TODAY’S READING: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18
Missions is a holy calling and a call to holiness. The missionary is a messenger who has the responsibility to speak and explain the full gospel. This message is increasingly unpopular, for it includes judgment and no flesh likes to be told that they are wrong, no king likes to be told his policies and his morals are under the wrath of God. We must dispel the notion that we can be missionary and stay popular with the authorities or the populace. There may be moments of affirmation, but at the end of the day, the gospel message is unrelenting in its call for repentance from all men. And that unyielding demand always causes resentment in fickle people. We must resist the temptation to think that the favor of any government or any group is a sustainable blessing. Grateful for the odd times that government and the unconverted help the gospel message, we must soberly remind ourselves that the missionary message will ultimately require us to speak prophetically against all earthly powers; thus, our popularity cannot be sustained. It is a tremendous error to align ourselves fully with any authorities other than Jehovah, for they will one day demand the end of prophetic speech, or even worse, we will surrender our prophetic voice to retain their favor.
Alliances with those who are against or neutral about Jehovah’s unique glory don’t end well. When Jehoshaphat linked with Ahab in a military alliance, it ended with death and disaster (1 Kings 22:35–36), and when he linked with Ahab’s son Ahaziah in a commercial venture, it ended in shipwreck (v. 48). Jehoshaphat’s peacemaking with Israel was held against him in the final review of his life (v. 44), which is further evidence that God wants us to only fight alongside and do business with those who have great passion for all nations to be represented around the throne. Prophetic speech is always missionary speech and missionary speech will always be more unpopular than welcome. Missionary speech connects to the holy truth and the dividing passions of God which always hone in on all peoples of earth bowing before Him. Three types of prophets appear in our reading today and in the courts of earth whose conversations ironically mirror the court in heaven.
False prophets saying false things. In the heavenly court God will bring judgment on the missionary failure of Ahab through a lying spirit in the mouth of his prophets. This is exactly what happens—false prophets give false hope that can only lead in death. This is what has happened over time again and again. Whether in Nepal, Arabia, Nigeria, or Utah, false prophets have promised nirvana, paradise, prosperity, or purity and delivered their believers to destruction by the billions.
True prophets saying false things. In the beginning of the drama, the false prophets dropped the name of a generalized deity as guaranteeing victory (v. 6). The deceit graduated to false prophets using Jehovah’s name to offer false hope (v. 11) and culminated in a true prophet (Micaiah) going against what he knows to be true in his sarcastic reply to the king (v. 15). The text offers little explanation, but in the court of heaven God commissioned a messenger to mislead and that destructive misdirection was repeated on earth. God forbid that missionary messengers assigned to truth become agents of falsehood just because the truth is unpopular.
True prophets saying true things. Micaiah spoke the truth of looming judgment, which he knew for sure, for he saw the Lord sitting on the throne and heard how the scenario would play out. Missionaries must be truthful. We must warn of the coming wrath. We must speak unpopular messages to powerful people and even to angry populaces. It was never promised we’d be popular. The popularity missionaries receive at home sometimes leaves them unprepared for the consequences of faithful messaging. The only way to overcome the dissonance is to be more addicted to truth and obedience to the King than to acceptance and respect from the world. We must align ourselves to the long-term right (and winner), not the short-term applause. True prophets must say true things and get smacked for it (v. 24). Prepare yourself as the 1.4 million Moung of Vietnam will not like what we say. But if we really love them and God, we will say it anyway.