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Sunday, September 18, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "What the LORD Says"

“What the LORD Says”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
September 18, 2016 :: 1 Kings 22:1-40  

Just fifteen sermons ago, the king in front of us was Kind David who was at the end of his life. And then we got 12 more kings to study: Solomon, Rehoboam, Jeroboam, Abijah, Asa, Nadab, Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Tibni, Omri, and last and worst so far, King Ahab.

We’ve learned:

That when these kings of Israel and Judah are at their best, they remind us of Jesus.
And when they are at their worst, they reminds us of why we need Jesus.

But we’ve learned more than just about kings in this book. We’ve also learned about prophets. Men, like Elijah, who speak the word of the LORD, the word of Yahweh to these kings.

They speak for God, the word of God, to the powerful kings of Israel and Judah.

And sometimes, the kings listen, and sometimes they don’t.

But every time a true prophet of God speaks a true word from God, it comes to pass.

And that’s because the LORD is the main character in the Books of Kings.

Our series is called “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings.”

And we’ve been learning about Him.

It’s easy to get lost in all of the details in the historical books of the Old Testament. Prophets, priests, kings, kingdoms.

Who did what when and where. It’s hard to keep track of.

And some of these stories have been pretty bizarre. Remember the guy whose hand froze? And the two guys on two different occasions who got eaten by lions?

Today’s story is arguably the strangest in the whole book!

But make no mistake, the point at the center of the Books of Kings is coming to know and worship the one true God, the LORD.

These books are theological history written intentionally, creatively and carefully to teach us who our God really is.

And we saw last week that our God is a speaking God.

He wants to be known. And He tells us in both deeds and especially in words what He wants us to know about Him.

Last week’s message was entitled, “Thus Saith the LORD!”

Today’s title is very similar. It is “What the LORD Says.”

We’ll see why in just a few moments.

But you already know that this is vitally important to God.

God speaks to us in His Word, and He wants us to listen...to what the LORD says.

For the last few weeks, I’ve said that these last three chapters of 1 Kings could be subtitled, “The Fall of King Ahab.”

King Ahab was a six thumbs down kind of king for the northern kingdom of Israel.

Chapter 16 told us that “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him.”

And from chapters 17 through 21, we’ve seen that that was not all! He and his wife tried to kill all of the prophets of Yahweh. And even after Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal all on Mount Carmel, Ahab and Jezebel were unrepentant and remained enemies of Elijah all of his days.

In chapter 20, even after the LORD blessed him with two big victories over Ben-Hadad and the Arameans, Ahab still disobeyed the LORD and let Ben-Hadad go free.

Last week, in chapter 21, he sulked and stood idly by while his wife defrauded an innocent man and stole Naboth’s land and his life!

Again and again, we’ve been told that Ahab was going to suffer the judgment of God.

And so far, the LORD has been incredibly patient and longsuffering in bringing that judgment to pass. Last week, He even announced a delay, a postponing, of that judgment because Ahab had experienced some true remorse and humbled himself.

But it was only a matter of time.

And this time, Ahab’s number is up.

It all begins with a visit from the other king. The king of Judah.

Chapter 22, verse 1.

“For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. The king of Israel had said to his officials, ‘Don't you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?’

So he asked Jehoshaphat, ‘Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?’ Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, ‘I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’ But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘First seek the counsel of the LORD.’”

Let’s stop there for a second.

This takes place three years after, I think, the last battle between Ahab and Ben-Hadad. Not three years since Naboth’s vineyard.

Three years have gone by since Ahab granted clemency to Ben-Hadad and let him go.

And now he’s regretting the deal he made. He never demanded to get Ramoth Gilead back from Aram. And three years have gone by and nothing else has been done.

He doesn’t feel strong enough to do it on his own, but he’s on good terms right now with his southern kingdom counterpart, King Jehoshaphat.

[Whose name is so fun to say even though he never actually jumps in the Bible.]

You know, we haven’t heard anything about the Southern Kingdom for like 6 chapters. The focus has been on the North.

We’ll get some more Judah stuff, including who Jehoshaphat was later on in this chapter and more in Second Kings and Second Chronicles. His name means, “Yahweh has judged.” And he has been on pretty good terms with King Ahab. Their families actually have intermarried.

So Ahab invites Jehoshaphat to form an alliance and go to war with him against Aram to win back this section of Promised Land called Ramoth-Gilead.

And Jehoshaphat basically says, “Yes, but first let’s make sure that the LORD wants us to do that.”

Which is the right thing to say. It’s a good idea.

But you wonder if he has really been paying attention to whom he’s dealing with.

Does Ahab have a reputation for listening to the word of Yahweh?

Well, maybe a little. He humbled himself in verse 27 of chapter 21. So maybe he’s coming around? V.6

“So the king of Israel [Ahab] brought together the prophets–about four hundred men–and asked them, ‘Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Go,’ they answered, ‘for the Lord will give it into the king's hand.’”

Now, who are these prophets?

It doesn’t say. They don’t appear to be prophets of Baal or Ashtoreth.

One of them is going to prophecy in the name of Yahweh in just a minute.

It just doesn’t tell us. My best guess is that these are guys left over from the cult of Jeroboam.

They aren’t really prophets of anybody except whoever the king wants them to be prophets of, the LORD if it’s expedient.

You see what I mean?

They are the prophets of “What Do You Want to Hear, O King?”

It’s interesting that there are 400 of them.

Just like there were 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

But King Jehoshaphat can tell just from listening to them, that there is something wrong here. Something is a little “off.” v.7

“But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?’”

“I hear a lot of good things here, but I’m not sure I hear the true voice of God.” v.8

“The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.’ ‘The king should not say that,’ Jehoshaphat replied. So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, ‘Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.’”

Isn’t that interesting?

What a wonderful thing it is to have God’s Word. And there is still one man around that Ahab could trust to bring a true word from the LORD. To truly hear, “Thus Saith the LORD!”

But he hates him.

Why?

Because this guy never says anything that Ahab wants to hear.

Do you ever go looking in your Bible for a second opinion? Another option?

“I don’t like what this says. Maybe there’s a way around it in the next chapter. Maybe we could just cut out this page. Cut out these verses.”

Thomas Jefferson did that. He cut out all of the verses he didn’t like out of his copy of the Bible. Our Link Group learned last week about a guy from church history who did that with whole books of the Bible. His name was Marcion.

I don’t like that. I don’t like that. Snip, snip. I don’t like that. I don’t like that.

Ahab doesn’t want the truth. Not if the truth hurts.

Do you wonder why Micaiah never prophesies anything good about Ahab!

But he calls for him anyway.

And while Micaiah’s on the way, they sit back for some more of the prophet show. V.10

“Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. [And the show got really exciting!]

Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, ‘This is what the LORD says: 'With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.'’

All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. ‘Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,’ they said, ‘for the LORD will give it into the king's hand.’”

Whoo! They even have props!  Zedekiah makes these iron horns and waves them around and pretends to gore Ahab’s enemies.

And he says these words, “This is what the [Yahweh] says.” or King James, “Thus Saith the LORD!”

But the LORD never said any such thing.

These guys, all 400 of them, are all saying what the kings want to hear.

But they are not saying what the LORD says.

And that’s dangerous!

And this is where Micaiah shows up on the scene.

The messenger who has gone to get him pulls him aside in the green room to give him some advice about what to say when he goes on stage. V.13

“The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, ‘Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.’ [That’s peer pressure if I ever heard it.] But Micaiah said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.’”

That’s point number one today.

#1. ONLY.

Only What the LORD Says should be preached.

Only what the LORD says should be taken as gospel.

Only what the LORD says should be what we build our lives upon.

Not the word of these other people and certainly not whatever we want to hear.

But ONLY what the LORD says.

Micaiah gets it right, “I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”

The King James translates, “What the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.”

“I don’t get to make it up. I don’t control the words. I don’t get to make it say what I want it to say. I only get to say what He said.”

That, by the way, is the definition of good preaching.

This last Summer, I taught a preaching class with Hunter Galley and few other guys each week.

And you could have summed up each class with verse 14. Make sure you tell them only what the LORD has said right here in His word.

Don’t tell them what they want to hear.
Don’t tell them what you want to say to them.

Tell them what God has said.

ONLY.

Only that is worth building your life on.

There is a lot of pressure out there to transform and conform our message to all kinds of other messages out there.

The apostle Paul said that this would happen.

He told Timothy to, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers [400?] to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

The pressure is on.

And not just for professional preachers like myself.

The pressure is on all of us to trim the truth of the Word of God and adjust it to fit what others want it to say. What others want to hear.

Don’t give in. Keep your head.

Where are you tempted to conform to the world and tell the others what they want to hear?

I’ll bet there are a lot of different answers to that question in this room.

Can you own up to it?

Can you see your own temptation to trim the truth and say what the itching ears want to hear?

For some of you, it’s about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.

The world wants us to say that there are many ways to God whatever God is.

But we must say that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by Him.

Maybe that isn’t hard for you. Maybe it’s something else.

These days sexuality is the big thing.

The world wants us to say certain things are fine and dandy that the Word of God says are not okay.

Maybe you’re tempted to give in and go along.

I feel this every week in my ministry. There are things that I feel like some of you want me to say from this pulpit that I do not think are God’s Word.

I have to say to myself every week, “Only.”

And there are things that I want to say from myself that seem right to me and good to me. But they are not in here. My job is to say only what is here. Only.

The apostle Paul said, “Do not go beyond what is written.”

What does the Word of God say?

Say that and only that. Live on that and only that.

Now, what Micaiah is actually going to say first will surprise all of us. Except, strangely enough, King Ahab. V.15

“When he arrived, the king asked him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Attack and be victorious,’ he answered, ‘for the LORD will give it into the king's hand.’ [Huh? That’s not what I expected. And catch verse 16.]

The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’”

What is going on?

All of a sudden it seems like the prophet is lying and the king is saying that he has to regularly talk him into telling the truth.

I think that what we are missing is the tone of voice of both of them.

I think that Micaiah is sarcastic and that Ahab is frustratedly sarcastic right back.

Let me read it again to you with those tones of voice.

“‘Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?’ ‘Attack and be victorious,’ he answered, ‘for the LORD will give it into the king's hand.’”

“The king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’”

How many times are you going to do your little act? I’m getting tired of it.

I think that’s what’s going on. Micaiah is sarcastically saying what everyone else has said, and it’s obvious that he’s pulling Ahab’s chain. So, he’s actually saying the opposite.

And they’ve gone around this merry-go-round before. And old Ahab is tired of it. “I’ve told you. Just give me the straight truth. None of your lip.”

So in verse 17, Micaiah gets deadly serious. “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth. Here’s the truth.”

“Then Micaiah answered, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, 'These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.'’”

“Ahab, you’re gonna die.

And it will mean peace for your people!”

How’s that for a hard truth?

Sheep without a shepherd and better off for it. V.18

“The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Didn't I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?’”

“I don’t like what I’m hearing here! Is this what I pay you for?

Why is it always bad news, bad news, bad news for Ahab?

How about some good news for a change?”

Notice that he’s not listening.

This prophet just told him that he’s going to die, and all he can do is complain about the messenger.

Ahab does not listen.

Woe to you and me if we fail to listen as well to what the LORD says.

Ahab does not, will not, listen. And so God allows more lies to seep into his ears.

Listen to the story that Micaiah tells these kings. V.19

“Micaiah continued, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. [A royal gathering like this one but different.] And the LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?' ‘One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.'

‘'By what means?' the LORD asked. ‘'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said. ‘'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the LORD. 'Go and do it.'

‘So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.’”

Now, that’s some weird stuff.

We don’t normally think about the LORD sending lying spirits out. That doesn’t seem to be the business He is in.

We know from the life of Saul that the LORD can use even evil or troubling spirits to do His perfect and holy will. They have to obey the King of Kings.

They obey Jesus, don’t they, in the gospels?

The point of this story, however, is not to give us a sense of what normally goes down in the divine throne room, but point out that Ahab does not listen.

Ahab does not want what the LORD says. He will not listen to what the LORD says.

So the LORD says, “Okay, fine. Here’s some more lies for you to believe.”

“I have decided that Ahab dies today on this field of battle. How will we get him there? A lie? Sure. Sounds about right. He loves that. He loves a lie. You will succeed in enticing him. Go and do it.”

We may not understand how it all works, but this heavenly scene does not indict Yahweh.

It indicts Ahab.

Ahab doesn’t listen.

King David said in Psalm 18, “To the faithful you show yourself faithful, to the blameless you show yourself blameless, to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.”

Ahab is just getting what he wants. He wants a lie. He has fed off of lies all of his life. And lies are what he wants even to the end.

Of course, there is no real deception going on here. The LORD is revealing the truth through Micaiah and even telling Ahab that he’s being lied to by the others.

But (v.23), “The LORD has decreed disaster for you.” And it’s coming through the very appropriate means of those lies that you have loved for so long.

The rest of the prophets don’t like where this is going. V.24

“Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. ‘Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?’ he asked.

Micaiah replied, ‘You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.’

The king of Israel then ordered, ‘Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king's son and say, 'This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.'’

Micaiah declared, ‘If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.’ Then he added, ‘Mark my words, all you people!’”

The proof is in the pudding. We shall see. We shall see.

And watch what Ahab does next.

He tries to avoid what the LORD said.

He’s acted all big and loud and bad when in the throne room. But now he takes precautions because, I think down deep, he knows what’s true. V.29

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead [sad to see Jehoshaphat going along with this]. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.”

I guess Jehoshaphat would think he was being honored to be the only king out there and getting all of the glory.

But it also makes him an obvious target. And Ben-Hadad is targeting the king. V.31

“Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, ‘Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.’ [He’s gunning for Ahab.] When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, ‘Surely this is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him.”

“Wait. That’s the king of Judah. We don’t want him. Where’s the other guy?”

Verse 34. Best verse in the whole chapter.

“But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, ‘Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I've been wounded.’ All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army: ‘Every man to his town; everyone to his land!’

So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared.  As for the other events of Ahab's reign, including all he did, the palace he built and inlaid with ivory, and the cities he fortified, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Ahab rested with his fathers. And Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king.”

#2. EVERYTHING.

Everything that the LORD says comes to pass.

Everything the LORD says is what is true.

Everything the LORD says is certain and trustworthy and reliable and sure.

The LORD had said that Ahab would die in battle that day.

And Ahab had chosen to go into battle that day.

No disguise could save him.
No fancy armor could save him.
No trick or precaution or defense could save him.

Because the LORD had said that he would die.

It was effortless for the LORD to do it.

He used a random bowshot.

I shot an arrow into the air, 
It fell to earth, I knew not where; 
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight 
Could not follow it in its flight. 

But this arrow did not land in Longfellow’s oak.

It landed in Ahab’s body.

Because of what the LORD said. V.38 again.

“So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the LORD had declared.”

Everything what the LORD says comes to true.

It’s all that matters.

Verse 39 tells us that Ahab was a pretty successful king by worldly standards. But it doesn’t matter because he didn’t love and trust what the LORD says.

Everything.

Everything the LORD says comes true.

I know that you know that. But this story is here to bring it home to our hearts.

Every promise that He makes is true and faithful and trustworthy.

And so is every threat.

The question is:

Do we believe?
Do we trust?
Do we take God at His word?

Do we believe everything He says?
Do we build our lives on it?

Do we believe that we do “not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD?”

Ahab didn’t. He didn’t love what the LORD says.

But that didn’t stop what the LORD says coming true.

It just made it painful for him.

What about you and me?

Are we building our lives on what the LORD says?

Or what we want Him to say?

If you are not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I invite you to turn from your sin and trust in Him now. Trust in His promise to save all who will put their faith in Him.

Here’s what the LORD says: to all who receive Him, to those who believe in His name, he gives the right to become children of God. And if you come to Him, He will in no way cast you out.

If you have received Jesus as Savior, keep building your life on His words.

That verse that Marilynn put on the front of your bulletin. Proverbs 30:5. “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

Every word.

Everything that the LORD says will come true.

That’s a firm foundation to stand on.

When the trials come and they will come.

That’s a rock that will not fail.

That’s what the LORD says


***

Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"

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