The hardest times in my life are when I feel aimless. When I seem to have no purpose. When I seem to flounder around and nothing sticks. But no matter the time in my life, I now ponder what God has to say about things. And God has something to say about seemingly aimless events.
1 Kings 22 contains the account of just such an event. This chapter recounts how one evil king of Israel – Ahab – came to die from a seemingly aimless event. I imagine more people would know of his evil wife – Queen Jezebel than of him. There are certainly lessons to be learned from her life, but this story is about Ahab. I will try to summarize the story, but feel free to validate or read the original.
King Ahab of Israel solicits the help of King Jehoshaphat of Judah to fight and capture Ramoth Gilead from his previous allies, the Arameans. Jehoshaphat aligns himself with Ahab, but insists that they seek the counsel of the LORD. In other words, get the prophets in. So, Ahab brings in about 400 prophets who all agree they should go to war and that the LORD would hand over Ramoth Gilead to Ahab. Now consensus is often seen as a good thing. 400 prophets saying “go” seems like a good thing. But interestingly, Jehoshaphat is not satisfied and asks if there isn’t a prophet of the LORD to inquire of.
So, Ahab brings in the one prophet he hates (because he always prophesies bad things about him) – Micaiah. Sure enough, after some fake and sarcastic agreement with the 400, Micaiah prophesies Ahab’s demise and death should he go to war. In fact, he claims that the 400 prophets were being used with a lying spirit to lure Ahab to his destiny of death. Now, Ahab, who has never been known for his great decision-making capabilities, predictably sides with the 400 prophets. Who wouldn’t? If you have that many people telling you what you want to hear about what you should do, that is quite a consensus.
Ahab and Jehoshaphat go off to war. Ahab disguises himself, while instructing Jehoshaphat to remain in his royal robes (hmmmm….I’d be thinking a bit about that instruction pretty hard if I were Jehoshaphat). The Arameans were instructed not to fight with anyone but Ahab himself and Jehoshaphat nearly gets mistaken as Ahab (uh huh) and as such was nearly killed. I can bet what Jehoshaphat was thinking right then. (“Ah, now I get why Ahab wanted me to stay in my kingly attire…”)
But then something really interesting happened. 1 Kings 22:34 says “…someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel [Ahab] between the sections of his armor.” And so, Ahab died.
Seriously, what are the chances of that? What are the chances, first of all, of someone shooting off an arrow at random? What are the chances that the arrow would hit Ahab? What are the chances that the arrow would hit in the very small area where there was a gap in his armor? What are the chances that Ahab’s death would be prophesied? What are the chances that 1 in 401 (about) prophets would be right and the other 400 wrong?
There are a few things to ponder here.
(1) Consensus does not make anything right. I’ve learned this over the past little while. We are a culture prone to taking polls and when the numbers or the odds look good, we move forward based on that information. Jesus himself says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) And then in the very next passage he talks about false prophets. We better develop our critical thinking skills and seek gifts of discernment and wisdom if we want to enter through the narrow gate. Also, we better give as much consideration to the 1 dissenter, even when everyone else agrees. Too many times, we decide based on consensus.
(2) Aligning with the powerful may put us at risk. Jehoshaphat aligned himself with an evil king. 2 Chronicles 19:2 says Jehoshaphat was confronted by a seer , Jehu, who said to him, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you.” He did a lot of good despite that prophesy. But at the end of his reign, he made another alliance with an evil king – Ahaziah (Ahab’s son), and the LORD destroyed what he and Ahaziah had built together. He did not end well. Too many times, we align ourselves with the powerful without discerning their overall agenda. Our call as Christians is to align ourselves with the oppressed, the poor, the imprisoned, etc.
(3) Our aimlessness may have a purpose beyond our understanding. I wonder if the men who were fighting alongside the man who shot the random arrow were like, “What the heck did you do that for?” or “Let’s not waste any more arrows!” or something along those lines. And yet, the LORD had a very specific purpose for that action and that arrow. What seemed to be aimless had purpose beyond his understanding. In times of feeling aimless, maybe I can accept that there is a purpose for whatever I do in those times.
Interesting prompt for today.