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A Tale of Two Prophets

May 14, 2017

I want to share the stories of two prophetic messages from the Old Testament and the responses to each.  In the first instance the prophet is Nathan and this story is recounted in II Samuel 12: 1 – 15.  David has committed horrific sin.  He fell in lust for Bathsheba and because he was king and kings tend to get what kings want, he insured that her husband, a loyal soldier in David’s army was killed in battle.  He had also impregnated Bathsheba.  God sent Nathan to confront David with his wicked behavior as David was apparently unaware that he had done anything wrong.  I can only imagine that Nathan must have had to cope with serious trepidation as he went to see the king.  David had already demonstrated that he was capable of ending the life of someone when it served his purpose.

Nathan went in to see David and he told him a simple story of a wealthy man who chose to take what belonged to a poor man rather than diminish his own riches.  David was furious with the behavior of the rich man in the story.  It was then that Nathan dropped the bomb that the rich man in the story was in fact David himself.  At this point David could have become irate with the prophet and had him summarily killed.  He could have made excuses and told the prophet that he after all was the king and that kings didn’t have to play by the same rules as everyone else.  Or, he could have simply ignored what the prophet had to say and sent him on his way.  David did none of those things.  He deeply repented for his behavior and went before God in humility.  He even, ultimately, accepted God’s judgement that the child born of this union with Bathsheba would die.

In I Kings 18: 20 – 19:2, we have another story.  At this time the nation was dancing the tightrope between worshipping Yahweh and the idol Baal.  The prophet Elijah comes on the scene tell the people that they must choose between the two.  He issues the challenge to the priests of Baal to have a contest on Mount Carmel to demonstrate which god is true.  In front of the people and king Ahab the competition went down.  First the priests of Baal and then Elijah would prepare an altar and a sacrifice and each would call on their god to send down fire to consume the sacrifice.  The priests of Baal prepared their sacrifice and then called on Baal for fire.  No fire came.  The priests became desperate and cried out and resorted to cutting themselves trying to illicit fire as Elijah mocked them and their god.  The fire never came.

Then it was Elijah’s turn.  Not only did Elijah prepare his altar and sacrifice, he had the whole thing soaked in water, before he offered a simple prayer to Yahweh for fire.  The fire came down and the entire sacrifice was consumed.

The message of Elijah was far more dramatic than the simple story that Nathan told to David.  However, the response is where the major difference lies.  David repented and turned even more deeply to God.  Ahab’s wife Jezebel, even though she did not personally witness the events on Mount Carmel, when she was told what had transpired swore that the prophet Elijah must die.

Two prophets of Yehweh delivered messages to God’s people who were behaving badly.  In both cases there was a need for correction.  In both cases God provided a messenger to show the way forward.  Yet, in one case the message brought the needed result and in the other the message was stridently rejected and the prophet condemned.  I believe that we can only conclude that in the second case, the problem was not with the prophet or with the content of the message.  The problem was with the person who received the message.

 

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