A quick summary: Jeroboam (the King) has created a false religion and a no name prophet shows up to show him the error of his ways. As the man heads home he is tricked into disobeying God by eating in town, then he is mauled by a lion on the road home and the lion guards his corpse by the roadside. Then the guy that tricked him gives the no-name a proper burial, and Jeroboam never changes his ways.
One of those uplifting stories....
At first read, it seems totally unfair that God gets so angry with the no name prophet that he has to die in such a dishonorable manner all because he was tricked. The old prophet that tricked him outright lied to him, how was he supposed to know??
The whole story made me think about 2 things: why doesn't he have a name? and why did he have to be punished for believing a lie?
I think as humans our natural inclination is to be given our due, so to speak. The no name prophet is the medium for a great miracle that God performs. The king's hand freezes and an altar cracks in half, that's incredible. But we have no name to attribute these great events to. I think sometimes we assume that we'll be remembered for all the great things that God is doing or going to do through us, but sometimes we are just the no name guy that God used. A nice Biblical reminder that the ministry, the miracles, the message is not about the medium.
A commentary I read about the passage suggested that no name was punished so severly in order to prove that God means what He says about not tolerating sin. God had just proven that He would not allow sin to continue among His people without discipline. No name knew that God had told him not to eat while in Bethel. He repeated it to the older prophet who offered him something to eat. (which raises a lot of unanswered questions: why'd the older prophet lie??) But he accepted the lie instead of truth anyway. But don't we all do that? Don't we all know exactly what God has required of us, but we'd rather accept the easier route at times? "I know I'm not supposed to, but the "bread" just smells so good." It's easier to accept a lie than hold on to the truth.
I guess, I find the lesson of the story is that God's message is not about me. Just because God causes great things to happen all around me, I shouldn't for a second think that I have anything to do with it. And I shouldn't for a second think that I can accept a lie in place of God's truth. I don't have the power to overrule God's decisions.
So, is there an upside to this story? I think that knowing God's message is not about me is the upside. It's not my responsibility to do the miracle, to transform the situation, to be 'entertaining'. My responsibility to remain faithful to the Truth, the rest is up to Him.
What a relief.