Today I read the story of Jehoshaphat and Ahab's battle to take back Ramoth-gilead from the Syrians (2 Chron 18 and 1 Kings 22). I know I've read the story, but it was like reading it for the first time today. Here's a few things to notice:
Judah and Israel had been divided for some time now and had been at war that entire time. Jehoshaphat, who is deemed a good king in Judah makes peace with Ahab the king of Israel. To show that no good deed goes unnoticed, Ahab thought 'Ah, now I've got a military ally that will help me take back to town of Ramoth-gilead.' He proposes the joint venture to Jehoshaphat who agrees, saying, "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses" (1 Kings 22:4).
But Jehoshaphat, showing why he's a good king, says "Inquire first for the word of the Lord" (1 Kings 22:5). Ahab brings together 400 prophets who tell Ahab and Jehoshaphat, "Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king" (1 Kings 22:6). Something doesn't sit right with Jehoshaphat and he asks Ahab, "Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?" (1 Kings 22:7). I think that's really interesting. What we'll see later in the narrative is that these 400 prophets are not speaking for the Lord but have been deceived by a lying spirit to lead Ahab to his destruction. Jehoshaphat knows something is amiss in his bones - he can sense it. He's able to discern the word of the Lord from a lie.
Ahab replies to Jehoshaphat's request, "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 evil" (1 Kings 22:8). Great illustration of the quote from John Thompson! A servant is sent to find Micaiah and bring him to the king(s). As they are about to enter, the servant, named Zedekiah, instructs the prophet to tell the king what he wants to hear, "Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably" (1 Kings 22:13). Micaiah's response is what you would expect from a true man of God, "As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak" (1 Kings 22:14). Micaiah will 'preach the whole counsel of the Lord', not just what Ahab's 'itching ears' want to hear (and it ends up landing him in prison).
Here's where the story gets real good. Micaiah goes in and speaks favorably, though my guess is it was spoken with thick sarcasm. The king says to Micaiah, "How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?" (1 Kings 22:16). Here's the real message from the Lord to Ahab: "And he said, 'I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’” (1 Kings 22:17). After a brief interruption from Ahab, Micaiah continues:
"And Micaiah said, 'Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ 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.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.'”
Wow. Here's a few things I see. First, when the Lord calls court even the evil angels/spirits heed his call. Second, God uses evil, a lying spirit, to accomplish his purposes. Third, the truth of God's word comes to Ahab so he should have known better, known not to go up to Ramoth-gilead.
Ahab doesn't head Micaiah's warning. Instead, he has him thrown into prison and goes to battle anyway, albeit in disguise (maybe God won't recognize me without my kingly robe). As we read the story we are given privy to instructions given by the Syrian king to "Fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel" (1 Kings 22:31). When the Syrian army sees Jehoshaphat in his kingly robes they assume he must be the king of Israel. It says, "So they turned to fight against him. And Jehosphaphat cried out. "(1 Kings 22:32), so they turned away from pursuing him.
But..."But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel [Ahab] between the scale armor and the breastplate" (1 Kings 22:34). Ok, so not only are evil spirits under the sovereign control of God, forced to do his bidding, but so are stray arrows 'randomly shot'. The king bleeds out and dies and the charioteer washes out the blood by a pool in Samaria and dogs come and lick up the blood, 'according to the word the Lord had spoken' against Ahab for the killing of Naboth (1 Kings 21:19).
In a world filled with evil, lying spirits, chaos and seemingly random evils, it is encouraging to be reminded God is in control! Oh, no word on what happened to Micaiah after his prophesy was fulfilled.