Posted by: arieliondotcom | June 27, 2013

When Bad News is Good News (2 Chronicles 17-18; See also 1 Kings 22)

When Bad News is Good News
(2 Chronicles 17-18; See also 1 Kings 22)

Chapter 17 of 2 Chronicles emphasizes that King Jehoshaphat was a righteous king and Chapter 18 is almost verbatim 1 Kings 22.

Sometimes bad news is good news because it gets your attention. You might get a health scare from your doctor that has you take steps to prevent sickness and delay death. You might be told by your wife that she’s unhappy for something you didn’t realize was wrong so you can make amends. But in order to have these benefits you must dig past the bad news to find the good beneath.

That is a lesson taught in today’s Scripture. As punishment, GOD had split the kingdom. Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, the tribe of the descendants of David. He ruled from Jerusalem, as David had. And Judah was usually obedient and their kings usually god-fearing. King Ahab ruled most of the rest of the tribes of Israel (called Israel) from a palace in Samaria. Ahab, his wife Jezebel and most of Israel were evil, dedicated to idolatry.

The Syrians had been at peace with Ahab and Israel for three years. And Jehoshaphat had come for a peaceful visit to Ahab. But Ahab wasn’t happy with peace and knew he couldn’t win a war against Judah. So Ahab decides to pick a fight with Syria over a town he doesn’t really need or care about and had basically abandoned to them.

Ahab asks Jehoshaphat if he’ll come along to fight Syria and Jehoshaphat says he’ll do whatever Ahab wants but recommends consulting one of the prophets of the LORD first. Note that Jehoshaphat emphasizes “today”…don’t go on past information and don’t delay in asking the LORD until the situation changes. Ask right away.

So Ahab calls together all of his prophets, about 400 of them! Interestingly, Elijah isn’t one of them. Elijah had already killed nearly the same number of false prophets earlier as GOD had tried to get Ahab, Jezebel and Israel to repent. And it seems to be on the assumption that Ahab has changed that Jehoshaphat has made peace with him. He had no doubt heard about Ahab’s repentance when Ahab was given the bad news GOD was going to kill Ahab for his sins. So now he assumes Ahab’s prophets will give a true word from GOD.

What Jehoshaphat couldn’t have known, though, is that Ahab’s death is still imminent. Because of Ahab’s repentance GOD would delay the disaster He was going to bring on Israel because of their idolatry (that idolatry being from the evil examples of Ahab and Jezebel). But Ahab was still going to die.

All 400 prophets predict victory for Ahab but something seems wrong to Jehoshaphat. He recognizes that these are false prophets not really speaking from GOD and asks Ahab if there isn’t another prophet, and he emphasizes prophet of the LORD, that can be consulted.

Notice that godly people can usually sense ungodly intentions. You’ve probably all heard that the way FBI agents are trained to detect counterfeit money is to be allowed to handle genuine money so much that counterfeits become obvious to them. That’s what’s happening here. Jehoshaphat knows godliness so well that he is correctly not getting that vibe off of these prophets.

Ahab acknowledges there is another prophet, Micaiah, but Ahab hates him because he only prophesies doom and gloom for Ahab. Jehoshaphat is shocked and tells Ahab not to talk like that. It’s especially inappropriate coming from the king.

Why? Jehoshaphat realized what Ahab should have learned when he repented. Bad news is good when it causes us to change for the better. When Ahab was told he and Israel were about to be punished, that bad news had a good result: he repented. So when Micaiah prophesied evil, that was a good thing. It showed how Ahab was sinning and needed to change.

This is essential in leadership. Leaders must give everyone in the organization the right to speak truth to power, to tell the truth, even if that is bad news, and not suffer for it. Only then can improvement happen.

Jehoshaphat saw that, but Ahab didn’t. He didn’t have enough experience with godliness to distinguish the counterfeit false prophets whom he should have killed for their good news from the genuine prophet though his prophesies predicted bad news.

There they all were, the two kings on their thrones and in their regal splendor sitting in the gate of Samaria. Hundreds of false prophets were in front of them, dancing around, shouting the same thing: “Go to war with Syria! You will have victory!” So when the messenger fetches Micaiah, he warns Micaiah to prophesy success as all the other prophets have done. But Micaiah responds that he will only do that if GOD tells him to do that.

Micaiah appears before Ahab and Ahab asks him the same question he has asked all the other prophets. And to Ahab’s shock, Micaiah gives him the same answer everyone else has: “Go ahead up! GOD will give you victory!” But now Ahab is the one to be wary. Just as Jehoshaphat could tell the false prophets from the true, Ahab could tell sarcasm in Micaiah’s voice. The irony is that Ahab orders Micaiah to be honest, but when he is, Ahab complains that he is only given bad news. And he is.

Micaiah explains how bleak the future is: sure devastation for Ahab’s armies and death for Ahab. Yet Jehoshaphat goes along with Ahab to war anyway. Why?

Several reasons. First, because Jehoshaphat had seen Micaiah change his mind when giving the prophecy. But also, and related to that, for the same reason we have trouble with this part of the chapter: Micaiah’s description of what had gone on in Heaven.

Micaiah describes a scene very similar to the first chapter of Job. GOD is holding court in Heaven and all spirits are before Him. Now we know from other Scripture that GOD does not lie. And He does not tempt. But the bad news is that GOD does allow others to lie and others to tempt. GOD allows Satan, simply an evil angel and nowhere as powerful as GOD, to do that which GOD in His goodness does not do. This, too, would be evil but for the fact that GOD uses it for good. Evil is the sharp blade used to perform life-saving surgery rather than kill. It is the fire that can destroy but is controlled to warm and save lives. And this is very difficult for Jehoshaphat, as with us, to hear or accept.

GOD allows a spirit to volunteer to lie to Ahab through all the false prophets.
It may be why Micaiah lied at first, too.
Jewish scholars add another twist in saying this spirit who volunteered to lie to Ahab and bring him to his death is the spirit of Naboth, the innocent neighbor Ahab and Jezebel murdered so Ahab could have his garden.

Micaiah sticks to the truth in spite of a false prophet accusing him of lying about his vision of the LORD commissioning the lying spirit. And Micaiah predicts how this false prophet will die.

Ahab has Micaiah put into prison for telling the very truth Ahab demanded. He tells the guard to keep Micaiah in prison until he, Ahab, returns safely from war. Micaiah says that if Ahab returns safely that he, Micaiah, should be put to death for being a false prophet (which is what should have happened to the 400 other prophets).

Ahab is doomed and goes to war. In battle, Ahab disguises himself so the Syrian armies won’t know he’s king but persuades Jehoshaphat to wear Jehoshaphat’s normal regal wear. Jehoshaphat has no problem with this because he is an honorable king and thinks he’s in an honorable battle.

The Syrians (influenced by GOD’s decision) have only one target: Ahab. No one but Ahab is to be harmed. Seeing Jehoshaphat as the only king on the battlefield they mistake him for Ahab and chase him until he shouts out. We don’t know what he shouts but it convinces the Syrian soldiers he’s not Ahab. Some scholars say it was a prayer to the true GOD and, knowing what an idolator Ahab was, the soldiers knew that wasn’t him. The bad news of Ahab’s idolatry was a blessing to Jehoshaphat in trouble.

A soldier killed Ahab by accidentally shooting an arrow not even aiming at anything. But GOD guided the arrow to Ahab through an opening in his armor. Knowing he was mortally wounded he had his men lead his chariot off the battlefield so that even his death was ignoble. And when his blood was washed out of the chariot it was in the very spot, as GOD had prophesied, where Naboth had been murdered.

Bad news can be good news if we allow it to change us. And the evil of others in the Hand of GOD can be used for good. But only if we’re willing to heed the warning. That was true for Ahab and Jehoshaphat and it is true for us. The bad news is that we are going to die, and because of our past we’re doomed to damnation after death. But if we heed that bad news we can hear the Good News that Christ calls us from that doom to eternal Life.


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