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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

1 Kings 22

Verse 8

DISCOURSE: 354
FAITHFUL MINISTERS OBJECTS OF HATRED

1 Kings 22:8. I hate him; for he doth not speak good concerning me, but evil.

IT is generally supposed that sentiments adopted by the great mass of mankind, especially if they be maintained also by those who from their personal advantages and official character are considered as best qualified to judge, must, of necessity, be right. But, whatever deference may be due to the opinions of others, we cannot concede to any man, or to any number of men, that measure of confidence which is due to God alone. Even in relation to arts and sciences, we frequently find that universally received axioms are at length exploded, and systems of a very different aspect established in opposition to them. In religion there is but one standard, to which every thing must be referred; and how numerous or learned soever the persons may be who would impose their sentiments upon us, we must bring them all “to the word and to the testimony,” and discard every thing which accords not with that unerring test. On a subject of great importance to the kings of Israel and of Judah, no less than four hundred prophets were consulted: and they all, with one voice, gave their judgment in such a way, as to flatter the pride, and gratify the inclinations, of those who consulted them. But there was one poor despised prophet, Micaiah, whom Ahab had intentionally kept in the back-ground, because he dreaded the advice which he might give: and, when inquiry was made respecting him, Ahab said, “I hate him; because he doth not speak good concerning me, but evil.”
Now, though this saying had respect to one individual, and may therefore be supposed to be confined to him, the reason assigned by Ahab is of a general nature, and is applicable to all who faithfully declare the mind of God. This saying therefore of Ahab will furnish me with a fit occasion to shew,

I.

The necessity imposed on every faithful minister—

A servant of God must declare the truth with fearless and impartial freedom. Fidelity is essential to his very character.

1.

God requires it of us—

[Ministers are ambassadors from God, and must deliver faithfully the message intrusted to them. An unfaithful man may be called a servant of God; but he is, in fact, a servant rather of the devil, who assumes in him the appearance of “an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:13; 2 Corinthians 11:15.].” St. Paul’s representation is this: “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:1-2.].” And to every such character God gives this solemn charge: “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat [Note: Jeremiah 23:28.]?” We are not to fear the face of man, but to speak the truth of God, “whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear [Note: Ezekiel 2:6-7.].” And when men say to us, “Prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits [Note: Isaiah 30:9-10.],” our answer must be like that of Micaiah, “As the Lord liveth, what the Lord saith unto me, that will I speak [Note: ver. 14.].” God has plainly told us, that “if we seek to please men, we cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ [Note: Galatians 1:10.].”]

2.

It is of the utmost importance to all to whom we speak—

[It is to be expected that men who look to us for instruction will imbibe the sentiments we convey. And if we deceive them in relation to temporal matters, the mistake, though injurious, may be rectified: but if we mislead them in their everlasting concerns, the consequence must be fatal. It is doubtless a great misfortune to any, if, like Ahab, they be betrayed by false prophets and by blind guides: but, like Ahab, they will reap the bitter fruits of such erroneous counsels. Our blessed Lord, by a very simple figure, conveys to us this truth in a most convincing way: “If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch [Note: Matthew 15:14.]?” We cannot doubt of this, in relation to this world; nor is there any more reason to doubt of it in relation to eternity. It will be no excuse to any, especially to any who have had the Scriptures in their hands, that they were deceived. They had access to the fountain of knowledge; and they might have obtained by prayer the influences of the Holy Spirit to instruct them: and therefore they are altogether responsible for the errors they have imbibed, and for the counsels they have followed. In them will surely be fulfilled that declaration of the prophet, “The leaders of this people cause them to err; and they that are led of them are destroyed [Note: Isaiah 9:16.].”]

3.

The salvation of our own souls depends upon it—

[As from God we have received our commission, so to God are we responsible for our execution of it. In truth, so awful is our responsibility, that nothing but a conviction that “a dispensation is committed to us,” and that we are “called to it by the Holy Ghost,” could prevail upon us to undertake the office of ministering to immortal souls. Hear what God himself has spoken to us: “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand [Note: Ezekiel 3:17-18.].” Here you see, that if the consequences be fatal to others, they are doubly so to ourselves: for they who perish through our unfaithfulness, have only their own souls to answer for: but we must perish under the accumulated guilt of destroying, not our own souls only, but the souls of all that have been committed to our charge. Well does the Apostle Paul again and again make that request: “Brethren, pray for us:” for indeed we need your prayers; since we are sure to incur man’s displeasure, if we are faithful; and God’s displeasure, if, through any motive whatever, we shrink from a full discharge of our duty.]

Ahab’s mind towards the faithful Micaiah shews to every minister,

II.

The recompence he must expect for his fidelity—

It might be supposed, that in proportion to the fidelity with which he exercises his office, a minister should be loved: but by the ungodly world he will rather be hated like Micaiah, and for the very same reason, “because he doth not speak good concerning them, but evil.” This hatred to him will be,

1.

Invariable—

[If we go back to the beginning of the world, we shall not find one faithful minister that ever escaped the hatred of those around him. Noah “condemned the world” in his ministrations; and was regarded by them with scorn and contempt. If we ask how Moses, David, Elijah, and all the prophets were treated? our Lord has told us; “Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted?” As for the Apostles, our blessed Lord plainly warned them, that they also should have their cross to bear, being “hated, reviled, persecuted, for his sake.” But it may be thought that our blessed Saviour could never become an object of aversion to any; since the perfection of his wisdom, and the extent of his goodness, and the efficiency of his power, would preclude a possibility of his being regarded with any feelings but those of love and gratitude. Yet, though “he spake as never man spake,” and wrought miracles far more numerous than those which had been wrought from the foundation of the world, he was more an object of hatred than any other: as he says; “The world cannot hate you: but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil [Note: John 7:7.].” Even at this day there is not to be found on earth one faithful minister who does not experience the truth of that assertion, “If they have hated me, they will hate you also.” It matters not what wisdom these servants of God exercise, or what talents they possess, or what blamelessness they maintain; if they will discharge their duty faithfully to God and man, they shall surely be made conformable to their Saviour’s image in this respect: for, “if men called the Master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household.”]

2.

Universal—

[It is not the profane and profligate alone that will hate the servants of God; but the moral, the sober, and those who have in some respect a regard for religion. Indeed, those who are of more decent habits are, for the most part, the very leaders in opposition to the faithful ministers of Christ; insomuch that Satan found not any more willing or more efficient instruments to persecute Paul and Barnabas, than a number of “devout and honourable women [Note: Acts 13:50.].” Bound as kings are to protect the servants of the Most High, they have often been found their most cruel oppressors. Ahab would gladly have wreaked his vengeance on Elijah, even as Jezebel had already done on a vast multitude of the Lord’s prophets: and at different periods have the great and mighty of the earth exerted all their power to extirpate the servants of the Lord. From this enmity no rank or order of men is exempt: “the fat bulls of Basan” have been forward to lead the way; and “dogs have joined in compassing” about the servants of the Lord, to destroy them. Even little children have encouraged one another in this impious work. No less than forty-two of them ridiculed Elisha, saying, “Go up, thou bald head! go up, thou bald head!” expressing thereby their contempt, if not their disbelief, of the miracle that had been wrought in the assumption of the prophet Elijah in a fiery chariot to heaven. And so, at this day, we can scarcely have a surer criterion of the state of men’s minds towards religion, than in the conduct of their children towards the faithful ministers of Christ. So true is that declaration of our blessed Lord to his faithful servants, “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.”]

3.

Inveterate—

[There is no other thing which excites so much enmity as this. Persons guilty of any crime meet with some compassion: and, if they be treated with too much severity, they will find some to vindicate their cause. But a faithful servant of Christ may be persecuted with ever so much virulence, and none will venture to interpose for him. Ahab acknowledged that he had no other ground of displeasure against Micaiah, than his fidelity in declaring the messages of the Most High. And when he avowed both his hostility to him, and the grounds of it, Jehoshaphat, notwithstanding his piety, dared not to espouse the cause of this injured prophet any further, than merely to suggest, “Let not the king say so.” And, when he heard the prophet doomed to imprisonment and all its attendant horrors, he uttered not one word in his defence, but left him to experience all the wrath of his vindictive persecutor. So it was with our Lord. When he stood at Pilate’s bar, not one, out of the many thousands whom he had healed, would bear testimony in his favour, or endeavour to avert from him his impending doom. So it is at this day: “all manner of evil may be spoken, and spoken falsely,” respecting a pious minister; and the utmost that any one will dare to say in his behalf, is, “Let not the king say so.” True it is, that persecution does not rage to the same extent as formerly; but this is owing to the laws of the land, and to the spirit of toleration which has superseded the bigotry of former times: the enmity of men’s hearts, if unrestrained, would break forth with the very same fury that it ever did; and the cry of “Crucify him, crucify him,” would be heard, wherever the character of Christ and his Apostles was exhibited.]

Desirous, however, of approving myself to God, let me address,
1.

Those who, like Ahab, determinately follow their own way—

[Of Ahab’s idolatries, I say nothing. The point before us is, his determination to follow his own way for his own temporal advantage. And need I say how common a character this is? I dare not, then, “speak flattering words” to such persons. No: “I cannot speak good concerning them, but evil.” Indeed, my Brethren, God’s will must be regarded by you as of paramount obligation; and, if you will not obey his voice, you must inevitably perish. Tell me not whether a Jehoshaphat concurs with you, or false prophets uphold you: if all the Jehoshaphats in the universe concur with you, or all the false prophets in the world support you, I care not for it: it is at their own peril so to do; and it is by God’s word, and not by man’s precept or example, that you shall be judged in the last day. Let me not, then, be deemed “your enemy, because I tell you the truth [Note: Galatians 4:16.].” I cannot “sew pillars to your arm-holes,” or “daub your wall with untempered mortar.” ”I cannot speak peace to you, when there is no peace [Note: Ezekiel 13:10-11; Ezekiel 13:16; Eze 13:18 with Jeremiah 6:14.].” Believe me, Brethren, there is no happiness but in serving God; there is no safety but in an entire surrender of your souls to him — — —]

2.

Those who are induced to make compliances which their own consciences condemn—

[Be assured that a holy firmness in the way of duty is best. Your ill-advised compliances will only bring shame and trouble to your own souls. Who can tell what might have been the result to Ahab, if Jehoshaphat had acted with the firmness that became him? He might, perhaps, have prevented all the evil that ensued. And you also, my Brethren, if you will be faithful to your God, may prove blessings to many, whom by your dissimulation and cowardice you deceive. Let every child of God consider himself as a witness for God: let him “shine as a light in a dark world:” let no consideration under heaven tempt him to be “a partaker of other men’s sins.” Let him “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them [Note: Ephesians 5:11.].” Yea, let him rebuke sin, though he be hated for it; and act uprightly, though he be abhorred for it [Note: Amos 5:10.]. And whatever any man may suffer for righteousness’ sake, let him rejoice in the thought, that they so persecuted the prophets that were before him, and that in proportion to his sufferings will be his reward in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:11-12.].]


Verses 19-23

DISCOURSE: 355
SATAN’S STRATAGEM TO DECEIVE AHAB

1 Kings 22:19-23. And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.

IN order to have a correct view of Scripture truths, we must consider particularly the style in which the Scriptures are written. They are accommodated to the weak apprehensions of fallen man. Hence in various descriptions of the Deity, he is represented as having eyes and ears and hands, and as deliberating and acting according to circumstances, just as if he were a man like unto us. But we must not therefore conceive of him as a man, but only as ordering his dispensations towards us with unerring wisdom. In like manner he is represented in the text as holding a conference with Satan, and as adopting a plan proposed by him for the effecting of purposes originating with himself. But we must not therefore suppose that God did not know how to effect his own purposes without any help from Satan: we must only understand that God overruled the devices of that wicked fiend for the accomplishment of his own will.
Indeed the particular representation here given, has an evident reference to what had actually taken place between the two confederate kings. They had put on their royal robes, and seated themselves on thrones in the midst of all their courtiers [Note: ver. 10.], in order to receive the counsel of the prophets respecting the projected war: and, agreeably to that, the prophet represents the Deity as enthroned amidst all the heavenly hosts, and holding a counsel with them about the best method of inflicting on Ahab his deserved punishment. It is not intended that we should construe this literally, as if all these questions and answers were really uttered by the different parties in a public assembly; but merely that God determined to make the designs of Ahab the means of his destruction.

There is however one point which may obviously be collected from this account, namely, the power of Satan to deceive men; and it will form a very profitable subject for our present consideration. Let us then inquire into,

I.

The sources of his power—

Satan has from the beginning been the great deceiver of mankind. But whence has he this power to deceive? We answer,

1.

From his having so many other spirits under his command—

[The fallen angels are many in number, and so numerous, that one single person possessed by devils called Himself “Legion,” because of the exceeding greatness of the number that dwelt within him. Of these there are different ranks and orders, just as there are of the good angels; and they are all united under one head, even “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” Of Ahab’s prophets there were four hundred; and, through the influence of one spirit, they were all possessed by spirits perfectly united with each other for the accomplishment of one end. Now this gives them an immense advantage. Had there been but one, or only a few, we might have hoped to escape their notice, or be visited by them but seldom: but there is reason to believe that they are immensely more numerous than the human race, so that there is not a human being that is not infested with them, nor a moment of time when they are not ready to take advantage of us.]

2.

From his wisdom and subtlety—

[” The serpent was the most subtle of the brute creation,” and was therefore made use of by Satan as an instrument whereby to deceive our first parents: and in reference to that event, Satan is called “that old serpent, the Devil [Note: Revelation 12:9.].” Of his subtlety there is much spoken in the Holy Scriptures. Like a fowler he spreads his net, and “takes men alive in his snare [Note: 2 Timothy 2:26. The Greek.]:” and so deep are his “wiles” and “devices,” that no human wisdom can fathom them, no human sagacity escape them. As a spirit, he is a pure intelligence, like the holy angels, disrobed indeed of his holiness, but not of his intellectual powers. He knows what is suited to the dispositions of men, and what is most likely to prevail with them under all the circumstances wherein they are placed. In his assaults on our blessed Lord, he seized the moment most favourable for his purpose, and urged the temptations most likely to prevail: and it is reasonable to suppose, that the experience of six thousand years has contributed not a little to his proficiency and advancement in every species of guile.]

3.

From his easy access to the minds of men—

[A material being would have found difficulty in presenting himself to men on many occasions: but an immaterial or spiritual being finds no obstacles, except what arise from the internal principles of those whom he would assault. He has access to one as well as another at all times. What an immense advantage does this give him! Indeed, if it were not that we have good angels also attendant on us and ministering unto us, and, above all, that we have the Spirit of the living God continually dwelling in us for the express purpose of counteracting and defeating his influence, we could have no hope whatever of escaping from his toils.]

4.

From the number and influence of his confederates—

[There is not a wicked man in the universe who is not actuated by him, and made subservient to his designs: from all of them therefore he derives much support; but especially from those, whose situation in life gives them greater sway over the public mind. If he can prevail on a prince or monarch to exert his influence, he will gain a rapid ascendency over a whole kingdom. The instant that Jeroboam set up his golden calves, the whole people of Israel “willingly ran after his commandment.” And if he can prevail on those in the prophetic office to sanction error by their preaching, or iniquity by their conduct, he will easily draw in their train the great mass of their followers. The text shews us how the united testimony of four hundred prophets deceived even the pious Jehoshaphat: and the more pretensions to piety such prophets make, the more useful to Satan will their labours be; since he never exerts himself with more effect than when he “transforms himself into an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.].”]

5.

From the willingness of men to be deceived—

[This perhaps is the greatest source of his power. Men are not impartial judges of good and evil, or of truth and error: their judgment is warped: they have corrupt inclinations which bias them [Note: Isaiah 44:20; Jeremiah 8:5; Jeremiah 9:6.]: their own “heart is deceitful and desperately wicked:” and hence, when Satan has undertaken to assault them, he finds traitors in their own bosoms ready to open the gates to him, and to admit him into the very citadel, before they are aware of his approach. The truth of this is manifested whenever an attempt is made to suppress evil or inculcate good. We see in a moment to which side men lean, and that arguments are weighed, not according to their real solidity, but according to the aspect they bear on our favourite propensities. Of course, this is extremely favourable to the interests of Satan, who needs only to present things to us in a specious view, and is sure beforehand that we shall be as ready to comply with his temptations, as he is to solicit our compliance. The case of Ahab is one of daily occurrence: thousands there are who hate the light, and say to their ministers, “Prophesy unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits [Note: Jeremiah 5:31.].” It is obvious therefore that Satan finds in the very dispositions of men the most successful advocate, and able coadjutor.]

Having seen the sources of his power to deceive, we proceed to point out,

II.

The limits—

Doubtless his power is inconceivably great, since he deceived man even in his state of innocence, and from that time has “deceived the whole world [Note: Revelation 12:9.].” But his power is limited,

1.

In its duration—

[Satan shall not always have the ascendant that he now has: there is a time coming, (and, we hope, at no great distance now,) when he shall “be bound, and deceive the nations no more for the space of a thousand years [Note: Revelation 20:1-3; Revelation 20:7.].” What a blessed period will that be! What peace, and joy, and holiness will abound in the Church, when that wicked fiend shall cease from defiling and troubling the souls of men [Note: Zec 14:20-21 with Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 60:19-22.]! — — — O that the happy period were arrived! May “God hasten it in his time!”]

2.

In its objects—

[Wide as his influence is, it is not universal; for God has delivered his chosen people from his malignant influence. We say not indeed that there are any so delivered, but that they need to be continually on their guard against him [Note: Zechariah 4:1; Matthew 26:41; 2 Corinthians 11:3.]. But our Lord has assured us, that “it is not possible for him to deceive the elect [Note: Matthew 24:24.]:” and the reason of this is, that God has discovered to them his devices [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:11.], — — — and armed them against his assaults [Note: Ephesians 6:11.], — — — and engaged to “guide them by his counsel, till he receives them to glory [Note: Psalms 73:24.].” — — — A further reason is, that Jesus, our all-prevailing Advocate, “intercedes for them, that their faith may not fail [Note: Luke 22:31-32.]:” and hence it was, that, whilst “Satan desired to have Peter, as well as Judas, to sift him as wheat,” he could prevail over him only for a season; so that Peter rose again and overcame him, whilst Judas hanged himself, and became the everlasting prey of the destroyer.]

3.

In its operations—

[Satan could only “persuade” Ahab; he could not compel him; nor can he influence any man in opposition to his own will. He is “a roaring lion;” and all before him are but as lambs: yet in prosecuting his malignant purposes against them, he destroys those only “whom he may devour,” not those whom he would [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.]. This is a most encouraging circumstance: for, if only we cry to God for grace to desire, and strength to do, his will, we may defy all the hosts of hell: such resistance overcomes Satan, and makes him flee [Note: 1Pe 5:9 and James 4:7.]. No fiery dart that he can cast at us will pierce the shield of faith; nor all his skill enable him to withstand the sword of the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 6:16-17.], when wielded by a believing hand — — —]

Advice—
1.

Guard against obstinacy in sin—

[A wilful perseverance in sin constrains God to give men over to their own lusts [Note: Psalms 81:11-12; Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26; Romans 1:28; Isaiah 66:4.], and to leave them in the hands of their great adversary. To what a fearful extent God will proceed against us in this way, we cannot even read without horror [Note: 2 These. 2:11, 12.]. Beloved Brethren, let me entreat you not so to provoke your God, as to bring upon yourselves this fearful curse. If once God say, “He is joined to idols, let him alone [Note: Hosea 4:17; Hosea 9:12.],” it were better for you that you had never been born.]

2.

Seek an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ—

[Christ has vanquished that great enemy of God and man, agreeably to what was foretold to man in Paradise [Note: Genesis 3:15.]: in the garden, and upon the cross, he vanquished him [Note: Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:15.]; and he has engaged to “bruise him under our feet [Note: Romans 16:20.].” Seek then an interest in his death, to ransom you; in his intercession, to preserve you; and in his grace, to strengthen you: so shall you “be more than conquerors through Him that loved you,” and shall enjoy the fruits of victory in heaven, when “the deceiver of mankind shall be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” to receive the due reward of his exertions in everlasting torment [Note: Revelation 20:10.].]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 1 Kings 22". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/1-kings-22.html. 1832.