Wednesday, May 11, 2016

When is it okay to disregard the Word of the Lord?

road, street, sign

Perhaps we should go ahead and answer the title question right away: Never.

Of course, that doesn't make for a very long post does it? So, let's take a look at 1 Kings 13.

This has always been one of those passages in the Bible that sort of made me feel a bit of empathy with the offender. Here we have a prophet of YHWH pronouncing judgment upon King Jeroboam of Israel (the right thing) and then he gets tricked by an older prophet of Israel into disobeying the Lord (the wrong thing).

So, the younger prophet is enticed by the older prophet to eat with him. I think the key to understanding his mistake lies in 1 Kings 13:16-17 -  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, 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.’ (emphasis mine)

This young man of God had a clear word from God on what he was to do and not do, and he ultimately disobeyed. Yes, the older prophet counters claiming 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.’ (v.18). But this doesn't diminish the fact that the younger prophet had a clear word from God does it? Sadly, in this instant, the younger man of God's choice to take the older prophet's word over God's Word cost him his life.

I think there are some very practical things we can learn from this. First though, let's be clear that long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,but in these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. In these last days, we have a completed canon of Scripture. God is not audibly speaking to prophets anymore. Instead, we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed in Scripture. The Bible is God's Word. If God were to audibly speak to you right now, it would be no more authoritative than Scripture. In fact, we could even make the argument that it would be less authoritative because how could you prove it was actually God speaking to you?

By Word of the Lord then, I mean Scripture. What can we learn from this young prophet's mistake in 1 Kings 13?

1. Older does not always equal right -

I've heard several people use King Rehoboam's folly of listening to his young friends over the counsel of the old men (1 Kings 12) as a way to warn against neglecting wisdom from the older generation. There is certainly validity in that advice. However, in the very next chapter of the bible, we have almost the opposite situation. A younger man is deceived by an older man.  The point? Folly isn't necessarily restricted to those who are younger. Older does not always equal right. It does not matter how many gray hairs a man has, if his counsel is contradictory to the Word of God, it is not wisdom. In some churches today it is actually the older generation dismising the Word of the Lord by appealing to tradition and 'that's the way things are done around here' over Scripture. Let us be wary of this.

2. A 'prophet' does not always equal right -

Just because a man (or woman for that matter! ;-/) claims to be a Pastor, does not mean that we should accept any teaching that contradicts Scripture. The pastoral office should be respected but only insofar as the man in that office is teaching the Bible rightly (as a side note, a 'woman pastor' is de facto not teaching the Bible rightly as she is disregarding the clear teaching of Scripture in her role as a 'pastor').

From all appearances in our text this older prophet seemed to be a nice guy. Except of course for his willful deception. I know many 'nice' people who either willfully or unintentionally distort the truth of the Word of God. 'Niceness' or a particular role in the church - Pastor, Deacon, Sunday School Teacher, Youth Pastor, Women's Ministry Leader, etc. - does not give a free pass for denying, diminishing, or distorting the clear teaching of Scripture.

3. There are no excuses for disregarding the Word of the Lord -

I think of the day in which we live. An unprecedented moment in history in terms of the revealed will of God, especially in the West. The Word of God is accessible, readable, and there are even numerous excellent resources available for our use to help us grasp Scripture's meaning. I understand we can run into complex ethical questions at times, but for the most part, there is no mistake about what God desires of us. Scripture is wholly sufficient for showing us who God is and what He requires of man. Again, in the text, this young prophet had to rely on the audible instruction he received. But for us, we have Scripture! Which, as quoted above, the Apostle Peter says is a more sure word. This is because we don't have to wonder what was really said - we have it written down for us. We can (and should) go to the Bible often to see more of who God is and what He requires of us.

4. Rejecting God's Word always leads to serious consequences -

And as they sat at the table, the word of the LORD came to the prophet who had brought him back. 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.’” And after he had eaten bread and drunk, he saddled the donkey for the prophet whom he had brought back. 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. (1 Kings 13:20-24)

This prophet faced serious consequences for his rejection of the Word from the Lord. I think the lion and donkey standing in the road showed forth to those passing by that this was Divine judgment upon this man.

Now, you may think 'I don't always regard the Bible like I should, and no lion has eaten me!' Well, not yet. But consider that God hasn't spoken to us in His word arbitrarily. He has given us His Word for our good. And any disobedience to His Word is going to lead to serious consequences. It may not necessarily mean God will intervene as He did in 1 Kings 13 (though He may) but any rejection of God's Word is sin, and sin always leads to serious consequences. I don't even mean that neglecting God's Word will necessarily lead to 'worldly poverty' (though it may), as we do see many wicked who are financially prosperous. But take note: to disregard the Word of the Lord is the height of both human pride and folly.

It's never ok to disregard the Word of the Lord.

Not for political expediency. Not for pragmatism. Not to avoid conflict. Not to avoid offending someone. Not because you know better. Not because you don't have time.

Are you in the Book?

1 comment:

  1. An excellent post, my friend and brother in Christ!