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Lesson from a Lion: A Fresh Look at First Kings 13

Manipulation

Often the Holy Spirit gives us directions we do not understand, but we must obey his leadership.

The king believes that if he can get the man of God relaxed with stomach full, he can talk him out of this sordid proclamation. “Whether or not Jeroboam hoped to win such a holy man over to his side, he clearly intended to try both to mollify the prophet’s stand and to save face before the multitude.”3  The prophet immediately refuses knowing that this would violate God’s explicit directions, “You must not eat bread or drink water or return by the way you came ( 1 Kings 13:9 ).” In Hebrew culture, the prophet knows that by dining with the king, his attendance would indicate approval for the king’s methods and behavior ( 1 Kings 13:8 ). The Lord foresaw that danger lurked and Yahweh gave the man of God clear warning not to return by the way he came, initially the prophet obeyed ( 1 Kings 13:10 ). We must be wise, often the Holy Spirit gives us directions we do not understand, but we must obey his leadership for his “no” is for our protection (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:12-17 ).

Actions Not Words

The next section ( 1 Kings 13:11-34 ) is confusing and complicated for the postmodern reader. The 21st century reader, like it or not, is affected by Freudian psychoanalysis: we want to know the prophet’s thoughts, feelings, and background. We want to know why he was so easily persuaded to eat with the old prophet. We want to know what was going through the man of God’s mind when he decided to disobey the “command of the Lord” ( 1 Kings 13:9, 16 ). What was in his background that allowed him to be so easily seduced? Was he stubborn, lonely, or just naïve? Was his heart impure? Initially, did he simply obey the Lord’s command out of duty and not conviction? The Bible does not answer these questions because Old Testament writers are not concerned with inner thoughts as much as they are with actions. For the Old Testament man or woman, it was not what a person felt that was important, but what they did ( Micah 6:8 ). Actions demonstrate an individual’s character not sincerity or good intentions ( Matthew 15:18, cf. James 2:14-26 ).

Disgrace

With great sadness, we watch our hero killed by a lion for disobeying God’s explicit command. We ask, “Why did the man of God suffer the absolute punishment of death for his disobedience?” The answer is relatively simple. By not being completely obedient to the word of the Lord, the prophet’s actions call into question the validity of the judgment pronounced on King Jeroboam. We do not know why the older prophet lied (possibly loneliness?) or why God would use him to pronounce a righteousness judgment. What we do know is that the lion was clearly sent by God for it did not eat the donkey or consume the prophet’s body ( 1 Kings 13:24 ). A normal lion would eat all that it could obtain. The older prophet was deeply moved by the man of God’s life and prophetic announcement; he desired to be buried next to him ( 1 Kings 13:31-32 ). “So powerful an effect had the whole series of events produced on him, and so assured was he that all the man of God had predicted would surely come to pass, that the old prophet longed, at least in death, to be united with this holy man.”4

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Category: Biblical Studies, Winter 2017

About the Author: Glenn E. Davis is a Canon Theologian of the Southeast Archdiocese of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He is a graduate of Beeson Divinity School and pastor at Lamb of God CEC. He blogs at CanonGlenn.com. Twitter @canonglenn

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