Thursday, August 9, 2012

Living in the Shadows

As the LORD lives, 
what the LORD says to me,
that I shall speak.
1 Kings 22:14

It was a war council of the highest level. The two kings sat in royal splendor as they debated the wisdom of a preemptive strike on their common enemy. Finally, before a decision was made, four hundred advisers were called in to give the word of God.

The prophets clamored for attention as they unanimously predicted a stunning victory in battle. King Ahab of Israel was satisfied. But King Jehoshaphat of Judah was a man of discernment. Unconvinced by the multitude of platitudes offered, he asked, "Is there not yet a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of him?"

In fact, one prophet was indeed missing from the four hundred in the council. One lone man of God named Micaiah sat in prison, as he had every day since he incurred the wrath of Ahab. An officer was sent to get Micaiah. He warned him, "Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably."

Don't rock the boat. Just say what you need to say to get by. There's no need to cause trouble for yourself. 

But Micaiah couldn't do that, because God had reached Micaiah first. Deep down in that stinking hole of his existence, he had already been visited by a greater King. Micaiah had the answer for Ahab before he was asked the question.

The answer was a warning:  To go into battle was to die.

His words were met with ridicule. King Ahab commanded that Micaiah be returned to prison and fed sparingly with bread and water until Ahab's safe return from battle.

This was not good news for Micaiah. For all he knew, he would rot in prison, because Ahab was not going to return safely. Instead, he would be brought down by a random arrow that struck him in a joint of his armor.

And so Micaiah emerged from oblivion and returned there just as quickly.

Obscurity is a great purifier. A person can endure almost anything except to be overlooked. The pressure to free himself from prison must have been intense. But though he lived in the shadows, he heard and obeyed the Word of God - and his name has endured for thousands of years since. With the exception of one man, the four hundred prophets who pandered to a king's ego remain nameless to this day, their fifteen minutes of fame long expired.

Was Micaiah ever freed? No one knows. But these days, when I ponder my own entrapment in a world of intolerance and strife, I yearn for the courage to exist in the shadows rather than live a lie. 

As the sun sets on this age, the demand to conform to a Godless worldview grows more intense. It would seem so much easier to simply tell society what it wants to hear, rather than to speak the truth and bear the consequences. As darkness closes in, I pray for the strength to reply with Micaiah, "What the LORD says to me, that I shall speak."

I thank God for giving us Micaiah. I'm grateful for his determination to be true to the Word of God, despite the cost. His life, lived largely in the shadows, was the preparation for and postscript to one glorious moment when he became part of the holy story we call the Bible.

May his example remind us that life in the pit is only temporary, if painful. Loyalty is rewarded in the eternity to come and today, as God walks with us and speaks to us things that common kings cannot know.

If you continue in My word, 
then you are truly disciples of Mine;
and you will know the truth,
and the truth will make you free.
John 8:31-32