The Disobedient Prophet of Judah
1 Kings 13:11-32
Now there dwelled an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel…

The fate of the prophet of Judah has always been deemed a hard one. That it should be so is by no means surprising. We should certainly expect so striking a punishment to have been inflicted upon a very different kind of person. And it is that very circumstance which makes it the more important that we should look into the case. To sum what may be said for him, it comes to this:(1) he fulfilled faithfully the essential part of his mission;

(2) his trifling transgression was excusable considering the plot laid to deceive him; and(3) in any case his punishment was extreme in severity. In thinking of the severity of the punishment, I have no doubt that we unconsciously infuse into our thoughts the assumption that the prophet of Judah suffered eternal death, because it was deemed necessary to execute him. As to his future state we know nothing whatever. No doubt at the great day his destiny will be settled, not by one act, but by his life. "But he fulfilled the essential part of his mission." Even supposing that we could so far enter into the Divine mind as to say what is essential in any command; still it is plain that there may be a wide difference between that part of the Divine command which was the more important in, so to speak, its missionary and public aspect, as regarded Jeroboam, and that part of it which regarded the prophet personally, and would be the more likely to try him. But surely, setting aside all thought of religion, we know that "trifles" lead into serious evils, and are often the turning-points of life as well as the tests of principle. And, as men of the world and men of honour, we shall admit that the importance of a principle does not depend upon the importance of the thing to which it is applied in some particular instance. You decide upon a man's dis. honesty, not by the magnitude of his fraud, but the fact. When once we receive, no matter how, what we believe to be a Divine command, it is plain that we have no right to decide how much of it God meant to be attended to, and how much we may set aside as immaterial. Here is the case of no vulgar sinner, no thoughtless transgressor of the Divine law, but one whom we are justified in regarding as a man of pre-eminent virtue, honoured by the King of kings by being chosen to discharge a difficult and dangerous duty, and supplied with minute instructions. The difficult and dangerous part of his mission he performed; he even so far discharged the seemingly less important part as to refuse the royal invitation. The crisis, as we should naturally think, had been passed. But it was not in the great matter, but in the small matter that he was tried, and that he failed; as he who has escaped perils of waters over thousands of miles of angry ocean, sometimes is drowned in the narrow unrippled river, within sight of home. It is not in the hour of persecution only, or of open and obvious peril that we need to be on our guard. We often brace ourselves for that. It is in the smaller occurrences of life that we need to be careful and watchful unto prayer, if principle be involved. And in how few things is it not involved, after all? The thought, doubtless suggests danger in these "small things"; but does it not also invest them with dignity? Does it not raise them out of the dust? What can be small in action or in suffering by which the character can be tested and the soul tried?

(J. O. Coghlan, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel: the words which he had spoken unto the king, them they told also to their father.

WEB: Now there lived an old prophet in Bethel; and one of his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel. They also told their father the words which he had spoken to the king.

The Disobedient Prophet
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