The Prophet and the King
1 Kings 22 is part of our reading today. In this chapter, King Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, tries to convince King Jehoshaphat, the good king of Judah, to join him in an attack on Ramoth Gilead. For some reason, good King Jehoshaphat allowed himself to be convinced to do just that.
First, seek the Lord
But he did put up a little resistance. Before being completely convinced, he wanted to “First seek the counsel of the Lord.”, that is, to ask God whether or not he should do what Ahab was suggesting. At that, Ahab tried to win Jehoshaphat to his side by presenting him with four hundred “prophets”. These prophets were not legitimate prophets of God but instead false prophets, telling the king what he wanted to hear in exchange for payment.
In other words, they were lying for money. And not only were they lying for money but they were lying for money recklessly. The things they said could have led to the deaths of the kings as well as the deaths of thousands of soldiers and maybe the death of the entire nation as well. But they said them anyway because they wanted to get paid, and Ahab believed them because what they said was what he wanted to hear.
A Prophet of the Lord
Fortunately, Jehoshaphat recognized that these prophets were false and asked “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”, that is, “Isn’t there are real prophet around here whom we can trust to tell us the truth?” As it turns out, there was such a prophet, Micaiah son of Imlah.
But Ahab did not want to summon this prophet. He did not want to give this prophet a chance to talk because he greatly (and, as it turns out, correctly) suspected this prophet would not agree with the false prophets, that is, would not tell him what he wanted to hear but would instead tell him what he did not want to hear. He stated this suspicion in these words: I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.
A matter of good and bad…
Now the I hate him part of that statement is likely to catch our attention since we know that hatred of any kind, much less of an innocent prophet of God, is wrong. But what catches my attention even more is the way Ahab describes and apparently sees this situation. He sees it as a matter of good and bad. He considers what he wants to be good, and he considers what he does not want to be bad. When the real prophet tells him what he does not want, then, that is bad to him.
Or life and death?
And that is a terrible way of seeing this situation or any situation. It is terrible because directions from God such as the prophet Micaiah was giving Ahab are not a matter of good or bad nor a matter of what we want or what we don’t want. Rather, they are and can only be a matter of truth. They are most often a matter of life and death truth.
That was certainly the case here; the truth Micaiah gave Ahab would have saved his life if he had accepted and followed it, while the lies the false prophets ultimately cost him his life. And that is the case with everything God says to us today. God has given us lots of directions in His word.
He has given us directions about what to love, telling us not to love this world or the things of this world (1 John 2:15).
He has given us directions about sexual behavior, telling us to be pure (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
He has given us directions about our speech, telling us not to be vulgar (Ephesians 5:4).
The truth is still the truth…
Many people consider these directions to be bad because these directions are not what they want; I’ve experienced that many times, and I’m sure you have as well. But the fact of the matter is that these directions are true. The truth is that these things hurt us. The truth is that these things will kill us just as rushing into this ill-conceived battle killed Ahab. And truth doesn’t change just because it isn’t what you want.
The older folks at the church I grew up in taught me that, “Truth is still the truth even if nobody believes it and a lie is still a lie even if everyone believes it.” And that is correct. Truth is truth regardless of whether or not it is believed and/or whether or not it is liked. Truth is immutable. Truth is not negotiable. Truth just plain is. And the right, wise, profitable, sensible thing to do is to see truth for what it is and respond accordingly. The right, wise, profitable, sensible thing to do is to value truth, to consider truth to be that which is really good.