Monday, November 7, 2011

deadly serious choices

After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. Any who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.
1 Kings 13:33-34

God used a young prophet to get the attention of Jeroboam in Samaria. Israel split from Judah, but Jeroboam did not want even religious unity with Judah. His solution was to establish "high places" or centers of sacrifice within the Northern Kingdom, thus sealing Israel off from Judah. God confronted the king on this practice. These quickly became idolatrous.

The young prophet (given no name in this passage) had been instructed to travel to Samaria, confront the king, and then to return home by a different route than he travelled to get there, not breaking a fast until his return home. God powerfully confirmed the message of the prophet. When Jeroboam reaches out to seize the young man, his hand is suddenly "dried up" and useless. When he begs the prophet to pray to God, he does so, and Jeroboam is miraculously restored. Then the prophet begins his journey home.

On the way home, another prophet (also anonymous) hears what has occurred. He meets up with the young man, lies to him with a false vision to convince the young prophet to come to his house for a meal. The young man breaks his fast, and then back on the road, is killed by a lion as judgment by God. His death becomes an illustration to the truth of God's prophecy and the seriousness of obedience to God's command.

The sad truth to this whole episode was that Jeroboam did not heed the warning given to him by God... just like the young prophet. He set up a competing system of false worship that deceived most of the tribes of Israel. He grieved God by "returning back" to what God had clearly warned him not to do. And just like the young prophet, his lack of careful thought about this did not change his guilt. He would bear the judgment for his sin.

I believe the best thing we can take away from this sort of episode is a true fear of the painful consequences of sinful actions and choices... even ones we make unwittingly. Both Jeroboam and the young prophet made personal choices that broke God's specific will and did not seek God in their decisions. Jeroboam's choice was knowingly made. He would deceive Israel. The young prophet's choice was unwittingly and unthoughtfully made. He was deceived like Israel would be under Jeroboam's religious system. Both men are now vivid historical examples of what consequences God will bring to our disobedience. They show us the seriousness with which we should live with the results of sin.

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