We are almost done studying the book of 1 Kings. Today, we will read chapter 22, which ends the story of Ahab, king of Israel. From this story, I would like to suggest 3 points:
1) We need to check our attitude toward God’s Word,
2) We must be faithful to God’s Word, and
3) We may suffer for holding on to truth. Let us pray.
[Read 1 Kings 22:1-40]
We need to check our attitude toward God’s Word
My first point is about our attitude towards God’s Word. Let’s reread verses 19-23:
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 Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’ “One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ “ ‘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.’ “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.”
Basically, in today’s story, God makes King Ahab’s 400 prophets give him fatal advice. But God also makes Micaiah, who is known to be a faithful prophet of the Lord, tell the truth. Micaiah warns Ahab: If you go to war, you will fail and die.
Ahab was faced with a choice: Who to believe? His 400 prophets who encourage him to wage the battle that he wants? Or, the one prophet who always tells Ahab things he doesn’t want to hear?
In the end, Ahab decides to throw Micaiah in jail and proceed with the battle. After everything we have read about Ahab from previous chapters, it seems the king is beyond heeding God’s Word. It doesn’t matter whether Micaiah speaks truth, or lies, or nonsense. In the end, Ahab chooses what his heart wants. God’s Word was irrelevant to him.
At the same time, he was also afraid of dying in battle. Which is why, in verse 30, he disguises himself as a common soldier. But why should he be afraid if he believes the 400 prophets, who said God would give him victory?
We can see that Ahab has no solid foundation. At first, he seeks counsel from God. But when he receives counsel, he cannot fully believe it.
Are we, at times, like Ahab too? Sometimes we want to know God’s will for a decision we need to make. Maybe concerning a job, or a relationship, or a financial decision. But even while seeking God’s will, we may be afraid of hearing the answer.
Or, perhaps, like Ahab we want God’s blessings but not God’s correction in our lives. If we pick and choose what we want to hear, then truth itself is actually not important to us.
But as followers of Christ, the challenge is for us to live by all of God’s words. So, what is our attitude towards the voice of God, whether it be God’s voice through the Bible or through others?
We must be faithful to God’s word
That brings me to my second point: We must be faithful to God’s word. The character who exemplifies this is Micaiah.
In verse 8, Ahab said of Micaiah: “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 Imlah.”
In verse 13, the king’s messenger told Micaiah not to cause any trouble. “Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.”
What is Micaiah’s response? In verse 14, he says, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”
Micaiah’s job is not to make the king feel good. His job is carry out God’s will. As a spokesman for God, he cannot distort God’s message.
This is true for us today as well. Scripture is one form of God’s Word to us, and we are called to handle it faithfully and correct.
In the letter called 2 Timothy, Timothy is advised by his mentor Paul. Let’s turn to 2 Tim 3:15. Here Paul says, “… from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
Paul goes on to say in the next chapter, 4:3: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
In recent times, I am seeing this in the way some Christians reinterpret parts of Scripture to find support for same-sex relationships. I can understand non-Christians supporting gay relationships, but I am skeptical when Christians hold this view—especially if they do not argue from the basis of Scripture but simply from the viewpoint of emotions. I won’t explain my view now for the sake of time, but do come discuss it with me after the service if you would like to.
As I mentioned last week, it has become unpopular for anyone to say that same-sex relationships are wrong, even on a religious basis. So, you can imagine how difficult it is for Christians who experience same-sex attraction. Even if they hold strong convictions that they should remain single, it’s not an easy conviction to live out when the world is telling them that pursuing their desire is good and healthy.
I read a book on hospitality by a former lesbian professor named Rosaria Butterfield. One of great challenges for gay Christians is that if they choose to be single, they suffer the burden of loneliness. Rosaria’s advice to the church is that if we wish to help Christians be faithful to God in this area, we need to be family to those who have no family. We cannot tell people to deny their desires without offering them what they need—and what every human being needs is meaningful and close friendship.
Now, let me go back briefly to the subject of interpreting Scripture. I feel that the reason Christians disagree on same-sex relationships and similar topics has to do with how we see the Bible.
Firstly, do we see Scripture as an authority in our lives, or merely a rough guideline or just an inspirational book? Secondly, what is our method for reading and applying Scripture? These two questions lie at the root of our beliefs and actions.
It is crucial for every Christian to read the Bible for himself or herself. Not just to depend on the words of a preacher or what other people say. And it is important to be aware of how we read the Bible. Do we use good principles of reading, or do we just read with our subjective feelings?
To conclude this point, we are called to be faithful to God’s words to us. One way we can do this is by learning what the Bible says and how to read it. We also need to help each other be faithful when it is hard to do the right thing.
We may suffer for holding on to truth
Lastly third point for today is: We may suffer for holding on to truth.
What does Micaiah get for following God’s orders? He gets slapped on the face by his rival and thrown into jail with only bread and water.
Unfortunately, similar suffering befalls many of God’s prophets throughout the Old Testament. Jesus talked about this situation in his Parable of the Vineyard.
In this analogy, the vineyard is the nation of Israel and God is the landlord. He rents out the land to tenants—who symbolize the Israelites. When he sends servants to check on the vineyard and collect rent, the tenants mistreat and abuse the servants. Jesus said that, likewise, Israel often mistreated the prophets God sent to check on the spiritual health of the land.
In the end, the landlord sent his own son, thinking the tenants would be more respectful to the son. Instead, the tenants killed the son. Through this parable, Jesus not only described the suffering of God’s prophets but also predicted his own death.
If that’s all to the story, then Israel has a truly woeful history. But the death of Jesus was all part of God’s plan: Jesus rose to life on the 3rd day and appeared to many people. He did this to demonstrate his sacrifice for our sins and his power over evil.
This same power to face evil comes into our lives when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord. I think of Paul and Silas, two famous early Christians who were put beaten and put in jail for their faith. In prison, they were singing, because they could still experience the joy of God.
For me, when I face difficulties, my first response is not rejoicing. I’m not sure I can ever be a person like Paul. But I can say that, looking back, God has always used my sufferings for a good purpose. In fact, without the hard times in my life, I would not have grown as a person.
James 1:2-4 says, “My brothers and sisters, consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and complete, not deficient in anything.”
James is not telling us to enjoy suffering or elevate it as a virtue. Rather, he’s saying that God can redeem our suffering for something good, for His greater purposes.
In conclusion, let’s ask ourselves what is the place of God’s voice in our lives. Does it have authority over our decisions? And how do we treat the Bible?
Finally, if anyone is going through a hard time today, I pray that God’s comfort may be with you. May God also help us to comfort and strengthen each other. Let us pray.