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Monday, February 7, 2011

White-wash or a Sharp Sword?

4-5 He turned to Jehoshaphat and said, "Will you join me in fighting for Ramoth Gilead?"  Jehoshaphat said, "You bet. I'm with you all the way—my troops are your troops, my horses are your horses." He then continued, "But before you do anything, ask God for guidance."  6 The king of Israel got the prophets together—all four hundred of them —and put the question to them: "Should I attack Ramoth Gilead? Or should I hold back?"  "Go for it," they said. "God will hand it over to the king."
(I Kings 22:4-6)

This is just a short passage from the twenty-second chapter of I Kings.  It is just enough to set up the story before us this morning.  In encourage you to read the chapter in its entirety.  King Ahab is in control of Israel and Jehoshaphat is reigning over Judah.  Jehoshaphat was allied with Ahab through marriage (arranging for his son to marry Ahab's daughter) and was the fourth king of Judah (the southern kingdom once part of Israel).  Judah had not aligned themselves with the forms of worship entertained in the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Ahab was not the best king to rule over Israel.  He married Jezebel, who in turn became a bad influence over him, resulting in Israel turning to Baal worship.  I Kings 16:30 tells us that he was more evil than any of the other kings before him.  

Three years of peace had been enjoyed in the land without any warfare or battle being pursued.  The kings have been sitting around reminiscing about the times of battle, their present situation, and their desire to drive out the people that are inhabiting the territory of Ramoth Gilead, a town once taken by the king of Aram in an earlier battle.  Ahab cooks up the notion that they need to take this city for themselves.  In turn, he calls the one ally he has, Jehoshaphat, and asks him to go along with him in his plans.  The first thing Jehoshaphat does is ask Ahab to call together the prophets (more than 400 at the time) to get God's guidance for the battle.  One prophet is left out of the "predicting" event - Micaiah.  

All the prophets in the crowd give the kings exactly what they want to hear - "Go for it!"  Micaiah is consulted as an after-thought - only because Jehoshaphat asks if there are any other prophets in the region that he and Ahab might consult.  What we know about Micaiah is very little other than he was a holy prophet not given over to the false worship of Baal.  He spoke out for what he believed he heard from God and did not go along with the crowds.  This probably did not make him very popular among his "prophet" friends.

Ahab likely excluded Micaiah from the "fortune-telling" that day because Micaiah did not have any problem telling exactly what he heard from God.  His message cut across the plans Ahab had and often were convicting in their nature.  Therefore, he would rather exclude him from the "fortune-telling" than to entertain the possibilities he'd have a message of doom.  What is most telling about how he was treated was the response of one of his fellow prophets, Zedekiah.  When Micaiah told Ahab NOT to go out to battle against the people of Ramoth Gilead because he would not return in one piece, would be cowering in fear to find a place to hide, and that his 400 prophets were really sending him to his doom - he did not make any friends or influence any enemies!

In fact, Zedekiah comes forward and punches Micaiah in the face, asking him, "Since when did the Spirit of God leave me and take up residence with you?"  Wow, what a telling statement that the prophet of God would not even recognize how far he had drifted from a deep and personal relationship with God!  He did not even recognize that the Spirit of God was not upon him any longer!  

Several things I'd like us to consider about the life and ministry of Micaiah:
  • When light shines bright, there are those in darkness that will hate the effect of that light.  Light brings exposure and what is exposed may not always be what you want others to see.
  • When truth is spoken, lies become apparent.  There is a lot of ease in hearing lies - they rarely require anything much of us.  Truth, on the other hand, exposes something that requires a response.  Because they have a little "bite" to them, they can often bring people to a place of awareness of their need - that is not always the most comfortable place for them to be!
Micaiah ended up in prison for speaking truth - for being a light in a time of tremendous darkness.  The little we know of him is apparent in his commitment to be true to his God despite the pressures to be otherwise.  It is my hope that we will rise to the level of being true to our God when we are surrounded on all sides by pressures to be otherwise.  The day in which we live demands a light to shine bright, pointing the way to the truth of Christ.  The people we are surrounded by need the truth to be "forth-told" - even if it is not the popular message.  

The Word of God is a sharp instrument - we are reminded of that when Paul tells us that it like a two-edged sword.  When we white-wash the Word of God, we are trying to take away the "sharpness" of the Word.  It is that very "sharpness" that gives the Word of God the most powerful effect in the lives of men and women that hear it.  We need to be faithful to the Word!  It may not be the most popular message - but it is the best!