I want to begin this morning with a historical incident that occurred in the reigns of Ahab, the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah (both Israelites).

  1. The incident: (1 Kings 22)
    1. We must have a little background.
      1. Ahab was truly an ungodly, wicked man.
        1. His queen was Jezebel, a Sidonian woman who supported the prophets of Baal and made Baal worship Israel's official religion.
        2. He was the king who hated Elijah, God's prophet.
        3. He was wealthy but wicked.
      2. At this time Assyria was a major threat to northern Israel and to Judah.
        1. At this time Assyria often was the powerful nation that controlled the region.
        2. But Ahab entered a coalition of several nations, fought Assyria, and broke Assyria's control over their area.
      3. Though Assyria's control was broken in the region, Ahab did not gain control over one of Israel's oldest cities.
        1. Ramoth-Gilead had been one of Israel's cities of refuge.
        2. It was one of the places east of the Jordan River that was settled before Israel entered Canaan.
        3. Literally from the beginning of Israel's association with Canaan, Ramoth-Gilead was a part of their territory.
      4. When Assyrian control of the area was broken, Ahab saw an excellent opportunity to regain control of the city.
    2. So he invited Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, to combine armies, conquer the city, and reclaim Ramoth-Gilead (1 Kings 22).
      1. Jehoshaphat quickly agreed: "I am as you are; my people as your people; my horses as your horses."
      2. But . . . Jehoshaphat made one request before they declared war.
        1. Before they attacked Ramoth-Gilead, Jehoshaphat asked Ahab to consult the prophets.
        2. Do a little remembering:
          1. Ahab's kingdom worshipped the idol Baal.
          2. Ahab's queen supported the prophets of Baal.
          3. The prophets of Baal would be the prophets that Ahab consulted.
        3. So Ahab called the prophets of Baal and asked them if the kings should begin this battle or refrain from this battle.
          1. Without one voice of decent, the prophets told King Ahab to start the war--"go for it!"
          2. They said, "The Lord will give it into the hand of the king."
          3. To emphasize the point, one of the leading prophets (Zedekiah) made some iron horns and promised King Ahab that he "would gore the Arameans until they are consumed"--certain victory!
          4. In others words, they told the king what he wanted to hear.
        4. However, Jehoshaphat asked, "Can't you ask a prophet of Jehovah God to prophesy about this battle?"
          1. Ahab replied, "There is one prophet in my country I could ask, but he never says anything good to me. However, I will send for him."
          2. Ahab then sent a messenger to tell the prophet Micaiah to come prophesy.
          3. The messenger told Micaiah, "All the other prophets have been favorable to the king. Please, when you prophesy, agree with them."
          4. Micaiah responded, "I will say what the Lord tells me to say."
    3. Before we look at what Micaiah said, we need to focus on God.
      1. God is pictured as He was in Job: having a meeting with the heavenly council.
      2. God asked His advisors, "Who will entice Ahab to attack Ramoth-Gilead?"
        1. One of the spirits said he would.
        2. God asked the spirit what he planned to do.
        3. The spirit said, "I will be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets."
        4. God said, "Do it. Let him think he is going to win when he will actually meet disaster."
    4. Micaiah came to King Ahab.
      1. The first thing he said was precisely what the king wanted to hear: "Go to battle and you will surely succeed--you will certainly win."
        1. Micaiah told the king what he wanted to hear, and the king did not like it.
        2. So the king commanded Micaiah in the name of Jehovah God to tell him the truth.
      2. So Micaiah gave him a second message.
        1. He told Ahab about God's council, and Zedekiah did not like what he said.
        2. He told him that he saw them like sheep scattered on a mountain without a shepherd.
        3. Ahab's forces would be defeated.
      3. Ahab then said to Jehoshaphat, "Didn't I tell you? He never says anything good to me!"
      4. Then they prepared for battle by imprisoning Micaiah.
    5. One thing I want to note: God permitted Ahab to hear what he wanted to believe.
      1. If we think that God will not allow us to reach ungodly conclusions in our thinking and convictions, we deceive ourselves.
      2. I do not care who we claim to be, God always allows us to believe what we wish to believe.
      3. God allows us to justify anything we want to justify.
      4. Because we call ourselves godly in no way assures us God sees us as godly.

  2. Likely the last letter that we have which Paul wrote is 2 Timothy.
    1. It is a personal letter from Paul to Timothy that focused on two situations.
      1. Paul expected to be executed in his near future.
      2. He wanted Timothy to continue teaching and stressing the things that Paul taught and stressed.
      3. Paul made this statement in 2 Timothy 4:3,4. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
    2. In the churches of Christ, this was one of our favorite passages in the 20th century.
      1. We used it frequently to defend whatever issue we were discussing.
      2. We especially used this scripture when someone disagreed with our conclusions.
    3. This morning I want to encourage you to consider what Paul meant when he said this.
      1. Paul said, "In the future (he was talking about in Timothy's life time) dangerous periods were coming."
      2. What would make these times dangerous?
        1. People would not be willing to listen to sound doctrine.
          1. Note two things.
          2. People would lose the desire to hear; they would not listen.
          3. They would have no desire to listen to sound doctrine.
        2. What is this "sound doctrine"?
          1. The words "sound doctrine" simply mean "healthy teaching."
          2. Healthy in what way? It brings listeners closer to God.
          3. The need for teaching implies that there were matters they did not know about God or understand about God that they needed to know and understand.
        3. When people will not want "healthy teaching," what will they want?
          1. Instead of hearing healthy teaching, they wanted their conclusions confirmed.
          2. To make sure that happened, they surrounded themselves with teachers who told them what they wanted to hear.
          3. They did not have to change desires, they did not have to go through transformation because what they heard justified their desires.
        4. Please remember that the world of Paul's lifetime was filled with idolatry.
          1. People said there were may ways that a person could go to God without knowledge of or understanding of Jesus Christ.
          2. Two prominent ways were the myths of idolatry and the genealogies of the Jewish people.
          3. Myths basically declared God was too far from humans to be reached by Jesus.
          4. The genealogies said that approaching God was a matter of ancestry.
        5. Those people preferred to hear about alternate routes to God than to hear that God reached down to them in Jesus Christ.

  3. I combined these two scriptures for two reasons:
    1. First, in all ages people have the same problem: they want to hear what they already concluded was okay.
      1. Generally speaking, people never have wanted healthy teaching that brought them to a better understanding of what it meant to belong to God.
      2. People always have wanted to hear what they agree with before anything was said.
      3. It was very important to Paul for Christians to have the willingness to hear what they needed to hear. Decide for yourself by reading with me 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6.
        For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. For we never came with flattering speech, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed--God is witness--nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, even though as apostles of Christ we might have asserted our authority.
    2. God allows us to hear precisely what we want to hear.
      1. I am talking to Christians, not those who are not Christians.
      2. God allows us to believe what we want to believe.
      3. If you doubt my conclusion, listen again to Paul's words to Christians in Thessalonica:
        2 Thessalonians 2:11,12 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

  4. Among Christians there has occurred an enormous spiritual divorce, and that divorce causes most people who are not Christians to be totally unimpressed with us.
    1. What great divorce?
      1. We have divorced what we believe from how we live.
        1. Everybody but us can see this divorce in our pleasures.
        2. Everybody but us can see this divorce in our greed.
        3. Everybody but us can see this divorce in the way we treat people and the way we act outside of church buildings.
      2. We call ourselves godly because of our religious positions.
      3. We do not call ourselves godly because of the way we think and live.
    2. Do you regard yourself to be a godly person? If you say yes, may I ask why?
      1. Do you regard yourself godly because you are sure you believe the right doctrines?
      2. Or, do you regard yourself godly because Jesus Christ has changed the way you think and act?

Paul said everyone of us will stand before God in judgment. Which of these two responses would you like on that occasion?

Response one:

Response two:

Are you willing to listen to God? Where do you place His emphasis?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 6 April 2003

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