Have you ever had someone get angry with you simply because you told them the truth? If you’re a good friend who really cares about people then chances are this has happened to you a time or two. The Apostle Paul warned us that this would become a normal part of the Christian life with his question to the Galatian believers in Galatians 4:16,
“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?”
It’s a sobering reminder that even a giant of the faith like Paul was hated for telling people the truth.
A Word of Caution
If you find yourself in a similar scenario, make sure you’re accurately assessing the situation. We have to be careful in this area. If people are going to hate you, make sure it’s for telling the truth, and not the way you tell the truth. The Apostle Paul also said in Ephesians 4:15 that we should be
“speaking the truth in love.”
Grace is the anesthetic that makes it possible to administer the medicine of truth. If a person is genuinely angry with me because I tactfully confronted them with truth in a loving way, then so be it. But we must be careful to remember that being a jerk is not a gift of the Spirit. If I’m being honest, there have been times when I was hated because I mishandled the truth.
I wasn’t kind or gracious, but rather careless in my dispensation of honesty. This is not pleasing to God, nor is it helpful to His Kingdom. It’s our God given responsibility to confront those we care about with truth that can be difficult to receive. Therefore, it’s imperative that we do it with grace and compassion in a way that’s conscientious before God and man.
A Biblical Perspective
Unfortunately, no matter how kind you are there will still be times when people refuse to receive your honesty. Let’s a take a look at a story from the Old Testament that illustrates this point and provides us with some instruction to help us in this area. I Kings Chapter 22 records the story of Micaiah (Hebrew: מיכיהו Mikay’hu “Who is like Yah?”), and it’s a narrative that’s filled with practical instruction and principles particularly in the area of being honest even when you’re going to pay a heavy price for telling the truth.
This is something that honest people have always had to deal with, and until Jesus returns or calls us home we’re going to have to continue to deal with being hated for the truth. Notice a few simple observations from this passage.
Consider the Characters
There were two kings and a prophet. The “king of Israel” here is none other than the infamous King Ahab. He’s the same man that was married to Jezebel, and there’s a statement in the previous chapter that sums up his moral character and spiritual condition. I Kings 21:25-26 says,
“But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.”
Then we have King Jehoshaphat who reigned in Judah. After the death of King Solomon, the kingdom was divided in two. The southern kingdom consisted of only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin and consequently became known as the kingdom of Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. The northern kingdom consisted of the remaining tribes and was simply called Israel. It’s important to understand that you can learn a lot about a man by the company he keeps.
That’s not just observably true, it’s biblical (Proverbs 13:20). Jehoshaphat’s moral character is revealed in the opening verse of a parallel passage of Scripture to our text. II Chronicles 18:1 says,
“Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.”
Affinity in this context means that he made an alliance with Ahab through marriage between their families. Be very careful who you align yourself with and what causes you take up. You might find yourself in league with some nefarious characters.
Finally, we have the prophet Micaiah, who was hated for consistently telling the truth according to verses 9-14. Something that I find most notable in this account was that Micaiah was not only hated by Ahab, he was also hated by all of the other prophets. We see this in verse 24 because Micaiah not only calls out the king, he calls out the lying prophets as well. He ends up being put in prison for his honesty. It’s a painful reminder that honesty and loneliness often go hand in hand as a direct result of people’s unwillingness to receive truth in the right way.
Consider the Conflict
I love verse 15 because it’s a prime example of the biblical principle of sarcasm. When asked if Ahab and Jehoshaphat should march into battle against their enemies, the prophet sarcastically replies, “Go and prosper.” Then immediately in verse 16 you can discern the tone of the king when he rolls his eyes and says, “How many times are we gonna do this? Just tell me the truth!” So in verse 17 that’s exactly what Micaiah does. He tells the king the truth, and we see Ahab’s response in verse 18. He looks at Jehoshaphat and says (and I’m paraphrasing) “I told you man . . . this guy NEVER says anything good!”
It’s my position that there’s a wonderful example of judicial, or divine, hardening that takes place in this account in verses 19-23. Judicial hardening is God’s active role in blinding an already rebellious person in their rebellion so as to prevent their repentance for a time. God’s motive is ALWAYS to accomplish a greater redemptive purpose through their rebellious actions (often including the potential redemption even of those being judicially blinded). It can more concisely be characterized as God’s sinless use of sinful actions.
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It’s a subject that deserves a thorough study all by itself. In this case we find God allowed a lying spirit to deceive an already rebellious and wicked king through the “ministry” of a bunch of false prophets. Did God cause the king to sin? Absolutely not! But God engineered the circumstances such that the king would find it easy to pursue his rebellious path and end up being destroyed for the advancement of God’s greater plan and purpose. This is just one example of the way judicial, or divine, hardening was used by God that’s recorded in the Bible.
In verses 24-28 we find the result. Micaiah is publicly humiliated and imprisoned for his faithfulness. I’d love to tell you that if you continue reading there’s a positive outcome for God’s prophet. But the truth is that what happens in this narrative is extremely contradictory to the expectations of the soft modern Christianity that’s so prevalent in our American church culture today.
Not many people would look at Micaiah and think he’s living his best life or experiencing success in the ministry, but you know what Micaiah was doing? He was being faithful to God no matter what it cost him, with the knowledge that his greatest rewards were waiting in Heaven!
Consider the Conclusion
When you read verses 29-40 you’ll see how it all worked out. In spite of Ahab’s attempts to disguise himself in the battle, he was slain by an archer, and the dogs licked up his blood that pooled and ran off the floor of his chariot exactly the way God had foretold it through the prophet Elijah in I Kings 21:19.
Incidentally, King Ahab also considered Elijah to be one of his enemies because he always told him the truth just like Micaiah did. There’s an important principle illustrated here. People who hate the truth will eventually be doomed by deception. I don’t care what their title or position is, or how much money they have. If they hate the truth, embracing lies will be their downfall!
I love this story because of the characters, the conflict, and the climactic conclusion regarding the death of wicked king Ahab. But the part of this story that really bothers me is that there’s no happy ending for the prophet Micaiah who was hated for the truth. It’s sort of a cliffhanger in that the text doesn’t reveal what happened to him. I like to imagine that the people recognized the injustice of his imprisonment, and they rallied around him and demanded his release.
Perhaps that happened, and he was able to retire someplace in the hill country. If that’s the case we’re not told about it. You see the painful truth of the matter is, that sometimes you are going to suffer for doing the right thing. In fact, contrary to what the prosperity preachers of modern Christianity would have you believe, you may never receive a full reward for your faithfulness on this side of eternity. We’re living in days of very soft Christianity, and it’s a shame because what the world needs is some people of God who have the backbone and substance to take a stand upon the truth even when they’re hated for it!
Josh attended seminary through Rock of Ages Baptist Bible Institute out of Cleveland, TN. He has held about every position one could hold in a local church: Sunday school teacher, Children’s Church Preacher, Bus Ministry Director/Worker, Missions Director, Choir Director, Song Leader, Janitor, etc. In October of 2005, he was ordained as an Assistant Pastor at Rest Haven Baptist Church, and that’s where he served until God called him into the Pastorate at Enon Baptist Church in Alto, GA at the age of 32. He stepped out by faith in obedience to God’s instructions and quickly received a call from Blessed Hope Baptist Church in Free Home, GA where he now serves as Pastor. In his free time, Josh enjoys spending quality time with his wife (who is his high school sweetheart) and three children: Zoey, Ava, and Jack, as well as reading, writing, hunting, cooking, weight lifting, and martial arts.
Very good. Maybe we need to think of our other relationship to people. Do we invite them to church and then ignore them when we see them there? Maybe friendship (or lack of it) is the reason they hate us.
Thanks Patricia for commenting. Yes I agree. But I would also add we need to take that friendship beyond the church. This is how we minister to others.