Ahab’s Demise and the Power of God’s Word (1 Kings 22)
This is part of a sermon that I gave recently on 1 Kings 22. I will post segments of the sermon over the next couple of weeks.
Has someone ever given you some advice which you ignored and there were consequences? It is a foolish thing to disregard a warning. Unheeded warnings can have severe consequences. What happens when your mechanic tells you to keep an eye on your oil and you don’t? Or what happens when you ignore the check engine light on your car? It’s one thing to ignore a check engine light. It’s a whole another thing to disregard God’s Word. God is very serious about His Word. He holds it in high regard.
The Big Idea
Scripture teaches us that if you honor and cherish God’s Word, God will bless you. You will experience all the benefits of hearing and listening to the Voice of God. However, the opposite is just as true. If you ignore God’s Word…, if you refuse to listen to His voice, then you do so at your own peril. It is a dangerous thing to disregard the Word of the living God. So, we must be very careful to pay close attention to the Bible.
In 1 Kings 22, we find a story about the power and authority of God’s Word. The Word of God has power and authority to accomplish its mission.
King Ahab was the most wicked king in Israel’s history (1 Kings 21:25-26). This man did more to lead Israel astray than any other king before him. He established the Baal fertility cult as the official religion in Israel. His wife Jezebel was the chief benefactor for the worship of Baal and the goddess Asherah. She had 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah, who ate at her table every day.
In chapter 21, King Ahab murdered an innocent man named Naboth just because he desired his property. Naboth was a righteous man. When Ahab offered to buy Naboth’s vineyard, Naboth refused. His conviction was that God had given him that land. It was his inheritance from God as a faithful Israelite. How could he sell what God had given him?
So Ahab pouted about it until Queen Jezebel found out about it. She said, “You’re the king. Just take it. Kill him.” They murdered Naboth. They hired two thugs to bring a false accusation against Naboth and have him stoned outside the city. It’s at this moment that Elijah makes a prophecy against King Ahab. He tells Ahab, “Thus says the LORD, ‘In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood’” (1 Kings 21:19).
In 1 Kings 22, we have the story of the fulfillment of Elijah’s prophecy. The story of Ahab’s demise.
For three years Syria and Israel continued without war. 2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. 3 And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” 4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
King Ahab wants to go to war against Syria. But he decides to recruit the help of his neighbor to the south, the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat. (At this time, Jehoshaphat is probably Ahab’s vassel).
In the aftermath of King Solomon’s death, the twelve tribes of Israel had split into two kingdoms. The ten tribes to the north became known as Israel, while the two tribes to the south were called Judah. In 1 Kings 22, these two nations have joined up and formed an alliance against their common enemy, the nation of Syria. Their goal is to recapture an Israelite town named Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat complies with Ahab and they decided to head to war.
5 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” 6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” 7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?” 8 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” 9 Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, “Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah.” 10 Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. 11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.’” 12 And all the prophets prophesied so and said, “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”
Before they head into battle, Jehoshaphat tells Ahab that they needed to first inquire of the LORD. Now keep in the mind that Ahab, the king of Israel, has already made up his mind about what he wants to do. He’s going to battle. So, Ahab doesn’t really care about what God wants him to do. He just wants God to endorse his preconceived agenda.
So they bring in the prophets. And it’s a big scene. In fact, one prophet Zedekiah has some iron horns. He charges around with horns saying, “With these horns God will destroy the nation of Syria.” The thought is that this prophetic display would actually in some way secure for Israel the victory.”
Let me also point out something that I think is funny. Notice the words of the prophets in v. 6. “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” The same phrase is repeated in v. 12. “Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” Now do you see the ambiguity in that phrase? The Lord will give it into the hand of the king. The prophets don’t specify what it is. Nor do they clarify which king. It could be the king of Israel, the king of Judah, the king of Syria. No matter what happens, these false prophets have a way out.
It’s like the psychic who says, “I see somebody in your past. Someone close to you.” If psychics were for real, they would be winning the lottery all the time.
Jehoshaphat sees through it. He tells Ahab, “This is nonsense. We gotta find a prophet who belongs to the LORD. We need the real deal.” So King Ahab says, “Well, there is this one guy. His name’s Micaiah, but I hate him. Can’t stand the guy. He never says anything good about me.” They decide to get Micaiah.
3 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.” 15 And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” 16 But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
This is funny. The messenger tells Micaiah, “Here’s what you’re going to prophesy.” In other words, the king has already decided what he wants to do. So give your endorsement. Play along. Tell Ahab what he wants to hear. And Micaiah does. He parrots back the words of the false prophets. He says, “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”
But this time Ahab does not buy it. “How many times shall I make you swear to tell the truth when you speak in the name of the LORD.” So Micaiah tells him the truth.
17 And 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 home in peace.’” 18 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” 19 And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; 20 and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ 22 And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ 23 Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”
24 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the Lord go from me to speak to you?” 25 And Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.” 26 And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son, 27 and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.”’” 28 And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”
In effect, Micaiah says, “Look, Ahab! You’re going to die. Israel will be scattered. God’s people will be like sheep without shepherd. You’re going down. This battle will be your demise.”
Now I have to admit that what happens next makes me a little uncomfortable. It presents us with a bit of a theological problem. Hebrews 6:18 tells us that “God cannot lie.” God is holy. He is righteous. God always tells the truth. However, we must remember that those who hate truth are not entitled to the truth. You don’t tell the Gestapo where you’re hiding Jews.
In 2 Thess. 2:9-10, Paul writes concerning some folks in the last days, “They refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false.” The word “therefore” is significant. In other words, because some people refuse to love God’s truth, God turns them over to their own deception. God confirms their own self-deception.
This is what happens in Micaiah’s vision. King Ahab has a history of rejecting the truth. Ahab has no desire to please God. No desire to know God’s will. So what does God do? In his sovereign will, God sends this evil spirit to deceive King Ahab. And this evil spirit fools King Ahab by lying to his false prophets, because Ahab does not love the truth. God brings to fruition Ahab’s own self-deception.
And yet even when Micaiah lets King Ahab know about this, Ahab still continues to carry out his original plan. He is dead-set on heading to war against Aram. Look at v. 29.
29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 30 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.” And the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle. 31 Now the king of Syria had commanded the thirty-two captains of his chariots, “Fight with neither small nor great, but only with the king of Israel.”
Jehoshaphat comes across a little bit like Barney Fife. Ahab tells him. “Here’s the plan. You’re going to dress up as me. But I’m going to disguise myself to look like an ordinary soldier.” Meanwhile the enemy king has commanded his troops to focus on the king. Ignore everyone else. Kill the king of Israel.
32 And when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is surely the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out. 33 And when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 34 But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.” 35 And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Syrians, until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot. 36 And about sunset a cry went through the army, “Every man to his city, and every man to his country!”
37 So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria. 38 And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes washed themselves in it, according to the word of the Lord that he had spoken.
V. 34 is filled with irony. There is an archer who pulls his bow back at random. He is not trying to hit anyone in particular. He’s just shooting an arrow up in the air. He has no idea who he’s shooting at. But his arrow hits Ahab. This is not a random arrow. This arrow is a God-directed arrow. God’s Word has the power and authority to accomplish its mission.
The author leaves us with one final note. The dogs licked up the blood of King Ahab in the streets of Samaria. And all this happens “according to the word of the LORD.” So Elijah’s prophecy in 1 Kings 21 is fulfilled. Micaiah’s prophecy in chap. 22 is fulfilled. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:12-13).
If we cherish God’s Word…, if we honor His Word, God will bless us. But we ignore His Word, we do so at our own risk. It is a dangerous thing to disregard the Word of God. We must pay close attention to God’s Word. Do not disregard the Voice of the living God.