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Being an Obedient Son....

I want to share a sad story from the Old Testament today, and the great lesson we can all gain from it. It’s about a good young man, who was earnestly trying to please God, but was misled by someone older than him.  Here’s the story:

“By the word of the LORD a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering.  He cried out against the altar by the word of the LORD: "O altar, altar! This is what the LORD says: `A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who now make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.'"

That same day the man of God gave a sign: "This is the sign the LORD has declared: The altar will be split apart and the ashes on it will be poured out.” When King Jeroboam heard what the man of God cried out against the altar at Bethel, he stretched out his hand from the altar and said, "Seize him!" But the hand he stretched out toward the man shriveled up, so that he could not pull it back.

Also, the altar was split apart and its ashes poured out according to the sign given by the man of God by the word of the LORD.  Then the king said to the man of God, "Intercede with the LORD your God and pray for me that my hand may be restored." So the man of God interceded with the LORD, and the king's hand was restored and became as it was before.

The king said to the man of God, "Come home with me and have something to eat, and I will give you a gift.” But the man of God answered the king, "Even if you were to give me half your possessions, I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water here.  For I was commanded by the word of the LORD: `You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came.'"

So he took another road and did not return by the way he had come to Bethel.  Now there was a certain old prophet living in Bethel, whose sons came and told him all that the man of God had done there that day. They also told their father what he had said to the king.  Their father asked them, "Which way did he go?" And his sons showed him which road the man of God from Judah had taken.

So he said to his sons, "Saddle the donkey for me." And when they had saddled the donkey for him, he mounted it. and rode after the man of God. He found him sitting under an oak tree and asked, "Are you the man of God who came from Judah?" "I am," he replied.  So the prophet said to him, "Come home with me and eat."

The man of God said, "I cannot turn back and go with you, nor can I eat bread or drink water with you in this place.  I have been told by the word of the LORD: `You must not eat bread or drink water there or return by the way you came.’"  The old prophet answered, "I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the LORD: `Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.'" (But he was lying to him.). So the man of God returned with him and ate and drank in his house.  While they were sitting at the table, the word of the LORD came to the old prophet who had brought him back.

He cried out to the man of God who had come from Judah, "This is what the LORD says: `You have defied the word of the LORD and have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you.  You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where he told you not to eat or drink. Therefore your body will not be buried in the tomb of your fathers.'"

When the man of God had finished eating and drinking, the prophet who had brought him back saddled his donkey for him.  As he went on his way, a lion met him on the road and killed him, and his body was thrown down on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.

Some people who passed by saw the body thrown down there, with the lion standing beside the body, and they went and reported it in the city where the old prophet lived.”   I Kings 13-34, NIV

1 The young man obeyed God and did great things.  There’s no question about his character, his determination to honor God and to do his best to please God—i.e. to make God proud of Him!

2 But an older man, also a prophet, lied to him and convinced him that God had told Him what to tell the prophet to do.  Just because a man claims to be God’s mouthpiece to you does not mean he is!

3 The younger man did not inquire of God and let another person lead him astray.  His heart was not opposed to God and he was not trying to do something wrong.  But he listened to the wrong person.

4. The consequences were immediate and severe—-and this story was recorded to help you and me in our walk with God!  Our God is not some milk-toasty grandfather that can’t wait to spoil us. There are times He is incredibly unflinching—-and you don’t want to find yourself on the receiving end of God’s punishing hand.  Does this story not make that clear?

Don’t believe it when someone tells you that God has told them to tell you to do something if it contradicts what He has already told you to do!  God does not contradict Himself. He’s full of mercy and grace, but follow Him if He’s given you a directive, and beware of other men who offer any easier way to get home, a smoother path, or a lighter load. God knows what He’s doing—-sometimes well intentioned folks can trip us up!

More than once in my life, the counsel of every single soul I would count as reliable and God-fearing gave me the wrong counsel. I knew it, and I ignored their advice—on most occasions.  But every now and then I am swayed by older, more intellectual and talented men and women to do what in my heart I know God does not want me to do—-things never turn out good on those occasions. A lion is always there to upset my plans.

Young people, don’t follow the crowd. Don’t follow the congregate advice of the wisest teachers, or most inspiriting speakers you’ve ever heard, if you know it’s contrary to God’s instructions to you or His Word.  This is what the students at Colombia, UCLA, Harvard and even schools in this nation have forgotten.  Oratory and passionate speeches have swayed some level minded people to do things that they know are wrong to do.

Jesus said,  “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14, NIV)

The road less traveled is the road to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is not saying that it is impossible to walk through that little gate or walk that narrow road, but rather that because it is so small and narrow,  most folks choose the bigger gate and broader road-that is what is happening on college campuses now!  After all (or so the rationale goes), everyone else is going this way, so it must be okay.  People will try to talk you out of following Jesus on the narrow path—sometimes even religious folks like the older prophet we just mentioned.

That is the manner of thinking that Jesus came to challenge. If He were present today, in our world of democracies and parliaments, He would probably remind us that, “The majority may rule, but the majority is quite often wrong.” Be careful of assuming that doing, thinking, acting or living a particular way is acceptable to God because “everyone else is doing it”—such was the thinking of the Germans during WWII, and with the citizens of Jericho,  Sodom and Gomorrah.  Such is the same thinking associated with abortion, sexual promiscuity, etc.

Jesus was clear: Choose the path that most folks choose not to take. Stop listening to what others are saying and listen to what He is saying.  The path He calls us to take is not common, straight or level—and you can’t see what’s around the corners.  And walking through that gate requires that you bend  a little and not always have a proud posture.  But to follow Jesus I have to break with those I love, at times, and the common way of thinking, living and being…and  rather be prepared to learn to think, live and “be” a new way—God’s way and perhaps walk a different way home than you expected and planned.

And His way does not rely upon the approval or accumulation of men. In fact, following God can at times be incredibly lonely and make you appear foolish.  Think of all the heroes in Old Testament and how silly they must have appeared to everyone—-even their wives, husbands and children.  Hosea was commanded to marry a prostitute.   And when she went back to her old habits God told her to purchase her as a slave any marry her again.  The Lord would subjected one of greatest servants —Isaiah— one of his precious messengers! -- to the shameful assignment of walking around naked, for three years, to illustrate how very soon the nation of Israel  would fall and everyone would be lead into captivity stark naked!

If you examine the heroic men and women of God in the Bible you will be astounded at how lonely and bereft of companionship they often were. Following God and seeking His Kingdom will not make you popular or a celebrity—but it will draw you closer to the heart of God Himself.

Jesus said that, “Unless you become as a little child, you will never enter into the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:3, NIV)

Three things are clear:

  • Eternal life is a gift—we’re not entitled to it.

  • Jesus said we have to “become as a child” (Matthew 18:3, KJV)—whatever that means—to receive it.

  • We’re told again and again that some folks will be surprised that they are not a part of the Kingdom while others are surprised that they are.

So it’s free. We have to become as a child. And some folks have mistaken ideas about what it takes to get it.  Again, Jesus said that God wants all men (i.e., mankind) to be saved. But it’s only given to those who are willing to become like a child.

I will tell you what I think that means.

I enjoyed a wonderful childhood of playing games, building tree houses, boating in the lake, riding my bike, etc. All that I did or experienced was possible because of my parents who taught me, provided for me, and protected me.

Never in my entire childhood did I have trouble sleeping at night; I don’t ever recall being anxious over any future events; I laughed a lot more than I do now and thought I was very gifted and special—because my parents kept telling me how wonderful and bright I was.

I can still recall as a toddler hearing my dad come home and running down the hallway to have him pick me up and usually stumbling, hitting my head on the terrazzo floor!  I could not wait for him to come home and pick me up.

But as I grew up I began to doubt that I was smart, or special or gifted. I learned to worry about grades, being accepted at a new school, being cool enough to be a part of the most admired groups in my classes, etc.  And I began to get stressed!

Becoming “as a child” in order to enter into His Kingdom does not mean that I never worry or have doubts. It means that I have come to a place, at some point in my life, where I realize and admit that I am in need of a father once again—someone that can look after me, give me rest and be the delight of my soul. And I have to acknowledge to this Eternal Father that I not only need to be taught a lot, but that I also need to unlearn quite a bit. Becoming a small child means that I humbly admit to God that I do not have the answers and I am not able to make it on my own! I need a dad to help me!  And I must trust Him, not what old prophets, the media, or even the majority of my fellow Christians say.

But I also think that coming to God as a child means that I am, in my heart, looking forward to all that He has prepared for me. I am ready to chase rainbows, collect stones from creeks, and run to His arms.  This is becoming a child. It’s the sublime assurance that He loves me and therefor  I can totally trust Him—no matter how ridiculous I fear it may make me appear to others.

If we are too mature, independent or proud, the Kingdom will not be ours, according to Jesus. We have to humble ourselves and allow Him to be our Father…

…and what a wonderful Father He is.

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