A Peek Behind the Curtain — 1 Kings 22 and 2 Kings 1
Today, among other things, our reading includes a fascinating story that allows us to pull back the curtain of this physical world and look into the world of the spirit and what goes on in the throne room of God. So, sit down and read these two chapters, make a few notes and let’s think about some of these things together.
LORD and Lord — In most English translations of the Bible there is a difference between LORD and Lord. It’s usually discussed at some length in the introductory remarks at the beginning of your Bible, but it’s seldom read. LORD stands in the place of the personal name of God, YHWH, as a tradition handed down from Jewish rabbis. Why? God’s personal name is holy, and it is commanded that it should not be used in vain (Exo. 20:7). So, in classic rabbinic traditional fashion, a fence was built around the law, and the use of God’s personal name became simply forbidden to pronounce aloud — even when read aloud in Scripture. The end result is that we now don’t exactly know how to pronounce “The Name” anymore, since Hebrew spellings don’t include vowels. So when the personal name of God is found in most English translations, the all caps LORD is put in it’s place. On the other hand, Lord is more like a title to call God — or some god. And that’s the reason I’m bring all of this up. In verse 6 we find that the prophets that Ahab had called to consult with were all saying, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” Since Ahab straddled the fence with regard to the deity that he chose to worship, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the Lord referred to here may be Baal (Baal means “master” or “husband”), not the LORD God of Israel. And that is the reason why Jehoshaphat asks, “…Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?” 1 Kings 22:7, NAS95.
“He never has anything good to say about me.” — “That prophet just doesn’t like me and so never says anything good about me.” Everytime I read this passage, I just have to chuckle. Ahab is the king of Israel in this story, even though, he’s never actually named, and his whiney excuse for failing to consult with a prophet of the LORD is so stick-your-head-in-the-sand typical of humanity of all eras. Why don’t we read the Bible? Because it tells us things that we don’t want to hear: we’re sinful, we are helpless, we’re on our way to Hell without God’s help, you need to stop doing those sinful things you like, you need to start exercising some self-control, this is the way you should invest your life, it’s not all about you, etc. Many a faithful preacher has been avoided for the same reason. It’s almost as if we’d like to believe that if I don’t see or hear it, it’s not reality, it won’t really happen. But closing his ears to the truth didn’t keep Ahab from getting killed. And closing our ears (or eyes) to the truth of the Scripture won’t keep us from being judged and condemned on the last day. Standing on between the tracks of a speeding freight train with our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears won’t keep us from getting creamed. If the Lord never has anything good to say about us, maybe it’s because we’re standing in the wrong.
A peek behind the curtain — Micaiah, in his prophecy, pulls back the veil between our world and God’s just a tiny bit about this one situation. Here we get the chance to see God on His throne with spirits to the left and right. This last part is important, because it probably represents the good guys (the right) and the bad guys (left is always impure and undesirable). God, desiring to end Ahab’s reign, opens the floor what the angelic host might suggest for getting Ahab to lead a military campaign against the Arameans to regain Ramoth-gliead. Finally, one of the host of heaven (obviously one of those on the left) suggested that he be allowed to be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of Ahab’s prophets. God allowed it, like He allowed Satan to put Job through trial. God allows — “allows” is the key word — such things. Now, of course, it is important to remember “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” James 1:13, NAS95. But God uses spirits on the right and left in His workings in this world, just like he uses good men and bad men to accomplish His ends. Paul tells us “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” 2 Timothy 2:20, 21, NAS95. God used Shalmaneser to punish sinful Israel, Nebuchadnezzar to punish Judah, Cyrus to bring the Jewish remnant back to Israel, and Pilate to issue the order to crucify Jesus. Sometimes there’s so much more going on out of our sight than we can possibly imagine. God is active even today; never doubt it. He has chosen not to sky-write and perform miracles, but He’s still answering prayers, directing the affairs of the world, trying to bring men to repentance, and channeling the world’s events to culminate in His chosen outcome — sometimes through good men, women, and spirits and sometimes through bad men, women, and spirits.
“If you indeed return safely the LORD has not spoken by me.” — Deuteronomy 18 told us that the litmus test of a prophet is the truthful outcome of his prophecy. It’s interesting how the prophecies of the false prophets was so typical of what we know of pagan / false prophets (both ancient and modern) who hedged and parsed the wording of their prophecies, so that they could “re-interpret” the prophecies to fit the outcomes, whateve they might be. There’s no equivocation with Micaiah’s prophecy: “If you return alive, I’m not a real prophet.”
Going along to get along? — It’s a little baffling to me why Jehoshaphat should be so accommodating to Ahab. Whatever Ahab proposed, Jehoshaphat was open to go along with — and it got him in trouble. Didn’t Jehoshaphat (a good king of Judah) know that Ahab was worshipper of Baal, continually enticed by Jezebel to fall away from the LORD? What did he really seek to accomplish by throwing in together with such a morally and religiously corrupt king? There’s a lesson here for us to learn as we go about our life’s business. Whether it’s business, marriage, friendship, or politics; alliances or associations with people of compromised morality and ethics will lead to trouble, no matter how good you are. Somewhere along the line you’ll be greatly tempted to “go along to get along” and end result won’t be good.
Is there no God in Israel? — Lastly, let’s look at the story of Ahaziah and Elijah. When Ahaziah is seriously injured, he chooses to send a messenger to get an oracle about his recovery from Baal-zebub (Master of the flies), the god of Ekron. Elijah meets the messenger and gives Ahaziah an oracle, but not one that he really wanted to hear. But it’s Elijah’s rebuke that I wanted to focus on for a minute: “Is it because there is no God in Israel…?” The answer is, of course, that it was not because there is no God is Israel; it was because Ahaziah, like his father before him, didn’t like the answers that the God of Israel gave. The same question could be asked of a number of inquiries today — especially about moral issues. Why don’t people go to the Lord (the Bible) for an oracle on sexual morality? On worship? On honesty? On marriage? Is it because there is no answer from God on these matters? Or is it because folks don’t like the answers God gives?
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.