Life Lessons from Micaiah

Many looking at the title of this post are thinking, “You meant Micah.” No, Micaiah.

Who, others are thinking, is Micaiah?

We see this man once in history. If ever there were 15 minutes of “fame,” this little known man certainly had them. His actions were recorded in I Kings 22 in the Bible. Nothing more is known about this man, either before or after.

In I Kings 22, the king of Judah, Jehoshaphat, has joined in an alliance with the king of Israel, Ahab. The dichotomy between the two kings is of import. Jehoshaphat is introduced in II Chronicles 17.

3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals 4 but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel. 5 The Lord established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor. 6 His heart was devoted to the ways of the Lord; furthermore, he removed the high places and the Asherah poles from Judah.

Ahab, on the other hand, is described differently in I Kings 16.

30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.

What do these two kings have in common and what is Jehoshaphat thinking by allying himself with Ahab?

Apparently, Jehoshaphat was thinking the same thing and when Ahab asks Jehoshaphat and Judah to go fight with he and Israel against Ramoth-gilead, Jehoshaphat does the expected.

Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” 5 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the Lord.”

With the power of ancient stagecraft, Ahab trots out his 400 court prophets.

6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

Sensing the fix might be in, Jehoshaphat asks if there is a real prophet they might ask. Ahab responds with, “Micaiah, son of Imlah. But I hate him because he never says anything good about me.” Jehoshaphat sensing he might be making some progress, insists that Ahab summon this mystery man.

As Micaiah approaches Ahab, let me set the scene. Two kings, surrounded by their advisors and men of war, sit in the city gates of Samaria. The power of life and death is in their hands. Near them stand the 400 prophets who have just gone overboard in telling Ahab, “Go, God is with you, you are going to win. You are all set.”

In fact, as he is going to Ahab and Jehoshaphat, the messenger sent to summon Micaiah tells him,

Look, the other prophets without exception are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.

The most fascinating events unfold. After the build up from Ahab (this guy hates me), to Micaiah rebuffing the messenger’s advice (I’ll tell him what God tells me to tell him), Micaiah chokes.

Ahab asks, “Shall we go up against Ramoth-gilead?”

Micaiah says, “Go, the Lord will give you the victory!”

One can imagine the relief Ahab must have felt. The guy who hates him, who never says anything good about him, just agreed with the 400 court prophets! He is all set. And after what must have been a few seconds, Ahab thinks, “Wait a second, something is not right. This guy NEVER says anything good about me.” And so he asks,

How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?

And then, evidently overcoming his own humanness through a grace not his own, Micaiah says,

I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.

In plain English, “If you go, you are going to die, big guy.”

Ahab must have slumped in his seat at this moment as he turns to Jehoshaphat and utters, “See, told you so.”

How does this story end? Ahab goes to war, asking Jehoshaphat to ride in the front of the battle so he will attract the focus of the enemy forces. Ahab dresses in the garb of a regular soldier and has his chariot driver keep him from the front lines. The impossible happens. He is struck between a chink in his armor by a random arrow. Bleeding out, he commands his chariot driver to return him to Samaria, where he dies at the city gates, the exact same place where Micaiah had warned him not to go. His ally, Jehoshaphat, lives but just barely and must have thought going forward, “That’s it. Last time I am allying with a guy like Ahab. Bad business practices, bad life practices.”

But what of Micaiah? We don’t know. We literally never see him again in history. His time came and went in these few verses and in spite of great odds and great pressure, in spite of his humanity, he took a stand and did what was right, no matter the personal cost. Reading his story, I have always gotten the feeling that Jehoshaphat was privately cheering him on, but there was no public support for Micaiah. It was him versus his known world.

This is why I love the lesson of Micaiah’s story. It speaks to our humanity. It speaks to the deep desire to be liked, to remain relevant, but it also speaks to our relationship to Truth.

That, friends, should be our guide in this wild journey called life.

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