Hearing What We Want To Hear
1 Kings 22
At Morning Prayer today, we read the story of King Ahab and the false prophets (1 Kings 22). It is a poignant word in an age when many feel it is their right to hear what they want to hear. Recommendations I don’t want to follow are ‘hoaxes.’ Opinions I disagree with are ‘phobias.’ News reports I don’t like are ‘fake news.’ At the end of the day all these modern strategies for not listening are just new ways to justify, “doing what I want to do.”
King Ahab of Israel (the northern kingdom after the nation split) wanted to recover Ramoth-gilead from the king of Syria and he persuaded King Jehoshaphat of Judah (the southern kingdom) to join him. As was customary, the kings first consulted God on the issue (or, at least, pretended to). Ahab stacked the deck by making sure he only had compliant prophets bring a ‘message’ from God which confirmed what he wanted to do. When King Jehoshaphat pushed him, Ahab reluctantly allowed the one known prophet of “the LORD” (YHWH), Micaiah, to speak a word. Ahab prepped Jehoshaphat for a negative prophecy – “I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” (v 8)
Micaiah walks into a charged situation. “Four hundred” other prophets had already prophesied a great victory for Ahab (v 6). Micaiah instead says that king Ahab will be killed (v 17). He is physically abused by another prophet (v 24) when he says they are lying (v 22). King Ahab is angry too and has him imprisoned on “meager rations” until he returns (v 27). The two kings go out to do battle. King Ahab is in disguise (v 30) so that he can’t be targeted (v 31). Of course, the word of the Lord cannot so easily be undone. Ahab is killed by a stray arrow (v 34) and the army flees in disarray (v 36). Micaiah told the truth. It gave King Ahab a chance to reconsider.
The word of the Lord is about as popular today as it was with King Ahab. It nonetheless remains true. That makes each of us a “Micaiah” in some of our own situations. Our message will increasingly run counter to popular opinion and may at times elicit abusive reactions from our hearers. We may not (yet) go to prison for our words but the social and career cost may be high especially if our hearers are in positions of authority over us. Like Micaiah, we are always to speak the truth. Wisdom suggest it be spoken carefully (not aggressively or arrogantly) for the sake of helping the hearers to hear, but it must always be spoken clearly.
The temptation to go with the crowd is always strong, but like Micaiah (v 14), we are charged with speaking the truth (about God and life choices). Although some may not receive it well no matter how painstakingly we choose each word, we hold out the hope that others will hear and respond and save their lives. It is critically important that we don’t give in to the allure of giving false information. Our hearers should always be given the option of choosing right.
In His grace