Friday, December 3, 2010

The Dangers of Success

Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson for 12.4.10

You know how it is…you have just faced down this huge challenge, everybody’s impressed, and you decide you deserve a little “me” time…and you get caught doing something really, really stupid.

Remember Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer? 
“Phelps holds the record for the most gold medals won in a single Olympics, his eight at the 2008 Beijing Games.”[1] 
But do you remember what happened not long after the Olympics?
“Michael Phelps was suspended from competition for three months by USA Swimming in the wake of the photo that showed the Olympic record-setting champion inhaling from a marijuana pipe.”[2]
Ouch, kind of a silly thing to do, right?

What about King David, he’s finally king, he and his army are really showing the kingdoms around Israel just who’s in charge.  That’s when he decides it’s time for some “me” time and stays home in the palace instead of going out to fight with his men…and he spies Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. 

Then there’s this guy in I Kings 13: 
“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.  By the word of the LORD he cried out against the altar: ‘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 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 for a meal, 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.” 1 Kings 13:1-10
This man of God really let King Jeroboam have it, didn’t he?  There’s no question at all about whether or not this man of God was successful.  He did exactly what God told him to do.  Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there.

“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 ancestors.”’
“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 left lying on the road, with both the donkey and the lion standing beside it.” 1 Kings 13:11-24
Now, I read several theories about why this man of God ended up doing exactly what God had told him not to do, almost all of which come down to checking your sources and know that the Holy Spirit will never tell you to do something contrary to what God has already told you.  But I think this man’s mistake happened before the old prophet showed up.  This man’s mistake was sitting down to rest before he got back to Judea.

You’re right, God just said go home by a different route, He didn’t say anything about not sitting down to rest, but all that success got the man of God feeling kind of cocky.  He got the idea that he had accomplished something and he deserved a rest.  The mission was over, and he’d won.  He started making his own decisions instead of waiting for the word of God.  And in that instant, Satan stepped in and whispered in his ear that he deserved a rest under this next tree.
“Because the true prophet allowed himself to take a course contrary to the line of duty, God permitted him to suffer the penalty of transgression.”[3]
Heartbreaking isn’t it?  Imagine how the man of God felt when he realized that he’d been tricked, when the old prophet actually did truly prophesy?  One little lapse in attention was all it took to change victory to failure.
“Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

[2] Nick Graham, The Huffington Post
[3] E.G. White, Prophets and Kings, p 106

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Lessons for us to learn as well.
    God bless you,
    Lisa :o)