Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 52. The Prophet Micaiah

Prophets And Kings
Day 52
The Prophet Micaiah

A new prophet is mentioned today by the name of Micaiah. King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Israel consult him in regard to going up against Ben-Hadad of Aram.

1 KINGS 22:1-28
"For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. The king of Israel had said to his officials, 'Don't you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?' So he asked Jehoshaphat, 'Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?'" (1 Kings 22:1-4a) In Chapter 20, when Ben-Hadad of Aram found himself defeated, he promised to return to Israel all the cities his father had taken from Ahab's father. Apparently he has not kept his word and still maintains control of Ramoth Gilead. After allowing Ben-Hadad to escape with his life that day, a prophet met Ahab by the roadway to remind him that it wasn't God's will for Ahab to let the king of Aram go. The prophet said, "This is what the Lord says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people." (1 Kings 20:42) This prophecy will come true as we study Chapter 22 this week.

Up til now all we know about Jehoshaphat is from 1 Kings 15:24, that he succeeded his father Asa as king of Judah. Jehoshaphat is a king who believes in obeying the Lord. "Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, 'I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.' But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, 'First seek the counsel of the Lord.'" (1 Kings 22:4b-5) Ramoth Gilead was in close proximity to Jehoshaphat's capitol at Jerusalem, so it was in his best interests to ally himself with Ahab against Ben-Hadad. Nevertheless, he is a wise man who knows the value of seeking the Lord's will in his decisions.

"So the king of Israel brought together the prophets---about four hundred men---and asked them, 'Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?' 'Go,' they answered, 'for the Lord will give it into the king's hand.'" (1 Kings 22:6) Scholars disagree on who these prophets are. Some think they are the pagan prophets of Baal while others believe they are the remainder of the prophets of the Lord. I tend to agree with the latter opinion. Ahab knew which Lord Jehoshaphat wanted to inquire of and I don't think he would have brought prophets of Baal before a godly man he hoped would help him in the battle. On the day Elijah had his showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. those prophets were calling out to Baal by his name; they weren't calling him Lord like the prophets of today's passage. So I think these four hundred likely represent the prophets Jezebel didn't manage to kill, but the problem with them is that they are either no longer seeking or no longer receiving the word of the Lord. The reason for this may be because they are so afraid of Ahab and Jezebel they don't dare tell the king anything he doesn't want to hear. Jehoshaphat, a godly man with spiritual discernment, sees through their lie.

"But Jehoshaphat asked, 'Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?' The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, 'There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imiah.'" (1 Kings 22:8a) There are several verses in the Bible that make me chuckle a little and this is one of them. Ahab repented of his idolatrous actions in yesterday's passage but he's still a sulky spoiled brat. When Jehoshaphat asks for a real prophet, I picture Ahab pouting and kicking up dust with the toe of his shoe and whining something like, "Aw, do we have to? The real prophet never tells me anything I want to hear. He doesn't like me and is mean to me. That's why I hate him."

Jehoshaphat isn't pleased with Ahab's attitude. "'The king should not say such a thing,' Jehoshaphat replied." (1 Kings 22:8b) Speaking against a true prophet of God shows that Ahab still isn't willing to be instructed by the Lord. He does not possess a teachable spirit and doesn't respect the prophets of the Lord.

"So the king called one of his officials and said, 'Bring Micaiah son of Imiah at once.'" (1 Kings 22:9) According to some Jewish traditions, Micaiah is the same prophet who stood by the roadway and gave the prophecy against Ahab in Chapter 20. He very well could be and this would explain why Ahab is reluctant to call him, but the prophet by the roadway was never named so we can't be sure.

"Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, 'This is what the Lord says: 'With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.' All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing, 'Attack Ramoth-Gilead and be victorious,' they said, 'for the Lord will give it into the king's hand.'" (1 Kings 22:10-12) It just about makes my head hurt to imagine the noise and confusion of this circus of four hundred false prophets standing in the gateway, all talking at the same time, all eager to agree with each other and please Ahab. 

"The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, 'Look, the other prophets are without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.'" (1 Kings 22:13) The messenger tries to do Micaiah a favor by telling him what the other prophets have already said so his prophecy can line up with theirs. The messenger probably knows Ahab hates this true prophet and is likely to take his life for prophesying anything bad. His attitude is, "Okay, Micaiah, here's what four hundred prophets have already told the king and it's what he wants to hear. If you'd like to keep your head attached to your body today, you will tell him the same thing."

But Micaiah is faithful to the God of Israel and will not tell a lie in His name. "But Micaiah said, 'As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.' When he arrived, the king asked him, 'Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or not?'" (1 Kings 22:15a) Micaiah does an interesting thing here; he first answers the king just as the other prophets answered, but he evidently does it in such a way that the king knows he is making fun of the false prophets. "'Attack and be victorious,' he answered, 'for the Lord will give it into the king's hand.' The king said to him, 'How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?'" (1 Kings 22:15b-16) 

"Then Micaiah answered, 'I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, 'These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.'" (1 Kings 22:17) Micaiah's vision indicates Ahab will die in battle, that the soldiers of Israel will be scattered on the hills without their shepherd the king. 

Ahab knows exactly what Micaiah is saying. "The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'Didn't I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad?'" (1 Kings 22:16) I can just see Ahab turning toward Jehoshaphat, flinging his hands up and saying, "This is exactly why I didn't want to talk to this guy!"

"Micaiah continued, 'Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around Him on His right and on His left. And the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking RamothGilead and going to his death there?' One suggested this, another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, 'I will entice him.'" (1 Kings 22:19-21) While some scholars believe this is an allegory or a parable Micaiah is giving to illustrate his point, I believe there is good Scriptural basis for agreeing with those who think Micaiah's vision actually showed him this scene taking place in heaven. In the book of Job we find that when "the sons of God" (angels) come into His presence, Satan also comes before Him to give an account of his work. Satan and the fallen angels who rebelled against God with him still have access to the throne of God and the book of Revelation backs up what is said in Job. In Chapter 12 of Revelation we find the archangel Michael and his army, in the end times, casting Satan and the rebellious angels out of heaven. There is rejoicing in heaven on that day because the one who accuses the godly before God day and night has at last been cast down. When the Lord asks for a volunteer to mislead Ahab, I think either Satan himself or one of the fallen angels steps forward. We wouldn't expect a faithful angel to do such a thing.

So does God entice anyone to sin? The Lord's brother James makes it clear He does not, "When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:13-15) The Lord knew Ahab had already made up his mind. Ahab's desire was to go to war against Ben-Hadad, whom he should never have allowed to go free in the first place, and no word by a true prophet of God was going to sway him. The words of James perfectly sum up what's going on with Ahab. He is tempted because he is dragged away by his own evil desire, which then causes him to sin by disobeying the Lord, and that sin is going to cause his death. The Lord allows a fallen angel to induce the prophets to prophesy the lie that Ahab wants to hear, but the prophets had a choice whether or not to do it. They could have prophesied the truth instead. Likewise, when faced with a real prophet in the presence of the godly king of Judah who knows true prophecy when he hears it, Ahab had the opportunity to heed the warning of the Lord. Nobody forced him to ignore godly advice; he chose to ignore it because that's what he wanted to do.

In Micaiah's vision the Lord is still speaking to the one who volunteered to entice Ahab, "'By what means?' the Lord asked. 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said. 'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the Lord. 'Go and do it.'" (1 Kings 22:22) No one is making Ahab do anything but the Lord knows the deceiving spirit will be successful because he knows Ahab's heart. He knows Ahab has already decided on a course of action and will not be persuaded otherwise even by God Himself.

"So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.' Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. 'Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when He went from me to speak to you?' he asked. Micaiah answered, 'You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.'" (1 Kings 22:23-25) I am reminded of the way the soldiers of the high priest's household slapped Jesus for telling the truth. Micaiah takes this abuse meekly but foretells of a time when Zedekiah will hide in an inner room, trembling in fear. It appears to be unknown exactly when or how this prophecy is fulfilled, but it could be that the false prophet runs and hides on the day Ahab is killed in battle. Zedekiah predicted victory but Ahab will be defeated. Zedekiah even went so far as to make iron horns to dramatically illustrate how mercilessly Ahab would gore Ben-Hadad to death. It makes sense to assume that this bold false prophet will see the need to make himself scarce after the death of his king.

"The king of Israel then ordered, 'Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king's son and say, 'This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.'" (1 Kings 22:26-27) Since Ahab is sending Micaiah back to Amon, he was likely already in prison for prophesying things that didn't please the king.

But Micaiah gets the last word in, "Micaiah declared, 'If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.' Then he added, 'Mark my words, all you people!'" (1 Kings 22:28) The people will know that Micaiah was the only true prophet at the gate that day when his words against Ahab come true. 

We see from today's passage that trouble comes on us all. Trouble may come even when we are in the will of God; trouble will certainly come when we get out of the will of God. Micaiah is mistreated for telling a wicked king what he doesn't want to hear, but his imprisonment is better than the death Ahab will face for going into battle against the word of God. If we suffer for obedience, at least we have the comfort of our God and the peace He gives us and the vindication we receive when we are proven right. If we suffer for disobedience, we must endure the regret and shame that comes from knowing we purposely did the wrong thing and brought our trouble on ourselves. 

As we studied when we looked at the godly man Naboth this week, life isn't a bed of roses even when we are walking the right path, but as the Apostle Peter said, "For it is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil." (1 Peter 3:17) None of us wants to suffer. But if some suffering in this world is unavoidable, better it should be for following Christ than for following wickedness. Better we should suffer for the One who suffered for us. 

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