Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Lessons from a King

              I may not tell you what you want to hear, but I will tell you what you need to hear. This is hard to do, and it is hard to receive. Having someone tell you what you need to hear, verses telling you what you want to hear can be difficult. I want to add something to the business or change the way we are doing something and I am told it’s not possible. I am a stubborn woman and when I get determined to do something I usually find a way to do it. My mom used to call me, “bull-headed”. When I get something in my mind to do, not much is going to deter me. I will find a way to do it. Unfortunately, this mind set has caused me lots of heartache and pain over the years and I have learned that sometimes I need to accept what I am told, even if it’s not what I want to hear.
            “Now Jehoshaphat had great riches and honor, and he made a marriage alliance with Ahab. After some years, he went down to Ahab in Samaria. And Ahab killed an abundance of sheep and oxen for him and for the people who were going with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead. Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, ‘Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?’ He answered him, ‘I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war.’ And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, ‘Inquire first for the word of the Lord.’” 2 Chronicles 18:1-4 ESV

            Jehoshaphat went up to align himself with Ahab, the king of Israel. Jehoshaphat arrives and Ahab greets him with a great banquet. Ahab wants to win Jehoshaphat’s favor because Jehoshaphat is a rich and powerful king. Jehoshaphat agreed to marry his son to Ahab’s daughter and thus, the two kingdoms would be united. There was a great feast and at some point, Ahab leans over to Jehoshaphat and asks him to go to war with him. He wants the two of them to not only align in marriage, but to align in war.
            Jehoshaphat however, asks if they can first ask the Lord. Jehoshaphat, the bible tells us, was a man after God’s own heart. We read in the previous chapters how he followed in the ways of David his father, and how he tore down the idols that the other kings before him had built. Jehoshaphat was a man who sought God, loved God and obeyed His commands. He was a godly man who did right in the eyes of the Lord.
            “Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men and said to them, ‘Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?’ and they said, ‘Go up, for God will give it into the hand of the king.’ But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?’ And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is 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 always evil.’ And Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let not the king say so.’”
2 Chronicles 18:5-7
            Ahab brings out all his prophets- four hundred of them- and they prophecy everything he wants to hear. They tell him to go up, God is with him and they encourage him to do whatever his heart desires. They tell him what a great success his plan will be and that the Lord was going to be with him. But Jehoshaphat is not convinced. He asks the king about another prophet that was in the land. Ahab admits that there is another prophet, but this prophet hated him. Never once did he tell Ahab anything positive. He always prophesied against what Ahab wanted to do. Micaiah was not a yes man, and he would not tell Ahab what he wanted to hear, so Ahab never called on him.
            As leaders, one of the biggest mistakes we can make is to surround ourselves people who always agree with everything we do. Having “yes men” as your advisors does not help you keep focused on God’s plans and purposes, it keeps you focused on you. There have been times in my life that I have asked for godly counsel and did not get the answer I wanted. I wanted to do something specific but was told it was not a good idea. I did not like the answers I got. I did not like what I was being told, but it was, in fact, exactly what I needed to hear. Leaders make fatal mistakes when they surround themselves with people who always tell them what they want to hear. Surround yourself with those who will tell you what you need to hear.
            Ahab, at the request of Jehoshaphat, sends a messenger to go and get Micaiah. As they are making their way to the castle, Micaiah is told he needs to make sure his prophecy is in line with the other prophets. He is told to prophecy what Ahab wants to hear. But Micaiah replies, “As the Lord lives, what my God says, that I will speak.” (2 Chronicles 18:13) Micaiah was not going to compromise to please this messenger and he was not going to compromise to please his king. Leaders who ask you to compromise the word of God for their purposes are not godly leaders and should not be obeyed. Never compromise God for the sake of pleasing man. Micaiah had the courage to stand up and say no. He was not a yes man, he was a godly man. Our world could use a lot more of him!
            “And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or should I refrain?’ And he answered, ‘Go up and triumph: they will be given into your hand.’ 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?’” 2 Chronicles 18:14-15
            Don’t you find it interesting that Micaiah said exactly what the king wanted to hear, but the king rejected it? Micaiah comes into the presence of these two kings and says what they want to hear. But Ahab rejects it and does not believe him! Ahab and Jehoshaphat, I believe, knew that going to war was not what the Lord wanted. I believe that deep down they knew that it was not a good idea. Why else would Ahab reject what Micaiah prophesied? But, they still chose to ignore his advice. They still chose to ignore his warnings in the following verses and they went to war. How often do you hear God’s word and know it’s what God wants you to do, yet you do not heed it? You choose to go your own way? How many times have you sought the Lord for answers and direction, but when He gives it to you, you choose to reject it? How many times have you known what was right and chose not to do it? I think we can all say that we have found ourselves in that place many more times than we can count!
            What gives me hope is that even though Jehoshaphat did not listen to the counsel of God, God was still his God. Even though I may choose to not listen to Him, God is still God. He is still sovereign over every single thought I think, and everything I do. He is God and He is always working things together for my good and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
            Micaiah prophesied the true word of the Lord to the kings. In verse 18 he prophesied that he saw the Lord sitting on His throne. God has not been dethroned by your bad decision. Your disobedience does not make God any less of God. He is still, and will always be the One True God who reigns over all mankind; from eternity past to eternity future. He is without end. The events that made Ahab want to make war were of the Lord. He sent a lying spirit into the mouths of Ahab’s yes men. (vs. 19-21) Even though Ahab took credit for it, God was orchestrating all of it.
            What I think we can learn from this is that God, even in the middle of our mistakes is still God. He is not shocked nor surprised by the choices you have made or even the ones you will make. My disobedience, my failures to follow and give heed to His word has not caused Him to fall off His throne. He is and always will be in complete control. I also think we can be encouraged by this because even during our disobedience God is still at work in our lives. We are never out of His grasp. His plans and purposes for our lives are still being wrought out in us. His grace has never left us. All we need to do is cry out to Him.
            “As soon as the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘It is the king of Israel’. So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him; God drew them away from him.” 2 Chronicles 18:31

            Isn’t that like us? We don’t realize we have made a mistake until we are faced with a battle or thrown into danger. We don’t realize we have made a bad decision until we are suffering the consequences of it. It is then that we cry out to the Lord and repent of our mistakes and disobedience. And God, in His great love and mercy draws away from us the penalty of our sins, and saves us from our own destruction. Our God is a mighty, awesome God!

            We are going to make mistakes. I can guarantee, that at some point, you will fail. But God is and always will be God. Jehoshaphat was saved from the battle and he made it back to his home safely. (2 Chronicles 19:1) God delivered him from his mistake. He protected him from his failures. Jehoshaphat heard the word of Micaiah the prophet too, but he chose to go against them. He did not heed the word of the Lord and as a result, came under attack. But, because he knew the Lord, because he sought the Lord, and because he loved the Lord, God saved him from his disobedience. God is God; our disobedience does not lessen His power over our lives. We may not always like what God tells us, but we can be confident that it will always be what is best for us. Like Jehoshaphat we can cry out to the Lord when we recognize our failures, and like Jehoshaphat God will deliver us. We may have to suffer the consequences for our disobedience, but God is still our God. Amen.