Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A story you never learn in Sunday school

Hey kids! In my bible read I came across a hum-dinger!

1 Kings 13: Rehoboam is king of Judah, Jeroboam the king of ten tribes. Rehoboam is the son of Solomon, and God tore the kingdom away from Rehoboam, leaving him with one territory, for the sake of His faithful servant David (Rehoboam's grandfather). Rehoboam lost the kingdom as a result of Solomon's heart being lead astray by his many wives. Jeroboam is given promises equivalent to David, on condition of equivalent obedience, but all is falling apart. Jeroboam is zealously pragmatic when it comes to theology, which caused him to lead Israel in sin. God is not happy with either king.

So we have judgement being passed by the means of a prophet in 1 Kings 13. This unnamed holy man, comes to the king and pronounces an end of the idolatrous worship of king Jeroboam. Now, if some 'holy roller' came into your church during a service and told you that the infant baptismal fount was going to be tipped over (spilling all the 'holy' water), I'm sure someone would have something to say. Well, so did Jeroboam: "GET HIM." But alas the finger outstretched against a child of God sent on a mission of God will soon wither, as we find. Jeroboam is slightly more accepting of this dear fellow when he finds that his violin playing days have been seriously cut short.

So this man of God (lets call him John - he has no name in the text) has three visible (with your eyes) signs that God is with him:
  1. The prophecy he made came with a sign: the destruction and therefore defilement of the idolatrous altar
  2. The withering of the hand of the king
  3. At the request of John, the kings hand is restored.

After this we learn more details about John's mission: he is not to eat nor drink (at all? of this I am not sure) but he is certainly not to return the way he came.

So John has upset quite a number of people, who received the word gladly when they realized that God would punish those who stood in his way. John also stayed the temptation to receive a reward from the king, according to his divine instruction.

Easy story right? That's not the story: that's the BACKGROUND!

So John heads off, when he is met by Jacob (the prophet of the land - also unnamed in the bible, but I need to distinguish.) Now Jacob's kids went to the service where they saw these things. Now number 1: Jacob's kids are idolaters. On the other hand, Jacob wasn't there himself. So we can say that if Jacob is a pious man, he does not control his children. That is the best we can say so far.

Then the story starts it's twists: Jacob finds John, begs John to come home with him, and eat and drink. When John reveals his divine mission, Jacob says: "No ways bro! A total revised schedule has been appointed, yo!" (slight paraphrasing from original Hebrew) So John, unaware he has been lied to, goes with Jacob.

Now a dude claiming he was a prophet LIED to a man who actually WAS a prophet. Oh, I can smell thunder, I can taste the wrath.
"Whats for dinner dad?"
"False prophet, son. Deep fried."

But lo, hark, and riddle me this: Not only does the man of God eat and drink unawares, but God's judgement comes through Jacob! Jacob pronounces that John will not rest with his fathers. Notice that God does not say you will die, since all men die, but God says he will be ashamed in his death.

Now try to picture the situation. You lie to someone clearly holier than yourself, you get them to sin. God uses you to pronounce judgement on them. How are you going to feel? I'd feel pretty darn bad. Imagine it from the other perspective: You have a mandate from God. You trust the word of a fellow 'brother' without checking the scriptures. God uses this false brother to pronounce judgement on you. How do you feel? You can't think that he's lying to you about the judgement, since he reminds you of the mandate (which is what Jacob changed). So you are ashamed and embarrassed. I think both of them felt really quite poor.

So now what happens is: Jacob finishes his meal (that actually made me laugh... the bread over which men die probably tastes all the sweeter) and sends John off on his donkey. Then God sends a lion. Slash. Dead. John's body is cast on the side of the road. As a sign of God's hand in this, both the lion and the donkey sit and wait with the body. Image you are a passer by, what you would think.

So Jacob hears of this, fetches John's body and lays it in his own tomb. Jacob gives his sons instructions to bury him with John when he dies. This is probably to symbolize that they are in the same boat. Jacob mourns for John, probably not wanting to live much longer himself, but at least he trusts the word of God again.

I learned a lot from this story. It really confused me at first. But as you chew it, you realize what is being taught:
  • Liars (sinners) don't always get punished. God may allow them to 'get away with it.' But death comes soon enough for all men.
  • Do not stray from the word of God, not even for those who you trust. I realised my guilt in this regard. How many times have I just gone along with a friend because I thought: He's a good christian, he must have thought about that issue. Don't do it. God doesn't like it.
  • Deception is a treacherous thing. Even if you want to be nice to them, do not deceive them.
  • From him who has been given much (prophecy, visible signs), much will be taken away.

All of this lead to a failure in repentance. While the words of the prophet came true, the message was thrown out along with the messenger. A sad and dark tale indeed.

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