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Wednesday, 17 February 2016

The False Prophet and the True Prophet

Well, I'm still not dead, so here is the first in a series of sermons. The other is forthcoming sometime in the next three months.

There are two kinds of prophets we read about in the Bible. The first is the true prophet—everything that he speaks of the Word of the LORD comes to pass.
The second is the false prophet—now, not everything a false prophet says is untrue, because if it was, he wouldn’t truly be a false prophet. Let me demonstrate.
Imagine that in front of you are two doors. They are identical; there is no way of distinguishing one from the other. But you know that only one of these doors leads to life; the other leads to death. In front of each of these doors is a twin, identical to the other; there is no way of distinguishing between them. But you know that one of these twins always lies, and the other one always tells the truth. Suppose that you have to choose which door to go through, but before you do, you are allowed to pick one of the twins-doesn’t matter which, and ask him just one question. Which question could you ask that would be guaranteed to give you the information you need?
It is this: Ask either of the twins, “If I asked the other twin which door led to death, which one would he point to?”
If you asked the lying twin, he would lie and say that the truthful twin would point to the door which was actually the door to life—and you would go through that door.
If you asked the truthful twin, he would truthfully say that the lying twin would point to the door which was actually the door to life—and you would go through that door.
Or, you could ask either twin which door the other twin would say was the door to life---the question wouldn’t matter, as long as you always took it the opposite way.
A false prophet who always lied would be so reliable, his prophecy would be as dependable as that of a true prophet—as long as you knew to always take the opposite of what he said. No, a false prophet is much worse than one who always lies—because he mixes lies with the truth, to the extent that you can never know, just by listening to him, which is which.

So, today we are going to hear about a true prophet, whose prophecies all came true—even long after he was dead!
And also a false prophet, who could be depended on to lie some of the time—but not all of the time.

1Ki 12:26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now the kingdom shall return to the house of David!
1Ki 12:27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.
1Ki 12:28 And the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold and said to them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Behold your gods, O, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!
1Ki 12:29 And he set the one in Bethel, and he put the other in Dan.
1Ki 12:30 And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one, even to Dan.
1Ki 12:31 And he made a house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, who were not the sons of Levi.
1Ki 12:32 And Jeroboam ordered a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast that is in Judah. And he offered on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
1Ki 12:33 And he offered on the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, in the month which he had devised out of his own heart. And he ordered a feast for the sons of Israel. And he offered on the altar, and burned incense.

The King has started up a new religion---but he’s not calling it a new religion. He’s calling it the old religion. The old religion had fallen into disrepair, and he’s reviving it—or is he? Solomon worshiped other Gods, but Jeroboam claims to be worshiping the true God—but by an ancient means, the golden calf. Here comes the True Prophet, and he’s going to show three ways that he’s God’s man, with God’s message—a message of judgment. His first prophecy won’t be fulfilled for another three hundred years, plus, so God gives him a second prophecy that is fulfilled right on the spot, to prove that the first can be counted on to come true eventually. Along the way, the recipient of the prophecy gets an extra sign, free of charge—and unlike the proverbial woman who only got three wishes, he gets a fourth to undo the effects of the third.

1Ki 13:1 And behold, a man of God came out of Judah, by the Word of Jehovah, to Bethel. And Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.
1Ki 13:2 And he cried against the altar in the Word of Jehovah and said, O, altar, altar, so says Jehovah. Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and on you he shall offer the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and men's bones shall be burned on you.
1Ki 13:3 And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which Jehovah has spoken. Behold, the altar shall be torn apart, and the ashes that are on it shall be poured out.
1Ki 13:4 And it happened when King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God who had cried against the altar in Bethel, he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him! And his hand, which he put forth against him withered up so that he could not pull it in again to himself.
1Ki 13:5 The altar also was torn apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar according to the sign which the man of God had given by the Word of Jehovah.

Well, the True Prophet sure did make his point. His prophecy would come true, just as he said. Now the king may not want to heed God’s warning, and he may have a hard time believing that the far-off prophecy could ever come true, but he still recognized God’s power in this man and asked him for a favour: he wanted his withered arm restored.

1Ki 13:6 And the king answered and said to the man of God, Touch now the face of Jehovah your God, and pray for me, and my hand may be given back to me again. And the man of God prayed to Jehovah, and the king's hand was given back to him again, and became as at the beginning.
1Ki 13:7 And the king said to the man of God, Come home with me and refresh yourself, and I will give you a reward.
1Ki 13:8 And the man of God said to the king, If you will give me half your house, I will not go in with you, nor will I eat bread nor drink water in this place.
1Ki 13:9 For so was it commanded me by the Word of Jehovah, saying, Eat no bread nor drink water, nor return again by the same way that you came.

Now the True Prophet shows himself again to be God’s man on the scene, as he carefully follows God’s specific instructions as to how he should conduct himself while delivering God’s message to King Jeroboam.
1Ki 13:10 And he went another way, and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.
1Ki 13:11 And a certain old prophet was living in Bethel, and his son came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. The words which he had spoken to the king they also told to their father.
1Ki 13:12 And their father said to them, Where is this man? What way did he go? For his sons had seen what way the man of God, who came from Judah, had gone.
1Ki 13:13 And he said to his sons, Saddle me the ass. And they saddled the ass for him, and he rode on it,
1Ki 13:14 and 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.

Now, Bethel wasn’t far from Judah—it was actually the first town north of the border between Israel and Judah, only about ten miles from Jerusalem. So the prophet could have made the journey up and back in a single day. But still, that would have been a hard walk, made all the harder by the lack of food and even water—and he was probably taking the long way back. Tired as he was, the prophet did something very unwise—he stopped to rest not very far out of town. Now understand, he wasn’t disobeying God’s direct command. He turned down the king’s meat, and the king’s drink. He headed home by a different way. Unlike Little Red Robin Hood's mother, God had never said, “Don’t stop along the way, or talk to any strangers.” So as far as he was concerned, he was still in obedience. But his sitting down to rest was the first step on a path that led to destruction—and, prophet of God though he was, he never saw it coming.

1Ki 13:15 And he said to him, Come home with me and eat bread.
1Ki 13:16 And he said, I may not return with you nor go in with you, nor will I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.
1Ki 13:17 For a word was to me by the Word of Jehovah, You shall eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that you came.
1Ki 13:18 And he said to him, I am a prophet also as you are. And an angel spoke to me by the Word of Jehovah, saying, Bring him back with you into your house, so that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied to him.

Isn’t this amazing? True prophets may never lie about what’s coming, but neither do they always know what’s ahead. True prophets can sometimes be just as surprised at what happens as anyone else—and they can even be deceived by a false prophet just like anyone else. All it took was what sounded like another Word from The LORD to update the one he had originally received—and boy, would some bread and water sure hit the spot, now that he had worked so hard to obey the Word from God in every detail.

1Ki 13:19 So he went back with him and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

And so it was that the prophet disobeyed God without even realizing he was doing it. But should he have realized it? Yes, without a doubt. The carelessness he had outwardly shown in sitting down on the job revealed an inner carelessness that kept him from realizing the obvious: that in returning to Bethel, he was going directly against the previously revealed Word of God. What had God said, in Deuteronomy thirteen?

Deu 13:3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For Jehovah your God is testing you to know whether you love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

God was testing this true prophet—not to see if he was a true prophet; that had already been demonstrated when he healed the king. God was testing to see if he loved Him with all his heart and soul, or if he’d be willing to sell it all for a table spread with food and drink. And He was using a false prophet to test him. Why? Because the true prophet couldn’t have been fooled by anyone less. He was so used to hearing and following the Word of God that he had forgotten that there is an enemy who excels at imitating the Word of God so well that only a very cautious person would be able to tell the difference. How do you know to distinguish which is the door to life, and which is the door to death? The only way to know is by taking into account the existence of the liar, and his tendency to lie. Satan is a liar, and the father of lies. You can count on him to lie every time he gets the chance—but you have to really watch it, because so many times, his lies sound like the truth. Just look at how he tempted Jesus:

Mat 4:1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit up into the wilderness, to be tempted by the Devil.
Mat 4:2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He was afterwards hungry.
Mat 4:3 And when the tempter came to Him, he said, If You are the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
Mat 4:4 But He answered and said, It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."
Mat 4:5 Then the Devil took Him up into the holy city and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple.
Mat 4:6 And he said to Him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down. For it is written, "He shall give His angels charge concerning You, and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest at any time You dash Your foot against a stone."
Mat 4:7 Jesus said to him, It is written again, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God."
Mat 4:8 Again, the Devil took Him up into a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
Mat 4:9 And he said to Him, All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.
Mat 4:10 Then Jesus said to him, Go, Satan! For it is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve."
Mat 4:11 Then the Devil left him. And behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

So Jesus also had traveled to where God led him to go, and had gone without meat or drink according to the command of God. So what did the Devil tempt him with? Food. Now, in all three of these temptations, the devil spoke the truth: Jesus was the Son of God, he could turn stones into bread, He was the Son of God, he could jump safely off the peak of the temple. Jesus never told Satan that he was lying, or that he didn’t really have rule over the kingdoms of the world—he just kept coming back to the Word of God to show that Satan wasn’t really giving the true picture. And so God used Satan himself to prove that Jesus really did love him over food, over fame, and over earthly power and glory. Jesus passed the test because he was able to see Satan for the liar that he was, even when what he said was technically true.

So, back to the true prophet and the false prophet. How do we know this old man is a false prophet? Well, it’s easy—it says right here, that he lied about what an Angel of God had said. True prophets may become careless, they may even be deceived, but they never, ever, lie about the Word of the Lord.

1Ki 13:20 And it happened as they sat at the table, the Word of Jehovah came to the prophet whom he had brought back.
1Ki 13:21 And it proclaimed to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, So says Jehovah, Because you have not obeyed the mouth of Jehovah and have not kept the command which Jehovah your God commanded you,
1Ki 13:22 but came back and have eaten bread and have drunk water in the place which He said to you, You shall not eat bread nor drink water, your body shall not come to the tomb of your fathers.

A great clamor,” says Dr. Kennicott, “has been raised against this part of the history, on account of God’s denouncing sentence on the true prophet by the mouth of the false prophet: but if we examine with attention the original words here, they will be found to signify either he who brought him back; or, whom he had brought back; for the very same words, אשר השיבו asher heshibo, occur again in 1Ki_13:23, where they are now translated, whom he had brought back; and where they cannot be translated otherwise. This being the case, we are at liberty to consider the word of the Lord as delivered to the true prophet thus brought back; and then the sentence is pronounced by God himself, calling to him out of heaven, as in Gen_22:11. And that this doom was thus pronounced by God, not by the false prophet, we are assured in 1Ki_13:26 : ‘The Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, according to the word of the Lord which He spake unto him.’ Josephus expressly asserts that the sentence was declared by God to the true prophet.” The Arabic asserts the same.

So, God Himself intervenes to show the true prophet that he had failed the test, and that he would pay for it with his life. Now look at what happens: the two men carry on as if God had never spoken. The reaction of the True Prophet to God’s prophecy is no different than that of the False Prophet! They both sit around finishing up the meal!

1Ki 13:23 And after he had eaten bread, and after he had drunk, it happened that he saddled the ass for him, for the prophet whom he had brought back.

The False Prophet maybe feels a little guilty. Here he has just been responsible for this man’s death sentence—so the least he can do is give him a ride home in comfort: he loans him the use of one of his donkeys. And even though he is no longer so hungry, or thirsty, or tired, the True Prophet accepts the offer. It’s as if he knows his prophetic career is over, so he may as well ride of into the sunset in comfort. Where is the anguish of King Jeroboam, who pleaded for God to reverse the catastrophe of his withered arm? Where is the pleading of Esau, who begged to get back his stolen blessing? We see none of that—just a man who knows that God has spoken, who realizes too late that he allowed himself to be deceived and has no one but himself to blame for his fate—a man who quietly goes out to meet it unprotesting—may the will of the LORD be done to his servant. A true prophet to the very end, he never doubted the Word of the LORD.

Who else have we seen with that attitude—well, it was another True Prophet, the Apostle Paul, in Acts twenty-one. Paul had done something foolish, we might say—after repudiating the power of the Law of Moses over the believer, he had gone back under the Law and taken a vow. Nothing sinful about this—God never said to stop taking vows, or not to get your head shaved—but it was unwise. Paul should have fled from The Law the way the young prophet should have fled from Bethel. But he didn’t, and all his attempts to obey the Law were only to backfire on him and lead to his arrest and imprisonment. Paul even knew this would happen, for God repeatedly sent true prophets to him to warn him that if he returned to Jerusalem, he would never leave the city as a free man. Paul knew it, but he kept going anyway. “The will of the LORD be done,” he said—even if it meant his death. And he carried right on as if he’d never heard the warning.

Acts 21 And entering the house of Philip the evangelist, he being of the seven, we stayed with him.
Act 21:9 And there were four virgin daughters to this one, who prophesied.
Act 21:10 And as we stayed more days, a certain prophet from Judea named Agabus came down.
Act 21:11 And coming to us, and taking Paul's belt, and binding his hands and feet, he said, The Holy Spirit says these things: So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man whose belt this is, and will deliver him into the hands of the nations.
Act 21:12 And when we heard these things, both we and those of the place begged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
Act 21:13 Then Paul answered, What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.
Act 21:14 And he not being persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

Well, God’s prophecies all came true for Paul, just as they had for the young prophet in our story today.

1Ki 13:24 And he left, and a lion met him by the way and killed him. And his dead body was thrown in the highway, and the ass stood by it, and the lion also stood by the body.
1Ki 13:25 And behold, men passed by and saw the body thrown in the way, and the lion standing by the body. And they came and told it in the city where the old prophet lived.
1Ki 13:26 And when the prophet who brought him back from the way heard, he said, It is the man of God who did not obey the Word of Jehovah. And Jehovah has delivered him to the lion, which has torn him and killed him, according to the Word of Jehovah which He spoke to him.
1Ki 13:27 And he spoke to his sons, saying, Saddle the ass for me. And they saddled it.
1Ki 13:28 And he went and found his body thrown in the way, and the ass and the lion standing by the body. The lion had not eaten the body nor torn the ass.

Here is yet one more sign from God that even in death, this is a true prophet, who never lies. The lion was clearly not just out looking for some lunch, but had been sent from God and would not leave his post until the final detail of God’s latest prophecy came true, that this young man would never be buried in his family tomb.

1Ki 13:29 And the prophet took up the dead body of the man of God, and laid it on the ass and brought it back. And the prophet came to the city to mourn and to bury him.
1Ki 13:30 And he laid his body in his own grave. And they mourned over him, saying, Alas, my brother!
1Ki 13:31 And it happened after he had buried him, he spoke to his sons, saying, When I am dead, then bury me in the tomb in which the man of God is buried. Lay my bones beside his bones,
1Ki 13:32 for the saying which he cried by the Word of Jehovah against the altar in Bethel, and against all the houses of the high places in the cities of Samaria, shall surely come to pass.

Here we have the False Prophet speaking the truth—although it’s not his truth, but just a repetition of what the True Prophet had already said. But he believed it—not only because of the fulfilled prophecy from the prophet himself, but now because of the prophecy from the Mouth of God which he had heard himself—in fact, he set out to fulfill it himself. God had said that the prophet would never be buried in his family tomb—and to make sure that happened, the False Prophet buried him in his own tomb, and raised up a monument to it—a monument that was still there, over 300 years later, when a son of David, King Josiah by name, began ransacking the surrounding tombs to use to desecrate King Jeroboam’s altar, just as the young prophet had predicted. When he saw the monument, he said, “Let it alone. Let no one move his bones.” And so it was that the bones of the False Prophet were protected from being desecrated, along with the bones of the True Prophet. The False Prophet had faith—faith that the final prophecy would someday be fulfilled, and in that faith he took the steps to protect his own bones from desecration when all would be fulfilled.

Okay, here we are today. We have the Word of God—which we know we can trust, because it has proven always to be true. It says some things about the future that we can trust just as well, even if we don’t know when they will take place. And one of those things we are told is that in the last days, False Prophets will abound—that they will not only prophecy falsely in Christ’s name, but that even the elect will be in danger of being deceived.

Mat 24:23 Then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ! Or, There! Do not believe it.
Mat 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders; so much so that, if it were possible, they would deceive even the elect.
Mat 24:25 Behold, I have told you beforehand.

We don’t dare sit down to rest, my people. God has warned us of these false prophets, warned us of their signs and wonders, warned us of their power to deceive. We must not become careless like the young prophet did. We must not be tempted to stray from the path by offers of meat, or drink, or an easy ride. We must press on until we’re all the way home, and leave Satan’s agents to their own destruction. We must take into account Satan’s tendency to lie, and be on our guard for it—never believe a prophet who says, “Well, I must have been mistaken. I thought I was hearing from the LORD, but I must not have." FALSE PROPHET ALERT! A true prophet may be careless, he may be unwise, he may even be deceived—but he NEVER, NEVER makes a prediction in the name of the Lord that does not come true, exactly as he predicted it. A true prophet just can’t, even when his life depends upon it. False prophets, however, do. They have to. They will. And they’ll always have an excuse for it. Stand a true prophet next to a false prophet, and no matter which one you ask, you’ll always get the same answer to the question, “If I were to ask that man next to you if he’s a false prophet, would he answer in the affirmative?” No matter which one you ask, the answer will always be “No.”

What were our Lord’s words to the church of Thyatira?

ev 2:20 But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices.
Rev 2:21 And I gave her time that she might repent of her fornication, and she did not repent.
Rev 2:22 Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds.
Rev 2:23 And I will kill her children with death. And all the churches will know that I am He who searches the reins and hearts, and I will give to every one of you according to your works.

We have been warned. We MUST heed that warning—our life depends upon it.

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