Archive for April 26th, 2010

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m currently going through the “The Bible in 90 Days” podcasts on my daily commute (which will work out to more than 90 Calendar days, but probably less than 90 commuting days).  Last week, I got to hear one of my favorite stories from I Kings and its parallel in II Chronicles (one that always makes me laugh out loud), though I had completely forgotten one aspect from the story.

The story (from the I Kings retelling):

For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. But in the third year Jehoshaphat king of Judah went down to see the king of Israel. The king of Israel had said to his officials, “Don’t you know that Ramoth Gilead belongs to us and yet we are doing nothing to retake it from the king of Aram?”

So he asked Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?” Jehoshaphat replied to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.” But Jehoshaphat also said to the king of Israel, “First seek the counsel of the LORD.” So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD here whom we can inquire of?”

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man through whom we can inquire of the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” [THIS is even funnier listening to the story than when reading it!] “The king should not say that,” Jehoshaphat replied.

So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Bring Micaiah son of Imlah at once.”

Dressed in their royal robes, the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting on their thrones at the threshing floor by the entrance of the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them. Now Zedekiah son of Kenaanah had made iron horns and he declared, “This is what the LORD says: ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ ” All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing. “Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,” they said, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.”

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Look, as one man the other prophets are predicting success for the king. Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As surely as the LORD lives, I can tell him only what the LORD tells me.”

When he arrived, the king asked him, “Micaiah, shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”

“Attack and be victorious,” he answered, “for the LORD will give it into the king’s hand.” [Note the sarcasm that had to be present here!] 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 ?”

Then Micaiah answered, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd, and the LORD said, ‘These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace.’ ”

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”

Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD : I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’

“One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the LORD and said, ‘I will entice him.’
“By what means?’ the LORD asked.
“I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
“You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the LORD. ‘Go and do it.’

“So now the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The LORD has decreed disaster for you.”

Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. “Which way did the spirit from the LORD go when he went from me to speak to you?” he asked. Micaiah replied, “You will find out on the day you go to hide in an inner room.”

The king of Israel then ordered, “Take Micaiah and send him back to Amon the ruler of the city and to Joash the king’s son and say, ‘This is what the king says: Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.’ ”

Micaiah declared, “If you ever return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me.” Then he added, “Mark my words, all you people!”

Now, as I was driving, I found I had a number of things to unpack from this (not all of which I’ll share), including (in order of increasing importance).

Q1: Who names their kid Jehoshaphat? Seriously.  You’re just asking you kid to get beat up on the playground, so he’s either gonna be really tough or really scared of his own shadow.  Or he and his best buddy, Gesundheit, are going to form an exclusive club of two.

Q2: Why does the Bible always describe folks from Jerusalem going down to see folks in Israel (which is north of Judah)?  OK, so I know this one – Jerusalem is at a higher elevation, and maps were not yet printed with North at the top of the map.  But still…

Q3: If you can imagine this scene playing out on the silver screen with Sean Connery as Jehoshaphat (gesundheit), Alan Rickman as Ahab, and John Cleese as Micaiah, you should be able to see why I find this scene so funny.  (You might also understand why my wife sometimes numbers me among her children).

Q4: I’ve gotten into a good number of discussions over the past decade or so about systematic theology and how it is simply man’s invention to explain God, and how it quite often serves to place God into a box of our own making, rather than simply seeing him in light of the same being who spoke to Job, to Moses and to Jesus.  Systematic Theology is our way of making God “safe”, but to borrow from C.S. Lewis, God is not safe, but He is good.

One area where I find the most amusement in the discussions about systematic theology is the concept of God’s sovereignty – and how sometimes the folks who pay it the most lip service (as the hinging proof of their theological system) are the same ones who, in practice, seem to want to prove that they don’t really believe it.

For example, when discussing free will, they want to die on a hill they’ve created in that “God cannot be sovereign if He allows man to have a choice in whether or not to follow Him”.  The thing is this: If God is sovereign, He has the power to do pretty much whatever He wants to do, including the rather mundane task of delegating some decisions.  [The process of delegation is, by definition, worked by one individual with authority to someone else without it.  In the process, though, the one in authority does not lose his authority in allowing the lesser party to execute the task/decision.]

The typical answer I’ve gotten to this observation is that there are, indeed, some things that God cannot do – with the first example always seeming to be that God cannot lie. [As if this isn't an argument of apples-to-oranges, since lying is a sin for man to commit, but delegation is not, though I digress.]

This story in Kings & Chronicles, though, actually throws a bit of a wrench into that works as well, since we’ve got a prophet of God, Micaiah, who is shown a vision by God, in which God, at the very least, condones a spirit going out to lie to Ahab, in order to entice him to his death.

So God let me laugh twice that day – once at the story, and again at the part of it I forgot.

Good times.

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Per Joe’s request, let’s not have any political topics in this semi-open open thread :)

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