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1 Kings 13 tells a rather alarming story. It takes place in the time after King Solomon's death, where the kingdom split into two nations. Two of the tribes, Judah and Dan, remained faithful to Solomon's son and became the nation of Judah. Solomon's temple was in Judah and even though Solomon's son was not a very good king, the people there remained faithful to God and continued to worship Him. So God's favor was upon them. The other ten tribes choose to follow Jeroboam, who was a much better political leader. They broke off and became the nation of Israel.
Jeroboam realized that the Jews would want to go to Judah to worship God in Solomon's Temple, and that they would eventually want to reunite with the other two tribes. This was a threat to his reign, since Solomon's son was clearly the heir to the throne, and the legitimate ruler. So, Jeroboam set up altars to false gods and turned the people to idolatry in order to keep his own rule secure. That was a big mistake, because he ended up fighting God. He had broken the first and second commandments; worship only God and don't make idols. God was pretty mad about this. So He sent a prophet to have a power encounter with Jeroboam as he made a sacrifice on an altar dedicated to a false god.
We are never told the prophet's name, just that he is a man of God from Judah (the enemy nation that still worshipped God). God gave this prophet very specific directions: first, to go from Judah to Israel to prophesy against King Jeroboam's altar, second to fast both food and water the entire time he was in Israel, and third he was not to backtrack -- he was to come by one route and return by another. (We see these directions in verses 9 and 16-17). It is clear that the prophet understood his assignment and instructions, because he told them to multiple people when he was invited to go eat with them.
The bible tells us nothing about his trip from Judah to Israel, but we can assume it was long and hot. And he was probably tired and hungry and thirsty when he arrived. But he was a man on a mission and he proceeded to the altar to prophesy against it to king Jeroboam. "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 13:2-3)
That was a powerful prophecy. King Jeroboam was very upset with him for delivering it. So he pointed at the prophet and told the guards to arrest him. But God stepped in to supernaturally protect this prophet and confirm His word. The prophecy had said that as a sign of it's validity, the altar would split apart and ashes would pour out. That happened as Jeroboam said "Arrest him!" Verse 5 tells us, "The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord."
That confirmed the prophecy, but God added a little extra "umph!" to keep His prophet safe. Verse 4 tells us that God struck the king as he pointed at the prophet to have him arrested. It says, "Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself." If the altar exploding did not get the king's attention, his sudden paralysis certainly did. King Jeroboam has a complete change of tune and said, "Please entreat the favor of the Lord your God, and pray for me, that my hand may be restored to me." So the prophet prayed for Jeroboam and healed him.
Talk about a power encounter! First God proclaimed His word. Then He backed it up with a powerful sign (the altar exploding). Then God supernaturally struck the person who attacked His prophet, ending the attack. And finally God did a supernatural healing on the king's hand. I would call that a pretty big spiritual high, wouldn't you? I would sure be excited if God did something like that through me, wouldn't you?
The prophet started on his way home. During the hot part of the day, he took a rest in the shade -- he probably needed to do this because he was weakened by fasting both food and water. An old retired prophet from Bethel came to him and invited him home for lunch. (The reason he did this was because he wanted the status of having this big impressive prophet as a guest in his home.) The Judean prophet explained that he could not do that because God had instructed him to fast and not to backtrack. So the retired prophet from Bethel lied to him. He told him that an angel appeared to him and sent him to bring the Judean prophet home and feed him.
This is where the spiritual warfare comes in. You can bet the territorial spirit who ruled over the altar was pretty upset. This demon had suffered a humiliating setback at the hands of this prophet, and his altar had been partially destroyed. The demon wanted revenge. He had already tried to attack the prophet directly by having him arrested, and found that God was protecting him. So the demon knew he would not be able to hurt the prophet directly. He had to come up with another strategy -- he had to get the prophet into some form of disobedience or rebellion that would lift God's protective covering off of him. First the demon tried it through bribery from King Jeroboam, but that did not work. The prophet had bluntly refused rewards and also refused to break his fast. (See verses 7 to 10 for that part of the story.) So the demon had to come up with another strategy.
The demon knew an important spiritual principle -- the more you move with God in His power, the more He holds you accountable to obey Him. We see an example of that in Moses' life. Moses moved with incredible power and anointing to deliver Israel from bondage in Egypt, to part the Red Sea and to provide water in the desert, as well as many other miracles and signs and wonders. For the most part, Moses was very obedient and submissive to God. But one day the Israelites got him really mad. God had told him to speak to the rock and command water to come out of it (Numbers 20:8). But in a fit of temper, Moses struck the rock with his staff instead, and the water gushed out (Numbers 20:10-11).
Most of us would think that his disobedience was pretty minor -- striking the rock instead of speaking to it -- but God held him accountable for it, and this one little disobedience had very severe consequences. Even though Moses had served God faithfully all of his life, God forbid him to enter into the promised land and He appointed Joshua to take Moses' place as leader of Israel (Deut 34:48-52). That is a pretty high standard of accountability -- but Moses moved with God at a pretty high level of power and anointing. The principle seems to be, the more of God's power you see in your life and ministry, the more God holds you accountable to obey Him.
The demon knew Jewish history and he knew that principle. That is why he worked so hard to get the Judean prophet to disobey God -- because he knew that disobedience would give him the opportunity to destroy the man who had attacked him by speaking God's word. The demon knew that God had just demonstrated incredible power through this prophet, so God expected complete obedience from him.
So the demon caused another prophet to lie to this man of God. And he made sure the lie was appealing, that it told him something that he really wanted to hear -- God changed His mind, you don't have to fast anymore. That would certainly appeal to someone who'd already gone without food and water for a few days, who had already done a long and difficult journey to Israel and was looking at another long and difficult journey back home -- all without being allowed to drink any water. And the lie came at the hottest part of the day, when the Judean prophet was resting in the shade and was bound to be very thirsty.
The demon's strategy worked, the Judean prophet listened to the lie that the retired prophet told him. The Judean prophet should have known better. He should have trusted his own hearing of God more than someone else's hearing. He had gotten directions directly from God, and he should have stuck to them unless God spoke directly to him to change the instructions. But fasting is hard in general. And fasting while you travel a long and difficult journey is even harder. And he was tired and thirsty, his flesh wanted to believe the retired prophet's lie -- he wanted food and water. So he gave in, he believed the lie and he returned to Bethel with this prophet (breaking the "don't backtrack part of the command.) Then he ate and drank at the prophet's house, breaking the "don't eat or drink in Israel" part of the command.
This story starts go get really alarming, starting at verse 20. As they were eating, the Lord came upon the retired prophet and prophesied through him, saying, "Thus says the Lord: Because you have disobeyed the word of the Lord, and have not kept the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but you came back, ate bread, and drank water in the place of which the Lord said to you, 'Eat no bread and drink no water,' your corpse shall not come to the tomb of your fathers" (verses 21-22). The story continues in verses 23-30. The Judean prophet finished lunch and left, and was killed by a lion. The retired prophet went and collected the corpse and buried him.
Verse 26 gives the legacy of the Judean prophet. The sad part is that nothing was said of the powerful prophecy he'd given, nothing was said of the power encounter he won, nothing was said of how he healed the king. None of his accomplishments were mentioned. Instead, this was his legacy, "the man of God who was disobedient to the word of the Lord. Therefore the Lord has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke to him."
What a sad thing to be remembered for your one failure instead of for your many accomplishments. It seemed unfair to me because he had been lied to and was punished for believing that lie -- yet the one who told the lie was not punished. This story used to really bother me until the Lord explained it to me. It sounded like God was being very unfair and it made me question if I wanted to be prophet and servant -- it sounded like a very dangerous job. But God put it into the context of spiritual warfare for me, and that was when it began to make a bit more sense to me.
The man of God had been involved in a prophetic power encounter where the local territorial spirit lost considerable ground and was humiliated. This demon was mad and wanted to get back at the prophet. The demon tried direct attack and found that God supernaturally protected the prophet. Then the demon tried bribery by having King Jeroboam offer him a reward (verse 7). The prophet faithfully turned down the reward, but when he did so, he gave the enemy information he should not have given. He said, in verse 9, "For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, 'You shall not eat bread, nor drink water, nor return by the same way you came.'"
When the prophet volunteered this information, he gave the demon the strategy to defeat him. The man of God told the demon what behavior God would consider disobedience; something God would hold the prophet accountable to obey. So the demon carefully manipulated a retired prophet to lie to the Judean prophet. The demon carefully manipulated things to make it appealing so that the prophet would disobey God. Then the demon had him cold. He could now go before God as the accuser, demanding that God punish this prophet for disobedience, because those who move with God in great power are held highly accountable to obey Him.
We learn two important lessons from this 1 Kings 13 account. First, we learn that we had better be serious about obeying God. The more we want to move in God's power and anointing, the more He will expect us to obey. If the enemy can manipulate us into willful or overt disobedience, he gains a tremendous victory over us. One of the most dangerous spiritual counter attacks that the enemy can launch against us is to entice us to disobey God -- because when we do that we loose our protective covering and become easy prey for counter attack.
The second important lesson that I personally take from this chapter is that it is not a good idea to volunteer information to the devil. Say what God tells you to say, but say no more than that. You do not have to give your reasons for doing (or for not doing) something. You are not accountable to the devil or to his demons. You don't have to justify your actions to them. Don't give the enemy information that he might use against you. In a human war, no soldier would give strategic information to the enemy, such as troop movements, battle plans, inventory of weapons, etc. The same is true in a spiritual war -- don't give strategic information to the enemy.