In that day, I will restore David’s fallen sukkah. I will repair it’s broken walls and restore it’s ruins. I will rebuild it as in the days of old.

– Amos 9:11

Propping up Ahab – False positives and the prophetic

“Where seldom is heard a discouraging word”

“Home on the range” is a famous American folk song (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_on_the_Range). Known as the unofficial song of the American West, as well as the state song of Kansas, it describes a pastoral scene where deer and antelope frolic, where buffalo still roam, where there are no clouds in the sky, and where nothing discouraging is ever said.

This idyllic dream of America’s heartland is no more, though great herds of buffalo can be found roaming on Ted Turner’s 152,341 acre Montana ranch (www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1599697,00.html). Rugged beauty can still be found in the American Plains and at the foothills of the Rockies, for those who have the love and the time.

Correcting our focus

Idyllic dreams are not only found in wistful folksongs about days gone by. Sometimes those same perspectives pop up like Indian paintbrush wildflowers – in what is known as the prophetic movement. Some of these rose-colored blossoms roam the internet like the buffalo of yore, and occasionally can be observed frolicking at conferences. Here are three “prairie fire” species whose claims bear thoughtful evaluation:

  • Some suggest that prophetic words should only be positive, and should steer far away from controversy. The result seems to be a predominating focus on words concerning personal peace and prosperity. 
  • Though 95% of the Scriptures focus on Israel and the Jewish people, it seems that in actual practice, most of the publicized prophetic words avoid these subjects. As a result, Scriptures dealing with the Jewish people’s restoration are being applied nearly exclusively to individual personal needs. 
  • Some folks are now saying that through prophetic revelation and ministry, ever increasing manifestation of the kingdom of God will decisively eclipse even suffering and martyrdom. This eschatological emphasis is one-sided, and again has the unintended result of relegating the Bible’s focus on end-time events (vis-à-vis the Jewish people and the Middle East) to the deep background.

Positive thinking versus God’s thoughts

“The one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort” (1 Corinthians 14:3). Paul’s words have been a scriptural guideline for sound ministry over the centuries. Those who speak what God has on His heart should make sure that these abovementioned emphases are also their own.

At the same time, Paul’s brief description here is not exhaustive. The rest of the Scriptures also have something to say. They teach us that prophetic ministry also involves exhortation, visions of future events, rebuke – as well as many other facets.

With the spread of awareness about the prophetic since the mid 1980’s (mostly centered in America), and with the desire to make the prophetic user-friendly, there has also come a desire to make the prophetic politically correct. Extreme makeover is not only a TV concept; the spirit of the age can also blunt the edge of the prophetic.

Is the God of Old Testament prophecy still the same today?

Bible believers accept that YHVH split open the waters of the sea and drowned Pharaoh’s anti-Jewish army. They accept as true that the finger of God caused agony to the Egyptians through the Ten Plagues (Exodus 8:19), and that God brought disasters of nature against Israel or Egypt (Joel 1; Isaiah 19; Ezekiel 29-30). Believers even acknowledge that God has raised up warlike nations who commit atrocities in battle against His Chosen People (Isaiah 10; Ezekiel 38:4; Joel 3:2).

Yet some of these same believers find it hard to believe that the God of Israel would get involved in our day – either in defense of His people Israel (Jeremiah 30:10-17), or to shake up an unbelieving world. They may have no problem believing that God will judge Israel, but do have a problem believing that God judges and will judge anti-Israel attitudes and actions.

The God of the Bible is the same yesterday, today and forever. He continues to do His mighty deeds (Judges 6:13) and His “strange, unusual and extraordinary deeds” (Isaiah 28:21) in our day as well. It is not especially wise to limit God, in an attempt to either neuter Him or tame Him. The Lord of Armies cannot be stymied by human straitjackets. As C.S. Lewis reminds us, Aslan is not a tame lion.

Here is a biblical story that illustrates the above teaching.

Marriage – is what brings us together today

David’s descendant King Jehoshaphat of Judah (873 -849 BC approx.) made a strategic political pact with Ahab the evil King of Israel, marrying off his son Jehoram to Ahab’s daughter Athaliah (2 Kings 8:18), and binding his nation to a spiritual alliance with Ahab’s Lebanese wife Jezebel. In a short span of time Baal worship became a stumbling stone for the Jewish people, and only the zealous prophetic hammer blows of God’s triumvirate (Elijah, Elisha and Jehu) would cleanse the land.

Spiritual compromise and sacred prostitution became widespread. Even prophetic ministry (exercised in concert with prophetic guilds/schools known as “sons of the prophets” – see 2 Kings 2, 4, 6, 9) was completely co-opted. Clear-eyed courage was overshadowed by the desire to have access to power-brokers, and by the hunger to be pleasing to the monarchy.

Second Chronicles 18 describes a chilling situation where 400 court-supported prophets ministered in the name of YHVH (18:5, 10-11, 23), enthusiastically backing up King Ahab’s military schemes.  These prophets were ‘within the camp.’ It’s important to remember that all 400 ‘carried union cards.’ They had bona fides. They represented YHVH’s officially recognized prophetic guilds, and not the Canaanite demonic priesthoods of Baal Zephon, Baal Shamin or Baal Zebul.

400 Jews, 1 opinion

Let’s zoom in on the biblical story: King Ahab of Israel (the ten Northern tribes) is about to wage war against Syria (the King of Aram). Feeling the need for more boots on the ground, he turns to the Davidic dynasty – to King Jehoshaphat of Judah (the two Southern tribes) – and asks him to join in planning and fighting.

Jehoshaphat is already in up to his neck. He is being called on to honor his military-political alliance with Ahab. His son has married Jezebel’s daughter. And now even his public machismo is on the line. Ahab has gathered 400 prophets of YHVH to a public rally in his capital city of Shomron (Samaria in English). They are parading around and prophesying ecstatically of Aram’s imminent defeat.

Nevertheless King Jehoshaphat feels a bit uneasy. As it is said in Yiddish, “Epes shmeckt nisht gut” – something doesn’t quite smell right. He asks Ahab if there happens to be one more prophet of YHVH who somehow had not made it to the public event – a minority opinion. Ahab ruefully acknowledges that there actually is one more prophet of YHVH who was deliberately not invited. His name is Michayah (“who is like YAH?”) son of Yimla.

Is the prophetic always positive?

Ahab had a good reason not to invite Michayah. “I hate him,” says Ahab, “for he never prophesies good concerning me but always evil” (2 Chronicles 18:7, 17).

Rule one: a politically correct prophet wants to be accepted, and as a result his words aim to please man and not God. But a truly successful prophetic ministry in God’s eyes speaks the truth regardless of human threats or social pressures.

Is the prophetic always encouraging?

When Ahab’s delegation comes to fetch Michayah, they plead with him to bring a politically correct word (18:12-13): “Behold, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king.” The Hebrew says that they speak “with one mouth.” “So let your words be like one of them and speak favorably.” The New KJV says, “Speak encouragement!” The Hebrew says “Speak good.” In Ahab’s day good news was evidently at a premium! This was not due to God’s basic inability to bless. The unfavorable words were God’s response to Ahab’s continuing disobedience and willful rebellion. Michayah’s prophetic words here were a response to a rotten and evil political system.

Rule two: a politically correct prophet tends to stay far away from touching on exhortation, rebuke and the “heavy three” – sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8). His words try to be “uniformly encouraging.”  But a prophet who finds favor in God’s sight, communicates God’s heart even if in the short term some feathers get ruffled – and they may be his own (Matthew 14; Mark 6)!

Ahab’s complaint

When Kings Jehoshaphat and Ahab heard Michayah’s prophetic word, Ahab burst out, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, only bad!” (18:17). It is clear that Ahab had received many words from the prophet of God, and that most of them were not encouraging. Again, the prophetic words were not because God was having a bad hair day. These words were God’s response to Ahab. They are what God thought about Ahab’s evil choices.

Rule three: don’t let anyone do plastic surgery on your prophetic words. Don’t adulterate what God wants to say in order to win friends and influence people. The world is desperately hungry to hear from God. They want to know about coming judgment, about YHVH’s ability to protect those who trust in Him, and about His rewards for all who honor Him. Don’t pollute God’s words by soft-peddling His truth. Speak His truth in humility, in kindness, without ungodly rage or bitterness, with wisdom, court etiquette and encouragement – but DO SPEAK IT (Amos 3:8)!

God plus one is a majority

Mark Twain once said, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Michayah was one man facing down four hundred prophets of YHVH – real prophets who had lost their courage and cutting edge. These were prophets who had lost their anointing, but had gained national credibility. 400 to 1 are pretty daunting odds. That is one quarter of one percent. Yet it was Michayah’s prophetic word that won the day. His prophetic words even got enscripturated!

Sometimes being faithful means that you will feel lonely. It happened to Moses. It happened to Elijah and Elisha. It happened to David and Paul. It certainly happened to Yeshua. Consider yourself in good company when it happens to you. It is part of “the lonely walk of the man of faith.” 

Propping up Ahab

The final scene in Ahab’s life was tragic. He ignored Michayah’s prophetic word. He went into battle as a coward, concealing his real identity, while forcing the King of Judah to draw fire. An arrow shot “at random” (1 Kings 22:34) penetrated between the scales of Ahab’s armor, fatally wounding him. He withdrew to a commanding hill – supposedly hale and hearty – where all could see him, and had himself propped up in his chariot as the lifeblood drained from his body onto the floor (1 Kings 22:35).

The men who helped prop Ahab up and guarded his chariot as he gasped for breath were eyewitnesses to the truth of Michayah’s prophetic words (1 Kings 22:17, 28, 36).

Our calling as those who would prophetically communicate God’s heart is really not to prop up Ahab, but to speak as it were the very words of God to those who need to hear them (1 Peter 4:11).

Here are two closing thoughts:

The lion’s share of God’s prophetic word in the Bible contains huge amounts of revelation, strategy, heart and encouragement concerning Israel and the Jewish people. Yet so many public prophetic words issued today stay far away from this subject that is so close to God’s heart. So many modern publically issued prophetic words focus on personal fulfillment, peace and prosperity. This is a spiritual imbalance and it needs to be corrected.

Though the Lord God of Israel cares about the smallest details of each one of our lives (Matthew 6:27-34), His word is crystal clear – He cares deeply about Israel His firstborn chosen people (Isaiah 63:9) and sets them as an international and spiritual priority (Romans 1:16; 11:28-29). Last days theology in the Bible overwhelmingly focuses on the Jewish people’s regathering, purification and restoration. Last days prophecy should cleave to this biblical plumbline. Let us prophesy according to the heart of God, neither fearing man nor loving ourselves more than God. For the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets (1 Corinthians 14:32).

Thanks for standing with us. Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do!

In Messiah Yeshua,

Avner Boskey

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