Marching as to War

Wednesday, September 18, 2013 — Week of Proper 19, Year One

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalms 72 (morning) // 119:73-96 (evening)

1 Kings 22:1-28

1 Corinthians 2:1-13

Matthew 4:18-25

Whether we listen to the news or read the Bible this morning, the topic of discussion is the same: Should we go to war with Syria? In our first reading, King Ahab ends a three-year streak of peace in Israel by aspiring to reclaim some territory from Aram. (Aram is a region in modern-day central Syria.) Ahab asks for help from King Jehoshaphat of Judah, but Jehoshaphat first wants to ask the Lord.

Getting good counsel on matters of war and peace was no easier in Biblical times than today. The kings consult approximately four-hundred prophets who offer advice corrupted by over-confidence, flattery, unintentional deception, deliberate deception, and brazen war-mongering. All of the prophets urge Ahab to war, and they reassure him of victory and that the Lord is on his side.

Zedekiah prophesies with the most flare, making a set of iron horns and saying, “Thus says the Lord: With these you shall gore the Arameans until they are destroyed.” You can almost picture him mock charging and mauling, stirring up his fellow prophets like a costumed mascot at a football game.

In the midst of this unanimity, Jehoshaphat wisely asks for a different opinion. King Ahab reluctantly summons the hated prophet Micaiah. At first, Micaiah joins the chorus of prophets who just tell kings what they want to hear: “Go up and triumph.” But I imagine that Micaiah spoke with so little conviction that the kings knew he had a different truth to disclose.

In fact, not only does Micaiah foretell disaster, but he also exposes the other prophets as nothing more than spokespersons for a lying spirit, whose agenda is to entice Ahab to his own death. Could such a spirit be in the mouths of the voices that urge us to war today?

At the very least, today’s Scripture reading should make us intensely suspicious of any voice at all that leads us into war. Whether that voice assures us of victory and God’s blessing, whether that voice gets us fired up, or whether that voice comes even from our own mouths, we need to ask: Is this from the Lord, or from an infectious lying spirit enticing us to our own destruction?

The Lord may have a very different mission in mind for us. In our gospel today, Jesus launches his own mission of teaching, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing and healing the sick. Indeed, the gospel today tells us, “his fame spread throughout all Syria.”

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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