Spiritual Deception, Part 1

It’s an obscure little story tucked inside of 1 Kings 13.

Jeroboam was on the throne, and he was deeply involved in idol worship. God sent a prophet to warn the king. It’s interesting that this prophet is only known as “a true prophet of God.”

I’d love to know his actual name.
What he looked like.
A little more about him.

But we do know is that he’s a young adult, he’s serving God and God is greatly blessing his ministry.

God gave him specific instructions:
“When you prophesy to King Jeroboam, don’t eat or drink, and return home on a different route from which you went.”

The true prophet of God prophesied to Jeroboam, and the king stretched out his hand in anger and yelled, “Seize him!” But as he did this, his hand immediately shriveled up and he couldn’t retrieve it.

Jeroboam begged the prophet to seek healing from God. And God moved through the prophet to immediately restore the king’s hand.

In gratitude, Jeroboam invited the prophet to dinner and revealed that he wanted to reward him. But the prophet told him he was not to eat or drink, and he left on a different route from which he’d entered the city.

This is where the story takes an interesting turn!
There was an old prophet living in Bethel who had heard what happened and found the true prophet of God sitting under a tree. “Come home with me and let me feed you,” he invited.

The true prophet refused and explained God’s instructions.
The old prophet said, “But I’m also a prophet of God! And God spoke through an angel to me—telling me to invite you into my home.”

So the true prophet of God went home with the old prophet.
They ate together, and during dinner the old prophet said, “This is what the Lord says: You have defied the word of the Lord and have not kept the command He gave you. You came back and ate bread and drank water in the place where He told you not to eat or drink. Therefore you’re going to die far from home.”

The true prophet left immediately but was killed by a lion.


Are you thinking this is kind of a weird story?
And what can we learn from it?

We can actually learn several things! There are a lot of red flags in this event. Allow me to mention one now, and I’ll continue with next week’s blog, OK?

First Red Flag:

• The true prophet of God stopped to rest under a tree (1 Kings 13:14). When researching this passage, I discovered that the Hebrew meaning for sitting under the tree is a lot more than simply stopping for a breather.

He had actually stopped long enough to build shelter under the tree. In other words, he set up camp. He stayed a while—like a couple of months. He had constructed a temporary home.

He was in a place that wasn’t pleasing to God. He was still near the city of idols—the very place God sent him to prophecy against. He was to FLEE this wicked area. But instead, he stopped just outside the city and set up camp. He became comfortable living close to sin.

There’s nothing wrong with resting!

We NEED rest.

But when we rest in the wrong place, we’re setting ourselves up for trouble.

So think about it:

—Are you getting adequate rest? The better rested you are, the better equipped you are for doing what God has called you to do!

—Are you resting in the right place . . . or do you sometimes find yourself falling asleep too close to what God has forbidden?


How Much Does Sin Cost?

When reading 1 Kings 13, we find Jeroboam on the throne.

He was a ruler deeply involved in idol worship. Because of his evil deeds, he was quickly destroying the nation of Israel. God sent him several warnings, but Jeroboam’s hard heart refused to heed them.
Jeroboam even manufactured his own system of worship in defiance of God’s law. God eventually destroyed the house of Jeroboam from the face of the earth. This is a tenacious warning that sin will not be tolerated.
You may remember the story of Joshua. God empowered the children of Israel—under Joshua’s leadership—to conquer the huge city of Jericho. But afterward, when they attempted to conquer the tiny little city of Ai, they were unsuccessful. Joshua couldn’t figure it out.

“I don’t understand, God,” he said. “Why would You bring us this close to the Promised Land—and give us victory in Jericho but not in Ai? What’s happening?”
God revealed to Joshua that someone in the group had broken His commands and stolen some articles. Joshua tore his clothes in anguish. God helped him discover the guilty man—Achan—and he was immediately killed.
Joshua and the children of Israel continued on their journey into the land that God had promised.
How much does sin cost?

The price is high.

Romans 6:23 displays the price tag: “The wages of sin is death.”


Sin is serious.

It distances us from God and will eventually destroy us.
BUT . . .

we serve a God of hope!

That same Scripture (Romans 6:23) not only shows us sin’s price tag, it also announces: “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Someone has to pay for your sin—

it’s either you . . . or Jesus Christ.
Father, help us never to take Your precious gift of forgiveness, mercy and grace for granted.
A little more to chew on:

Not only will Christ forgive our sin, but when we surrender all to Him and make Him truly LORD of our lives, His Holy Spirit can give us continual victory over sin.
Are you living in victory?

Not Always as it Seems

You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Oftentimes I do.

A great cover says everything.

When I’m browsing in Barnes & Noble, I don’t even pick up a book that doesn’t have a great cover.

I’m being close-minded, aren’t I?

There are probably fantastic books with lousy covers, and I’m the one losing out because I’ve refrained from going beyond the cover.

While reading in 1 Kings today, something caught my attention. I plowed through the minute details of preparation and the laborious specifications in building the Temple in chapters 5 and 6. When I got to the end of chapter six, I read that it took King Solomon seven years to build the Temple.

Then in 1 Kings 7:1, I read this:

“It took Solomon thirteen years, however, to complete the construction of his palace” (NIV).


He spent almost TWICE as much time on his own home than he did with God’s Temple?

I couldn’t believe it!

Were his priorities out of line?

This seems completely unbalanced!

The more I read, however, the more I understood:

Things aren’t always as they seem.

You really can’t judge a book by its cover.

Solomon can be commended for putting the Temple first.

He determined to put God first and built the Temple before he focused on his own needs.

You see, there was an immediate need to provide a place of worship for the Israelites, and Solomon was wise enough to know that his personal needs could wait.

Also, there were no previous preparations for his house as there were for the Temple. And when the Temple was being built, Solomon and the people were quickened by God’s express command to complete it. The palace was merely for personal convenience. God’s house was a necessity.

Solomon showed greater glory by focusing on the honor of God than he did his own comforts . . . and that’s a lesson for all of us.


Things aren’t always as they seem.



Can you relate?

Doesn’t Make Sense!

We will never fully understand God until we’re in heaven with Him. Let’s stop trying to make sense of His ways—because sometimes they just don’t make sense!

The first shall be last?

The last shall be first?

If you want to be great, head to back of the line and start serving?

Let’s make it our goal to simply OBEY God . . .

whether we understand His commands or not.

If only Saul had known this truth!

Maybe you remember the story. If not, you can find it in 1 Samuel 15.

God sent Samuel the prophet to instruct King Saul to kill the Amalekites. Who were they? The Amalekites were an evil and brutal tribe who attacked God’s people, the Israelites, as they traveled through the wilderness to the Promised Land.

The Amalekites had no reverence of fear of God. They had a reputation for especially attacking the weaker members—women and children and elderly people who couldn’t always keep pace with the rest of the Israelites.

God’s word to Samuel was to instruct King Saul to kill every living being among the Amalekite tribe—every man, woman, child and animal. So Saul gathered 210,000 soldiers and destroyed the Amalekites.

Maybe you’re familiar with what happened next.

Saul and his troops were returning home from battle when Samuel met them on the road. “Glory be to God!” Saul shouted. “He has given us victory in battle because of our obedience.”

“Seriously?” Samuel asked. “Your obedience? Then how come I’m looking at a bunch of fat sheep and oxen? You were supposed to kill every living thing!”

“Well . . . you’re gonna love this, Samuel! I decided to keep the fattest sheep and the strongest oxen so we can offer them as a sacrifice to the Lord when we get back to hometown. That way all the people can come out and celebrate WITH us as we praise God for this victory! Great plan, huh!”

Samuel was disgusted. “No! It’s a horrible plan. You’ve acted in direct disobedience to God. What you have done is as bad as satan worship. God desires your obedience over sacrifice any time and every time! And because you’ve disobeyed, God will remove you from the throne. That’s right—you nor any of your family will continue to rule over Israel! And by the way . . . who’s he?”

“This is King Agag. We didn’t kill him, because when we return home, we’ll have a giant victory parade so everyone can see him as our trophy—and as we give thanks to God, we’ll kill him THEN.”

Samuel was so horrified at Saul’s blatant disobedience, he grabbed Saul’s sword and immediately annihilated Agag.

Seems pretty harsh, you may be thinking.

What’s the big deal with some animals and killing the king now or later?

It kind of makes sense.

It DOES kind of make sense, doesn’t it?

Why wouldn’t God want the sacrifice of all these animals?

Again, we don’t understand God’s ways. If we try hard enough, we can make anything make sense. We can rationalize and rationalize until it seems right.

But it’s not our job to make God make sense. It’s only our job to obey Him.

OK on the animals. God didn’t want them as a sacrifice. But what’s the big deal about killing Agag then or in a giant victory parade? Isn’t the bottom line that he’s killed? Does it really matter when?

Every detail of God’s will always matters.

Let’s push the fast-forward button on this story. It’s 20 years in the future, and Saul is down in battle on Mount Gilboa. His enemy has the sword at Saul’s neck, so Saul is unable to turn around and identify him. So Saul asks: “Who are you?”

The response of his enemy?

“I . . . am . . . an Amalakite.”



How can this be? Saul killed all the Amalikites. He wiped them out.

Yes, but he didn’t do it God’s way.

From the time Saul took King Agag into captivity from the time he met up with Samuel was less than a week. But it was just enough time for Agag to escape, father a son and be taken captive by Saul again before meeting Samuel.

And now . . . 20 years later . . . the son of Agag is out to destroy Saul.

The son of Agag HATES you!

He will do everything in his power to destroy you.

That’s why a God who loves you more than you can comprehend says, “If there’s anything in your life that’s keeping you from obeying Me wholeheartedly, annihilate it.”


Anything you need to annihilate?





Overlooked Details

Uzzah died because he reached out to steady the Ark of the Covenant as it was being transported. (If you didn’t catch last week’s blog, please look it up.)

We read in 2 Samuel 6:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-12 that the Ark was being transported on a cart with poles on it. And it was being pulled by oxen.

When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out and touched the Ark, and God killed him.

Though you may think this is harsh, there are actually a few pieces to this story that we often overlook.

If we read Exodus 25:12-14 and Numbers 7:9, we see that God gave Moses and Aaron extremely specific instructions on how to transport the Ark.

Those instructions were being ignored.

Instead of being carried on top of men’s shoulders, the people had built a cart to transport the ark. This would be so much easier! Let the oxen pull it, so we don’t have to carry this big golden box. (It weighed 615 lbs.)

Do you think God smiled and thought, What a great idea! I’m so glad they came up with that. A cart! Wheels! What novel ideas. If only I’d thought of it.

Why do we often think we need to improve what God tells us?

Another piece to this puzzle is that Scripture tells us the oxen slipped. The Ark didn’t fall. Neither did the cart. The OXEN slipped. The Ark was still in tact. Still balanced.

Instead of grabbing the Ark of God’s presence, Uzzah should have grabbed the poles attached to it. (Actually he should have been carrying it on his shoulders with several other men instead of walking beside it while the oxen did the work.)

The really frightening piece to this story is that Uzzah, for a moment, felt it was his responsibility to save the integrity of God. He was acting as though majestic, perfect, all-wise and almighty God somehow needed his assistance.

Uzzah mistakenly presumed that if he didn’t intervene and help God out, Jehovah would be in trouble.

I wish Uzzah had read Job 11:17: “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” (NIV)

I wish he had memorized Psalm 145:3: “He is too great for anyone to understand” (NLT).

Moses made a similar mistake when he thought God needed his intervention to STRIKE the rock instead of simply SPEAKING to it as God had commanded him. Because of this offense, Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land (see Numbers 20:7-12).

Sheer obedience is ESSENTIAL in a growing, thriving relationship with God.

Sure, He’s full of love.

And yes, He’s definitely merciful.

But He is also holy and just, and He demands our obedience.

The way we prove our love to God isn’t by singing praise songs

or memorizing Bible verses

or having a perfect church attendance

or praying six times a day.

The way we prove our love to God is simply by


“If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15 NLT).


Ask God to remind you of any spiritual details you may have let slide.

He Forgot. And He Died!

Maybe you’re familiar with the Ark of the Covenant. It was a large and beautiful golden “box” created with specific instructions from God. It weighed approximately 615 lbs.

The original stone tablets on which God inscribed the Ten Commandments for Moses to give the Israelites were inside the Ark.

It also held Aaron’s rod that budded when he helped Moses lead the Israelites through the wilderness.

What else was inside the Ark? The golden pot that contained manna (the food God delivered from heaven to the Israelites as they headed toward the Promised Land for more than 40 years).

In 2 Samuel 6:1-7 and 1 Chronicles 13:9-12 we see that the Ark was being transported on a cart with poles on it. And it was being pulled by oxen.

The oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out to steady the ark. He died immediately.

That’s right. God killed him for touching the Ark of the Covenant.


Doesn’t that seem a bit harsh?

Looks to me like Uzzah was trying to help the Ark.

Let’s look a little deeper.

Does God EVER need help?

If we read Exodus 25:12-14 and Numbers 7:9, we see that God gave Moses and Aaron extremely specific instructions on how to transport the Ark. It was way more than a big golden box. It served as the place of the presence of God. And there I will meet with you . . . on the ark of the Testimony, I will speak with you” (Exodus 25:22).

God made it plain that touching the Ark was in direct violation of God’s law and would result in death.

We know that God isn’t bound by time or space. He’s above and beyond all. Yet for His people, He bound Himself to this box. He was (and is) everywhere; but He was there.

Uzzah’s touching the Ark wasn’t the only thing that went sour that day. Actually, several mistakes were made!

(We’ll chat about that next week, but today let’s just look at one.)

The Ark had been at Abinidab’s house (King David’s son) for a few years, and Abinidab’s sons Uzzah and Ahio may have become too comfortable with its presence. Maybe the Ark became too familiar. Could Uzzah have forgotten the holiness it represented?

And what about us?

Are there times when we also fail to recognize God’s holiness and His presence? Has church become a social gathering place for us?

We grab a donut, some coffee, chat with friends, sing cool songs and hear a message about God. But are we revering Him? Are we moving inside His very presence with awe and respect? Do we really stand on holy ground?

Maybe we, too, have lost some of the respect we should have for God’s presence. The Israelites had witnessed several miracles of God (the parting of the Red Sea, manna from heaven, defeating their enemies en route to the Promised Land, water from a rock—just to name a few).

God’s ways are always higher than ours (see Isaiah 55:8-9). And the Israelites were well aware of this fact. They marveled at His greatness.

The truth is: The more we try to bring God down to our worldly way of thinking and reasoning, the further away He will seem.

Should we stop trying to bring Him to us? Should we ask instead that He bring us to Him?

Let’s determine to come to Him in reverence.

Let’s come to Him on His terms—not our own.

Uzzah forgot that essential ingredient. He no longer revered God’s presence in the Ark.

And the result was death.

I don’t think we’ll be struck physically dead if we forget . . .

But if we keep forgetting—

If we continue to treat God casually in our lives AND in our churches—

we could very easily experience spiritual death.

What are some ways you revere God?

Or has He become so familiar to you, that He is now simply your buddy?

Bigger Than a King-Size Bed!

In Deuteronomy 3, we read about the Israelites (God’s chosen people) destroying those who stood in their way and wouldn’t let them pass on to the land God had promised them.

King Og of Bashan was an evil man. God empowered the Israelites to destroy Og and his entire city. After the destruction, check out what the next Scripture says:

“Incidentally, King Og of Bashan was the last of the giant Rephaim. His iron bedstead is kept in a museum at Rabbah, one of the cities of the Ammonites, and measures thirteen and a half feet long by six feet wide” (Deuteronomy 3:11 TLB).

That’s one big bed.
That’s way bigger than a king-sized bed.
Even bigger than a California King-sized bed.

King Og was one of the giants in the land (remember Goliath?).
OK, but why does the Bible record the details of his bed?

It’s like saying, “The Americans won WWII, and Hitler drove a BMW.”

Don’t you think it’s odd that we get such details about something so specific as his bed?

Is it important to know how big his bed is?
Do we even care about the bed this guy slept in?
So why is it recorded?

We won’t know for sure until we get to heaven and can ask God,
but I want to make a suggestion.

God was empowering His people to annihilate everything that kept them from becoming all He wanted them to be.

Could it be that God is telling us that no matter how expensive our car is . . .
how nice our house is . . .
how big our flat screen is . . .
if it prevents us from becoming fully obedient to Him—
annihilate it.

Father, I love the THINGS in my home:
my Coca-Cola collection,
my library,
my fun shoes,
my recliners . . .
But if they keep me from intimacy with You—
if they hold me back from being completely obedient to Your will . . .
give me the power to annihilate.
Get rid of.

I want to be full of YOU, Father.
So help me to listen carefully and attentively to Your voice.
And help me to obey You in every area of my life.


Anything you need to destroy?