Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 11 November 2022:
1 Kings 22:4 — And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
The Bible says, “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 17:3, 4) Conversely, concerning Ahab, the king of Israel, the Bible says, “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.” (1 Kings 21:25-26) Shockingly, today we read how Jehoshaphat established an unholy alliance with the wicked king Ahab. 2 Chronicles 18 provides a bit more detail: Jehoshaphat had “made a marriage alliance with Ahab (similar to what Solomon did with Pharaoh),” and during a large banquet (party), Ahab induced Jehoshaphat to ally with him in battle. (2 Chronicles 18:1,2)
- 2 Corinthians 6:14 — Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?
The Bible warns God’s people not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers or the unfaithful, and today’s readings caution us on how easily we can be influenced by the ungodly and become entangled in their worldly affairs.
- 1 Corinthians 15:33 — Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”
Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join him in a battle God never endorsed. Only after agreeing did Jehoshaphat insist on seeking the Lord’s direction. Ahab then produced 400 false prophets who predicted victory with great ceremony. Still, Jehoshaphat wanted to hear from the outlier, Micaiah. However, when Micaiah predicted disaster, Ahab simply silenced him, and Jehoshaphat joined Ahab on a doomed mission. During the battle, Jehoshaphat almost lost his life, and Ahab was killed as Micaiah predicted.
The ungodly can be very convincing, proclaiming a good, even spiritual, cause and stacking the ‘evidence’ in their favor. Christians must be very careful to be led by God’s word and the Holy Spirit rather than worldly influences.
After Ahab’s death, our readings tell us that, “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” Again, 2 Chronicles tells the rest of the story here: “After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.’ And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.” (2 Chronicles 20:35-37)
Again, Jehoshaphat partnered with the ungodly and suffered needlessly. There is an important lesson for us as Christians concerning being “in the world but not of the world”: We must learn how to engage the world without partnering with the world, without becoming entangled in worldly affairs, without compromising our holiness, witness, and influence.
How often do we compromise for the sake of maintaining relationships with the ungodly, and how do we justify that compromise to ourselves? Who are the Micaiahs out there we might be ignoring, preferring the 400 positive, motivational preachers and compromising our holiness in the name of cooperation?
1 Kings 22:6-8 – 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 asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me…”
The king of Israel surrounded himself with religious leaders who claimed to speak for God but only said what he wanted to hear. This is often how people choose what church they go to. Second Timothy 4:3 has this to say: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
God’s people are called to proclaim truth, whether people want to hear it or not, but fear of man will tempt us to avoid the confrontation that comes when light exposes darkness. Both Elijah and Micaiah suffered greatly for their testimony. Because of their unyielding and bold faithfulness, the king hated them and persecuted them. Today, Elijah and Micaiah would have been called haters, close minded, and judgmental, but note that, in the end, Ahab humbles himself before the Lord. We are commanded to proclaim the truth before power and contrary public opinion. Our love for God AND our love for others is demonstrated through faithful obedience. As Paul says in our readings today, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ.”
1 Kings 22:14 — But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”
Is this your criteria for what you say to others?
1 Kings 22:15-18 – And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and triumph; the LORD will give it into the hand of the king.” But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’” And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
Micaiah knew the king didn’t really want to hear or accept God’s word. However, that did not stop him from speaking the truth.
1 Kings 21:27 – “…and say, ‘Thus says the king, Put this fellow in prison and feed him meager rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.’”
God invites you to repent humbly of your sin and perhaps not bear all the disciplinary punishment. The king didn’t just ignore God’s word, he punished the messenger. God’s messengers historically face persecution for speaking the truth. However, his refusal to hear truth didn’t make it less true or the consequences less predictable. We choose our actions, but we don’t choose the outcomes.
1 Kings 22:28 — If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.
If you speak on behalf of God, and what you say does not happen, you are deceived and have misrepresented the KING. Essentially, you have become a false prophet. Be very careful about what you say in the Name of God. Be very careful not to put a Christian stamp on your own opinion or teachings emanating from pop psychology. It is not uncommon in Christian circles to hear someone say something like, “I think God is telling me to… [do this or that].” However, when God speaks there is never any doubt. Micaiah was so sure his words were God’s words, he was compelled to deliver a message he didn’t want to deliver at the risk of his very life and against all the others who claimed falsely to speak for God.
In review and summary: Ahab surrounded himself with prophets who told him what he wanted to hear, aggressively rejecting the one true prophet Micaiah who put his life on the line to speak God’s truth despite knowing that Ahab would reject the truth (a lesson for us today). Ahab’s refusal to listen to God’s word, which conflicted with his desires, resulted in Ahab’s death. Even Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, who tried hard to honor God, allowed himself to be unduly influenced by the world around him rather than serving God wholeheartedly. We read today that Jehoshaphat engaged in an unsanctioned battle with the ungodly Ahab — Jehoshaphat had made an “unequally yoked” alliance with Ahab (2 Chronicles 18). How could a noble king like Jehoshaphat ever say to an evil king such as Ahab, “I am as you are, my people as your people. We will be with you in the war.”? Then, after Ahab’s death, our readings tell us that, “Jehoshaphat made ships of Tarshish to go to Ophir for gold, but they did not go, for the ships were wrecked at Ezion-geber.” However, 2 Chronicles further explains “After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, ‘Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.’ And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.” (2 Chronicles 20:35-37) Jehoshaphat was a godly king who could have been so much more had he not trusted the wisdom of the world and become entangled in worldly alliances. I believe this is a VERY important lesson for the church today that we are largely missing. We do not have to separate or disengage from the world in order to remain holy; we can engage the world without allying with the world, becoming dependent on the world or mixing message with the world. Too often we believe that to influence the world, we must partner with the world, act like it, appeal to it, rely on it. The result: the church compromises its holiness and its witness. In the ‘90s, The Clinton Administration reversed US foreign policy with China with his new policy of “constructive engagement” which was based on the notion that if we opened the doors of cooperation and partnership with China we would so influence them that they would be transformed and become a global champion of free trade and human rights. Clinton said, “And when it comes to advancing human rights and religious freedom, dealing directly and speaking honestly to the Chinese is clearly the best way to make a difference.” Today, the reader can decide how well this “constructive engagement” policy has changed China and strengthened the free word’s position. The reader can also decide how well the church’s partnership with the world has changed the world and strengthened the church’s position. Clinton said that there were only two possible approaches to China, “isolation” or “engagement” which was another word for “partnership” and “alliance.” Likewise, the church seems to see only two alternatives. Isn’t there a third alternative of engagement without compromise?
- Deuteronomy 15:6 — For the Lord your God will bless you, as he promised you, and you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow, and you shall rule over many nations, but they shall not rule over you.
1 Kings 22:29-37 — You cannot hide from God and escape the judgment he has revealed.
1 Kings 22:34 — But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.
The kings cunning plan could not thwart God’s will. What seemed to be a random act was in fact ordained by God to accomplish His purposes. God works daily in miraculous ways that are recognized by His people but viewed by others as mere chance or luck.
1 Kings 22:39 – Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, and the ivory house that he built and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
Sinners may accomplish much, but it is ultimately meaningless.
1 Kings 22:43 — Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.
Though Jehoshaphat walked in the ways of the LORD, he did not challenge the sinful practices of the people, and this is viewed by God as a major failure by Jehoshaphat.
1 Kings 22:43 – He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.
God expects consistent and complete obedience.
1 Kings 22:45 – Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he showed, and how he warred, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?
God is interested in a leader’s relationship and obedience to Him rather than their famed accomplishments and reputation.
John 8:1 — …but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
Interestingly, this sentence begins in the last chapter — “They went each to his own house….” (John 7:53) and concludes in the first verse of chapter eight (though some manuscripts don’t include it at all. You may recall that in the last chapter, Jesus had delivered some hard teachings that most could accept, so they left Jesus. What Biblical teachings are you struggling with that have caused separation between you and God? When you don’t understand or even like what the Bible has to say, don’t get discouraged and distance yourself from God and His word; rather dig deeper and draw closer to God – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5)
John 8:10, 11 — Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
The account of the woman caught in adultery is wonderful and well-known story of mercy and grace, but it is often misapplied and misappropriated. I have often heard people living in unrepentant sin reference this story to justify their sin and to counter anyone who might challenge them — “Let him who is without sin… be the first to throw a stone,” implying that, because we are all sinners, God accepts our sin, and if anyone speaks out against sin, they are just being judgmental. However, they never seem to remember Jesus’ final words to the woman — “from now on sin no more.” Jesus was not making light of sin, nor was He invalidating personal responsibility, mutual accountability, or civil systems of accountability. He was, however, rejecting those who judge right from wrong with a judgmental (self-righteous, condemning, malicious) heart, and He was promoting repentance and reconciliation. “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)
The woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus while He was teaching a crowd at the Temple. In an uncommon and unholy alliance, both the scribes and the Pharisees brought the woman to Jesus, “to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.” (John 8:6) So what was the test which could result in a chargeable offense?
Some have suggested the scribes and Pharisees were seeking to place Jesus in a dilemma between justice and mercy – if He forgave her, they could accuse Him of being unjust, but if He condemned her, they could accuse Him of being unmerciful. Those who subscribe to this interpretation believe Jesus chose mercy and grace over justice and silenced His would-be accusers by convicting them of their need for mercy and grace from God too. To further this view, proponents speculate that perhaps Jesus wrote their sins in the sand to convict them, though the Bible never says what He actually wrote. However, if this were the case, Jesus would have been nullifying the entire church judicial system for accountability and discipline. If only the sinless could hold the guilty accountable, there would be no accountability, a world with no justice. Jesus wasn’t invalidating the social and legal/judicial processes that maintained civil order.
- 1 Timothy 5:20 — As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.
- 2 Timothy 4:2 — Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.
- Titus 1:9 — He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
- Titus 1:13 — This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith….
- Titus 2:15 — Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you.
- 1 Corinthians 5:1, 2 — It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.
So then, what was the test? More likely, the scribes and Pharisees were hoping Jesus would feel obligated before the Jewish crowd to uphold the Law of Moses – “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” The dilemma here is whether Jesus would obey the Law of Moses or the Roman law, which only allowed execution through the Roman judicial system (The Jews would later appeal to Rome for Jesus’ execution). Had Jesus approved of the woman’s execution, the scribes and the Pharisees would have had the chargeable offense against Jesus for which they were hoping. Had Jesus deferred to Rome, He would have been accused of fearing Rome rather than God. However, Jesus used the Law to hold the scribes and Pharisees accountable to justice, to expose their wickedness, and to offer mercy and grace to the accused woman.
Jesus shut down His accusers, the scribes and Pharisees, by holding them accountable to the standards of the Law, which required the death of anyone who wrongly condemned another to death. This was a kangaroo court. Where were the witnesses? Where was the adulterous man? When Jesus challenged the innocent to throw the first stone, he was referring to Deuteronomy 17:6, 7 — “On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” Also, Leviticus 20:10 is very clear — “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, BOTH the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” The accusers were not following due process and were standing on deadly ground: “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.” (Deuteronomy 19:15-19) I would submit that the accusers departed because they recognized their own guilt of false accusation, not because Jesus had invalidated the law or a civil justice system administered by imperfect people.
Jesus did not excuse the woman’s sin; however, in accordance with the Law, He did not condemn her for it either. Jesus never excuses sin but rather commands, ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). Also, the Bible is clear that salvation doesn’t free us from our obligation to civil authority. For example, a convicted murderer can be saved by grace through faith in Christ and yet remain obligated to face the penalties subjected by civil authority – see Romans 13. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) God justly forgives us of our sins, not by eliminating the wages of sin but rather by paying the penalty of sin through the blood of Jesus. We may be forgiven by God but still owe earthly debts – “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8)
Jesus did, however, condemn those who use the Law to condemn others hypocritically and with malicious intent as well as those who presume to declare God’s judgment upon them. The scribes and Pharisees were not seeking justice for sake of social order; they were using and humiliating the accused woman for their own evil schemes. As Christians, we must hold others accountable from a position of love and a hope for reconciliation, never vindictively, maliciously, or self-righteously.
John 8:24, 26, 28, 29, 38, 42, 49-55 — I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins…. I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him…. I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him…. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me…. I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word.
The Book of James reminds us that even the demons believe in Jesus, but saving faith surrenders all to Jesus and follows Him. Jesus modeled the faith He expects from His disciples – walking in His authority, speaking only His words, doing only was Jesus commands, empowered by the Holy Spirit, no longer walking in the flesh or for self.
We are not the judge of others; we simply declare God’s word to the world under the authority of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We also bear witness to the activity of God in our lives as we live in obedience to Him. We bear witness to the God we know, not to a religion, and we honor God in word and deed.
John 8:34 – Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.”
If you have been saved, you have been freed from the bondage of sin and will no longer practice sin because of your genuine love of Christ and because the Spirit gives you self-control in love. You will still sin, but it won’t be your ultimate desire or practice. Through the sanctification process, you will sin less and less. Ultimately, the first sin and the sin that inspires all other sin is the breaking of the Greatest Commandment — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27). None of us are perfected in this love and, therefore, sin daily and depend solely on God’s grace through Jesus. However, this is our pursuit.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 November 2022: Pray God will give you greater wisdom in upholding justice with a genuine heart of love, mercy and grace and humility.