Many years ago, my grandfather-in-law was given a beautiful oak Mission-style sofa by his neighbor. This neighbor told GrandDaddy that he could keep it until he asked for it back again. GrandDaddy owned that sofa for so many years that the neighbor finally died. Fast forward more years, and the neighbor’s children look up GrandDaddy (now living elsewhere) and ask him to give the sofa back. He refused – on the grounds that the neighbor originally said he could keep it unless he (the neighbor himself) asked for it – and he was long since dead!
You’d have to understand GrandDaddy’s eccentricity to chuckle over this story – he was a rascal through-and-through albeit a good-hearted one! The sofa now sits in our dining room, and I sometimes feel a twinge of long-distance, twice-removed guilt for owning it.🙂 This family story came to mind today, as I contemplated the Bible portrait of an obscure prophet named Micaiah, son of Imla. His name means “Who is like God?” and our brief Bible encounter with him demonstrates his life-adherence to that motto.
This man, Micaiah, appears on the figurative Bible screen only this one day. I find his story sadly compelling, and strangely encouraging. His life, before and after this day, remains a mystery to us – until the Kingdom Age. This pivotal story, however, shows us a man of faith, courage and endurance – a lone voice of reason in a culture of deception, idolatry, depravity and foolishness. He is a prophet in Samaria, the son of Imla – “Whom God will fill up.”
Micaiah has had enough previous meetings with evil King Ahab to have set the king’s teeth on edge enough to the point that Ahab declares, “I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me!” 2 Chronicles 18:7 On the day in question, Micaiah is brought before the two powerful kings of Israel (Ahab) & Judah (Jehoshaphat), as well as 400 Divinely-deceived prophets who are predicting victory in the contemplated battle with Aram (Syria). v.5, 9 Impressive theatrics (including iron horns used to mimic goring their enemies) have been employed by the lead prophet, Zedekiah. v.10
Into this hostile arena, brave Micaiah steps – nonplussed by these powerful leaders “sitting each on his throne arrayed in their robes,” with scads of similarly wanna-be impressive prophets milling and fawning around them. At first (and I wonder why?) he corroborates the false prophets’ message of victory. Perhaps he said it with a great deal of sarcasm, and thus Ahab’s response? His actual prophecy is a morbid one – especially for Ahab. (Note in passing that it is God’s angels, with His blessing, that are deceiving the prophets here – no immortal devilish being!) Micaiah carefully describes what “my God” has told him – differentiating himself from these false pseudo-godly prophets. v.13 His visions are a direct contrast to the bombastic scene before him. He tells of God (the true King) on his throne in heaven having just the opposite to the kings’ consultation with His angels – giving them the assignment of deceiving Ahab’s prophets. He tells of Israel’s defeat and of Ahab’s demise. Grim, sober words that are remarkably point-blank, and in-your-face truth. I imagine a moment of astounded silence at the audacity of Micaiah’s detailed message.
Big-boy false prophet Zedekiah relieves the tension, however, by arrogantly slapping Micaiah and undermining his words. This deceiver too, however, is warned of his own spineless fate on that day Micaiah’s prophecy comes to pass. And in a final flourish of courage, Micaiah reaffirms the truth of his statement, and calls on the listening bystanders to take note of it. v.27 He took this one last opportunity to “preach” and reach any hearts that might possibly come to the knowledge of truth. It reminds me poignantly of Jesus’ similar frequent call to the masses, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
And now we come to the part that reminded me of GrandDaddy’s sofa. You see, Ahab told his minions to lock Micaiah in prison with the skimpiest of rations until Ahab returned from battle – victorious. And the words Ahab uses, “feed him sparingly” carry the meaning: oppression, distress and pressure.v.26 The fact is – that just as the true prophet had foretold – Ahab (like GrandDaddy’s neighbor) never returned!
So I’m thinking about Micaiah. The record does not tell us any more about this brave prophet. Did he die of starvation – forgotten in prison? Verse 25 tells us that wicked Ahab’s own son was in charge of locking him up, so I can’t imagine a great deal of mercy in this prince’s eyes after his father is killed! But perhaps some of those who heard Micaiah’s prophecy (soldiers, prophets or even Jehoshaphat himself) remembered the true words of this brave man and tried to get him released after Ahab was killed? But even if they tried (like GrandDaddy’s sofa) their efforts may have been rebuffed. We won’t know the answer now.
In the meantime, I think God wants us to learn some lessons from this brief visit to the climax of a faithful man’s fateful life. He wants us to learn to be courageous lone voices in our own world – standing up for what is right even when surrounded by often deceived, often hopeless, sometimes even heartless, people. He wants us to take guff and abuse from such people – in their best interest at times – as we try to warn them of impending doom if they do not change their ways. He wants us to be “confident… and bold to speak the word without fear.” Philippians 1:14 And perhaps, just perhaps, he wants us to be strong enough in faith to be sentenced to lifelong imprisonment, or even death, by wicked people that never return to set us free.
Hebrews II gives some amazing accounts of lives like our hero, Micaiah. It is worth a full read, but let me just pull out a few phrases and dedicate them to the memory of this wonderful man whose life declared, “Who is like God?”
By faith…men of old gained approval. Men of whom the world was not worthy. They chose to endure ill-treatment as people of God rather than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin. Considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of (the World), for he was looking to the reward. Hebrews 11:1-2, 38, 25-26