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Archive for November, 2012

The following was written by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach.

The most confusing story of the Bible involves G-d’s commandment to Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. What was this G-d, who would later declare that all human, and especially child, sacrifice to be an abomination, thinking?

The most insightful commentary I have seen on this story comes from the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who says that the key to the story is to see Isaac not as an individual but as a religion. Who was Isaac? He was Judaism. He was the person who would continue Abraham’s belief system. With his death, everything that Abraham had taught in terms of his rejection of paganism and the belief in one G-d would be lost.

The test, therefore, was this: Would Abraham follow G-d’s commandment to kill off his religion or would he put his religion before G-d’s will? What really mattered to Abraham? G-d or Judaism? And if they were to be put in conflict, what would he choose? The religious fanatic is the man or woman who has ceased to serve G-d and has begun worshipping their religion, making their faith into yet another false idol. Religion is solely the means by which by which we come to have a relationship with our Creator. But when it becomes a substitute for G-d it becomes soulless and fanatical, seeing as there is no loving deity to temper it.

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The united tribes of Israel had grown steadily in wealth, power and glory or 120 years, under the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon.

Solomon’s son Rehoboam became the next king. Rehoboam raised the taxes, which caused the northern tribes to rebel against him.

Jeroboam became the king of the northern tribes. He was a wicked king who set up his own worship system using non-Levites as priests.

Jeroboam also built two golden calves as idols and placed them in the cities of Bethel and Dan. He instructed the people to worship the golden calves:

It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (1 Kings 12:28)

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1 Kings 13

[1] And, behold, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the LORD unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense.
[2] And he cried against the altar in the word of the LORD, and said, O altar, altar, thus saith the LORD; Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.
[3] And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the LORD hath spoken; Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out.
[4] And it came to pass, when king Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God, which had cried against the altar in Bethel, that he put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him. And his hand, which he put forth against him, dried up, so that he could not pull it in again to him.
[5] The altar also was rent, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the LORD.

The Lord then healed King Jeroboam’s hand.

King Jeroboam then invited the man of God to come to his home and to receive a reward.

But the man of God refused.

“If thou wilt give me half thine house, I will not go in with thee, neither will I eat bread nor drink water in this place. For so was it charged me by the word of the LORD, saying, Eat no bread, nor drink water, nor turn again by the same way that thou camest.”

The man then began his journey to his home in the land of Judah.

An “older prophet” who lived in Bethel then appears in the story and invited the man of God into his own home.

The old prophet proclaimed to the man of God:

“I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the LORD, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water.”

But the old prophet lied unto him.

The man of God then entered the old prophet’s home and ate dinner with him.

The old prophet then chastised the man of God.

“Thus saith the LORD, Forasmuch as thou hast disobeyed the mouth of the LORD, and hast not kept the commandment which the LORD thy God commanded thee. But camest back, and hast eaten bread and drunk water in the place, of the which the LORD did say to thee, Eat no bread, and drink no water; thy carcase shall not come unto the sepulchre of thy fathers.”

The man of God was then killed by lion, soon after he left the old prophet’s home.

* * *

David R. Reid wrote the following.

In the tale of two prophets, most likely the older prophet was a believer in the true God, and was not directly a part of Jeroboam’s false system of worship. But rather than stir up trouble for himself by speaking out publicly against King Jeroboam I, or moving south to Judah as others had done, he remained in Bethel, retaining his local prestige as a “retired prophet.” Rather than “rock the boat,” he went along with the system for his own selfish purposes. Perhaps he was like one of the 7000 silent believers who lived in the idolatrous northern kingdom in Elijah’s day. (See 1 Kings 19:18.) But when the younger prophet from Judah boldly denounced the king and his false system of worship, the older prophet was stirred into action.

Unfortunately that action was not channelled in the right direction. Maybe the older prophet was miffed that God had left him on the sidelines–even though his passive lifestyle and lack of commitment had made him unsuitable for God’s use as a messenger. Maybe he had an exaggerated notion of his own importance as a prophet in the Bethel area. Maybe he was jealous of the youth of the prophet from Judah. Whatever the case, the older prophet lied to the younger prophet. He misdirected him–and actually persuaded him to disobey the Lord’s will!

* * *

This is an extreme story. But it is worthy of careful consideration for application to our own lives.

I am skeptical that the people we personally meet in our religious settings would intentionally lie to us and tempt us to disobey God while simultaneously claiming authority from God. Yes, there is an occasional wolf in sheep’s clothing, but these individuals are rare.

The far greater concern is well-meaning but misguided people who would dissuade from some mission or purpose that the Lord has charged us with. These individuals might even claim some authority as they attempt to correct us.

Yes, we all have need of correction.

But we must follow the Lord first. We should prayerfully seek to develop discernment using the Holy Spirit to guide us. We must also become thoroughly grounded in the holy scriptures. We can then discern whether the words of others are truly from God.

* * *

I came across this Biblical story as I recently sat in a dentist office waiting room. A Bible was sitting on a small table in the room. I said a prayer in my heart asking the Lord to give me a personal message from his holy book. I then opened the Bible to what otherwise seemed to be a random location. The result was the story of the man of God from Judah.

* * *

After I wrote the initial blog post, I came across Joseph Smith’s commentary.

Smith’s interpretation was that the old prophet was truthful in the sense that an angel really had commanded him to invite the man of God into his home for dinner, but that this was all a devised test of the man’s obedience.

* * *

– Tom Irvine

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