Bible Order: Psalms 89–91
Chronological Order: 2 Chronicles 19-23
New Testament Only: Acts 5:17–42
Do You Depend On God Or On Yourself?
2 Chronicles 18 and 1 Kings 22 are pretty much the same story. They are in fact word for word in places. They narrate an interesting event concerning Ahab the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah. Ahab wanted to go up against the Syrians again to reclaim some lost portion of historic Israel and asked Jehoshaphat to join him in the battle. Jehoshaphat wisely requested that they inquire of the Lord through prophets as to the wisdom of such an undertaking. Time and again in our Bible reading we see how important it is to inquire of God when we face decisions.
Now Ahab called together four hundred prophets and asked them whether or not he should go to war. Every one of them said God would give him the victory and yet Jehoshaphat asked if there was someone else who could prophesy in the matter. Why did Jehoshaphat want yet another opinion? Could one prophet out of 401 be enough to dissuade him from going to war? Is Jehoshaphat looking for a way out and hoping he can find just one prophet to give him his escape? I guess that is possible but that isn’t my take on this.
For a prophet to be a prophet he had to be accurate 100% of the time. One error was grounds for stoning according to the Law of Moses. If God was in something you would expect all true prophets to be in agreement. Let us remember that Ahab and his wife Jezebel denied the One True God and worshipped Baal. My suspicion is that these 400 “prophets” were prophets of Baal not of God. Jehoshaphat followed Jehovah and had no confidence in the pronouncements of prophets belonging to man-made gods. When Jehoshaphat asked Ahab if there wasn’t another prophet “of the Lord” he was looking for one who worshipped Jehovah not Baal.
Ahab didn’t like the prophets of Jehovah since they rarely told him what he wanted to hear. He was constantly trying to get his hands on Elijah to kill him and he had another prophet, Micaiah, held in prison. Micaiah is the one Ahab sent for in response to Jehoshaphat’s request. This prophet of God was warned by his captors to give the king the answer he wanted. Here is how Ahab phrased the question.
2 Chronicles 18:14-15
“And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?” And he answered, “Go up and triumph; they will be given into your hand. But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
Notice that Ahab doesn’t say “What does God say on the matter?” This is all a set up for the sake of Jehoshaphat. Ahab wants the king of Judah to go to battle with him and he doesn’t want anything messing that up. Clearly Micaiah’s response was so full of sarcasm that Ahab was forced to command him to speak the truth in the name of the Lord. Well, Micaiah is now off the hook and he gives the bad news to Ahab straight. In describing why 400 prophets of Baal got it wrong he says something rather strange.
2 Chronicles 18:19-22 ESV
“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. 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 these your prophets. The Lord has declared disaster concerning you.”
We need to realize that the statement above is an attempt by a man of God to explain to a man of Baal why his prophets are wrong. God is the God of all and He takes responsibility for all of His creation. The prophets of Baal have clearly been given the wrong impression as to the outcome of a battle with Syria and this suits God’s purpose. These prophets knew what the king wanted to hear and they gave it to him. The only person they were afraid of was Ahab. A “lying spirit” was a natural part of the life Ahab and his prophets were living. They lied to themselves and God used it to His purpose.
Another example of God taking responsibility for the godless behavior of a man can be found in Genesis where the Bible tells us that God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”. In that situation, like this one, God had given the wayward individual many opportunities to return to Him. When that wayward individual failed to take advantage of God’s grace God turned them over to their godless fate.
Interestingly enough, though Micaiah told the truth about the coming military disaster, Jehoshaphat went to war with Ahab. He only escaped with his life because he cried out to God for salvation. Ahab depended on disguise and deceit to protect himself instead of God and as a result died as Micaiah had foretold. It is an old story and it is still true today. Those that depend on themselves for survival will die a tragic death. Those that depend on God for salvation will be saved.
Have a blessed day!
Your brother and servant in Christ,
Dying to self, living to serve!
(Originally posted 6/29/11)