1Kings 22: 4-8 (the message)
He turned to Jeshoshaphat and said, “Will you join me in fighting for Ramoth Gilead?”
Jehoshaphat said, “You bet. I’m with you all the way — my troops are your troops, my horses are your horses.” He then continued, “But before you do anything, ask God for guidance.”
The king of Israel got the prophets together — all four hundred of them –and put the question to them: “Should I attack Ramoth Gilead? Or should I hold back?”
“Go for it,” they said. “God will hand it over to the king.”
But Jehoshaphat dragged his heels: “Is there still another prophet of God around here we can consult?”
The king of Israel told Jehoshaphat, “As a matter of fact, there is still one such man. But I hate him. He never preaches anything good to me, only doom, doom, doom — Micaiah son of Imlah.”
Ahab, the king of Israel, wanted to take the land of Ramoth Gilead. In the verses above he is asking Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to join him in the fight. I really like how Jehoshaphat said sure, but let’s ask God about it first. I know even just recently I went ahead with a seemingly insignificant decision without asking God about it first. The next day I could not get past the knowing in my heart that I had made the wrong choice. It was a great lesson for me that because God cares so much about my life (and knows what I don’t know!) He wants to guide me in every decision I make…even ones that seem easy enough to say “Hey, God…I got this!”
What has touched my heart this morning in reading the 22nd chapter of 1Kings is Ahab’s attitude about the “other prophet” who never preached anything “good” to him. Ahab made no bones about it…”I hate him.” In the end, Micaiah did come and speak God’s word to Ahab and it wasn’t pleasant. Ahab had been evil in God’s sight. He had not led the people of Israel, God’s people, in honoring God. The battle ended in Ahab’s death. Ahab had surrounded himself with “prophets” who spoke only what he wanted to hear, whether it was truly a word from the Lord or not. The one true prophet who was bold enough to speak God’s word could have provided genuine guidance from God for Ahab during his reign. But, it doesn’t seem as though Ahab really wanted God’s guidance or the truth. He just wanted someone to agree with him.
Over the years, through many painful opportunities, I have come to appreciate a person who will speak the truth to me in love. Not everyone can or will do that. Not everyone should! What I have learned and experienced is that when someone really loves you they will tell you the truth. When the motives are right it will come packaged in compassion and love, not judgment. But still, it will come. My mother has always been a person who would tell me the truth. As an adult I look back and am very thankful. Whatever the conflict or hardship, my mother did not shield me from hearing the truth about myself when I needed to hear it. She knew that I would only find freedom in truth. She was right.
I have encountered the ugly truth about myself and the resulting freedom enough times in my life now to where I am not so afraid of it. So many times we don’t want to hear the truth because of a very deep insecurity. We fear any truth that reveals our sin or weaknesses will serve as evidence of our worthlessness or failure. We fight hard to surround ourselves with “false prophets.” Those friends, family members or acquaintances that will only say what we want to hear. Like Ahab, we can resist and distance ourselves from the truth. We may even grow to resent the truth or any person God gives us that helps to reveal the truth. Is truth-telling just all about putting us in our proverbial place?
Truth is about freedom. You know the verse…”the truth shall make you free.” Well, that’s more than just a well-worn saying. Freedom from sin, abuse, generational cycles (destructive habits and sins passed on from one generation to the next), insecurity, and any other problem that jails us only comes when we face the truth about it. Truth is scary when we believe the purpose is punishment or shame. Truth is hard but welcome once we understand it saves us. Truth saves our relationships, marriages, finances and even our health sometimes.
Jesus was a truthful guy. He called a spade a spade, so to speak. He let the pious and religious know-it-alls of His day know they were “white washed tombs.” Basically, he was telling the pharisees that although they seemed to have their act together outwardly He knew on the inside they were filthy. Jesus spoke truth to everyone. The thieves, whores, leprous and demon-possessed were as likely to hear the truth. Jesus extended the truth of God to them — healing, compassion and mercy. And for those willing and eager for love, those desperate for freedom, the truth was the key that unlocked their cell. Truth, as much as we fear it, really opens wide the door of Grace. See, God’s grace for us, His kindness, marches straight towards us regardless of our condition. This grace…this ridiculously undeserved lifting of our burden…our ransomed eternity…a death-sentence pardon for those caught in the act, comes to us as we see the truth.
We cannot receive a healing for our broken hearts if we are too proud to admit we are broken. We cannot be free of family traditions of negativity and rebellion if we won’t face them. We cannot be cleansed of the weight of our sin if we won’t call it sin. As long as we turn our eyes from truth we condemn ourselves to the guilt-cell built of our denial.
Jesus is the truth. And if God leads people into our lives to speak truth in love let us be like Jehoshaphat and welcome their guidance. Let us not hate the truth because we fear it. Let us receive the mercy and compassion of God that comes as we embrace all He wants to show us. Truth in love is carried in grace. It’s for grace. It’s because of grace. Sure, we could be like Ahab and only go to a church where the Pastor never “steps on our toes” or we could only rub shoulders with “friends” who never shine God’s light into our darkness. We could become instantly and forever offended if someone loves us enough to be honest but we will miss out. God is more than able to speak to us through His word and prayer, but sometimes out of His great love He leads us into moments of honesty with people we know love us and in those moments freedom can come. As we grow willing to hear the truth, we become people of truth. God’s love and truth can fill us. We become willing to hear the truth and willing to share it…in love…because of grace…for freedom.