Synopsis 1Kings 22:43-54 7/17/2019
Jehoshaphat became the king of Judah after his father Asa died. And at Jehoshaphat’s death, the people remembered him as a faithful king – like his father had been.
Among his significant accomplishments was an end to the chronic wars between Judah and Israel. He reigned twenty-five years in Jerusalem before he died.
Similarly, Ahaziah reigned as king over Israel after the death Ahab, his father. However, he reigned for only two years.
Remembering a Faithful King
The people remembered Jehoshaphat for his fidelity. Specifically, they remembered him because he brought peace to the divided Israelite kingdom. Also, because he had faithfully followed the teachings of King Asa, his father.
It is said that you can’t drive a car by looking in the review mirror. So, I think it’s similar with faithfulness. I can’t be faithful to the righteous vision of my fathers, or my God, by constantly asking myself if I’ve been faithful.
No, it’s going to take the fearless determination to do as they did – not what they did. It’s going to mean meeting the challenges of the present moment with the fullness of determination to love and to hope without regard to selfish ambition or personal cost.
“A good name is more desirable than great riches, and high esteem, than gold and silver.” Prov 22:1
Synopsis 1Kings 22:33-42 7/16/2019
Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah. And Ahab was the king of Israel. The two kings were reconciled for the first time since Jeroboam led Israel to separate from Judah.
Together they decided to attack the city of Ramoth-gilead, which had been taken by the Arameans. Jehoshaphat quickly recognized that he was overwhelmed and fled the battle. But despite disguising his true identity, Ahab was hit by an arrow and mortally wounded.
Ahab sat propped up in his chariot long enough to see the Israelites defeated in battle. Then he died. And afterward, his body was returned to Samaria in his combat chariot. There, his men washed the blood from the chariot at the city well. There the dogs lapped up his blood in accordance with the prophecy of God.
Ahab’s Death Despite Precautions
King Ahab took the precaution of disguising his identity so he wouldn’t become the object of the battle. It wasn’t enough. A seemingly errant arrow found it way between the joints of his well-crafted armor.
Death Despite Precautions
It’s a frustration of life that I can’t control circumstances. No amount of statistical inference can prevent any particular outcome. No amount of body armor can guarantee that life will last another day. Or another hour. Or another minute.
The outcome of all particular circumstances belongs to the Lord alone.
“In his hand is the soul of every living thing, and the life breath of all mortal flesh.” Job 12:10
Synopsis 1Kings 22:23-32 7/15/2019
Micaiah the prophet told King Ahab that his prophets were lying to him. As a result, the head of Ahab’s prophets struck Micaiah. And afterward, Ahab arrested him and put him in a prison until the conclusion of the battle.
Still, Micaiah remained faithful to the word he had been told. And he called upon the people to remember the words he had spoken.
With that, the two kings marched on Ramoth-gilead. As they prepared for battle, King Ahab informed King Jehoshaphat that he intended to join the battle in disguise. Presumably Ahab made this decision because he was personally well-known to the Arameans and Jehoshaphat was not.
However, the leader of the Aramite army had already instructed his charioteers not to engage with anyone except King Ahab. As a result, the Aramite charioteers immediately sought to engage with King Jehoshaphat.
Micaiah the Life-Saver
Ahab perceived Micaiah as an adversary. So, he convinced himself that Micaiah was personally against him.
But God had given Micaiah a true prophecy concerning Ahab. And if Ahab had been open to Micaiah’s prophecy, he wouldn’t have entered into this military adventure. Accordingly, it is unlikely that he would have died – at least not in combat.
Micaiah was God sent. He was Ahab’s life-saver. But Ahab treated him like an enemy.
My Life Saver
Sometimes people I know say critical things to me. It hurts. And when this happens, I sometimes feel offended. Of course, all of this is normal.
Yet, it might be that the word which has offended is actually the God-sent word that is intended to save my life. As it is written in Paul’s letter to the Romans, “all things work together for good for those who love God”.
And if this is true, then it means that nothing comes to the lover of God except good. So, while things inevitably come that don’t always feel good, good they remain.
“Trustworthy are the blows of a friend, dangerous, the kisses of an enemy.” Prov 26:7
Synopsis 1Kings 22:13-22 7/12/2019
Micaiah was a true prophet of God. At Jehoshaphat’s request, King Ahab sent a messenger to Micaiah. The two kings had agreed on a course of military action. And so, they were looking for validation that their plans were in accordance with God’s intents.
Micaiah went to the kings. Initially, he offered a mockish prophecy that agreed with Ahab’s prophets. So, King Ahab ordered Micaiah to give him a true prophecy. Micaiah responded by describing Israel’s loss in battle. He compared it to the way sheep scatter when they have no shepherd.
Micaiah went further. And he explained that God had allowed a lying spirit to come over Ahab’s prophets. As a result, eventually the king would be deceived into entering an imprudent battle.
Micaiah’s Lying Spirit
God is not a liar. What happened is that Ahab’s prophets arrogantly misinterpreted what God was actually saying. This was a limitation based on their hubris and perhaps their desire to please the king.
For their part, they probably didn’t think they were encouraging Ahab into a losing battle. For, they would have had no reason to do this. When a prophet has a failed prediction, it’s not good for their resume. In the future, such people are perceived as false prophets and inadequate advisors.
Instead, it seems clear that Ahab’s prophets simply did not realize what they were saying.
The Lying Spirit Remains
One of the strangest aspects of the liberty that God gives to me, is that I can misuse it. I accept the extraordinary freedom that God has given me. And I live in that liberty. But the temptation is to think that the moral liberty that God gives me implies that there are no moral consequences within this range of liberty.
However, experience tells me this is not the case. I may act within the range of my moral freedom and be motivated by selfishness. And when I do, I find I do not profit. And not just money profit.
When I do less than God’s best in any situation, then I find that grace does not increase. In other words, things don’t flow. I may even end up achieving some goal but the friction involved in forcing my will over God’s best usually creates broken relationships and regret.
So, by God’s grace the truth is always available. But still, God will not prevent me from arrogantly misinterpreting my circumstances. This is the lesson of Adam and Eve. It is a true principle from the very beginning.
Because He respects the liberty He has given me, He won’t stop me from acting on the deceptions of the evil one. True freedom is perhaps the one thing that I at least have to want to do for myself.
For you were called for freedom, brothers. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.” Gal 5:13
Synopsis 1Kings 22:4-12 7/8/2019
King Jehoshaphat and King Ahab met together. This was the first ever example of a king from Israel and a king from Judah coming together since the split between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. And King Ahab suggested that both kingdoms come together to attack Ramoth-gilead. This seemed reasonable and good to Jehoshaphat. So, the king agreed to join forces.
But Jehoshaphat also wanted to know what God thought of the plan. So, he asked King Ahab to make an inquiry concerning God through the local prophets. Once assembled, the local prophets encouraged the kings to attack. And, they assured a victory.
In fact, a prophet named Zedekiah made a pair of iron horns and prophesied that’s Israel’s victory would be like the two horns of iron.
But for some reason, Jehoshaphat wasn’t satisfied. So, he pressed Ahab. Because of this, Ahab called for a prophet named Micaiah to come and give counsel.
Jehoshaphat was searching for a true word. In particular, he sought for an authoritative witness concerning the prospect of battle. But for some reason, he discerned that Ahab’s prophets lacked authority. And so he rightly sought the testimony of another perspective.
The Search for Truth
We all have an intrinsic need to know the truth. And, according to both scripture and common personal experience, the truth is always established by multiple witnesses.
But not all witnesses are created equal. Some are eye-witnesses whose testimony is based on a specific experience. Others are based less on direct experience of a specific event. But rather such witnesses testify on the basis of their wisdom. And these witnesses testify not about a particular experience, but rather about the principles behind the experience.
We call these “expert” witnesses. And because experts are testifying about principles, their testimony is intrinsically valid – at least to the extent that they really have expertise.
This is the case of the Magisterium. The interpretive confidence we have is based on the unimpeachable testimony of God’s ordained tradition.
“Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matt 18:18
Synopsis 1Kings 21:21-22:03 7/4/2019
Elijah prophesied against Ahab and his family. Ahab and his wife Jezebel had made a conspiracy with the elders of Jezreel to kill the owner of a property adjacent next to their palace. After the killing, Ahab took possession of the vineyard property.
God revealed to Elijah what Ahab and Jezebel had done. And so, Elijah went to the vineyard property. And he found Ahab there. So, he prophesied doom against Ahab and his entire family.
Ahab was struck by the prophets’ words. For that reason, he repented by tearing his garments and putting on ashes and sackcloth.
Now because Ahab had humbled himself, Elijah received another word from God. God forgave Ahab and deferred the prophesied punishment to his sons.
Ahab’s Legacy of Death
Ahab ruined Naboth’s legacy. He not only participated in Naboth’s murder, but he stole the assets of his estate. He stole from Naboth’s future generations.
Yet, God spared Ahab’s life. Because he repented with great humility, he avoided the just punishment that was due to him. Instead, according to the prophet, the punishment would come upon his son.
This was Ahab’s legacy. His children were sure to inherit.
Living For Legacy
How will my actions affect the generations who follow me?
Almost nothing challenges decision-making like this one, simple question. The aggregate of goodwill or ill-will invariably impacts the lives of my children and my children’s children. If follows, that nothing exposes shortsightedness and selfishness in the same way as an honest response to this one question.
I am not living for myself.
And this is more than a decision I will overtly make. It is the condition of a life lived in freedom.
“The just walk in integrity; happy are their children after them!” Prov 20:7
Synopsis 1Kings 21:11-20 7/3/2019
Because Naboth refused to sell his vineyard, Jezebel directed the elders of Jezreel to frame him. So, the elders made an assembly and falsely accused him. And for his supposed crimes, he was stoned to death.
After she had received word of Naboth’s death, Jezebel encouraged Ahab to take possession of the vineyard. And so, he did.
But Elijah received a word from God concerning Jezebel’s grave sin. So, he met Ahab while he was in the vineyard. And they spoke together. Elijah exposed Ahab’s sin, letting him know that Jezebel’s conspiracy was no longer secret. And, he conveyed God’s great displeasure. Accordingly, he prophesied doom over Ahab’s house.
Elijah came into vineyard. There he found Ahab enjoying his newly acquired possession. And then Elijah declared Ahab’s sin.
Until that moment, the whole episode had been in the dark. The conspiracy to kill and dispossess Naboth was a dark agreement between men and women who thought their secret was safe. They believed they could hide their evil deeds and still enjoy the fruits of their misguided efforts.
And so, Ahab responded to Elijah, “Have you found me out?” Not surprisingly, he considered Elijah his enemy. He considered the light of truth to be an adversary.
Walking in the light of the sun is a special joy. Similarly, following in the way of Christ is a lighthearted burden – a delight. And so, I generally find that reading God’s Word is pure blessing. It is an invitation and opportunity to participate in the very mind of Christ.
One of the things that I have noticed about the Word is its power to make the circumstances of life clearer. Of course, part of that clarity is experienced in its capacity to convict and correct.
So, something remarkable happens when I sin. I find that in my own dark moments of selfishness, I avoid the Word. And, I don’t want clarity. In fact, I actually prefer things to be an indistinct muddle. And in those moments, I want nothing to challenge the excuses I have used to justify my Ahab-like behavior. I want only distance. I want to hide in the cool of the day. Afraid.
It’s only God’s mercy that ever saves me from this collapse into darkness. It’s only the unrequested prophet-voice that intrudes into my life that brings me the hope of mercy and the grace for repentance.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed.” John 3:20
Synopsis 1Kings 21:1-10 7/1/2019
During the reign of King Ahab, there was a man named Naboth. And Naboth owned a vineyard in Jezreel next to Ahab’s palace.
Now Ahab desired to own Naboth’s vineyard. So, he offered to purchase the vineyard. But Naboth refused because the garden had been inherited from his ancestors.
Because his offer had been rebuffed, Ahab returned to his palace and sulked. Finally, Ahab’s wife Jezebel intervened on his behalf. So, she instructed the leaders of Jezreel to frame Naboth by falsely accusing him of a crime. And she did this in King Ahab’s name.
Naboth was right not to sell or trade his vineyard. Under the law of Moses, the land was supposed to remain with families through the process of inheritance. And while Naboth also had the right to sell the land if his circumstances required, the sale was never intended to be permanent.
Even so, Jezebel acted in Ahab’s name to illegally take Naboth’s property. In the end, Naboth was persecuted for doing what was right.
Righteousness and Persecution
Persecution comes from the abuse of power. It couldn’t come from anywhere else.
But your commitment to righteousness is safe. And in the end, it is peace.
“I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
Synopsis 1Kings 20:35-43 6/25/2019
Israel had won a resounding victory over Aram. Despite this, King Ahab let go Ben-hadad. And because God had targeted Ben-hadad for destruction, He was displeased.
As a result, a prophet received a word from the Lord. In it, he was to give a prophetic word to Ahab. But in order to convey the word as God desired, he needed to sustain an injury. So, he asked another prophet to strike him. But the second prophet refused to harm the first. And so, the second prophet was cursed with a lion attack. And almost immediately, a lion attacked and killed the second prophet.
For the second time, the prophet asked an ordinary man to strike him. And this man struck the prophet and injured his head. So, the injured prophet waited until Ahab came by. And when he did, the injured prophet prophesied against Ahab for releasing Ben-hadad.
The prophecy disturbed Ahab. And, it made him angry.
God gave Ahab victory over Aram in the first battle as evidence of His sovereignty. And so, when Ben-hadad’s advisors claimed that the God of Israel was only a God of the mountains, God had further opportunity to demonstrate His absolute sovereignty in the affairs of men.
By releasing Ben-hadad, Ahab gave away the fruit of the victory. And so, the prophet came to inform him of his error. And this vexed him.
In Proverbs 10, it is written, ”Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but those who restrain their lips do well”.
When my heart wants to justify itself, I use words. Sometimes I talk to myself. And when I do, I use words that clearly demonstrate my superior understanding of my situation.
Of course, sometimes I talk with others. And then I use words to persuade most anyone who will listen that I am right – and implicitly that everyone else is wrong.
But it’s not really the words that are the problem. The problem is found in a heart that wants to avoid simple obedience.
But Samuel said: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obedience to the LORD’s command? Obedience is better than sacrifice, to listen, better than the fat of rams” (1Sam 15:22)
Synopsis 1Kings 20:29-34 6/24/2019
Ben-hadad’s army camped near Aphek, east of the Jordan. And so, King Ahab positioned his forces opposite. The forces remained stationary for seven days before the battle began.
Once again, the Israelites inflicted an overwhelming defeat. So, the Aramite soldiers, including King Beh-hadad, retreated into the town of Aphek. There, they experienced a second defeat in the city as the wall collapsed. However, Ben-hadad hid in an inner room inside the city with the help of his servants.
Eventually, his servants changed into clothes made from sackcloth. Then, they came out from hiding and approached King Ahab. When they found him, they begged for Ben-hadad’s life to be spared.
Ahab had mercy on Ben-hadad. He allowed him to ride in his chariot. In the end, Ben-hadad returned some cities previously taken from Israel. And he gave Ahab the opportunity to conduct commerce in Damascus. In exchange, Ahab restored Ben-hadad and set him free.
King Ben-hadad was a deeply evil man. Hundreds of thousands of people died miserable deaths because of the decisions that he made. And in defeat, he realized that as the leader of a vanquished army, the best he could justly hope for was a mercifully quick death.
Despite this, Ahab offered him mercy. In response, Ben-hadad gladly offered restitution.
Relief and Restitution
There is something about the experience of being saved that usually provokes a response of generosity.
When I’ve done something that I know is wrong, even if I can rationally justify my behavior, the weight of my sin remains with me. Of course, it’s sometimes possible for me to suppress my feelings of guilt and shame. Even so, I remain affected. These feelings lurk around in my mind. And then they unexpectedly show up in the strangest moments. Sometimes they arise in a dream. Or sometimes in an unusual encounter that reminds me of the circumstances of my own guilt. And then I suddenly become, once again aware of my shame.
As human beings, we’re constantly making comparisons. And regardless of the objects that we’re encountering in a particular moment, the fundamental comparison is always a question of “What Is” compared to “What Should Be”. And the consequence of this comparing is that I move towards obtaining “What Should Be”.
But when I’ve done something unjust, the psychology doesn’t change. The “What Should Be”, is me getting my just deserts. So, a tension forms because I really don’t want “What Should Be”. When I’m the offender, I don’t really want justice.
This is why the experience of salvation is so unique. In the moment when I feel saved, something changes. I experience a rapid reversal. And here, I’m not just talking about eternal salvation. But even the experience of being saved from embarrassment or from physical injury. Any experience of salvation brings an extraordinary sense of relief.
And the reason for relief is in the comparison. In that moment, the difference between what is and what should be is extinguished. The “what is” of salvation is so much better than the “what should be” of just punishment or exposure, that I feel more than satisfied. For, I have received more than I deserve – more than I could expect.
And in this moment of satisfaction, I no longer feel the need to cling to the thing that caused me to act unjustly in the first place. And so, I can let it go. Suddenly, I experience the freedom to stop clinging. And then, I am free to give it back. Like Beh-hadad; I am free to gladly offer restitution.
So then, this freedom to generously give is an evidence of salvation. And not just the salvation offered, but the salvation actually entered into.
This is the freedom made actual through Christ crucified and risen.
“But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, “Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over.” Luke 19:8