There have been plenty of national issues for believers in Christ to think through lately. There’s debate over the use of the Confederate Flag, the legalization of so-called same-sex marriage, and the attention of the ongoing atrocity of babies being killed and then sold for parts.
The escalation of political and social tension around these hot-button issues will undoubtedly continue. And there will be continued pressure on Christians to become more tolerant and understanding towards other points of view.
Some may be tempted to give in. Or, perhaps, some Christians will respond with outrage, anger, and cutting words towards those who lash out and label Christians as old-fashioned haters of equality and choice.
So, the question becomes, what’s our role? As followers of Jesus, what do we say? And how do we say it? By God’s grace, I recently found help when reading through 2 Chronicles 18.
Jehoshaphat is a generally good king of Judah (the southern kingdom after the nation of Israel is divided) who is commended for much of his faithfulness to God (2 Chronicles 17:3, 20:32). However, he also had a bad habit of making poor alliances with wicked kings (2 Chronicles 18:1, 20:35) and undermining his pledge of allegiance to God (2 Chronicles 20:33). One of those poor alliances was with Ahab, the king of Israel (the northern kingdom after the nation of Israel is divided), who “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him,” (1 Kings 16:30) in worship to other gods and provoking the Lord to anger.
In 2 Chronicles 18, Jehoshaphat visits Ahab and they feast together. Ahab asks him to go up and fight against Ramoth-gilead. Jehoshaphat agrees and says he will go, but first, from some type of right instinct, asks Ahab to at least inquire to God about this endeavor. Ahab gathers 400 supposed prophets and asks them to inquire of the Lord. They all gladly tell the king what he wants to hear, to go up and God will give the enemies over to Ahab.
Now these 400 prophets are suspicious, especially considering it is the exact number of the prophets of the Asherah (false gods) that Elijah defeats in the showdown of fire in 1 Kings 18. Furthermore, a man named Obadiah had recently hidden only 100 prophets of the Lord from Ahab’s wife, Jezebel. We don’t know who these guys are for sure, but something smells fishy. Fishy enough that even after their glowing recommendation Jehoshaphat says, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (2 Chronicles 18:6).
Ahab responds that there is, and his name is Micaiah. But King Ahab is not a fan because Micaiah always prophesies against him. In other words, he isn’t keen on calling for the help of man who always seems to be against him. Yet, needing Jehoshaphat’s troops to accompany him, Ahab accommodates his wishes and sends for the hated prophet of the Lord.
While they are waiting for him to come, the other prophets continue with drama and passionately tell Ahab exactly what he wants to hear about his upcoming victory (18:9-11). The men get to Micaiah and tell him to take the company line and agree with the other prophets (18:12). This is where Micaiah stands out. His response leaves us with a stunning lesson to learn and tuck away for our own day. Micaiah says, “As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak” (18:13).
He isn’t dramatic. He isn’t angry. He is not vengeful or spiteful. But, he isn’t timid either. He is determined to be faithful to one person, his God.
In verses 14–22 Micaiah tells King Ahab that if they go up they will not succeed. Indeed, Israel will be scattered and King Ahab will die if they go up to battle. He even tells King Ahab that the prophets are lying because there is a lying spirit in them and that disaster is on its way from God if they go up. In other words, Micaiah’s words are not what Ahab wanted to hear, but in all reality, they are a loving warning to heed what God says to avoid disaster and destruction. Micaiah knows what the king wants to hear, but his allegiance is to the only King, the Lord, despite political pressure and threat of persecution. And in loyalty to the true King, Micaiah is found to be loving his neighbors in a way they are unable to see.
The other prophets mock him and tell him he’s lying. The king throws him in jail with only a little to eat and drink until he returns from battle. Micaiah is unmoved. If the king does return, he acknowledges that his words have not been the Lords. Indeed, the test of a true prophet in the Old Testament was whether or not his word came true. And, importantly, Micaiah’s word comes true. Israel is scattered and Ahab dies.
We need to take a lesson from this prophet of the Lord. This is how ambassadors should speak. There will be mounting pressure to cave on the issues of our day, capitulating to the culture. We cannot surrender and we cannot be silent. Faithful Christians cannot turn a deaf ear to the atrocities of our day. Followers of Jesus must not close their mouths to the issues that so clearly call for a response. There will be other “prophets” who rise up and try to pressure us to give the message the culture wants to hear. But, we cannot.
There will be some who will feel the need to lash out in anger and spite as they feel threatened by the culture. But this isn’t the response we offer as faithful followers of Jesus Christ. Instead, whether in the pulpit, or in the commentary, or on the blog, or over coffee, we must say with Micaiah, “As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak.” And we speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), having speech that is gracious, though seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6).
We must be the loving heralds that seek to rescue the lost and confused. We must be a voice for the voiceless. We are those who break down the ethnic dividing walls that have already been broken down in Christ (Ephesians 2:14). We must seek to reason and speak what our God speaks to lovingly warn and plead with our culture to turn and run from disaster and destruction that will one day come like a thief in the night.
We don’t give in to temptation to cave to the culture. And we don’t get angry and mean. Instead we speak what God has spoken through his Son. We speak the gospel of the cross. The cross that displays the seriousness of sin as the Son of God is nailed to it. The cross that preaches the overflowing abundant grace of God as the Son of God is nailed to it in the place of sinful men and women.
No matter how much sin becomes legal or condoned by the powers that be, we must speak what God has spoken. We speak of the value of all human life, even from conception. And we speak even when he culture does not want to hear what we have to say.
We beg. We plead. We are his ambassadors, pleading on behalf of Christ, “Be reconciled to God.” And we use the God-given influence (the so-called microphone) that we have to speak because, like Micaiah, we must.