Where do you turn to get the truth? Who do you turn to when you need godly discernment that you can trust, even when the message might be one you don’t want to hear?
Today’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 22:1-28) offers up a story, which — in spite of its ancient setting — is as relevant as our current debates about “fake news” and the “echo chambers” in which many of us form our opinions.
King Ahab wants to go to war. So, he calls his friend Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, and invites him to get in on the action. Jehoshaphat seems eager to sign up; but he does have this one request: “First seek the counsel of the LORD.” So Ahab calls together his 400-member team of prophetic “yes-men,” and they tell him exactly what he wants to hear: “Go to war, for the LORD will give you victory.”
Jehoshaphat, however, seems to sense that these so-called prophets might not be speaking the truth; and so he asks: “Is there no longer a prophet of the LORD here of whom we can inquire?” Ahab confesses that there is such a prophet — a man named Micaiah. But Ahab’s not too fond of him, because “he never prophesies anything good about me.”
Still, Micaiah is summoned and is asked whether battled is advisable; and he, too, tells the king exactly what he wants to hear: “Attack and be victorious, for the LORD will give the enemy into your hand.” But this time, Ahab himself realizes that truth isn’t being spoken; so he insists: “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?” And yet, when Micaiah offers truth — “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd” — Ahab tells Jehoshaphat: “See? What did I tell you? He never prophesies anything good about me.”
Two key questions emerge for me. On the one side: How often, I wonder, are we like Ahab? We claim to want the truth; and sometimes, we even sense that what we’re hearing isn’t it! And yet, when someone speaks truth to us, we dismiss it because it doesn’t fit the narrative we’ve already constructed in our head. What will it take to make us heed the voice that speaks truth, even when it’s uncomfortable?
But on the other side: Do we have the faith and character to be like Micaiah? Can we cling to and speak truth, even when there are many voices around us that are speaking something else — and even when truth-telling is likely to get us more heartache than applause?
Fortunately, of course, refusing to hear and/or speak the truth tends to be “their” problem, not ours…right? Or could it be that we all could use a dose of Truth these days?
May Jesus truly be our Way, our Truth, and our Life today; and may we be both courageous enough to speak truth in love — and humble enough to hear it.