PURSUING THE ETERNAL WORD
The Bible teaching ministry of John Lifflander

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IS THERE NOT A PROPHET?

"And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?’" 1Kings 22:7 (KJS)

It was a time of great degeneracy in Israel. King Ahab and Jezebel had established Baal worship and severely persecuted all the godly people in the country. King Jehoshaphat, who was reigning in Judah, was a good king with one striking flaw: he was prone to making alliances with the ungodly. Ahab knew that Jehoshaphat was weak in this area, and he needed Jehoshaphat’s army to help in a campaign against Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat may have been tempted because Ramoth Gilead did truly belong to Israel (See Deuteronomy 4:43). However, serious trouble befalls the believer who compromises because he or she thinks that the end justifies the means.

Jezebel’s four hundred prophets of Baal were the religious elite of the day, and they had gathered together to prognosticate the future for Ahab. Of course it was a little late, since the decision was already made to attack, but Jezebel’s prophets were well aware that they were not to "rock the boat," and so became the cheerleaders for the upcoming skirmish. One was even rather resourceful in copying the manner in which the true prophets acted out prophecies. Zedekiah made iron horns, and declared that Ahab’s army would gore the Syrians until they were destroyed. Nevertheless, amid all the glowing predictions of success, Jehoshaphat turned to Ahab and asked, "Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?" Ahab answered, "There is yet one man…but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil."

It is interesting that at least there was one man. There may not be many godly men (or women) in situations such as these, but thank God that there may be one, unpopular as he may be, reviled as he may be, who will speak the truth. That person may not be a prophet – the title of truth-teller will suffice. Ahab evidently knew that Micaiah was a truth-teller, and that is the very reason he hated him. Does this not bring to our remembrance another who was hated for truthfulness, who said in John 7:7 "The world…hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil."? Jeremiah revealed this problem in Israel when he uttered the following inspired words.

"An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?" Jeremiah 5:30-31 (NKJV)

Standing When There is Pressure to Lie

The prophets of Baal were unanimous in their approval, for we read in 1Kings 22:12 (NKJV) that, "…all the prophets prophesied so, saying, ‘Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the Lord will deliver it into the king's hand.’" Let us not become cynical, but is there not some cause for suspicion when so many heartily agree to something that the leaders have already determined they want? How many bad decisions have been made because a cadre of "yes" men have surrounded a pastor, especially if the church is large and there are many who curry favor? How many deeds that should have been punished have been swept under the rug, because there was no "Nathan" to call out the sin? How many leaders and other Christians have slipped deeper and deeper into sin because no one cared enough to confront them? How desperately the church and the world need prophets who are willing to pay the price of standing up for the truth, especially as it becomes more and more unpopular in a decadent world.

Politicians generally dislike prophets, and Ahab was no exception. However, another group usually hates them even more – religious hypocrites. In Acts 7:52 (NKJV) Stephen said to the Pharisees, "Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One…" In this case Micaiah faced an interesting mix of both – leaders who claimed a pagan brand of religion. He is warned of how he should answer as the messenger confronts him in 1Kings 22:13 (NKJV) saying, "Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Please, let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement." But to this the prophet boldly answers, "As the Lord lives, whatever the Lord says to me, that I will speak."

Oh, that Christians would take this to heart! That when ungodly acts are done in the church, the first to confront the perpetrators would be the believers who attend there. That church discipline would be reinstated to the extent that child molesters would fear to walk into a church for any other reason except for deliverance. That children would be taught reverence for God in the church, and shame would once again come upon parents who fail to discipline their offspring. That Christians on secular talk shows would not equivocate when asked if the non-believers are facing an eternity of torment in hell without Christ, but would rather proclaim the truth in love. That parents would not "candy-coat" the Word of God for their children and teenagers, but teach them the full counsel of God.

If Micaiah Were a Pastor Today

What a breath of fresh air Micaiah was. You could actually trust him to tell the truth. He was coveting no man’s pulpit. His desires did not include being popular when the denomination met with all the leaders. He had no agenda to gain a leadership position that would be decided by men. He was used to being called hard and judgmental even though he secretly cried over the sins he saw in the congregation. He did not water down the Word of God in the hopes that he would appear so tolerant and so nice that no one would ever be offended in his church. He realized that his preaching against sin in the church was actually an act of mercy, because unless the people were reminded of their true condition, they would not appreciate God’s forgiveness, and would become unrepentant and self-righteous.

Other churches might try gimmicks to bring people in, like cranking up the amplifier to attract the youth, but Micaiah instead strove to maintain the church as a solemn house of prayer and worship. In fact, instead of seeking the newest worldly methods to enlarge his church, he spent time in prayer and fasting and confessing his own sins before God, because he knew that only the Holy Spirit could do the work necessary to strengthen his congregation. He understood that "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it…" Psalm 127:1 (NKJV).

Persecution for Those Who Speak for God

Next Micaiah is ushered in to the presence of Ahab and Jehoshaphat. The four hundred prophets probably looked over at him with disdain and contempt. Ahab asked pointedly, "‘Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall we refrain?’ And he answered him, ‘Go and prosper, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king!’"1Kings 22:15 (NKJV) Micaiah’s sarcasm reveals his ironic sense of humor, but he did not speak simply to spoof King Ahab. Rather, he said what he did in order to reveal the fact that Ahab, by his reaction to the statement, deep down already knew the truth. Ahab responds with a nasty insinuation which questions Micaiah’s past veracity. 16 "So the king said to him, ‘How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?’"

Instantly, Micaiah declares God’s counsel, the lone voice against four hundred. The one "negative" voice in an assembly that has to this point all been "positive." The one troublemaker, of whom it might be said, as it was of the prophet Amos, "The land is not able to bear all his words." Amos 7:10. The one intolerant person who was ruining the wonderful dreams of the assembly. The overbearing moralizer with the audacity to tell two kings and an assembly room full of prophets that they were wrong. The teller of truth.

"Then 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 house in peace."’" 1Kings 22:17 (NKJV)

In the answer that Ahab gives next, he misses the point that Micaiah’s warning is not an evil prophesy, but one full of mercy. For if he will refrain from his plans, he can easily escape the pronounced doom. If he will acknowledge the truth, and take seriously the words of God, his kingdom and he himself will be saved.

And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?" Then Micaiah said, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. "And the Lord said, `Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?' So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, `I will persuade him.' "The Lord said to him, `In what way?' So he said, `I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' And the Lord said, `You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.' "Therefore look! The Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the Lord has declared disaster against you." 1Kings 22:18-23 (NKJV)

What a remarkable insight this is into the spiritual world. But who would want to state it before such an audience? Who would choose to be the lone dissenter among this crowd? And what will be the reward for this brave man who tells the truth even when there is no one else (except God) to support him? Let us consider what happens next.

Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, "Which way did the spirit from the Lord go from me to speak to you?" And Micaiah said, "Indeed, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide!" So the king of Israel said, "Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; "and say, `Thus says the king: "Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I come in peace." ' " But Micaiah said, "If you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me." And he said, "Take heed, all you people!" 1Kings 22:24-28 (NKJV)

Bread and water is not a wonderful prize for being forthright in declaring God’s truth. However, there has always been a price to pay for telling the truth. Jesus paid the most costly price for espousing it – but that price has set us free from sin. Similarly, when we tell the unpopular truth, many will be set free. Lies bring forth death, but truth brings forth life. This is always the case, even if the immediate effect of truth-telling may be only pain and discouragement.

The Uncompromising Servant of God

In a corrupt court, Micaiah’s presence is not welcome. When he walks in and speaks, the echoing back of what the kings want to hear is suddenly broken. It is no different today in the church. When the true words of God are spoken, instead of the words the congregation wants to hear, some people become intolerant. Upsetting them will cost the pastor, not only in terms of social friction, but also in monetary terms. However, if they are only told what they want to hear, and receive a mild and pleasing sermon that causes them no introspection, nor conviction by the Holy Spirit, a travesty of justice has occurred. The great cloud of witnesses who watch from the portals of heaven are struck with sadness. Angels are disquieted and sigh, and the Holy Spirit flutters away like a skittish dove escaping a foul environment. The foundations begin to crack and weaken, because they have not been built on the foundational truths of the Word of God. When the messages that seem basic but are so necessary are not heard, the basic Christian instincts of the congregation are eroded. For as we read in Psalms 11:3, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

In such places, deep truths are discarded, and messages against gambling or drunkenness and covetousness are not extolled. Fornication, adultery, lying, divorce and bigotry are not mentioned, and if people ask "why" they are told that "everyone knows these things." Convicting words against self-indulgence, selfishness, and gluttony are rarely or never spoken. Two-income families, who are working to have a larger house and newer cars, are not admonished to stop sacrificing their children to the god of materialism, nor warned that they and their children will face years of grief in the future if they let someone else do their parenting job. In an attempt not to offend, the bad language of believers is overlooked, and Christians are not questioned for engaging in coarse jesting and using curse words.

The idol of entertainment is conveniently forgotten, so instead of using television only for educational purposes or not at all, the family is constantly inculcated with the filth of the world – and then, ironically, they wonder why they have such difficulty living for God, and why their children have no desire for holiness and purity. Teenagers and adolescents go out on dates with pagans or weak believers, and then parents complain how God failed them when pregnancies occur. Little is said regarding movies that Christians are devouring which contain foul language, nudity, sex and violence. Challenges are rarely made for believers to make prayer time and Bible study priorities in their lives, and separation from the world is a foreign concept. Without admonishment, Christians feel "comfortable" on beaches with people who are scantily clad, or in casinos caught up in the lust of the world. In fact, success in the world is highly esteemed among many Christians, but spiritual depth is a vague concept. The whole idea of "denying self" and "taking up the cross daily" (Matthew 16:24) is reserved for religious fanatics, and "present your bodies a living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1) is only for Christians in countries less civilized and advanced than ours.

What risky business it is to preach such things! Nevertheless, A.W. Tozer has some advice on this very matter, in an excerpt from the book "God Tells the Man Who Cares":

"The focus of his attention must be God and not men. He must let everything dear to him ride out on each sermon. He must so preach as to jeopardize his future, his ministry, even his life itself. He must make God responsible for the consequences and speak as one who will not have long to speak before he is called to judgment. Then the people will know that they are hearing a voice instead of a mere echo."

What then is the purpose of preaching in this manner? Is it to portray God as a hard taskmaster who is constantly niggling us, even though He knows that the body of Christ cannot live up to His perfection? No, not at all. Rather, it is "that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word," Ephesians 5:26 (NKJV). For when sin is not called out by the shepherds, the people tend not to acknowledge it and seek forgiveness and deliverance from it, and the church becomes indistinguishable from the world.

Jehoshaphat is a Type of the Church Today

Today as in Micaiah’s time, the softening of the truth so that we can be inclusive is the message of the hour. We dare not offend anyone with the gospel; rather we must find some clever way of presenting it that is non-confrontational. Never mind that without the confrontation of sin in our own lives, we cannot be born again, or mature after we are spiritually regenerated.

We may well understand how an Ahab could ignore the message that Micaiah had given. Ahab had already had Naboth killed to steal his vineyard, and his sins were legendary. But what about Jehoshaphat? He knew that Micaiah was a man of God, and yet he still ignored his prophecy, which was fulfilled when Israel and Judah were slaughtered on the battlefield and a "stray" arrow killed Ahab. In fact, Jehoshaphat almost lost his life as a result of his collusion in this ungodly adventure, but God spared him. Later, however, he was confronted by another prophet.

"And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to King Jehoshaphat, ‘Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Nevertheless good things are found in you, in that you have removed the wooden images from the land, and have prepared your heart to seek God.’" 2Chronicles 19:2-3 (NKJV)

It is not that we, like Jehoshaphat, are not men and women of God. It is rather that we are mixing with the world, which is dulling our sensitivity to the truth. And without the proper discipline regarding the truth, we find ourselves lulled by a spirit of compromise. The culture around us, which now disdains any disturbance the truth might provoke, has also become a powerful force in the church and is blinding many believers. A world church is coming together even as the nations of Europe are reuniting to form a final one-world ruling kingdom, preceded by the issuing of a common currency.

Accordingly, Ahab and Jehoshaphat still attempt to march together in the interest of "Christian unity." However, this is only a guise for the establishment of a lukewarm, New Age, doctrinally corrupt institution that Christ can only spew out of His mouth. It comes upon the church as a listless mental attitude, a moral inertia which attempts to unify everyone under a canopy of false love, all at the expense of basic truth. It is a vague, but attractive religion for those who fall for a form of Christianity without its power. It is even the harbinger of the false, harlot church, and speaking against it is becoming increasingly unpopular and may soon become even dangerous. Christian, practice the specific truths of the Bible, or you may merge into this fog of amiable stupor that has enveloped many believers. That fog will soon become a deadly miasma of demonic influence, like the lying spirits who invaded the prophets of Baal. In fact, if Micaiah were here today, perhaps he would shout at all of us, "Take heed, all you people!"1Kings 22:28.

 

 


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