These are my notes from my ladies’ Sunday School class this morning. I’ll be posting the notes from my class here each week. Click here for last week’s lesson.
Through the Bible in 2014 ~ Week 27 ~ June 29- July 5
1 Kings 22-2 Kings 13, 2 Chronicles 18-24, Obadiah, Psalm 82-83
Michaiah: True Prophet vs. False Prophets
1 Kings 22:1-40
Setting the Stage
Ahab was one of the most wicked kings ever to sit on the throne of Israel. The previous chapter (21:25) says “There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab”. He has just been confronted by Elijah for his numerous abominations, and has humbled himself and repented.
Getting back what’s mine (1-4, 20:34)
Israel had had peace for three years, but it was bothering Ahab that Syria still had control of the city of Ramoth-gilead, when Ben-hadad (Syria’s king) had promised to return all of the cities Syria had captured during his father’s reign as part of his terms of surrender (20:34). Ahab asked Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat, to join him in recapturing the city, and Jehoshaphat agreed.
Not just any prophet will do (5-12, 18:1ff, 20:26)
Jehoshaphat was a godly man and knew that the right thing to do would be to inquire of the Lord before going into battle. Why do you think Ahab didn’t suggest this? What do we know about Ahab’s walk with the Lord? We know from 20:26 that he was an idolator, from chapter 18 that he was a Baal worshiper and had led Israel into Baal worship, and that he also supported the golden calf worship centers that Jeroboam had set up. So, when Ahab summoned 400 of his favorite prophets in order to appease Jehoshaphat, do you think they were true prophets of the Lord, or false prophets of idolatry? They were false prophets.
Tell him what he wants to hear
Was Ahab’s desire to hear and obey the word of the Lord? Was it the desire of the 400 prophets to truly hear and accurately report the word of the Lord? We can answer a resounding “no” to both questions. Ahab’s desires were, a) to hear what would make him happy, b) to make Jehoshaphat happy by granting his request and calling up so called “prophets of the Lord” and c) for Jehoshaphat to hear that they wold be succesful so that Jehoshaphat would agree to go into battle with him. The “prophets'” desire was to keep the king happy and thus stay alive and prosper in their postitions.
How do you spot a false prophet?
The 400 prophets certainly seemed to be prophets of the Lord. They brought a positive, encouraging message and made Ahab happy. Zedekiah (11) even prefaced his message with “Thus says the Lord,” the same words all true prophets of the Lord used. And all the prophets predicted triumph and that the Lord would give the battle into the king’s hand, words spoken on many previous occasions to other kings by true prophets of the Lord. So, why would Jehoshaphat think these were not true prophets of the Lord?
1. Where they were coming from (Deuteronomy 13:1-5)
Jehoshaphat knew that these guys were coming from a temple to a false god, even if they called those golden calves “God”. They were idolators so they were breaking God’s law in word and in practice. Deuteronomy 13:1-3a, 5a says:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams…. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God,
When it came to the office of prophet, true prophets stayed true to the one true God of the Bible, and His word, in what they proclaimed as well as what they practiced in their daily lives and in their jobs as prophets (Isaiah and Jeremiah are good examples of true prophets). It did not matter how many times a person claimed to speak for God or used godly sounding terminology. If he led people to worship idols, he was a false prophet.
2. Whom they were prophesying for
Sometimes (but not always) the person the being prophesied for was an indication of whether or not the prophet was a true prophet. In this case we have Ahab, who we know was not genuinely seeking the Lord. Ahab was about Ahab, and nobody else. We can look at his life and see that he would not be seeking out the type of prophet who would be telling him the truth of God’s word. He was merely using the appearance of seeking the Lord to get what he wanted. False prophets are always happy to oblige such people.
3. Did the message come true? (Deuteronomy 18:21-22)
Deuteronomy 18:21-22 tells us:
And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
If a prophet’s message did not come true, he was not to be believed, because he was a false prophet. He was also to be put to death. As we see later in this chapter, these prophets’ predictions of victory for Ahab did not come true.
Today’s false prophets
False prophets are not relegated to the Old Testament. We also find them in the New Testament and throughout history. We have many false prophets today. While some actually claim the title of “prophet,” most go by the title of “pastor,” “Bible teacher,” or “Christian author.” False prophets such as Joyce Meyer, Joel and Victoria Osteen, and TD Jakes, to name some of the most popular ones, preach encouraging messages to make people happy, use Bible verses (usually twisted and/or out of context) and other Christian sounding terminology, and tell you that you’ll be victorious over life’s problems, or that you’ll be successful or wealthy or healed. But how do they measure up against the false prophet test, above?
1. Where are they coming from?
Meyer, Jakes, and the Osteens (and numerous others) all preach the prosperity gospel in one form or another. They teach that it is never God’s will for you to be sick or poor, that if you are experiencing suffering it’s because of your lack of faith, and that because we are little gods, we have the same power God has to speak things (like health and wealth) into existence.
Additionally, TD Jakes is a modalist (a false view of the Trinity), Joyce Meyer has a number of false soteriological beliefs, and all of them, because they are teaching people to believe in a golden calf of their own making that they call Jesus, are leading people into idolatry.
2. Who are they prophesying for?
In most cases, people who follow false teachers today are not like Ahab. They think what they’re getting from these false teachers is biblical Christianity. Sometimes, however, what they’re really looking for isn’t Christ, but the “stuff” (happiness, encouragement, healing, a better life, money) they think Christ will give them. And when you look to Christ for stuff instead of looking to Christ for Christ, you’re probably going to end up following a false teacher, because that’s what they promise. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 says:
For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
3. Does the message come true?
People like Meyer, Jakes, and the Osteens have millions of followers whom they promise health, wealth, and the realization of all their dreams and goals on a weekly basis. Out of all those millions of listeners, how many do you think are always healthy? How many get terminal diseases and aren’t healed? How many send in their “seed offering” and still can’t pay their bills? How many have failed businesses or never see their dreams come true? If one of these preachers promises anyone, even once, that “God says…” and it doesn’t come true, he is a false prophet.
Just because someone says what we want to hear (as the 400 prophets did for Ahab) doesn’t mean he is telling us the truth of God’s word.
Micaiah: True Prophet of the Lord (13-28)
A number of things tell us that Micaiah was a true prophet of the Lord:
True prophets don’t bow to what’s popular (13-14)
Do you find it interesting that Ahab didn’t want to summon Micaiah because he knew Micaiah’s message would be against him (8)? The messenger (13) also seemed to know this. Perhaps it was because Ahab (and the messenger) already knew he was living in constant sin and that the Lord’s hand was against him. The messenger, already sensing what Micaiah’s prophecy would be, tried to get him to go along with the crowd, but Micaiah would have none of it. He would only speak the truth of God’s word.
Today it’s popular to go along with the crowd that preaches that God wants everybody to be happy and successful, that you can have God and still hang on to your sin, etc. But today’s true prophet will only speak the truth of God’s word, even if it isn’t the popular thing to do.
True prophets speak the truth even when the truth is unpleasant (15-18)
It would have been much easier for Micaiah to just parrot what the other prophets had said. He knew that what he had to tell Ahab was not going to be what Ahab wanted to hear and that he was risking his life by upsetting him, but Micaiah still boldly gave God’s entire message.
Today’s true prophets can be heard saying unpleasant things such as “Jesus is the only way of salvation,” “Homosexuality is a sin,” and “God uses suffering to make you more like Christ.” They might be risking their jobs, but they don’t leave out of their sermons the parts of the Bible that are uncomfortable for people.
True prophets warn people about, and confront, false prophets (19-25)
It wasn’t enough for Micaiah just to speak the word of the Lord concerning the outcome of the battle. God, in yet another act of mercy towards Ahab, wanted Ahab to know that he was being lied to by these false prophets so that he could repent and believe the true word of the Lord.
Today’s true prophets don’t just proclaim God’s word, they warn fellow Christians about false doctrine and false teachers so that they can repent of their false belief and believe the true word of the Lord.
True prophets will risk everything for the truth of God’s word (26-28)
Micaiah knew his life was on the line, but he knew something even more important. God’s word is true, and he was willing to stake his life on it. He would not compromise the truth or attempt to soften his message just to save his own skin.
True prophets of today, especially those who live in countries hostile to the gospel, stake their lives and their families’ lives on the gospel. Often, they are martyred for their faith, but they refuse to compromise the truth or soften God’s word just to save their own skin, their jobs, or anything else.
God will accomplish His word (29-40, 21:19)
Ahab arrogantly tried to subvert God’s word by disguising himself, hoping that if a king were to die that day, it would be Jehoshaphat. But in the end, we see that God’s word always prevails. Not only did Micaiah’s prophecy come true, so did Elijah’s (21:19).
We can trust that God’s word — both the unpleasant parts and His glorious promises– will always be accomplished.
Joyce Meyer at carm.org
The False Teachers: TD Jakes at challies.com
TD Jakes at carm.org
Joel Osteen and “Joel-likeness” at challies.com
Lessons I’ve Learned from False Teachers at challies.com