Ahab Listens to the Lying Spirit

“And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab the king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’”  
(2 Chronicles 18:19–21, ESV)

Have you heard that saying about laws and sausages — that you do not want to watch either of them being made? Those of us who are neither legislators nor sausage-makers might be put-off by those necessary processes, but if we do not poke-around too much, we might enjoy their finished products in reasonable peace, and hey — who doesn’t enjoy a law against killing or a nice breakfast sausage?

But Congress renders-out laws through the unsavory processes of compromise and deal-making, and those of us unaccustomed to such gyrations might faint in the viewing. In like manner, sausage-makers grind meat, spices, sundries — and then stuff that resultant mix into an intestine… but some days I just want a little breakfast without thinking too much about it. Unfortunately, today is not one of those days, because the prophet Micaiah is giving us a glimpse into God’s kitchen, and that view is not for the faint of heart.

God wanted King Ahab killed. But only rarely does he reach down with his personal hand to kill someone — as when he opened up the ground to swallow Korah. Instead, he usually employs more natural causes like disease or war. For example, before Israel entered the Promised Land, God had promised them an array of blessings, many of which were dependent upon their obedience to him, but from the outset, the people disobeyed God and started to reap the natural consequences of their un-wisdom.

By the time of King Ahab, the nation had divided into two kingdoms; the kings were often corrupt and the national captivities were imminent. Since war and misery became the natural punishment for national disobedience, God used those tools to have Ahab killed in battle… but now we see the sausage being made: God sent a lying spirit to the prophets.

Sausage, I say? Yes. God, who cannot lie, is complicit with… no... make that the cause of — lying. Here, we look head-on at something that I do not like. I feel ill-at-ease merely reading the account, let alone writing about it! But two things comfort me: First, experience has taught me that I will likely gain understanding as I mature. Second, even if I do not gain understanding a simple fact remains: God’s word is God’s “problem.” My commission is to tell… not to sell. So, here it is folks — and as plainly as I can tell it: God sent a lying spirit to the prophets... and he worked his will by it.

It is important to note, however, that God sent this lying spirit only once — a special punishment for a particularly evil person — but that he sends the truth continually. Micaiah carried all the truth that Ahab needed, but the king avoided consulting with this prophet because he usually had some bad news for him. This shows Ahab’s heart; his ears itched to hear a lie, and, as seen countless times, if God wants to punish a sinful man, he merely has to give him what he wants. Ahab wanted a lie, God provided it and it killed him. That’s on Ahab — not on God.

By way of comfort, the fact that the God frequently reports discomforting incidents tells us that the Bible is God’s true word as opposed to being Christian propaganda — because no propagandist in his right mind would attach such off-putting material to his protagonist! Yet God is not afraid to do this to himself — and the fact that he does so teaches that God’s children have nothing to fear from even a disquieting truth. We Christians are free from sin’s condemnation, but we are not yet free from its limiting effects on our thinking and on our emotions. As such, it is appropriate that we wiggle when faced with the occasional uncomfortable truth. But Christ, our Rock, will soon return… and we will be like him.

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