Sermon Series: Things that make a Difference
1 Kings 22:1-16
What is the one thing almost everyone says that they want, but have a hard time identifying when they hear or see it, struggle to accept when confronted with it, and often deny even though all evidence is pointing toward it? Give up? The answer is the truth.
One of the questions that our text poses to us is, can we handle the truth. As the passage opens Ahab the king of Israel is bemoaning the fact that a territory formerly belonging to Israel is still in the possession of Ben-Hadad the King of Assyria. Ben-Hadad had agreed to give Ramoth Gilead back to Israel as part of a treaty he made with Ahab in exchange for his life. It is now three years later and Ben-Hadad has not made good on his promise and Ahab is determined to make things right. There is no pain like that of betrayal or a broken promise. As Ahab is reflecting on his last encounter with Ben-Hadad I can hear Ahab saying to himself, “I should have taken care of you when I had the chance.” After the pain that accompanies betrayal has subsided it turns to anger. We are angry with ourselves for being so gullible. How could we have been duped so easily? I should have known that he would have said anything to save himself or keep his word. Anger turns to resentment toward the individual. Lie to me, I’ll show you. Before you know it we are fit to be tied and in our rage bound and determined to make things right.
Just as an aside, the text states, “For three years there was no war between Aram (Assyria) and Israel.” So Ahab has been thinking about this and contemplating it for three long years. He has had three years to plot, scheme, and devise a plan to get back at Ben-Hadad. I wonder why do we do that? For three years the entire region is filled with peace and all we can think of is how to create strife, why? Things are going well everyone has moved on and we are still stuck worrying about how we can reclaim something that we lost T H R E E
Y E A R S ago! At this point in Ahab’s career he is a poster child for self-sabotage. I guess if he wanted to make this a personal matter that would be OK, but he wants to include other people who have no dog in his fight. Not every fight is worth fighting and not everything we lose is worth reacquiring.
It just so happens that around the time Ahab is contemplating instigating war against Ben-Hadad and the Assyrians Jehoshaphat the king of Judah decides to pay Ahab a visit. Ahab lays out his desire to retake Ramoth Gilead and enlists Jehoshaphat’s support. It should be noted that Jehoshaphat stood to gain very little in going to war with Ahab other than putting an end to the threat that Assyria posed to Judah. Nonetheless, Jehoshaphat decides to give Ahab his full support in this military campaign. What is most curious is the timing of Jehoshaphat’s visit. Ahab, neither summoned him or was in any apparent danger, and Ahab and Jehoshaphat did not have the type of relationship where they visited each other regularly, so what prompted Jehoshaphat’s visit? Look at verse five. It seems as though Jehoshaphat was God-sent. Jehoshaphat represents the omniscience of God. While Ahab was trying to figure things out, God already had things worked out. To keep Ahab from committing a potentially fatal mistake God sent Jehoshaphat to Ahab at this particular time to be His eyes, ears and mouthpiece. To keep Ahab from repeating past mistakes God directed Jehoshaphat to go pay Ahab a visit and engage him.
As we travel along the road of life we are often blinded by resentment, fear, anger, and a host of other negative emotions. These negative emotions if left unchecked become blind spots. Blind spots are the areas we do not see because they are on the periphery. As long as our vision is not obstructed we can see things that are directly in front of us or things that are coming at us, but real problems and major accidents are caused by the things we do not see because they are in our blind spots. One of the reasons drivers are encouraged to use all three of their mirrors and even turn their head slightly to either side before changing lanes is so that they can see all around them. God’s response to blind spots is to send us a Jehoshaphat. In many cases the people who fill the role of Jehoshaphat in our lives do not even know that is their purpose. They simply are paying us a visit and engaging us in a little Q&A.
Jehoshaphat’s role was not to encourage or discourage Ahab from persuing his desire, Jehoshaphat’s role was to engage Ahab in thinking through what he was considering doing. When a person’s mind is made up and it is clear they are determined to forge ahead sometimes the best thing we can do is simply engage them. Jehoshaphat offered his support on the condition that they would “First seek the counsel of the Lord.” Whether we agree or disagree with what another person does or is contemplating doing is of no consequence. What is important is to help people be sure they understand why they are doing what they are doing and that it is something they really want to do. Sometimes a few well-placed questions can open a person’s eyes to the fact that they may not have thought through the endeavor they are preparing to embark upon. Before anyone engages in any major undertaking there are three basic questions that need to be answered, a) where is your help coming from? b) is it the right time for such an undertaking? c) have we consulted with anyone other than ourselves?
To satisfy Jehoshaphat, Ahab trots out 400 prophets and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” OK, we can understand half or even three-quarters of the 400 possibly agreeing with Ahab, but all 400? If you or I asked ten people at random the same question the percentage would be pretty low that we would get 100% consensus on any issue. Apparently, the 100% consensus did not sit too well with Jehoshaphat because he asked for a second opinion. Jehoshaphat’s call for further inquiry essentially challenged Ahab to decide whether he wanted to be endorsed or enlightened. We too when faced with tough choices and decisions must press beyond popular optimism in search of pure honesty. As we seek counsel we must identify who and where are the objective people in our life? Everyone needs people who will be a source of encouragement, but we also need people who are not afraid to hurt our feelings. We need both groups of people in our lives. In essence we need balance. There are three groups of people in our lives; people who tell us what we want to hear, people who tell us what we need to hear, and people who just do not care. The last group is simply folks who are not invested in what happens to us. The bottom line is that everyone needs to be praised, but everyone also needs to be practical too.
Ahab identifies one other person they can consult, Micaiah. However, Ahab provides the caveat that Micaiah never has anything good or positive to say. Jehoshaphat chides Ahab and then takes him to school on how to handle the truth. Jehoshaphat is interested in one thing the truth. By pressing Ahab to continue pursuit of the truth Jehoshaphat helps Ahab to understand that truth cannot penetrate a closed mind therefore we need to be open to it. Remember Ahab’s primary point of contention with Micaiah is that he does not have anything good to say. Actually, good is a relative term. Anything short of a ringing endorsement could be perceived as not a good thing until we discover later that it saved our lives, averted us from making an unwise investment, or prevented us from making a colossal mistake. Truth can both endorse and save, but we will not know what it is doing unless we are open to its presence.
By not settling for the overwhelming response of the 400 Jehoshaphat helps Ahab to see that one view does not tell the entire story and we need to gather as much information about any subject as possible. The reality is that often we do not know what people’s agendas are and why they agree or disagree with us. Prudence suggests that before we side one way or another on any issue we engage in a fact-finding mission and gather as much information as we possibly can. The desire is always to move swiftly before the enthusiasm dissipates or the motivation wanes. However, if we are sufficiently armed with the facts then we can be secure in the knowledge that our decisions are grounded and based on reality rather than fiction.
Two of the most important lessons that Ahab learns are do not condemn before you consider and dissent helps us to discern. My mother used to say, “how do you know you do not like something if you have never tried it?” Likewise, in the absence of examination and investigation how can we honestly dismiss something or someone? Furthermore, before you can dismiss you must first give an audience to, otherwise we are dismissing something we have never entertained. Ahab’s primary point of contention with Micaiah revolved around the fact that because he did not endorse Ahab, Ahab did not like him. I have learned that no does not mean never it sometimes means not right now. The fact that someone disagrees with us does not mean that we should simply dismiss their views or opinions, but rather it is an opportunity to see the challenges, pitfalls, flaws, or hidden landmines in our own thinking and planning. It is a chance to re-evaluate what we are contemplating and determine whether or not the reward is worth the risk or investment. It is a call to consider and discern.
Encouragement is nice, but truth is much better. It is better to have one person in our lives that will be honest with us than to have a 1000 that blindly go along with anything we say. People who are honest with us make a difference in our lives. They:
1. Help to keep us grounded by interjecting reason to balance emotion
2. Present a broad picture portraying all of the different sides and possibilities
3. Are more interested in our well-being than they are in being well liked
The question is, can we handle honesty? Are we open to the truth? Does the truth have to be packaged a certain way before we will accept it, or can we accept it regardless of the packaging or presentation? If we are open to the truth and willing to receive it regardless how it is presented to us we will discover that Jesus, who is the Truth saves us from making colossal mistakes by sending Jehoshaphat’s and Micaiah’s into our lives so that we can become enlightened, informed, educated, and aware. Jesus, the Truth, confronts us because the Truth makes a difference. The question is can we handle it?