Fossil finds generate news items, especially in scientific papers. They are interesting to look at and even debate. However, they are a testimony to their deadness. This is especially true within the realm of Christian ministry. 1 Kings 13 has a depressing story of a ‘fossilized prophet.’ The amount of detail preserved in Scripture concerning this man must surely be as a warning for all in the service of the Lord. The same applies to all who attend the life and worship of a local congregation. As the years roll over us and we deal with the rawness of people’s experiences we need to be on guard. We should to be alert to any hardening influences which want to creep into our spirits. The ‘Old Prophet’ syndrome is easily caught and hard to overcome. Don’t let it be your obituary notice in Heaven’s log book.
How did this man, unnamed, become spiritually hard, barren and ‘deadly?’ He would not have set out to become that way. The paralysis of the spirit must have been insidious, slow and poisonous. His call to serve Yahweh was during the reign of Solomon. When that king died the nation was divided into the North and South kingdoms. Jeroboam established two rival religious and political centres. Their aim was to seduce his supporting tribes from going to Jerusalem in accordance with the Law. It worked! It was idolatrous but it worked. Did the old prophet speak up for Yahweh’s law and worship? Did he denounce such treason? Did he lose heart because no one seemed to listen? Did he think that silence was safety? What forces were in play to keep him in Bethel which no longer meant the house of God? His subsequent behaviour revealed the hardening power of compromise and indifference to the Word of God!
We live in a multi–cultural and litigious society. As such it’s hostile to the moral and spiritual doctrines of Scripture. The safety of silence can become a wonderful hideout. Whilst our Lord did call us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves He didn’t ask us to be mute. Nor does He expect us to back pedal on what His word declares. Ministry has to be gracious, not necessarily popular.
We are repeatedly told in Scripture not to be false witnesses. The Old Prophet was just that in two ways, at least. He was false to his calling and false in what he said to the young man of God. The unnamed man of God knew his mission and carried it out. He was on his way home in accordance with the Lord’s word. Then along comes this senior prophet and deceives him. Was the young man’s acceptance due to respect for the age, perhaps imagining God had changed His mind? Why would this fossilized prophet want to have the young man come home for ‘supper’? Was it nostalgia? Was it seeking to impress? Whatever it was he became an instrument of death to an unsuspecting young man. For God keeps His word whether it be a warning or a blessing. The young man was attacked and killed by a lion. One of the saddest aspects of this matter is how the ‘fossilized prophet’ is portrayed. He showed no remorse, no conscience nor repentance over what he did or what happened to the young ‘man of God’. The young man was led astray by someone who should have been a mentor but turned out to be a traitor. Within our churches today such characters move with worldly approval, even success. They are faithless and compromising ministers and priests who have lost touch with the Lord Jesus and His word. Sad to say they cause spiritual and ministerial death to many bright and faithful men and women of God.
Another question seeks an answer. How were the Fossilized Prophet’s family affected by his betrayal of the Law’s doctrine and duty? Would they have had any interest in the things of Yahweh? If they bothered to go to any form of worship how genuine could it have been? To cap it all would his treatment of the ‘man of God’ be a stumbling block too high to climb? Did he care? There is such a high price to pay with wide ranging consequences when you are comfortable with the reign of a Jeroboam. We may debate about whether the 'fossilized prophet' would be saved or not, ultimately that is God's decision, based on other matters in the old prophet's life. If saved, his appearance before his Creator and Judge will be traumatic, embarrassing and unrewarding
Fossils may hold pride of place in museums, but in Heaven they have no place of honour.