Ahab and the Power of Truth
DVD - JESUS RANT
If we took a poll this morning and we asked how many of us really do believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only Son of God who died for our sins and who saves those who turn to Him in faith, I bet that most of us would agree that these statements are true. Now there may be a few of you here this morning who have questions about that, and if you do, let me just commend you for being in a place like this at least looking for the answers. You honor us with your presence.
But probably most of us would fit in the “convinced:” category. But if you, like me, are one of the convinced, the last words of that video are haunting. You see, if those statements are true, then what are we going to do with Jesus? What are we going to do with the one who didn’t just preach truth, He embodied it. He is the way, the truth and the life. That’s what He said about Himself. Then He said in another place, “You will know the truth (that is, you will know Him for Who He is) and that truth will set you FREE.
Now right there is where we, as the “convinced,” often have a problem. Plenty of us claim to know Jesus. Plenty of us claim to be really tight with “the truth,” but very few of us are really free. You may say, “I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, Rusty. I’m an American. I was born free and I’ve never been a slave to anyone.”
Well, I know you may never have actually been another man’s property, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a slave. Jesus said, “Whoever commits sin is a slave to sin.” So, if you’ve ever sinned, you are its slave. And, again, that’s just the problem for many of us who claim to know Christ. We know the truth, we say, but that truth hasn’t set us free because we find ourselves with all kinds of sinful habits and and addictions that we cannot or do not control. We claim to know the truth, but the truth has not set us free.
Would you like to know why that is? Maybe you’re a father here today who really loves his family, but you find yourself losing your temper and acting in ways you know are wrong. Your attitude is full of a resentment you can’t even explain or understand. Wouldn’t you like to be free? Jesus said, “You will know the truth and that truth will set you free.”
You’re a teenager here today and you want to be free. You’ve spent the last few years of your life trying to fit in with people you really don’t even respect. You’ve tried to gain the approval of your friends but you know you’re just one embarrassing moment away from complete rejection. Wouldn’t you like to be free? Jesus said, “You’ll know the truth and that truth will set you free.”
You’re a single adult here today and you want to be free. You feel absolutely bound to a culture that tells you that, if you’re not married, you don’t count. You know its not true, but you find yourself constantly feeling like you’re invisible, especially when it comes to your church life. You’d like to have the courage to stand up and serve alone, just for who you are, but you constantly find yourself listening to that voice inside your head that tells you that you just don’t measure up. Wouldn’t you like to be free? Jesus said, “You’ll know the truth and that truth will set you free.”
You may say, “That all sounds good, Rusty, but when does it happen? I know the Lord as my Savior. I know the truth but I haven’t found the freedome. When does that happen? How does the truth transform my life? When does the truth set me free?”
Well, there was a King of Israel who sheds some light on this question. His name? Ahab. Ahab wasn’t one of the good guys . . . not by a long shot. Nope, he was really one of the bad guys and in a big way. It was Ahab who married Jezebel, the only person he could find who was actually worse than he was. It was Ahab who had Naboth, one of his subjects killed just because he wanted to steal his land. It was Ahab who allowed his followers to worship Baal, the heathen god of his despicable wife. Ahab didn’t seek truth. In fact, Ahab was allergic to it.
One particular incident in the life of Ahab really crystallizes these truths about truth. You find it in 2 Chron. 18. In this chapter Ahab is about to enter an ill-advised battle that will end up costing him his life. He wants to go to war against the King of Syria over Ramoth Gilead. He persuades Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah to go to war with him. Now Ahab wasn’t one to worry about what God thought about something, but that wasn’t the case with Jehoshaphat. When they are contemplating the battle Jehoshaphat asks in v 4
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?” 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.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say such things!” 8 Then the king of Israel called one of his officers and said, “Bring Micaiah the son of Imla quickly!” 9 The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah, clothed in their robes, sat each on his throne; and they sat at a threshing floor at the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them. 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.” 13 And Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.” 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!” 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?” 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?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘In what way?’ 21 So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the Lord said, ‘You shall persuade him and also prevail; go out and do so.’ 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.” 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?”
24 And Micaiah said, “Indeed you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide!” 25 Then the king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah, and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; 26 and say, ‘Thus says the king: “Put this fellow in prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and water of affliction, until I return in peace.” ’ ” 27 But Micaiah said, “If you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Take heed, all you people!”
Here a pride-filled King has a truth encounter, but it doesn’t set him free. Just like you and me, he heard truth, but the truth he heard did not make a difference in his life. Why not? Well, listen to his story and lets draw some lessons from Ahabs relationship with the truth. Let’s learn how the truth can become liberating in us. In the first place, the truth sets you free
DIV 1 - WHEN YOU STOP AVOIDING IT
Now it is obvious from the first few verses of this chapter that Ahab already knew what he wanted to do. He had called Jehoshaphat over for supper for the express purpose of flattering him enough to get his help. He had not consulted God because he didn’t really care what God thought. Divine consultations were not a part of who he claimed to be. He knew what he wanted and he didn’t want to be disturbed by what God might say the facts were.
That’s why you can imagine him “rolling his eyes” in disgust when Jehoshaphat asks him to “inquire of the Lord.” He couldn’t imagine anything more irrelevant. Besides, on the occasions when he had heard the Lord’s opinion from people like Elijah or Micaiah, it was always bad news.
And that was Ahab’s problem. He had the mistaken notion that if he wasn’t aware of the truth, it couldn’t come true. Like an ostrich sticking its head in the sand, he figured that if he didn’t hear bad news, it couldn’t come.
Isn’t that so like us. We avoid hearing the truth. We don’t like to hear that God disapproves of our sin. We don’t like it when some preacher tells us that God disapproves of our divorce or God will not bless our cohabitation. We don’t like it when the Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. We think we can overcome the truth by avoiding it.
Do you ever make that mistake? Ever find yourself avoiding the truth? I sure do! I really see it when I’m dieting. Every once and a while I can feel myself loading up the pounds, usually when I’ve been double-dipping the “French Silk”. If you don’t know what French Silk is, go to the grocery store and check out the Ice Cream Aisle.
Well, my dieting consists of counting calories in a couple of ways. First, I count the calories I burn. I mean, I get on my bike and ride and I know I can burn about 50 calories for every mile I ride. My only problem is that, like the line from the famous movie, “I can’t handle the truth.” I’ll ride 10 miles, let’s say, and instead of counting 50 calories per mile, I’ll try to squeeze out 60, you know, telling myself lies like, “I’m sure that 3-mile-per hour wind or that 4 foot hill must have increased my calorie burn.”
But where it really gets ridiculous is counting the calories I consume. I’ll look on the cereal box in the morning and see that one bowl of the Cinnamon Sugar Frosted Mini-wheats is 200 calories and that “one bowl = 12 biscuits.” Now, first of all, did these cereal makers take a trip with Gulliver? I mean what kind of bowl are they using to fill it up with 12 of those little mini-wheats? Friends, that’s a small bowl! So I’ll just pour, and pour, and keep on pouring till I’m full, and count that as 300 calories, let’s say, when the reality is, it’s probably 5 or 600. It’s the same way with ice cream. They say a serving is only 260 calories, but their “serving” is half of a cup. Look, if you’re going to only eat a half a cup of ice cream, why torture yourself? So I’ll have two servings, only my half of a cup is probably more like a whole cup. Then after all this, I’ll go get on the scale and what happens? That’s right, My diet worked! Yeah, it worked if I was wanting to gain weight! Now what’s my problem? O, it’s really simple: I can’t handle the truth. I avoid the truth and it doesn’t set me free.
And, quite frankly, I speak from experience. I’ve spent some time doing impersonating“Ahab” myself. I still remember being in Nashville, Tn when the opportunity arose to leave my meager existence as a school teacher and part-time minister of music and get a job in pharmaceuticals. I knew in my heart that my motives were wrong. I knew that I was abandoning what God had, to that point, revealed to me to be His will. But I had a different plan. I thought I could meet my needs more than God could. Even when the principal of the school at which I was teaching called me in and offered me a raise I said “no.” In when the pastor of the church I was working at tried to reason with me, I wouldn’t listen. You see, I had made up my mind. I was going to get as much as I could while I could. If God could figure out a way to insert Himself into my plan, great, but my plan was going to come first. I was an Ahab. I was avoiding the truth. I would not even admit it to myself.
Until . . . until about 2 months into my new job. I was in my second 2-week training school and I wasn’t doing very well, or at least I didn’t think that I was. I remember my District manager left me a voice mail and, in a nice way, told me that, to that point, my performance in PS2 had not been very impressive. All of a sudden I panicked. I thought, “Here I have gone and thrown everything I was into this job and I’m going to end up getting fired. I was afraid and alone in school (my wife was 300 miles away.) That night, for the first time in a long time, God and I had a conversation. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:
Here I am in a new job- in a new place and not sure if any of it is actually the will of God. Running from the disciplined christian life can take many forms, and this time it has taken me away from Donelson Christian Academy, the church and my friends. I have taken this job with Syntex Pharmaceuticals which is supposed to meet all my financial needs. What I haven’t remembered is that my fainancial success doesn’t really depend so much on how much I make as it does on how much I trust . . .
And that night I had to face some truth that I had been avoiding for a long time.
May I ask you, what are some truths that you are running from? Hey, if you are here and you’ve never had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, what are some things that you really don’t like to hear? What about this one: Hell is real! I know that’s not a popular truth, but true it is! There is a place after this life that, if you die without placing your faith in Jesus Christ and following Him in obedience, you will go. It’s a very unpleasant place. The Bible calls it a place of fire and torment. Hell is real.
And here’s another truth of God that people run from: Jesus is Lord. No, not Jesus should be Lord, or Jesus ought to be Lord, or you need to make Him Lord. No! Jesus is Lord and as Lord He is in absolute control. Now, the only logical choice you can make as an unbeliever is to acknowledge the obvious: Jesus is Lord and one day you will acknowledge Him as such. You may temporarily ignore or even rebel against that truth, but one day it will be clear: Jesus is Lord.
O, but there’s one more: Jesus loves you! Of all the truths, some people find that the hardest to really accept. They find all kinds of ways to argue against His love. They say because a loved one dies, or some tragedy interrupts their life that Jesus doesn’t love them. And yet there’s a cross on a hill that held the perfect Son of God that forever says that Jesus loves you But so many of those who don’t know the Lord refuse to believe it. Like Ahab, they avoid the truth.
Yes, Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. And, yes, if you really know the truth, the truth will set you free. But so many people refuse the truth and they die in bondage. They avoid the truth and if the truth ever sets you free, that’s one thing you must stop. You must stop avoiding the truth. But the truth can also set you free:
DIV 2: WHEN YOU STOP MANIPULATING IT.
Well, Jehoshaphat’s request to inquire of the Lord is only a temporary set back for Ahab. After all, he had the best prophets money could buy. In his employ were hundreds of prophets. You see that in vv 5-6: “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.’”
All these prophets were bogus. They were the best preachers the King’s money could buy. Ahab thought he could control the truth by manipulating it. But King Jehoshaphat knew something was rotten in Denmark. After all, when was the last time 400 preachers agreed on anything. Besides that, it may have been very evident to Jehoshaphat that these false prophets were just that: false, or even idolatrous. So he asked again in v 6, “ . . . Is there not still a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of him. V 7 in interesting. Ahab says: 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.”
In essence, Ahab says, “Since this mean old preacher never gives me any answers I like, I stopped asking him questions.” But he knows that Jehoshaphat wants to hear for him so he sends for the prophet, Micaiah. But he still tries to stack the deck. No doubt, on the King’s order, v 12 says:
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.”
In other words, Micaiah, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll tell the king what he wants to hear. Isn’t that amazing? Ahab’s not interested in what God’s truth really is, he just wants it to be what He wants it to be, and he’s willing to manipulate the truth to make it happen.
Isn’t that just like us? We want God to agree with our opinion, no matter how unbiblical it might be.
We’re kind of like the little boy I heard about writing a letter to God about the Christmas presents he wanted so badly. “I’ve been good for six months now,” he wrote, But after a moment's reflection he crossed out "six months" and wrote "three." After a pause, that was crossed out, and he put "two weeks." There was another pause, and that was crossed out too.
He got up from the table and went over to the little nativity scene that had the figures of Mary and Joseph. He picked up the figure of Mary and went back to his writing and started again: "Dear God, if ever you want to see your mother again…"
Isn’t it amazing how we seem to think that we can push God around. Isn’t it amazing at how we try to adjust what God has declared in order to make it more palatable to our culture?
People who have never come to Christ try to manipulate the truth all the time. That’s why, instead of accepting the exclusiveness of the claims of Christ, he fights for an amalgamated religious approach that tells him what he wants to hear. George Barna writes of our culture:
Today, on the contrary, religion is not simply an apolitical matter but has become a purely private matter in the sense of an arbitrarily chosen option, which can also simply be ignored without fear of social sanctions. Moreover, the choice is no longer restricted to a decision between a Christian church or denomination, and no religion at all. In our society, migration, missions, and the mass media have produced a situation that allows everyone to put together his or her own menu of meaning from a copious religious smorgasbord-scraps from the world's religions and natural myths, stress-reducing meditative rituals and esoteric speculations, a pinch of Buddhism and a bit of mysticism after work. All this belongs to contemporary "cafeteria religion." "I determine what God is!" reads the slogan, insofar as there is still any talk of God in it, and this slogan is practiced extensively, not only outside of, but also within the Christian churches.
You see we’re just like Ahab. We want to hear from the man of God the line we’ve fed him.
And it’s often no better in the church. We have a very unbiblical habit as the people of God. We live in two worlds. One is virtual. You know what I’m talking about. It seems real while we’re doing it, but it’s not real our lives. Our virtual world is also known as “church world.” When we come to church, we’re all about the virtual world of biblical truth. We’ll say “amen” when the preacher steps on our toes with the Word of God, but that doesn’t mean that truth becomes reality for us. Here’s what we’re really saying and what it really means. We say:
I know the Bible teaches that divorce except in the case of unfaithfulness or abandonment is wrong, but that’s the “Bible” world. In the real world, I’m not staying with this annoying, nagging woman or this ungrateful, unromantic, lazy man one more minute.
We say, I know the Bible teaches that I am not supposed to spread gossip, but that’s the “Bible” world. In the real world, people need to know what I know so that they can pray!
I know the Bible teaches that everything I have belongs to God, but that’s the “Bible” world. In the real world there are bills to pay and toys to buy and tithing is for losers who let the preacher make them feel guilty.
I know the Bible teaches that I’m a full time Christian first, then a part-time employee of my company, but that’s the “Bible” world. In the real world I need to take the promotion, no matter what it does to my family because money really is that important to me.
I know the Bible teaches that sex outside of marriage is wrong, but that’s the “Bible” world. In the real world it’s ridiculous to expect teenagers to wait until marriage. I’ll never forget a youth worker in our church in Florida who, when I was a teenager, smiled indulgently when I told him that I expected to wait until marriage and told me he “hoped” I could do it! That’s the way most believers think of “Bible world.” It’s like virtual reality. It’s nice to talk about, but its not real. And we often become little Ahab’s manipulating the truth to our own destruction.
O, but you can’t manipulate God! You can’t escape truth. It will, finally and at last, win out. It will setyou free when you stop avoiding it and when you stop manipulating it. But it will set you free:
DIV 3: WHEN YOU START ACCEPTING IT.
The thing about truth is it always wins out. Eventually truth reveals deception for what it is. The terrible reality, however, is that when truth is finally realized, it is too late. That happened to Ahab.
Micaiah, the prophet tells him truth. He tells him that God is leading him into this battle in order to bring judgment upon him. Ahab laughs him off as an out-of-touch preacher with a vendetta. He puts him in prison, feeds him the “bread of affliction” and basically says, “If I don’t come back from battle, you’ll rot in that jail.”
Micaiah’s reply is in v. 27 - “But Micaiah said, “If you ever return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Take heed, all you people!” When Ahab says, “If you know what’s good for you, I better come back,” Micaiah says, “Listen to me, King: You ain’t coming back!”
But Ahab will not accept the truth. V 28 goes on to say:
28 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. 29 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will disguise myself and go into battle; but you put on your robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.
You got to stop right here and ask yourself why Jehoshaphat allowed himself to be set up like this, but, for some reason, he did. Still, though its interesting that Ahab is still running from the truth. He refuses to believe it, but, just in case its true, he decides to try to trick God! Wow, isn’t that just like us? Look what happens in v 30
30 Now the king of Syria had commanded the captains of the chariots who were with him, saying, “Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.”
31 So it was, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, “It is the king of Israel!” Therefore they surrounded him to attack; but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him, and God diverted them from him. 32 For so it was, when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him. 33 Now a certain man drew a bow at random, and struck the king of Israel between the joints of his armor.
Do you get what happens here? Even though Ahab has disguised himself to look like any other warrior, some dude on the Syrian side says to himself: “Hey, if I just shoot this arrow up in the air and don’t even aim it, it might just come down somewhere and hit somebody.” So he pulls back his bow and lets it fly. Now, here’s Ahab disguised in his chariot, fully covered in his armor, when flying out of clouds as if sent directly from God (for, indeed, it was!) this arrow appears from nowhere, finds the one spot in the joints between the pieces of his armor, and goes in.
The king falls to floor of his chariot bleeding profusely. The driver tries to get off of the battle field and attend to the king, but the battle has closed in around him and he can’t leave. All day Ahab bleeds. And sometime in that afternoon, he makes a discovery: You can’t run from truth. He dies on the field of battle just like God said He would.
Listen to me, my unsaved friend. Facts are stubborn things. You can deny them, run from them, and consign them to virtual “Bible” world for a while, but they have this annoying habit of catching up with you. If you’re here and you really don’t know the Lord, you have a rendevous with truth. Actually, you have two of them. One of them is right here and right now. If you listen and if you come to Christ, this can be a precious wonderful day of change in your life. If you wait for your ultimate rendevous with truth, you will face God in the judgment with your sins! One way or the other, you will face the truth. You can face it now, or you can face it later, but you will face it!
Christian, you’ll face it too. Just because you’ve given your life to Christ doesn’t mean that there is not truth that you need to face. We run so hard to indulge our sin sometimes living with all kinds of guilt and bad consequences. Let me ask you, Christian, aren’t you tired of covering up?
Aren’t you tired of making excuses for your sin? Aren’t you tired of trying to justify why you’re so far away from God?
I want you to know that relief is waiting, but you’ve got to face the truth. For just a moment will you just stop and think of the great peace that could be yours if you would just turn and accept the truth that God’s trying to speak into your life. Could you just imagine what could happen if you would stop for one moment, take your fingers out of your ears, and let the Holy Spirit speak to you. It can happen. It would be wonderful.
Facing the Giants is about the faith of a high school football coach and how he uses biblical principles to motivate and inspire his team to play winning football while honoring God. In that movie, Coach Taylor has one of his players who is really hard-hearted. His name is Matt Prater. Coach Taylor has been praying for a revival on their school campus. He’s been praying for a real encounter of his players with the way, the truth, and the life. Take a look at what happens