Prophecy is truly a wonderful gift from God. He speaks to us through the Scriptures, into our hearts and spirits, through signs and by His voice. But not every Word we receive is what we want to hear. Sometimes He must rebuke or reprove us. There are times when He warns us. And there are times when His answer is just not what we want to hear.
This was the case with King Ahab; he didn’t like hearing bad news. All but one of the prophets who served him gave into his fears. Verses 1-6 begin the narrative.
“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.”
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.”
Four hundred prophets all gave Ahab and Jehoshaphat good news. But God also spoke to Jehoshaphat and impressed on him that there was another prophet who Ahab had not included in the gathering. Verses 7-9 read,
“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.”
Because Micaiah prophesied truthfully to Ahab, Ahab said he hated the prophet. Jehoshaphat was quick to gently rebuke the king. Micaiah was a prophet, a servant of the Most High, and a vessel for the Word of God. Hating him was sinful. Hating a servant of God is akin to hating God. 1 John 2:9-11 says,
“Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
Ahab was still acting like a spoiled child hating discipline and bad news. He was afraid of bad news. The faithful have no reason to be afraid of any prophetic word, good or bad news. The faithful has no reason to fear anything. God is the LORD, He is I Am Who I Am. He is with us and will remain with us. He is our power, authority, and shield. Psalm 112:6-9 encourages us this way,
“For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
7 He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
8 His heart is steady; he will not be afraid,
until he looks in triumph on his adversaries.
9 He has distributed freely; he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn is exalted in honor.”
Micaiah came into the throne room and watched another prophet prophesy. Verses 10-14 say,
“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.”
13 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.”
Zedekiah prophesied victory for Judah and Israel in a dramatic way with horns (symbols of power) made of iron (symbols of strength). But was he leaving something out? Every one of the approximately 400 hundred prophets said the same thing. But Jehoshaphat still wanted to hear form Micaiah. Micaiah was a true prophet who made an oath that he would only speak what The LORD said, even when he was warned of the danger of including the bad news that the rest of the prophets knew, but omitted. Verses 14-24 read,
“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?” 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 your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.”
At first Micaiah withheld the entire message and told the kings only the good news. But Ahab knew he had more. Although he didn’t want to hear it, it irked him that Micaiah would prove him wrong in front of Jehoshaphat by waiting to finish his message. God wanted Ahab to ask for the truth and receive it. So Micaiah gave him the rest of the news. King Ahab was not governing Israel well, the people were lost and scattered and so the plan to take back Ramoth-gilead was put into him by the Lord so that he would go into battle and be killed in order to give Israel the king they needed.
The bad news upset more than just Ahab. Zedekiah realized if Ahab died his cushy time of “prophesying” what the king wanted to hear would end too. He also realized that he could be punished for not speaking the true words of God. His rash reaction and King Ahab’s reaction are recorded in verses 24-28.
“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!”
Zedekiah hit Micaiah in the face! And Ahab threw the prophet in prison until he returned safely. Micaiah promised the king that he would remain in prison because God had promised Ahab not return safely. Ahab wanted to battle but decided he could outwit God and live. Verses 29-41 read,
“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.” 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. 39 Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, and the ivory house that 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 slept with his fathers, and Ahaziah his son reigned in his place.”
Ahab couldn’t hide from God. A ‘random’ arrow directed by The LORD just happened to hit Ahab in the tiny space in his armor. Ahab didn’t die quickly. He watched the battle and slowly bled to death. Did he use the time to repent? Did he use the time to curse the Lord? We do not know. He had time to do either. We do know Ahab had despised prophecy and so had not let God’s Word teach him, help him grow, or allow him to know God on a deeper level. He was still the childish and selfish king he was on the day he had repented for his evil with Elijah (1 Kings 21:27-29).
Had Ahab listened to the true and complete prophesies of Micaiah, he would have grown, he would have come to know and love the Lord more and more. God would not have been moved to remove him from the throne. Not every word we hear from God is sunshine and roses. Not every promise He gives us is lollipops and rainbow. But every word from God is wrapped in love with a purpose that is good for us. Every word He speaks is gold and precious. Proverbs 3:11-12 reminds us,
“My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline
or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Prophecy has a purpose. It builds up the church. It causes the church to grow become stronger. It encourages the church, it emboldens and inspires action. It comforts through times of suffering and develops character in the believer. 1 Corinthians 14:3-5 says,
“On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. 4 The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.5 Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up.”
Believer, we are in a time with more and more prophecy being given and fulfilled. The testimony of Jesus is spirit of prophecy. (Revelation 19:10). We do not have to be afraid of any word God gives us. He loves us. But we do have to know God well enough to discern His word from a lie. Even Ahab knew the prophets were withholding the truth from him. In our time, heeding prophecy and prophesying are a significant part of a faithful life of following Jesus. Paul said it this way in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-25,
“Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit.20 Do not despise prophecies, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.22 Abstain from every form of evil.
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
25 Brothers, pray for us.”