Reading through 1 Kings 20 this morning reminded me of a common tactic employed by prophets that always causes a bit of a smirk to cross my face. Of course, if I was on the receiving end of the tactic, I doubt I would be smiling. In fact, not only would I not be smiling, I would probably be vexed and sullen just like ol’ king Ahab. First, the background of the story for context.
Ben-Hadad the king of Syria sent messengers to Ahab (king of Israel) that said that Ben-Hadad was expecting Ahab to hand over all of his silver, gold and even his best wives and children. Initially Ahab agreed to Ben-Hadad’s request and answered, “As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have.” (1 Kings 20:4) But then Ben-Hadad’s messengers returned once again and communicated a slightly amended request. Now, they would search Ahab’s house and the houses of his servants and take whatever they pleased. Ahab consults with his elders and returns a message saying that he will own up to the first commitment but he will not agree to this change in terms. This of course results in Ben-Hadad offering a threat and ordering his men to take up their positions.
To make a long story short, a prophet delivers a message to Ahab indicating that he is to initiate war with the Syrians and that he will be victorious so that the Lord would be known. After two successful campaigns – one in the hills and one in the valley – Ben-Hadad throws himself at the mercy of Ahab and begs for his life. After Ben-Hadad promises to restore the cities to Ahab that were previously taken by Ben-Hadad’s father, Ahab agrees and makes a covenant with Ben-Hadad and releases him.
After hearing of all this, a prophet has one of his companions strike him in the face and then he puts a bandage on his wound. After meeting Ahab on the road the prophet makes up a story about how he was in the battle and was charged with guarding a prisoner but due to him being distracted, the prisoner got away. The promised penalty if he did not faithfully guard the prisoner was death. Ahab replies and says, “So shall your judgement be; you yourself have decided it.” Bingo. Time for the prophet to remove the bandage, reveal his true self, and point out how Ahab himself had just done this very same thing. He had Ben-Hadad, whom God had given into Ahab’s hand and devoted to destruction, and yet he had let him go free. Therefore (says the Lord through the prophet) your life shall be for his life, and your people for his people.The result, is that Ahab goes way sullen and vexed.
The prophet doesn’t just come right out and confront Ahab with what he had done and then hand down the judgement. In a sense, he allowed Ahab to establish the judgment on himself by giving him an opportunity to reflect on a similar scenario that involved someone else. It’s called perspective and sometimes when it involves ourselves, we don’t have it. This is why it is so important to have relationships with Spirit-led people that are willing to speak the truth in love.
While reading this earlier today, it reminded me of how Nathan caused David to do the same thing regarding his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite. Remember, Nathan told David the story of a rich man and poor man and their sheep. David was so enraged at the events of the story that he said that the rich man (who did the despicable things) deserved to die. With that, Nathan replied, “You are that man!”. You see, both Ahab and David were willing and able to see the speck in someone else’s eye while being clueless to the plank in their own.
It makes me wonder about the things in my life that perhaps God wants to use to reveal some truth about me and my own heart. How often am I willing to judge how other people are living their live, or raising their children, or loving their wife, or worshiping the Lord when I should really be asking the Lord to search my own heart and to reveal any offensive ways that might exist in my own life? Definitely something for me to consider today (and every day thereafter).