Since I started, even as an interim, in 2014, the first two Sundays of the year focused on committing ourselves to reading our Bible's more and being more intentional in our daily prayer lives. This Sunday–the emphasis on reading our Bibles more–I am slightly taking a different tack. I am preaching from one of my favorite OT stories on Sunday, 2 Chronicles 18–the focus is listening to God's Word.
2 Chronicles 18 presents a scene where the kings of Israel (Ahab) and of Judah (Jehoshaphat) are sitting court together in the Northern Kingdom seeking advice from Ahab's advisors, so-called prophets of the king's court. The 400 fake prophet-advisors to king Ahab were all affirming the king would defeat Syria in battle: "Go," they said. Actually, they were sending him to his death. All 400 of them.
The 401st prophet-advisor, Micaiah, is summoned. Ahab knows full well that he’d get the truth, the word from the Lord, but a word he would hate. Micaiah comes before king Ahab, yet, he doesn’t tell him not to go, but simply tells him soon Israel will be without a king, without a shepherd to guide the people. In this way, the true prophet with the true Word foretells what is about to happen when the king does what the 400 fable-prophets all affirm. The Word actually speaks to the issue of Ahab's heart.
What Micaiah was foretelling—aka, the word of the Lord—was that Ahab would listen to his fake-prophets and get killed in Battle. So many of us want a “word” that affirms what we want to do already—not necessarily specifically to a certain thing, but as to our pride, our peer-affirmation, what’s prosperous or safe, what makes us bigger, better, more awesome in the eyes of others. Yet, the Word we need from God is that Word that breaks our sin and causes us to return to the God that makes covenant, that restores our life--other people's lives actually, since it is the people in this story that will be affected by the king's death.
The whole incident with Ahab, the 400 false-prophets and Micaiah was for the benefit of Jehoshaphat and later readers (like us), especially future kings–the story reminded that it is vital to remain faithful to the covenant, listen to the original ten-words and the covenant stipulations, and to not be entangled with foreign affairs (that is, making covenant with ungodly foreign, covenant-breaking nations). In part, the message to Jehoshaphat was clear and understood for the following chapters he enacts reforms to bring the southern kingdom back into conformity to the covenant with YHWH (thus, strengthening what I have proposed here regarding the Chronicler's intention).
So, the questions remains—what do we hear in the story? Do we continue seeking affirmation for actions that will build, sustain, and/or promote our desires, greed, pride, status? Or, do we seek God’s already revealed Word that humbles us and makes for a relationship with God on his terms? Whom do we identify with? Ahab? Jehoshaphat? On the one hand we should recognize we are like Ahab--thus humbling ourselves before God--and on the other hand, we are to be like Jehoshaphat in trusting God and refocusing ourselves on God's covenant so that others would benefit (again, this is in this story and in the following chapters!)
That’s the message for the New Year.
Continued sermon prep stream of Pastor Chip's consciousness . . . >>
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.