Jehoshaphat followed Asa his father as king over Israel and Judah. He was like David in his earlier years and did not worship the Baals, but instead sought God, followed his commandments and did not become stiff-necked like the rest of Israel:
3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the example of his father David’s earlier days and did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did. 5 So the Lord established the kingdom in his control, and all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. 6 He took great pride in the ways of the Lord and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah. (17:3-6)
This king walked with God and was thus honored by Him in battle (18:31). By contrast Ahab was an evil king, for unlike Jehoshaphat he did not receive the word of the LORD, but instead the word of man as ultimate. Before going into battle this king would inquire of prophets who would tell him “good news”, but they were merely mouthpieces of deceiving spirits sent by God:
“20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ 21 He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ 22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”” (18:20-22)
Several observations are evident from the context; first, Ahab viewed the word of God from a true prophet as (Micaiah) evil and the deceptive false word of man as good:
6 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the Lord here that we may inquire of him?”7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me but always evil. He is Micaiah, son of Imla.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” (18:6-7)
Somewhere it is written, “Woe to the nation that calls what is righteous evil and what is wicked good” (sort of). Second, Micaiah was determined to speak God’s word whether or not it was popular or even if it caused him harm—which it did landing him in prison (18:12-13, 14-18).
Third, God was behind the scenes working out His providential purposes, puzzling as it may be to us:
“18 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 and on His left. 19 The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab king of Israel to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. 20 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘How?’ 21 He said, ‘I will go and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and prevail also. Go and do so.’ 22 Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of these your prophets, for the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.” (18:18-22)
This text is one of many (Is.19:1-15; Ez.14:6-11) that reveals the God of love acting in a way that evil might be attributed to Him; actions that seem cruel, wicked and manipulative for the purpose of ridding Israel of her idolatry and letting the nations know that God is the LORD.
Fourth, Micaiah lets Ahab know that if he returns from battle, then he indeed is not God’s prophet; “27 Micaiah said, “If you indeed return safely, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Listen, all you people.” Here the prophet is putting himself under the authority of God’s word. He is not above the word, nor is any earthly king.
The events turned out as God said they would, how could they not?! And yet the choices of human beings play significant roles in how history unfolds. For every action we take, an account to the God of creation will be given. This is a deeply sobering matter.
The wise king heeded the prophet’s word, the foolish king did not. So if any of us are going to be considered either wise or foolish, there’s one issue to settle: what will be our response to the revelation of Yahweh?