2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Preach What They Need, Not What They Want
Text: 1 Kings 22:1-28
Don’t worry. It’s going to get better. Your problems are going to go away. Your pain is going to disappear. Your suffering is going to stop. Your bills are going to be paid. Your debt is going to be erased. Everything is going to get better. Your life is going to get better.
All of this will happen if only you rededicate your lives to the Lord. If you pray harder, then God will truly answer you. If you come to church more often, more of your problems will go away. If you give bigger offerings to the Lord, then more money will be given back to you. If you follow the Lord, then your problems will go away. Follow the Lord and everything will be better.
That’s what you want to hear, isn’t it? You want me to tell you that all your time and effort will translate into earthly value, right? You make the effort to roll out of bed—and to roll your kids out of bed—every single Sunday. That should count for something! You are faithful to the truth of God’s Word while dirt and filth and false teaching corrupt the world around us. You drop something in an offering plate when you could be saving for a new car or even just buy a Big Mac. That should win you some brownie points! And we worship a God who’s got the whole world in his hands. He can and will make things better for us in this life. That’s what you want to hear, isn’t it?
King Ahab had a message he wanted to hear. Ahab and his wife Jezebel infamously occupy Israelite history as two of the most wicked leaders ever. They ruled during the 800s B.C. in the northern part of Israel. Adultery and idolatry flourished under their “leadership.”
Meanwhile, king Jehoshaphat was ruling at the time in Judah, the southern part of Israel. Jehoshaphat was a mostly good king who made a few bad decisions. One of the worst decisions was making an alliance with wicked king Ahab through the marriage of his son to Ahab’s daughter.
The first lesson this morning picks up in 1 Kings 22. King Jehoshaphat went to meet with King Ahab at Samaria, the northern capital. They were contemplating an attack against the Aramean people to the east of the Jordan River. They wanted to attack the city of Ramoth Gilead and take the land back that Israel once controlled.
Should they stay or should they fight? They consulted their “prophets” to find out. Zedekiah the high priest fashioned iron horns and then this is what happened: Zedekiah said in verse 11, “This is what the Lord says, ‘With these you will gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.’ All the other prophets were prophesying the same thing, ‘Attack Ramoth Gilead and be victorious,’ they said, ‘for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
What great news! That’s exactly what the kings wanted to hear. But that’s just the problem. It was what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear. This message wasn’t from the Lord. This message was from “yes-men” false prophets who wanted to keep their jobs and get a fat paycheck.
But there was one last prophet to consult, Micaiah, a true prophet of the Lord. The kings summoned Micaiah, wanting one last favorable message—almost as if they knew those false prophets were just “yes-men.” After initially telling them what they wanted to hear, Micaiah finally told them the truth—what they needed to hear. It wasn’t good news. Micaiah said in verse 17, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd.” Then in verse 19, “I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?” And in verse 23, “So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
Micaiah proclaimed that Ahab’s prophets were false prophets. They would deceive Ahab. He would follow their deception and attack Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans would win. Ahab would be killed. And Israel soon would be conquered and scattered all over. Not what Ahab wanted to hear! But this was what Ahab needed to hear.
God doesn’t always tell us what we want to hear. We want to hear that all are problems will go away. We want to hear that we will stop suffering. We want to hear that life will be comfortable and easy. And if you tune in to most televangelists or stop by certain churches, you will hear deceiving spirits tell you what you want to hear. They’ll tell you that your life will get better if you follow the Lord. They’ll tell you that you will get more money if you give more money. They’ll tell you that if you pray harder, try harder, and worship harder then things will finally turn around. There’s a reason why these kinds of preachers and churches are so wealthy. They preach what people want to hear. But that is not what we need to hear. Nor is that what God says.
Our ears burn with an itch for a message that tells us this life will be better. Our hearts become so focused on a successful worldly life. We want a pain- and problem-free existence. We want money. We want big houses. We want iPods and iPads. We want DVDs, CDs, MP3s, HDTVs, and SUVs. Like King Ahab who had his heart set on power, wealth, and a victory in battle, we so often set our hearts on what matters in this life and in this world.
Maybe we don’t always want all the money and possessions. But, “Just tell me Lord that I won’t get cancer (or get it again)!” “Just tell me Lord that my marriage will finally be better.” “Just tell me Lord that the economy will finally get better.” “Just tell me Lord that you’ll make my life better.”
That’s what we want to hear. But what we need to hear is that our hearts have the wrong focus. A heart that is focused on worldly success and happiness is not focused on the Lord. And a heart that is not focused on the Lord is sinning.
What we need to hear, like Ahab needed to hear, is that we go astray. What we need to hear is that we sin. What we need to hear is that sin is dangerous. What we need to hear is that sin leads us away from the Lord. What we need to hear is that sin leads us to hell.
Maybe at this point you want to hear another certain message. In a very American way we might ask, “Well how can I fix it? What can I do? How can I make it better? How much should I pay?” But what we need to hear is again much different. We can’t fix it. We can’t make it better. We can’t work extra hard. We can’t whip open our checkbooks and add a couple extra zeroes to pay for our wrongs. We’re lost in our sins. We’re doomed in our sins. We’re condemned in our sins. That’s what Ahab needed to hear from Micaiah. That’s what we need to hear.
There’s one more thing we need to hear. We need to hear about God’s solution. From the very beginning God foretold his solution. God promised to send a Messiah, his chosen one to rule and reign. God repeated that promise for thousands of years, even through the time of Ahab and Jehoshaphat. God finally made good on that promise when he sent his son Jesus to the world.
But God did not send Jesus for what the Israelites wanted or what we want. He didn’t send Jesus to be the king who would end all wars and bring world peace. He didn’t send Jesus to be the king to fill our fridges with filet mignon and our pantries with Doritos and Oreos. He didn’t send Jesus to save us from cancer, our careers, or the economy.
No. God sent Jesus for what we need. He sent Jesus to obey all of his commands and fulfill all of his demands, like we fail to do. He sent Jesus to suffer and die for sin, like we ought to do. He sent Jesus to be the king who would crush Satan and defeat death. He sent Jesus to be the king who would rise to life to guarantee that we can live a new life now and forever. He sent Jesus to save us from our sins and for all eternity.
God used the prophet Micaiah to call Ahab to repentance. The Lord was actually being merciful and loving to Ahab with this message. God could have simply let Ahab go off to battle and to his death with no warning at all. But instead he warned Ahab that he was listening to false and deceptive prophets, that Israel would lose this battle, and that he would die. But it was not the message Ahab wanted, so he refused to listen. And as prophesied, Israel lost the battle, Ahab was struck by a stray arrow and died, and within 100 years northern Israel was conquered and scattered all over.
We don’t want to hear about sin. We want to hear about success and happiness and power and riches. That’s why you’ll rarely hear a TV evangelist say the word “sin.” It doesn’t bring in the big bucks or sell books. But God is telling us what we need to hear: We’ve focused on the wrong things. We’ve pushed him to the side. We’ve disobeyed him. We’ve sinned. We deserve his punishment.
Unlike Ahab, listen to what you need to hear and turn to the Lord in repentance. Humbly fall before him seeking his forgiveness. Then turn to the cross of Jesus. There you will also find what you need: His love. His mercy. His forgiveness. His salvation. We have sinned against the Lord, but Jesus has died to forgive us and save us. That’s what we need to hear.
That’s what others need to hear too. But our message is not an easy one to proclaim. You saw the reaction that Micaiah received when he proclaimed the truth. Zedekiah the high priest slapped him in the face and made fun of him. King Ahab ordered Micaiah to prison with nothing but bread and water. All this because Micaiah proclaimed the truth they needed to hear.
People don’t want to hear that they are sinners. People don’t want to hear that they are going to hell. People don’t want to hear that Jesus is the only way to heaven. People don’t want to hear that following the Lord will not bring worldly success and happiness.
Some in this world are thrown into prison because of the truth. Some are killed because of the truth. This probably will not happen to us. Probably. But we will be mocked. We will be made fun of on TV and in the newspapers. We will be ignored. We will be yelled at.
Just here in Palm Coast when canvassing or making visits I’ve had people slam the door in my face. I had a Buddhist yell at me and chase me away for my narrow mindedness. I’ve had people stop coming to church and even stop being members of the church because of the truth. When discussing a Bible truth I even had a woman tell me once at her house, “I’ll be damned if I ever go to a church that teaches that.”
People may stop coming to church. Friends may be angry with us. Family members may not want to see us any more. But that doesn’t mean we will ever stop proclaiming what they need to hear—the truth.
God has told us what we need to hear—that we are sinners who deserve hell, yet we are sinners whom he has forgiven through his Son Jesus. Listen to what the Lord has proclaimed to you. Take to heart what you need. Then share it with others. Follow Micaiah’s example. Preach What They Need, Not What They Want.
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