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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:The Word is Truth (Part 3) You Can't Fool God
Text:1 Kings 22.29-40 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Justice

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, it’s quite fitting that we would consider this passage together right on the heels of our celebration of Reformation Day. When we think of the doctrinal fruits of the Protestant Reformation, we highlight the Five Solas (the five “ALONES”):  we confess that we are saved by Grace Alone, through Faith Alone, in the finished work of Christ Alone, all to the glory of God Alone, all of which is revealed to us in Scripture alone – which is the final and highest authority in all matters of faith and practice.


It is that last Sola that comes into focus in our text today – and for much the same reason it did during the Protestant Reformation. We ask: What happens when religious leaders, those who hold office and authority in the church, teach things that are contradictory to the Word of God?


Or, what happens when those who claim to be prophets of the Lord, prophesy two opposite, contradictory outcomes of a battle – yet each claim: “Thus saith the Lord.” Since we know that God cannot lie, we know one of them is a true prophet, and the other is false.  


In this case, we know that Micaiah was the true prophet of the Lord and Ahab’s 400 prophets were liars. But how do we know for sure? Is there a way to tell? The answer is simple: watch and wait. See what transpires. Micaiah staked his ministry and reputation on the truth of God’s Word when he said to Ahab in verse 25: “If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me!”


For the prophet Micaiah, there was no higher authority than the Word of God. God’s Word is Truth. Here, Ahab’s Death Proves the Truth of God’s Word.  

1. Ahab’s Deceptive Battle-Plan  

2. Jehoshaphat’s Near-Fatal Mistake  

3. God’s Absolute Sovereignty


1. Ahab’s Deceptive Battle-Plan  

People of God, when we say that something is deceptive, we mean that it has the ability to trick, to deceive, to fool someone, to make them think that something is different from the way it really is.

Boys and girls, in the animal kingdom, animals use deception as a form of protection. Animals that are usually not very strong or powerful, that would otherwise be easy prey for larger animals, often have a built in, God-given-ability to protect themselves from predators.


Think of a chameleon. What special gift does a chameleon have? It can change its appearance, it can change the color of its skin or scales, so that it blends in with its surroundings making it nearly invisible – or at least much more difficult to detect. A chameleon survives deceiving its enemy.


This is the same strategy that Ahab employs as he goes into battle. But before we get there, let’s just take a few moments to see how this all transpires. You may recall from our previous sermons on this chapter that Ahab enlisted the help, the alliance of his son-in-law Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, to go into battle against Aram (which we said was the Syrians). The objective of this military campaign was to reclaim the city of Ramoth Gilead from Syrian control.  


However, before going off into battle, Jehoshaphat said: we should first seek the Lord’s counsel in this matter. After Ahab consulted his own private prophets, 400 of them who only ever said what the king wanted to hear, Jehoshaphat asked if there was a real prophet of the Lord with whom they could consult. That is when Ahab very reluctantly summoned Micaiah – saying of him I hate the man because he only ever prophesies bad things about me.


Sure enough Micaiah showed up, revealed to Ahab the prophecy which God told him to relay to Ahab – “You’re going to die in battle, and what’s more, you’re not even going to believe my prophecy or heed my warning; instead your heart is going to be deceived by your own prophets, and you are going to listen to them and go off to war.”


For that faithful prophecy, Micaiah was struck in the face and thrown into prison – reminding us once more that God’s Word is rejected and despised even among those who would appear to be God’s own people. It is a chilling reminder to us that those who do dare to speak the truth of God’s Word and hold their ground are often punished and persecuted for doing so. Our Lord Jesus (the Word of God incarnate) suffered these same injustices all the way to the cross and the grave, as He came to save the very people who despised and rejected him.  


But now, looking at our text, this is where things get very interesting. Verse 29: “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.” Then Ahab says to Jehoshaphat (again this is his son-in-law remember): I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear the royal robes.” (“Hey, you draw all the attention of those who want to kill me, and I’ll just lay low over here! With a father-in-law like this, who needs enemies!).


Now let’s pause a moment to consider what this means. Did Ahab believe Micaiah’s prophecy, or did he not? He goes off to war, which means that he believed what his own prophets said – “Go and be victorious O king! The Lord will surely grant you the victory!” But then he seems to be hedging his bets a little bit. Yes, he believed his own prophets, but in the back of his mind, he fears that what Micaiah prophesies might also come true – so he’s a walking contradiction.   


Boys and girls, earlier I said how a chameleon blends in to protect itself from its predators. Here, Ahab does the same thing. He takes off his royal robes and wears the clothing of an ordinary chariot driver. He looks no different than the 10,000 soldiers around him. He’s blending in, and the enemy has no idea where king Ahab was.


And to be honest, that part of his plan worked to perfection. Verse 31 tells us that the King of Aram gave explicit orders to his 32 chariot commanders to only engage King Ahab in battle. Ahab appeared to outsmart and outwit his enemy. But what did Ahab forget? He forgot about God again. He forgot that it was God who said he would die in battle – and while Ahab could outsmart the enemy soldiers, he can’t fool God. He can’t hide from God. God sees and knows everything.


What a fool, right – to think he could deceive God! Who does that! And yet, Ahab’s actions mimic the way many people live today, even God’s own people. Just think for a moment of all the sinful things that you and I do and say in the privacy of our own home, or when we’re with our friends, or when we’re out on a date, or what we do in the privacy of our own bedroom or office or family room when no one is watching or listening?

We claim to be Christians, we profess to have faith in Jesus Christ our Savior, that we are clothed in the royal white robes of Christ’s righteousness, but when we choose to indulge in sin, when we disobey God go places we should not go, and do things we should not be doing, are we not willingly setting aside those robes to take on the disguise of the common man, the clothing of the old man of sin, thinking that God will not see us, that we can somehow fool or deceive God?  


Think about that beloved. It’s easy to point out Ahab’s sin. But can you and I see our own sin here? We are also a walking contradiction – saints yet sinners – and at times it’s hard to see whose side we are on. So that is why it is important for us to confess our sins to God each day, to seek the forgiveness of God through the atoning blood of His Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, and to ask God to give us more love, and more grace to remain faithful to Him.  


2. Jehoshaphat’s Near-Fatal Mistake  

That was Ahab’s Deceptive Battle-Plan. Now let’s consider Jehoshaphat’s Near-Fatal Mistake.

We see that Jehoshaphat too was a man of contradictions.


First of all, he was the one who had insisted that Ahab seek the Lord’s counsel from a true prophet of the Lord (back in vs 7). Yet, after hearing Micaiah’s prophecy, Jehoshaphat also seems to defy the Word of the Lord and go off to battle. While the purpose of the text is to show us the wickedness of Ahab, there also seems to be some sin and culpability on Jehoshaphat’s part also.  


The other part of this text that is difficult to figure out is why Jehoshaphat would ever agree to go along with King’s Ahab’s “brilliant” strategy. Remember, Ahab is trying to prove that Micaiah’s word (which we know is God’s Word) will not hold true – that he will survive the battle.


And Ahab’s is willing to prove his theory but not at his own expense. He is willing to prove that theory at the expense of Jehoshaphat’s life. That’s a risk that Ahab was willing to take!


Again, just note the contradiction here. If Ahab was truly a man of conviction, if he really believed that Micaiah’s prophecy was pure fable, that it was all a fabrication, then Ahab would have ridden off into battle just as he proudly and confidently as he had done before -- wearing his royal robes. But now he’s not altogether sure – so this is the way he tries to ensure his safety – again, at the expense of his son-in-law.    


And somehow, Jehoshaphat agrees to go along with it. He put on Ahab’s royal robe, and he drove off into battle. Either Jehoshaphat was not very smart, or he hadn’t thought things through very carefully -- nevertheless, it didn’t take long for Jehoshaphat to realize the foolishness of his decision. All 32 chariot commanders were coming after him – thinking that he was Ahab.


But then Jehoshaphat cried out, and then the commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel, and they turned back. His life was spared, but only barely. What I want us to learn from this is that this is the price God’s people often pay for dabbling in wickedness, for befriending the world, for making compromises and alliances and friendships and dating relationships with those who don’t believe in God, who don’t serve and love and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.


Incidentally, in the parallel passage to this account, in 2 Chronicles 19: 1-3 we’re told that God was not pleased with Jehoshaphat for making an alliance with Ahab. After the battle, Jehoshaphat returned to Jerusalem and he was met by Jehu, another prophet of the Lord.  


He said: Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the Lord? Because of this, the wrath of the Lord is upon you. Later on, Jehoshaphat would repeat this sin and make an alliance with Ahab’s son Azariah, and they would build a fleet of trading ships together. That project also failed (see vs 48 -- God’s destroyed those ships before they ever set sail).   


Yes, as Christians, we should have acquaintances with those who don’t know Christ. We should maintain those relationships as God can use us to speak truth into their lives and bear witness to the hope we have in Christ. But there is a difference between being an acquaintance with someone who does not know Christ, and being such close friends that when we are with them, we regularly compromise our faith or deny or even abandon our identity as a child of God saved by grace.   


Earlier we said that Ahab put on a disguise, he pretended to be someone he was not. But so did Jehoshaphat. He took on the robes of a wicked and treacherous king, an idolater, a hater of the Lord and His Word. And ironically, he almost experienced the judgment that Ahab deserved. But at the last moment, the Lord spared his life and brought him back to his senses. My guess is that he immediately took off Ahab’s robe and said, ‘That’s it. I’m not playing this game anymore.”    


I want to encourage all of you young people, young adults (and everyone else to whom this may apply) – to recognize the danger of compromising your faith, of having friends who essentially coerce or force you into being someone other than who you are in Christ. At least for Jehoshaphat he escaped from the battle unscathed. But that is not always the case for God’s children. Very often we pay a price for being friends with the world – and sometimes it can even cost us our soul.


I want to wrap up this point by drawing your attention to the amazing grace of God. In spite of this sinful alliance, in spite of the fact that Jehoshaphat was far from a perfect man and king, God’s Word says this about him: 2 Kings 22: 43: in everything he walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.


How is that possible? It’s possible because Jehoshaphat’s God is the same God we serve. He is a God who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and mercy. He does not always accuse, nor does he harbor his anger forever. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.


Instead, God, in Christ, forgives us of all our sins. He removes our transgressions from us. This was as true for Jehoshaphat – who by faith, looked forward to the coming of the Lord’s Anointed, the Messiah, just as it is true for us who, by faith, look back on the finished work of Jesus our Messiah.


Thanks be to God, He laid upon Christ the iniquities of us all, so that in Christ’s death and in the victory of His resurrection, our sins could be forgiven, our record of wrongs could be expunged -- so even though we have all sinned countless times in our lives, even though we have done things that were foolish and shameful -- the epitaph of our life does not take that into account. Instead, the epitaph of our life is really the same as it is of Jesus Christ our Savior: in everything he walked in the ways of God His Father, and he did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord.  Praise be to God for His amazing grace!


3. God’s Absolute Sovereignty

There’s one final point to consider, it is God’s Absolute Sovereignty. Boys and girls, Ahab tried to deceive the enemy and outsmart God by wearing a disguise in battle. But notice how God so simply, so sovereignly confounds the trickery and deception of Ahab.  


I love the way the author records the account of Ahab’s demise, how he receives his mortal wound almost by accident.   It doesn’t make for a very glorious ending, does it? Ahab’s identity was never discovered by the enemy. Ahab did not die in the glory of combat, surrounded by 32 Aramean charioteers, battling for hours until finally one of them struck the fatal blow.


No, it was not like that at all. Look at verse 34. Some random Aramean soldier drew his bow, and he shot his arrow at no one in particular, he just shot it in the general direction of the Israelite army, and yet that arrow, shot randomly, not guided not by skill, with no target in view, found its mark.


It struck king Ahab between the sections of his armor and proved to be a fatal wound. Now, anyone observing that scene would have called this the luckiest shot ever -- yet that arrow was guided not by luck, but by the precision mission guidance system of God’s absolute sovereignty and power and just judgment – it struck its target exactly as God had willed and intended.


And with that his royal blood ran from his wound and onto the floor of his chariot, so that after his death, the dogs licked up his blood, just as the Word of the Lord had declared. Dale Ralph Davis wrote that in that way the Word of the Lord comes to pass almost casually. His death came not by the order of the King of Aram but by the decree of YHWH – and in an almost accidental way (for this was an easy thing for the Lord to do). Ahad was armored from head to foot – and yet the arrow found a tiny crevice – such is the power and the inerrancy of the Word of God.


And with that, the Word of the Lord that was spoken through Micaiah the prophet was upheld. God’s judgment upon Ahab was fulfilled. And people of God, I want close today by issuing a word of warning but then a word of great encouragement. The word of warning is this: God’s arrow of judgment always finds it target. If you’re here today and you don’t believe in God or have true faith in Jesus Christ God’s Son, or if you say you’re a believer but you’re living a lie, you have never given up your life of sin and Jesus is not your Lord whom you serve with a holy life, the arrow of God’s judgment is real, and it never misses its target.


We fallen sinners can never escape the just judgment of God – and denying that there is a God, and denying that there is a heaven or hell, and denying that there is a final judgment is as foolish as Ahab wearing a disguise in battle. It’s not going to change reality. Simply denying the truth does not change or alter the truth. God is real, and God’s judgment is real, and if you don’t have Jesus Christ as your Savior, the arrow of God’s Final Judgment is going to find you, and you will suffer eternal torment in hell for all your sins.


But then there’s this word of encouragement – the Good News of the Gospel: God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world so that we fallen sinners could escape the arrow of God’s Just Judgment.


In the gospel, God promises that blood would flow from the wounds of another King, a righteous and just king – God’s own Son Jesus Christ. Jesus would come to earth for us -- to suffer and die in our place on Calvary’s cross. The nails in his hands and feet; the spear thrust into his side, the crown of thorns pressed upon his head, and the thrashing of the whips – all drawing from his body that precious blood -- pouring out, and all flowing down, flowing down on the cross.  


But Christ’s precious blood would not be wasted or lapped up in shame by dogs, but rather that precious blood would continue to flow through the ages, like a never ceasing fountain of grace – washing and cleansing any and all sinners who come to him in faith. The gospel calls all of us – it calls all sinners – to come and bathe, to wash ourselves in this fountain of Christ’s blood and be cleansed from all our sin and guilt.


Even those who believe, are called to come again and again – for each day we sin, and each day we return again to Christ, pleading that the Father, by His Holy Spirit, may apply the benefits of Christ’s precious blood to our account once more. So let us come to Christ once more. Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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