1 Kings 22:1-40 “God Has Spoken”
1 Now three years passed without war between Syria and Israel. 2 Then it came to pass, in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went down to visit the king of Israel.
3 And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, but we hesitate to take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” 4 So he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight at Ramoth Gilead?”
Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 5 Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.”
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth Gilead to fight, or shall I refrain?”
So they said, “Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.”
7 And Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?
8 So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”
And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say such things!”
9 Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, “Bring Micaiah the son of Imlah quickly!”
10 The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, having put on their robes, sat each on his throne, at a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. 11 Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made horns of iron for himself; and he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed.’” 12 And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the king’s hand.”
13 Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, 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.”
14 And Micaiah said, “As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak.”
15 Then he came to the king; and the king said to him, “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!”
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?”
17 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.’”
18 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
19 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. 20 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. 21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ 22 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.’ 23 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.”
24 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?”
25 And Micaiah said, “Indeed, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide!”
26 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; 27 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.”’”
28 But Micaiah said, “If you ever return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Take heed, all you people!”
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 put on your robes.” So 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, saying, “Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.” 32 So it was, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, “Surely it is the king of Israel!” Therefore they turned aside to fight against him, and Jehoshaphat cried out. 33 And it happened, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him. 34 Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”
35 The battle increased that day; and the king was propped up in his chariot, facing the Syrians, and died at evening. The blood ran out from the wound onto the floor of the chariot. 36 Then, as the sun was going down, a shout went throughout the army, saying, “Every man to his city, and every man to his own country!”
37 So the king died, and was brought to Samaria. And they buried the king in Samaria. 38 Then someone washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood while the harlots bathed, according to the word of the LORD which He had spoken.
39 Now the rest of the acts of Ahab, and all that he did, the ivory house which he built and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel? 40 So Ahab rested with his fathers. Then Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.
Introduction: Do you decide what you are going to do, and then ask God about it? Or maybe, not even bother to ask God about it? Ahab, the king of Israel had seen the power of the Lord displayed on Mount Carmel, and yet, when he was planning to go to war after a period of three years of peace, he spent his time entertaining his friend Jehoshaphat instead of seeking the will of God. And, like so many people nowadays, he used his friendship to try to get something from his friend. In this case, he asked him to go to war with him, a serious request. And as a friend and ally, Jehoshaphat agreed to go to war with Ahab.
But, unlike Ahab, he knew that victory does not come from alliances or friends, but from the Lord. So, he said, “Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.” Yes, he was willing to go to war with Ahab, but first, he wanted to know the will of God in the matter.
Well, Ahab had prophets, lots of prophets, four hundred prophets, and he asked them if he should go to war, and to a man, they all replied, “Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king.” Ah, there’s nothing like people who will always agree with everything you want to do.
But Jehoshaphat was no dummy. He could tell (and I don’t know how) that these guys were a just a bunch of “yes men” telling Ahab whatever he wanted to hear. So he said, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?” He understood that these men were only telling the king nice things, but were not speaking the word of God.
Ahab says that yes, there is a prophet of the Lord, but he also says, “There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.” It fascinates me that Ahab knew that the false prophets were just that, men who would say anything, and he even knew who the true prophet was, but he rejected him. It seems so absurd that anyone would think that he could ignore what God says and willingly listen to a lie, knowing that it was a lie, and yet, there are many people like that today. They know what God says, but it gets in the way of their way of life, or their desires, or just their wish to sin.
Jehoshaphat understands how foolish that way of thinking is, and corrects Ahab, and so Ahab calls for the prophet Micaiah. It’s strange that Ahab is so desperate, he is even willing to call for a true prophet, if it will promote his cause.
One of the false prophets, Zedekiah, puts a real cool show with his horns of iron. Very impressive, I’m sure. And all the other false prophets are fully in agreement. And so, when the messenger comes to the true prophet Micaiah, he gently asks the prophet to say nice things about the coming war. But Micaiah responds with the only response that any believer in the Lord can give, ““As the LORD lives, whatever the LORD says to me, that I will speak.” I know as a pastor how tempting it is to say what people want to hear. But in the end, how can we expect success from the Lord if we pervert his word.
So, when Micaiah appears before the king, and they ask him if they should go to war, he gives them a very surprising answer. He says, in effect. Fine. Go. Everything will be fine. He says, ““Go and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the hand of the king!”
You would have thought that the king would be happy, and say, “Great! Thank you! Have a nice day!” And I have to admit that I’m a little confused, but I guess that Ahab really knows the truth in his heart, for he says, ““How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” Again, there are so many people who know the truth in their hearts, but they want to be fooled, and they want people to lie to them, but deep down in their hearts, they know it’s a lie.
So Micaiah tells him the truth, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd.” Right now, you need to think about the fact that Ahab had just heard a truthful prediction of his own death, but instead of humbling himself before the Lord, he lashes out at the prophet. He says, ““Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” On the one hand, he didn’t want to be lied to, but on the other, he was unwilling to accept the word of God if it wasn’t to his liking.
At this point, Micaiah kind of interrupts himself, and explains to Ahab how all this came about. It was a lying spirit that entered into the false prophets that were trying to lead Ahab astray. And this prophet did not come from nowhere, but was sent from God. This does not excuse the false prophets, but it shows how God is able to use even the evil actions of men to accomplish his purposes.
But having said this, the leader of the false prophets, Zedekiah strikes Micaiah on the cheek, and challenges his prophecy. And so, Micaiah rebukes him, warning him that he would hide in closet in fear. Ahab rejects the prophecy outright, and says, “Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I come in peace.” Ahab had just heard the word of the Lord that he would fail and die, and yet he presumes that he would emerge from the battle alive. And so, Micaiah warns him, “If you ever return in peace, the LORD has not spoken by me.”
I ask myself at this point, “Why didn’t Ahab listen?” He knew that Micaiah was a true prophet of the Lord, and even if his prophecy was an unpleasant one, why did he think he could resist the word of the Lord? I understand his anger and frustration, but instead of thinking about how he might avoid this end by changing his ways, all he did was come up with some crackpot scheme to avoid this end. He dressed up like a common soldier, and had Jehoshaphat dress up like the king of Israel, thinking that he could deceive the Syrians. Again, I don’t get Jehoshaphat, because I wouldn’t have done such a thing, by making myself a target.
But, in the end, none of us can escape the word of the Lord. At first, his trick seems to work, but when it is discovered, the Syrians turn away from Jehoshaphat. We read, “Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor.” Ahab did all he could to avoid his death, but in the end, a soldier who wasn’t even aiming at him hit him with an arrow. And although Ahab was heavily armored, the arrow hit one of the few places that it could to cause his death, literally, a “chink in his armor.” But again, so many people today think that they have made themselves secure, but in the end, no one can escape what God has declared.
Even as he is dying, Ahab tries to escape the battle, but dies in the end. And, in fulfillment of the prophecy of the prophet Elijah, his blood that was washed from the chariot was lapped up by the dogs.
In so many ways, the life of Ahab is tragic. He had so many advantages, and so many blessings, but he allowed himself to be led astray, and in the end, it was his own desires that destroyed him. Perhaps the greatest blessing that he had received was to hear word of God, and even to see the work of God, especially at Mount Carmel. But he turned these blessings into a curse, for although he knew the word of God, he refused to listen to him.
I suppose you could say to me, Steve, why such a sad sermon. And it is sad, to speak of the death of a king, and even sadder, to think that he rejected God and his word until his death. But, even in his death, he is a reminder that it is futile and foolish for us to resist the Word of the Lord. It is, as the author of Hebrews says, “ And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)
And at the same time, it reminds us that there are times when those who are faithful and true will be a small minority. There were more than four hundred false prophets, and Micaiah stood alone to speak the Word of the Lord, but he prevailed. And even his existence reminds us of what Elijah had said shortly before, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.” (1 Kings 19:14) He thought he was alone in remaining faithful, and was discourage, even to point to wanting to give up. But, God is faithful, and although we might be outnumbered, and appear to be about to be overwhelmed, God will not allow this to happen. To Elijah he said, “I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God still has his people, and although they may appear to prosper or to suffer, in the end, none will escape the Word of the Lord.
God has spoken to us, and if we ignore him, we will no more escape his judgment than did Ahab. But, he has also spoken the word of peace and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, and, as the apostle Paul says, “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” [2 Corinthians 4:6] Amen.