“NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH”
Our readings today all provoke interesting and, to some extent, complex thoughts – but that is good: for just as our bodies benefit from physical exercise, so do our minds – from mental exercise. The interaction between Jehoshaphat the God-fearing king of Judah and Ahab the weak king of Israel is very instructive. Jehoshaphat visits Ahab who invites him to join him in a war to recapture cities that the Syrian king has occupied. Jehoshaphat wisely requests, “Inquire first the word of the LORD” [1 Kings 22 v.5]
Ahab has about 400 prophets who all say, Go up for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” [v.6] But Jehoshaphat insists that this be confirmed by a prophet of the LORD (Yahweh). Ahab says there is such a prophet, Micaiah, “but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me …” [v.8] One of Ahab’s prophets then claims, “Thus says the LORD … you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed” [v.11] using “horns of iron” to demonstrate; “all the prophets support him” but what false prophets they all prove to be!
When Micaiah arrives, he first says, “Go up and triumph” [v.15] but he does not say it is “the word of the LORD,” we suspect he speaks in a cynical voice. Ahab senses this and exclaims, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD” [v.16] The true prophet replies, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains , as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no Master …” [v.17], indicating the death of Ahab who then exclaims to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not say he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” [v.18]
Micaiah then tells a story which we understand as a parable that a “lying spirit” was sent by the LORD into “the mouth of all his (Ahab’s) prophets.” He adds, “the LORD has declared disaster for you.” [v.23] And as we read for ourselves the words of all the genuine prophets of the LORD, of which Jeremiah is one, we reflect on our own serious situation in today’s utterly godless world. In Jeremiah we just read, “behold I am bringing disaster upon, all flesh, declares the LORD.” [ch. 45 v.5] and earlier in his ch. 23, “The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has executed and accomplished the intents of his heart. In the latter days you will understand it clearly” [v.23]
This “disaster” is for those who follow the ways of Ahab and ignore God’s warnings – and today this seems to be just about the whole world! God’s word is available in every language, but how many heed its’ warnings, nearly all leave it to gather dust! But the seekers who read to find “nothing by the truth” will survive. Many today could meet the same fate as Ahab, and that may not be very far ahead.