When God gives a command, He expects it to be obeyed. Otherwise, the consequences can be serious and even disastrous. By one act of disobedience Moses lost the right to enter the land of Canaan, and for the same reason a certain prophet after many achievements lost his life.
In the First Book of Kings chapter 13 we read the moving story of this prophet. The Bible does not give his name, but calls him simply "a man of God," v. 1 and "the prophet" v.2. At that time ten Israelite tribes had been separated from the other two, forming an independent kingdom under the rule of the usurper "king" Jeroboam. They kept an altar with their separatist "priests" in Bethel, a town located approximately 30 miles north of Jerusalem .
The LORD sent a prophet of Judah to Bethel, commanding him to preach against the altar and return immediately by another way, without even stopping to have a meal on the way there and back. The instructions were quite stringent, and perhaps dangerous, but they were divine, clear, and therefore should be obeyed.
At first all went well. The prophet went to Bethel and to the place where the idolatrous altar was, and there he found Jeroboam about to burn incense. Without hesitation the prophet announced the message that the LORD had given him, predicting that a future king of Judah descendant of David (Josiah) would kill the priests of Bethel and burn their bones on that same altar. In confirmation the altar would split apart so the ashes upon it would be poured out.
Upon hearing this, King Jeroboam streatched out his hand from the altar saying, "Arrest him." But the hand he stretched out against the prophet withered and he could not pull it back to himself. The altar was split apart and the ashes poured out from it according to the sign given by the prophet. The king, frightened, begged the prophet to ask God to restore his hand. The prophet complied, and the king's hand was healed. Humiliated and astonished, the king invited the prophet to refresh himself with him at his home and he would give him a reward. The prophet refused the invitation of Jeroboam, advising him the word of the LORD he had been told, and went another way from the one he had used to come to Bethel.
Up until this point the man of God had faithfully obeyed the instructions he had received. But now a fatal disaster came upon him. An old prophet who lived in that neighborhood, having heard from his sons about the events in Bethel, went to meet him with an invitation to return with him to his house for dinner. The man of God refused, declaring to him the word of the LORD he had been given.The old prophet, however, lied claiming that an angel had spoken to him by the word of the LORD telling him to bring him, and so he was persuaded to return and eat bread and drink water at his house.
As they sat at the table the word of the LORD came to the old prophet and he cried out to the man of God that the LORD said that, because he disobeyed the word of the LORD, and had not kept the commandment he had been given, but had gone back and eaten bread and drunk water where the LORD had told him not to, he would die and would not have the privilege of being buried in his own land. This actually happened, because that same day, as the man of God was on the way back home, he was killed by a lion and buried in Bethel by the old prophet.
In this event we see how a man of God - a prophet - honoured the Lord carrying out a dangerous task, but in the end, for disobeying instructions at one point, lost his life. Note: it is customary to call him a "new prophet", but the Bible does not say what was his age.
He had a caring nature, because he asked God to heal the withered hand of Jeroboam. He was also brave, as he prophesied against the altar at Bethel in the presence of the king and priests in attendance. He was also brave, because he dared to refuse the invitation of the King (verses 7-9).
Despite all this he failed in the end because he accompanied the "old prophet", believing that his incredible story was true and that, in fact, God had changed the instructions previously given clearly to him personally. The "man of God", believed in the word of a mere man, which contradicted the Word of the LORD and, in consequence, tragically died and was ignominiously buried in the tomb of others.
Perhaps our first reaction to this story is to think that it was not fair for God to decree the death of the first prophet, who so faithfully served Him, and do nothing to the old, whose lie the other believed causing him to die.
Remember, however, the words of the prophet Samuel: "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22). God demands obedience above all. "Through one act of disobedience, judgment came upon all" Romans 5:18. This refers to the sin of Adam, who disobeyed the only commandment that God gave him.
In 1 Kings 20.35-36 we have the record of an event similar to Chapter 13. Read it and see the similarity: an order of the Lord, not fulfilled, resulting in death in the jaws of a lion.
For these examples, and many others, God wants to teach us the great truth of obedience to his orders and the sad results of disobedience.
Thank God there was A MAN who obeyed God in everything, even to death on the cross. Thus, "by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous" (Romans 5:19).