Question: Hi Bob. In 1st Kings 13:11-34. Could you tell me why this old prophet lied to the younger one and caused his death. As always, thank you!
Response: I think you are correct that the old prophet flat-out lied. The fact that the Lord judged the other prophet for failing to follow His instructions makes it pretty clear that what the old prophet did "was not from God". People do these kind of things for their own reasons all the time. Perhaps the old prophet was jealous that he had not been the one chosen for this mission, perhaps there was some other sinister motivation, or perhaps (and most likely as I believe) he was one of those people who just can't stand being out of the limelight: he had to let this fellow know (and remind everyone who knew him) that he too was a "prophet" and so was eager to get involved in the operation one way or another (without worrying about the consequences for the other fellow).
There are a couple of important applications we can draw from this story, regardless of his real motivations:
1) "testing the spirits" (1Jn.4:1) continues to remain of critical importance whenever we are confronted with someone who claims to represent God or His Word in any way (teacher, pastor, prophet, evangelist, what have you); just because someone tells us that something "is from God" or "is what God/the Bible says" doesn't make it so (we are responsible to check these things out for ourselves).
2) doing good by/for other people in truth is not arrogantly assuming that we know what's best for them; history (and the history of most people's lives) is filled with examples of this sort, that is, of people who really have their own self-interest, wants and desires foremost in their thinking (whether or not they are honest with themselves about it) and proceed on this basis to "bless" others. Such behavior oft times results more in cursing for others than in blessing as it did for this genuine prophet of the Lord: the free meal he received hardly compensated him for being struck dead before his time.
3) We are all responsible for what we do - even when we hand that responsibility over to other people by accepting their authority (the Nazis come to mind). This is especially true in the case of false teachers, prophets, cults and groups. True enough that those who lie to gain a following will be the more severely judged for their lies and evil deeds, but those who follow them have chosen to do so. We all have free will (as the younger prophet did), and when we suspect in our hearts that something is wrong and not from God, we are very foolish to tie our destiny those so involved (especially without thorough prior investigation). The young prophet knew for a fact what God had told him - he didn't know for a fact what God had told the old prophet. He should have based his decision upon verified truth instead of upon un-verified claims. And we should learn well the lesson of his mistake (see Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults).
You might also see:
Is it ever justifiable to lie?
Is it ever Justifiable to Tell a Lie (part 2)?
Jesus is the Prophet
Prophets mentioned in the Bible
Is "the Prophet" of Deuteronomy 18:18 Muhammad?
The Lives of the Prophets
Yours in Him who is the truth, our Lord Jesus Christ,