I wonder how much we are aware of what and who we are tuning in as we listen throughout the day. I probably think of that more often than some since I spent nearly thirty years listening in a counselor’s chair.
Yes, I sought to listen intently to the person or persons in the chair opposite me. But I was also seeking to listen for the Lord speaking and I was listening to my thoughts as I was putting the information together I was hearing in order to be clear about the problem that needed to be addressed. In that case, I had at least three channels I was tuning into at almost the same time.
How well I was hearing any of those channels depended on a lot of factors including how tired I was, if there were biases, and even if any older channels got in the way such as old parental scripts.
So often very public stories unfold that we are shocked to hear because we didn’t see them coming or expect them. It can happen often and it has happened to me as well. Sometimes it happens because we simply did not have enough information or background information that would have given us a clue. Sometimes it happens, however, because we were tuning into another channel or listening so intently to what we were saying to ourselves that we did not really tune in to the story outside of ourselves.
This week’s general election was a great example of that. Many believed they knew the results before even one vote was cast. There were more than a few that pointed to all sorts of polls, research, and conversations. Clearly, many got it wrong and are puzzling about that, but one clue about that is to look at what channel they were tuning into. In this case as in our personal lives, it can be easy to choose to listen to or look for others who agree with what we think or believe. That is often not too hard to find since we also typically hang out with others who have similar beliefs as we do.
Many times in the Old Testament a king wanted a prophet to tell him what the will of God was in a situation, especially when there was a battle ahead. I am struck about one story in the Old Testament that gives an example about who we tune into and whether or not our goal is truth or someone who agrees with us.
The story takes place in 1 Kings 22. At that time Jehoshaphat was king in Judah and Ahab was king in Israel. When they were visiting each other, the subject of some land area that had been lost previously came up and Ahab asked Jehoshaphat if he would go with him to fight and take back the territory. Jehoshaphat agreed, but only if they sought the Lord’s counsel first.
So Ahab calls all the prophets together (about 400) and asks if they should go to war. They tell him to go ahead and God will give the territory into the king’s hands. But Jehoshaphat must have thought it didn’t sound quite right that all 400 had agreed so easily. The dialogue that follows beginning in verses1 Kings 22:7-8 NIV:
7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”
8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
“The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.
Jehoshaphat was clear that he wanted to be sure he heard the truth of what the Lord was telling them before he would proceed. He was more interested in the truth than hearing what might be his own preference.
It becomes so clear that Ahab had deliberately not called Micaiah with the other prophets because he knew he would speak truth that might not agree with what Ahab had already determined that he wanted to do.
The story gives us an example that could not be clearer. When we are seeking counsel or an answer about a direction for our lives, what channel or person will we choose to ask and listen to? If we are honest with ourselves, we admit we are prone to ask someone we believe will agree with us and see our side of things. I get that and it tempts me as well, but if I do I may well miss the wisdom of the Lord.
If you read the rest of the chapter you see that as Ahab predicted, Micaiah did prophesy something he did not agree with. He treats the prophet with disrespect and puts him under guard and goes out to war anyway and convinces Jehoshaphat to go with him. If you read the story you discover that it doesn’t go very well for Ahab because the prophet spoke the truth.
Ahab chose to listen to those who were like him so he became more and more of who he was rather than who God called him to be.
The truth is that we tend to become more and more like those whom we listen to. The choice I make will determine if I become more and more like myself and those around me or if I become the person the Lord has called me to be.