Forthright Magazine

What does God’s word say?

“For three years Aram and Israel continued without war. But in the third year King Jehoshaphat of Judah came down to the king of Israel. The king of Israel said to his servants, ‘Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, yet we are doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?’ He said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?’ Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are; my people are your people; my horses are your horses.’ But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” (1 Kings 22:1-5 NRSVUE)

What do we do when we are asked to do something that sounds ok but in might not be? Do we assume it is ok because we want to do it? Or do we “inquire for the word of the Lord”? Granted, this means we may need to do a little Bible study, but isn’t it worthwhile to consult with God’s word before embarking on a particular course of action of which we are unsure?

When King Jehoshaphat said to Ahab, king of Israel, that he would like to “inquire first of the word of the Lord” Ahab did what many would do – he brought in people who were ‘religious’ but would back up what he wanted. He brought in 400 prophets who spoke with one voice: “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king” (1 Kings 22:6). How could you disagree with 400 prophets?

Jehoshaphat was suspicious. He asked, “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kings 22:7). He could tell that these prophets were just saying what Ahab wanted to hear. Where was God’s prophets?

“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favourable about me but only disaster.’ Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let the king not say such a thing.’” (1 King 22:8)

Ahab didn’t like to hear God’s word because it went against what he wanted to do. So rather than change his ways to aligned with God’s word he simply didn’t want to hear God’s word.

How often are we like this? Rather than go to the Bible we read nice posters or websites with Bible verses on them. Although it may be a verse from the Bible it often is taken out of context. We are satisfied because we think it give us the assurance we need. Rather than going for sound bites we need to dig into God’s word.

But what if God’s word goes against what we want to do? If we are truly trying to follow God then we will listen to his word. After all, if God is the Creator (and he is!) and if he knows us better than we know ourselves (and he does!) then we need to listen to the one who designed us. It is when we go against what God says that we end up with problems – if not in this life then in eternity. This is what happened to Ahab.

Although Micaiah told Ahab and Jehoshaphat that they would be defeated if they went into battle, they went anyway. Ahab tried to get around what God said by going in a disguise. God’s word was still fulfilled and Ahab died that day (1 Kings 22:29-40).

Rather than trying to bend God’s word to fit what we want we need to study the scriptures daily to see what it is that God wants us to do in living our lives for him. May we learn to pray as Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). May we then align our lives with God’s will.

Photo: Woodcut for “Die Bibel in Bildern”, by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860. Public Domain.

Readings for next week: 1 Kings 22; 2 Kings 1-5


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