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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
 www.bethelurc.org
 
Title:Thy Word is Truth: Part 1 ‘The Wicked King’
Text:1 Kings 22.1-9 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Written Word of God
 
Preached:2023-10-29
Added:2023-11-08
 

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.


Thy Word is Truth: Part 1

‘The Wicked King’

1 Kings 22:1-9

Bethel URC Calgary 10-29-23

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, what we just read in the passage before us bears a striking similarity to what we see happening on the world stage every day. We see that there’s about to be a war over a disputed territory, over the city of Ramoth Gilead. It was once part of Israel but it was currently under Syrian control, and Ahab wants to go to war to take it back.   

 

The more things change, the more things stay the same. The war between Israel and Hamas is really part of a much larger and much longer war between Israel and the Palestinians over Israel’s right to exist – and over the land they inhabit. To this day, many devout Palestinians want to drive Israel off the map: that’s why their chant is: From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.

 

Another similarity between 1 Kings 22 and our modern day world is Ahab’s post-modern, post-Christian approach to governing. He surrounds himself with counselors and advisors who tell him only what he wants to hear, who give him positive reinforcement, and dare not contradict him.

 

Ahab, like many of our world leaders today, has a strong aversion, a severe allergy to the truth. There’s an old saying that goes something like this “You wouldn’t know the truth if it walked up and slapped you in the face.” This is essentially what we see played out in this passage between Ahab and Micaiah.  

 

Ahab demands the truth. Micaiah tells him the truth. But Ahab can’t handle the truth. In the end, he prefers the lies of those who would flatter him and placate him – even though it’s going to cost him his life.

 

What we see here, beloved, is that this war counsel between Ahab and Jehoshaphat is less about going into battle, and more about the battle for truth. In the end, whose truth is going to triumph? Who will prevail? The word of Ahab’s 400 prophets or the word of the Lord spoken by one prophet? (Spoiler alter – my theme for 1 Kings 22 kinda gives it away): God’s Word is Truth! This morning we will consider two points:  

  1. Ahab’s Sinful Past (which is to blame for His Current Crisis)  
  2. Ahab’s Hard Heart (which is why He Refuses to Call upon God) 

 

1. Ahab’s Sinful Past is the Reason for His Current Crisis 

A moment ago, I mentioned the tug-of-war that went on between Syria and Israel over the city of Ramoth Gilead. There’s more to the story than this. We’re going to see that what happens to king Ahab in chapter 22 is a direct result and consequence of everything that happened in chapter 20.

 

So let’s turn back to 1 Kings 20. As you can see, this account occurs right after the Lord appeared to Elijah in the still small voice on Mt Horeb, and right before the account of Naboth’s vineyard.      

 

Verse 1 of chapter 20 tells us how King Ben-Hadad of Aram (Syria) accompanied by 32 kings with horses and chariots besieged Samaria. Samaria was the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel, the kingdom over which Ahab ruled as king. Syria was the neighboring nation to the northeast, and the two nations fought against each other many times.

 

Because of the massive size of his army, Ben-Hadad felt confident that he would overrun Samaria. He offered Ahab terms of surrender, but after consulting with his officials, Ahab refused. (See famous quote by Ahab: vs. 11). With that Ben-Hadad prepares to attack. Then in verse 13, a prophet of the Lord (with no name) appeared to Ahab to announce that the Lord was going to give that vast army into the hand of Ahab: So that Ahab would know that He was the Lord.

 

This is exactly what happened. Verses 19-21 tells how Israel defeated the Arameans in battle and inflicted heavy casualties on their army. However, King Ben-Hadad got away. But the very next spring, King Ben-Hadad mustered another army and waged war against Israel again. There’s an interesting twist to the story. Ben-Hadad was advised that the only reason they were defeated by Israel is because Israel’s gods ruled the hills. So, this time, if the king could lure Ahab’s army into the valleys and plains to fight, then Israel gods would be powerless and Aram, victorious.

 

What happened? The prophet with no name appeared again to Ahab and again delivered a message of victory. Vs. 28:  This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’”

 

And sure enough, once the battle ensued, the Lord gave Israel the victory just as He had promised. The Word of the Lord, delivered by the prophet, was true. However, Ahab’s heart, however, remained as hard as stone. Even though the Lord delivered him, he did not know him as his God.    

 

Instead, he acted in rebellion and foolishness. If you look at the end of verse 30 of chapter 20, we see that Ben-Hadad and his officials escaped the second battle as well. Later, they appeared before Ahab wearing sackcloth and they pleaded for their lives.

 

But instead of instantly killing king Ben-Hadad, his enemy and the enemy of Israel, Ahab decided it was better to strike a peace-treaty with him. Look at verse 34. Ben-Hadad was greatly relieved to hear that of course, so he said: “I will return the cities my father took from your father, and you may set up your own market areas in Damascus as my father did in Samaria.’ Ahab said, “On the basis of this treaty I will set you free. So, he made a treaty with him and let him go.”   

 

Right after that, another prophet appeared to Ahab to reveal the consequences for his sinful actions. Verses 42-43, he told Ahab, thus saith the Lord, you have set free a man I have determined should die. Therefore, it is your life for his life, your people for his people.  

 

Because Ahab did not put Ben-Hadad to death, God will put Ahab to death. Ahab’s future was very bleak to say the least. Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death and we see this in a very literal sense not only in the life of Ahab – but in the life of anyone in the world (ourselves included) who sinfully rejects and ignores the truth of God’s Word, and insists on living life on their own terms, and living life by their own standards and definitions, and making peace with the world where God says there can be no peace; and doing things the way we think is best, living for our own pleasure and purposes.

 

God will not be mocked. In time, God will bring about his just judgment in the lives of all those who live in enmity and warfare against God and His Word of Truth. And quite often that judgment comes in the form of reaping what we sow. Very often God takes man’s sinfulness, his folly and pride and arrogance and he visits it upon him -- it all comes back to haunt us; it becomes our own undoing, and this was especially true in Ahab’s case.

 

Here is where we can see the necessity of the cross beloved, the need for true faith in Jesus Christ our Savior and our Lord. For Christ came into this world to save us from this very judgment; from our own sinful folly and pride and arrogance – from having to reap what we have sown.

 

In His suffering, death and resurrection, Jesus took all our sin and all God’s judgment upon Himself, so that we might be spared of God’s coming judgment, and so that we might break free from our slavery to sin and the consequences of our pride, arrogance and rebellion against God.

Praise God, that through Jesus Christ His Son, he has removed the most damning consequence of our actions – eternal judgment in hell – and instead has given us everlasting life with him in glory!

 

2. Ahab’s Hard Heart (which is the Reason He Forgets to Call on God) 

So that is first. Ahab’s Sinful Past is the Reason for His Current Crisis. Now, we see secondly: Ahab’s Hard Heart is the reason he refuses to Call on God. In I kings 22:1 it says, For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. Now you know why. The two kings had struck a peace treaty. But the problem is, Ben-Hadad did not keep the terms of the peace. He never relinquished the city of Ramoth Gilead back to Ahab.

 

There’s a good reason Ben-Hadad was reluctant to give it back, and it had to do with money, of course. Big surprise. Money and wealth drive the growth of empires. Ramoth Gilead was a coveted city because of its economic importance. It was one of the cities situated along the major trade route known as the King’s Highway. The King’s Highway ran along the east side of the Jordan River and it stretched from the southern point of Dead Sea and ran all the way north to Damascus in Syria. Whoever controlled Ramoth Gilead had access to all that wealth and commerce.

 

It’s no wonder that Ahab is willing to break the peace in order to try to reclaim it. But this time, instead of going into battle alone, Ahab enlists the help of an ally -- King Jehoshaphat, who was the King of Judah.

 

1 Kings 22:42 describes Jehoshaphat as a godly king. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. 1 Chronicles 18:1 tells us that Jehoshaphat had allied himself with Ahab through marriage. Ahab was his father-in-law, and so Jehoshaphat had good reason to keep the peace.

 

In verse 3, Ahab makes his appeal to Jehoshaphat, arguing that Ramoth Gilead belongs to “us” and yet we are doing nothing to retake it. This was a hollow appeal to say the least. First of all, Ramoth Gilead remained under the control of Aram because of Ahab’s disobedience. Secondly, by using the word “us” Ahab is appealing to Jehoshaphat of Ramoth Gilead being part of the inheritance of Canaan, the Promised land given to Israel by the Lord at the time of conquest.

 

He’s saying, ‘Come on Jehoshaphat! This land belongs to us, by the Word and promise of YHWH! Let’s take back what God has given us. For three years, we’ve done nothing to take it back. Like many world leaders, Ahab will quote the Bible or appeal to God’s promises when it best suits his political objectives.  

 

But Jehoshaphat never questioned or challenged Ahab’s motives. He simply committed his full allegiance and fighting forces to Ahab. Jehoshaphat did, however, insist on one thing (see verse 5). As a Godly king, he knew that it was both right and wise, before going into battle, to first seek out the Lord’s counsel.

 

And that beloved, is a huge difference between an ungodly king and a Godly king. An ungodly king (like Ahab) seeks help from below – he seeks to make alliances to win the battle. He thinks only in terms of the size of his army, the number of soldiers, and chariots and archers and swordsmen.

 

But Psalm 33:16-20 says, No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.”

 That is why a Godly king, as any godly person would, seeks out the wisdom and counsel and help of the Lord. Because without that, without the Lord’s help, without the Lord’s blessings, you can have all the horses and chariots in the world at your disposal, but it will be in vain. They will not deliver you. The only reason Ahab and Israel won the two previous campaigns was because God gave them the victory. But Ahab is too wicked and senseless to see that and to acknowledge that.  

 

Ahab agreed to do what Jehoshaphat suggested. So, Ahab called upon his own prophets to inquire of the Lord -- about 400 of them. You might recall, earlier in chapter 18, Elijah killed the prophets of Baal and Asherah after the showdown on Mt. Carmel. So these are not prophets of Baal.

 

And yes, Jezebel, Ahab’s wicked wife, tried to kill all the prophets of the Lord in Israel, and she killed many, but Obadiah hid 100 prophets of the Lord in two caves. But I think we can safely assume from what we read here, that Jezebel killed only the true prophets of the Lord – unlike these 400 men who served as Ahab’s personal prophets.

 

These men were the best prophets that money could buy. They were “yes men” who would prophesy whatever the king wanted to hear. They come before Aha, and Ahab asks them: She I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

 

And they answered back, “Go, For the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.” There was one prophet we know by name, Zedekiah, perhaps he was the chief prophet. In verse 11, he took iron horns, and he most likely acted out an elaborate dance, showing how Ahab would gore the Arameans. This was Biblical imagery. Deuteronomy 33:17 speaks of how Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim (which was most the territory of the northern tribe of Israel) had horns like a wild ox and with those horns they would gore the nation.

 

So very similar to Ahab who quoted the Bible when it was expedient, these prophets were no different. They knew their Bible. They just didn’t know and believe in the God of the Bible.

 

These prophets had no idea what the Lord’s will and counsel was in this matter; all they knew is what Ahab wanted to hear. So that’s what they told him. That’s how this works. That’s how they kept their job, and that’s how they stayed alive. 

 

But Jehoshaphat clearly sees through this. That’s why he says in vs. 7, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?” Even he could see through this charade. These men were not true prophets. And so, Ahab was forced to summon Micaiah – and that is where we’ll pick it up again tonight.   

 

But I want to conclude this morning by highlighting the contrast between these two men. First, there’s Ahab. Ahab perfectly fits the description of the lawless and godless men described in 2 Timothy 4:3-4. 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. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

 

Perhaps at times, we can see the sin of Ahab in our own hearts, as we surround ourselves with those who simply see the world the way we see it. Today the church of Jesus Christ is in crisis because it no longer puts up with sound teaching and doctrine. Instead, the teaching and doctrine of the church is perverted and distorted and hijacked by social issues.

 

Churches throughout our city and nation and world – and the Christian Reformed church and presbyterian churches of which some of us here were once members, they now affirm gay and lesbian lifestyles and marriages. They affirm what the unbelieving world does about sexual identity, and they have women serving in offices of the church, as elder and pastor.

 

I read this past week that Calgary Christian school hired a woman who serves as a pastor of a local church. She was introduced as “Pastor” in the article, and I believe she will work on the chapel committee. This is just another step of normalizing that which is unbiblical for our children – and our Christian churches and schools have been doing this kind of thing for over 3 decades.

These are all issues that directly contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, these were the reasons that many of us here left the Christian Reformed Church and formed a new denomination. It’s just so sad to sit back and watch these churches and schools destroy themselves by making peace with the world – and yet they don’t even realize it. They are convinced that they are the ones who are being faithful to God – and they will even quote Scripture to prove it.          

  

But then there’s Jehoshaphat. He was not a perfect man, but he was a godly man who knew that before heading off to battle, they better first seek out God wisdom and counsel. That prompting comes from God’s Holy Spirit working within him – Jehoshaphat is a man of God, who willingly submitted himself to the truth of God’s Word.

 

And if we are people of God, who claim to be saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then we will also be people of the Word, led by the Spirit of God, to submit ourselves to the truth of God’s Word no matter how much that truth may clash with today’s social movements or how much  it scratches the itching ears of those who want to see the church change with the world.   

 

We need to be a people who have the Spirit of the Lord in them as Jehoshaphat did – Godly men who are leaders in the church. Leading Biblically and bravely and boldly – which means that before we make any decisions, these men say: let’s pray about this matter. Let’s open God’s Word and seek out the Lord’s will in this matter. Such men do not make decisions based upon how people are going to react, or based on fear of reprisals, or what will make people happy. What does God want us to do.  

 

Godly young ladies and mothers who have the Spirit of Jehoshaphat will also look to God’s Word to help them understand what it means to be a wise and godly woman – to learn what a woman truly is, not in the eyes of the ungodly world, but in the eyes of the Lord. She serves in the church, she leads women in the study of God’s Word or she learns alongside them, she prays with her sisters in Christ, she searched God’s Word to discover what is a woman of virtue? What is my role in the church, my home, my marriage, the workplace? How can I honor God and glorify Christ?

 

Thanks be to God, we don’t need 400 prophets to tell us God’s will. God sent his Son to be our Chief Prophet and teacher, who reveals to us the secret counsel of God for our deliverance; and we have His Holy Spirit to lead us into the truth; and we have God’s inspired and inerrant Word which reveals to us everything we need to know for our salvation – but also for our life with God and with each other in this world. All we have to do is ask God to help us; to give us wisdom; to show us the way; to make His will clear, and then to help us trust Him – so that as we make our decisions that we may be at peace with the results of our decisions. 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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