The Old Testament is rich with story and spiritual insight. We must resist discounting what we read as mere historical record, especially in light of what I came across recently.
A curious message is tucked into the account of an unnamed prophet in 1 Kings 13. He's simply called "the man of God," so I guessed that he was on target, so to speak, when it came to obedience, wisdom, righteousness and the like. The fellow travels to the northern Kingdom [Israel] in the early days of the divided monarchy and speaks a curse to the wicked king Jeroboam. Wanting to gain God's favor, the condemned king asks the man of God to stay for dinner. But, the prophet refuses because God has given him specific instruction not to "eat any food or drink any water" in the town where the king rules.
The man of God begins his journey home when he is intercepted by another "old prophet" [v. 11]. For reasons unknown, the older sage invites the younger prophet to come back to the city and have dinner. Once again, the first explains that God has given him a command restricting dinner plans in Bethel. The older prophet interrupts, "I am a prophet, too, just as you are. And an angel gave me this message from the Lord: 'Bring him home with you, and give him food to eat and water to drink'" [v. 18].
So, the first prophet has a dinner party with the second.
During dessert, the Lord speaks through the host to the first prophet and condemns his actions. Because he disobeyed the word of God, he wouldn't even make it home alive. Along the path, he was killed by a lion.
The dilemma of the story is that God seems to speak in contradiction. He restricts the prophet and then He gives him freedom. First He says "No" and then He says "Yes." But, as I considered the passage more carefully, three very important principles came to light:
First, God's commands are eternal. What He decrees, is true for today, tomorrow and a thousand years from now. This means that the 2nd Commandment that forbids the making of any image of God applies to golden calves as well as modern movie comedies. With this in mind, I want to know my Old Testament even more! God doesn't change His mind or His commands.
Second, God never contradicts what He has once spoken. Years ago, I realized an important implication of this principle: God will never set aside one of His commands in order to fulfill another of His commands. I heard a man once say that he wanted to follow God's command to "have joy" ["Rejoice always!"]. But, his marriage made him miserable. Only by divorcing his wife could he truly obey God's joy command. Poor thinking. God would contradict His own truth if the only way the man could have joy was to violate his marriage covenant through divorce. There had to be another way. God doesn't say "eat" and "don't eat" in the same breath.
Third, make sure God is speaking. I think the key to this passage is fact that "an angel" instructed the older prophet to invite the man of God to dinner. This isn't an "angel of the Lord" [a.k.a. The Lord]. It's just an angel. Perhaps a fallen angel. Perhaps a well-intentioned angel. However, no matter how angelic, the messenger got it wrong. Which makes me all the more careful to receive a word from God alone. Satan "masquerades as an angel of light" [2 Corinthians 11:14] and will work to convince us "thus sayeth the Lord" when the Lord never "thus sayethed."