In Disguise 

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In Disguise

“So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.”

           1 Kings 22:29

 

Ahab might have thought that he had all the bases covered as long as he went to the battle in disguise, so that he wouldn’t be noticed by the enemies. It was a cowardly thing to do, but the man had never been known for his courage in battle and, albeit he was hungry for fame, he was nevertheless concerned for his safety and made provision for it. Yet what was meant to take place would eventually take place, no matter how ingeniously the king tried to stay away from harm’s way.

We are invincible until the time when the Lord decides to call us home. Yet why do our hearts still filled with dread of the unknown? Why do we make all kinds of provisions to keep awful things from striking us, as if by our own effort we can prolong our lives on earth?

Being a king, Ahab surely had a lot to live for. He could easily have remained in the palace and not ventured out into the wild to fight against his enemies. Yet there was a thirst and hunger within his heart, urging him to do something adventuresome, something out of the ordinary. Starting some sort of war might have been exactly the thing that would keep him from being bored by the monotony of being a king. Indeed the man could only do so much with his vegetable garden and other things to entertain himself. Something had to be done when the days became too long and his weary heart was aching for something more thrilling to give his life a jolt of excitement.

Well, Ahab couldn’t have his cake and eat it too. This time he would meet his dreadful end by doing something reckless and an arrow would find its way to the man’s chest whether he was in disguise or not. He might have been able to fool men, but he couldn’t fool the all-seeing God.

Are we leading our lives in disguise, attempting to hide ourselves from our foes so that we may remain in our weary bodies a little longer and perhaps enjoy worldly pleasure a little more? Or are we all akin to Ahab who are itching for ecstasy in this life and go so far as to risk our lives to attain it, not knowing that the provisions we have made for ourselves will fall short and the unexpected will happen.

O may we be transparent before God and be utterly exposed, so that he can do anything to us according to his perfect timing, trusting that our loving Father will make all the necessary provisions for us when an arrow finally finds its way to our bodies. Being in disguise will never keep the deadly arrow from flying toward us, but hiding in the shadow of God’s protecting wings will.       

 

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, December 20, 2013 6:50:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Willfulness 

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Willfulness

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.”        1 Kings 22:29

 

It was merely a formality, really. The prophets were called to affirm what the kings wanted to do, and it was pretty much a given that they would do what they had planned on doing no matter what the Lord had to say. The Lord was just there to give the kings a stamp of approval concerning their impending venture.

“So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead.”

Four hundred votes to one was more than enough to sooth Ahab’s conscience and it gave him a boost of confidence that the campaign would be victorious, which turned out to be the king’s wishful thinking. The war became the king’s last one on earth.

Ahab and Jehoshaphat had no intention of listening to the Lord’s voice even though they solicited the prophets’ opinion. All preparations for war had been done and there was no turning back, and what the kings wanted was God’s blessing.

The prophets were God’s envoys who were invited there to be informed of what the kings intended to do, not to enforce God’s command concerning the kings’ impending actions.

We must remain neutral concerning the decision we are going to make before we ask for God’s opinion through fasting and prayer. There is really no need for us to pray for guidance from the Lord if we have already made up our mind which direction we will be heading. It’s superfluous to ask the Lord to bless our venture if it’s totally our own.

Being a minister, I have turned into a professional “prayer,” whose main job seems to be opening and closing any sort of meeting with a prayer, asking God’s blessing on whatever human endeavor we will be undertaking. I have never turned down such a request even once, for I seem to have treated it as a formality, void of any real spiritual meaning.

Do we really mean to do God’s will when we seek God’s will? This is quite questionable. 

It’s unavoidable that we have some sort of preference concerning a decision, but we must learn to place God’s preference over ours, and when the dust settles, God’s will should always prevail. Ahab and the king of Judah might have had every intention to fight the war and were fully assured they would be triumphant at the end, yet their opinion should mean nothing after the Lord made his will clear to them through the prophet Micaiah. God wasn’t there to affirm what they were going to do; the sovereign Lord was present to see his will clearly heard and duly executed. 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, December 19, 2013 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Cost 

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Cost

“Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.”      1 Kings 22:27

 

Micaiah did what he was told to do, and that was the price that he paid: he was thrown into prison and wouldn’t be released until the king returned from the battle safely, which wasn’t going to happen at all. The king intended to prove the prophet wrong by surviving the war, giving him an opportunity to mock both the Lord and his prophet.

We know what transpired at the end: the king was silenced forever and he might have had a lot of explaining to do when he got a chance to speak again before God. The prophet was imprisoned for a short while and would be released eventually, but the king’s eternal destiny was sealed and he was  incarcerated in hell forever.

It was well worth it for the prophet to tell the truth, albeit it cost him his freedom for a short while.

The threat was a real threat and the dread was also a real one, which might have caused the prophet to reconsider what he had determined to do. Life was hard during such a time of national turmoil and it pained him a great deal as he witnessed people rushing to pay homage to Baal. There were things that he treasured in this world and the thought of losing them brought tears to his eyes and pain to his heart, yet there didn’t seem to be any other choice except the choice chosen for him by the Master.

The choice had been made, there was no turning back. The cost of following the Lord was steep, but the price of not following him was far steeper, so the prophet bid all his loved ones farewell, cast his last glance at the scene of the hills and valleys he had come to love so much, and started his journey of no return.

How can we loosen the grip of all the earthly treasures we have come to love so much, when the thought of leaving them behind is just so unbearable? Will all the things that we love keep us from following the Lord and obeying him at all cost? Indeed we are torn between what is and what is to come. Our present often hampers us from seeking our future bliss and the seen seems to always stand in the way of the unseen.

O may the Lord continue to draw us to himself and enable us to love heavenly things to the point that they become so real and concrete in our minds that we will be more than willing to leave the earthly things behind to obtain the heavenly things above. It is then that our departure from this world will become such a joyful homecoming for us all.

Surely it was extremely difficult to make such a commitment to the Lord and not to compromise his principles when times got tough, but Micaiah had prepared himself for such a critical moment by always being conscious of God’s presence and all things heavenly, enabling him to do what he did before the king, which could easily have cost him his life.    

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, December 18, 2013 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Deceiving Spirit 

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Deceiving Spirit

“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.”          1 Kings 22:22

 

The prophets who were deceived had no idea that they were deceived and they must have believed wholeheartedly that they were prophesying the right things. Evidently they didn’t intend to lie to the king, for the consequence would have been quite severe had they turned out to be wrong. Thousands of Israelites would have been killed because of the prophets’ deception.

It was the Lord’s design to entice Ahab to the battlefield to get killed and he did it by putting deceiving words in the prophets’ mouth. Why did the Lord go through all the trouble merely to bring the tyrant to the end? The end could have been accomplished through numerous ways, yet he chose the way that brought a great loss of innocent people.

Such is the nature of sin, I suppose. Sin is never personal in essence, for sinful acts almost always carry collateral damage. Without exception, when a father sins, his children suffer the effect; when a king sins, his subjects must endure the consequences.

Back to the false prophets.

They must have thought they were serving the Lord by prophesying, which wasn’t the case, for they were just serving themselves. The voice they had heard was from a deceiving spirit, who intended to lead them astray. What could they have done to avoid committing such a grievous mistake? Why was Micaiah the only prophet who was wise enough to distinguish the truth from the falsehood?

Indeed all the preachers of the gospel are prophets of sorts who proclaim the word of God to people, and it’s entirely possible that some of them are deceived and deliver a message that isn’t really from the Lord. They do so not necessarily by design, but by negligence and carelessness. By not handling the words of God carefully, they may put their personal agenda into their interpretation of the scripture and they turn their exegesis of the Bible into eisegesis.

May the Lord keep me from listening to deceiving spirits and speaking falsehoods to my congregation, leading them astray.

Having good intentions isn’t really enough in this aspect, for it takes vigilance of spirit that guards us from hearing the voices from deceptive spirits, and diligence in studying the Scriptures that enables us to better discern heresy from sound doctrine.

Most people become false prophets by delinquency, not by design. They leave an opening for deceptive spirits to enter into their minds by not being vigilant in prayer and in studying the Word. Unless we do so consistently, we may unknowingly turn into false prophets.              

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 17, 2013 6:41:00 AM Categories: Devotional

In Agreement 

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In Agreement

“Let your word agree with theirs, and speak favorably.”

          1 Kings 22:13

 

Surely it was a wise thing to do, wasn’t it? Humanly speaking, there is no debate what Micaiah should have done. Just say whatever the king wanted to hear and he would have been home free.

All he needed to do was to echo the other prophets’ voices and he would have been embraced by the crowd and been deemed a wise man who knew which way the wind was blowing and adjusted his course of action accordingly.

That wasn’t what Micaiah was called to do as a prophet of the Lord, however. “I can tell him only what the Lord tells me,” insisted the man, who had never wavered from his calling.

Why was the man so unbending?

What was a prophet of the Lord to do except do what he was told to do? He might have had some apprehension about what would eventually transpire if he did what he was supposed to do, which was to confront the king with bad news.

What would have taken place had he done otherwise? The prophet would have been disqualified and all he had deemed precious and important would have been completely ruined. He wasn’t sure that he was ready to accept such a serious consequence.

“Am I willing to tear down what I have been building my entire life?” he questioned.

How could he compromise his principle? He had given his vow that he would remain faithful to the Lord until the end, and he would risk his life telling the truth. It might have been tempting for the prophet to take an easy way out this time, but to yield to the seduction of evil was to betray what he had held dear his entire life.

Once again, Micaiah became the bearer of bad news, and he was incarcerated as a result.

Being faithful to the master is pretty easy when it doesn’t cost us anything; but it’s an entirely different story when sacrifice and suffering are involved in the equation. Will I continue to proclaim the gospel publically when it becomes illegal to do so? Will I still love the Lord when he removes all the hedges of protection from me as he did to the old Job? What will the Lord respond when Satan brings up the question against me as he once did against Job before the Lord: “Does Job fear God for nothing?” 

Surely we cannot be overconfident that we will always choose to do the right thing and not to compromise our principles a single time in our walk with the Lord. What we need more than anything is God’s grace and strength in time of trial and testing.          

 

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, December 16, 2013 6:07:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Same Thing 

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The Same Thing

“All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing.”

         1 Kings 22:12

 

How could four hundred prophets be wrong? Didn’t they all hear God’s voice and speak in one accord that the king would be victorious against the Arameans? Some of them might have misconstrued God’s will, but surely not all of them were deceived. So we think.

They must have had a predetermined agenda and all came to the same conclusion without even going through the slightest deliberation on their own. Indeed they would hold the party line and just echo the talking points given to them by their superiors. “Ahab is the king and let’s just tell him what he wants to hear,” they said to one another.

What if their message was proven false in the end? Would they get away with telling a lie? I doubt those prophets told a lie intentionally, for the consequence of telling a lie could have been severe. If this was the case, all the prophets seemed to have received the same revelation from somewhere and believed what they were going to reveal to the king was the truth.

Were they prophets of Baal and would it have been natural for them to lie, for Satan was the father of lies?

It was a gloomy and overcast day, which wasn’t all that unusual at that time of the year on the island of Taiwan. The village medium was possessed by a spirit all of a sudden and prophesied that a great flood was about to take place. All the adults didn’t seem to be anxious about the impending disaster, but I was petrified by the news since I was foolish enough to believe the medium. Of course it was a lie, because nothing happened during the next few days except a little light rain here and there.

The villagers had learned not to take the village medium’s words seriously, yet strange and irrational as it might have been, they continued to worship the idols who spoke through the medium, who had repeatedly been proven to be untrustworthy. 

Ahab had learned not to take the prophets’ word seriously, for it was a mere formality to him and he couldn’t have cared less whatever transpired at the end. Surely he wasn’t going to base his decision on what the prophets had to say. Religion was merely a game he played, which was more cultural than anything else.

Most politicians in Taiwan go to temples to pay homage to various idols people worship when they are campaigning during election season, which means absolutely nothing to them religiously, but has everything to do with them politically. We often encounter exactly the same phenomenon in the States, for many so-called born again politicians seem to be popping up everywhere during the campaign season, but the candidates quit speaking about their faith after they get elected. Strange, isn’t it?

Ahab and the prophets he had gathered were just playing a farce of religion which was void of any meaning and the conclusion they drew was a lot more human than divine.       

 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, December 13, 2013 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional

False Prophets 

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False Prophets

“…but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad.”          1 Kings 22:8

 

We may wonder whether telling the bad news all the time was necessarily a sign of a true prophet.

Perhaps, but not absolutely so. We get this idea because most of the prophets in the Old Testament were prophesying during times of great turmoil when people were rebelling against the Lord. God’s prophets were commanded from above to bear the news of divine judgment, which would be carried out by foreign invaders.

The news was mostly bad during those times, for there wasn’t any good news to report. Had there been any good tidings to tell, the prophets would have been more than glad to shout from the mountaintops and to cry out from alleys and streets, but it was hard to come by in those days.

The prophets of the Lord didn’t have any choice but to tell the people what they were told. They often started their pronouncement by saying: “Thus says the Lord.”

How could an evil man such as Ahab expect to hear anything good from the Lord? How could he expect a good God to condone or to sanction his bad behavior? Such an expectation was irrational and wishful thinking, as if a righteous God could just disregard all his sins as if they had never happened.

Isn’t it something we routinely do? We go to church to hear good news proclaimed to us, even though we live in sin and have absolutely no intention to repent. We go to church to have our guilty consciences soothed and walk away feeling good about ourselves, fully assured that our sins are forgiven and we are on our way to heaven.

That’s the gospel, the good news, isn’t it? Are you saying that the bearers of such good news are false prophets and the hearers of the gospel are misguided?

A clarification is needed here.

The gospel became a reality through the death of our Lord on the cross; therefore it started with the worst news. Our salvation, too, should always begin with bad news, which is our death on the cross with Christ, for unless we are united with him in his death, we will not be united with him in his life. The gospel is a combination of bad and good news and the ones who only proclaim the good and neglect entirely the bad are false prophets, pure and simple.

“And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The Lord Jesus made it abundantly clear to us that we should die with him daily, yet this truth is conveniently ignored by many preachers. I am afraid there are more false prophets in our midst that we realize. In fact, I may be one of them, if I ever preach the gospel without the cross and the new life void of death to the carnal self.          

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, December 12, 2013 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

One Left 

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One Left

“There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord…”

        1 Kings 22:8

 

Micaiah was the one true prophet left who dared to tell the truth. He wasn’t very popular in the circle of prophets, for he alone among all the prophets had the courage to tell what was revealed to him from above. While all the prophets were prophesying welcome news, Micaiah took his stand and spoke only the message revealed to him by the Lord.

It would have been so tempting for Micaiah to compromise his position just this once and go along with the rest of his peers, for he was flesh and blood like all people, who would like to be liked and to be embraced by the populace, particularly by the king. Yet it would have been a form of betrayal had he done so. He was called by the Lord to proclaim, not his own words, but the words of God. Speaking his own words was absolutely not an option for him.

I have never intended to draw a big crowd to our church through my preaching, but it still gets to me when there are only a few souls sitting in the pews on Sunday, causing me to doubt myself. “I am preaching myself out of a job,” I often said to my wife jokingly, who, by the way, has been sitting through every sermon I have ever delivered over a span of twenty years. She is among the six or seven people remaining in our struggling English congregation.

I will never claim that I am the only one left, however. I may have been trying to proclaim the words of God faithfully over the years, but there are thousands of preachers who are doing exactly the same thing all over the world. We may feel that we are the only faithful ones, but the Lord has reserved for himself millions of others.

Did Micaiah ever feel self-pity like some of us do occasionally? If we have any reason to feel sorry for ourselves at all, surely Micaiah had a lot more. There were four hundred prophets who were proclaiming good news to Ahab, and he was the odd one out who brought bad news. Four hundred versus one. The situation was indeed quite challenging.

I am afraid I will be preaching to a congregation composed of only one person, namely my wife, if I don’t have a sense of urgency and make some changes and become more active in evangelism and improving my way of doing things. Being faithful to God doesn’t just mean that we preach God’s words faithfully; it also implies that we should venture out from the church walls to seek the lost. People rarely show up at the church doors on their own; they must be sought out and be invited.

Are we the ones who are faithful in doing both? “If you build it, they will come.”  This may work in baseball, but not the church. If we preach it, they will come. We may wait forever, but people will not show up, for they simply don’t want to hear the bad news of sin and punishment, even though good news will always be proclaimed after the bad is delivered.    

             

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, December 11, 2013 7:19:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Rubber Stamp 

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A Rubber Stamp

“So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them…”        1 Kings 22:6

 

King Jehoshaphat from Judah suggested that they should consult the prophets of the Lord before they launched a campaign against the Arameans to recover Ramoth Gilead. It was the right thing to do, since they wanted to make sure that they had the Lord’s blessing, and therefore to guarantee the success of their venture.

To the ones who truly seek God’s will concerning their actions, the Lord will surely reveal his will to them, but to the ones who merely seek the Lord to put a rubber stamp of approval on what they intend to do, the Lord will have no part of it. Seeking the Lord’s guidance was just a formality and it didn’t have a whole lot of meaning since the king had already decided what he would do; turning to the Lord for advice was just an afterthought.

Nevertheless, he brought in four hundred men for consulting, who were supposedly prophets. Whether they were the prophets of the Lord or Baal we have no idea, but to King Jehoshaphat, who was more attuned to listening to God’s voice, they weren’t true prophets, and that turned out to be the case. They all echoed the king’s idea and affirmed in one voice that the king’s intention was from the Lord, and that God would bless the campaign against Israel’s enemies.

Ahab appeared to be seeking the will of God, but in reality he was merely asking for God’s affirmation of his impending action. Even if he failed to get one, he would have proceeded and fought the battle.

Was my desire to purchase a car predetermined and my diligent seeking for God’s will concerning the matter just mere formality, something we do to soothe our guilty conscience? I hope that wasn’t really the case, for I had pretty much decided to discard the idea of buying a vehicle until a severe cold spell hit our town and my old truck had no heating or defrost function. Since the heating and cooling vent was broken, it had become too dangerous for me to drive in wintry weather. My desire of purchasing a car was rekindled, for the particular want might have had turned into a true need, which became a perfect justification for my acquisition at the end.

Compared to starting a war, my struggle with shopping for a car is indeed a great deal less important, but the principle governing our decision-making process should remain the same. We ought to make sure that we have an intention to obey God’s will, whether his will is to our liking or not, before we seek divine guidance. Ahab received his answer from a true prophet, yet not only did he do what was contrary to God’s will, he threw the messenger to prison.

Ahab’s life would have been spared had he listened to God’s voice and heeded his bidding. There is not a single exception that our disobedience to God’s will concerning all things great or small will ultimately produce ill-effects that cause us to regret.

       

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, December 10, 2013 7:03:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Ambition 

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Ambition

“Will you go with me to fight against Ramoth Gilead?”

             1 Kings 22:4

 

There were a few years of peace between Israel and her enemies, namely the Assyrians and the Arameans, and King Ahab could have enjoyed the time and given his people a few years of rest; yet that wasn’t the case at all, for what was the king to do during a time of peace except to stir up the pot and to start a war for no good reason? Historically, Ramoth Gilead did belong to Israel and Ahab took it as a divine calling to recover the land, without considering the lofty cost the campaign would incur and how many lives would perish in the process. It might have just been a fleeting idea that crossed the king’s mind, yet thousands of Israelites would have been required to leave all their loved ones behind had the idea been carried out and an order issued. They had no other option but to rush to the killing fields to meet their death.

Three years of peace was hardly long enough for the people to raise a family or a crop or to erase the nightmarish memory of the previous war against the Assyrians from their minds and, out of the blue, the king was starting another war, which was entirely unnecessary.

It was a strong sense of nationalism that prompted Ahab and Jehoshaphat to start a campaign against Aram, that nation that was occupying the territory. It was obvious the war wasn’t divinely inspired in any way; it was just a perfect means designed by God to bring Ahab’s life to a tragic end. Unfortunately, thousands of innocent lives perished with the evil king, which became the collateral damage of one man’s sin.

Most wars in human history have been started by only a few, and many were slaughtered in them. Ironically, the ones who survived the wars were mostly the ones who started them. It is utter injustice, isn’t it? The fighting men and women merely desired to return to their homes and hearths in one piece, leaving the kings and general to gather the harvest of their sacrifices.

Why couldn’t Ahab rest with his people for a few years?

That is the nature of the beast, really. If a corporation ceases to expand and explore new ways of growth, it will become stagnate and fall behind its competitors, and a nation is pretty much the same both in nature and practice. Does Wal-Mart come to your mind in this context? Don’t we miss all the mom and pop stores in our neighborhood that have been wiped out? A nation must thrive in order to survive, and the common people are the ones who make the sacrifices and pay the price in the process. Nationalism for the most part, it appears to me, is an idea conjured up by the ruling class to carry out their insatiable ambition to conquer and to devour.

I have digressed, but it pains my heart a great deal imagining how most people must have suffered during the reign of Ahab. The suffering could have been avoided had the king been a little kinder and gentler, a little more devoted to God and a little less devoted to his personal aspiration and ambition.     

         

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, December 9, 2013 6:49:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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