Christian action and prophecy. Sermon by Prof. B Holwerda

Text ~ 1 Kings 22: 1-29 Read ~ 1 Kings 22: 1-29

Sing - Psalm 22: 4
Psalm 27: 1
Psalm 119: 12, 13
Psalm 89: 3, 20
Psalm 35: 1, 7

Beloved in the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can observe nowadays, and more so by the day, fervent activity in the Christian domain. That is understandable. During the last war the occupying power had total grip and prohibited the activities of almost all organizations. If they refused to allow themselves to be assimilated they were disbanded by the authorities. This lot also befell the formation of Christian political parties and the social organizations of reformed nature, and many others could be mentioned.

But after the liberation they were revived and the hands were put to the plow. People were busy every where to recoup the damage that had accumulated during the war. Not only that! Christian action, in the broadest sense of the word, intensified its efforts to the limit. Therefore men did not only reestablish old contacts but also set up new ones. People had the greatest plans for mission and evangelism and ecumenical cooperation. This did not come only to planning but to action, people have established offices and centers where much of the work is done.

This activity is not strictly on account of church business but is deemed for the whole breadth of life. In some contexts they carry on major campaigns to increase membership numbers and by appearances they are successful. Programs are set up to deal with what should be done in the beginning years and following. The minds of people are possessed with the dreadful need in literally every area, and weighty words are uttered about the calling that is prepared for all Christianity to save the post war world.

We now experience in all this a cooperation such as no one would ever have thought possible in the past. People apparently want to remove, as drastically as possible, the barriers that used to keep all kinds of groups and goals apart. Therefore there is much attention concerning the ecumenical questions in many church denominations and there are even ongoing discussions about joining the World Council. Even in circles where objections against the World Council appeared insurmountable before there is now a program for the international unification of all confessors of the Reformed faith. I only have to think of the Ecumenical Synod at Amsterdam, (Eventually establishing the Reformed Ecumenical Synod, R.E.S. ).

Behind all this is a great spiritual enthusiasm and strong awareness of calling! Repeatedly you hear the affirmation: it is necessary! The mission has to be activated, it is all about the kingdom of Christ and the salvation of millions!

Within the old Reformed churches of the Netherlands there was a strong drive for letting the church speak an authoritative word for all of life. Many committees were formed which busied themselves with the relationship between church and school, church and politics and whatever more. They are convinced that life no longer has a future if the gospel does not dominate everywhere. They found that the church has neglected her calling far too long in these fields!

All with the élan of the Crusades: “God demands it!”

In this situation your attention must be given to the fact that our churches kept themselves aloof, or at least strongly reserved about these activities. As if interchurch cooperation would be a puzzle after the liberation!

Is that defensible? Is there not much that would be pleasing in broad and intensive cooperation between churches of all kinds of denominations? Isn’t striving for church unity refreshing between all the terrible disunity? Wouldn’t interchurch cooperation yield rich fruit in many areas toward possible reunification? Isn’t it wonderful that the churches all see their greater and lesser differences, about which they used make themselves so busy, as more and more relative and start to put a strong emphasis on unity, on that which unites, on the connection in Christ of whatever is called church?

And isn’t it significant that Christian organizations deliberately establish themselves as “multi denominational“, obstinately keeping all church questions and differences outside their area of activity? Wouldn’t it be wiser that they leave all matters regarding confession and discipline, which splinter the churches again and again, to be dealt with by each church and busy themselves only with the thought of how to prevent these from becoming a hindrance in relationships of everyday living.

I can well understand the fascination of that urge for cooperation. Ecumenical in the church, interdenominational outside of it ~ yes, in all this isn’t a way being prepared for the unity of all believers to be sought in all facets of life?

Cooperation, and then action!

Do not forget one thing, beloved! There still is that steadfast prophetic Word. And you do well if you give it your attention, also when it is about Christian action and the cooperation that goes with it!

For sometimes the Word of the Lord says: go up and you will prosper. This is how the Word came to David many times. But when Hophni and Phinehas went out against the uncircumcised Philistines and engaged in Holy warfare, total defeat awaited them, even with the ark present.

God does not judge all actions by His people the same!

There were operations for which the prophet encouraged David. Things were also undertaken for which prophecy was sought in vain. When Saul had to fight on Gilboa the Lord did not answer him through the prophets nor through dreams. His Word was silent!

When Ahab wanted to go up to Ramoth in Gilead there is prophetic approbation. But from false prophecy: God has put a lying spirit in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets to his ruin!

So when there is much action “in the name of the Lord” the first question that should come to mind is: what does prophecy say about it?

Concerning cooperation in a holy war we also find Deborah cursing the tribes who kept themselves offside while Israel went up in battle against Jabin and Sisera. Cooperation was demanded!

Is that law for every situation? Under every circumstance?

When Jehoshaphat worked together with Ahab in the war against the Syrians at Ramoth in Gilead and they turned as brothers against a common enemy, then Jehoshaphat, on his return, came face to face with the prophet Jehu son of Hanani. The prophet says to him; “should you help the wicked, and love those who hate the Lord? Therefore the wrath of the Lord is upon you” (2 Chron. 19: 2.)

Cooperation was forbidden! Cooperation brought great wrath then! That is also possible!

Therefore beloved you must understand directly that it is a living matter for us what the Word of the Lord says about Christian action and the cooperation that it involves. It is not a matter of a common enemy. We are not finished with the simple catch words: close the ranks! That kind of a slogan does well in an election advertisement. But things are not that simple.

The question is; how is it with the church internally? Do the people live in faithfulness toward the Word of the Lord? People claim that mighty works should be done outside. They are filled with missionary zeal! And live in the delusion that they must wage holy war for “the inheritance of the fathers”! And incite each other to join hands together, and all the while the LORD frustrates the whole action! And condemns the entire cooperative effort!

Therefore we will listen to the Word of God as it speaks to us about:

Prophecy with Ahab’s last operation.

Our text tells us in succession;
1) how prophecy is switched on.
2) how prophecy is switched over.
3) how prophecy is switched off.


Our text begins with the remark that there was no war between Ahab and the Syrians for three years. In this way the present time period was distinguished from earlier years.

1 Kings 20 describes the wars Ahab had waged with the Syrians. It was a time of continuous friction and tensions. Every year the hostilities resumed. In more cases than one it looked very precarious for Ahab. But each time again the Lord gave relief. But in the end, when He had made it possible for Ahab to vanquish the Syrians for good, Ahab forfeited that grace through his self willed politics. When Benhadad was begging for his life Ahab softened and allowed him to say; ‘you are my brother’!

Just like that, Ahab proclaims his mortal enemy as brother, and confederate! He makes the entire war of the past years purposeless and despises the grace shown to him in that war. Again Ahab had become the politician, a man who thinks of the big picture. It is better to be at peace with the neighbor than at war. He could well have some pleasure yet from Benhadad as an ally!

In all this he makes the struggle for the people of the Lord relative. The man who was known to Israel as a hereditary enemy he now calls his “brother”. Ahab wages war and makes peace according to how desirable it is for his own political situation. The Word does not rule his statesmanship for even one second because yesterdays enemy is today’s ally.

Therefore Ahab was judged and receives his sentence. He allowed the man whom the Lord would banish to escape. So the Lord arranges for him to be told: now I put your soul in the place of Benhadad’s soul, and your people in place of his. God wanted His people delivered through the destruction of the Syrians. Ahab said; I will seek the safety of my people through a treaty with the Syrians. The Lord gave the reply: now you yourself will face destruction. You in place of Benhadad, and Israel instead of Syria.

So keep this in mind: from that moment the wrath of God rested on king and nation on account of their self willfulness in their outward activity.

And in addition to this dark picture chapter 21 adds something else that gives a glimpse of the decay and apostasy occurring within. This is the sad story, which you all know, of Naboth’s vineyard. Ahab had set church discipline in action against an innocent, and unlawfully robbed the honor and life and good of one of the smallest among brothers.

It is this offence against brothers that kindles the anger of the Lord. He proclaims the terrible end of Ahab’s house.

Keep both of these things in mind when you begin to read chapter 22. There is wrath on account of Ahab’s unfaithful politics on the outside. And there is wrath against the wicked misuse of the judiciary on the inside.

Now, Ahab did not annul his treaty with the Syrians on account of the prophecy of ruin. For three years there were no hostilities. Instead, and we know this from other sources, terms with the Syrians had been very friendly in those years. They acted as part of the community in the international politics of that time. Therefore they went on the warpath together with some allies against Assyria in the spring of the year 854. There follows the battle at Karkar.

In that battle the Assyrians apparently saw occasion to force all their enemies, including Ahab, to retreat. It appears however that they were not able to fully exploit that victory.

Thanks to that fact Ahab of Israel and Hadadezer of Syria could, in the month of June of that year, return home relatively unscathed. Their armies were not vanquished in any case and the difficulties the Assyrian king was experiencing at that moment were of such a nature that there was no immediate danger to fear from his side anymore.

But even if it did not become a disaster for Ahab, a defeat would have been far worse for him, his pride had received a sensitive blow, The retreat of his army was not very honorable in any case. His prestige among the people had suffered on account of it.

And apparently Ahab did not demobilize his soldiers because of it, he kept them armed. He wanted to save his own honor and the honor of his soldiers. He schemed to obliterate the shame of the defeat at Karkar by winning a victory elsewhere. Ahab finds himself forced to fight a prestige war. Preferably in the shortest possible time!

But, if you want to fight a war, you must first find an enemy. You must also find a motif for declaring war. And if you are only a small power one must find suitable allies to finish the job.

Well, an ally is quickly found. In that same summer king Ahab receives a visit from king Jehoshaphat of Judah. You know that since the splitting up of the kingdom after Solomon’s death there was an ongoing bad relationship between Israel and Judah. From time to time these brother nations fought wars against each other.

But a reversal had occurred under Jehoshaphat. He had intermarried with the house of Ahab, and such a marriage would naturally make the relationship appear much better. The fact that Jehoshaphat comes when Ahab had just suffered a defeat is a favorable sign for Israel. Ahab decided to immediately make stock of it.

He finds that the time is ripe to close a formal alliance between the two nations. The meeting with Jehoshaphat should not be limited to a banquet and an exchange of some diplomatic niceties. It plainly remains a family occasion and everything bears a private character. But Ahab thinks that great political advantage can be conceived here! By his actions the meeting clearly receives an official and political seal. He proposes a military alliance to Jehoshaphat. (2 Kings 18; 2)

We don’t know how he “dressed up” his proposal. It is plausible that he expressed his joy to Jehoshaphat that the relationship between the brother nations was so much improved. He may have given a religious tint to it, reminding him that they had the same God, and the same bible, one Lord and one faith. It would be glorious if they would as brothers make themselves ready to fight against the enemies of the Lord together. Wouldn’t it have been a concern for Jehoshaphat that a piece of the “inheritance of the fathers” was in the hands of the enemy? How could he stay on the sidelines, now that there was a holy war pertaining to a just cause?

While he is accustoming Jehoshaphat to the idea, he brings his plans to his cabinet. He says: we are doing nothing and just sit still while everyone forgets that Ramoth in Gilead belongs to us! We allow that city, given us by God, to remain undisturbed in custody of the Syrians. It is time to let the Syrians realize that we do not plan for them to play games with us! I do not seek war, says Ahab. I have in the meantime dealt graciously with Benhadad and allowed him to live, have even made a treaty with him. I have earnestly kept myself to it. For three years we kept our weapons against Syria idle. But the Syrians have messed with the accord. The agreement had been made to return the stolen cities. I have given them enough time to keep their promises. Yet after three years they still occupy Ramoth. With peace and diplomacy you achieve nothing from those people. We must, however much it is against our will, take what is rightfully ours by force. Our cause is just for they are the ones who broke faith.

Ahab does not have the least trouble with his ministers and ambassadors. The facts are simple. Ramoth belongs to Israel, and the Syrians are the trust breakers. Israel has no other choice, for patience has a limit. Their cause is completely justified!

And the negotiations with Jehoshaphat have an equally speedy conclusion. Jehoshaphat still feels some brotherly connection, and he is not indifferent about the argument that the Syrians, contrary to explicit promises, continue to occupy parts of the inheritance of the fathers. Indeed, whatever divided the two kingdoms in the past, they still had a common history, and a common faith. When it comes down to it, isn’t what units much more than what divides.

Jehoshaphat does declare his total support; he will go along. His recommends his army and cavalry without reservation. It will not be Israel’s battle, with Judah’s assistance. No, it will be a common undertaking. Cooperation will be total!

He has only one wish: that the LORD would be acknowledged of the plans beforehand! That a prophet would be consulted to make sure that the LORD is with them in their war.

Because Jehoshaphat is someone who fears the LORD; who also reckons with Him in his reign. He does not say: we are people of the LORD and we fight for His cause and can therefore count on His blessing. He seriously considers the possibility that the LORD could be angry with His people and so withhold His blessing.

And it struck him painfully that everything went so easily with Ahab. They made their plans and set up measures. They made an estimation of the strength of the Syrians and added up the number of divisions Israel and Judah possessed as a whole. With Ahab it was only a matter of winning over Jehoshaphat as an ally to do his empire building. The LORD did not fit in. For him the end depended on superior might, expressed in numbers on paper, certainly not on a blessing from the LORD! Jehoshaphat discovers that it is all politics, everything according to military calculation. Faith and grace play absolutely no role anymore. Therefore he urges; let us first hear the Word of the LORD.

And Ahab responds: naturally! With all pleasure! It speaks for itself! He will not offend the godly convictions of his newly won ally even though he himself finds no need for the message of prophecy. Yet he will show Jehoshaphat how highly he regards prophecy! His colleague must not think he does not hold the Word in high esteem, that it is also a matter of faith for him. Jehoshaphat has to barely make one remark and Ahab gives his instructions, and he makes a good job of it. In no time at all 400 prophets appear to serve the king with advice. Aren’t they the ones who know the will of the LORD, for He does not do anything in His hidden counsel without revealing it to his servants, the prophets!

Four hundred prophets in the city of Ahab!

You might be amazed and ask: where do these suddenly come from? Remember Elijah’s complaint that Ahab had killed the prophets of the Lord! You know of Obadiah who had hidden a hundred prophets in a cave. That was the real position of the prophets under Ahab. They were persecuted unto death.

Now, suddenly, there were four hundred prophets drummed up just like that! Where did Ahab find their addresses? How was it possible?

Perhaps they were prophets of Baal? Nowhere is that said in so many words. And it is not very likely either, if only because of the argument: What would Jehoshaphat have said about the fact that Ahab had brought prophets of an idol to him?

They prophets themselves did not mention the name of Baal. They immediately let a proper sound be heard so to speak!

It shows that things had changed somewhat in Samaria in the last years. Even the prophet Micaiah, the son of Jimla, poorly regarded by Ahab, could move about unhindered. In any case it seems that after Carmel persecution of the prophets had been stopped.

But if you ask the question whether this meant there was occasion for repentance, be careful of your answer. The fact that Ahab would begin an undertaking without consulting the prophets beforehand proves enough. This time he calls for them on account of Jehoshaphat. The Word of God has no authority with Ahab himself, his politics do not require prophets.

So what are those four hundred doing here? Apparently they are on good terms with the palace. When Ahab needs them, he knows where to find them.

Now, beloved, it quickly becomes clear what kind of people we are dealing with. These four hundred are yes men, whose job it is to sing the praises of the king’s politics and to enamor the people to the palace decisions. They are Ahab’s satellites, who must give the necessary advertising to the people for Ahab’s new measures. It is Ahab’s propaganda machine, his information service!

They are not here to make the will of the LORD known to the king before he comes to a decision, but they are there to inform the nation of the king’s will after he has determined his position.

They are not intermediaries between God and king but between king and people!

Instead of leading the king they must mislead the people!

They do not restrain Ahab when he goes astray and leads the people to destruction, but they ensure that Ahab finds no obstruction from his nation.

So this is a “prophecy” that has the task of making the people destitute! To make it defenseless before the king! The entire academy is instructed and installed for that purpose!

Take note here! These people immediately prophecy with one voice: go up, the Lord will give Ramoth into the hand of the king!

Did you read it right? Lord! Not with capitals, but with small letters. You probably know that in our translation, LORD (with 5 capitals) is a translation for Yahweh, the name specified for Israel’s God. The name of His covenant and of His faithfulness, the name that says to Israel that God is always present. Besides that our translation has the name Lord (with small letters) as translation of Adonai, which only says that God controls everything; not the least of which is expressed by the special electing grace towards Israel.

What do the prophets say? The Lord, Adonai, will bless your operation. The High administrator will be with you. Today we would say the “Supreme Being” or “Providence”.

These gentlemen preach as neutral as possible!

They do not use the real, profound and glorious covenant name. There is no talk of whether Ahab’s politics have anything to do with election, with deliverance, with faith and the law of their God. That this war is not a matter of diplomacy and prestige; but of faith in Him who is with Israel. Obedience to His commandments, is not talked about. It is far beyond the ken of these people that blessing is bound to grace and commandment. The words “the Lord” comes out of their mouths in a manner as sloppy and shallow as people today are used to when they speak of “our dear Lord” who finds everything agreeable. These words are not based on Faith!

Jehoshaphat is not happy with any of it. It is as cheap as possible. It is ‘hoorah’ as if on command. It is all applause even when the king only nods. Professional prophets indeed, but without any calling and therefore also without any concept of responsibility. Therefore they say always; everything is good and well.

These propagandists, who quickly mimic support for the ’Upper echelon’ say nothing to him. Is there no true prophet? A prophet of the LORD, so we can ask him? Someone who knows the covenant, and takes the grace and law of that covenant seriously? Who really speaks in the name of God? One who does not simply adhere to the notices that come from the king’s council chambers, but who is truly initiated in the secrets of God’s Counsel.

There appears to be one, a certain Micaiah. But Ahab immediately brings direct objections against his coming. That man is always opposed to Ahab and constantly proclaims failure. Ahab claims to have no use for him because he is invariably in opposition. The king quickly gives himself away. He betrays what he wants and expects from the prophets. Not that they would tell the truth from God, no matter how hard and bitter. No, prophets must predict success, they must agree. Ahab desires no true prophet, only a bunch of people who mimic his words.

Jehoshaphat feels a great depth separating him from Ahab. However he restricts it to a friendly admonition: “let not the king say such things,” and someone is sent out to also tell Micaiah to come.

But it all remains so incredulous! Those four hundred do not leave the scene; no, they keep playing their civic role in the square before the gate while the two kings sit in their robes on one throne. They do not slip away, even though they realize that Jehoshaphat has seen through their game and doesn’t give their words even one cent credit. They are stung because Ahab betrayed the fact that they are only paid propagandists, useful for tempering the people. Definitely not messengers of God despite their pageantry. Yet for all that they stay!

They were shot on the wing, the honor of their office is affected. They want to show what they are still worth. They speak ecstatically, as with an enchanted spirit. Zedekiah, their leader apparently, had taken along a pair of iron horns. Indeed, do prophets who know their business use words only? Can’t they also make use of symbolic measures? Do they only prophecy with their mouths and not in fact. It is all so unreal!

And what is now noteworthy, the whole chorus now speaks of LORD, with capitals, of Yahweh, God of the covenant. They had just talked of the Lord, Supreme being. Now that they notice that Jehoshaphat is set on that other name, they let him have his way. But what else do you expect? Aren’t such prophets only and always actors who do not care a whit for the Word of the Lord, but who all the more closely watch the reactions of men?

What is the value of this prophecy? It becomes exposed by the behavior of the messenger who must bring Micaiah. He whispers in his ear: “they are all for it, be reasonable and do not be the only one to vote against it. You know; the king does not want to be called back now. Vote with the rest. It is only formality, all this prophesying! Why do you make yourself so concerned? If things go wrong, well that risk is the for the king! It will go on anyway! Why would you raise your voice against it? Nothing will be accomplished and what use is the misery? All you will achieve is to get into more difficulties with the king. Your life is already not easy, be a little wiser, my man. It is not meant to be so serious, so don’t take it so serious!”

Well meant advice?

This consultation shows that there no longer is any value to prophecy in Israel. No one has any respect for it! No one takes it serious that each of the crown counselors has become a flatterer, and must be if he wants a tolerable life. One push of the button and the applause breaks lose. The propaganda machine may not falter. Woe the prophet who puts a spoke in the wheel!

No mortal is interested any more whether the LORD stands behind the operation! As long as the people are for it! If the propaganda works effectively then God’s name can be of service, and why not? Does anyone here talk of the third commandment? Does anyone confess the old words: “Thou shalt not use the name of the LORD thy God in vain”? The messenger says: sir, why so stodgy?

But this spirit is a curse, and this prophecy is a misfortune for the church. I believe prophets have it easier in times of persecution then in times when no one is serious anymore. At least persecution still signifies a deadly seriousness. But this prophecy is only a game of professional actors!

How could Ahab expect a blessing? Do not say: how would the people get behind the fact that the prophecy was a deception? They all could know that the LORD would not sustain this operation!

Through his self willed alliance with the Syrians for three years Ahab has lost the blessing! When he began such a dear and generous brotherhood with Benhadad! The LORD said: I put your life for his, and your people for his people! That was not a cheap threat. Since that moment the curse rested on all of Israel‘s life. It was three years ago and so gradual. But the LORD did say it and none of His words fall to earth; and Ahab did not repent.

Frivolously he called his enemies “brothers”. And yet his real “brother” ~ even if it was such a minor person as Naboth ~ he struck down with church discipline! And words of judgment were pronounced against it! Yet there had been no true repentance afterward.

Look, Ahab can suddenly turn and remind the people that there is still a matter with the Syrians. True! But the matter that lies between the LORD and him is not resolved by that. And no one made themselves anxious about it, that was the worst.

Ahab can accuse the Syrians of breaking trust: they only used the papers of the peace treaty to patch their boots. Ahab is right. But the curse of the LORD is not removed by it!

He can say: Ramoth is a piece of the “inheritance of the fathers”. True. But to be right over against man does not make your stand right with the LORD!

He makes a good politician: the chances are favorable. Jehohaphat will be an ally. He can speak fond words about brother nations, who have so long opposed each other and who will now act against a common enemy. It is all true. But the wrath of God is not quieted this way!

How terrible this is, beloved! No horrific murder here, no gruesome Baal worship, no breaking of alters no cursing of prophets. But fraternization among those who belong to the same people of God. A step towards reunification! A righteous cause and a holy war! It all looks so good. But it is terrible, for everyone plays with the LORD. Hundreds of prophets, but no one takes the Word serious.

Such a college of prophets is perhaps the first calamity that can strike the church. Giving a simple blessing which the politics of the day demands. The delivery of sermons on order: a light sermon? Certainly! Somewhat heavier? Just mention it: I still have something for you too.

Such prophecy is a noiseless power of error which puts the whole church to sleep. God does not recall the words of His curse. Through these prophets God will subject His people to catastrophe!

Naturally if someone insists, a very “heavy” prophet, of a sort like Micaiah, may still be allowed to speak. As long as he knows what is expected of him! As long as he isn’t too serious by coming with a real message from God.

Ahab will make his project go on. The prophets can be used to make the people believe it is God’s business. They can warm up the people for the grand action on behalf of “the inheritance of the fathers!”

Woe us beloved, if we would think that false prophecy only means the proclamation of heresy and error! False prophecy also occurs when an orthodox blessing is given to a people busy with holy warfare in the name of the Lord without having repented from particular sins!

Ahab just ignored the past, and acted as if there wasn’t anything between the LORD and him. He would wage the wars of the LORD. And the prophets said: go up, for the LORD is with you. The people also forgot that there was anything called the wrath of the covenant. They made sport of all prophecy and such sport is false prophecy! It is not in the first place opposition to orthodoxy but playing with the words of God.!

But is that only something of the past?

What happened in resent times? In the 19th century the Reformed Churches have given many churches up to unbelief and apostasy, and persecuted the true prophets. Large portions of “the heritage of the father’s” were lost for Christ. Much later there was great activity for turning people back to Christ; a committee for this and a committee for that. They even produced a draft for a new church order. Determined, they grabbed hold even of the politics of the day. One church even sent missionaries to America with a political mission.

In the meantime I know there are still believers there. And the old truths are still preached on some pulpits. But what about the church as a whole? Despite all this activity honor is not restored to de Cock. No one repented of the murders perpetrated on true servants in the last centuries. There is talk of a confessing church but who takes the “confessions” seriously? Barth and modernism have a permanent place. People are busy in politics because they want to be church. But they are, till today, not in a position to say what they confess. Even if they keep busy with all the greatest actions, will the LORD be with them? And if the congregation is warmed up from the pulpit for it, what kind of prophecy is that?

Also those churches that cast us out and persecuted us till now, ~ they too are filled with a strong sense of mission. People speak of the great tasks that God has set apart for these churches. And they are eager to begin and desire to put a period behind all matters pertaining to those who liberated (in‘44’). I don’t deny that there might be believers left there and some good sermons to be heard. But if they do not make right the abuse of church discipline then judgment will not remain any less dormant over those churches then the possibility that LORD would forget Ahab’s murder of Naboth for one second. Men can say: we should put a period behind this chapter of church conflict because there are so many other urgent tasks. Setting up mission centers, and so on, for God wants it.

But will the LORD be with them?

Really, I do not say this to bring self-exaltation. So that we can vaunt ourselves, liberated, so we have it. Setting ourselves off from other churches with a sneer now and then. No, this spirit is too serious for that, and the situation much too dangerous! It is the same spirit that threatens us. And this prophecy could also reveal itself in our churches!

We so eagerly and quickly forget the past, the past over which the LORD”S anger remains. We do not repent from sins of the past, we eagerly rid ourselves of it with a new flurry of activity. We say rousing words of brotherly love, about cooperating together against a common enemy. Phrases like “the heritage of the fathers” and “God wills it” just roll off our lips.

Then we will also join hands against threatening secularization, socialism or whatever. We will again become broad minded, interdenominational, ecumenical, and will seek cooperation everywhere. And the prophets will be set on the pulpits to enamor the congregation, and waken them to “loyalty”, and to the necessary “sacrifice”, to accompany the activities of the day with the incense of their prayers. IN THE NAME OF THE LORD! Whether with small letters or capitals is not mentioned. An easy sermon here, a heavy one there. That is why we are interdenominational. So unified. And the Lord will bless it! Whether our “sweet Jesus“, okay, or if it is “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” oh well; as long as there is preaching and prayer and offerings in unity for the “good cause”. Because despite all differences we are one in love for the “cause of the LORD“!

That is just the kind of prophecy which intoxicates the church! That brings it into the stupor of a “holy zeal” making all rise to the struggle “with hope of blessing”. All the while the LORD does not forget His word of judgment!

With all our activity and collaboration the first question should be whether our combined armies will truly wage the battles of the LORD or will only look after our own affairs. Because people can talk busily about “our right” and justly so and yet have the LORD against them! Because we have forgotten His inalienable right! The question is too; are we speaking to a people who can and may expect a blessing when we speak so generously in the Lord’s name of a blessing over every possible Christian action. Why is the question never seriously weighed in our Christian organizations whether the Lord is angry with us or not, as He was with Ahab? Angry over our fraternizing with unbelievers, or of the murder of fellow believers, or both!

It is easy to talk here of the Holy Word of the Lord. As long as it is about Ahab no one gets upset. He has been dead for a long time. Do we appreciate that the Word is focused on us and calls those who sinned like Ahab wicked today? That it also threatens us if we support the godless in their “Christian” action?

I don’t say so easily: the liberated separate, on all terrain! But I shudder when I hear how lightly collaboration is flaunted. Are we so bewitched that we do not take God’s Word serious anymore? Do we seek brotherly cooperation for activities without asking if the LORD in His wrath will confound it all. Because in our so called Christian country today the exact same sins that brought condemnation upon Ahab are still not confessed and not forgiven. And Jehoshaphat was dragged into that judgment because he so easily promised and cooperated with Ahab.

Ahab also spoke about “brother”. Jehoshaphat today and just as easily Benhadad tomorrow.Who still makes himself concerned with the value of the word “brother”? And who still has regard for the name of the LORD?

Also today people do not busy themselves with the LORD’S name in their missionary activities, election campaigns and social agendas. Whether He is mentioned as the Supreme being or confessed as the God and Father of Christ ~ it makes no difference as long as the speeches give religious support for action. Whether grace and commands of the covenant are taken serious, ~ for propaganda cannot make itself busy with the third commandment! Both heavy and light sermons evince a good worship service for they each are suitable for their own audiences. It is all done so that all the people can participate! In the end we will call all Christian advertising “prophecy“.

But beloved, how will the LORD expose it? Even if His blessing is proclaimed and prayed for from a hundred pulpits; there is no blessing except where the people repent from real sins. All activity which leapfrogs over sin is itself judgment. And all prophecy that brings people into a holy fever is a force of hardening. The eyes close, the lights go out and the people fall asleep, everyone!


Meanwhile ~ I already mentioned it ~ prophecy was not only activated, it was, on the insistance of Jehoshaphat, switched over. The messenger goes to get Micaiah.

Ahab’s adjutant has already put pressure on Micaiah to join in and not bring any dissonance to the harmonious choir. Whether he did it on his own or received instructions, we don’t know. That he acts in the same spirit as his king is quickly evident, because Micaiah speedily rejects this friendly advice. “I will say only what the LORD shall speak to me. I have been fetched as a prophet so I will not talk according to the mouth of the king but the mouth of the LORD.

But as soon as he comes before Ahab he comes in temptation. The king has already proscribed: Micaiah must also give his support to the beautiful plan! It was necessary for Jehoshaphat since Ahab himself hadn’t considered the LORD for a long time. Yet under no condition would he want to miss the support of ally like Jehoshaphat. Ahab charms him with friendly gestures because the contrarian Micaiah should not be allowed to put his foot in the spokes. Ahab is as jovial and courteous as can be. At other times he would not care what this prophet had to say. Now however the coalition with Jehoshaphat, the journey to Ramoth and the restoration of damaged prestige is at stake. Today Micaiah must participate.

Did you see how refined this temptation was? Earlier Ahab had asked the other prophets; shall I go up? You may have your opinions but I decide. It sounds totally different to Micaiah: shall we go up?

It is like this ~ ‘Micaiah, we should have a word together. This is not just an opportunity for the king alone; in this matter you as prophet have a deciding voice. What do you think, shall we go up, together? I really have no use for the others. What are they worth? But your word is significant for me.’

Who would not bend for such sympathetic courtesy? In one moment Micaiah could become an honored man!

Yet he sees through the whole game. Ahab is also working him over. The friendliness is nothing but a ruse to get him to come along. A velvety voice suggests: speak, your word lies heavy on the scales. But the true meaning of the velvet is that Micaiah should keep his mouth shut for peace sake and say only ‘what I want to hear‘.

Micaiah didn’t allow himself to be caught. This promotion of his was too quick , his advice was not even wanted at first. And now suddenly, first and only, and participation in the deliberations and decision making. He understands; the kings acts serious but is not, so the prophet’s answer is not serious either. It is pure irony when he says; ‘go up, the LORD will give Ramoth into your hand’! Didn’t it all start so I could say this, that I could repeat your words? That’s what you chose. You act as if you want to hear the word of the LORD, yet must I not keep His Word silent today and speak only what you want to hear? Well the matter is decided, go up and you will prosper!

Ahab cannot put up with the irony. He can’t let it pass. Notebene, here he treated this confounded prophet with all possible courtesy and he dares the public to join him to slay the dragon. Micaiah uses irony, and actually says to Ahab’s face, can’t you be serious? Isn’t all the people’s activity just a hard sell to get support from Jehoshaphat?

Now the mask of friendliness immediately falls away. Ahab blows up; listen here, I wouldn’t choose that kind of tone. It is allways the same, you make a joke of it but I am totally earnest. How often must I tell that I want to hear nothing but the naked truth. Can’t you learn not to play with the seriousness of such meticulous decision making.

So now it is Micaiah’s turn to be deadly serious. Do you say it is about the truth? The plain Word of the LORD and nothing else? Then listen to what I have seen in the spirit. I saw all Israel dispersed over the mountains, as sheep without a shepherd. A scattered flock without leadership. The LORD said to me: “ these have no lord!” Let each one get his fey body out of harms way and see that he returns safe to his house. That is the naked truth of the Word of the LORD: if the plan proceeds Israel will be defeated and scattered. The king himself; dead! The coveted victory unachieved because the LORD is still always against you!

Ahab no longer intended to put up with mocking irony nor opposition. Ahab does not let himself be warned: the plan must continue and in order to keep up his importance he tries to put himself in the clear. Triumphantly he says to Jehoshaphat; didn’t I tell you ahead of time? This man allways comes with a message of doom. I’ve known hime awhile already. Allways contrary!

Here you also have the story of the fate of a true prophet inside an apostate church which does not repent. As long as Ahab does not radically repent true prophets receive no opportunity from him and can no longer do any good by him. Because the LORD no longer has a good word to say to that church. Whoever would speak His Word alone will always be called a screech owl. Sometimes for a moment he may prove useful. But if he is faithful the judgment will allways read unfavorably. At one time the tone is unacceptable, the next time the content is objectionable. In the end they always say: just what you could expect. Always in opposition!

No illusions are allowed to be made by any of us. Because at Pentecost we were all anointed with the Spirit of prophecy. The words of Joel are fulfilled in us: the old will dream dreams and the young shall see visions. There is a calling for each in our midst: whoever speaks, speaks according to the words of God!

Is Pentecost wonderful? Yes, an endless tresure. But also: an immense need and a shocking lonliness if the church goes downhill. An apostate church does not repent but dances over its debris to enthusiastically immerse itself in a new and important task, appointed to her by God. And they sing: ‘it is Thy work, our Head and Lord! Especially in times of apostasy the church will behave very ecumenically and start grand undertakings to regain lost terrain. It is then necessary to have prophets of every taste.

But for true prophets it becomes exceedingly difficult, for they must now say “no” in the Lord’s name. There will be attempts to charm them by friendly decorum so that they, blinded with so much honor, will keep their mouths closed. If they desire they can get a preeminent place in the operation, as long as they cooperate. And there is always an army of satellites afoot with the well meant advice: be reasonable, don’t be the only one to vote against it. You will only reap trouble for yourself and end up being isolated. The matter will proceed anyway without your support. Would one know it better than all the others?

If he withstands the temptation and truly speaks the Word of the LORD which promises no blessing withour repentance, - then it always goes awry. The tone is too sharp and to ironical. And the content? Pure pessimism, but what else can you expect from critics. That is why they are so negative! Then it comes to the point that the church starts to talk of the “opposition“ in its official publications!

Beloved, yes, it becomes hard for the prophets. In the world? No, in the church first! This chapter does not deal with diplomats of world powers, but about church tactics! A church which always tries to conform the prophets to its own plan instead of the Word! Always prepared, with refined courtesies, to bind them to persons and so make them unfaithful to the LORD!

But why are you called a Christian? So that I am a member of Christ by faith and a partaker of His annionting, so that I confess His name and not the statutes of people or the desire of kings in the church. The salavtion of the church is always from the Word, even when it judges and lashes!

So whoever speaks today, speak the words of God! Even if he is branded a trouble maker and blackballer! Even if he stands all alone!


But we are not there yet. For the Bible also speaks to us of prophecy being switched off. Ahab tries to rescue himself as well as the situation with the poisonous insinuation: what did I tell you. An eternal grievance-monger!

He gets Micaiah’s final answer to this. Micaiah says: certainly I am a troublesome man who “naturally” sets up obstructions. No, it is more serious. Is there a prophet of doom here, who never wants to come with a joyful message because he is determined to thwart the king and his politics? An annoying fellow but not a dangerous one?

Know what you do. You are dealing with the LORD who wants to do you harm!

You can push a troublemeker aside. Pay no attention to him nor take him serious. You don’t have to hold back on my account! But there is not just a man standing here, who predicts your destruction, no, the LORD, who seeks your destruction, is here.

I will tell you everything!

I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven are standing right and left of Him. A tribunal was gathered on high, there the LORD presided over His ministers. And the matter on the table there is the same for which you sought Jehoshaphat’ support and the prophets propaganda. The point on the agenda was: the expedition to Ramoth.

Recall how the LORD brought the matter up. He asked: who will lure Ahab to begin a campaign against that city? Who will persuade him to start an engagement so that he dies? God also wants this campaign for He seeks your death! He started it all!

Many different ideas were suggested. One came with one proposal and another with a different plan, there was no unanimity, so the LORD did not sanction them. Then finally a demonic spirit showed up. He said” I have it. I will put a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. (1) I will catch him in his own web. He has gathered a circle of satelites, a large number of prophessional confidence men. I will incite them into fervid ecstasy by putting fire in their hearts. Using their tongues I will make the word of deviation into an irresistible devilish power. I will see to it that their prophecy is activated. Prophecy is a mighty weapon, for good, but also for evil. And this time I will not let them speak from their own hearts but will inspire them with demonic prompting. The lie will become a power which sucks Ahab along, irresistibly, to meet his end.

The LORD then said, go, you will be successful, because Ahab has always hounded or killed the true prophets. He refused to hear the Word of his God. He would set the tone himself and the prophets had to support his policies among the people. This time again he would be the first among those who expected propaganda support in advance. This time, however, it would not be the foolish balderdash of men but a devilish force, beyond his control. His will could not guide it, it would simply carry him along!

Count the prophets, look, four hundred in total. At first he didn’t need them but when Jehoshaphat talked about it they were called. You could not put much faith in their pretensions. But Ahab said they could be of good service for the people. Micaiah should not come; but when Jehoshaphat insisted he did came, being first worked over by frivolous courtiers and worldly princes. Ahab had heard his word and said: ‘that miserable man never says anything good’ for Ahab’s heart desired what the others prophesied. They are still busy with ever increasing ecstasy and are not making an impression through their own psychic qualities. Then you could revoke them. But there is a supernatural power of demonic inspiration here. You cannot withdraw from it. Indeed they are here at Jehoshaphat’s request, but the fact that the lie comes with hellish energy is because the LORD released a devil on those prophets and so on Ahab. The LORD wants him dead.

Ahab had now been fully informed, and it was the last warning from the LORD. Following the release of those false prophets He made him meet a true prophet, who must tell him everything, one more time. Ahab had released a power of seduction which he himself could not resist. Once more there is the word of a prophet who is driven by the Holy Spirit and that word remains a heavenly power of preservation. Micaiah says: be warned, today’s decision will be forever. It will make or break it.

Be warned, Ahab. When you gave notice of your cabinet meeting the LORD also convened His Council on high. The agenda was the same for both: a Holy expedition to recover “ the heritage of the fathers”. You said: the action must proceed! God said the same: It must continue! You have put the entire party machinery into action. But God, with the same purpose brought His organization into operation. Are not those heavenly spirits also in service to be sent out for ruin?

But the choice was made. Zedekia gives Micaiah a slap in the face. Zedekia had experienced some bad moments. First Jehoshaphat had made it known that his prophets had no credibility with him. Then Ahab became so friendly with Micaiah, saying that he had need of him, suggesting that Zedekia and the rest don’t amount to much.

Things had gone bad from the beginning. He had done his best, and with those iron horns too.

But at the last moment his chances took a turn for the better and Zedekia’s stocks rise. The king’s sentiments took a complete reversal and the four hundred could profit from it. They could again make their presence noticed and regain their prestige as messengers of God. Zedekiah becomes indignant: what! The Spirit of the LORD leave me and go to you? Along which pathway? Would He leave me, having always been His instrument, to suddenly have you at His service? What insolence! You claim to be the only one to have the Spirit, and dare to say that we are instruments of devils! Prove your legitimacy, show some evidence that you are the only prophet of the LORD here, to the exclusion of this party of four hundred.

The man sneers, and strikes Micaiah; would you have a leasehold on the truth?

Ahab backs him up. He calls an officer of the peace and says: hide this man in a cell and make it hard for him. Put him on bread and water till the day I return as victor. Then the facts will unmask him as a liar.

Micaiah has only one answer for both of them. To Zededkia he says: do you want proof that I am the only prophet of the LORD here? You will receive that proof on the day of Ahab’s defeat, when you go from room to room to keep yourself concealed. The defeat will be so devastating that you, who announced victory, will not be able to show yourself in public. It will be so terrible that you will have to disappear because of the people’s anger.

He says to Ahab: so your return will be proof that I was a liar? Agreed, I will accept the challenge. If you return in peace then put me in the stocks as a prophet of idle words. Unmask me publicly. I will not try to deny them and am willing to be imprisoned as long as it takes. I will be readily available on your return. As you will see however you will not return in triumph!

His hands are bound but he has voice for one last cry: hear all and everyone! Pay attention and watch what happens now! The legitimacy of prophecy will depend on the facts of the next few days.

They went to battle misled by false prophecy. They had switched Micaiah off with blows and imprisonment. The word is now about the facts, but the prophet does not have to shy away from what happens next. Doesn’t God’s Word always come about?

Now all those who warm themselves up for the struggle for Christian cooperation must shudder. For all these events happened within the church!

People can make all kinds of grandiose plans, conduct promotions for “God’s cause” and envelope it all with a halo of “the guidance of the Spirit”. A consistory may meet, or a synod, or council of churches, or the administration of a Christian organization. They may discuss the goals of some Christian activity and plan effective advertising for the sacred struggle. And it may be that at the same time the Council of God gathers in heaven for the same matter with the result that in His wrath God decides to unleash devils upon His people. He lets false prophets bewitch them because He wants them stimulated to activities that will prove fatal in the end!

I hear about plans everywhere, and much activity; congresses, meetings of academics, ministerial assemblies and prodigious promotion campaigns. ‘God wills it and will be with us‘. They gather many to action with pious words around Christ’s banner of the cross. Men presume confidence of the Spirit’s guidance. But those who call for repentance, and lift their voice in warning, are ridiculed for their fanaticism! Oh, so only they know it! And they are struck simply because they would not promise to cooperate!

Can true prophecy possibly also be false? It can be both! False prophets do not always come with heresy, if only they would! They are too slick for that. They often come with the same text which a true prophet preaches on. They use the same theme. You can find an orthodox sound anywhere if necessary. There may be no difference in the prayers and benedictions.

So how will we know which prayer is from God and which is from the devil?

Who is the true prophet and who is the false one?

What action is a blessing for the Lord’s people and which pursues them to ruin?
It can not be extracted from the form. We can only know it from the actual situation in the church.

It is not true that God promises His blessing on every activity in His church, or that He will always stand behind its every righteous cause. The blessing is not at our disposal. Blessing is only for the people who love the LORD and preserve His ways!

Ahab could not expect a blessing after the murder of Naboth and his alliance with the Syrians. Not unless there was complete repentance from the heart!

I fear that with all the Christian activity nowadays people are busy forgetting the situation in their own circles for which judgment cannot rest! Yet I also will say: go to the battle! For God’s cause. In His name! And with His blessing!

But God will hold back each soldier and say: Do you want My blessing? How many covenants have you made with strangers? How many murders of brothers?

Today they still go singing on the road to battle. The activities are not affected by the decay, inside and outside. It is Thy cause, Lord and Master….

The LORD, however, does not let Himself be used for our propositions. On the contrary!

Hear you peoples, everyone! Amen.


(1) Some (e.g. Alders in ‘the false prophecy’ and Van Gelderen in the Short Commentary see the persomification of the lie in the lieing spirit. I think this exegesis is unacceptable. In connection with Job 1, Zech. 3 and Rev. 12, I must maintain that before Christs’ ascension the evil spirits had access to heaaven and its councils. Talk of ‘personification’ takes away a piece of the reality and seriousness of biblical history.