July Reflection by Richard Parrish - False "gods" And Problem Prophets
“Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?”
The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah, son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.”(1)
So many voices. So much confusion!
When is it necessary to speak or remain silent? Is it time to go to war, or not? Which way is right? Which voice are we to believe?
Modern-day prophets are plentiful.
It doesn’t matter the subject matter or situation. It seems today’s pseudo-seers know what we are to do and what’s right for us, and others. When you think you’ve resolved the question at hand, another voice is quick to proclaim a new message, insisting on a different direction!
Life can be confusing. And the prospects of gaining clarity once and for all is not on the horizon anytime soon, — in spite of what prognosticators may say!
We live in a divisive world. Many modern-day prophets freely offer conflicting opinions that encourage separation, rather than unity. Each contemporary soothsayer insists that their message is the correct one.
And with so many voices amplifying alternative views, which prophet are we to believe? This quandary is not new.
In Israel’s history, kings surrounded themselves with prophets. War was a regular experience for Israel. Defending their land from hostile takeovers by other nations appeared to be a full-time job.
Often, alliances were made between nations to discourage a more powerful kingdom from attacking weaker ones. While these confederations often proved beneficial, they also had a backside.
God offered a covenant to Israel — mediated by Moses on Mount Sinai, which included the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Deut. 5:6-21). In response to God’s gracious offer of this sacred kinship relationship, Israel pledges that they will have no other gods, create any idols, or bow down to worship them.
Israel was surrounded by nations who worshipped many different gods (Baal, Ashtoreth, Dagon, Asherah, Chemosh, etc.). So, Israel was regularly exposed — and influenced — by false gods. The history of Israel reveals how time-and-again, they break their oath to Yahweh by worshipping false gods.
The Scripture above is an essential reminder for us.
Israel is divided into two kingdoms (Northern and Southern). Ahab is king of Israel (the northern portion of Israel). Jehoshaphat serves as king of Judah (the southern part of Israel). For three years, there has been peace between Judah, Israel, and the Arameans.
Convinced he needs to re-capture the city of Ramoth-in-Gilead (conquered by the Arameans earlier), Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to partner with him to field an army large enough to defeat the Arameans.
Recognizing the political advantages, Jehoshaphat agrees. However, he wants divine counsel from the Lord before he goes to war.
So Ahab calls 400 hundred prophets (supposedly of the Lord), for he knows Jehoshaphat will not go along with the prophets of Baal, which he and his wife Jezebel encouraged. However, these 400 prophets are more interested in confirming the interests of Ahab than Yahweh.
Not entirely convinced by the confirming messages of these prophets, Jehoshaphat asks: “Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?” Ahab replies:
“There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster” [Emphasis mine].
The words of Micaiah are not heeded. Ahab is killed in battle, and Jehoshaphat barely escapes death (see: 1 Kings 22).
This story reminds us that like Israel, we too are surrounded — and enticed — by false gods. Although our idols today may not reflect those of carved images, they are evidenced in ideologies, which ignore or refute God’s commands. When surrounded by false gods, it’s difficult not to be influenced by them.
This narrative also makes us consider: Popular messages by today’s prophets are not always God’s message!
In a society that insists on “political correctness and sensitivity” (although that seems abundantly lacking, especially in the world of politics), it’s less threatening to tell people what they want to hear. The apostle, Paul understood this and reminded Timothy:
“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.”(2)
And this story also reminds us: There’s the potential of having a lot of “Ahab” in each of us!
Unless I’m open to hearing — and obeying — God’s message, I’m following false gods.
How are the messages I hear today influencing me?
What modern-day prophets do I enjoy? Why?
What modern prophets do I avoid? Why?
Which false gods of my culture are affecting me? Why?
What “gods” do I need to destroy?
(1) The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 1 Ki 22:7–8.
(2) The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 2 Ti 4:3–4.