Jehosophat and Ahab make strange bed-fellows. Jehosophat genuinely wants to seek God’s best, and Ahab just wants his own best. This has to be one of my all time favorite stories in the bible. Every time I must read it multiple times completely envisioning the scene. So, humor me and let’s see how this plays out:
Ahab had pulled out all the stops to get Jehosophat in his corner, and the plotting had finally accomplished its goal. But, Jehosophat had one last request, “Let us just make certain that this military campaign is in obedience to God’s word.”
“Of course, of course!” schmoozes Ahab. “I would never want anything less. Let me just ask all my highly reputable prophets standing by to bring me the Word of the Lord. I have four hundred of them, so one of them is sure to tell us what we want to hear. I mean, well, you know.”
With all the pomp and circumstance he can muster, Ahab calls to them, “Oh prophets of the most high God, Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead,” here his voice takes on a sour note, “or shall I refrain?”
“Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king,” echoes an immediate chorus of voices from around the crowd.
“That was easy enough,” Ahab thinks as he flashes his most charming smile toward Jehosophat.
Almost ready to make any excuse to leave, Jehosophat tries again, “Maybe my question was not clear. Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?”
Ahab’s eyes roll almost into the back of his head as he momentarily loses any semblance of royalty, knowing who he needs to summon. He must force the halting words from his lips, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil.” (Full pout).
Jehosophat has no doubt this is true as it is abundantly clear that Ahab has no genuine desire to hear God’s word if it contradicts his own, but he tucks that response beneath his royal robes and merely says, “Let not the king say so!”
Ahab lets out a deep sigh and realizing there is no escaping the inevitable, snaps at the nearest officer, “Bring Micaiah. Quickly.”
The hundreds of prophets around them continue to babble their meaningless “prophecies” of great military success. One had created horns out of some handy iron scraps and as he mimics a bull charging into a crowd creatively says, “Thus says the LORD, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.'” Back slaps all around with that one. One after another steps forward or shouts from the back urging the kings to go and fight and win with God’s blessing.
On the other side of town, the messenger reaches Micaiah. “The king wants you to come. Let me warn you, all the prophets are speaking in unity that God favors his plans to fight Ramoth-gilead. Be like them this time, Micaiah, for your sake.”
Wondering why he should even both going with that invitation, Micaiah knows he cannot avoid this encounter. As soon as they reach the kings (who had continued to hear the prophets blathering like fools the entire time they waited), Ahab asks for his advice.
Micaiah has no respect for this ruler that ignores God’s laws and has compromised his people. Micaiah leans against a pillar, picking at his fingernails, “By all means, go up and triumph. Sounds like a winner to me,” he deadpans.
Ahab grips the arms of his throne in exasperation, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” As if Ahab ever really wanted the truth.
Straightening up, but his face still clearly clouded by doubt, Micaiah takes a breath and delivers the true word of the Lord. It is not what Ahab wants to hear.
Spit flies from Ahab’s mouth as he jerks toward Jehosophat and gestures toward the one dissonant voice, “Do you see what I mean? I told you so! He never has anything nice to say about me.” (More pouting)
But, Micaiah wasn’t done. God had more to say through his lips, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left. 19 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ 21 And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’” (2 Chronicles 18:18-21 ESV)
Zedekiah cannot stand the insult to his name and family. He steps forward, slapping Micaiah across the face, “Oh really? A spirit made me lie? Tell me this, since you know so much. Which way did the Spirit of the LORD go from me to speak to you?” and he turns on his heel and walks off with his head raised.
Micaiah goes to jail (until Ahab returns from his “certain” victory). The armies go to war. Ahab dies. God saves Jehosophat. And we have a few lessons to learn.
Who am I listening to?
Am I discerning in my listening?
Do I hear only what I want to hear?
Do I ignore God’s word if it contradicts how I want to believe or think?
Do my prayers genuinely invite God into the conversation and situation?
Am I more like Ahab or Jehosophat?
So much food for thought when we try to see ourselves in the people of the bible.
God, give me your wisdom. Wisdom to hear, discern, and submit. May I never re-interpret your words to make them fit my preferred narrative. May I never simply make a show of reading your words to check a box that I tried. May I never pray without a genuine desire to hear from you and follow. Surrendered fully to your plan is my heart’s desire. In Jesus name, amen.