1 Kings 22:1-53
The king of Israel, Ahab, and the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, considered an alliance to recapture Ramoth Gilead from the Arameans. However, this would break three years of peace.
Ahab brought together four hundred ‘prophets’, who confirmed this was a good idea.
However, Jehoshaphat was suspicious about these ‘prophets’ credentials and motives. They might have just been trying to please the kings. He wanted to enquire of a real prophet (1 Kings 22:7). Someone brave enough to always speak the truth.
Ahab admitted there was still one prophet of the Lord but he hated him because he always said bad things about him (1 Kings 22:8), which is hardly surprising.
Ahab sent a messenger to fetch the Lord’s prophet, Micaiah, son of Imlah. The messenger kindly tipped Micaiah off that all the false prophets had prophesied a victory and so maybe he should agree. Micaiah refused to compromise as should we. He would only speak what the Lord told him to speak (1 Kings 22:14).
Hilariously, Micaiah does lie when he first speaks to Ahab and tells him he will be victorious. However, Ahab immediately sees through the sarcasm / unusually positive message and commands him to tell the truth (1 Kings 22:16). Micaiah then prophesied that Israel would be scattered like sheep without a shepherd i.e. that Ahab would die. I think that 1 Kings 22:18 is probably the funniest verse in the bible.
Micaiah was adamant that an angel had acted as a ‘lying spirit’ in the mouths of all the other prophets to entice Ahab to his death (1 Kings 22:28).
The two kings ignored Micaiah and went into battle. Ahab was hit between the sections of his armour by a random arrow and died. All the Israelite fighters scattered back to their own land, exactly as Micaiah had predicted.
In contrast to Ahab, Jehoshaphat (the King of Judah) did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. He took after his father Asa. However, he still didn’t remove the high places and people still worshipped there. He did rid the land of the rest of the shrine prostitutes. Unusually, he was at peace with the kings of Israel. He reigned for twenty-five years.
After Ahab, Israel was ruled by another evil king, Ahaziah. As his parents were Ahab and Jezebel, this was hardly surprising. He provoked God to anger, just as his father had done, which is never a good idea.
A man who had an evil spirit attacked the seven sons of Sceva, Jewish exorcists, and beat them severely. Evil spirits are very legalistic and know who has the authority to exorcise them. We all have authority to say deliverance prayers for ourselves, our married partners and our own children. However, lay Christians are banned from saying the formal Latin exorcism prayer; that is only for fully ordained priests, who have gained permission from the bishop. Demons know who the local priest is in each area and they know who the bishop of the diocese is. They will eventually obey and leave a person if the correct hierarchical protocol has been followed.
As lay Christians, we can pray ‘prayers of deliverance’ for anyone plagued by an evil spirit but we do this ‘in the name of Jesus’. It is his authority we are invoking. The success of these prayers depends on our level of faith in Jesus and how the Holy Spirit has gifted us. The more faithful Christians that join in with a deliverance prayer the better but non-believing onlookers should be sent away. Praying in tongues can also be highly effective as the Holy Spirit will then pray the perfect prayer for that situation. The Sons of Sceva were attacked because they did not have personal faith in Jesus and thus had no authority over the evil spirit. However, even official exorcists may sometimes need to pin a fully possessed person down with the help of several strong men or use restraints, as fully possessed people can occasionally attack even those with full authority to exorcise them and have supernatural strength. People should not pray for possessed people by themselves unless there is no alternative / it is an emergency.
The most effective exorcist, after Jesus, is the Blessed Virgin Mary. There have been several women throughout history who were able to exorcise difficult cases, when everyone else had failed to do so. Saint Catherine of Siena was a notable exorcist and we can still call on her today to pray for us: https://www.catholicexorcism.org/post/exorcist-diary-143-female-exorcists?postId=a5e613e1-14b0-40c9-b8a8-f6ba2f821939
This story shows one of the reasons why God still allows the devil and his demons to possess people. The Jews and Greeks in Ephesus were seized with fear and ‘the name of Jesus was held in high honour’. People openly confessed their evil deeds (Acts 19:17-18). If you are a believer and you witness one of your friends or family members becoming fully possessed, it can strengthen both your and the energumen’s (possessed person’s) faith. People came to burn their sorcery scrolls, which may have helped free themselves from demonic oppression / possession (Acts 19:20). Hopefully, someone in Ephesus took the aggressive possessed person to one of the disciples who would have been able to exorcise him in the name of Jesus.
Paul decided to go to Jerusalem, followed eventually by Rome. He planned a strategy to take the Gospel to the centre of the Roman empire.
Craftsmen in Ephesus had their livelihoods threatened because demand was going down for man-made silver shrines and other idols. The whole city went into uproar for fear that wealthy pilgrims would stop visiting the temple of Artemis. Paul wanted to appear before the rioting crowd but the disciples would not let him. The city clerk eventually quietened the crowd saying that any issues should be settled in court and not by mob rule.
These days, Christian shrines are surrounded by religious souvenir shops so people are still making a living from tourists having switched from pagan deities to the one true God.
We are meant to listen to and appreciate valid criticism, it will increase our wisdom and understanding.
We avoid evil because of our fear of the Lord. It also teaches us wisdom.
God looks at our motives. We should do everything out of love and faithfulness for the Lord.
Our plans will succeed if we commit to the Lord whatever we do (Prov.16:3).
No matter what disasters befall us, the Lord will work out everything for his own ends (Prov.16:4).
God wants us to show humility as he detests the proud of heart. We can live in peace with all if our ways are pleasing to the Lord.
Image: Distant Shores Media/Sweet Publishing, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons