2 Chronicles 18: 3-34
Some game shows seem to last forever.
The Price is Right. Let’s Make a Deal. And, To Tell the Truth. I watched that show with my parents and sisters back in the late 50s and early sixties, watching host Bud Collyer and especially Peggy Cass and Kitty Carlisle, two of the very long-term panelists, grow older together. The point of the show was figuring out who, out of three contestants all saying they were the same person, was telling the truth. The actual person whose story was being told had to answer all questions honestly; the other two were supposed to do all they could to persuade the panelists, and the audience watching, that THEY were the person whose life was being talked about. To Tell the Truth still pops up on television, both in reruns and in new iterations, because the premise is so fun: trying to tell who is telling us the truth, when two of them are being paid to be deceptive.
Today’s story is about that core issue of telling the truth, even when others around us are not. King Ahab – yes, THAT King, who also had significant conflict with Elijah, was pondering going to war against the Arameans, bringing along King Jehoshapat – the king of Judah – the Southern Kingdom, as help. “3King Ahab of Israel said to King Jehoshaphat of Judah, ‘Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?’ He answered him, ‘I am with you, my people are your people. We will be with you in the war.’ 4 But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, ‘Inquire first for the word of the Lord.’ 5Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, four hundred of them, and said to them, ‘Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-gilead, or shall I refrain?’ They said, ‘Go up; for God will give it into the hand of the king.’ 6But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Is there no other prophet of the Lord here of whom we may inquire?’ 7The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.’ Jehoshaphat said, ‘Let the king not say such a thing.’ 8Then the king of Israel summoned an officer and said, ‘Bring quickly Micaiah son of Imlah.’”
Micaiah has a reputation as telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – and as we might be able to predict from Ahab’s words, and from what we also know of Ahab’s rule from scripture, Ahab might have been considered to be wise in the way of the world – the House of Omri was held in high regard by the surrounding kingdoms – but the prophets, the true prophets in Israel, did not think much of him. Ahab did not appreciate those true prophets. Remember his behavior toward Elijah – and so the messenger who went to get him tried to coach Micaiah about what to say. You know, go along to get along. That’s not what happened. Micaiah’s response to the messenger was this: 13But Micaiah said, ‘As the LORD lives, whatever my God says, that I will speak.’ 14 When he had come to the king, the king said to him, ‘Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I refrain?’ He answered, ‘Go up and triumph; they will be given into your hand.’ 15But the king said to him, ‘How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the LORD?’ 16Then Micaiah said, ‘I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd; and the LORD said, “These have no master; let each one go home in peace.” ’ 17The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy anything favorable about me, but only disaster?’ 18 Then Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing to the right and to the left of him. 19And the LORD said, “Who will entice King Ahab of Israel, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” Then one said one thing, and another said another, 20until a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, “I will entice him.” The LORD asked him, “How?” 21He replied, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” Then the LORD said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.” 22So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; the LORD has decreed disaster for you.’
Ahab had Micaiah imprisoned and put on reduced rations of bread and water, until the kings returned. Then off they went, Ahab and Jehoshaphat and their armies. But Ahab made a tactical decision: 29The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, ‘I will disguise myself and go into battle, but you wear your robes.’ So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle. 30Now the king of Aram had commanded the captains of his chariots, ‘Fight with no one small or great, but only with the king of Israel.’ 31When the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘It is the king of Israel.’ So they turned to fight against him; and Jehoshaphat cried out, and the LORD helped him. God drew them away from him, 32for when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 33But a certain man drew his bow and unknowingly struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate; so he said to the driver of his chariot, ‘Turn around, and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.’ 34The battle grew hot that day, and the king of Israel propped himself up in his chariot facing the Arameans until evening; then at sunset he died. He died, just as Elijah had prophesized, and when they washed down Ahab’s bloody chariot, just as Elijah had predicted, the dogs in the courtyard lapped up Ahab’s blood.
Micaiah and Elijah both told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in more stringent ways than we are likely to ever be called to do. And yet, we too ARE called to tell the truth, as Christians, and especially when it comes to following the will of God. How do we do this? Through prayer, and with love. Paul said this to the Philippians in chapter 1: 3I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Paul says that we can be confident of God’s faithfulness, as the good works God has begun through us will come to completion. Paul says he knows they hold him in their hearts – they pray for him. Paul says they are all in this together: he may be the one in prison, but they also share in God’s grace, doing what they can, where they are, with what they have. And Paul’s prayer for them is that they can grow in love, out of which will come knowledge and full insight, so they can discern God’s will.
This is what our brothers and sisters are doing in Turkey, and throughout the world. They behave with faithfulness and in truth, looking not to please the people who live around them, but to be faithful to God’s calling. They work quietly, persistently, faithfully, using what they have, where they are, with what they have, trusting that God will send them the resources: the people, the “stuff,” and the funds they need to continue to serve as God’s hands and feet. The first thing every pastor told me they needed, when I asked how we could help, was this: they need laborers, since the field is white with harvest. They need people who are willing to come for two weeks or three months, since that is the length of time for a tourist visa, to help – to be the very presence of Christ. They need our prayers. They need our encouragement. They need us to tell their stories. They need us to bear witness, here, in this safe and often insular place, where we worry more about the latest and greatest whatever, while they go to worship protected, on Easter Sunday, by armor plated vehicles and soldiers armed with submachine guns, outside the Dutch Chapel, housed in the embassy of the Netherlands, in Istanbul. They need us to act as conduits for God’s supplying of their material needs, showing God’s faithfulness as messengers of God. They need for us to hold them in our hearts – to pray for those on the front lines of the proclamation of the gospel. They need for us to remember and act on the knowledge that we are all in this together: they may be the ones serving in far-off places, but that we also share in God’s grace, doing what we can, where we are, with what we have. They need for us to grow in love, out of which will come knowledge and full insight, so we can discern God’s will. We already know God’s overarching will: to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. That involves telling the truth about God’s love for the world, made manifest above all in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension.
It’s both simple to say, and tough to do. But may we set that as our goal, as we work together doing that which is pleasing to God, in truth, with love and grace, until Jesus returns in glory. And even so, come soon, Lord Jesus. Amen.