I Kings 23
I Kings 23:13-14:
And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”
In Kings we read about wicked King Ahab convincing his friend King Jehoshaphat to join him in a military campaign. Jehoshaphat wants to have some prophets inquire of the Lord before they head into battle. So Ahab gathers 400 false prophets together. They all predict success. Jehoshaphat, however, isn’t satisfied. So Ahab begrudgingly invites Micaiah, a true prophet of God, to add his word. What sort of word does Micaiah bring? Let’s listen:
And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.” But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.” (1 Kings 23:13-14)
That sounds clear enough, doesn’t it? But continue listening:
And when he had come to the king, the king said to him, “Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?” And he answered him, “Go up and triumph; the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.” But the king said to him, “How many times shall I make you swear that you speak to me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?” And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’” (1 Kings 22:15-17)
Notice Micaiah’s prophetic strategy: The first time he spoke, he intentionally misrepresented the words of God. Only when pressed to clarify did he present God’s words accurately.
Why did Micaiah do this? What did Micaiah achieve through satire that he would not have achieved if he had spoken God’s word accurately and directly the first time?
I can think of at least two good answers. First, Micaiah’s satirical approach forced Ahab to work harder to learn the truth. This is consistent with the pattern of God’s dealings with humanity; he often withholds truth from those who seek it only casually. Sometimes he does this to leave rebellious souls in the dark. Other times he withholds light in order to make sincere seekers seek it more earnestly. Effective communication—including some forms of satire—can make the listener or reader work harder. If they work harder, they can learn more. The same is true of biblical proverbs and parables; just enough light is given to make the earnest seeker scratch his head, asking questions that uncover much more truth—and lodge it deeper in his heart–than if facts were handed to him without any effort on his part.
Second, Micaiah’s satirical approach effectively exposed Ahab’s heart. His words uncovered Ahab’s ruse; Ahab had no real desire to hear God’s word, despite his pious religious pretending. Sarcasm pricked his pretensions in a powerful way. It triggered what was virtually a confession: “I know that God doesn’t have good things to say about me.”-Dwight Gingrich