Hearing and Heeding the Word of the Lord

One of the good kings of Judah was King Jehoshaphat. But Jehoshaphat’s life was a roller-coaster of faith. In 2 Chron. 18 Jehoshaphat makes an unfortunate alliance with wicked King Ahab of the northern kingdom. The two kings had agreed to go up against Ramoth-gilead together. Since Jehoshaphat was a godly king, he told Ahab that they should seek the will of the Lord. Ahab, in typical fashion, gathers 400 prophets who were “yes men.” Jehoshaphat easily discerns that the so-called prophets were just cheerleaders for Ahab and so he asks, “Isn’t there a prophet of Yahweh here anymore? Let’s ask him” (2 Chron. 18:6). What follows is humorous. Ahab concedes that there is such a prophet, but “I hate him because he never prophesies good about me, but only disaster” (18:7). This prophet, Micaiah, is summoned since he wasn’t invited to the original council of 400 conmen. As he is summoned, the messenger says to him, paraphrasing, “Look, all the other guys have a good word to the king, so make sure you follow suit.”

I imagine the scene with Micaiah dragging his feet as he approaches the two kings. He looks at his watch, yawns, and then says in an uninterested, monotone, “Yep, go ahead, you will win.” Ahab then says, “How many times must I make you swear not to tell me anything but the truth in the name of Yahweh?” Huh? This is funny because this is precisely not Ahab’s problem with Micaiah. It is hard to tell why Ahab says this, but he opens himself up to hearing the truth. Micaiah then predicts destruction. Ahab turns to Jehoshaphat and says, “See, what did I tell you about this guy!” Micaiah then says the God sent a lying spirit in the mouths of the 400. He gets smacked and imprisoned for his truth-telling. Ahab tells him he will not get out of prison until he comes back safely. Micaiah then says, “Well, if I ever get out of prison it will only be because God didn’t speak through me.”

As I read this passage, I thought, what did Jehoshaphat think? He wanted a true prophet. He clearly got one. He asked for the truth and he got it. But then, the passage says, without any commentary, that the king of Israel and Judah’s King Jehoshaphat went to battle (18:28). After the battle goes badly, as prophesied, Jehoshaphat returns home and is rebuked by a prophet. “Do you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the LORD’s wrath is upon you” (19:2). Jehoshaphat wanted to hear the Word of the Lord, but then because he didn’t heed the Word, he was rebuked by it. Jehoshaphat had a heart for God and although the text doesn’t say explicitly, he obviously repented. The fruit of his heart for God was displayed in the reforms he brought to Judah. Furthermore, in the next chapter (2 Chron. 20), Jehoshaphat prays a moving, God-glorifying prayer as he was surrounded by the Moabites and Ammonites. His closing line is magnificent, “We do not know what to do, but we look to You” (20:12).

God comes through and is faithful to His servant and His people. God blessed Jehoshaphat’s kingdom (20:30). His life is summarized as doing right in the LORD’s sight (20:32). But then he makes an alliance, towards the end of his life, with Israel’s King Ahaziah. Once more a prophet comes and rebukes him (20:37). This is a curious journey. He wants to hear from God in his first alliance, but does not heed what he hears. In his second alliance, he didn’t even seek the Lord’s will. In between, he does good works and trusts God in a time of national crisis. He seems like a walking contradiction.

But here is the point of application that we all need to hear. We love God’s Word. We love hearing God’s Word. We know the importance of God’s Word. And yet, how many times do we say we want to know God’s will through His Word and then when he graciously gives it, we go ahead and do what we were going to do all along? There is no virtue in piously wanting to hear God’s Word without an intention to heed it.

May God help us to not simply be people who appreciate a good sermon, or love the Word, without being committed to do what God tells us to do. If we are determined to follow our will, fulfill our plans or our agenda, with no regard to what God says, then let’s not claim that we really want the Word of the Lord. Instead, let’s be a people who love to hear the Word and love to heed the Word. Let’s be a people whose chief purpose is to do the will of the Lord.