Friday, July 11, 2014

A Contrary Word

And he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, "Thus says the LORD, 'Because you have disobeyed the word of the LORD and have not kept the command that the LORD your God commanded you, but have come back and have eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which he said to you, "Eat no bread and drink no water," your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.'"
(1Kings 13:21-22)

     I encourage you to read the entire chapter of 1 Kings 13 today to gain context on my thoughts here. For convenience, it is linked at the top of the page. I have to say that this is one of those passages in the Bible that has always disturbed me. I have always wondered why the prophet of Bethel would deceive the man of God from Judah and also why the man of God was punished by death when he listened to the prophet's words. I still have no understanding of the first question, and perhaps I never will. Why do any of us lie, cheat, steal, often even in the midst of serving God? It is part of the human condition, a part of the curse of sin that corrupts even our best intentions. The answer to the first question likely lies in that fact somewhere.

     Today, however, it is the second question that I want to discuss. Why was the man of God from Judah so severely punished for sharing the prophet's food when he believed the lie? After all, he seemed to be taken in by the prophet's words and was likely trying to be agreeable, accepting an offer of fellowship and hospitality. To my human logic, that does not seem like such a bad thing at all. However, in my most recent reading of this passage, God has given me insight on this in a very personal way because it is what He has been showing me about myself.

     The plain fact is that the unnamed man of God was punished for believing the words of the prophet over the words of God Himself. The first guy--let's call him Prophet One-- had heard from God, but he took the bait when the other guy -- Prophet Two-- claimed that God had given him a contrary word.The whole story has always troubled me, but I saw it with different eyes today. You see, God has recently shown me that I have the same tendencies as Prophet One. I, too, will clearly understand what God is calling me to do, but sometimes I, too, will doubt. I will listen to others who say they have been praying and think that God would have me do this or that instead of standing firm in what I know He has directly told me--and they may well have been, for all I know. I do not believe ill intentions of anyone in these cases. It's just that ultimately I will not answer to people, but to my King. However, the sad fact is, sometimes my desire to please people trumps my desire to please God.

     Often I do not do this with a rebellious spirit but with a sense of confusion, uncertain that perhaps I was really listening. Rather than having confidence that the Spirit of God clearly communicated His will to me, I allow doubt to be planted and grow. Sometimes, I suppose, I think that maybe others have heard Him better than me. Sometimes, though, the reality is that I do not trust enough in God to believe that He can make His will clear to me without  help from anyone else. It looks like, to me, that I am uncertain about myself. The reality, however, is that I am uncertain about my God's ability communicate. It is that old beast, Unbelief, again raising its foul head. When I read about Prophet One,  I see that I, too, have been deceived and by my own heart lead astray. 

     I am so thankful that God has shown me this tendency in myself. I have been asking Him to illuminate the dark areas, the hidden sins and the areas of disobedience that I have overlooked, and He is of course faithful to do so. Thank You, Lord, that You do not allow me to continue comfortably in unbelief! But more still, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to repent and turn away from this other area of unbelief, giving it over and making of it an opportunity to choose to trust and obey my Lord one layer deeper. I am thankful for my Savior, my Advocate and the great High Priest who stands before the Throne of Grace in intercession for my childish and wayward heart.

     God sent to me a Lion as well. He tore me, but He did not slay me utterly. He merely caused the pain of my sin to be felt and He stood over my prostrate form as I lay, in yet another thing dying to myself. But this Lion has tasted death already and overcome it. This Lion of Judah, my Savior and King, will not leave me broken and useless. In His power, I am dying daily, but I also am being remade, constantly raised from the dead and alive to God in Christ. It is in Him and for His glory that these many small deaths must be accomplished, for in each new area that I learn to reject sin, I learn to die to my flesh and walk more and more in the true Life of the Spirit of God. May it be to His glory that I will become less and less a creature of this world and more and more a new creation in Christ, prepared and perfected for His great glory! Praise be to God who makes all things new in His Christ!!

I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame.
(1Co 15:31-34)