[May 16]--Accept No Substitutions!

1 Kings 22:1-28

Remember what we said about the origin of the word prophet? Literally a prophet is a “mouth.” He (or she) was called and authorized to speak for God, to reveal directly and unerringly the mind of God to his people. It was not something for which you could volunteer, and few people would want to (as you might guess from the end of today’s passage). Only the Lord could choose to appoint someone to represent himself with such authority. After the books of Moses (also another prophet) were completed, the prophets were the only completely trustworthy way of hearing what God had to say, so this position was extremely important.

Since this was so vital, it was essential for people to be able to tell a false prophet from a true one, since anyone could claim to be one. If someone came forward and said that “This is what God wants to tell you,” how could you tell if he was the genuine article? Well, Moses gave one good standard: Absolute infallibility. Deut. 18:21-22 said that anyone claiming to be a prophet must be 100% accurate in any predictions they make. Not 99.9%. Also, even if what he says comes true, if he's trying to lead the people of Israel away from God and his instructions, then that’s another sign that he’s not genuine

That brings us to today’s reading. The two kings were in alliance with each other (probably not a good idea on Jehoshaphat’s part), but the godly king wanted to hear from the Lord before he committed himself. They brought in 400 yes-men, oh I’m sorry, “prophets” to give counsel, and every one of them gave the kings the same message, in complete unity and unanimity. King Jehoshaphat realized that these men were just telling them what they wanted to hear, and requested a real prophet. I find it pretty humorous that Ahab assessed a prophet on how favorable the message was. This is the quintessence of the foolishness many leaders display: What good is an advisor if he only tells you what you want to hear instead of what you need to hear?

They brought in Micaiah and strongly encouraged him to echo the advice that all the other prophets were giving. Unfortunately, we're only reading this instead of seeing it dramatically portrayed, and the Bible doesn’t always give facial descriptions when it’s quoting someone. However, it’s pretty clear that when Micaiah repeated what everyone else was saying, he was saying it in a sarcastic way that made it patently obvious he wasn’t serious.

Now came the prophet’s very strange vision, and anyone who pretends that they definitively understand everything about it is lying or very foolish. The best interpretation I’ve heard of is that the Lord decided to use some sort of evil spirit (demons? Satan himself?) to inspire the prophets to lie to the kings about the outcome of the battle. Now before you get all upset over the Lord deliberately planning to deceive someone (and God cannot lie), consider this. Let’s assume that the vision was absolutely literally true (which some biblical teachers doubt)—the same Lord who sent (or allowed) this lying spirit to inspire 400 prophets also sent a true prophet who supplied them with the truth. If the kings (especially Ahab) really wanted to hear what the Almighty had to say, then they had a source of truth available to them, indeed standing right in front of them. They just chose not to listen to it.

Friend, it's the same situation today. We have several sources of lies out there, and many of them are united in telling us what we'd like to hear. But we have one source of absolute, infallible truth. The question is not whether we have access to what we need. The only question is whether or not we’re listening.

Lord Jesus, you don’t just speak the truth, you are the Truth incarnate. You are the Word who makes me true. Please give me listening ears. Take away my heart of stone and replace it with a soft heart. Only you can do this.

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