What’s with the strange events of 1 Kings 13?

God sent a lion to kill the unknown prophet from Judah

Reference: 1 Kings 13

Question:
What is this story of the two prophets in 1 King 13 all about?  Why does the one betray the other?

Answer:
You’ll want to make sure your read this one first.  It’s definitely not your typical Bible story.

I think that the main thing we need to take away from this story is the certainty of God’s word, and our need to obey it.  The chapter starts off with an unknown prophet bringing a message from God against King Jeroboam.  Jeroboam had desecrated the Temple and the Alter of God by turning it into a place of idol worship.  But when God clearly speaks a word against Jeroboam, Jeroboam doesn’t change.

God also spoke a word that was for the unknown prophet himself.  God told him, ‘You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came’ (vs.9).  Initially the unknown prophet from Judah adheres to this word.  But when approached by another prophet, the ‘old prophet’, the old prophet lied to the unknown prophet from Judah and told him that an angel of God had said it was okay for him to eat with the old prophet.  Upon hearing this the unknown prophet from Judah disobeyed God and ate with the old prophet.  To our horror and surprise God holds the unknown prophet accountable for going against his word, and a few verses later the unknown prophet was killed by a lion.

It’s hard to know why the old prophet lied to the unknown prophet.  He may have been jealous of the unknown prophet, or he may have just been curious about who he was, but that’s not the point of the story.  Again, the point of this story is the certainty of God’s word and our need to obey it.  The unknown prophet delivered God’s word to King Jeroboam, but he also told Jeroboam what God had said to him, that he “must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came”.  The prophet disobeyed this command and he experienced God’s wrath because of it.  Word of this bizarre occurrence must have spread to the King.  Jeroboam should have seen that the prophets words were true and that God’s words were certain.  Yet amazingly enough, this did not sway the evil idolatrous behavior of Jeroboam.  A lot of times this is the same for us.  We can see God actively proving himself again and again, yet we continue doing our will instead of his will.

We may ask, “why was God so harsh with the man since the old prophet lied to him?”  To ask such a question assumes a couple of things that can be slippery slopes.  First of all, that question assumes that the old prophet was a good man and deserved to live, even though he disobeyed God.  Instead we must remind ourselves that “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Just because the guy is a prophet doesn’t mean that he is outside of God’s wrath and judgment.   No one is.  But Christ took on everyone’s sin and received the wrath of God for us all.  So we need to avoid the thoughts that lead us to a place where we think that there are some people who are good or good enough to avoid the ‘nasty’ side of God.  No one is righteous.  That’s why we need the Righteous One, Jesus, to take up residence in our lives.

Secondly, if we ask the question, “why was God so harsh with the unknown prophet since the old prophet lied to him?” then we ultimately we are making excuses for the man’s disobedience.  We do this too often for ourselves as well.  We allow lies to come into our life that lead us to disobey God.  But the lie didn’t make us sin, we choose to sin.  We can always come up with an excuse to sin, but God’s word is clear to us, just as it was to the unknown prophet.  We can’t make excuses for his sin or our own.  The unknown prophet’s disobedience was clear enough, even if he was deceived.  We allow ourselves to be deceived into disobedience all the time.  But the deception does not nullify the disobedience.  God’s word is certain.

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