The Prophet Micaiah Teaches Me My Job

Micaiah, however, isn’t intimidated. He replies: I’m not going to lie! I will only say what the Lord tells me to say. When Micaiah comes before the king, at first he speaks so sarcastically -- sure, go ahead and attack the city -- that the king knows Micaiah didn’t mean it. So he retorts: Come on! Tell me the truth!

So Micaiah replied, in effect: Okay, you asked for it. I foresee a terrible disaster.

And why did the other 400 all agree that the proposed military attack would be a great idea? Micaiah explained it as him having had a vision of the Lord who, since He had good reason to detest Ahab, asked, “Who will entice Ahab so that he will march and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?”

A certain being (perhaps what would be today a high-ranking advisor, CIA chief, secretary of state, secretary of defense, professor, or journalist) came forward and said: I’ll do it!

The Lord asks, How?

“I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.”

And the Lord agreed, “You will prevail.”

Imagine all of those 400 false prophets- -- or perhaps, to be fair, misinformed ones -- bragging afterward how they had spoken truth to power as they ate their dainties, basked in the court’s admiration, and dwelt in their nice abodes. Those were their rewards, in fact, for not speaking the truth.

But, wait! There’s a paradox here:

If Micaiah is just doing the Lord's will and the Lord wants Ahab to be deceived, then why is Micaiah telling the truth? Either Micaiah is defying the Lord -- unlikely -- or the Lord wants Ahab to be told the truth and given one last chance to change his mind if only he listens to reason.

What was Micaiah’s reward for telling Ahab the truth? One of Ahab’s men punched him and the king had him thrown into a dungeon and fed only bread and water. He was to remain in prison until Ahab’s return. Unintimidated, Micaiah replied: You’re not coming back.

And so it came to pass. Ahab lost the battle and was slain. The Bible doesn’t say what happened to Micaiah, but I like to think he was immediately released from prison and lived happily ever after being able to say, I told you so!

Whether you are religious, agnostic, or atheist, this story is equally appropriate. Say, for example, that Micaiah evaluated the quality of each side’s troops, the weapons they used, and the terrain they were fighting on. And the others engaged in wishful thinking, told the king what he wanted to hear, or didn’t know what they were talking about.

This story brought home to me that to do one’s task rightly, to bear witness honestly, and to face the consequences without flinching should be the hallmarks of my field. What else should a writer, teacher, or intellectual do?  Unfortunately, at times one seems to be outnumbered by 400 to 1, in both numbers and audience size.

Micaiah had a good answer as to how to know who was right: Watch and see who is right according to the outcome! Or as he put it more elegantly to Ahab: “If you ever come home safe, the Lord has not spoken through me.”

Not always, of course, is the proof of who is correct so quickly at hand. Yet there are many such indications available on a daily basis.

If the Palestinians make peace with Israel; the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizballah, Iran, and other Islamists turn out to be moderates; Syria is a democratic success story, and many other such things come to pass, I guess I was wrong.

Otherwise, you can't say I didn't warn you!