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1 Kings 22 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:54 mins 9 secs

What is Your Greatest Enemy? - 1 Kings 22

 

What is the greatest enemy that we have in our spiritual lives? We are about to be studying a chapter that talks about arguably one of the most bizarre little episodes in the Scripture. It is something that is quite unusual and one of those episodes that sort of peels back the curtain of material empiricism that we have, the things that we can feel, touch and see and how we experience reality, to let us see the spiritual realities that are going on behind the scenes at the throne of God. What we see is an episode that ends with the death of Ahab the king of the northern kingdom of Israel and what is involved in the circumstances in this final battle. As we go through this we see the thinking of Ahab as he prepares for this last battle.

 

There is an opportunity here to have a little fun with the episode because there's a humor here that the Holy Spirit thoroughly intended to get across, but in that process it communicates something very insightful about what is going on in Ahab's soul. What we should realize is that what is going on with Ahab goes on with us. We are not very different from Ahab in terms of the dynamics that are taking place in this particular episode. The enemy that Ahab faces in this chapter, 1 Kings 22, is the same enemy that we face on a day to day basis.

 

The Scripture generally categorizes our enemies in three ways. The first is the world, the second is the flesh, and the third is the devil. This is just a broad summary of the information that is in the Scripture but what do we mean by each of these terms? When we answer the question, what is the greatest enemy we face in our spiritual life, has to do with one aspect of one of these and so we have to these. Some try to blame the world for all their problems rather than taking responsibility for them; others blame the devil. The world is that system of thought which is not an external thing, it is an internal thing, a mental thing, a system of thought that was originally pioneered by Satan and it is characterized by two things: autonomy and antagonism. Autonomy means independence from God—we are going to make it work on our own and we don't really need God's help. It is always joined by either an explicit or an implicit antagonism, hatred or hostility toward God, and this is manifested in many different types of thinking that we have in human history that express themselves in various philosophies and religious systems that seek to solve man's problems and to find success and prosperity apart from God. In Israel there was the prosperity theology of the fertility religions, the worship of the Baals and the Asherah brought into the northern kingdom by Ahab and Jezebel.

 

The second category is the flesh, the term the Bible uses for the sin nature. It refers to that internal corrupt nature that mankind has inherited from Adam because of his original sin. The flesh is that internal corrupt nature of man that is committed to autonomy and antagonism. The whole orientation of the sin nature is, I can make life work apart from God. It is based on arrogance and independence, hence autonomy, and it is hostile to God. The flesh is also that internal aspect of man that has an affinity for the thought system of the world, and the thought system of the world came from Satan who is the pioneer of all of this type of thinking. He was the first to assert his independence from God, his autonomy, and his antagonism to God's plans. So there is a thread running through here, these two ideas of autonomy and antagonism. On the one hand there is the assertion that the creature can live and find happiness and meaning in life without being obedient to God as the ultimate authority in life. And we always run into problems and we always create problems, and because we really can't make it work independently from God we get frustrated and angry, and this generates an antagonism towards God that sometimes is camouflaged by various religions, and it can even be camouflaged in our own life by our own religious activities. We can become very involved in the local church but we are not letting the Word of God really change the way we think. We judge the Word of God on the basis of whatever works for us, and that is just a sin nature orientation that rejects the authority of God. So we have these three enemies and we will see how they work together in this chapter.

 

The sin nature at its very core is driven by lust. Lust drives us in one direction or another. It also produces certain kinds of acts. Some of these are good acts, relatively good, and so we identify this as the area of strength—human good. Anybody can do relative good but is it the kind of absolute good which God requires, which is absolute righteousness? No, it is not; it is simply good in terms of a relative standard, it is not an absolute standard, and because man can never produce the kind of good that God requires this is why God sent His Son to the cross to pay the penalty for sin. Because Jesus paid that penalty His righteousness is available to anyone who will trust in Him as the one who paid the penalty for their sins. So it is not our good that qualifies us for salvation, it is Christ's righteousness. The other area of the sin nature is the area of weakness which produces sins of the tongue, other sins and mental attitude sins. The lust pattern pushes us in one of two directions. In one direction we move towards asceticism and legalism. Asceticism is the idea that somehow I can give up things and it will impress God. It is important for believers to live a life that is consistent with the mandates of Scripture, but if we do that thinking that is the basis for our relationship with Him then that goes into asceticism and legalism and this can lead to a moral degeneracy. That is what we saw exhibited by the Pharisees. In the other extreme we have lasciviousness, licentiousness and antinomianism. This leads to immoral degeneracy.

 

This gives us an overview of the sin nature but what lies behind that lust pattern is something that is even more insidious, and that is arrogance. Arrogance is where we open up the engine and look at the pistons and see what is really driving the sin nature. The arrogance skills, the five different ways in which we express our autonomy, begin with self-absorption. We all come right our of the womb self-absorbed. From that very minute when we take that first breath and we start screaming to be fed or to be warm we are just absorbed with ourselves and our own needs. It is all about ME. But then as we grow we become very sophisticated by the time we are two or three years old and we begin to learn ways to camouflage that selfishness because it becomes apparent that that is not always the best ways to do things. What the Bible is saying is that it is not all about me, it is all about God, and so we have to go through a major reorientation of our thinking once we are a believer. Self-absorption leads to self-indulgence, we just give in to every desire that we have with no self-discipline whatsoever—more on the licentious side of it, but it is also true of the arrogant ascetic, legalistic side. That leads to self-justification and self-deception. In self-deception we have managed to create a stealth bomber out of our sin nature, so that we have so camouflaged our own agenda that now it is dripping with Bible verses. This leads to self-deification which is that we are basically worshipping ourselves rather than God; we have placed ourselves on the throne in heaven and we are the ones who are in charge, not God. So it boils down to an authority issue. The bottom line in the sin nature is an authority issue. Are we going top submit to the Word of God when it tells us this is the way life is, or are we going to say we are really not comfortable with that, we would rather do X or Y, and we are just going to ignore that particular page of Scripture, take out our mental scalpel and surgically remove those verses. In arrogant self-deception we have convinced ourselves that our way is the right way and say "that is not really what the Bible says or means."

 

These are really spiritual land mines we create in our own soul and what happens is sooner or later the pressures of life come and these land mines start exploding, and we wonder what in the world happened to our spiritual life. What we don't realize is that we allowed ourselves to live in a comfort zone of self-deception for so many years that we blinded ourselves to our won sin nature and our own trends, and what that was doing in terms of autonomy and opposition to God. That is what has happened with Ahab.

 

Three years had passed without war between Syria and Israel. This goes back to the events in chapter twenty where Ahab had been at war with Ben-hadad II who was the ruler of Syria. In fact, all of this conflict that occurs in this time period when Ahab was king was based on an event that occurred earlier under king Asa of Judah. Asa was one of the good kings and he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Though he did not totally remove the high places he was announced loyal to God. But during his reign he was threatened militarily by the northern kingdom as they were pushing down towards the borders and so he decided to create a diversion for them and distract them by paying off the Syrians to attack the northern kingdom from the north. The Aramaens [Syrians] took control of territory in the north and it is still under their control until much of it was taken back and captured by Ahab in chapter twenty. Since that battle three years have gone by without war between Syria and Israel.

1 Kings 22:1 NASB "Three years passed without war between Aram and Israel. [2] In the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. [3] Now the king of Israel said to his servants, 'Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?'" We are not absolutely sure where Ramoth-Gilead is located but it is down in the Trans-Jordan area, part of what had originally belonged to Manasseh. Ahab knows that this is their territory and he wants to go get it.

1 Kings 22:4 NASB "And he said to Jehoshaphat, 'Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?' And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, 'I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.' [5] Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Please inquire first for the word of the LORD." Jehoshaphat is a believer and he understands the importance of doing that which is God's will, and so he probably really irritated Ahab at this point by saying they really needed to listen to what God has to say. That is the last thing Ahab wants to do because in his sin nature he is committed to licentiousness because that is part of the whole sexual immorality of the fertility cult. So he is operating on licentiousness which is the expression of his autonomy. He is independent from God, he doesn't want to pay attention to what God wants at all he is antagonistic to God. Jehoshaphat shows that he is not acting in autonomy, is not hostile to God; he is trying to be obedient to God.

1 Kings 22:6 NASB "Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, "Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?" And they said, "Go up, for the Lord will give {it} into the hand of the king." The prophets are not the false prophets of the Baal and the Asherah, these are the false prophets of Yahweh, the God of Israel. So the king of Israel gathers all of his yes-men together. The danger for anyone in authority is gathering a bunch of sycophants together who will just tell them what they want to hear. But it doesn't just apply to leaders, it applies to us.

1 Kings 22:6 NASB "Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, 'Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle or shall I refrain?' And they said, 'Go up, for the Lord will give {it} into the hand of the king.'" They are a bunch of yes-men, they tell Ahab exactly what he wants to hear and he is so happy because he has managed to justify it. Does he know these are a bunch of sycophantic yes-men? He does! He knows they are not like Elijah but he has managed to desensitize his own soul to the sin nature trends and to rationalize and justify his disobedience. But Jehoshaphat has discernment. [7] "But Jehoshaphat said, 'Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?'" He immediately recognizes that there are a bunch of false prophets. [8] "The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. {He is} Micaiah son of Imlah.' But Jehoshaphat said, 'Let not the king say so.'" What is going on here with Ahab? Autonomy and antagonism. Jehoshaphat recognizes Ahab's words as blasphemy. [9] "Then the king of Israel called an officer and said, 'Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.' [10] Now the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, arrayed in {their} robes, at the threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets were prophesying before them." This is a state occasion, the prophet a spokesman of God is coming, so they are going to put on their finest robes, marks of their office, and sit on their throne at the city gates where business was conducted in the ancient world. All the false prophets are there prophesying before them trying to convince Jehoshaphat and Ahab that they are the ones doing the speaking for God. One of them [10] "…Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made horns of iron for himself and said, "Thus says the LORD, 'With these you will gore the Arameans until they are consumed.'" The horns depicted power in the ancient world. Zedekiah is giving to give a little image lesson here. He is completely self-deceived that he is speaking for God and is continuing to promote his false teaching and false interpretation of Scripture. But Ahab is a willing listener, he wants to be deceived because he wants to do what he wants to do, just like lots of Christians do. They want to have the veneer of Christianity and be with people who believe the right thing. They want to listen to a pastor who basically believes in the Bible and thinks generally like they do—let's not step on anybody's toes and let's not get into any of the details of how I conduct my life; I wants to keep God at a distance but I want to have a cloak of spirituality that deceives me and deceives others.

All the prophets continue to prophesy that they can have victory and the messenger eventually brings Micaiah to them. 1 Kings 22:13 NASB Then the messenger who went to summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, 'Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.'" Why not just relax and tell the king what he wants to hear. [14] "But Micaiah said, 'As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I shall speak.'" Is that autonomy? No, that is dependence on the Lord. He recognizes that God is the authority and he is completely submitted to God's authority and to saying what God wants, no matter what the other circumstances might be. [15] "When he came to the king, the king said to him, 'Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?' And he answered him, 'Go up and succeed, and the LORD will give {it} into the hand of the king.'" Here he is surrounded by these false prophets, the pomp and circumstance of the throne room, and he is going to be sarcastic. He must be really respected for this; he is going to act like he is playing their game. Ahab knows exactly what is going on. [16] "Then the king said to him, 'How many times must I adjure you to speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?'" We have to understand that in this weird little scenario that we are going to see the issue isn't that Ahab gets deceived somehow into going into the battle, he knows from the beginni9ng what the truth is but he doesn't want it. He wants to do what he wants to do on his terms no matter what the consequences may be. The basic orientation of arrogance is irrational.

1 Kings 22:17 NASB "So he said, 'I saw all Israel Scattered on the mountains, Like sheep which have no shepherd. And the LORD said, 'These have no master. Let each of them return to his house in peace.'" They are just lost, scattered, the shepherd is gone. Ahab is hearing that he is going to be killed. [18] "Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?' [19] Micaiah said, 'Therefore, hear the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.'" This is where we see the curtain draw back and we see what goes on in the heavenly councils of God. The host of heaven is a term that refers to all the angels, both the holy angels and the fallen angels. We see the same kind of assembly come before God in the first and second chapters of Job. Evil is not truly autonomous; God restricts evil and He uses evil for His own purposes.

1 Kings 22:20 NASB "The LORD said, 'Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?' And one said this while another said that." The word "entice" is rendered "deceive" in some translations. The word in the Hebrew means to open somebody up to something; it is the basic word meaning to open or deceive or to persuade someone. He is addressing the angels, so we see that behind the overt physical scene of Jehoshaphat and Ahab there is a spiritual reality where the affairs of human history are influenced by the angels, both fallen and elect; all are under the sovereign control of God. So there is one spirit that comes forward, an evil spirit, and volunteers. [21, 22]  "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice {him} and also prevail. Go and do so.'" God is not the author of Ahab's deception. Ahab wants to be deceived. In the autonomy of his own deception Ahab has already mired himself in self-deception and he wants to be deceived. God is not the author of his deception, this is a way of reinforcing the deception and rebellion in Ahab that is already there. [23] "Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you." This is Micaiah speaking to Ahab and Jehoshaphat; this is the fulfillment of the prophecy that God had given to Elijah back in the previous two chapters: that Ahab was going to doe the sin unto death.

Now there is opposition. 1 Kings 22:24 NASB "Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, 'How did the Spirit of the LORD pass from me to speak to you?'" Whenever the person who is standing for the Bible and truth speaks the truth there are always a lot of people who are going to tell him he is wrong, and have very good scholarly academic arguments for why the Bible really teaches something else in order to justify everybody's lack of submission to God. Zedekiah becomes physically violent. That is hostility and antagonism to the Word of God. [25] "Micaiah said, 'Behold, you shall see on that day when you enter an inner room to hide yourself.'" This would be a hide-out spot in his house because after Ahab gets killed and the army is defeated by Ben-hadad and the Syrians they are going to be pursuing everybody, and Zedekiah is going to be cowering in his secure room inside of his house.

1 Kings 22:26 NASB "Then the king of Israel said, 'Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son; [27] and say, 'Thus says the king, "Put this man in prison and feed him sparingly with bread and water [make him suffer] until I return safely." [28] Micaiah said, 'If you indeed return safely the LORD has not spoken by me.' And he said, 'Listen, all you people.'" He is implying that the Lord has spoken to him and Ahab won't return. The result of this is that they go to battle. 

Ahab knows what is going on here because he is going to dress like he is a private soldier. That is going to leave Jehoshaphat hanging out there with all of his royal regalia on so that when the armies of Ben-hadad attack they will see all of the troops, the body guards, surrounding him and will think it is Ahab. 

1 Kings 22:34 NASB "Now a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor. So he said to the driver of his chariot, 'Turn around and take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded.'" "At random"? There is no such thing as chance in the plan of God. When things happen in our lives that we don't expect it is not random; it is not some accidental circumstance. God is the one who is trying to get our attention and is taking us through a training session. But in this particular verse it is not a training session, it is the execution of God's judgment. Ahab is taken back to Samaria, the army scatters and the Syrians had victory. So we see that no one gets away with evil, with sin. Ultimately it is going to come back and devastate our spiritual life. We may be able to live within our comfort zone for years, but if we are not submitting to God's Word and doing things God's way then what is going to happen is our life is going to explode all over us and all over everyone around us. It could be any number of things that will happen, and all of a sudden our life is just going to implode because we have basically eviscerated our spiritual life of any reality because we have been operating on self-deception for years. That is the greatest danger that we all face. It is arrogance but it is the most subtle type of arrogance; it is that arrogance that has justified our disobedience, camouflaged it, and wrapped it in the robes of righteousness. Underneath there is nothing.

That is a challenge to us that we dare not be like Ahab who was hostile to the Word of God.  

Illustrations