TITLE: If the first word ...
By David McArdle
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If the first word …
“ … Against the altar … “ [1 Kings 13,2]
When we read the Old Testament, especially the first five books of Moses, the “altar” is often referred to as something spiritual and special.
However, as we continue on our spiritual journey of exploration through the Scriptures, we soon discover that not everyone who built an altar did it for the right reasons.
As in the work of God today, some people will have a Christ-like objective in everything they put their hand to, while other people will start a work from mixed motives. King Jeroboam was in the latter category.
Jeroboam built an altar to another god and as he went with the people to offer a sacrifice, a prophet of the Lord was standing nearby.
As the king was offering the wrong type of sacrifice, the prophet announced that there would be indeed, sacrifices on this altar, but they would not be animal sacrifices.
The prophet was right with the Lord and in the right place in which to speak forth the word of the Lord.
Now, it is possible for the believer to be in the right relationship with God, in the right place with Him, and yet, not right in what we do next.
We make a serious mistake when we equate “right standing” with correspondingly “right actions”.
King Saul had been specifically told by a prophet of the Lord to stay where he was. When the word was originally given, Saul was in the right place and in right standing with the Lord. But what Saul did next, brought down the word of judgement and condemnation on himself.
How can we move on from being in the right place, enjoying the benefits of a right relationship and continue to do what is right? We may need further instruction.
But this was not what this prophet needed. He had prophesied against the altar and had seen the first immediate fulfilment of God’s word. He was, at that time, in right standing with God and doing exactly what He had been instructed to do.
Now, frighteningly, the one who gave the word of righteous judgement was himself led astray by another prophet, and he subsequently died.
Was the first prophet in the right place? Yes. Did he know what was right? Yes. Did he do what was right? No.
Why did he fall? He was susceptible to wrong teaching, especially a “Thus says the Lord … “. The prophet whom God had sent, exchanged the truth, which he had been given, for a lie [1 Kings 13.16]
He did not realise, until it was too late, that there is a great gulf between listening to sound, practical advice, and someone, especially a friend or a mentor, claiming to speak forth the word of the Lord.
How many times have we, like Saul, been in the right place, the recipient of the pure and unmistakable word of the Lord, and then we have let what people have said or done, affect our judgement and mislead us from the paths of truth and righteousness, sometimes for a very long time.
Who will do this deliberately evil act and how can we recognise them? I have discovered that the people who have caused the most trouble, confusion and unrest in the churches, which I have attended, are those who have wilfully broken covenant with the Lord.
It is usually those people, as here, which the enemy will use to trip up, defile and destroy the people of God, and all under the guise of being spiritually sensitive.
What, then, is the true believer to do? I live by the principle, if the first word is from God, as here, then the second word, as here, is from the devil.
The first prophet knew the truth, but sometimes knowing the truth is not sufficient, in itself, to defeat the enemy.
Some of us have assuredly known the truth and yet fallen, and some believers have never risen up again.
Solomon said. “Buy the truth and sell it not; not only that, but also get discernment and judgment, instruction and understanding” [Proverbs 23.23 Amplified]
It is like, as with the Lord at His baptism, the Word of truth is given and then the testing starts.
You are categorically and dogmatically certain that God has given you His word, and yet, when current or ex-leaders talk to you, they start to sow doubts, and they, oh so sweetly agree that He has most definitely spoken, but, considering everything else, He may now be saying …
If and when we have passed the test, as with the Lord, God will give us, as well as the truth, which we have spiritually digested, His discernment, judgment, instruction and understanding.
If the first prophet had had these four spiritual qualities in his life, he would not have fallen irreversibly in the day of testing.
What must I do to stand firm in the heat of the battle and, at the same time, slay the enemy with His word? Like John in [Rev. 10.9], take His word and make it your own. Once eaten, it cannot be exchanged!
When this has been accomplished, as with the Lord and John, your ministry will be expanded beyond all natural boundaries.
You may be confined where you are, but the Word of God is not bound! [David McArdle]
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