The 401st Prophet

The recent assessment by the Barna Research Group that America is sliding into post-Christianity is no surprise. According to Barna's study, each succeeding generation—Seniors, Boomers, Busters, Mosaics—exhibit a weaker Christian worldview than the preceding one, suggesting a less Christianized nation in the decades to come. Indeed I'd suggest we're becoming an anti-Christian nation, in which the constitutional rights of people of faith are threatened by a Bible-bashing culture that views true Christians with true resentment.

In recent decades, the Western world has taken a spiritual nosedive corresponding to the moral death plunge described in the first chapter of Romans. We have only to glance at any news outlet on any given day to spot the symptoms. Just today, for example, I've read of politicians omitting the words "endowed by their Creator" while quoting the Declaration of Independence, as though our "unalienable Rights" no longer had divine sourcing; and of the slaughter of babies in Philadelphia, a story largely ignored by a media philosophically unwilling to confront negative facts if they're related to abortion.

We're tempted to shake our heads and wring our hands over this; but the Bible prophesized these days. Jesus said the time preceding His return would be like the days of Noah and of Lot. The Bible warns that the last days will exhibit accelerated wickedness, that Christ-followers will be hated in all nations, and that perilous times will come in which people will call evil good and good evil (Luke 17:26-29; Matthew 24:11-12; 2 Timothy 3:1; Isaiah 5:20).

Many heroes in the Bible found themselves in just such an environment. They lived their lives, pursued their work, and raised their families in societies inimical to their faith. Our times may be difficult, but they are not dull; we shouldn't be intimidated or downcast. To me, our culture is an expanding mission field. The darker the night the more noticeable the candle. The greater our minority status, the more intrepid our testimony and proportional our impact.

This week I've been studying 1 Kings 22, the story of King Ahab and the prophet Micaiah. In the year 853 B.C., Ahab determined to seize the city of Ramoth Gilead from his archenemy, King Ben-Hadad, of Syria. He enlisted the help of King Jehoshaphat of Judah, who suggested they "seek the counsel of the Lord."

Ahab reluctantly agreed and called in 400 compromised clergy, who were more interested in being politically correct than biblically true. There are many such characters today—preachers who would rather reflect public opinion than expound Scripture. I've never understood why people would enter the ministry if they doubted the authority and integrity of the Bible. Why devote your life preaching something you really don't fully believe? Nevertheless, these 400 preachers adopted the popular line and told Ahab what he wanted to hear—"Attack Syria, retake Ramoth Gilead, return in triumph, and God bless you."

King Jehoshaphat, unconvinced, asked, "Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?"

Ahab answered, "There is still one prophet 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."

A royal aid warned Micaiah to parrot the advice of the 400, but the prophet demurred. "As surely as the Lord lives," he said, "I can tell him only what the Lord tells me." Here was a man who would not be bullied or bulldozed. Though outnumbered 400 to 1, he didn't weaken or waver, even when speaking to kings. With insight from the Lord, Micaiah warned the kings against waging war with Syria, and he predicted Ahab would die in battle if he tried to retake Ramoth Gilead.

The unappreciated prophet was hauled to prison and given a diet of bread and water while the kings and their armies plunged into battle. It all went very badly, of course; and during the commotion a Syrian archer shot a stray arrow into the sky, which somehow found the chink in Ahab's armor and struck him with a mortal blow. The king was propped in his chariot to slowly bleed to death while watching his army fall around him. His body was returned to Samaria, where soldiers washed his chariot in a pool where prostitutes bathed and the dogs licked up his blood. At the end of the day, Micaiah, though alone, was right.

Micaiah inspires me to thrive in the minority, to stay pro-Christian in a post-Christian age, and to never be intimidated, silenced, bullied, or cowed. He teaches me to choose the message of the Bible over the bluster of a broken culture. Pundits can rant and rave; leaders lie and leer; governments rise and fall; wars come and go. But Scripture is true and it is absolutely true, and the Word of God endures forever.

Micaiah inspires me to choose Christ and His cross over the crowd. We may be outnumbered 400 to one, but one plus God is a majority. I would advise you: Don't be afraid to take a lonely stand if it's the right one to take. Micaiah spent the night in prison eating bread and water, but Ahab never again slept in his ivory bed or slurped from his golden goblets. He died in a chariot at Ramoth Gilead, shot by a random arrow, and he returned to Samaria a corpse. His chariot was washed in Prostitute Pond and the dogs lapped up his blood.

In these days of the lowest common denominator let's be people of the highest possible caliber. Micaiah went down in history (and up to glory) as an odd number — the 401st prophet. But times like these require people like that.


Robert J. Morgan is the pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, Tennessee, and the author of The Lord is My Shepherd and The Red Sea Rules.

Published, May 2, 2013
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