Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 13.29-33
29 So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. 30 Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, “Alas, my brother!”
31 After burying him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the message he declared by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.”
33 Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways…
2 Kings 23.4-24
15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. 16 Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things.
17 The king asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”
The people of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”
18 “Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria.
Reflection: Nameless Prophets
By John Tillman
It is one of the strangest stories in the Bible.
Three powerful and frightening signs.
Jeroboam was offering a sacrifice on the altar of Bethel when the Judean man of God prophesied to the altar. At the prophecy, two signs occurred. The altar split and the ashes spilled. The third sign came when Jeroboam threatened the man of God and his hand instantly shriveled. Jeroboam repented of his threat and at the prophet’s prayer, the hand was restored.
Two nameless prophets.
The mysterious “man of God from Judah” is identified only by gender and geography. He confronted a powerful king with powerful signs. Yet, he became so hungry he made a serious error in judgment.
The “old prophet” from Samaria was unscrupulous and ambiguous. Did he attempt to save a fellow prophet from starving on the side of the road? Did he sabotage a rival prophet who destroyed an altar his family served? Where did his loyalty lie? He lies to the man of God, then lies with the man of God, side-by-side in the same tomb. His dying wish implies he meant no harm, but we can’t be sure.
One corrupt, wicked king.
God promised Jeroboam a kingdom “as enduring as the one I built for David” if he would walk in obedience. Instead, he became as corrupt as the son of Solomon he rebelled against. (1 Kings 11.34-40)
One reforming, destroying future king.
Josiah is the greatest reformer of any biblical king. (2 Kings 23.25) He is known more by what he tore down than by what he built. David fought for political peace against outer threats, armies entrenched at the borders. Josiah fought for spiritual peace against inner threats, foreign gods entrenched in hearts and culture.
The Bible is not a curriculum. Many tales, like this one, lack obvious takeaways. However, we know that God is on a mission of reformation and restoration. The process will be painful. Errors in one generation harm those following. Future generations must tear down errors before harms can be healed.
Jesus is a greater reformer than Josiah. When Jesus sets things right, they will stay that way. Are we willing to be nameless prophets, announcing the coming king? God seeks the repentant and the faithful for nameless missions whose happy endings may come after our death.
Come soon, King Jesus.
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” — Luke 12.32
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