Ahab ignores the Lord - again.
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Give out copies of the time chart: Chart004 Also display Israel map. I'm sorry but this is the best free map I could find - it actually relates to a later period.
Before we read more about Elijah, we need to look at the other things going on in Israel and Judah at around the same time.
Remember that following the death of King Solomon (David’s son), the kingdom divided. Judah in the south with Jerusalem, the Temple and many priests, was generally ruled by godly kings. Israel in the north, was generally ruled by Kings who had turned from God and the most ungodly so far was Ahab (with Jezebel his queen).
Last time we were looking at the prophecy that Elijah had to pronounce against King Ahab after Naboth had been killed for his vineyard. Before we move on into 2 Kings it is perhaps interesting to see what God actually said, and what actually happened. I Kings 21: God said (v29) ‘I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son’.
The disaster he is talking about is the second half of the prophecy from verse 21 to 24:
21 ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.’
23 “And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’
24 “Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country.”
But the first part of the prophecy, concerning the manner of Ahab’s death, is about to be fulfilled: v19 ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’
Before we continue we need to notice that sometimes a king’s name is used when talking about his son, and sometimes a son would begin to assume power even though his father was still alive (a co-regency).
From the chart we can see that Jehoshaphat of Judah was reigning at roughly the same time as Ahab (From 870bc).
What was he like? Let's read 2 Chronicles 20:31-33
31 So Jehoshaphat reigned over Judah. He was thirty-five years old when he became king of Judah, and he reigned in Jerusalem for twenty-five years. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. 32 He walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. 33 The high places, however, were not removed, and the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers.
What does this tell us about the character of the people?
Wait for a reponse - see v33 'the people still had not set their hearts on the God of their fathers.'
What does it also suggest about the attitude of the King? He didn’t feel it was his job to influence the beliefs of his people, even though he was a king appointed by God to do just that.
How much should we actively seek to influence the beliefs of others?
It is now about 855bc and there was trouble brewing again to the north-east of Israel.
Look at the map: Ramoth Gilead was a town situated on the junction of the main international trade routes: the North-South incense route ‘The King’s Highway’; and the route to the Phoenician ports of Acco, Tyre and Sidon.
Control of this town, and these routes brought much needed revenue. The Arameans of Damascus were a force to be reckoned with. Thirteen battles are recorded in the Bible between Israel and the Arameans, many of which were over Ramoth Gilead,
Since the agreement made by Ahab with the king of the Arameans, there had been an uneasy peace. It seems that part of the agreement meant that the Arameans still held Ramoth-Gilead. But Ahab wasn’t happy with that.
Read 1 Kings 22:1-6
1 For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. 2 But in the third year (854bc) Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel.
(Indicate on map – it’s confusing – I would have said went up! But Jerusalem is approx 700 meters above sea level and the town of Samaria was built on a hill 443 meters above sea level, and surrounded by plains so it’s logical.)
It seems that this started as just a goodwill visit. But prior to his visit:
3 The king of Israel had said to his officials, “Don’t you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?”
Obviously it was annoying Ahab that this strategic town was not under his control, so he took advantage of the visit of Jehoshaphat to suggest a joint venture:
4 So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”
Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
In our dealings with non-Christians how easy is it to go along with their suggestions?
How difficult do we find it to persuade them instead to do something we would prefer?
Is it easier to be pulled down than for us to pull others up?
Would we ever say to our non-Christian friend ‘I must pray about it first’?
Good King Jehoshaphat knew he had to enquire of the Lord first, so:
5 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.”
6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”
“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
Who were these four hundred prophets?
Look again at 1 Kings 18:19
19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
Now we know that the prophets of Baal were all killed, and also that the prophets of Asherah stayed away from Carmel. We also know that it was unlikely that Ahab would enquire of the true prophets if he could help it, and Jezebel’s prophets were easily available.
But Jehoshaphat obviously realised that these were not prophets of the Lord.
Now we'll continue reading 1 Kings 22 from verse 7.
7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can enquire of?”
How can we tell when things are not of the Lord?
8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can enquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
“The king should not say that,” Jehoshaphat replied.
9 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.”
Why did Ahab not suggest Elijah? (Remember that the last time they had met it was when Elijah had prophesied doom on Ahab and his family!)
10 Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing-floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. 11 Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the Lord says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ ”
12 All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
13 The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favourably.”
14 But Micaiah said, “As surely as the Lord lives, I can tell him only what the Lord tells me.”
15 When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”
“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
16 The king said to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?”
How did Ahab know he was lying? (v18)
17 Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’ ”
18 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”
Jehoshaphat had specifically asked to enquire of the Lord. Ahab had said Micaiah’s first response was a lie. So his second prophesy must have been truth. So how should he now respond?
Wait for a response!
Look again at verse 10 and picture the scene. Here are two people who happened to have been born into royal families and so now it is their turn to be kings.
Dressed in royal robes, sitting on royal thrones, maybe each seeking to impress the other with their 'Kingliness'- but actually no different to you or me - saying 'we ought to pray about it'.
Have we ever formed a plan, asked the Lord's blessing on it, and then gone ahead with it? When did we last honestly 'seek the counsel of the Lord' (v5) and then listen for his answer?
Here the kings have 'gone through the motions'. Jehoshaphat even asked for a real prophet to be found (v7).
And then? Read verse 29
29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead
Actually if you think Ahab and Jehoshaphat were mad to ignore the prophecy, that wasn't all that Micaiah said. Read 1 Kings 22:19-28.
19 Micaiah continued, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing round him on his right and on his left. 20 And the Lord said, “Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?”
‘One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, “I will entice him.”
22 ‘“By what means?” the Lord asked.
‘“I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,” he said.
‘“You will succeed in enticing him,” said the Lord. “Go and do it.”
23 ‘So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.’
24 Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. ‘Which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?’ he asked.
25 Micaiah replied, ‘You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.’
26 The king of Israel then ordered, ‘Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son 27 and say, “This is what the king says: put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.”’
28 Micaiah declared, ‘If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.’ Then he added, ‘Mark my words, all you people!’