Through the story of the holy man and the old prophet, Jeremiah gives us an extremely clear example of ways in which even the most holy can be tempted. Furthermore, he shows us that even when following those who may look like they're on our side, we can still stray away from God's plan for us.
The story begins with a holy man who approaches Jeroboam at an altar in Bethel. The man brings a message from God and warns the people that those who continue to worship in this way will be sacrificed, and their altar will fall to pieces. The holy man informs the people that, by God's orders, he is not allowed to eat a single crumb or drink a single drop from here, and he must not go back the way in which he came. He then leaves.
An old prophet in this town hears of what happened at the altar, and he sets out to find this holy man. He follows the road that the holy man took out of Bethel and finds him under an oak tree. After much deliberation from the holy man, the prophet finally convinces him to come back to Bethel and join him and his family for dinner. The holy man trusted him, as he was a prophet as well. Though God had ordered him not to return to Bethel, he felt that this circumstance was acceptable, and he returned against God's will.
The word of God found the holy man back in Bethel and conveyed to him that he had broken God's strict commands. When dinner was over, the prophet saddled his donkey for the holy man, and he set off down the road. On his journey home, he was met and killed by a lion - God's consequence as he chose to disobey.Now, obviously God is not trying to tell us that if we disobey His plan for us, he is going to send a lion to come and eat us. Rather, He is providing us with an example of how even the holiest people can easily succumb to temptation. We may feel as though we are doing everything "right" in our lives. We go to church on Sundays, services on Wednesdays, meet with our small groups throughout the week, and we can even squeeze in some quiet time. Everything seems great and how God must want it to be going, but if our minds and hearts are not aligned with the plan that God has for us and the specific instructions that He has given to us, we may just as easily fall into temptation.
The holy man thought that he was doing what was right, as he was joining another prophet of the Lord. This didn't necessarily make it any better, in God's eyes, as his specific directions were to never eat a crumb or sip a drop from these people who were so desperately in need of God's help.Of course we are all subject to error and sin. After all, we are human and we make mistakes. I think one of the larger lessons that we can take away from this is how we react to temptation and making mistakes. In the passage, the holy man was not given a chance to "re-do" or fix his mistakes. He was simply sent out and put to death by a lion..
On the contrary, we live during a time in which we are blessed by Jesus' coming. He has already come and died on the cross, and all of our sins and mistakes have been forgiven. We can chose to live in the mind set that no matter what we do, we will be forgiven. No matter how far we stray or how wrong something is that we do, it "doesn't really matter" because God has already taken care of it. This is a temptation in and of itself. It can be extremely easy to think like this, but when you look at it from a different angle, it seems so much more fulfilling.
If we think through the lens that God is a gracious God who sent His one and only Son to come take our place and forgive us of sins that we weren't even here to commit yet, why would we ever want to take advantage of that, ya know? If someone was so willing to pay our debts in advance, why would we want to live in that life of debt? It is much easier said than done, and again, we will more than likely not find lions blocking our paths on the way home, but if we know God's will and plan for us, what are we willing to do to stick to that?
I pray that as I go throughout this week and the weeks to come, You place this truth at the forefront of my mind. Whenever I may come across temptation, I pray that you remind me of the holy man who made it all the way out of Bethel, yet was still tempted once he was living in the peace that You had planned for him. I thank you for being such a gracious and glorious God and for taking care of my sins before I was even on this earth to commit them. I pray that you guard my heart when it may be easier to do what I think would be better, rather than what You want for me, and I pray that You help guide me down the path that you have set for me. And thank you for already forgiving me for when I do mess up. We love you and we thank you for everything that you do, Lord. Amen!
Author | Haley Hall