One of the stories in the Bible that has bothered me and many other Christians out there is the story of the old prophet and the man of God in 1 Kings 13.
1 Kings 13:16-19 (NKJV)
16 And he said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place. 17 For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’”
18 He said to him, “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.)
19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.
I've tried to search for a satisfactory explanation regarding this seemingly disturbing story in the Bible, and these are what I could conclude from my search.
That the old prophet was either a false prophet or formerly a prophet who has lost the ability to prophesy. This is evidenced by the fact that he willingly lived in one of Israel's center of idolatry at that time (which no true prophet would have done), and that God spoke to Jeroboam not through him, but through another man from a distant place instead, not to mention that the old prophet showed no displeasure at his children participating in the idolatrous worship activities alongside Jeroboam, but was more interested to rush off to catch up with the man of God. And, of course, the lie itself seals his true identity.
That the man of God was to blame for his disobedience as well because he should have clearly discerned that the words of the old prophet were contradictory to what he has heard from God. He should have known that God doesn't change his words.
Now, Point 1 seems plausible enough to me. But it's Point 2 that I can't come to terms with. The man of God seemed to have done no wrong in his conscience; he merely wanted to follow what God told him. He undoubtedly didn't know that the old prophet was lying to him, and followed what he said in good conscience. If it is said that the man of God shouldn't have followed the old prophet's words on the grounds that those words were contradictory to what God said to the man of God, and that God doesn't change his words, I would have been at peace with that argument if it wasn't for the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Applying the same principle of what many out there have argued, it is then plausible to say that Abraham should also not have listened to the word of God telling him not to sacrifice Isaac in the end, since the order to sacrifice the ram instead was 'contradictory' to God's earlier command, and because, after all, 'God doesn't change his words.'
Genesis 22:9-14 (NKJV)
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
So he said, “Here I am.”
12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
My questions are these:
What is the difference between Abraham's situation and that of the man of God in 1 Kings 13, whereby obeying a 'contradictory word' of God is justifiable in Abraham's case but not that of the man of God? Abraham knew that God Himself spoke this 'contradictory word,' but in the same light the man of God couldn't have known that the 'contradictory word' from the old prophet was not of God. After all, it did come from an elderly prophet who said he heard from the angel of God, whom in the eyes of the man of God would be more experienced as a prophet than he himself was.
What should the man of God have done that he did not do when faced with the old prophet's words? In other words, what was the 'right answer' to this test? (besides saying that he naturally shouldn't obey a 'contradictory word' even if it seems to have come from God, because then Abraham also should naturally not have obeyed the 'contradictory word' of sacrificing the ram instead of Isaac)
Appreciate any plausible explanations that can finally help me (and many other Christians out there) get over this perplexing passage in the Bible :)