And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Inquire first for the word of the LORD." Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for the Lord 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 yet 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 evil." And Jehoshaphat said, "Let not the king say so." Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, "Bring quickly Micaiah the son of Imlah." Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah were sitting on their thrones, arrayed in their robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria, and all the prophets were prophesying before them. And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made for himself horns of iron and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'With these you shall push the Syrians until they are destroyed.'" And all the prophets prophesied so and said, "Go up to Ramoth-gilead and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king." (1 Kings 22:5-12, ESV)
I don't know about you, but I generally like hanging around people who agree with me. I enjoy it when the discussion flows in the way I am heading it. I like to have my opinions and thoughts and reasoning validated. It makes me look like a "strong thinker" and everybody wins. But oh the pitfalls of such an attitude, especially when that's all you pursue. You see, it is one thing to seek out like-minded people with whom you can have good discussions. It is another thing (and not a bad one) to passionately argue your point of view in an attempt to persuade others. However, if you surround yourself with only "yes" men, you will come to a point where you fall off the cliff.
The story surrounding the passage for this entry is tucked away neatly in the First Book of the Kings of Israel. One of the more wicked and ruthless rulers of the Northern tribes was Ahab. You remember him, don't you? They guy who could only be trumped by the wickedness of his own wife, Jezebel. At some point in his reign, he had King Jehoshaphat of Judah pay a visit to him so he could put a bug in his ear about a joint-effort battle. The target was city that kept falling into the hands of Syria and no Israelite king ever did much about it. Ahab wanted it back.
Wise Jehoshaphat asks Ahab to inquire of the Lord via his prophets. He's used to asking God what to do, while Ahab regularly does whatever comes to his wicked little mind. But, Ahab consents and the palace cadre of prophets are summoned to make a ruling. However, it seems these prophets will always validate what Ahab wants to do and not contradict him. Jehoshaphat smells a rat and calls Ahab on it. He asks if there is another prophet in the area that they could ask. And here are where Ahab's true colors rise to the surface. Ahab admits there is another prophet, but he never asks him about anything because "... he never prophecies good concerning me, but evil."
If you know the rest of the story, you will recall that the prophet is summoned anyway, first gives a rather sarcastic response, gets slapped, and then tells both kings plainly and simply that the end is near. And not just the end for Ahab, but for the Northern Kingdom as well. Ahab and Jehoshaphat go up, Ahab tries to pull a fast one, and in the end only one king returns from the battle ... and it isn't our boy Ahab. His days of seeking out a "yes" man are over, just like the prophet said.
Back to the beginning of this entry. I may like it when I throw out some brilliant remark and hit a target of "yes" men ... but it isn't what I need to grow. I need to regularly put myself in the position of studying what God has to say and earnestly seeking out the truth among others who are like-minded, but won't automatically validate me regardless of who I am. God wants us to challenge each other, especially if we see a brother or sister truly straying from what He calls the truth. It may not be the warm, fuzzy environment that our nature says it wants, but it is an opportunity to grow closer to God.
As I walk the Crooked Path, it is a pleasure to be accompanied by others who are seeking the same thing and share a commitment to God. No, we won't always agree on every single point, but as my one brother's pastor said about certain aspects of a recent service, they aren't a "kingdom matter" and won't be given audience as such. There are far more important things to do than seek out "yes" men to validate me anyway. I would be wise to choose those things over the easy stuff.
- Do you find yourself seeking out the "yes" men in the world around you? Or, worse yet, are you in the habit of being a "yes" man yourself?
- When you seek God's response, where do you turn? Do you sulk and whine if the response isn't in line with what you wanted to do in the first place?
- Are you willing to trust somebody else enough to take his or her criticism as something constructive, something to grow on? Do you look for God to speak to you through what others say?
ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.