material, you should be thanking Him for helping you discern right from wrong.  He is the only One you should be depending on.  Everyone else needs to be viewed as a mixed bag.

Now in the Church, you are taught to grossly disrespect God in every area (see Four Ways to Identify False Teaching in the Church).  You’re not only taught to throw Him aside for mortal halfwits and ignore His opinion on things, but you’re also taught to assume He is an unreasonable Jerk.  Don’t believe it?  Well, how much time do you spend in the Old Testament?  How comfortable are you with the stories in which Yahweh seems to be coming down hard on folks who are just acting like normal human beings?  Yahweh rains the same boring flakes down on the Israelites every single morning in their forty years in the desert, and then He gets all mad when they complain that they’re sick to death of it.  Well, wouldn’t you complain if you had to eat a bowl of dry oatmeal flakes every morning of your life?  People simply express preferences that God has wired into them, then He jumps down their throats about it: this is a common way that people view Yahweh in the Old Testament.  He’s always flipping out on people for no good reason.  He’s always overreacting.  He’s always losing His temper.  And while we’re busy assuming the worst about God, we assume the best about the humans.  Those poor little Israelites were trying so hard to please God, yet He responded by making them wander in a desert for 40 years.  Poor Moses had one bad day and struck one silly rock, and God banned him from the Promised Land.  Poor old Jonah was terrified of the mission God gave him, so of course he ran away, and God was so mean to him.  Innocent Adam and Eve made one small mistake and God cursed them forever.  Christians are so offended by Yahweh that they throw out the entire Old Testament and carry around copies of just the New Testament.  It’s like we throw Yahweh in the garbage can and just keep Jesus, who we’ve decided is the nicer God.

As long as you keep clinging to the pack of lies the Church hands you about God, you’ll never progress very far in your relationship with Him.  And of course the only way you’re going to unlearn the lies is if you start talking to God directly.  It’s rather like when a man named Mark moves in across the street.  You don’t go to see him, but you totally believe your neighbor Nancy when she tells you that Mark is a shady character who has done all kinds of terrible crimes.  Nancy has many nasty things to say about Mark, and if you just believe her, you’ll naturally treat Mark rudely and shun him even though he’s never done anything against you personally. But if you were to talk to Mark for yourself and listen to his take on all of the slander Nancy’s slinging, you might end up with a very different view of him.  It’s the same with you and Yahweh.  If you just buy the Church’s rot that Yahweh is some wrathful, brooding God while Jesus is all sweetness and smiles, then  you’ll read the Old Testament looking for evidence to confirm the lies that you’ve already decided to believe about Yahweh.  But if you were to talk to Him for yourself and wait for Him to educate you on what kinds of assumptions you ought to be making about Him, then you’ll discover that “the God of the Old Testament” is a much different Being than people think.

MAKING ASSUMPTIONS

Assumptions are a critical part of interpreting Bible passages, because we’re always working with limited information.  Most problematic of all is that we’re almost never given the one piece of the puzzle that really matters: that of soul attitudes.  There are a few places in the Old Testament prophetic books where Yahweh actually describes the private thoughts of another human, and those passages are very illuminating.  But the rest of the time, we never get explanations of what humans are thinking in the privacy of their own souls.  Usually all we get are a few details about a human’s external behaviors, followed by information about how God reacted to that human.  To properly interpret God’s actions, we must make assumptions about what kinds of soul attitudes He was reacting to.  To make the right assumptions, we need to understand some basic facts about God’s Character.  Is He the sort of God who emphasizes wrath or mercy?  Does He want people to succeed with Him or is He all about damning them?  It is God who teaches us how to correctly view His basic Character, and once He’s sketched that out for us, we can then make some very solid assumptions about what was happening in people’s souls to provoke certain reactions from God.

1 KINGS 13

Now in this post, we’re going to look at a passage from 1 Kings 13 which often makes Christians squirm.  The story starts with a young prophet getting instructed by Yahweh to go tell off the current king of Israel.  Since Jewish monarchs ruled with absolute power, this was a very nerve-wracking assignment.  Lipping off to the king was a great way to get yourself killed, and with one word from the king, you could find yourself run through with a  sword.  In 1 Kings 13, our young prophet isn’t just commanded to prophesy against the current king, but he’s told to do it in the middle of a major religious festival.  As overwhelming as this assignment might sound to many of us, young prophet actually does it.  He marches up to rebellious King Jeroboam right as the king is in the middle of publicly sacrificing to a false god, and then he delivers the message that Yahweh has given him.  King Jeroboam reacts by ordering the young prophet to be seized.  Yahweh reacts by instantly disfiguring one of the king’s hands.  Yahweh also causes the stone altar to supernaturally split apart.  When everyone sees these two freaky miracles, no one dares to assault God’s man, and the young prophet safely escapes from the scene (for the full story, see Treachery & Wrath: Lessons Learned from King Jeroboam).

So what does this sequence tell us so far?  Well, when we see a regular human demonstrating such courage, we can see that Yahweh has given His little man the resources he needed to do this daunting task.  You see, Yahweh isn’t the sort of God who demands the impossible then starts hurling lightning bolts when we shrink back in fear.  When Yahweh asks us to do something, He also gives us what we need to obey Him, because He’s nice like that.  So far in this account, Yahweh is the real Star, not the young prophet.  Instead of applauding the human as if the man acted in his own strength, we should be encouraged to see yet another demonstration of God empowering humans to carry out His will.  Yahweh is a God who is easy to succeed with because He can be counted on to give us sufficient resources to carry out the tasks He assigns to us.  So this really isn’t a story of a human prophet being amazing.  It’s an account of fabulous Yahweh showing what a good, supportive, powerful, and faithful God He is.

Now after God graciously restores King Jeroboam’s hand, the king tries to get on the prophet’s good side by inviting him to stay for a meal.  Here we suddenly learn that young prophet has received additional instructions from Yahweh about how he is to carry out this mission.

The king said to the man of God, “Come home with me for a meal, and I will give you a gift.”

But the man of God answered the king, “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 Yahweh: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.’” So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel. (1 Ki. 13:7-10)

Interesting instructions.  And so far our prophet seems determined to carry them out.  He starts home a different way, which is what Yahweh told him to do.  And all goes well until he is suddenly intercepted on the road by an older man who also claims to be a prophet of Yahweh.

Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king. Their father asked them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken. So he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?”

“I am,” he replied.

So the prophet said to him, “Come home with me and eat.”

The man of God said, “I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place. I have been told by the word of Yahweh: ‘You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’” (1 Ki. 13:11-17)

In this cultural context, the offer of a meal was an offer of friendship.  The host often served some of his best food and even offered gifts.  To immediately turn down such an offer was considered very rude behavior.  So young prophet is really insulting old prophet by saying “Heck no, I’m not eating with you.”

How is old prophet going to respond to this major insult?  He’s now standing there with his donkey, feeling humiliated by this younger man.  No doubt his pride is smarting.  What do humans do when they find themselves embarrassed or humiliated?  Often times they lie to try and improve their situation.  That’s exactly what old prophet does.  He tells a fib in order to con young prophet into accepting his invitation to dine.  That way he won’t have to return home and tell his sons about how he was told off.

The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of Yahweh: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.) So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house. (1 Ki. 13:18-19)

What did young prophet just do wrong here?  He didn’t ask Yahweh to verify what old prophet told him.  He just accepted old prophet’s story, even though old prophet is lying.  But how do we know that young prophet didn’t ask Yahweh?  It doesn’t say that in the text, so how can we assume it?  We can assume it because of what we know about Yahweh’s Character.  Yahweh is a God who wants us to succeed with Him. Yahweh doesn’t just set us up to fail, He can be counted on to guide us in life and tell us when He wants us to do something.  So far, young prophet has been very clear on what Yahweh wants him to do, and yet here he just chucked his convictions aside when old prophet spoke.  He gave old prophet the authority to change Yahweh’s instructions without getting Yahweh’s authorization.

Now we’re about to discover that Yahweh is very ticked with young prophet for disobeying His clear instructions.  Does Yahweh get furious with souls who are making innocent mistakes?  No, He doesn’t.  Does He blame people for doing things that they didn’t even know were wrong?  No, He doesn’t.  Yahweh is a gracious God who makes it very easy for us to succeed with Him by giving us all of the information and resources we need to carry out His will in a specific moment.  Once we understand that this is the kind of God Yahweh is, then when we see Him expressing anger at young prophet’s behavior, we can know without a doubt that young prophet knew he was doing wrong. He was intentional in his defiance of Yahweh.  At the very least, he knew that he should have checked with Yahweh but refused to do so.  But far more likely, Yahweh convicted the prophet not to go and the prophet blew Him off.  Again, how do we know this? Because we know that Yahweh is a very gracious God.  He isn’t stingy with convictions.  He very clearly tells us when we’re doing something He doesn’t want us to do, and He only gets mad at us when we’re willfully defying Him.  It is Yahweh’s reaction to young prophet that tells us what was going on in young prophet’s soul.  He knew he was disobeying God and did it anyway.  Then he ended up in big trouble for it.

While the two prophets were sitting at the table, the word of Yahweh came to the old prophet who had brought the young prophet back. He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, “This is what Yahweh says: ‘You have defied the word of Yahweh and have not kept the command Yahweh your God gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where He told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your ancestors.’”

When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the old prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him. As the young prophet went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it. (1 Ki. 13:20-24)

Earlier we said that humans should be viewed as mixes of truth and lies.  In this account we see old prophet lying in God’s Name one moment, then giving a real message from God in the next.  Because young prophet treated the first lie as a truth instead of asking God for wisdom and obeying His convictions, young prophet has ended up on the wrong side of Yahweh’s patience.  He ends up as a lion’s lunch.  And just to give the man’s death a miraculous tone to it, Yahweh causes donkey and lion to stand together beside the corpse, instead of having the donkey flee in fear.

So clearly young prophet’s disobedience was a “last straw” for Yahweh. But knowing who Yahweh is, how many chances should we assume that He has given this young prophet to do things right?  Is Yahweh a “one strike and you’re mauled” kind of God?  No, He isn’t.  While Yahweh’s wrath is certainly real and terrifying, He says that He is a God who is slow to anger.  What this means is that we should assume that this young prophet has quite a history of lipping off to Yahweh.  While he really looked great when he boldly marched up to face off with a king, Yahweh’s very harsh reaction to this lunch business clearly indicates that this young prophet has erred on the side of disobeying God in life.

Imagine how great Jonah would look if his story started with the day he marched into Nineveh, boldly declaring Yahweh’s message of doom.  It’s only because the story of Jonah begins earlier and includes the part where he runs away like a punk and Yahweh has him swallowed by a sea monster that we get a more accurate view of what a spiritual brat he really was.  In the Bible, we are often only given brief glimpses of a human’s life—and then from there we leap to all kinds of conclusions about the sort of man he was.  And yet in our leaping, we often fail to give enough attention to the actions of God.  Yahweh is too gracious to have a man torn apart by a lion over one innocent mistake.  But Yahweh’s patience does have limits and when we defy Him over and over again, the day comes when He suddenly comes down hard on us with lions, plagues, curses, and death.  Remember this principle the next time you read about the Fall or the Flood or the destruction of Jerusalem or of people being thrown into a crack in the earth.  Yahweh is an extremely gracious God, so when people start dropping over in hideous agony, that tells us that we’re not reading about first time offenders.  Yahweh is a very merciful God who never confuses an innocent mistake for willful defiance.  We need to stop being so quick to assume the worst about Yahweh and ask Him to help us better understand and appreciate how good He really is.  Then when we read about a young man getting chewed up by a lion, we will understand that it is Yahweh who we should be siding with, not the rebellious prophet.

FURTHER READING:
The Snarky Prophet: Lessons Learned from Jeremiah 14-15
Lessons Learned When Isaiah Pleads for Leniency

Debunking The Fall: The Many Lies Christians Tell About Genesis 3
Korah’s Rebellion
Understanding Yahweh: Why Moses & Aaron Were Banned From The Promised Land
Jeremiah 2-3: Yahweh Justifies His Wrath
Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t: Finding Peace in the Midst of Moral Dilemmas
Recognizing Trust Lessons: Why God is Refusing to Give You Clear Direction
Christian Prophets Explain the Mechanics of Prophecy: Don’t Just Believe What We Say

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