Forever Hold Your Peace (Awkward Silences part 3)

“We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.” Anton Chekhov

Revelation 12:4 says that “[satan’s] tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven and did cast them to the earth”

After Micaiah tells Ahab what he saw in Heaven, one of Ahab’s prophets comes up and, it says “smote Micaiah on the cheek” (2 Chronicles 18:23), complaining and questioning as to why the spirit of the Lord would have gone from him to Micaiah. You can see from this illustration—and from common sense—how speaking up in a church that isn’t speaking for and from God would anger those who aren’t seeing things correctly. Paul says to Timothy: “Lay hands suddenly on no man” (1 Timothy 5:22).

“If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23)

Micaiah tells Ahab, that a “lying spirit” (verses 21-22) had been allowed to infect “all his prophets”. This is cause for concern in today’s churches as the Holy Spirit, “[who] proceedeth from the Father” (John 15:26) and is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) is largely sidelined and left out in a fuller measure. If this raises your hackles and ruffles your feathers (same thing) that’s good. The Holy Spirit needs to be brought out into the open and discussed freely and respectfully. When one denomination openly discusses and welcomes the Holy Ghost into their congregation but has no governance on emotional outbursts and strange manifestations of dubious “signs and wonders”, the true Holy Spirit of God may not be present. Conversely, when the Holy Spirit is talked about but only up to a certain point. And is seen, as the great revivalist and preacher George Whitefield describes thusly: “as for the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost such as working of miracles, or speaking with diverse kinds of tongues, they are long since ceased.”, we as a church are operating off-balance. I believe that miracles and signs and wonders are for today. But also that all things, all things should be done “decently and in order” (1 Corithians 14:40). And if it’s not the Holy Spirit speaking through our ordained ministers, then who could it be? I know this sounds harsh and the corollary might be unspeakable, but it’s either one. Or the other. I believe that any minister worth his salt should be open to the direct probing of God’s word on spiritual matters. And that influences should be tested and tried.

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out (escaped, that’s the connotation in the Greek) into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God:” (1 John 4:1-3a)

Micaiah says that he saw”all the host of heaven standing on [God’s] right hand and on His left” (2 Chronicles 18:18). I assume this refers to the angels who were still pure and then the angels who fell with Lucifer. The holy angels to God’s right. I could be wrong, but humor me here. This intrigues me: I’ve always wondered how the angels that fell–who were at one time holy then deceived by Lucifer (now satan) and cast out of Heaven, as mentioned in Revelation (12:4)—would be let back into Heaven. Is it literal? Figurative? What purpose would it serve to figuratively speak of such seismic incidents? The same illustration is mentioned in the first chapter of Job (verse 6). Satan, it says came with “the sons of God” to “present themselves before the Lord”.

The angels of God—the holy ones, that is—are spoken of as “ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation” in the book of Hebrews (1:14). Obviously, we don’t worship angels. But with reference to Micaiah’s mind-bending story in Second Chronicles, we would all do well to seriously consider our spiritual influences as they are quite real and unless scrutinized scripturally and dispassionately (and foremost, with the insight of the Holy Spirit), likely to lead us astray.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7, emphasis mine)

“Cast out the scorner, and contention shall go out; yea, strife and reproach shall cease.” (Proverbs 22:10)

Speak Now (Awkward Silences part 2)

When I was a kid, I read Matthew 10:32-33 and was seriously affected by what Jesus said. As everyone should be with everything He says. But with this was different. I saw what he was saying through a lens of deficiency and awkward shyness. The passage reads: “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father in Heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in Heaven.” Those are some strong words. They read like a dare. A dare on God’s part that would have us be willing and eager to make a fool of ourselves in front of the faceless crowd of society. Forgive my interpretation of this because it is a childish one. It’s how I saw it for many years before God showed me that He doesn’t dare anyone to do anything. He asks and then enables once we agree.

Micaiah didn’t care about any of that. John the Baptist didn’t seem to care what other people thought about his appearance or the volume and timbre of his voice. He didn’t care how many feathers he ruffled or toes he stepped on in proclaiming the word of God. Micaiah was the same.

Continuing on from yesterday, Micaiah tells Ahab a story (starting with 2 Chronicles 18:17). It can’t be true can it? It’s just a fable, an allegory, a fanciful tale. But it is in the Bible after all. And he prefaced his story with “Therefore hear the word of the Lord” (verse 18). You don’t just say that without bringing to bear all the weight of Heaven behind your statement–it better be true. The penalty for false prophecy was death (Deuteronomy 18:20). Micaiah says (2 Chronicles 18:18) “I saw the Lord sitting upon His throne, and all the host of Heaven standing on His right hand and on His left.” All the host of Heaven. This means angels, fallen and non. “And the Lord said, who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner. Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets…” (verse 21, emphasis mine) There are so many places to go with this “and this will we do if God permit.” (Hebrews 6:3) But whoever, whatever this entity was that went out from God’s presence to speak lies through channels (i.e. prophets) that were reserved for telling not only truth, but foretelling truth only—was authorized by God to do so. Not that God wanted these prophets to lie, mind you. That’s not what I’m getting at. It’s the devil (a fallen angel) who is the father of lies as Jesus referred to him in John’s Gospel (8:44). What I am saying is that the spiritual culture was so dim in that area and at that time, that God allowed these prophets to prophesy lies. Those four-hundred (false) prophets of Ahab were tuned out from God and tuned in to a lying spirit. Again, we see Micaiah’s willingness to run counter to the establishment and speak the truth—the truth as he truly saw it from God—and attempt to bring order. Order to the utter spiritual chaos which gripped the area. Chaos that crescendoed in Ahab’s death.

So turn it around and look at it for today. If you heard lies coming from the pulpit, what would you do? Would you have the guts to at least pray about it—and speak up if the Lord led you to do so? This isn’t a dare, this is reality. Because if you do see a problem, God will hold you (and me) accountable for praying for it, at the very least. And that’s not the best way of looking at it, is it? If you see something, that means God trusts you to bring it before Him in prayer and petition. Don’t let Him down.

“Son (or daughter) of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul. And the hand of the Lord was there upon me; and He said unto me, Arise, go forth unto the plain, and I will there talk with thee.” (Ezekiel 3:17-22)

Awkward Silences part 1

In the dark days of Ahab’s reign as King of Israel (around mid-ninth century B.C.), there was a prophet spoken of in the eighteenth chapter of the book of Second Chronicles. His name is Micaiah, and he stands out among all the Old Testament prophets–and every biblical character for that matter–as a shining example of crusty, stubborn obedience to God. Even to the point of public ridicule and illogical incarceration.

If you have a moment, check out the entire chapter.

If not, here’s a quick summary: Israel and Judah, originally combined as twelve tribes, but at this point in Old Testament history, had split. With ten tribes under Ahab comprising the Kingdom of Israel, and the other two under King Jehoshaphat as Judah, the eighteenth chapter opens by saying how “Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance, and had joined affinity with Ahab.” So it seems on the surface that because of prosperity and maybe some complacency on Jehoshaphat’s part, he had decided to reconcile with Ahab. There are valuable lessons to be learned here with these character types and their response to situations and circumstances. We may share some of the same aspects of character in ourselves, and we face the same types of situations in our lives today. Moving forward–and back to Ahab and Jehoshaphat–one day after the peace accord, Jehoshaphat (who, unlike many kings that had come after David, actually walked with God— see 2 Chronicles 17:3-4) decides to go down and visit Ahab. Ahab receives him with open arms. Ever the opportunist, Ahab propositions Jehoshaphat to join forces with him against a common enemy and Jehoshaphat agrees, saying “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people; and we will be with thee in war.” (18:3) Since Jehoshaphat is more tuned in to God than is Ahab, he asks that they take some time and “Enquire…at the word of the Lord to day” after Ahab had asked Jehoshaphat to go to war. No big decision should be implemented without consulting with God. So Ahab brings in four-hundred prophets and all affirm Ahab’s decision to go up to battle at Ramothgilead. But something’s not right. Jehoshaphat, dismissing all of that asks, “is there not here a prophet of the Lord besides, that we might enquire of him?” And here’s where Micaiah is introduced.

“Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.” (Proverbs 20:18)

Micaiah, whose name means, “who is like God?”, is brought in. The messenger, it says, who came to get Micaiah out of prison, sought to preface Micaiah’s prophecy to the kings by pointing out how all the other prophets had prophesied the same thing: a positive message, supposedly from God, as to the outcome of Ahab’s choice to go to war and drag Jehoshaphat along with him. The point here that I’d like to emphasize is found in Micaiah’s response to the messenger. Maybe then, we can see why Micaiah would have been imprisoned in the first place. Micaiah tells him that “as the Lord liveth, even what my God saith, that will I speak.” (18:13) Micaiah calls Him “my God”. Remember this. Micaiah goes before the kings and answers Ahab’s question: “Go ye up and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand.” He gives the same answer as did all the other so-called prophets. But Ahab doesn’t believe him. And this is where things get scary.

Anytime we would seek to hear from God, yet hear only those things that agree with our plans and purposes, we should stop and make sure that we truly are hearing from God. Ahab tells Micaiah, reminding him really, that he only ever wants to hear the truth from God (18:15). Micaiah then relays the real story, the real state of things. It’s almost as if you can feel the winds die down and a hush envelop the room. I imagine Micaiah, this scraggly, dirty man with ratty hair and a beard. Somewhat stooped in appearance, slumped shoulders and an aloof air about him, etc. After hearing Ahab feign the desire for truth, he stands up straight, squaring his shoulders. He trains his hard eyes on Ahab and speaks: “I did see all Israel scatered upon the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd: and the Lord said, These have no master; let them return therefore every man to his house in peace.” (18:16)

He’s saying that Ahab would be killed when he went to Ramothgilead.