Avoiding the deception to come
By Jerry Harr - September 2006
I don't know about you, but when I read the Bible, from time to time I come across examples of God dealing with one of His servants in a way that, at least initially, really surprises me. But then, when I look at what is going on, I get more insight into the situation.
One example is Moses. Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. He led them through the red sea. He led them for 40 years through the wilderness. Then, at Kadesh, Moses didn't follow God's direction, didn't sanctify God before the congregation during one incident, and God says: "OK, since you did this, you won't be able to come into the promised land with the people." Moses died, and was not able to enter the new land. I felt sorry for Moses.
Then, when King David was bringing the ark up to Jerusalem, the ark was being carried on a wagon, instead of being born on the priest's shoulders as God had ordered them to do in His law. And the oxen pulling the wagon stumbled, and the ark started to tip. And one of those helping to bring the ark up, a man named Uzzah, put out his hand to steady the ark, and God struck him dead. You shake your head, and say "what's going on here? Why did God do that? And you maybe feel sorry for Uzzah.
Well, in today's passage, we come across a man called "a man of God." No name! This man -- a prophet -- was on a mission from God. He was doing what God had commanded. Then, another prophet lies to the man of God, and tells him that God had given the man of God a change in orders. So this first prophet swallows the lie, and God takes his life. And you scratch your head: "What's going on here?"
Let's look at God's Word:
Whenever I've read this in the past, I think, "Why did God take his life? The prophet that did the lying and deceived the man of God, why didn't God punish him?
I want to look at these verses. I think there are some things to learn about God here, and we shouldn't miss them. But first, we need to see who Jeroboam is, and a little bit the history.
During the reigns of Kings Saul, David and Solomon, Israel was one country. God had promised Solomon that if he would walk before Him as David his father did, and obey His commandments, then God would establish Solomon's throne and his sons would reign over Israel. But God also warned him that if he or his children would turn from following Him and go and serve other gods and worship them, then He would cut off Israel out of the land. You can find that in 1 Kings 9.
Well, Solomon took many wives, and these wives were from the nations around Israel, godless nations, idol worshiping nations. And these wives turned Solomon's heart to idols. So in 1 Kings 11 we read: "So the LORD said to Solomon, 'Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates.'”
Now the servant of Solomon that God would give the kingdom to, was Jeroboam. And while Solomon was still on the throne, God sends the prophet Abijah to Jeroboam, and he tells him, in 1 Kings 11:31, "Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee"
In verse 33, God tells him the reason: because they forsook God and worshiped Molech and Ashtoreth and Chemosh, the gods of the nations that his wives came from, and they didn't follow God's commandments.
And in verses 37-38 God makes Jeroboam this great promise:
"However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you." 1 Kings 11:37-38
So here is Jeroboam. He had been Solomon's servant. He had seen how Solomon had at one time worshiped the one true God, and had seen how his many wives had turned his heart to idols. Now God is telling him he is going to take the kingdom away from Solomon for that. Now Jeroboam learns from that that God severely punishes idol worshiper. And he gets a promise that the kingdom would be his, and a sure house, if only Jeroboam would follow him with a whole heart.
So, after the death of Solomon, that once-united kingdom of Israel, is split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north, (and they made Jeroboam their king), and Judah in the south (under Solomon's son, Rehoboam.)
You would think that Jeroboam would realize that God had done exactly as He promised: that He had punished Solomon and his son, just as He said He would, and given Jeroboam the northern kingdom, just as He said He would. You would think that all this would have impressed Jeroboam that he had to follow God, or suffer the consequences. But what did Jeroboam do?
Jeroboam was afraid that the people would go to Jerusalem to worship, and would follow the king of Judah. So...
"After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, 'It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.' One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. So here is Jeroboam setting up idols for the people to worship." 1 Kings 12:28-29
Now we come to the text for today, and we find Jeroboam sacrificing to idols in the high place in Bethel that he had set up.
A man of God went from Judah to Bethel by the word of the Lord, and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. Then he cried out against the altar by the word of the Lord, and said, “O altar, altar! Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a child, Josiah by name, shall be born to the house of David; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men’s bones shall be burned on you.’ And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign which the Lord has spoken: Surely the altar shall split apart, and the ashes on it shall be poured out.” 1 Kings 13:1-3
Now, we don't know anything about this prophet, called "a man of God", and nowhere do we ever find out his name. He's just called "a man of God". It's like God doesn't want us to focus on the man, or his family or what he did for a living. His only pedigree was that he was doing God's will, he was delivering God's message.
We are told that the Lord gave orders to this man to come to Bethel and give a message to Jeroboam. Jerusalem was the city where the temple was, the city where God had ordered people to worship, and it was in Judah. Now, could God have sent a prophet to him from some place in Israel? Sure. But by coming from Judah, God is emphasizing that this man was his emissary. He was representing God. He was from the place where the temple was and the ark of the covenant, and the shekinah glory of God was present. God was putting his stamp of authenticity on this man's message. It's part of his credentials.
In verse 2, the man of God finds Jeroboam in Bethel, and gives a prophecy, that the bones of the priests of the high places would be burned on that altar.
Now there were many false prophets in the nation of Israel throughout their history. And the question arises, "How do we know if someone says he is a prophet, how do we know he really is?" God gave one test of a prophet: they had to be 100% accurate. If they weren't, the people were to take them out and stone them. The prophets would frequently be given a long term prophecy, something for quite a few years into the future, but along with that, they were given a short term, local prophecy. And if that short term prophecy would come true, then you could trust his longer term prophecy.
So the man of God is prophesying here something for farther in the future. But so that they will know that the prophecy will come true, he gave them a short term prophecy: "This is the sign the LORD has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out."
So then God gives His stamp of authenticity on the prophecy by splitting apart the altar, as the man of God had prophesied. And God gives him another sign: He causes the king's hand to shrivel up, and then He heals him.
The message wasn't lost on the king. He recognized that it was the God of Jerusalem, the God of the southern kingdom, the One True God who had done this, not one of his golden calves that he had set up. Notice he didn't turn to his priests to ask one of his idols to help him. In verse 6, he says "Intercede with the LORD your God and pray for me. And God restored his hand.
Notice what God did here. Even knowing that Jeroboam had a hard heart and wouldn't listen, but eventually lead his people into idolatry, first, He warned Jeroboam that his priests would be judged for this idol worship. Then He demonstrated His power and ability to make the prophecy come true, in a sense telling him "I am the one you should worship, your idols can't split this altar like I just did. Do you see this? Wake Up!"
And then He shows his ability to judge also by causing the king's hand to shrivel up, and then shows He is a merciful God by healing him.
Then the king invites the prophet home with him to eat, in verses 7, 8, but God had ordered the man of God not to eat bread or drink water there.
Why did God give the man of God a command like this? Well, there's no way of really telling, because God doesn't tell us His reason here, but I think a clue is in what Paul told the Corinthian church:
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 'I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
"Therefore 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. 'Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” 2 Corinthians 6:14-17
"And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them." Luke 9:5 5
Apparently, God is making the man of God a testimony against king Jeroboam. By going home with the king, and eating and drinking and having fellowship, he would have given the king a feeling of comradery, making the king feel like "Hey, we're all one big happy family."
But they weren't one big happy family. Unless the king repents, he is NOT one with the man of God. In fact, he's in opposition to him and what he stands for. God called his representative out of Judah to emphasize that he was separate, and Jeroboam was going his own separate way and going away from God. I think God wanted to emphasize that in His command to the man of God.
Now... what about us? Should we be friends with those that are not Christians?
Certainly. We have to let our light shine. We have to let our lives be a witness to them. But if someone is a God hater, like Jeroboam, and makes a point of trying to pull people away from Christ, and is assailing God's people, then I don't see how we can have any kind of fellowship with them. John tells us that in 2 John. If you glad hand and are buddy-buddy with one like Jeroboam, then you are giving your stamp of approval to him. The man of God was commanded not to eat with him.
"Now an old prophet dwelt in Bethel, and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel; they also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king." 1 Kings 13:11
Now how did the sons of the old prophet know all that the man of God had done and said? Well it seems clear to me that they were there. They were there with Jeroboam at the idolatrous sacrifice in Bethel. They were participating in the worship of idols. It may very well have been that they were some of the priests that Jeroboam had appointed from among the people. They would have had a place of esteem among the people because they were sons of the old prophet.
So now the old prophet finds the man of God, and invites him to come home and eat with him. When the man of God answers that God told him not to eat or drink anything in that place:
"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.) So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water." 1 Kings 13:18-19
So the old prophet lies to the man of God, and the man of God follows him home. Was he deceived, and believing he was following God's command? Or did he willfully disobey the command of God, maybe because he was hungry or thirsty?
It's kind of hard for me to believe that he would obey God and travel from Jerusalem to Bethel, risk being put to death by the king of Israel, then willfully disobey just to have bread with this prophet. It's seems reasonable to me to believe that he was actually deceived. He swallowed the lie... hook, line and sinker.
So what happens? The old prophet tells the man of God that he had disobeyed, and that he wouldn't be buried in his family tomb. Then:
"When he was gone, a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his corpse was thrown on the road, and the donkey stood by it. The lion also stood by the corpse. And there, men passed by and saw the corpse thrown on the road, and the lion standing by the corpse. Then they went and told it in the city where the old prophet dwelt....
"Then he went and found his corpse thrown on the road, and the donkey and the lion standing by the corpse. The lion had not eaten the corpse nor torn the donkey." 1 Kings 13:24-28
It is obvious from these verses, that this was a judgment from God. If a lion is killing for food, it would have hauled away the body and eaten it. It didn't do that. It also would have gone after the donkey. It didn't do that either. And the donkey would naturally be afraid of the lion, and gotten out of there as fast as it could. It didn't do that.
Both the lion and the donkey acted contrary to their nature, and stood there long enough for people to see it, go into town and tell the people, the prophet has to hear of it, saddle his donkey and ride out there, and here they still are, standing beside the body, waiting, waiting for the prophet to come.
God is making it very plain, so that everyone who sees it or hears about it knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was a judgment from God.
Now, was this just? If the man of God was deceived, should he have been held accountable?
We have kind of a built in belief that if we didn't know about some law or the law wasn't communicated effectively that we are off the hook. We are not responsible. "Oh, I didn't know, It wasn't my fault." Don't you feel that way? Try telling that to the police officer who pulls you over. "But officer, I didn't know the speed limit was only 70."
So, here's the question: If you do something that God has forbidden, do you commit a sin -- even though you didn't know it was forbidden?
Listen to this portion of the law that God gave His people:
"...if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven." Numbers 15:27-28:
What does that say? "If a person sins unintentionally, it's OK, there is no sin." Is that what God says?
No. God tells how the person must go about being forgiven. That means, the person sinned, and he is guilty, even though he did it unintentionally. You don't need to be forgiven if there is no sin. Even though he didn't mean to disobey, he's guilty, he has sinned. Lev 4:13 says virtually the same thing, for the whole congregation of Israel.
But the verse that is a clincher for me is Lev 5:17:
"If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible." Lev 5:17
There are a number of similar references for people that sin unintentionally, but you get the idea. Ignorance is no excuse. Being deceived is no excuse. This man of God was deceived, yes, but he disobeyed God, and God judged him.
Now this judgment of God does not have anything to do with the man's salvation. This is a temporal judgment -- an earthly judgment.
You know, we all sin. Right up to the moment of our death we sin. And for those of you who trust in Christ, all your sins have been paid for by the Savior. And that includes the sins of this man of God. But on this earth, our way is directed by our Lord. And this includes our manner of death.
Remember, in the end of the gospel of John, the Lord told Peter how he would die. And John adds that this is the death that the Lord chose for Peter, and a death that would glorify God. In the same way, God chose the manner of death for the man of God, so that God would be glorified. His death spoke about the righteousness of God, ... and His justice..... and the fact that He demands that we obey His commandments.
And He plans this death to send a message to Jeroboam.
Looking at the way the man of God was deceived, maybe you say, "but how can we avoid a sin like this?"
There is a very revealing episode in Joshua 9. Moses has just died and Joshua is leading the people of Israel into the promised land. God commanded them not to make any covenant with the people in the land.
They could make covenants of other nations that were far away, but not with the people of Canaan. The people of Canaan were to be destroyed because of their idolatry and terrible religious practices. And here in Joshua chapter 9, the Gibeonites, who lived in the land, had heard how Israel had destroyed Jericho and Ai, they were scared. So they put on old clothes and got some moldy bread, and came to Joshua and told him they had come from a far land. "See our bread, how moldy it is? It was fresh when we started out. See our clothes, how worn out they are? They were new when we left." And they asked Joshua to make a covenant of peace with them.
Here is a pretty good deception! It appeared to Joshua that these people were indeed from some far country. Seems OK to make an agreement of peace with them, right? But in Joshua 9:14, the Lord tells us what was missing. It says: Joshua "asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord." Joshua didn't pray about it. Joshua didn't ask the Lord if it was OK to make a covenant with them. Joshua was deceived, and went ahead and made a covenant of peace with them. The bible implies that, had Joshua prayed about what to do, he would have been able to discern what course to take. But he didn't.
The man of God, in our text, must have thought, "hey, wait a minute, is God really giving me new marching orders here?" Do you think he said, "Wait a minute, I have to pray about this."? There is no evidence of this. It doesn't look like he did. So he sinned. And God judged him.
Now, verse 33:
"After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but again he made priests from every class of people for the high places; whoever wished, he consecrated him, and he became one of the priests of the high places." 1 Kings 33
By saying "Even after this..." it is clear that word had gotten back to Jeroboam about God judging the man of God. It is saying, in effect, "Even after this..... Even though Jeroboam could plainly see that God had judged his own emissary for disobedience, still......with all he knew, Jeroboam didn't take heed and listen to God. Still he kept on worshiping idols."
Well, that's how Jeroboam turned out. Because of him, God would take Israel and scatter them among the nations.
Suppose we are sitting in church one Sunday, and the Pastor's at the pulpit, and suddenly, Pastor stops his message and looks out the window and says: "It's THE LORD !!! He's out there in the parking lot !!!! He's beckoning for us. He's come for us !!! COME ON!!! And he runs out the side door. What would you do? Wouldn't you jump up and run out after him? Would you?
Actually, your first reaction should be "He's off his noodle!" Well, that would be the proper intellectual response. But I hope that you would have an even stronger response in your spirit. Do you know that if you followed the Pastor outside you would have been in direct disobedience to the commands of Jesus? Listen to Jesus' words as He instructs His apostles a few days before He would be put to death.
"Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." Matthew 24:23-27
He says "I will not come in secret. When I come back, everyone will know it, just like lightning that lightens up the sky for all to see."
Now, did you know that? Was the first thought in your head: "Nope, Jesus told us not to go"? Is it possible you didn't know about Jesus' warning?
Listen: we are living in the last age before the Lord comes. He tells us that there will be false Christs, false prophets, people showing great signs and wonders, deceiving, if it were possible, even the elect. He says the AntiChrist will show signs, will show false wonders, he will deceive people:
"The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved." 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10
We are getting close, friends. Israel for 2000 years was not a country, yet the Bible prophecy talked about an "Israel" in the latter days. For almost 2000 years people thought that these prophecies must be symbolic. Must be allegory. There is no nation Israel. They tried to spiritualize it. Then in 1948 , after almost 2000 years, Israel became a country again.
The Bible says that in the latter days the focus of the world will be in Israel. The last great conflict will center on Israel. Let me ask you: Where is the focus of the world today? Isn't it on Israel? We are getting close, friends.
How do we prepare for this time? How do we avoid being deceived? Two ways: First, we need to know God's word We need to know His warnings.
We need to know the examples He has given us, the things that happened to Israel in the past! These "were written down for OUR INSTRUCTION," Paul tells the Christians in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:11
Now these things (meaning the experiences of Israel written down in the Bible) happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. What happened to them have become examples and warnings for us!
The man of God KNEW the command of God, yet he was deceived. What happens if you don't KNOW the commands of God, don't KNOW the examples He has given you for your instruction?
Do you know the word? You have to avoid the deception to come, yes, but first, you need to know God's word, His teaching, His examples, His commands. You need to know God's word, before you can obey it.
Maybe some of you don't know God's word as you know you should. What are you going to do about it? Start today. You know, if you read just 20 minutes a day, you can read through the whole bible in a year. Start with Genesis 1:1. In twelve months, you will be back in Genesis 1:1 again.
Start today. Decide to learn God's word. In order to obey God's word, you first have to know it.
Did you notice the word "deceive" in the Lord's word in Matthew, and also in Paul's letter? It's not enough to just know God's word. Like our passage today, the man of God knew God's command, but he was deceived.
There will be great deceptions in this world shortly before the end. Even when you know God's word, you need to pray to avoid deception. Joshua didn't, and he was deceived. The man of God was deceived, and he didn't even see any miracles to deceive him. He was just lied to.
But you may have to face apparent miracles -- what the Bible calls "the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders..." (2 Thess 2:9) So pray that you may discern the deception and obey His Word.
From the way God dealt with Jeroboam, we learn several things about the way God interacts with us. God is merciful towards us. God is patient and is longsuffering. God woos us and teaches us and draws us in the way He wants us to go.
“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.... I taught Ephraim [Israel] to walk, taking them by their arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I drew them with gentle cords, with bands of love...." Hosea 11:1-3
God is slow to let go of us. God is slow to give up on us. But, there is the judgment side of God also. When all is said and done, when we have stiffened our necks and pulled away the shoulder from God's merciful hand of leading, and there is no remedy, then all that's left is the prospect of judgment.
“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night...." 2 Peter 3:9-10
God is patient..... but there will be a judgment, and it's going to come suddenly.
What about you, my friend? Has God shown you what you should do, and pleaded with you, and yet you still refuse to obey? It's time to repent.
It's time to go to God. Run to Him. Don't let yourself rest until you get right with Him. God will receive you. In Psalm 51 David reminds us that a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. Why not deal with Him now?
Get right with Him! Get right.
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