Items posted on 18 February 2011
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1 Kings 13.11-22 – Sin as an objective reality
Posted: 18 February 2011 in 1 Kings

Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father. And their father said unto them, What way went he? For his sons had seen what way the man of God went, which came from Judah. And he said unto his sons, Saddle me the ass. So they saddled him the ass: and he rode thereon, And went after the man of God, and found him sitting under an oak: and he said unto him, Art thou the man of God that camest from Judah? And he said, I am. Then he said unto him, Come home with me, and eat bread. And he said, I may not return with thee, nor go in with thee: neither will I eat bread nor drink water with thee in this place: For it was said to me by the word of the LORD, Thou shalt eat no bread nor drink water there, nor turn again to go by the way that thou camest. He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him. So he went back with him, and did eat bread in his house, and drank water. And it came to pass, as they sat at the table, that the word of the LORD came unto the prophet that brought him back: And he cried unto the man of God that came from Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee, but camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the Lord did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.

If I remember rightly, I made a comment similar to this one some months ago. On that occasion the thought was sparked by a passage in Numbers. A few verses prior to the passage quoted above, the man of God is invited by King Jeroboam to eat and drink with him, and he refuses on the grounds that God has explicitly forbidden him to eat or drink until he has fulfilled his mission. In the passage above it is the old prophet who makes the invitation, and again he refuses, and gives the same reason for doing so.

So the man of God apparently does not sit lightly to God’s commandments. But in the second case, the old prophet lies to him, and tells the man of God that he has received a revelation from God, and that they ought to eat and drink together. So the man of God goes off to share the prophet’s hospitality, presumably with a clear conscience.

I suppose most people would be inclined to think that the old prophet had committed a morally culpable act in lying, and that the man of God was guilty of no intentional misconduct; especially in the light of his earlier insistence that he must abide by the will of God. What actually happens, however, is that the old prophet suffers no comeback for his deliberate lie, whereas the man of God is told that he will die because he has disobeyed God.

So the message here would seem to be that God regards sin as something objectively real, and that our culpability for it is not dependent upon the state of our conscience. In God’s eyes, we can be judged guilty of sin even when we have no sinful intention – we have besmirched our Lord’s holiness, and that is sufficient. It must be remembered that nobody can say to God, “What doest thou?” He has the absolute right to judge us in whatever manner he pleases.

Another quote from scripture which may make sobering reading in the light of 1 Kings 13 is:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. (Isaiah 55.8)

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