In sports, Triple OT is both a blessing and a curse.
When an NHL playoff game reaches a third overtime period, you know you’re watching history in the making. It’s epic, it’s dramatic. And yet, the fact you’ve arrived at Triple OT at all means you’ve already sat through 100 minutes of grown men chasing a rubber disc around with sticks, and for at least the past 40 minutes of play, none of them has managed to pop this tiny disc into a 24-square-foot target. If you’re a big fan of one of the teams, it’s stressful, it’s exhausting (even just for the fans), it’s way past your bedtime and, although you probably wouldn’t admit it to your friends, it’s kinda boring.
I’ve tried to keep things brief, but the Spirit seems to have a lot to say about Himself through me, so after more than 2,600 words of OT so far, let’s continue:
Ahab and Micaiah
When we think about Israelite King Ahab’s run-ins with prophets, the name that pops up the most is Elijah. But the king also had trouble with a guy named Micaiah, who invoked the (Other) S-Word famously and ominously in 1 Kings 22.
Ahab wants to go to war with the Arameans, and at the suggestion of his ally, Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, he consults some prophets to see if it’s a good idea. Four-hundred prophets agree that Judah and Israel will be victorious.
And yet …
7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”
In the verse prior to this, the 400 prophets said in so many words that ‘the Lord will give it into the king’s hand’. But apparently, these prophets had were not of the Lord, and Jehoshaphat knew it – so he asked (taunted, really) Ahab to consult a genuine prophet. Ahab, laughably, whines that none of the real prophets are ever on his side, failing to grasp the obvious reality (in hindsight, at least) that this probably means Ahab himself is not on God’s side!
But Ahab does finally does consult Micaiah, who provides this startling revelation about the 400 prophets:
19 Micaiah continued, “Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the multitudes of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left.20 And the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?’
“One suggested this, and another that. 21 Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’
22 “‘By what means?’ the Lord asked.
“‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,’ he said.
“‘You will succeed in enticing him,’ said the Lord. ‘Go and do it.’
23 “So now the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you.”
So apparently, the 400 prophets aren’t mere false yes-men cynically and deliberately telling Ahab what he wants to hear, they’re genuine prophets legitimately attuned to the spiritual realm. But the spirits they’re connected with are deliberately feeding them bad intel – on the instructions of God! And to make matters more confusing, God deliberately revealed this bit of deception to Micaiah, so he could warn Ahab of the deception that He Himself had ordered.
As they helped us this morning to get a grip on whether God actually sent the spirits that tormented Saul in 1 Samuel 16:14, our friends at the Apologetics Press are able to shed light on the notion of God putting a deceiving spirit in the mouths of the prophets. The author of this article stresses the importance of not taking prophetic visions too literally, and of remembering that the concepts of ‘sending’ and ‘allowing’ are blurred in the Hebrew idioms used here.
Rather than getting bogged down in that, I think it’s important to note that Ahab knew full well that Micaiah spoke for God, and that the 400 did not. And yet, he ignored the good advice from Micaiah and followed the self-destructive path advocated by the 400.
But that’s typical for Ahab – this vain, short-sighted king had rejected the Spirit’s commands and rebukes time and again during his reign.
And yet, even after two decades of arrogant disobedience, God never quite give up on him. Even in this episode, He graciously sent Micaiah to warn him, and to deliver one last chance to repent and begin to become the king he could have been.
But Ahab said no to the Spirit of God.
And it cost him his life.
Which voices do you listen to and obey in your life: the 400 that tell you what you want to hear, or the One who tells you what you need to hear?
Elijah and Elisha
Earlier in this post, I mentioned Elijah the Prophet. I’ve written about his famous exploits a fair bit in the past, but today I want to talk about his final moments.
In 1 Kings 19, Elijah anointed Elisha to succeed him, following God’s instructions. Elisha responded to the call in dramatic fashion, burning the tools of his old life. What follows is one of the great partnerships and mentorships in the entire Bible. Elisha is a very faithful apprentice to his master.
Years later, in 2 Kings 2:9, when Elijah is about to be taken to heaven, Elisha asks Elijah for ‘a double portion of his spirit’.
‘”You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two.’ – 1 Kings 19:10-12
It’s confirmed through this passage that Elisha does indeed receive a double-portion of Elijah’s spirit. Yay!
… But what does that even mean?
Several times in the Books of Kings, a company of prophets is mentioned. These guys are apparently legitimate prophets (not like Ahab’s cronies discussed above), and Elijah is their leader. In a sense, because they all follow Elijah, they all have ‘a portion’ of Elijah’s spirit. Elisha asks for a double portion knowing he is to succeed Elijah as their leader, so he can know he will be up to the job.
As I mentioned in Going Into OT regarding the succession of Joshua, I wonder if anything actually changed in Elisha in this moment, other than his own view of himself. Was he already fully gifted with this ‘double portion’ and everything else he needed to take over for Elijah? And was the purpose of the vision not to bestow, but to reveal?
To what task(s) has God called you? Are you waiting for divine reassurance that you can do it (whatever ‘it’ is for you)? Could these words you’re reading right now be that revelation for you?
† † †
Alright, that’s it. No more OT for us in this series – although after more than 3,700 words, I still don’t feel like we’ve scratched the surface on the (Other) S-Word in the Old Testament. If this whetted your appetite for OT Spirit references, I encourage you to do your own study. Use the BibleGateway search engine and take a couple of hours to explore this mysterious word. Sink your teeth into the Psalms, Proverbs and Job, Explore the many uses of this word in the prophetic books.
In some instances, ‘Spirit’ is a synonym for God. In others, it refers to lesser ethereal beings – both good and evil. It also seems to refer to what we would today describe as ‘talents’ or ‘passions’.
Yes, the (Other) S-Word is a multi-nuanced thing in the Old Testament world.
Just like it is in today’s world.
Peace be with you.