How to have a bad reputation at church

2 Chronicles 18
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We like use the cliche phrase, “the truth hurts” — and I would guess the origin of that thought came from the Bible.  It does. A former king of Israel found this out as well.

In a rare moment of awesome in Jewish history, the north and south kingdoms are getting along, and Ahab nudges his geographical neighbor and suggests tagging along for an invasion. They agree they should consult some prophets, so Ahab assembles 400 of them. To his liking, all of the prophets say the invasion is a swell idea.

Does this sound familiar?

Frankly, people don’t really want to do what God says. People would rather approach God in their own manner, or get excited about a trendy book or attend a conference in order to have the feelies with a group of like-minded folks.

But the Bible often goes against cultural conventions and popular notions. The primary conveyors of the gospel were a group of Jewish school rejects, and a former Pharisee with a big head before he got knocked off his high horse. We wouldn’t pick these guys, but God did.

“Is there not another prophet somewhere?” Jehoshaphat asks Ahab after checking his BS-o-meter. (BS stands for blatant shenanigans, for the record).

Ahab says, “Oh yeah, there’s this other dude, but everything he says sucks.” But Josie still wants to hear from him, so Ahab reluctantly calls up the prophet Micaiah.

1) Micaiah has a rep for being brutally honest

What kind of reputation do you have? Is what you have to say what the Lord might have you say, rather than what is expected of you from others?

Jesus lived on the edge of death constantly because of what He said. The Jews were often furious with His rhetoric and counter-cultural behavior.

We shouldn’t be jerks or tactless about our lives, but if your reputation as a Christian is simply, “He’s a nice guy,” it’s possible you’re not perceived as an honest person.

2) Micaiah initially bends to the pressure, but Ahab knows better

I think people would rather lie to each other’s faces, even in church, and the hard truth is usually a second option. How many times have you gone to church feeling horrible, and, when encountered and asked how you’re doing, you say you’re doing just fine? If you tell ’em how you really feel, you risk looking like a grump, and the other party doesn’t really want to hear about your misery. Obviously, this should never be.

Micaiah is a human, and, seeing a powerful king and 400 other comrades nudging him to say what’s expected, he relents. Fortunately, Ahab recognizes Micaiah’s ruse and tells him to speak up.

3) Micaiah is punished for his revelation

Despite telling the truth, Micaiah is thrown in prison. That’s how you know he’s on to something.

Saying what’s necessary for edification won’t usually get you a pat on the back. Some will appreciate it; others will be turned off by your frankness. Still others might ostracize or apply punishment.

I think there is a place for tact and grace, but it is imperative that we deliver the truth on time.

4) Ahab disguises himself

You’d think the confidence of 400 prophets would do the trick to bolster Ahab’s confidence; instead, that one word from Micaiah is lingering, and he dresses down to avoid being seen in battle. He thinks he’s hiding from enemy, but instead is vainly attempting to hide from God.

5) Ahab is killed

Ahab refuses to listen to the prophet, and his demise becomes imminent.

Why is the truth so important? Ahab is a vile man, full of deceit and arrogance, and is a personification of these characteristics. It might initially have undesirable consequences and even hurt our reputation, but in the end the truth will vanquish evil. Especially in the body of believers, we must deliver the truth of the Word before falsehood consumes us. Otherwise, we’re no better than those 400 prophets gussying up to the king.

For those of you who intend to continue correcting and showing off the Word, by all means continue.  If you are compelled by the love of Christ and you check your context, I believe there is no reason you should cease, even in the face of overwhelming odds or intimidation.

 

 

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