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

The Character Issue

The episode should remind us as Christians that the character of our lives must match the words that proceed from our mouths. Especially for those in Christian ministry, what we teach must be lived. “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment ( James 3:1, NASB ). Though we may not be eaten by lions, our poor behavior can call into question Yahweh’s great name. Let the Apostle Paul’s goal be our pursuit, “So our aim is to please him [Jesus] always, whether we are here in this body or away from the body” ( 2 Corinthians 5:9, NLT ).

Do We Still Need Lions?

Fundamentally, we need to examine what is the difference, if any, between an Old Testament prophet and a New Testament prophet. The best book on the subject of New Testament prophecy is Wayne Grudem‘s The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today [Editor’s note: Read a full chapter from this book]. In the Old Testament the prescription was clear, “But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death. You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him” ( Deuteronomy 18:20-22, NIV ).

If a prophet failed in his prophecy, he dies because his word does not come to fruition. Clear, tangible, visible evidence helps the observer know whether a prophecy is true or false. The lion killing the prophet seems to say that his prophecy about Josiah was false. However, the old prophet asked to be buried next to the man of God as a way of affirming the accuracy of the condemnation of idolatry at Bethel.

Presently, the New Testament believer has within him (or her) the presence of the Holy Spirit and resident are all the spiritual gifts ( 1 Corinthians 12 ). One of those gifts is the spirit of discernment ( 1 Corinthians 12:10 ): it assists each believer and the whole body to know whether a prophetic word is from the Lord, the flesh, or even the devil ( 1 Corinthians 14:29 ). Thus, we are able to know whether a prophetic word is valid by an inner witness ( 1 John 4:1-3 ). Therefore, we no longer need lions outside our church doors.


Exactly to whom is a New Testament prophet ( 1 Corinthians 14:28, Ephesians 4:11 ) accountable? Israel was governed by the king with the prophet hearing from God with the priest directing the community’s worship. The king was in-charge and the prophet maintained contact with the Angel of the Lord who directed the spiritual armies of God (see 2 Kings 3 ). The prophet would advise the king of Yahweh’s commands. In the New Testament, apostles and elders (i.e. bishops and presbyters) govern the church ( Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 ) and it is the prophet’s responsibility to edify, exhort, and comfort ( 1 Corinthians 14:3 ).

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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 Twitter @canonglenn

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