Troublers of Israel

I love the plain-spoken prophets, bold and blunt, unsettlers of powerful people. For instance, when King Ahab of Israel finally sees the prophet Elijah, that elusive truth-teller he’s been hunting high and low, he says, wearily, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”

But of course Elijah isn’t the real troublemaker. It’s Ahab, and Elijah says so without hesitation. I’m not the troublemaker, Ahab. YOU ARE. And God will prove it.
And so He does.

A few years ago, my good friend Bill pointed me towards another so-called troublemaker prophet in 1 Kings 22, Micaiah, now one of my favourites among the prophets. Micaiah’s brief story takes place not long after Elijah is on the scene, during the reign of King Jehoshaphat of Judah. And Jehoshaphat is worried. Three years (see John 2:19-21) have passed without war, and Ahab wants to take back the city of Ramoth-gilead from the King of Aram.

So Ahab calls for his favourite prophets, to find out if he and King Jehoshaphat should go to battle. And of course, all the YES MAN prophets say YES.
Yes, oh mighty king, thou shalt gore the Arameans with these thy horns of iron until they are consumed!
(Have you clocked the bad omen of iron there, Bible friends?)

But Jehoshaphat smells a rat. He’s sick of these YES MEN. So he asks Ahab the king of Israel, in exasperation,

Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here that we may inquire of him?

And this is one of the most self-indulgent statements in the entire Bible. I mean, just look at what King Ahab says,

There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.

Priceless! King Ahab only wants men who say YES. But Jehoshaphat is intrigued and wants to hear more. Who’s this new voice? So in comes Micaiah.

And our man Micaiah lives up to his rebel rep. Eventually, at Jehoshaphat’s insistence, he tells the two kings the truth.
And surprise, surprise, it’s not good news. God says, if you go to war, you won’t win. And surprise, surprise, King Ahab can’t handle the truth.
The room is in uproar. One of the fake prophets strikes Micaiah across the cheek, and Ahab throws the prophet Micaiah in prison.

We find more so-called troublemakers in the New Testament, more threats to the self-interests of powerful people. Following in the pattern of Elijah, Micaiah, and Jesus Christ, Paul and Silas are likewise brought before the rulers, this time the magistrates of the city of Philippi, having been accused of “exceedingly troubling” the city (Acts 16:20). And they too are thrown in jail.

True prophets’ calls for cleansing from sin in the church often get the same set of replies: Dissension! Divison! Disloyalty! Disunity!
But here is God’s answer to self-serving people masquerading as leaders among His people:

“It is definitely because they have misled My people by saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace.

Ezekiel 13:10

The Bible doesn’t tell us what happens to the prophet Micaiah after his imprisonment, though we do hear of King Ahab’s cowardly death. But God does leave us with Micaiah’s final words of wisdom:

“Listen, all you people.”

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