1 Kings 22 - Israel and Syria (Aram) continue at war. Jehoshaphat of Judah, Asa’s son and another good king, comes to confer with Ahab; he wants their help in reclaiming Ramoth-gilead from the Syrians. JB note says this town was captured by the Syrians (same as Aramaeans) during or before the reign of David and had not been handed back in the Treaty of Aphek (chapter 20).
Jehoshaphat agrees, but wants Ahab first to consult the Lord. Ahab gathers 400 of the Lord’s prophets together and asks them what the Lord thinks. They all tell him to go ahead and attack. Jehoshaphat, wanting to be very sure it is God’s will, asks if there is not yet another prophet in Israel they should consult. Ahab says there is - there is Micaiah, son of Imlah – but he adds, “but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster” (22:8). They call on him anyway.
Everyone gets together at the threshing floor at the entrance gate to Samaria, and the prophets there are all doing their thing. Another false prophet, Zedekiah, assures Ahab and Jehoshaphat that they will certainly destroy the Arameans.
The men who get Micaiah – the only prophet who really knows God’s truth - tell him that everyone is predicting success and that he should too; Micaiah says he will rely on the Lord alone. At first he does tell the king the thing he knows the king wants to hear; but Ahab knows him too well. He says to him, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” (22:16) Another instance where Ahab kind of surprises me. He’s a king who may not always DO what is right, but he has a complex mind. He wants to KNOW what the Lord really thinks. Ahab has a frustrating mix of insight and passiveness when it comes to leading his people. So Micaiah lays it on him: “I can see the army of Israel scattered over the hills like sheep without a shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These men have no leader; let them go home in peace’” (22:17). When he hears this, Ahab turns to Jehoshaphat and says that this is more like the Micaiah he knows.
Micaiah elaborates: “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing beside him. . .And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’” (22:20) The angels of the heavenly court argue back and forth until a spirit appears who says he will make Ahab go forth to the battle by putting lying words into the mouths of his prophets. Zedekiah slaps Micaiah for saying this and says, “Since when did the Lord’s spirit leave me and speak to you?” (22:25) Micaiah tells him he will find out one day when he goes into a back room to hide.
Ahab orders Micaiah taken away and thrown into a prison until he [Ahab] returns safely. Micaiah says to him that if he [Ahab] returns safely from this campaign, then the Lord was indeed NOT speaking through him. The truth is NO ONE knows the true will of God until the fruits of our actions can be seen over time.
They go into battle. Ahab—believing the words of the prophet Micaiah even though they have not pleased him and trying to escape the predicted fate—gives Jehoshaphat his kingly robes and disguises himself so the enemy will kill Jehoshaphat instead of him. When the enemy sees that the man in the robes is not Ahab, though, they stopped their assault on him. Ahab, on the other hand, despite his disguise is hit by accident and dies. He is returned to Samaria where the dogs do in fact lick his blood from the chariot he was in. This story is in 2 Chronicles 18 too.
As for Jehoshaphat, he reigns over Judah for 25 years. He does what is right except not removing the high places. He makes peace with the king of Israel, Ahaziah, and has ships made to engage in trade, but they are wrecked at Ezion-geber before they can be used. In Israel, Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, succeeds and reigns for two years; but he too does what is evil just as his parents did.
Luke 4:31-44 - Jesus encounters a “demoniac” in Capernaum (also told of in Mark 1:21-26). As in Mark, we must wonder why it is that demons and evil spirits Jesus encounters are able to recognize Jesus even before the people generally recognize his identity. In Luke, the spirit says, “Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God” (4:34). The same exact words are used in Mark. Jesus rebukes these evil spirits, and people are “amazed” at the power of Jesus’ command, his voice or word.
The different translations of the peoples’ response to what they see here are interesting:
· The NRSV has them asking “What kind of utterance is this?”
· The NAB has the fascinating and rich “What is there about his word?”
· JB has “’What teaching!’”
· The German has “’Was ist das fur ein Ding?’”
· The King James also has “word” in the clause.
Of all these, I like the NAB best. What an interesting question it becomes! Something in Jesus’ voice demonstrates power. Not only his voice, but his presence and his touch bring healing, first of all to the man with the unclean spirit and Simon Peter’s mother-in-law, but also to others. Luke has Jesus curing Simon’s mother-in-law before we see Simon’s call to discipleship—the order is better in Matthew.
Reflection: All of us whom Jesus encounters are blind or ailing in one way or another. These healings were not isolated instances but the general work he came to do. Let us see how we are blind or deaf or filled with the evil spirits of this world who, though they can recognize Jesus, cannot be banished entirely from the world. Help move away every impediment that the world gives to Christ’s work in us or that we bring to our encounter with the living Word.