Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 26 2019 - 1 Kings 22:1-40 – The death of Ahab

You will remember that after the death of Solomon, the kingdom of God's people split in two. The larger northern kingdom (confusingly called Israel), had separated from the smaller southern kingdom of Judah with its capital in Jerusalem. Both appear in today's passage with King Ahab referred to as "The king of Israel", and the king of Judah referred to by his name, Jehoshaphat.

Aram was a kingdom that lay to the North-East of Israel. It was later to become part of the empire of Syria. The chapter begins with Aram and Israel having been at war for three years.

In the third year, "Jehoshaphat king of Judah went … to see the king of Israel." Jehoshaphat may have been hoping for a reconciliation between the two kingdoms but he was clearly entering dangerous territory. Despite the showdown on Mount Carmel, Ahab was still committed to the worship of idol gods. Ahab saw this visit as a chance to try to gain an ally in his war against Aram: "Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?" he asks.

Jehoshaphat replies "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses." He recognises that the two kingdoms are one people, the descendants of Abraham, the children of Israel whom God brought out of slavery and into the Promised Land. But Jehoshaphat will not join forces with Ahab unless the Lord gives his blessing on their plans (v. 5).

Ahab first calls his tame prophets who naturally endorse his plans. But Jehoshaphat insists that they must hear from a prophet of the Lord – a prophet of Yahweh. The only prophet Ahab can lay his hands on is Micaiah of whom Ahab says, "he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad" (v. 8). Micah seems to have been held in prison by Ahab (see vv. 26-27).

At first Micaiah gave Ahab the same message as the false prophets. But he must have done so in a way that made it clear that he was mocking Ahab, for the king asks him to speak what the Lord has given to him. Micaiah then prophesied that Israel will be scattered on the hills with no-one to lead them. He added that the Lord had prompted the false prophets to give Ahab a message which would encourage him into war and result in his death. For Micaiah's pains he is returned to prison.

But Ahab has another trick up his sleeve. He persuades the naïve and foolish Jehoshaphat to go to war with him clothed in all the regalia of royalty while he, Ahab, goes in the ordinary dress of a soldier. As might easily have been expected, Jehoshaphat then becomes the focus of the attacks of the Aramean army – though he manages to escape with his life. An Aramean archer however, firing his arrow at random into the mass of his enemies, hits Ahab between the sections of his armour. Ahab was propped up in his chariot where he bled to death. The chariot was later washed clean at a pool in Samaria where prostitutes bathed. There dogs licked up his blood, just as Elijah had prophesied.

In this sad story we see that behind all the schemes of human history the hand of God is at work to accomplish his own purposes. That arrow, fired at random, was directed to Ahab by the hand of God. More than that, it hit just the right spot to get between the sections of his armour and pierce his body. God's directing providence is accurate and effective.

We also can mount all manner of defences to protect ourselves from submission to God's word. We may make careful plans to live our life our own way and to accomplish our own goals. But God is able to direct his arrows, pierce our armour and strike the heart: "the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Thank you Heavenly Father that you pierced the armour of my defences not to kill me but to give me life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Teach me always to listen to your word and respond readily to the call of the Saviour on my life. Keep me from naïve and foolish schemes.

Jun 26 2013 - Acts 17:1-34 – The truth shall set you free

After three weeks in Thessalonica, Paul’s preaching in the synagogue stirred up a riot that prompted the new believers to send Paul and Silas away to Berea. There we read, “The Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true” (Acts 17:11). The message Paul was bringing them might have seemed strange, even contrary to what they had previously believed, but their main concern was to ask, “Is it true?” As Jews who believed in the Old Testament Scriptures, they set about searching those Scriptures to find out.

Jews from Thessalonica soon turned up, and Paul had to leave for Athens. There, Paul was greatly distressed to find a city full of idols. There seemed to be countless gods who received the worship on one group of people of another. Paul was concerned that these people, who seemed intent on placating the gods with their offerings, should hear about the living God who had revealed himself in the Lord Jesus Christ. Day by day Paul spoke in the marketplace to all who would listen.

There were many in Athens quite ready to give him a hearing; many enjoyed nothing so much as a good debate about new ideas. However, when Paul spoke of the resurrection – both the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and the coming day of general resurrection – those same people had no further time for him; they treated his words with scorn.

To the Athenians what Paul said seemed very strange. Instead of debating various ideas about God or the gods, he proclaimed that the God of whom they were ignorant, had revealed himself in the historical human life, death and resurrection of a particular person – a Jew. This seemed quite ridiculous to his hearers. The suggestion that this resurrected Jew would one day stand in judgment over them seemed both absurd and offensive. For all their professed desire to learn the truth they were unwilling to consider Paul’s claims. In the end, they were more concerned with ideas than with truth.

The Christian message is not merely a set of ideas to be debated but a fact of history calling for faith and response. The God who made the world and who cares for all that he has made has entered history in the person of Jesus Christ. His resurrection from the dead is the beginning of the new creation, an anticipation of that last great resurrection day when all creation will be transformed and restored to all that it was created to be. The good news is that in Christ we can begin to enter now into the life of the new creation, to live already the life of the age to come.

There are many today who are happy to debate ideas but who are scandalised at the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the fact of his resurrection of the dead. Even in the churches there are many who are more eager to spend time in endless debate – even about the nature of the resurrection – rather than in living the resurrection life.

God calls us to search the Scriptures, seeking, by the help of his Spirit, to understand the purposes of God in Christ so that, through the power of that same Spirit, we might become part of those purposes.

Father God, Give me a concern for those around me who are fascinated by the spiritual but who do not yet know you. Give me the wisdom to know how to stand in their shoes, speak to them in their own terms and direct them to the God for whom they were made and whom they can know in Jesus. But keep me from foolish arguments and interminable debates. Rather, may the risen life of Jesus shine through my life in all I say and do.

Peter Misselbrook