Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions – G.K. Chesterton
One of my favorite Bible stories is found in 1Kings 13.
A prophet, known only as “a man of God” was sent by God, from Judah to Bethel to prophesy against King Jeroboam for his institution of idolatry in order to secure his reign.
Upon hearing the prophecy, the king stretched out his hand from the altar, shouting, “Arrest him!” His outstretched hand suddenly withered and the altar split apart, and the ashes poured out from it, just as was prophesied.
The king begged the man of God to pray that his hand may be restored. The man of God did, and the king’s hand was mercifully restored.
For this, the king invited him home to refresh himself, and to receive a reward.
But, the man of God declined the king, stating, “If you were to give me half your house, I would not go in with you; nor would I eat bread nor drink water in this place. 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.’”
So, in obedience to the word of the Lord, he ate nothing, drank nothing, and did not return by the way he came to Bethel.
However, on his way, he was intercepted, while sitting under an oak tree by an old prophet who lived in Bethel.
After initially declining the old prophet’s invitation; the man of God acquiesced when the prophet lied to him by saying, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.”
Unfortunately, as they sat at the table, the word of the Lord came thru the old prophet, 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.’”
What is going on here folks.
1. The man of God believed a lie, based on the source.
As Mr. Chesterton noted, deception does not cease to be deception because [of its source]. Church doctrine, the words and teachings of fellow believers must be checked against the word of God!
It is incumbent upon us as disciples (learners) to ensure that what we are believing, practicing, and teaching is the word of God.
2. Obedience is always better than sacrifice.
When we have a word/command from God, we are expected to obey it, regardless of convincing command to the contrary.
3. Discernment is a continuous practice.
From a godless source, the temptation to disobey is usually much easier to discern and we’re more likely to stand firm in our resistance [as in the case of the temptation from the idolatrous king.]
However, when the exact temptation comes in the guise of a person of God or a church doctrine, we let our guard down, making our selves vulnerable to deception, and may eventually succumb by going against the specified word of God.
4. Pride goes before a fall
There are no idle words in scripture, and we’re told the man of God was found sitting under an oak tree by the old prophet.
The oak tree is a symbol of man’s strength which if not tempered by humility can become a source of pride, which may eventually lead to our fall.
One way in which pride is manifested is in doing things in our strength, independent of God. Perhaps the man of God, having been victorious over a great and formidable king didn’t give much thought to the fact that it was the exact temptation that came via an old weak man, thereby falling prey to something he had literally just overcome moments before.