Come home with me

Today’s Reading: 1 Kings 12:20-13:34, Acts 9:26-43, Psalm 132:1-18, Proverbs 17:6

The story of the prophet in I Kings 12-13 has always confused me. God clearly instructed him to go directly home after he delivered his chilling message to Jereboam about the destruction of his altar. Things happened quickly after that:

  • the king ordered the prophet seized (probably to be executed)
  • the king’s arm was paralyzed
  • the sign of the prophecy was fulfilled when the altar split in two and ashes spilled out
  • the king asked the prophet to pray for God to heal his arm
  • the prophet prayed
  • God healed the king’s arm
  • the king invited him back to the palace for a meal and a gift
  • the prophet refused, as God had instructed, and left for home

At that point, I suspect the prophet would have been exhausted emotionally and physically from the encounter, but he was also resolute in following God’s instructions. Why was he so easily dissuaded by an old prophet in Israel who invited him to come to his house in direct disobedience to God’s command? Why did the old prophet lie to him, claiming a new instruction from God? Why did this treacherous prophet mourn his death after he had personally been the instrument of his death?

What is the point of the story? I suppose the most important point is that Jereboam did not heed the message the prophet brought to him from God, which was eventually fulfilled. Another point is that the prophet also disobeyed and suffered the severe consequence of death for disobedience. However, this stands in stark contrast to God’s long-suffering mercy to the kings of both Judah and the northern kingdom. It also troubles me that the treacherous old prophet from Israel did not suffer any consequences for intentionally causing the death of someone he later called “My brother,” as he wept.

I’ve never written this out before or talked about it with anyone, so it feels good to write about it. Perhaps the process of writing will start to open my understanding.

I talked to my wife about this. She suggested something that makes a great deal of sense to me (which is very common – she has common sense that I lack). Maybe the first prophet accepting the invitation by the lying prophet is just an example of our human tendency to give in to temptation to sin that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve being deceived by the serpent in the Garden of Eden.

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