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July 9, 2017 Micaiah, the Revealer of Hearts

Turn with me to I Kings 22:1-18; 24-28. READ. PRAY.

 

[I. Introduction] Israel was once a united nation. Under the judges, like Othniel, Samson, and Samuel, they were one even though they were not fully faithful to their calling to be a light to the nations. Under King Saul they were one even though Saul was a failed leader. Under King David they were united. And under David’s son, Solomon, the twelve tribes were together. When Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, became king he foolishly “added to their yoke,” meaning that he forced them into labor on behalf of the government in a greater way than Solomon had done. In other words, he overtaxed them. Ten of the twelve tribes revolted and formed the Northern kingdom of Israel. Two of the tribes remained faithful to the lineage of David in Jerusalem and became the kingdom of Judah. About 80 years after this division we arrive to the time of Ahab, the king of the northern kingdom, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.

 

All the kings of the northern kingdom were wicked and Ahab was the worst of them all. Some of the kings of Judah were likewise apostate, but there were good kings as well. Jehoshaphat was one of the good kings.

 

In verse 2 we read that Jehoshaphat was visiting King Ahab. Ahab expresses lament that one of the towns of Israel, Ramoth-gilead, was still occupied by Syria even though there was peace between the two nations. The name “Ramoth-gilead” means that the town was Ramoth located in the region of Gilead. Gilead is the mountainous area east of the Jordan river, known for its beauty and rich soil. It was filled with olive trees, grape vines, and grain. Gilead had been in possession of Israel since the days of Joshua. Hence, Ahab wanted to retake it.

 

He asks Jehoshaphat if he will join him in retaking the city. In verse 4 Jehoshaphat answers him, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” He was right in saying that the people of Judah were as the people of Israel for they were all descendents of Jacob and heirs to the promises of God. When he says, “my horses are as your horses,” he is offering his cavalry in battle. But when he says, “I am as you are,” he is wrong. Jehoshaphat was true to Yahweh, the God of Israel. Ahab still followed the false, pagan god, Asherah; although he also gave lip service to the true God. Good and evil cannot coexist in harmony. Therefore, Jehoshaphat is not as Ahab is.

 

Thus says the Lord, “Let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil.” (I John 3:7-8)

 

Jehoshaphat, being righteous, is not willing to go to battle without first asking the Lord. He says, “Inquire first for the word of Yahweh.” (vs. 5) Here is another difference between Ahab and Jehoshaphat. Ahab makes his decisions according to his own desires and thoughts. He does not intend on inquiring of the Lord whether his course of action is in accordance with the Lord’s will. His concern is with his own legacy.

 

To whom is your life more conformed? To Ahab or to Jehoshaphat? Do you make your decisions in accordance with your own desires and thoughts or do you ask the Lord first whether your proposed actions are in accordance with his will? Oh! How many in this age are more like Ahab in this regard than Jehoshaphat! Even among those who name the name of Christ we have many Ahabs! Living by their own thoughts and desires, seeking their own legacy, plodding ahead without checking to see what God has spoken about a matter!

 

If I had two pots filled with coins up here and in one pot the coins were inscribed with the words, “I am Jehoshaphat,” and in the other pot the coins said “I am Ahab,” and I asked you to come up and take a coin that reflects how you live, I think that many of you would have the Ahab coin in your pocket or your purse when you sat back down. Am I right? I think it is so. But, you can trade your coin in. Inquire first for the word of the Lord!

 

Verse 6: “Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men…” Who are these prophets? Turn to I Kings 18:17-22.

 

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. 19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

 

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men. [1]

 

This is the prelude to the famous conflict between Elijah and the prophets of Baal.[2] See that in verse 19 Elijah instructs King Ahab to gather the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah. In verse 20 he gathers them. But, verse 22 reveals that only the 450 prophets of Baal showed up!

 

Returning to I Kings 22:6, we see that Ahab once again gathers the prophets together and they are 400 men. These are the prophets of Asherah! He asks them, “Shall I go to battle?” They answer:

 

“Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” They us the generic word for God.[3] The “Lord” can be any lord.

 

Verse 7: “But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?’” Most of your Bibles will have the word “LORD” in all capital letters. When the word “LORD” is in all capital letters it means that it is a translation of the actual name of God, properly pronounced “Yahweh.” So, Jehoshaphat is using the personal name of God. He is asking not just for any prophet. He is asking for a word from a prophet of Yahweh.

 

There are many who presume to speak on behalf of God. There are so-called “Christian” churches in our land that do not rely upon God’s actual words in Scripture but will speak what the culture speaks. You will find false prophets in false churches who advocate for homosexual falsely-called marriages, for sex outside of marriage, for transvestite-ism, transgenderism, and all manner of perversions which God has spoken about clearly, without lisping.

 

When Jehoshaphat asks if there is another prophet, Ahab replies:

 

“There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of Yahweh, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.”

 

This man, Micaiah, is a prophet of the true God. Micaiah is also a revealer of the hearts of those who hear him. He is a revealer of souls. How his hearers react to him reveal what they are.

 

Ahab hates him. Why? Because he does not tell him what he wants to hear.

 

Jehoshaphat says, “Let not the king say so.” He desires to hear what the prophet of God has to say regardless of whether it is favorable or unfavorable. He earnestly desires to know the word of God which he knows to be true.

 

Micaiah is a revealer of hearts.

 

We must learn from this. These three men teach us three things.

 

[II.] First, we should ask ourselves: What is my motivation for listening? Is it to hear what I wish to hear? Or, is it to hear the truth? Am I more like Ahab? Or, am I more like Jehoshaphat?

 

Someone may say, “I’m not sure. I listen to preachers because I am supposed to.” But, Ahab did that, too. He listened to the “prophets of the Lord.” Yet, when Micaiah comes and speaks he hates what he hears.

 

What is prophecy? We tend to think that prophecy is foretelling the future. Sometimes it is. It is here in the context of our passage. But prophecy is nothing more than speaking on behalf of the Lord. And, so Paul in I Corinthians 14:4 could say, “the one who prophesies builds up the church.” The prophets in the Old Testament spoke on behalf of God but, more often than not, they were correcting and warning their hearers as opposed to merely foretelling the future.

 

What is your motivation for listening to prophetic teaching and counsel? Is it to hear what you wish to hear? Or, is it to hear the truth? Do you want ear-ticklers or truth-tellers?

 

What is our disposition towards true prophets? Do we get offended or do we love what we hear?

 

The first thing that we should learn is that we must check our motives for listening. If our motives are not right, if we are more like Ahab than Jehoshaphat, then we must go to the Lord. Oh! We cannot change ourselves! If we are more like Ahab we must cry out to the Lord and ask him to change our heart!

 

 “Lord, make me to love your word! May I desire to leave my natural man buried in the waters of baptism. May my natural man be dead and may you give me a heart that seeks the truth – the truth about myself and the truth about your faithfulness to change me. Amen!”

 

In verses 10 through 12 all the prophets are speaking favorably of the outcome of the upcoming battle with Syria. Verse 12 summarizes what they all said: “The LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” They even use Yahweh’s name!

 

Verses 13 and 14:             And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “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.” 14             But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.” [4]

 

[III.] We must resist the temptation to conform to the crowds. “Let your word be like” the rest “and speak favorably.” Isn’t it much easier to say nice things? Everyone likes you for it. But, Micaiah will not succumb to that temptation. He will speak the truth even though it be something unfavorable.

 

Martin Luther[5] at the age of 13 entered college at the University of  Erfurt and by the age of 19 had both his baccalaureate and master's degrees. Then in 1505 his life took a dramatic turn. As the 21-year-old Luther fought his way through a severe thunderstorm on the road to Erfurt, a bolt of lightning struck the ground near him. "Help me, St. Anne!" Luther screamed. "I will become a monk!"

The scrupulous Luther fulfilled his vow: he gave away all his possessions and entered the monastic life.

 

He was extraordinarily successful as far as a monk in the Roman Catholic Church. He plunged into prayer, fasting, and ascetic practices—going without sleep, enduring bone-chilling cold without a blanket, and flagellating himself. As he later commented, "If anyone could have earned heaven by the life of a monk, it was I."

Though he sought by these means to love God fully, he found no consolation. He was increasingly terrified of the wrath of God: "When it is touched by this passing inundation of the eternal, the soul feels and drinks nothing but eternal punishment."

 

During his early years, whenever Luther read what would become the famous "Reformation text"—Romans 1:17—his eyes were drawn not to the word faith, but to the word righteous. Who, after all, could "live by faith" but those who were already righteous? The text was clear on the matter: "the righteous shall live by faith." Luther had it backwards! The text was saying that faith comes before righteousness. Faith makes us righteous. But, Luther was reading it as if we had to be righteous in order to live by faith.

 

He went on to get his doctorate and became a professor at Wittenburg University. There, when preparing for one of his lectures, he was studying that text again. Light beamed into his mind. In his own words: "At last meditating day and night, by the mercy of God, I ... began to understand that the righteousness of God is that through which the righteous live by a gift of God, namely by faith… Here I felt as if I were entirely born again and had entered paradise itself through the gates that had been flung open."

 

It wasn't long before the revolution in Luther's heart and mind played itself out in all of Europe.

 

It started on All Saints' Eve, 1517, when Luther publicly objected to the way preacher Johann Tetzel was selling indulgences. These were documents prepared by the church and bought by individuals either for themselves or on behalf of the dead that would release them from punishment due to their sins. As Tetzel preached, "Once the coin into the coffer clings, a soul from purgatory heavenward springs!"

Luther questioned the church's trafficking in indulgences and called for a public debate of 95 theses he had written. Instead, his 95 Theses spread across Germany as a call to reform, and the issue quickly became not indulgences but the authority of the church: Did the pope have the right to issue indulgences?

 

Events quickly accelerated. At a public debate in Leipzig in 1519, when Luther declared that "a simple layman armed with the Scriptures" was superior to both pope and councils without them, he was threatened with excommunication.

 

In 1521 he was called to an assembly at Worms, Germany, to appear before Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Luther arrived prepared for another debate; he quickly discovered it was a trial at which he was asked to recant his views.

Luther replied, "Unless I can be instructed and convinced with evidence from the Holy Scriptures or with open, clear, and distinct grounds of reasoning ... then I cannot and will not recant, because it is neither safe nor wise to act against conscience." Then he added, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me! Amen."

 

Martin was under the greatest of pressure to not speak his truth – to speak what everyone else was speaking. But, like Micaiah, he refused to go along with the crowd. “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

 

In verse 14 of our text, Micaiah says that he will only speak what the LORD says. This, too, must be our credo.

 

[IV.] We must speak what the Lord speaks. The normative way that the Lord speaks today is through his holy word, the Bible. When we speak we must be informed by his word,

 

  • not by our sentiments,
  • not by our feelings,
  • not by our emotions,
  • not by our opinions,
  • not by our ideas,
  • not by our notions,
  • but by His word!

 

If we are intimately familiar with his word and we bow to it, then we become like Micaiah. When we speak we will speak, as it were, the words of God because our minds and hearts will be full of Him! We must eat the scroll of God’s words as did Ezekiel. They will be as sweet as honey.

 

We can each be a Micaiah! But, like him, we will not always be treated well for the words that we speak. In verse 24 we read that Zedekiah strikes Micaiah on the face. People may not strike you in the face, but they will get offended, they will talk about you in a negative way to others. Why? Because they did not hear what they wanted to hear. They are more like Ahab.

 

Then, in verse 27, the king says, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations…” That is how you will be treated when you speak the words of the Lord!

 

But take courage! Time will vindicate the one who speaks for God. Micaiah says, “If you return in peace, Yahweh has not spoken by me.” Indeed, Micaiah’s words were proven true for Ahab was killed in battle, in the very battle that he had asked Micaiah to prophesy about. God will vindicate his messengers. Wait and see.

 

[V. Conclusion] We are hearers and we are speakers. As hearers, we are either like Ahab or we are like Jehoshaphat. We either hear what we wish and get offended when we hear what we do not want to hear. Or, we desire the truth and will amend our lives to conform to it. When we hear God’s messenger our hearts will be revealed, just as the two kings’ hearts were revealed at the speaking of Micaiah.

 

As speakers, we are either like Zedekiah or we are like Micaiah. We either tell people what they want to hear, as Zedekiah did and as the crowd of prophets do, or we tell them the truth. We either speak our own notions or we speak the words of the Lord.

 

Who have you been? You can trade your Ahab coin in for a Jehoshaphat coin. And, you can trade your Zedekiah coin in for a Micaiah coin. Trade in!

 

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ki 18:17–22). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] See Sermon Notes for July 3, 2016 for insight into this conflict.

[3] Adonai, in the plural no less!

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ki 22:13–14). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] This account of Luther’s life is taken from an article in Christianity Today at http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/theologians/martin-luther.html