This week’s Bible reading from 1 Kings 17 – 2 Kings 17 mostly covers the ministries of two great prophets of the northern tribes of Israel: Elijah and Elisha and also their opposition, which was most often the kings of Israel. How many of you felt that the kings of Judah and Israel sort of blur together? This may be intentional. None of the kings live up to the Kingdom of God standard. All fall short, as do the people they lead.
God’s kingdom and righteousness are never attained through our own efforts and political means. We are not rewarded for attaining these but for seeking them first. Even the best kings of Judah fell short. We all do. But if we keep seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, ultimately He rewards us with them forever.
The four books of 1&2 Samuel through 1&2 Kings are written and finally compiled at the time of the exile. These books help explain why God delivered His people into exile using Asyria and Babylon to defeat and punish them . God is the true sovereign king over His people. When God’s own people rejected His righteousness and turned their hearts to other gods, God fulfilled exactly what He said He would do in the law of Moses, see Deuteronomy 28 specifically. These books all view the history of Israel and Judah through the lens of God’s judgment against sin and idolatry. These books are not simply cold factual history, but history interpreted to us through the Holy Spirit revealing God’s rule and reign and judgments.
Many of God’s people wanted His power of protection, they just didn’t want to bother following His instructions or having to serve the Lord as their one and only God. Isn’t that the way it still is? When it’s tough, everybody wants a Savior, but not many want a Master. Have you noticed that not much has changed about human nature?
As we zoom in on the details of Israel and Judah’s history as we read the books of Kings, I hope you noticed that a lot of this week was spent looking at what happened in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Did you notice those who were obstacles to God’s rule and righteousness? How about those who were instruments for God’s rule and righteousness? The obstacles were royalty of the wrong sort: Ahab and Jezebel and their sons Ahaziah, Jehoram; later Jehoshaphat’s sons Jehoram and grandson, Ahaziah. Instead of leading God’s people in His rule and righteousness, they worked against God’s will and ways.
Jezebel an idolatrous Baal worshipper, was bound and determined to kill all the Lord’s prophets. She made it her mission to wipe out the worship of the Lord and sought to replace the worship of the Lord, God of Israel with her false god, Baal. Her dad’s name was Eth-Baal (meaning: with Baal) who was also king of Sidon. She was certainly with Baal too.
Ahab and Jezebel had a daughter named Athaliah who married Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram. Athaliah was just like her mother, influencing Jehoram to kill all his brothers and turn to idolatry after he became king. Jehoram and Athaliah had a son named Ahaziah. After Ahaziah died, his mother, Athaliah, took the throne in Judah and killed all her grandkids, attempting to extinguish the line of David. But she missed one: Joash.
All these royal leaders, except Jehoshaphat were obstacles to God’s rule and righteousness.
On the other hand, did you notice those who were instruments of God’s rule and righteousness? Jehoshaphat was a faithful king. He was a great reformer and devotee to the Lord and the Law of Moses and the word of God through the prophets. His biggest flaw was that he made alliances with Ahab, joining their families together in marriage.
Another instrument for God who appears in the last chapter of 1 Kings is Micaiah, a prophet of the Lord. Let’s review this event. Macaiah told Ahab exactly what would happen to Ahab and how he would die. It’s a fascinating story where Ahab invited Jehoshaphat to join him in battle against the king of Aram or Syria. Jehoshaphat is agreeable but wants to seek the counsel of the Lord first. Ahab brings in 400 prophets to ask if he should go to war or not and they all answer, “Go, for the Lord will give you victory.” Jehoshaphat realizes that these are NOT God’s prophets and asks if there is not a prophet of the LORD God to inquire. Ahab answers, “Yeah, but I hate him. He never says anything good about me, only bad.”
They send for Micaiah. As he’s coming, all the other 400 prophets are cheering on Ahab to go and be victorious. One even makes iron horns and dramatically prophecies how Ahab will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed. So the messenger says to Micaiah, “Everyone else is predicting victory, let your word agree with theirs.”
Do you hear this? Nobody wants to rain on the party or hurt Ahab’s feelings.
A friend of mine in Vermont, Mike Peters, had two kids about 6 and 8. They were playing a game where one hides a toy and the other looks for it. The clue that you are getting closer is to say, “Warmer” and if you are moving away to say, “Colder.” The kids were in another room playing when his youngest, a daughter, came running in to him crying, “Daddy, Daddy, Josh isn’t playing fair!” Mike asked, “What’s the problem? She cried, “He always says, ‘colder, colder, and he won’t say warmer warmer! It’s not nice to say colder colder, is it Daddy?” Mike calls, “Josh!” Josh came, looking a little frustrated. She pointed at Josh and said again, “He is being mean! He won’t say warmer warmer!” We all looked at Josh and he said, “But she wouldn’t move closer to the toy.”
Some people want to hear “warmer, warmer” even when they are going the wrong direction. It’s not nice to hear bad things about yourself, is it? Ahab was one of those kinds of people that wanted to be told what he wanted to hear. You know, don’t judge me! Just say the words I want to hear. Tell me, “Warmer, warmer.” Do you know anyone like that? Are you ever like that?
It wasn’t just that Micaiah wouldn’t say warmer warmer when he knew Ahab was going the wrong way, Micaiah was a true prophet of God and was bound to speak what God told him to speak. You see, Micaiah knew who the true King is. Verse 19 – I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around Him on His right and on His left.
Micaiah knew where the real kingdom was and who was the real King, on the real throne, and it wasn’t Jehoshaphat or Ahab.
In order to be an instrument for God’s kingdom and righteousness, we can’t always say, “Warmer, warmer” in this world. We can’t just be nice and tell people what they want to hear. Not if we follow the true King. We must speak the truth in love, but we must speak the truth.
In order to be an instrument of God, we must let go of fear and say what God tells us, in season and out of season, when it feels good and even when it hurts.
Micaiah’s reward for telling the truth was not an applause, but a slap in the face by the chief false prophet and jail time from Ahab. But the word of the Lord from Micaiah did not fail.
Ahab had a history of half heartedly being impacted by the warnings of God to him. He just thought that he could wiggle out of it somehow. So here, as Micaiah warns him that God has decreed his death in this battle, Ahab does something he thinks will keep himself safe. He tells Jehoshaphat to dress in his royal robes, while he goes in disguise.
What’s Ahab’s plan? He has heard the word of the Lord through Micaiah, but he’s banking on the cheer leading of the 400 other prophets that he will win. But just in case, Ahab will go incognito.
Do you know anyone who knows the word of God on a matter, but thinks they will get away with going against God’s word? Do you ever try to evade the instructions of God’s word, thinking you will not face the consequences?
You can be as clever and creatively evasive as you like, but the word of God is clear: Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall. And, There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof leads to death. And, He who sows to please the flesh, from the flesh will reap corruption, but he that sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap everlasting life.
God allows us to choose whether we seek His kingdom and righteousness first, but God does not allow us to choose the consequences of whether we do or not. God is the ultimate judge. He is merciful and compassionate, willing to forgive the sinner that repents and returns to His will and ways. But God knows if our hearts are fully devoted to Him or not. He rewards us accordingly.
Ahab went out to war. The king of Aram gave his army one instruction: Kill Ahab. As the battle raged some saw Jehoshaphat and thought he was Ahab, but when they realized he was not, they quit chasing him.
Then it happened. A stray arrow from the archers let fly. Ahab, disguised and in a chariot, thinking he was safe felt it’s blow as it sunk into his flesh hitting exactly between the sections of Ahab’s armor and making a fatal wound. He commanded his chariot to turn about and move to safety. From there, propped up in his chariot and bleeding, Ahab watched the battle till evening when he died.
I wonder what went on in Ahab’s mind? Did he wish he had listened to the word of the Lord and obeyed? Was he a rebel to the very end?
Do you now anyone like Ahab who began to taste the wrath of God before the end?
Don’t hate the Ahabs of this world. But don’t join with them or make alliances with them either. Speak the truth of God’s word to them, even if they don’t want to hear it. Give them the opportunity to turn in repentance, just as you would want for yourself.
God gave Ahab chance after chance after chance, but Ahab goes down in biblical history with these words: 1 Kings 16:30, 21:25.