The king of Israel answered, "There is still one man who can ask the LORD, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good for me, but only bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah." "The king should not say that!" Jehoshaphat replied.
I. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES CHARACTER.
1. It injures morals.
(1) The earlier career of Jehoshaphat was faultless. He is highly commended for his faithfulness to God and zeal against idolatry (2 Chronicles 17:1-6).
(2) His first fault was sanctioning the marriage of his son Jehoram with Athaliah the daughter of Ahab (2 Kings 8:18, 26).
(3) This led the way to the further fault of that friendly visit to Ahab mentioned here, for which he was rebuked by "Jehu the son of Hanani the seer" (2 Chronicles 19:2).
(4) Yet once again we find him falling into a similar snare. He agreed with Ahaziah the son of Ahab, a wicked scion of wicked house, jointly to equip a fleet at the port of Ezion-Geber, on the Bed Sea, to sail to Ophir for gold. In this also he incurred the anger of the Lord and suffered the loss of his fleet (ver. 48; 2 Chronicles 20:35-37). Note: A fault is like a seed, fruitful "after its kind." A fault once committed prepares the way for a repetition.
2. It damages reputation.
(1) Reputation is character as estimated by men. This estimate may or may not be just; for men may judge wrongly through ignorance of circumstances which would put a new complexion upon conduct. Therefore judgments should be charitable, and not too hastily formed.
(2) But it is a maxim among men, generally true, that "you may know a man by his friends." Friendships involve sympathies. It had been better for Jehoshaphat's reputation had he never made affinity with the wicked house of Ahab.
(3) This principle will apply to books. Hence the kindred maxim, "You may see a man in his library." It is bad enough when the newspaper shuts up the Bible; it is worse when the Bible is neglected through preference for sensational fictitious literature.
3. It impairs influence.
(1) This follows. Character is influence. Reputation is influence. Advice will be readily received from a genuine man, which coming from an artificial character would be spurned.
(2) What a power for good or evil is moral influence! See the evil exemplified in Israel under Ahab and Jezebel. See the good in Judah under Jehoshaphat. Lessons: Let your character be true. Jealously guard your reputation. Look to these for the sake of your influence.
II. BAD COMPANY COMPROMISES HAPPINESS. Because -
1. Happiness is involved in character.
(1) This truth is abundantly illustrated in sacred history. Examples are furnished in the text. Secular history teaches this truth. Everyday experience evinces it.
(2) Yet is it difficult so to convince individuals of this as to lead them to abandon sin and throw their energies wholly into the blessed service of God. Happiness is proportionate to the completeness of consecration. This consecration cannot be reconciled with the friendship of the world (James 4:4).
2. Goodness is grieved in it.
(1) Jehoshaphat was not long in the company of Ahab before his ear was offended by horrible words. "I hate him." Whom did Ahab hate? Micaiah, the faithful prophet of the Lord. Does not this look like a declaration of hatred against the Lord? (See Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 17:5; Zechariah 2:8.)
(2) Why does Ahab hate Micaiah? "For he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." Because he does not falsify the truth of God to flatter me. Because he does not play the devil to please me, as these four hundred do! Note: Hatred to God means love to Satan.
(3) Such sentiments were distressing to the feelings of Jehoshaphat. To the revulsion of his righteous soul he gave expression (but too feeble) in the remonstrance, "Let not the king say so." The conversation of such as are in sympathy with evil will offend the good in proportion to their pureness.
3. It leads the most wary into trouble. For the persuasions of the wicked are subtle.
(1) In presence of Jehoshaphat "The king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?" It was a considerable city in the tribe of Gad on the other side Jordan, and one of the cities of refuge. It was one of the cities which Ben-hadad, by the letter of his covenant, was bound to restore (see 1 Kings 20:34). The cause of Israel was obviously just.
(2) Then turning to Jehoshaphat, Ahab said, "Wilt thou go with me to battle at Ramoth-Gilead?" To which, carried away with the obvious justice of the cause, Jehoshaphat responded, "I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses." This was too strong a compliment to Ahab and his people, and the response was too ready. We may not champion every just cause. It may be wrong to champion a good cause in wicked company.
(3) Bethinking himself, as a godly man should do, "Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the Lord." A good man seeks to take God with him, and so long as he abides in this holy company he is safe. But let him beware that he be not persuaded by the wicked to forsake it.
(4) Ahab was equal to the occasion. He had four hundred prophets ready with one mouth to pronounce for the war, and that, too, in the name of the Lord. This hireling company, however, did not satisfy Jehoshaphat, yet he fell into their snare. He should have availed himself of the opportunity to withdraw given him in the prophecy of Micaiah; but, under the spell of Ahab's evil influence, he went to the battle and got into trouble. There is no safety in the company of the wicked.
4. It provokes judgments of God.
(1) The good partake in the plagues of their wicked associates. Jehoshaphat barely escaped, through the mercy of God, with his life; and he suffered the loss of many of his people (see Revelation 18:4). The fly that keeps aloof is not entangled in the spider's web.
(2) The good incur Divine judgments for their own sin. The sin of friendship with the enemies of God. The sin such friendship must infallibly occasion. Such was the experience of Jehoshaphat (see 2 Chronicles 19:2). Such will be yours. Avoid it. - J.A.M.
I. YOU ARE IN DANGER OF COMMITTING AHAB'S FOLLY, IN THE CHOICE OF YOUR ACQUAINTANCES AND FRIENDS. You find some ready to give you countenance, by their example and conversation, in all the evil which your heart desires; willing, whatever be your besetting sin, to help you in excusing it to your conscience; forward, however unholy be your enterprise, to say with the false prophets of Samaria, "Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king" (Ver. 6) There are others who warn you of evil, who recommend you to desist from sinful courses, whose very example is a reproof to you, though their tongue be silent; Now which sort of friends do you most highly esteem?
There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah.
(The Duke of Wellington.)
II. A LIVELY WARNING AGAINST THE UNWISE CONDUCT OF MANY PERSONS IN THE CHOICE OF THEIR RELIGION. But be ye well assured, that one kind of religion only can be right; and that this must be one which prophesieth evil concerning you, which tells you that you are lost if you sin, and which bids you seek for heaven, not by show of piety, not by dissension one with another, not by resorting to images, and saints, and masses; but by secret wrestling with your own desires, by fervent spiritual prayer, and by painful denial of yourselves, in the faith and by the strength of Jesus Christ your Saviour.
III. TO PROFESS THE RIGHT FAITH IS ONE THING; TO APPLY IT RIGHTLY IN OUR PRACTICE IS ANOTHER. It may be you fall not into the error of running after false systems of faith, and yet regard not as you ought to do the prophets of the truth. And into this error you may fall, either in regard to the public preaching, or to the private exhortations, of the ministers of religion. "He doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil," is a reflection with which you often probably return home from church.
(C. Girdlestone, M. A.)
(H. O. Mackey.).
I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evilI. A GUILTY CONSCIENCE MAKES MEN FEAR THE TRUTH. And yet, how senseless and impolitic is this! Whatever the reality of things may be, is it not better that we should know it, rather than live in a fool's paradise of flattering self-delusions, crying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace? It was a wise and noble spirit that said, "I will seek after the truth, by which no man was ever injured." We have mastered one of the grandest lessons of life when we have learnt to welcome the truth from whatever quarter it may come.
II. FEAR OF TRUTH MAY OFTEN DEVELOP INTO PERSONAL HATE OF HIM WHO IS THE MESSENGER AND MINISTER OF IT. "I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." There is nothing strange in this. A very subtle connection exists between the conditions of mind here indicated. Fear leads to hate, and is itself a form of hate. The feeling of aversion is readily transferred from the thing dreaded to him who is the means of bringing it upon us; .and when a man hates the light, he is not likely to have much love for the human medium through whom it shines.
III. Divine laws and purposes are surely accomplished, in spite of human fear and hate. The "lying spirit" in the pretended prophets may utter its persuasive flatteries (ver. 22); Zedekiah may add violence to falsity (ver. 24); Micaiah may be imprisoned and fed with "the bread and water of affliction" (ver. 27), — but the fatal decree has gone forth, and must be fulfilled. The king shall return no more from Ramoth-Gilead.
(J. Waite, B. A.)Confessions how completely he was enchained by his passions, and how, after lie had become intellectually satisfied of the truth of the creed of the Christian Church, he was held back from conversion by the fear that he would have to give up so much to which he was attached. In the end, we know, through God's grace he broke his chains — those chains which held poor Ahab captive. In such cases lasting self-deceit is only too easy. Men treat what is only a warp of the will as if it were a difficulty of the understanding, while the real agent — ought I not to say the real culprit? — is almost always the will. The will sees religion advancing to claim the allegiance of the will, it sees that to admit this claim will oblige it to forego much, and to do much that is unwelcome to flesh and blood, and so it makes an effort to clog or to hinder the direct action of the understanding. Its public language is, "I cannot accept religion because it makes this or that assertion, which to my mind is open to historical or philosophical or moral objections of a decisive character"; but, if it saw deeper into itself, it would say, "I dislike this creed, for it doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil, while I continue to live as I do."
(Sword and Trowel.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
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