Obedience: God’s Love Language (1 Kings 13:20-25)

Obedience: God's Love Language
1 Kings 13:20-25

I would like for you to put on your “Imagination Hat” and picture something with me. Picture yourself in a typical church in the United States of America; it does not matter what denomination it is. You have just heard a very powerful, emotional sermon on the love of God and then the pastor gives what is called an “altar call” for anyone to come forward and receive Jesus into their heart and be saved from their sins.

Imagine one young woman, let’s call her Belinda, in her mid-twenties does just that. Many know her; she’s a thoughtful, conscientious young lady and everyone knew that it was just a matter of time before she gave her heart to Jesus. So the pastor talks to her: “Are you ready to accept Jesus as your personal Savior?” With tears in her eyes, she nods her head.

The pastor also has tears in his eyes and he says to her, “Child, let us pray for you…” He bows his head and he says, “Dear God, We need you. We are humbly calling out to you. We are tired of doing things our way. Help us to start doing things your way. Belinda now invites you into her life to be her Lord and Savior. Fill the emptiness in her with your Holy Spirit and make her whole. Lord, help her to trust you. Help her to love you. Help her to live for you. Help her to understand your grace, your mercy, and your peace. Thank you Lord, Amen.”

But then, as soon as Belinda wipes her eyes and the whole church wipes their eyes, Belinda looks up into the face of her pastor and she sees fear in his eyes as he suddenly cries out, “Child, you have disobeyed Jesus Christ! I have lied to you! Long before I was ever born, Jesus had said, ‘He who believes and is baptized shall be saved!’ and because you did not obey Jesus Christ but listened to a lie, you are condemned by God to eternity in hell!” And Belinda dies right there on the spot!

I told you three weeks ago when we studied “Satan” that the Tempter often appears to us in the person of someone we love and admire the most.

Two weeks ago, when we studied “Hell,” we saw that people will be in hell who do not obey Jesus Christ.

To emphasize this point, and perhaps to clarify its importance, we’re going to look at an event from the OT: 1 Kings 13 and I want to emphasize through this study that obedience is God’s “love language.”

The Five Love Languages is a book and a theory of personalities that was developed and popularized by Gary Chapman, beginning in 1992. Chapman says that all of us express our love and experience our love in five ways:

words of affirmation
quality time
receiving gifts
acts of service
physical touch

God tells humanity from the beginning of the Bible until the end that His love language, that is, the language in which He wants us to express our love to Him, is through obedience. Obedience, obedience, obedience.

The lie that we don't have to be strict in our obedience to Christ’s commandments is easily hidden. Let us think about the words to this spiritual song, “Listen to our Hearts:”

How do you explain
How do you describe
A love that goes from East to West
And runs as deep as it is wide
You know all our hopes
Lord, you know all our fears
And words cannot express the love we feel
But we long for you to hear

So listen to our hearts
Hear our spirits sing
A song of praise that flows
For those you have redeemed
And we use the words we know
To tell you what an awesome God you are
But when words are not enough
To tell you of our love
Just listen to our hearts.

I love this song; I’m not necessarily criticizing this song. Few songs teach all the truth in the song. But this song easily lends itself to teaching that as long as I talk like I love God and I feel in my heart that I love God, that’s all that is necessary.

In fact, although it gives me warm fuzzies when I sing it, what does “Listen to my heart” really mean? What is the truth behind that expression? The song writer has already separated that idea from praising God with our lips so it does not mean that. What does “Listen to my heart” mean?

Family, when it comes to expressing our love for Jehovah God, there is no substitute, no substitute, for obedience to the commands of Christ. Let’s study 1 Kings 13:11-32…

It is really important to set up the background to understand what is happening here. The nation of Israel, after the death of King Solomon, has split into two. The northern tribes are known as Israel with their capital at first at Shechem. It will eventually be moved to Samaria. The king of northern Israel is named Jeroboam. The southern tribes, composed of simply Judah and Benjamin, will eventually be known as Judah and their capital will remain at Jerusalem. Their king is David’s grandson, Rehoboam.

The focus here is on the northern tribes and their king, Jeroboam. Because Jeroboam was afraid that he would lose citizens out of his kingdom, going back to Jerusalem to worship, he decides to change four aspects of worship, entirely made up out of his own heart (12:26, 33). He changed the object of worship, the time of worship, the leaders of worship, and the place of worship, all devised out of his own heart.

One of the objects of worship was a golden calf which Jeroboam erected in the village of Bethel. Bethel had a long, beautiful history in Israel going back to the patriarchs but under King Jeroboam and for hundreds of years later, it will become the “Las Vegas” of idolatry in Israel.

Chapter 13 begins with a prophet coming to King Jeroboam at Bethel as he worships at his false altar. The prophet denounces the sins of King Jeroboam and predicts that God’s wrath is going to come against that altar within 300 years. To emphasize the point, at the prophet’s word, God strikes King Jeroboam so that his hand atrophies. Then King Jeroboam humbles himself (a little) and asks the prophet to pray for him to be healed (13:6), which the prophet does and God heals him. That was all to show King Jeroboam that this man was a prophet of God and that if he did not change his behavior, the judgment of God was coming.

Then the King invites the prophet into his home, his palace, to eat a meal with him. Now, understand this point: Eating a meal with the King right after he just condemned his sins would have, effectively, dulled or nullified the judgment the prophet just spoke! It’s as if the prophet says, “Hey, you’re going to hell, but let’s eat, drink, and be happy!” You know, actions speak louder than words so if the prophet had eaten with the king, his actions would have said that he did not really believe his own message.

Notice verses 8-9, the man of God’s response to the king: “If you were to give me half your house I would not go with you, nor would I eat bread or drink water in this place. For so it was commanded me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘You shall eat no bread, nor drink water, nor return by the way which you came.’”

The idea of having a meal with someone you just condemned is an important theme in this context; it is mentioned again in verses 15-17, 18, 19, 22-23. We’ll look at those other verses as we go through our study but you have enough background information now to make better sense of what we’re talking about this morning…

Verse 11 introduces us to an “old prophet.” He lived in Bethel which makes us wonder if he openly practiced or passively tolerated the idolatry that King Jeroboam was doing. He had some sons who were there when the first prophet denounced King Jeroboam and they came home and told their dad what had happened. Dad asked his sons which way the prophet went; they told him, and he jumped on a donkey and went after the young prophet.

In verse 14, the old prophet catches up with the young prophet sitting under an oak tree. In verse 15, the old prophet invites the young prophet to come home and eat with him. The young prophet does what he is supposed to do; he quotes Jehovah God. He quotes the message God had given him. He quotes Scripture. The word “command” in verse 17 is not the Hebrew word for “command;” it is the word “word” as the prophet emphasizes the message of God: “A word came to me by the word of Jehovah…” The phrase “word of the Lord / Jehovah” is used 23 times in the OT; ten times are in this very chapter! 13:17, 18, 20, 21, 26, 32.

This is the second time that this prophet has repeated what God had told him. There is no doubt. He knows what God had told him! But telling God you love him is not enough. God doesn’t just listen to our hearts. He looks at our actions!

In verse 18, the old prophet says, “I also am a prophet like you, 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.” Underline these next words in the text: “But he lied to him.” He lied to him! He deceived him! He told him, “An angel spoke to me the word of God!” But he lied. The devil, for whatever reason, motivated him to lie to this young prophet!

He lied! We do not know what his motivations were. Did he know what a terrible tragedy was going to result from his lie? Was he, like King Jeroboam, trying to get the young prophet to remove the judgment against Bethel? If not in his words, at least by his actions? Was he wanting the younger prophet to “have fellowship” with the false prophets in Bethel? Was he wanting to “court favor” of the King? Surely if he could get the younger prophet to withdraw his condemnation, the older prophet will be held in high esteem among the whole nation of Israel; he’ll be popular; he’ll get lots of changes of clothes and money!! We don’t know what his motivation was.

But here’s the kicker… It doesn’t matter. His motivation does not matter. He lied! Solomon said, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight” (Prov. 12:22). God never, never, said, “Oh, I’ll set aside my commandments because the disobedient was sincere in their disobedience.”

Family, if God condemns lying in general, how do you think He feels about lying in His place?! Teaching something as if it were from God when, in fact, it was not? The prophet Jeremiah lived three hundred years later (his was the generation in which Bethel was punished by God under the Babylonians) and Jeremiah is still having to denounce false prophets. In Jeremiah 29:23, God tells Israel they have acted foolishly when they spoke words in His name falsely which He did not command! How could the young prophet know that the older prophet was lying to him? Because the message was not the same! God had spoken to him once. God had commanded him once. That was enough. Anything else is a lie.

Family, I’m trying to emphasize that obedience is God’s love language. If you love God, obey what He says and don’t change His commands to fit your pleasures…

Verse 19 is the center of the chapter. The young prophet, knowing full-well that what he was doing was against what God had told him, went home to Bethel, with the older prophet and did exactly what he knew was wrong. He ate bread in the older prophet’s house and drank water.

And then verse 20 tells us that this lying prophet suddenly becomes a true prophet of God as they were sitting eating that meal - the word of the Lord comes to the older prophet and now he cries out (the same verb used to describe what the younger prophet did to King Jeroboam back in verse 2) and speaks the truth:

“and he cried to the man of God who came from Judah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have disobeyed the command of the Lord, and have not observed the commandment which the Lord your God commanded you, but have returned and eaten bread and drunk water in the place of which He said to you, “Eat no bread and drink no water”; your body shall not come to the grave of your fathers’” (13:21-22).

“The word of the Lord came” distinguishes true prophecy from false prophecy, which comes from man’s imagination. There are so many things that have their origin, not in “book, chapter, verse” but in the imagination of humans. And you can’t do that. Not if you are going to honor the authority of Jesus Christ.

The word translated “disobeyed” (vs 21) means “obstinate.” It means that the younger prophet had the word of God in front of him and he foolishly listened to someone tell him something different. Literally, the text says, “You were obstinate at the mouth of the Lord.” “You have not kept / observed the commandment with the Lord your God commanded you…” And then we have three more references to the younger prophet’s specific sin: eating bread and drinking water in someone’s house in Bethel.

Then the older prophet predicts that the younger prophet will not make it home safely. His body will not come to the grave of his fathers. In fact, as the younger prophet left, with the prophecy of his death ringing in his ears from a man who had deceived him, a lion meets him on the way and kills him. The fact that the lion does no further harm to the donkey or the prophet shows that this was truly the judgment of God against - not the lying prophet - but the disobedient prophet.

You and I look at this punishment and we say, “Wow! This is extremely severe.” I’m telling you that God always takes disobedience seriously. Obedience is God’s love language. You may say, “But what about the lying prophet? What happens to him? What does God do to him?” Well, the rest of the story is that the older prophet buries the younger prophet and asks to be buried in that same grave / cave because he now realizes that the younger prophet was, in fact, a true prophet of God. What eventually happens to the older prophet? God did not reveal that to us. The Law of Moses required him to be stoned to death but we don’t know what happened to him. There probably was not an official who would enforce the law at that point in time.

But what is going to happen to us? How do we respond to the commands of Jesus Christ? He said in John 14:15 that if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments.

Let’s take a look at just a few passages from the NT. First, let’s read Galatians 1:6-9. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!”

Notice that Paul says if someone distorts the gospel which he had already preached, then that person is cursed by God. Obedience is not an option.

Paul warned Timothy in that generation that the Holy Spirit had said clearly that some would fall away from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1). John warned his audience that they should not believe every spirit but they needed to test prophets to see if they were teaching the truth (1 John 4:1).

Take home message: God takes obedience very seriously. Let us, individually and congregationally, take obedience very seriously. Let us do what Christ commands us to do.


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