The old prophet answered, “I too am a prophet, as you are. And an angel said to me by the word of the Lord: ‘Bring him back with you to your house so that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (But he was lying to him.)
1 Kings 13:18 (NIV)
I have never been a rabid fan of the Star Trek series, though I was enamored with it as a child and I have thoroughly enjoyed some of the movies. I also have friends who are rabid fans, from whom I’ve learned a lot more about the Star Trek world than I would have were it not for their tutelage.
One of the more interesting concepts to come out of the Star Trek universe is the “Prime Directive.” It states that Starfleet crews must not interfere with the natural development of other civilizations. In the 2013 movie Star Trek Into Darkness, Captain Kirk violates the Prime Directive in order to save Spock from dying inside a volcano.
When my spiritual journey as a disciple of Jesus began over forty years ago, I was given a very simple directive by God’s Spirit. In many ways, I consider it my Prime Directive, though I’ve received other directives along the way. The Prime Directive has been confirmed over and over again along the way and this post you’re reading is part of the fruit of that directive.
Over the years, I could have simply chosen to ignore the thing God directed me to do. Along the way, God expanded my understanding of what the directive meant and how I was to carry it out. I’ve had seasons of life in which I wondered if my own human failures nullified the directive (they didn’t). I’ve had opportunities that might have altered that directive in certain ways, but I chose to walk away from them.
Today’s chapter contains a strange story of an ancient prophet from Judah (now the southern Kingdom of Israel staying faithful to the family line of King David) sent to the town of Bethel where King Jereboam of the northern Kingdom of Israel has set up an altar to pagan gods in an attempt to keep pilgrims from the northern tribes from traveling to Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem to make sacrifices. The prophet declares that a man named Josiah from the line of David will destroy the altars Jereboam was building to false gods (the prophecy was fulfilled hundreds of years later). God’s directive to the prophet was to make his prophetic proclamation, return home by a different road than the one on which he arrived, and not eat or drink with anyone.
Along comes an old, well-intentioned prophet living nearby who seeks out the prophet and invites him to his home for refreshment. He’s told that this would violate the directive God had given him. In near eastern cultures of that day (and to this day), hospitality is a major cultural directive, and to refuse one’s hospitality was a jarring violation of it. So now we have the prophet of Judah with a directive from God violating the cultural directive that was an insult to the prophet from Bethel. The prophet from Bethel lies and plays the “God told me to tell you” card. The prophet of Judah allows this to convince him to violate the directive God gave him. The results weren’t good.
As a disciple of Jesus seeking continually to be obedient to God’s desires and purposes for me, God’s Spirit has given me various directives along the journey. I just know it in my Spirit when it happens. I knew Wendy and I were meant to be together. I knew we were supposed to build the house at the lake. I knew where we were supposed to move. God has a way of confirming His directives in amazing ways. In each case, there were plenty of reasonable arguments for not following the directive. In some cases, the reasons even seemed wiser on the surface of things. But time-and-time-again God reminded me through the prophet Isaiah that “My ways are not your ways.”
I’ve learned over time to trust the directive when it comes, and not to allow others to convince me otherwise, like the prophet from Judah in today’s chapter. While it hasn’t always been easy to follow a directive, and sometimes I want to bail during the difficult times to which it leads, I’ve yet to be disappointed in the end.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.