The Bible


1 Kings 22:1-18 : Ahab Does Not Like the Pattern


1 And they continued three years without war between Syria and Israel.

2 And it came to pass in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.

3 And the king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria?

4 And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-gilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.

5 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Inquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.

6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.

7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might inquire of him?

8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so.

9 Then the king of Israel called an officer, and said, Hasten hither Micaiah the son of Imlah.

10 And the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah sat each on his throne, having put on their robes, in a void place in the entrance of the gate of Samaria; and all the prophets prophesied before them.

11 And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the LORD, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.

12 And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramoth-gilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the king's hand.

13 And the messenger that was gone to call Micaiah spake unto him, saying, Behold now, the words of the prophets declare good unto the king with one mouth: let thy word, I pray thee, be like the word of one of them, and speak that which is good.

14 And Micaiah said, As the LORD liveth, what the LORD saith unto me, that will I speak.

15 So he came to the king. And the king said unto him, Micaiah, shall we go against Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we forbear? And he answered him, Go, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver it into the hand of the king.

16 And the king said unto him, How many times shall I adjure thee that thou tell me nothing but that which is true in the name of the LORD?

17 And he said, I saw all Israel scattered upon the hills, as sheep that have not a shepherd: and the LORD said, These have no master: let them return every man to his house in peace.

18 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil?



Ahab does not like the pattern

By Eric Carswell

And Jehoshaphat said, "Is there not still a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of Him?" So the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, "There is still one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may inquire of the LORD; but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." (1 Kings 22:7-8)

King Ahab is almost a comical figure in his complaining about the bad news he always hears from a prophet of the Lord. The most amazing quality of his response is that he seems completely unaware of the fact that he is personally responsible for the evil prophecy that always comes his way. Ahab had noted that there was a clear pattern in what he heard, but it was not in his will to see that he could do anything about it.

Without patterns in life we could learn nothing. If there was no order to the world that our mind could recognize, we would be continuously overwhelmed with a clutter of sights, sounds, smells, sense of touch and we would be terribly limited in making any kind of choice. For example, what if sometimes the pews you’re sitting in had no more strength than thin cardboard and sometimes held you up as they do now? You would never know whether they were safe to sit on. What if sometimes your favorite kind of apple had it normal juicy flavor and other times, without any change in appearance, tasted terribly wretched? Wouldn't you hesitate before biting into one?

In our relationships with other people the patterns aren't always as clear. We sometimes are greatly surprised by the responses that others give us when we say or do something. We can think we are making a perfectly innocuous comment only to have someone explode in anger apparently as a result of what we said. We can try to be helpful and instead only makes a problem worse.

Soon we will mark the end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one. It is common for many people to use this yearly transition to reflect on what has occurred in the past year. You can see magazine articles that review the year in pictures that consider who has made a particularly notable contribution of the years events. A person can also take stock of his or her own life over the past year and reflect on the patterns reflected by the events that have occurred.

The Lord strongly encourages us to do this kind of reflection. Even if this particular time of the year does not seem to be opportune for such consideration, it is absolutely vital that we make time for recognizing the key patterns in our lives: patterns in what we care about and think, patterns in what we say and do and patterns in the results that those words and actions produce. If we don’t see any patterns, we will not be learning much and will probably continue in habits that aren't good for ourselves and aren't good for the people around us as well.

Ahab as a king represents the understanding part of our mind that directs the decisions we make and our perspective on what is most important. The Lord has given us the capability of freely reflecting on our spiritual and natural patterns of life. As stated in Divine Providence 278, we are given the capability of looking at these things because we have the possibility of higher and lower thought, or interior and exterior thought. From the higher or interior thought we can look at what is happening in lower or more exterior plane of our minds. We have the capability of noting that we are in good or bad moods or that we are thinking more or less clearly than usual.

But by ourselves, all of this capability would not mean a tremendous amount because there are crucial patterns in life that natural observation does not give a person. The prophet, Micaiah, who Ahab viewed as a trouble maker represents truth from the Lord that must have its initial source in Divine revelation. Without Divine revelation there is much that we could not possibly know as clearly stated in the following passage from the Writings:

. . .without the Word no one would possess spiritual intelligence, which consists in having knowledge of a God, of heaven and hell, and of a life after death; nor would know anything whatever about the Lord, about faith in Him and love to Him, nor anything about redemption, by means of which nevertheless comes salvation. As the Lord also says to His disciples: “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); and to John: “A person can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven” (John 3:27). (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 114)

It is important for us to learn about the Lord and about what is true and good from the Word. But your knowledge and mine is relatively useless we recognize how its description of what is real and its description of the consequences of certain patterns of concern, thought, speech and action relate to our own lives. By ourselves we don’t want to see these patterns in our own lives.

Here's another passage:

. . .from themselves people do not desire to understand anything but that which comes from what is their own in their will, and also that it is not possible for them to do so unless there is some other source from which they may know it. From what is their own in their will people do not desire to understand anything except that which relates to themselves and to the world; everything above this is to them in thick darkness. (Doctrine of the Sacred Scripture 115)

Yet we have been clearly taught that above ourselves and the things of the natural world is a spiritual world that is actually more real and more lasting than this world. We have been clearly taught that our minds and spirits are constantly in the company of other spirits from that world. Without their presence we would have no thought nor would we care about anything. As we pursue our daily patterns of thought and action, we are strengthening ties to communities of those spirits. Our daily choices are spiritual investments in our eternal future. Some people are day by day connecting themselves ever more clearly to communities of spirits that will guarantee that they will feel critical of others and easily offended by the slightest inconvenience that crosses their path. Some are connecting themselves ever more clearly to communities of spirits that make it almost impossible for them to tell the truth to themselves and others--any troublesome event will be explained away or justified. Others are connecting themselves to communities who find their greatest delight in being of service to the people around them. Still others are connecting themselves to communities who really care about understanding what is true because they know that this is the only way they will be able to truly follow the Lord. The single community in the next life, either in heaven or hell, that we connect ourselves to most closely by our daily choices will be the one in which we live to eternity after death.

How can we know what kind of communities we are connecting ourselves to? By reflecting on the patterns in our own lives from a knowledge of what is true.

People who reflect, or are able to reflect, upon the affections of good and truth in themselves, and also upon their delight and pleasure, will notice a strong inclination for [some affections] in preference to another; but without reflection these and the like things do not appear. (Arcana Caelestia 3980)

Ahab did not want to see the patterns in his life that condemned some of his actions. He would prefer to listen to false prophets who promised wonderful things, but he could not escape the reality of the order that the Lord created. Whether he wanted to listen to it or not, the consequences of that order would influence his life.

Where will each of us find ourselves in the life after death? The Writings say that if we have a knowledge of how different good and evil loves correspond to different beautiful and ugly environments then we can know what our lot to eternity will be. This is described in the following passage from the book of the Writings called Heaven and Hell.

People who are engaged in [a knowledge of correspondences] can recognize and know their state after death provided they know their love and how it relates in its nature to the dominant love to which all love goes back.

However, people who are involved in self-love cannot know what their dominant love is because they love whatever is theirs and call their evils good. They also call false things true, the false notions that support them and that they use to rationalize their evils. If they were willing, though, they could still know [their dominant love] from other people who are wise, but these latter see what they themselves do not. This does not happen, though, in the case of people who are so enmeshed in their self-love that they have nothing but contempt for any teaching of the wise, who are wise, and who see what they themselves do not see. This however, is impossible with those who are so enticed by the love of self that they spurn all teaching of the wise.

On the other hand, people who are in heavenly love do accept instruction and do see the evils into which they were born when they are led into them. They see them from truths because truths make evils obvious. Anyone can in fact see what is evil and the distortion it causes by seeing from the truth that arises from what is good; but no one can see what is good and true from an evil standpoint. This is because the false notions that arise from evil are darkness and correspond to it. So people who are caught up in false notions, [concepts and prejudices] that arise from evil are like blind people who do not see things that are in the light, and they avoid them the way owls avoid daylight. (Heaven and Hell 487)

It’s not enough to just acknowledge that we all have spiritual faults and flaws. This acknowledgment can be utterly worthless and is so described in the True Christian Religion.

Cannot anyone understand, from the reason given him, that the mere lip-confession of being a sinner is not repentance, or the recounting of various particulars in regard to . . . ? For what is easier for a person when he is in trouble and agony, than to utter sighs and groans from his lungs and lips, and also to beat his breast and make himself guilty of all sins, and still not be conscious of any sin in himself? Do the diabolical horde who then occupy his loves, depart along with his sighs? Do they not rather hiss at those things, and remain in him as before, as in their own house? From this it is clear that such repentance is not what is meant in the Word; but repentance from evil works, as is said. (True Christian Religion 529)

Do you know what quality in your life you would most like to see improvement on over the next year? The Lord does not recommend that we take on too many issues at once. He describes very clearly the steps we are to take if we are to improve spiritually.

The question therefore is, How ought a person to repent? And the reply is, Actually; that is to say, he must examine himself, recognize and -knowledge his sins, pray to the Lord, and begin a new life. That without examination repentance is not possible, has been shown in the preceding section. But of what use is examination except that one may recognize his sins? And why should he recognize his sins, except that he may acknowledge that they are in him? And of what use are these three things, except that a person may confess his sins before the Lord, pray for help, and then begin a new life, which is the end sought? This is actual repentance. (True Christian Religion 530)

The Lord wants us to be truly happy. He wants us to have the joy of using the gifts and talents that He has given us to make the world around us a better place to be for others and for ourselves. He has given us His Word to help us learn what we must know if we are to make good decisions and follow the Lord ever more clearly in our lives. We need to learn from the Word and we need to use what we learn to reflect on the patterns in our concerns, thoughts, words, and actions. As we look to a new calendar year, may each of us commit ourselves to the personal work that will help this year be a better year for us and for all those who come in contact with us.

(References: Divine Providence 278 [1-3])

From Swedenborg's Works


Divine Providence #278

Study this Passage

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278a. 2. Evils cannot be set aside unless they come to light. This does not mean that we have to act out our evils in order to bring them to light but that we need to look carefully not only at our actions but also at our thoughts, at what we would do if it were not for our fear of the laws and of ill repute. We need to look especially at which evils we see as permissible in our spirit and do not regard as sins, for eventually we do them.

It is for this self-examination that we have been given discernment, a discernment separate from our volition, so that we can know, discern, and recognize what is good and what is evil. It is also so that we can see what the real nature of our volition is--that is, what we love and what we desire. It is to enable us to see this that our discernment has been given both higher and lower thought processes, both more inward and more outward thought processes. It is so that we can use the higher or more inward thoughts to see what our volition is up to in our lower or outer thoughts. We see this the way we see our face in a mirror; and when we see and recognize what a sin is, then if we want to and ask the Lord for help, we can stop intending it, abstain from it, and later act against it. If we cannot go through this process easily, we can still make it happen by trying to go through it so that finally we reject that evil and detest it. Then for the first time we actually sense and feel that evil is evil and good is good.

This is what it means to examine ourselves, to see and acknowledge our evils, and to confess them and then refrain from them. However, there are so few who know that this is the essence of the Christian religion (because the only people who do so are ones who have charity and faith and are led by the Lord and do what is good in his strength) that I need to say something about the people who do not do this and still think that they are religious. They are (a) people who confess that they are guilty of all sins but do not look for any single sin in themselves; (b) people who for religious reasons do not bother to look; (c) people who for worldly reasons do not think about sins and therefore do not know what they are; (d) people who cherish their sins and therefore cannot know what they are. (e) In all these cases, the sins do not come to light and therefore cannot be set aside. (f) Finally, I need to expose a previously unrecognized reason why evils could not be set aside apart from this examination, this bringing to light, this recognition, this confession, and this resistance.

278b. These items need to be looked at one at a time, though, because they are the basic elements of the Christian religion on our part.

(a) They are people who confess that they are guilty of all sins but do not look for any single sin in themselves. They say, "I am a sinner! I was born in sins; there is no soundness in me from head to toe! I am nothing but evil! Gracious God, look on me with favor, forgive me, purify me, save me, make me walk in purity, in the way of the righteous," and the like. Yet they do not look into themselves and therefore do not identify any particular evil; and no one who does not identify an evil can abstain from it, let alone fight against it. They think that they are clean and washed after these confessions when in fact they are unclean and unwashed from their heads to the soles of their feet. This blanket confession is nothing but a lullaby that leads finally to blindness. It is like some grand generalization with no details, which is actually nothing.

[2] (b) They are people who for religious reasons do not bother to look. These are primarily people who separate charity from faith. They say to themselves, "Why should I ask whether something is evil or good? Why should I ask about evil when it does not damn me? Why should I ask about goodness when it does not save me? It is my faith alone, the faith that I have thought about and proclaimed with trust and confidence, that justifies me and purifies me from all sin; and once I have been justified I am whole in God's sight. Of course I am immersed in evil, but God wipes this away the moment it happens so that it is no longer present," and more of the same sort.

Can anyone whose eyes are open fail to see that these are meaningless words, words that have no content because they have no worth in them? Anyone can think and talk like this, and can do so "with trust and confidence," when thinking about hell and eternal damnation. Do people like this want to know anything further, whether anything is really true or good? As to truth, they say, "What is truth other than whatever reinforces my faith?" As to goodness, they say, "What is good other than what I have because of my faith? In order to have it within me, though, I do not need to do it as though I were doing it myself, because that would be for credit, and good done for credit is not truly good." So they skip over the whole subject so completely that they do not know what evil is. What will they look for and see in themselves, then? What is their state but a fire of obsessions with evil that is confined within them, devouring the inner substance of their minds and destroying everything right up to the door? All they are doing is guarding the door so that no one can see the fire; but the door is opened after death, and then everyone can see.

[3] (c) They are people who for worldly reasons do not think about sins and therefore do not know what they are. These are people who love the world above all and will not give a hearing to any truth that might deflect them from the false principles of their religion. They say to themselves, "What do I care about this? This is not the way I think." So they reject it as soon as they hear it; or if it does get through at all, they suppress it. They do much the same thing when they hear sermons, retaining only a few words and no substance.

Since this is how they treat truths, they do not know what good is, since the two act in unison; and there is no way to identify evil on the basis of any good that is not based on truth. All they can do is call evil "good" by rationalizing it with their distortions.

These are the people meant by the seeds that fell among thorns. The Lord said of them, "Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. These are people who hear the Word, but the cares of this world and the deceptiveness of riches choke the Word so that it becomes unfruitful" (Matthew 13:7, 22; Mark 4:7, 14 [4:7, 18, 19]; Luke 8:7, 14).

[4] (d) They are people who cherish their sins and therefore cannot know what they are. These are people who believe in God and worship him with the usual rituals and yet rationalize for themselves that some evil that is a sin is really not a sin. They camouflage it with disguises and cosmetics that conceal how grotesque it is; and once they have accomplished this they cherish it and make it their friend and constant companion.

I have said that these people believe in God because only people who believe in God are capable of regarding evil as sin: all sin is sin against God.

But some examples may make this clear. When people who are bent on profit make different kinds of cheating permissible by inventing rationalizations, they are saying that an evil is not a sin. People who rationalize taking vengeance on their enemies are doing the same thing, as are people who rationalize plundering people who are not their enemies in times of war.

[5] (e) In these cases, the sins do not come to light and therefore cannot be set aside. Any evil that is not brought to light feeds on itself. It is like fire in wood buried in ashes. It is like poison in a wound that has not been lanced; for any evil that is shut away keeps growing and growing until everything has been brought to an end. So to prevent any evil from being shut away, we are allowed to think in favor of God and against God, in favor of the holy practices of the church or against them, without being punished for it in this world.

The Lord speaks of this in Isaiah:

From the soles of the feet to the head there is no soundness; there is wound and scar and fresh beating, not squeezed out or bound up or anointed with oil. Wash yourselves, purify yourselves. Take away the evil of your deeds from before my eyes. Stop doing evil, learn to do good. Then if your sins have been like scarlet, they will be white as snow; if they have been ruddy as a purple robe, they will be like wool. If you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword. (Isaiah 1:6, 16, 18, 20)

"Being devoured by the sword" means being destroyed by our malicious distortions.

[6] (f) There is a previously unrecognized reason why evils could not be set aside apart from this examination, this bringing to light, this recognition, this confession, and this resistance. I have already mentioned [62, 65, 217] that heaven overall is arranged in communities according to [people's desires for what is good, and that hell overall is arranged in communities according to] desires for what is evil that are opposite to those desires for what is good. As to our spirits, each of us is in some community--in a heavenly one when our good desires are in control, and in a hellish one when our evil desires are in control. We are unaware of this while we are living in this world, but in spirit that is where we are. We could not go on living otherwise, and that is how the Lord is guiding us.

If we are in a hellish community, the only way the Lord can lead us out is under the laws of his divine providence. One of them says that we must see that we are there, must want to get out, and must ourselves make an effort with what seems to be our own strength. We can do this while we are in this world but not after death. Then we stay forever in the community we joined in this world. This is why we need to examine ourselves, see and acknowledge our sins, repent, and remain constant for the rest of our lives.

I could support this with enough experience to warrant complete belief, but this is not the place to bring in proofs from experience.

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Foundation for the permission to use this translation.