In our broadcast today we are going to examine an event that is recorded for us in II Chronicles 18:4-34. The passage is too long to read, so you may want to follow along in your Bibles with me, if you are able: II Chronicles 18. The account we are considering is the battle the armies of Israel and Judah together fought against the Syrian army. Ahab king of Israel, the ten northern tribes, and Jehoshaphat king of Judah entered into league with each other in order to do battle against Syria, a nation that lay northeast of Israel.
As we already noticed in our last broadcast, Ahab and Israel had apostatized and were worshiping Baal. It was wrong, therefore, for Jehoshaphat to join affinity with Israel. The true church may never join hands, or unite with, the false church. The account we study today will reveal that clearly. We will find, however, that God had His divine purpose in this battle. He would use it to punish the wicked house of Ahab and the kingdom of Israel. God’s judgment now rested upon Ahab and his household. The events of our text were ordered by the Lord therefore.
So, we have the incident before us today—one of court intrigue and cunning craftiness. Ahab had asked Jehoshaphat to go with him to war against Syria in an attempt to win back Ramoth-Gilead. Jehoshaphat told Ahab that he and Judah would be with Israel in the war. But Jehoshaphat was a believer. The difference between him and Ahab reveals itself in the account before us. But perhaps the main contrast revealed in this account is between false prophets of Jehovah versus the one true prophet of Jehovah. In this way, this passage lends itself readily to what we see taking place in the churches of today. False prophets or teachers increase while those preachers who remain steadfast to the Word of God diminish. God in these last days is sending strong delusion, as we will find, just as He did in the account before us.
I. False Prophecy
Jehoshaphat had given his consent: Israel and Judah together would go to war against Benhadad and Syria. Preparations were soon underway. The troops were being gathered. Ahab and Jehoshaphat met together regularly to prepare. It was at one of these meetings that Jehoshaphat made the suggestion that they consult a prophet concerning God’s will regarding the battle. It was this believing king’s desire to know the mind of Jehovah. Ahab did not really care, it seems. Nevertheless, Ahab called together the prophets of Jehovah. He did not call together the prophets of Baal, since Jehoshaphat would not be interested in what these men had to say. Out of Israel therefore Ahab gathered 400 prophets of Jehovah. At the head of these men stood a particularly ambitious man named Zedekiah, who was the spokesman for these prophets. While both Ahab and Jehoshaphat sat upon a throne in the gate of Samaria in a large open place that would accommodate these men, they spoke their prophecy.
Before considering their prophecy, however, we do well to understand the spiritual character of these prophets. Jezebel had, for the most part, killed the faithful prophets of Jehovah out of Israel. Those left therefore, those able to walk freely in Israel, were prophets who were willing to express agreement with every sinful way in which Ahab and Jezebel walked. These prophets were willing to exist side by side with, and even agree with, the prophets of Baal and their teachings. If this were not true these prophets too would have been put to death or imprisoned. So, the spiritual character of these 400 prophets is evident: they were false prophets.
When asked whether Israel should go to battle, with one voice these prophets answered, “Go up, for God will deliver it into the king’s hand.” Is this not exactly what Ahab wanted to hear? Here was Ahab, walking in open sin and unrepentance before God. But these prophets spoke exactly the word Ahab wanted to hear. This was too easy. Jehoshaphat knew that these men were merely agreeing with Ahab. Jehoshaphat knew what was going on in Israel. His response may have been hesitant, but it was obvious, “Is there not one more prophet of Jehovah?” Ahab then told Jehoshaphat about Micaiah. Ahab really did not want to hear what Micaiah had to say. But for Jehoshaphat’s sake Ahab sent a man to escort the prophet Micaiah to him. Micaiah was a true prophet of Jehovah, one who spoke only that which God had revealed to him. Micaiah was in prison for the truth’s sake. He was taken out of ward to come and prophesy and then brought later back again, with the further punishment of feeding him bread and water because of his prophecy concerning the battle.
With the presence of Micaiah, the reliability, the reputation, the integrity of these false prophets was in question. They already had a rather precarious position. What would Ahab do now? Zedekiah took the lead. Taking up a horn of iron he said, “With this you will push Syria until they be consumed!” In order to please Ahab the other prophets all agreed with Zedekiah. Ahab would prosper. What a pleasing word of God Ahab heard from the mouths of the prophets of the apostate church! In effect they were saying, “Walk in sin and prosper!” This made their king most happy!
It is this same pleasing message that is heard by the mouth of countless apostate Christian preachers today. “Walk in sin and prosper!” The Bible warns us of false prophets and teachers today. We learn in Ephesians 4:14 that there are going to be many who lie in wait to deceive, who are characterized by cunning craftiness in the words they speak. We are warned in II Timothy 4:3, 4 that there will be men in the last days who will teach false doctrine. They shall turn away from truth and teach fables in its place. Scripture is filled with warnings against those who claim to come in the name of Christ but who preach a false gospel. Yet, thousands of Christian people today take no heed to the warning of Scripture but blindly follow after these teachers. When a faithful preacher comes in the name of Jehovah and proclaims the truth, he is ignored or labeled as a troublemaker. The day comes too that such preachers will be, just as in Ahab’s day, outlawed.
Many in Christianity today have come to accept the relativism and even the hedonism of this world, just as has been foretold in Scripture. As a result, error is swallowing up the church world. Instead of searching out the Scriptures to come to unity on the basis of the truth, unity is found on the basis of doctrinal error. Doctrinal differences are considered insignificant and non-essential. Some in false Christianity even embrace the heathen religions of this world. Compromise with the unbelieving world, other religions, and doctrinal error seems to be the order of the day. False teachers of today teach this because people like to hear it. It makes them feel good about themselves.
With the lie that has infiltrated the apostate church is the message, “Go and prosper!” Embrace doctrinal error, walk in the sins of this world, and prosper. God loves you and will prosper you no matter how you live. Call evil good and good evil, it does not matter to God. Go and prosper. This makes everyone feel good about themselves, even while walking in disobedience to God’s commands.
II. Strong Delusion
Now, upon Jehoshaphat’s insistence, Micaiah is called. Ahab sends one of his officers to take this faithful prophet to him. That officer informed Micaiah of what the false prophets were saying and advised Micaiah to conform his message to what the rest of them spoke. When this prophet was brought before Ahab and the question put before him, his answer was, “Go up and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.” Was there sarcasm or indifference in Micaiah’s voice? It is hard to say, but Ahab knew immediately that Micaiah said this simply to pacify him. When Ahab demanded the truth of Micaiah, the prophet then proceeded to prophesy what Jehovah had revealed to him. Verse 16: the children of Israel will be scattered because they will have no master. It is not difficult to understand this. Ahab was going to die in battle. The nation of Israel would lose its leadership and would be scattered.
Ahab’s reaction was so typical of this man. One can almost hear his pouting: “See, Jehoshaphat! I told you that Micaiah never says anything good to me. He just does not like me. That is why he speaks this about me.” Ahab in his unbelief obviously did not understand that it was God speaking—not Micaiah. Ahab viewed Micaiah no differently than he did these other 400 men. They spoke as men, they saw no revelation from Jehovah. If they liked him they would speak good. If they did not like him, as was the case with Micaiah, they spoke evil.
But the next prophecy of Micaiah really created a commotion! We read in verses 18-22 what he saw: God was sitting on His throne and asked of the angels, “who will entice Ahab to go to battle and fall?” A spirit suggested that he be sent out to be a lying spirit in the mouths of the 400 false prophets. God then sent this spirit out and he it is that now speaks in the mouths of these prophets. Micaiah had brought into question the very integrity and truthfulness of these 400 prophets! I mean, here was one man whose message to Ahab was exactly the opposite. From a human point of view it was obvious, was it not? Somehow this man had to get Ahab to believe him rather than 400 men. What an elaborate prophecy to achieve this goal! So, Zedekiah thought! For that reason, he immediately slapped Micaiah across the face! “Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?” In other words, “you claim to speak by the Spirit, Micaiah?” Well, so do I! Why should anyone believe your words over against ours? Indeed! Why should an unbeliever believe the words of one man above that of others? How can any man really tell who is speaking the truth and who is not? Did not the same Spirit who led Micaiah to testify against the prophets not just now lead Zedekiah to slap Micaiah? Who can tell?
That point is well taken. No one can tell until after the fact! Ahab sent Micaiah back to prison and told the keepers to make things harder yet on Micaiah until he, Ahab, returned from the battle. It was then that Micaiah offered the ultimate proof for who spoke the truth. In the ears of the multitude he said, “Take note, everyone! You will learn through whom Jehovah speaks. If Ahab returns from battle, then I am a false prophet and these 400 are the true prophets of the Lord. If Ahab does not return from battle alive, then you know that Jehovah speaks by me!”
God grant his servants who preach His Word today the boldness of this prophet, Micaiah! This man, by the work of God’s grace and through the strength of faith, was able to stand before 400 men who also claimed to be prophets of the Lord. Who was to say that he was right and they were wrong? Yet, today the preacher of the gospel has objective proof to say he is right and others wrong. He has the Scriptures—the objective standard of what is right and wrong. Yet, even today it is said by the false prophets: it is all a matter of interpretation! The Bible really is not conclusive in this matter or that matter! When the faithful preacher says, “no, this is the Word of God. The truth is clearly taught on the pages of Scripture”; the answer given is, “look at all of us theologians saying that it means this. Then look at you saying that it means that! Hah, which way went the Spirit of the Lord from us to speak unto you? We have the Spirit too! When the majority agrees it must be right.”
Every man must stand in judgment before God someday. Let every prophet of God beware. In that day the truth of God’s Word will stand, and woe to that false teacher who would lead God’s people astray from the Word. He may claim to speak the truth. He may sound intelligent and be persuasive, he may even wrest, i. e., twist, the Word of God to say what he wants, but Peter tells us that such wrest that Word of God to their own destruction. In the day of judgment, the truth will be revealed. God give every faithful pastor the boldness and the grace to preach the Word in season and out of season, even if it offends the kings of this world!
But there is something more in our text that we may not overlook. This prophecy of Micaiah concerning the lying spirit that would enter the hearts of the false prophets is telling. The nation of Israel had turned away from God. Instead of heeding the warning of the prophets to turn from her sin, Israel plunged on in her sin and disobedience. When this happens to a church institute as a whole, God judges that church. The judgment of God upon that church is that He sends her strong delusion. He sends men into her midst that preach the lie, and her members embrace and give themselves over wholly to that lie! They actually think they are embracing the truth. God deceives them! He sends strong delusion so that they actually think they are maintaining truth when it is the lie!
Of this, Micaiah’s prophecy speaks. God was judging the nation of Israel, and He was doing so by placing a lie upon the lips of the false prophets. Oh, it was not as if these prophets did what they did ignorantly. They knew that Jehovah had not truly prophesied unto them! But unbelief is ignorance. They knew no work of the Spirit. God had not through the blood of the coming Messiah saved these men. They were lost in unbelief. The Spirit therefore did not work in them at all. How were they then to know what the true work of the Spirit was in prophesying? God sent a strong spirit of delusion, they preached, and the people believed their lies. In this way God sealed their judgment! God gave them over to their lies!
What a warning to us who live in these last days! We read of this same phenomenon that will take place in these last days. We read in II Thessalonians 2:8-12 that in the last days the Antichrist will arise, “even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” That is frightening! Let the church of Christ today beware lest we give in to the false teachers that have gone out into the world!
III. God’s Judgment
Ahab went to battle. Was he a bit wary of what Micaiah told him? He must have been. He sent Jehoshaphat into battle in king’s raiment. He went as a common soldier. The Syrians, being instructed beforehand to fight only with Ahab, surrounded Jehoshaphat. It was only by God’s sovereign direction that they turned away from him, discovering that he was not the king of Israel. God saved this believer though he had sinned. But Ahab was under God’s judgment. An archer of Syria took his arrow and shot it into the armies of Israel. God directed that arrow so that it pierced Ahab’s harness, his coat of mail, exactly in that little point where the wire mesh meets. It wounded Ahab severely and by the end of the day he bled out in his chariot. Micaiah’s prophecy was the truth. The 400 had lied!
But then, no one in Israel took note as Micaiah had told them to do. God’s judgment rested on Israel. Ahab died, and Israel was scattered. Nothing changed! The apostate church continued on in her sin. God had judged her. She was going to perish! Such is the ultimate end of those who turn away from Jehovah.
Turn from the gospel of grace and the truth of God’s Word, embrace the lie, and perish! Teach for truth the doctrines of men, believe in a God that is fickle and serves the wishes of men, embrace a Christ that has not come to save from sin but only to make this world a better place to live, and die! Allow the members of the church to walk in the sins of this world without discipline and be destroyed! Begin to look at the Word of God as being subject to man’s private interpretation, and God will give us over into our sin. God give His church today Micaiahs—men who will unashamedly preach what God speaks to His church in the Word. God give us as members of the church to bow before God’s Word and seek the cross of Christ for our salvation from sin and Satan. God preserve you and me yet today!