Stick with the Script: The Prophet Is Never Popular
Have you heard the phrase “don’t shoot the messenger”? Legend has it that, in ancient times, a messenger told the Armenian King Tigranes that a Roman army was fast approaching. Apparently, the king was so enraged by the news, he ordered the messenger’s execution. And then, because nobody dared give him any reliable intel, the king lacked the information he needed to engage his enemy.
It can be risky to tell people of means and influence news they’d rather not hear. But when you read the stories of the prophets in the Bible, God repeatedly tasks them with delivering unpopular messages to kings, clergy and countries. In one such story, two kings, Jehoshaphat and Ahab (who are linked by Jehoshaphat’s son’s marriage to Ahab’s daughter) are considering going to war against their eastern neighbors, the Arameans.
At Jehoshaphat’s urging, Ahab consults 400 of the royal prophets. They all promise victory if Ahab proceeds with the plan. Jehoshaphat senses something is amiss. He asks if there is an independent prophet in town who isn’t intimidated by the king. So, Ahab reluctantly sends for Micaiah. The story continues in 2 Chronicles 18:12-13:
Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.” But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the Lord lives, I will say only what my God says.”
Understandably, the king’s messenger desperately wants Micaiah to get in line behind the 400 other prophets. He can’t afford for the king do be in a bad mood. Both Micaiah and the messenger stand to lose if Ahab is rattled by the message.
Fortunately, Micaiah has too much integrity to bow to the messenger’s agenda or the king’s wishes. He ends up delivering a stark message about how, if the king moves forward with his plan, he won’t just lose the battle, he’ll lose his life. Ahab rejects Micaiah’s message and does indeed die in the ensuing fight.
Sometimes following God requires speaking unpopular truths.
But the prophet’s job isn’t to be liked, it’s to be bold, honest and faithful.