When God's People Strayed


When the Prophets Cried "Peace!"

As discussed in the last lesson, Burn the Words, Bind the Prophets, the Old Testament kingdom leadership was often adverse to true counsel from God. It wasn't that they didn't believe God could speak prophetically through men; rather, the leaders knew prophetic speakings were possible, they just chose to ignore the messages.

While some kings ignored prophets, there were others who surrounded themselves with prophets. How these got to be called prophets, and whether they had the true prophetic gift would be another discussion. But this lesson takes a look at one such king, and his kingdom of prophets.

As we read in the previous lesson, Isaiah's words to the people of the church, Judah, were direct:

Isaiah 9:16 For the leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed.

And remember Jeremiah's comment:

Jeremiah 5:31 The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so; ...

The people of the Old Testament were being misled by 'spiritual' leaders who were not divinely inspired. Not only were the people misled, but apparently the kings too. One such king was Ahab of Israel, the leader of the departed kingdom.

The entire story comes from II Chronicles 18. A little background first:

The kingdom of God's people had been divided in two for some time. Each kingdom had its own king: Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, at Jerusalem, where the church remained; Ahab was king of the northern tribes who had left the church/land of their inheritance over Rehoboam's disputed reign. (See Then They Split)

Normally, the northern and southern kingdoms, Israel and Judah, were irritated with each other, rarely on speaking terms. But they had a common enemy: the Syrians. In a rare show of solidarity, the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Israel (departed tribes) Ahab got together to discuss battling the Assyrian army together. Their common enemy united them for a brief period.

The story starts with Jehoshaphat and his entourage journeying to Ahab's palace to discuss combining forces as a strategy against their common enemy.

II Chronicles 18:2 And after certain years he went down to Ahab to Samaria. And Ahab killed sheep and oxen for him in abundance, and for the people that he had with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth-gilead.

18:3 And Ahab king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat king of Judah, Wilt thou go with me to Ramoth-gilead? And he answered him, I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in the war.

So what do the kings do? Ahab, King of Israel, summons four-hundred prophets of his land, and asks them whether they should go up to battle. Their answer is the crux of this story:

4 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord today.


5 Therefore the king of Israel gathered together of prophets four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for God will deliver it into the king's hand.

The prophets cry, 'Yes my Liege, Go forth, the Lord will give you victory...and peace.' (the peace statement comes a few verses later). The palace is about to celebrate when Jehoshaphat speaks up with a question for Ahab, obviously a question from left field:

18:6 But Jehoshaphat said, Is their not here a prophet of the Lord, besides, that we might inquire of him?

Notice the subtle innuendo attached to Jehoshaphat's question--is there one of "the Lord's" prophets around? The meaning here is that he knew that some prophets were of God, and others weren't. Furthermore, the prophets of God didn't always go with the majority. Jehoshaphat, even in his sin, knew that whether four, forty or four hundred (at it was four hundred prophets in this case) priesthood members agree on an issue, it doesn't mean that is God's will. Their inspiration must come from God and not man nor persuasions of man nor the culture surrounding those men.

The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that whatsoever a man speaks when it is by the power of the Holy Ghost, it is scripture. But the point is, it must be by the Holy Ghost that inspires the words, not the power of the position. Priesthood and spiritual powoner are not granted merely by possessing priesthood. Authority of ones position, whether priest, pastor or prophet, comes by conferral. However, the spiritual power of that office only comes by a harmonious walk with the Lord God of Heaven. Priesthood and/or Prophetic power and authority are two separate entities. Authority comes with position; power comes by submission.

Now the next verse is priceless. Ahab admits, there is one more prophet out there, and (grudgingly) Yes, he is a prophet of God. But Ahab doesn't want to invite him to the party. Why? Because, in Ahab's words, 'He Never Has Anything Good To Tell Me.' And what's more, he can't contain it, he says "...and I HATE him.' So there it is. God's word is rejected by kings because it doesn't agree with their proclivities. By the end of the story it is revealed what this attitude garners for this king.

18:7 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, by whom we may inquire of the Lord; but I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil; the same is Micaiah the son of Imla. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.

18:8 And the king of Israel called for one of his officers, and said, Fetch quickly Micaiah the son of Imla.

So, begrudgingly, Ahab asks for Micaiah, the one lone prophet of God, to be summoned.

While the servants seek for Micaiah, back at the palace, the peace-party is just winding up. The four hundred of Ahab's prophets began their prophetic boogie before the two kings, one on either side of the royal stage, as the four hundred prophets continue sharing their prophetic diatribe:

18:9 And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah sat either of them on his throne, clothed in their robes, and they sat in a void place at the entering in of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.

Encouraging each other, the prophets get more bold in their proclamations. So convinced are they in their own words of peace, that one prophet even dons horns of iron mimicking a bull pushing the Syrian armies away to their consumption:

18:10 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made him horns of iron, and said, Thus saith the Lord, With these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed.

18:11 And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.

So the prophets and the king had a big party to celebrate their news. They ate peace pizza and drank the peace kool-aid.

Meanwhile, back on the streets, the servant of Ahab finds Micaiah, the one lone prophet of God in town. Ahab servant attempts to 'prep him' to meet with the king.

18:12 And the messenger that went to call Micaiah spake to him, saying, Behold, the words of the prophets declare good to the king with one assent; let thy word therefore, I pray thee, be like one of theirs, and speak thou good.

The suggestion to Micaiah is to go along with what everyone else is saying back at the palace, and don't make waves. Just tell the king what he wants to hear. It is all about having peace. Micaiah's response? 'Nope. I will only say what God tells me to say.'

18:13 And Micaiah said, As the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.

Micaiah is brought before the king as a hush falls over the prophetic crowd. They hold their koolaid cups still as the king politely, hesitatingly, feigning innocence, sweetly asks Micaiah the question of the day:

18:14 And when he was come to the king, the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear?

And what happens? Micaiah plays along. Looking the king in the eye, with dead-pans a sarcastic response in monotone: Sure King, go up to the Syrians, they will be delivered in your hands. Have a good time doing it:

18:14 And he said, Go ye up, and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.

The hush still hovered over the room as the king froze on his throne. Breaking his silent statuesque shock, Ahab (hearkening back to the two-year-old within) has a tantrum in front of everyone--"How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You To Only Tell Me the Truth!" he complains.

Translation, Ahab knew in his heart that the peace proclaimed by the four hundred was suspect, and now with Micaiah parroting the same message as the others, Ahab demands he speak the truth. Leaning to Jehoshaphat, Ahab whines, "See what I mean? He'll never tell me anything good":

18:15 And the king said to him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou say nothing but the truth to me in the name of the Lord?

18:17 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would not prophesy good unto me, but evil?

Then, Micaiah speaks up, as if he just remembered something that had slipped his mind: "Oh yes, there was one other little tid bit of information that you may want, your Highness. You see, I did see your country scattered on the mountains with no one to rule over them (i.e. the king was gone). And there was this little issue with a lying spirit that was sent out, and, oh yes, if I remember right, it settled into the hearts of, well, let me see, oh yes, it settled into the mouths of these four hundred prophets here in this room today! Yes, that is where it went. It went out and deceived these prophets, that have spoken peace to you today. Well king, that is about it. I guess I will be going now."....Micaiah whistles a tune as if no one was around. (OK, the previous words were embellished slightly for dramatic effect, but here is Micaiah's real speech:

18:16 Then he said, I did see all Israel scattered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd; and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.

18:20 Then there came out a lying spirit, and stood before them, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?

18:21 And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail; go out, and do even so; for all these have sinned against me.

18:22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath found a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee.

Now the party turns a little ugly: The false prophets of peace have their turn with Micaiah. They slap him and taunt him as they challenge him for daring to revile their king.

18:23 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah upon the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?

Micaiah flatly responds to one: You will find out the truth the day your false vision fails and you go into hiding because of it:

18:24 And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself.

Then the king does what kings in his day were so good at--having the true prophets taken away and imprisoned. And fed the bread of affliction to boot:

18:25 Then the king of Israel said, Take ye Micaiah, and carry him back to Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king's son;

18:26 And say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I return in peace.

See? There it is. The king was going to have his peace because he wanted it. Never mind what the prophet of God, let alone God himself thought and said.

Sadly, we never hear from Micaiah again in scripture. He seemed like a nice guy. Honest too. But he lived out the purpose for which God intended. Perhaps his whole life's work was to be present that day, speaking the words courageously that God placed in his heart.

As Ahab's servants escort Micaiah out by his elbows, Micaiah delivers a farewell statement to the crowd: King, ff you come back, then God hasn't spoken to me. But to all the rest of you. Listen Up, mark my words, mark this day on your calendar.

18:27 And Micaiah said, If thou certainly return in peace, then hath not the Lord spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, all ye people.

So what happens next? Ahab, perhaps with the inner trembling of one who knows he is gambling with fate, strategizes a plan to break the odds. The plan? He will go up to the Syrian Army as desired, but he will not go as a king. Instead, he will disguise himself. Ah, yes, go as a commoner. Then neither enemy armies nor God may be able to find you.

18:28 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead.

18:29 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and will go to the battle; but put thou on thy robes. So the king of Israel disguised himself; and they went to the battle.

 

The two kings, Jehoshaphat and Ahab ride to battle. Jehoshaphat dressed as a king with his armies, Ahab dressed as a peasant with his armies. The Syrian Army came to play for keeps--their sole commission was to find and fight only with the King of Israel, Ahab.

18:30 Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of the chariots that were with him, saying, Fight ye not with small or great, save only with the king of Israel.

Thinking they have found their prey, Jehoshaphat is caught by the Syrian armies. Calling unto God, the enemy has surprising mercy and lets him go (The Word says that God actually moved the enemy).

18:31 And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, It is the king of Israel. Therefore they compassed about him to fight; but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; and God moved them to depart from him.

18:32 For it came to pass, that, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back again from pursuing him.

Then, with the greatest of irony, and smallest of coincidence that can only happen in real-live scripture, a Syrian soldier shoots a random arrow in the sky, seemingly not even aiming. Where does that chance arrow lodge? Between the crack of the armour, in the chest of king Ahab. He was dead by nightfall. Perhaps the only recorded casualty of the battle that day.

18:33 And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness; therefore he said to his chariot man, Turn thine hand, that thou mayest carry me out of the host; for I am wounded.

18:34 And the battle increased that day; howbeit the king of Israel stayed himself up in his chariot against the Syrians until the even; and about the time of the sun going down he died.

So what is the moral of this story? Perhaps several: one can not out smart God, there are false prophets and true prophets, always know if the prophets are divinely led. Certainly these are important facts to glean from this account.

But deeper, is the moral of the message of peace itself. The problem is, as Christians, we always want peace.  After all, Jesus said, ‘seek peace’ pursue it.  Peace as a virtue, becomes unassailable. 

But the sticky issue becomes when peace is used as a mantra by people proclaiming it to be the message from God, when no message came from God about that peace.  Here is the crux of what happened in this story from the Old Testament.  The leadership had clearly corrupted themselves, then, pretending to receive enlightened messages, share the message of  ‘Peace’ with those wanting to hear it. The king, knowing it was wrong, stood by his pride to his death. 

Old Testament prophets wrote:

The prophets prophesy lies in my name; I sent them not, neither have I commanded them neither spake unto them; they prophesy unto you a false vision and divination, and a thing of naught, and the deceit of their heart.” 

The story of Micaiah and Ahab is likened to the classic fable of "The Emperor's New Clothes." The people were wanting to see what they wanted to see, and say what they wanted to say, whether it existed or not, whether it was truth or not. 

With Ahab, there was no message, the leaders were not inspired, but they hid behind ‘peace’ as a standby.  The people, the church, the temples, the kingdoms were eventually destroyed because God’s true word was disregarded for man’s, all the while standing by false peace.

It is not that preaching peace is a bad thing, the problem becomes when people say it is God’s word when it is not.  The Old Testament people clearly ignored truth at times, and blindly cheered their prophets who told them ‘smooth things’

Isaiah 30:10 Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits;

It doesn't take much disregard for truth before the problems became manifest in the church. Just how long did it take, for instance, until male prostitutes occupied the Old Testament temple?  A generation, maybe less?  Once God’s word is disregarded, corruption floods the church.

So how is real peace achieved? First, peace isn’t attained simply by saying ‘Peace;’ rather, peace is attained when the human soul submits to the word and will of Jesus.

Alma 18:10 But behold, I did cry unto him, and I did find peace to my soul.
11 And now my son, I have told you this, that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way nor means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ.
12 Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.

Ahhh. There it is. When the human soul submits to the the King, the ways of Jesus, then peace can happen. Isaiah's foretelling of the beauty of him who proclaims peace on the mountain is not beautiful because of the proclamation of peace, but because THY GOD REIGNETH, AND HE BROUGHT PEACE WITH HIM. Only when God reigns in our hearts or on this earth, can the true message of peace ever be proclaimed.

Applied to our day, preaching and justifying homosexuality as a "spiritually O. K." (when sculpturally forbidden by God) because that lifestyle makes some "feel peaceful," is not, for example, going to bring peace.

Micah, the last prophet of the Old Testament was direct about prophets speaking peace who hadn't been inspired to speak peace:

Micah 3:5 Thus saith the Lord concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him;

6 Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them.

7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded; yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God.

So in our lives today, how is peace achieved? Real peace? By merely proclaiming that one will have peace? No, but by proclaiming one must yield to the ways of Jesus Christ, in Holy submission to him. Then peace comes. The scripture commands to 'Seek Peace.' This means to Seek the only one who can give peace--Jesus Christ.'

Obedience must first be rendered, peace is offered in return.


Conclusions

Ahab show a problem typical among some leaders: he surrounded himself only with ‘yes’ men, who spoke only what the king wanted to hear. A leaders disregarding and avoiding the real word of God only causes problems for himself and his people. Holding disdain for people who bring God’s word and reject it because, as King of Israel said of such a prophet: “… I hate him; for he never prophesied good unto me, but always evil…” will only bring God's punishment, no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. The truth sometimes hurts. Ahab, and many leaders like him, pushed his human agenda on the people, which they regurgitate back to the leaders, and the continual chanting of the mantra leads some to actually believe their words are true. It leads to their eventual destruction.

What understandings can we apply from this historical example? First, the Church must never select some words of God over others. Second, Leaders must never surround themselves with men of one opinion. Third, the true word of God may seem unpopular when people in transgression Proclaiming true peace, (which Ahab and his prophets did not have) for example, can only come through those who have peace; proclaiming it for the sake of peace alone brings nothing.  They true way to peace is through submission to Jesus, and holding his word in authority.

Looking ahead, after Jerusalem is sacked for their spiritual wrong-doings, the prophet Daniel takes the stage as God's spokesman while his people are in captivity. Daniel's words are little understood by scholars of our day, but extremely significant in understanding of latter-day events. The next lesson lightly touches on Daniel's message: Dream's and Daniel--Gentile Dominion over Jews.

 

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When God's People Strayed...

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