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Why did God use a lying spirit to deceive Ahab (1 Kings 22:19-23)?

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1 Kings 22:19-23 “And Micaiah said, “Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the LORD said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.”

To get an understanding of this incident rightly, we need to understand the context. King Ahab is considered one of the evilest of all the kings in Israel (1 Kings 16:30). He was married to an evil woman named Jezebel who tried to destroy God’s people (1 Kings 18:4). In turn, Ahab worshipped Baal and Asherah and led the people into idol worship. Because of that, the prophet Elijah warned of the coming judgment. Ahab continued to disobey God by failing to destroy Ben-Hadad, king of Haram. Instead of obeying God’s command, he did the opposite and made a treaty with the king. Eventually, Ahab goes on to covet Naboth’s vineyard to the point that he would do anything to obtain it. When Naboth denied selling it to Ahab, his wife Jezebel devised a plan to murder Naboth and get his field. When Ahab and Jezebel carried out the plan, and Naboth was murdered, God pronounces judgment on him in 1 Kings 21:19. 

At the pronouncement of this judgment, Ahab repents humbly before God by tearing his clothes, putting on sackcloth, and fasting. Because of Ahab’s repentance, God says that He will not bring the disaster in Ahab’s days (1 Kings 21:25-29). This is yet another example of the “amazing grace” of God for those who humble themselves before God in repentance. Later, Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, came to the king of Israel (Ahab), and Ahab asked Jehoshaphat whether he would join him in retaking Ramoth Gilead – to which Jehoshaphat agreed. So. Ahab gathered about 400 prophets to determine if he should go ahead with the campaign. These were not true prophets of the Lord because Jehoshaphat asks, “Is there not here another prophet of the LORD of whom we may inquire?” (1 Kings 22:7). In response, there was one man, Micaiah, the son of Imlah, whom Ahab disliked because he never prophesied good concerning him. In other words, Ahab did not hear anything according to his “own” liking. He did not want to listen to the word of God and obey it humbly. There are many such people in the world today who do not want to hear the true word of God. Instead, they would gather around them a significant number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4). 

Just as before, the prophet Micaiah was brought before the kings to inquire of the Lord. Micaiah first said, go forth and be victorious, but Ahab probably sensed the sarcasm and demanded the truth. When Micaiah said the truth, and there would be defeat, Ahab was furious and rejected the word of God. Instead, to feed his ego listened to the false prophets. Therefore, due to the hardness of Ahab’s heart, Miciah sees a vision of the lying spirit.

You see, when people continue to disobey God and harden their hearts toward His council, God will eventually give them up to the judgment fitting to their deeds. God is merciful and kind and will forgive all those who come to him humbly. But on the other hand, He is also a righteous judge, who will judge the iniquity and hardness of man’s heart. 

We can see many examples of this throughout scripture. 

  • In Exodus 9:12, God hardens Pharaoh’s heart. When Pharaoh resisted letting go of God’s people and hardened his heart (Exodus 8:15; 8:32), God, in turn, hardens Pharaoh’s heart.
  • In Romans 1, because of man’s continuous rebellion against God and the knowledge of God, they are given over to a “debased” mind so that they may revel in the sin they love, and so face divine judgment (Romans 1:28)
  • In 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12, God sends a strong delusion on all those who refused to love the truth and be saved so that they may believe what is false and be condemned because they had pleasure in unrighteousness
  • And many other examples.

Now, what about the lying spirit? Michaiah sees in a vision the LORD on the throne and saying “who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead?” (1 Kings 22:20). Notice, this is God’s righteous judgment because of the continuous hardness of Ahab’s heart and not wanting to hear the truth of what God has to say. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ (1 Kings 22:21). It seems that an evil spirit was also present at this event. We see a similar situation in the book of Job where Satan presents himself before the LORD. Job 1:6 says, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them.” 

The devil is always ready to bring destruction, yet he has no more power than God gives him. Evil spirits love to be employed to bring harm to mankind, and in fact, they go about seeking whom they may devour (1 Peter 5:8). This lying spirit is not to be counted as part of the heavenly host but is to be counted in the group of the evil spirits, of which the leader is Satan. In fact, Satan is called the father of lies (John 8:44). Satan is also called the accuser of the saints (Revelation 12:10). An example of thi can be seen in Zechariah 3:1, saying, “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.”

These evil spirits will be judged for the wrong they do, even though God used them to bring about His judgment on those who deserve it. Finally, these examples from the Bible are a solid warning to examine our hearts. To make sure we do not continue in the hardness of our hearts but to come before God in humbleness. Otherwise, we can expect His righteous judgment. God is a righteous judge, and He only gives us what we deserve. Yet among this, we see His amazing grace at work for all those who seek Him in humbleness and repentance. Psalm 92:15 says, “to declare that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”

So, in conclusion, God used a lying spirit to bring about judgment on Ahab because he loved to listen to the lies of the false prophets. He loved evil rather than righteousness and continuously disobeyed God. So, God brings about His divine judgment upon Him.

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