In 1 Kings 22 (mirrored in 2 Chronicles 18), the text starts off with the Israelite King Ahab preparing to go to war. Ahab calls all his prophets together to prophesy about the outcome. They all prophesy success. Wanting more affirmation, Ahab calls in God’s own prophet, Micaiah, to verify. At first, Micaiah does prophesy the same thing. But the King detects that something is wrong and presses him on the issue. Micaiah then tells the King that the King will die and describes God’s elaborate plot to kill him:
1Ki 22:19 Then Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left.
1Ki 22:20 And the LORD said, ‘Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?’ So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner.
1Ki 22:21 Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, ‘I will persuade him.’
1Ki 22:22 The LORD said to him, ‘In what way?’ So he said, ‘I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And the LORD said, ‘You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.’
1Ki 22:23 Therefore look! The LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.”
God hated king Ahab and sought to kill him. God wanted Ahab to die in Ramoth Gilead. But God was not controlling Ahab. God does not use human beings as puppets. Instead God needs to convince Ahab to actually go to Ramoth Gilead to die. He crowdsources the angels to figure out how to do this. The text reads that various angels proffer ideas. We can imagine what they say: “We can get his wife to nudge him”, “We can make him angry at his enemy”, “We can get a neighboring King to pledge support in the battle”, “We can appeal to his pride”. But God finally listens to one angel that outright says to use lies to promote the idea that Ahab is going to win in battle. God likes this plan and endorses it.
Sure enough, King Ahab takes the advice of his prophets and ignores God’s prophet who clues Ahab in on the plot against him. King Ahab then dies at Ramoth Gilead.
Some take-aways from the text.
1. God does have plans, and those plans can be achieved through a multitude of routes.
2. God does not predecide all avenues, and sometimes consults others for ideas.
3. God is not opposed to deception to further specific goals. This does not mean deception is always used by God, but in some cases He believes it is acceptable.
4. God’s prophets are allowed their own judgment in how to communicate God’s plans. Micaiah was allowed to even reveal God’s deception before the event took place.
5. Although God could have struck Ahab dead (we learn from other parts of the Bible), God preferred a more natural cause of death and sought to create circumstances to affect it. God does not always prefer the most direct and miraculous route.
6. Human beings are not directly controlled by God. In order to motivate human beings to act, God uses persuasion and events.
7. Angels are in heaven, advising God and helping God affect God’s plans.
Problems for the Calvinists
1. Omniscience. Did God not know from eternity past how the King was going to die? Why did he consult with angels? What was the purpose of brainstorming in heaven? If it was a way to bring to the front already known knowledge, what purpose is this serving? Did the angels believe they were affecting God?
2. Omnipotence. Why is God crowdsourcing His approach? Does God not control everything? Has not God already decided what to do? Do the angels assume God’s mind is fixed (are they Calvinists)? Is there any indication in the text of God having already decided how He would control the entire situation?
3. Summum Bonum. Did God lie? He sent deceiving spirits with the intent to deceive Ahab. God wanted Ahab to believe a lie. God’s own prophet told this lie, knowing it was a lie. How is this not God using and approving of deception?