Don’t Be Deceived

Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kgs 22:6-7, emphasis added).

Jesus told us that “not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt 5:18). Even the smallest observation can be important for it is in the Scripture that we find Truth.

The king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was a man named Ahab. He openly worshiped the idols of the nations surrounding him rather than the God of Israel (his wife was the infamous, Jezebel). When he was going out to battle it was his custom to call upon his “prophets” to advise him about the probabilities of success in his fight. They told him the “Lord” was on his side and would give him success as he was about to fight the Syrians.

The king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah was Jehoshaphat and he was to join Ahab in this battle. But Jehoshaphat recognized that these prophets did not worship the same God that he did, so he asked, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?”  Notice each reference to deity in these two verses.

The Hebrew language has at least three words to refer to deity. Two are used here. When the word “LORD” is capitalized in this way, it is an English convention that means that the Hebrew word is the personal name of God — the name He gave to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3. It is a sacred name and refers only to the God of Israel. The other word used here is spelled “Lord” and is a generic reference. Jehoshaphat recognized that the statements of Ahab’s prophets referred to a god other than the God of Israel. 

Ahab wasn’t concerned about which god was on his side, as long as he would get his victory. In our day the Western Church largely is not concerned about pleasing the God of Israel. Like Ahab, we are more concerned with the appearance of success. Which god we address is immaterial.

It has become a conventional practice in this era of the Church to address “God” in our prayers — even though our God has revealed Himself in the Person of Jesus Christ. We typically hear, “God, bless this person or that…God, comfort and heal so-in-so…” Less often do we hear people address in prayer, “Lord Jesus…” or “Our Father…”

I do not suggest that everyone who addresses Him as “God” is worshiping a false god, but I have to wonder why we are reluctant to speak to Him as He has revealed Himself, especially when Jesus specifically told us to “pray like this, ‘Our Father…’” (Matt 6:9). Jehoshaphat recognized that Ahab’s prophets were not true prophets, perhaps by their mode of address.

Later in the story of Ahab and Jehoshaphat in 1 Kings 22, a true prophet of the LORD explained that deception from false prophets was how Ahab would be destroyed. I daresay that it is how this generation will also be destroyed (see Jeremiah 23).

So how do we avoid that deception if we cannot always say that the way we identify our God is the key to the Truth? By keeping our minds focused upon what we know to be true — the Scripture. By measuring everything we hear from the standard that Scripture sets. By recognizing that deception can come through people who are genuinely sincere and have been trustworthy in times past. Even their words must be compared with Scripture.

The psalmist writes, “The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts” (Ps 119:110).

Take Hold of Instruction

Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her for she is your life (Prov 4:13)

Being instructed is hard. It rubs against our pride by forcing us to admit that there is something lacking in us. Everything in our society tells us that we are complete and adequate in ourselves, just as we are. There is nothing in us that requires instruction, at least not morally; men are basically good in themselves. If there is a flaw, society will take care of that through its Department of Corrections. The emphasis in public education upon “self-esteem” undermines real instruction. No longer does a student have to master a certain body of material; he is given passing marks so that he will feel good about himself. As a result of this unBiblical philosophy, larger numbers of our society are having to be “corrected.”

But Solomon’s words to us – if they are followed – actually help us live satisfying lives, because they keep us humble. We don’t think “more highly of ourselves than we ought to think” (Rom 12:3). We recognize in these words that there is real life…satisfying life…fulfilling life…abundant life, not a pretense of life like we see in the characters on TV and the movies. That’s why Solomon tells us to “guard her.”

Primarily Solomon has the informal instruction of a parent to his child in mind, but it is not outside the meaning here to think of formal instruction. Some professions expect a certain amount of “Continuing Education” or “Professional Development” of their members. My own course in seminary is stretching me to read things that I might otherwise have set aside. In some cases I have read books that I had not known existed, books confirming certain convictions in me but which I had no idea had been put into print. The confirming of those convictions has been a great encouragement to me, in some cases delivering me from an “Elijah Syndrome,” the feeling of being all alone in my ministry.

I’m glad I “[took] hold of instruction.”