This morning we are continuing our STRONG journey digging into the life of Jehoshaphat. Let’s review… We are living during a time called the “Divided Kingdom.” Israel had three main kings when they were one nation: Saul, then David, and then Solomon. Because of Solomon’s sin, God divided his people into the Northern Kingdom, usually called Israel, and the Southern Kingdom, called Judah. We learned last week that the next 50-100 years have good and bad kings in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. One of the Kings, a man named Jehoshaphat, became King of Judah (Southern Kingdom). He led the people back to strength through spiritual disciplines of celebration, Bible study, fasting, and prayer. Last week, we looked at the Spiritual Habit of Celebration and Joy. This week, we want to look at how to strengthen ourselves through prayer and meditation.
We’ll begin with a Quest and end with a Question.
1) The Quest of Ahab and Jehoshaphat
(Background: Chapter 17-18) After Jehoshaphat strengthens himself through Bible study and after turning back to God in chapter 17, things look good. That is, until chapter 18. In chapter 18, the king of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) is named Ahab. Ahab realizes that Jehoshaphat is STRONG and wants an alliance. They are connected as family by marriage. Ahab throws a party to celebrate Jehoshaphat’s strength, but really wants his alliance against his enemies Ramoth Gilead.
2 Chron 18 Jehoshaphat had riches and honor in abundance; and by marriage he allied himself with Ahab. 2 After some years he went down to visit Ahab in Samaria; and Ahab killed sheep and oxen in abundance for him and the people who were with him, and persuaded him to go up with him to Ramoth Gilead. 3 So Ahab king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, “Will you go with me against Ramoth Gilead?”
The violet color represents the northern kingdom of Israel. The light blue color with the “#5” is Jehoshaphat coming to join Ahab for the party. He wants to talk him into going to the “#6” location on the map to drive his enemies back from Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat says, “I’ll help, but only if God tells me it’s okay. Let’s pray. Let’s communicate with God on this.”
4 Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire for the word of the LORD today.”
5 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” So they said, “Go up, for God will deliver it into the king’s hand.” 6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?”
Ahab has many prophets to pray to God, and they all say, “Go for it, God wants you to do this.” Jehosaphat realized that these prophets are speaking not for God, but for one of the many foreign gods Israel is worshipping. Many think these are the prophets of Asherah, an idol god associated with Baal. Asherah was the female counterpart of Baal. This is a little Asherah statue you can buy today at a “spirituality” store online. The ancient ones look similar. This is the “most” modest image of her I could find. She is always without clothes and showing off her chest. This is the “god” that Ahab suggests they talk to, in order to get God’s wisdom. Jehoshaphat suggests that possible they should talk to God, rather than the topless statue….
1 King 18:19 the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table
How does Ahab reply to the idea of making sure you are communicating with God vs some other voice?
2 Chron 18:7 So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he never prophesies good concerning me, but always evil. He is Micaiah the son of Imla.”
Ahab says, “We have ONE guy… BUT I HATE HIM! Why? He never says anything good about me. So I don’t talk to him.” So they call on Micaiah to come see what God has to say…. Ahab sends a message that says, “Micaiah, this better be a good message from God.” Meanwhile one of the false prophets gets very dramatic in trying to make it clear that god will grant victory.
10 Now Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah had made horns of iron for himself; and he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed.’ ”
11 And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, “Go up to Ramoth Gilead and prosper, for the LORD will deliver it into the king’s hand.” 12 Then the messenger who had gone to call Micaiah spoke to him, saying, “Now listen, the words of the prophets with one accord encourage the king. Therefore please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak encouragement.”
So Zedekiah is running around the courtyard with some iron horns stabbing things promising God will gore the Syrians. Micaiah is threatened to “say what the king wants him to say.” What will Micaiah do? Next scene, Micaiah walks in the door.
14 Then he came to the king; and the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” And he said, “Go and prosper, and they shall be delivered into your hand!”
The king must realize that this is the first time Micaiah ever said anything good, so he says, “Is that really what God said…?” To which Micaiah replies…
15 So the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” 16 Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’ ” 17 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?”
The king hears the real message of God. You are in sin, you are heading for disaster. Now the king gets mad. I told you not to tell me that. So Micaiah told him what he wanted to hear then when pushed, told him what God wanted him to hear. Now he’s mad, but Micaiah continues.
18 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing on His right hand and His left. 19 And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab king of Israel to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ 22 Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”
Micaiah says, you’re going to die, and the prophets over there are lying to you to kill you. God allowed or “put” a lying spirit in the mouth of the prophets. Romans tells us that when we exchange the truth for a lie, God gives us over to that lie and its consequences. That’s what happening here. (Now it gets hilarious.) A fist fight breaks out among the prophets.
23 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near and struck Micaiah on the cheek, and said, “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go from me to speak to you?”
Now, Jehoshaphat and Ahab have a decision to make. It’s the same decision you and I have. When we begin a discipline of prayer and communication with God. When we begin to pray and mediate on what is true. Their Quest is Our Question… We began with The Quest of Ahab and Jehosaphat… now we move to…
2) The Question For All of Us.
Am I trying to hear God’s will for me, or trying to hear My will for God?
Is it Thy Kingdom come, or My Kingdom come?
This is the problem with most of our prayer lives. We come to prayer not with “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, but with “My kingdom come, My will be done.” We, like Ahab, know how our life should look. “I shouldn’t have cancer.” “I shouldn’t have troubles.” “I shouldn’t have this or that happen.” We try to “manipulate, guilt, yell, even smack God upside the head” with our will. We bribe him with our good works. We sit in self pity under our “we deserve better” helmets. But the reason we need communication with God, the reason we need prayer and mediation as a spiritual habit, the real purpose of prayer is to deal with our biggest problem…the natural broken stance of the human heart is arrogance. It’s putting yourself in the place of God. It’s the arrogant belief that we know better than God how to run our lives, who to forgive, who to judge. And then we “communicate with God” or pray as an expression of that arrogance. “God, do what I want, do My will.” If you listen to your heart carefully you’ll hear it, “My kingdom come, my will be done” is what our prayer life really looks like under an X-ray. Why do you and I need to pray and hear from God? Because we are putting ourselves in the place of God. We are worried. We are fearful. We are resentful. We are angry at God, at people. We think we are mad at others or God. But the real reason is, you are in pain. You are putting yourself in the place of God. This is the real reason you and I need prayer. Here is the greatest prayer you can pray:
“Prayer, Holy Spirit, the most important thing I need to know is that YOU ARE GOD, AND I AM NOT. I can’t overcome my unforgiveness, I think I know better how to judge. I can’t stop worrying because I know better how to control the universe. You are the king, not me. I don’t need to prove myself. I don’t need to control everything anymore. God, You need to heal your heart through prayer.”
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