1 Kings 22; 1 Thessalonians 5; Daniel 4; Psalms 108–109
THE LAST CHAPTER OF 1 KINGS, 1 Kings 22, many believers find troubling. For here God himself is presented as sending out "a lying spirit" (1 Kings 22:22) who will deceive King Ahab and lead him to his destruction. Does God approve of liars?
The setting is instructive. For once, the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel are pulling together against the king of Aram, instead of tearing at each other's throats. Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, comes across as a good man who is largely desirous of adhering to the covenant and being loyal to God, yet is a bit of a wimp. He treats the prospective military expedition as if it were an adventure, but he does want Ahab, king of Israel, to "seek the counsel of the LORD" (1 Kings 22:5). After the false prophets have finished, Jehoshaphat has sufficient smarts to ask if there is some other prophet of the Lord, and Micaiah surfaces. Yet despite Micaiah's warnings, he goes off with Ahab, and even agrees to retain his royal robes while Ahab's identity is masked.
But the heart of the issue turns on Micaiah. Observe:
(1) Implicitly, Ahab has surrounded himself with religious yes-men who will tell him what he wants to hear. The reason he hates Micaiah is because what Micaiah says about him is bad. Like all leaders who surround themselves with yes-men, Ahab sets himself up to be deceived.
(2) When Micaiah begins with a sarcastic positive prognostication (1 Kings 22:15), Ahab instantly recognizes that Micaiah is not telling the truth (1 Kings 22:16). This hints at a conscience more than a little troubled. After all, God had previously told Ahab that because of his guilt in the matter of Naboth, dogs would one day lick up his blood (1 Kings 21:19). He thus expected bad news someday, and at a deep level of his being could not really trust the happy forecasts of his domesticated "prophets."
(3) When Micaiah tells him of impending disaster, he also provides a dramatic reason for the coherence and unanimity of the false prophets: God himself had sanctioned a deceitful spirit. Ahab's time has come: he will be destroyed. God's sovereignty extends even over the means to send Ahab's tame prophets a "strong delusion" (compare 2 Thess. 2:11–12). Yet the fact that Ahab is told all this demonstrates that God is still graciously providing him with access to the truth. But Ahab is so far gone that he cannot stomach the truth. In a ridiculous response, he believes enough of the truth to hide his own identity in the hordes of common soldiers, but not enough to stay away from Ramoth Gilead. So he dies: God's sovereign judgment is enacted, not least because Ahab, hearing both the truth and the lie, preferred the lie.