False teachers

false_teachersThe other night as I was reading through the chapters on my yearly Bible reading plan, I came across a troubling event recorded in 1 Kings 13.  Here’s the passage in two parts.

1 And behold, a man of God came out of Judah by the word of the Lord to Bethel. Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make offerings. 2 And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, “O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’ ” 3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, “This is the sign that the Lord has spoken: ‘Behold, the altar shall be torn down, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.’ ” 4 And when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Bethel, Jeroboam stretched out his hand from the altar, saying, “Seize him.” And his hand, which he stretched out against him, dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself. 5 The altar also was torn down, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign that the man of God had given by the word of the Lord. 6 And the king said to the man of God, “Entreat now the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me.” And the man of God entreated the Lord, and the king’s hand was restored to him and became as it was before. 7 And the king said to the man of God, “Come home with me, and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.” 8 And the man of God said to the king, “If you give me half your house, I will not go in with you. And I will not eat bread or drink water in this place, 9 for so was it commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water nor return by the way that you came.’ ”

1 Kings 13:1-9 (ESV)

10 So he went another way and did not return by the way that he came to Bethel. 11 Now an old prophet lived in Bethel. And his sons came and told him all that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told to their father the words that he had spoken to the king. 12 And their father said to them, “Which way did he go?” And his sons showed him the way that the man of God who came from Judah had gone. 13 And he said to his sons, “Saddle the donkey for me.” So they saddled the donkey for him and he mounted it. 14 And he went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak. And he said to him, “Are you the man of God who came from Judah?” And he said, “I am.” 15 Then he said to him, “Come home with me and eat bread.” 16 And he said, “I may not return with you, or go in with you, neither will I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place, 17 for it was said to me by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall neither eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by the way that you came.’ ” 18 And he said to him, “I also am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you into your house that he may eat bread and drink water.’ ” But he lied to him. 19 So he went back with him and ate bread in his house and drank water. 20 And as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came to the prophet who had brought him back. 21 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, 22 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.’ ” 23 And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. 24 And as he went away a lion met him on the road and killed him. And his body was thrown in the road, and the donkey stood beside it; the lion also stood beside the body. 25 And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the road and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.

1 Kings 13:10–25 (ESV)

Though I’ve read through Kings several times by now, I guess I hadn’t really thought much about this particular chapter.  This time around I couldn’t help but pause and wonder more about what happened.  Here we have a prophet who hears from God and knows what God’s direction is for him.  He comes across another prophet on his way out of town who, for whatever strange reason, decides to lie to him that God had spoken different directions.  He listens to that lying prophet, disobeying God, and then God brings about the prophet’s death.  No, not the death of the lying prophet, but the "man of God" from the beginning of the chapter.  Wow.  That’s tough.

So, I got to thinking… what does this mean to us?  Is it just another "story" to read and shrug and move on, or is there more we can learn?  After all, Paul told us Old Testament events are examples to teach us lessons.

11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

1 Corinthians 10:11–13 (ESV)

If you search throughout the New Testament, you will find passage after passage dealing with the idea of false teachers.  Jesus warned us about them, Paul warned us about them, Peter warned us about them, and on and on.  Here are just a few statements.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Matthew 7:15 (ESV)

11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.

Matthew 24:11 (ESV)

22 For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.

Mark 13:22 (ESV)

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,

2 Timothy 4:3 (NASB)

1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

2 Peter 2:1–3 (ESV)

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

1 John 4:1 (ESV)

These passages and others warn us to keep a lookout for false teachers, not just out there in the world, but right there "among you."  Does anyone think the church itself is safe from false teachers being in its midst?  Think again.

So, here’s what I see in 1 Kings 13.  This prophet was misled by another prophet among him.  Even though the first prophet had heard from God, knowing what He commanded him to do, he simply followed the direction of another claiming to have heard different direction from God.  Did God let that first prophet off the hook for his mistake?  No!  That’s a painful thing to read.  Are we going to be held to the same standard?  Perhaps so.  Maybe it won’t end in our death by an attacking lion, but we can certainly be led astray.  After all, Peter warns us like this.

8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)

So, what should the prophet have done after hearing from the second prophet?  I see two choices throughout the Old Testament.  Either hold fast to God’s original word, or inquire again after God to learn the truth.

4 But you who held fast to the Lord your God are all alive today. 5 See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’

Deuteronomy 4:4–6 (ESV)

29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! 30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. 31 I cling to your testimonies, O Lord; let me not be put to shame! 32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!

Psalm 119:29–32 (ESV)

5 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.”

1 Kings 22:5 (ESV)

21 For the shepherds are stupid and do not inquire of the Lord; therefore they have not prospered, and all their flock is scattered.

Jeremiah 10:21 (ESV)

Should it be any different for us?  We do not have prophets around to inquire after God, but we do have God’s Word as passed down to us in the Scriptures.  We can hold fast to that Word.  We can study it.  We can compare everything we see, everything we hear, everything we read against the Bible.  We see a great example recorded in Acts.

10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

Acts 17:10–11 (ESV)

The Bereans didn’t simply take what Paul said for granted, but compared his words against the Scriptures, and they did it daily.  Ultimately, I see that as the teaching from 1 Kings 13 for us.  We are to daily examine the teachings of the world, of our friends (yes, that includes my too-lengthy blog posts ;), of our favorite well-known Christian author/blogger, and even of our church against God’s written Word… lest we be led astray and fall into the snares of Satan’s attacks.  Don’t forget the lesson Adam & Eve learned in the garden.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Genesis 3:1 (ESV)

Satan meant that question for evil, and yet we can ask that question ourselves for good.  Never stop checking what you read or hear against God’s Word.  The next time you read or hear something that "tickles your ears" as Paul warned Timothy, ask yourself and find the answer to, "did God really say?"

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3 thoughts on “False teachers”

  1. Great post. It makes me think of one of my favorite exhortations by Paul in Hebrews 5:11 -14. Verse 14 says – “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” The words that stand out to me are constant use, trained, and distinguish good from evil. As Moses said, “This is not an idle Word for you; it is your life.” (I may have paraphrased that a little)

  2. It makes me think twice about some of the Television preachers also… The Prosperity gospel message, the Healing messages…

  3. I finally got some time to sit and read this. It gives me food for thought that I need to be more selective in who/what I read and listen to. Thanks for the clerity and always thought provoking message!

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