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The Everyday Prayer


 
printable version

Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome


Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

2 Chronicles 18, 1-19,3

Although Jehoshaphat enjoyed great wealth and honour, he allied himself by marriage to Ahab.

After some years he paid a visit to Ahab in Samaria. Ahab slaughtered an immense number of sheep and oxen for him and his retinue, to induce him to attack Ramoth-Gilead.

Ahab king of Israel then said to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, 'Will you come with me to Ramoth-Gilead?' He replied, 'I will share in battle with you, my men with yours.'

Jehoshaphat, however, said to the king of Israel, 'First, please consult the word of Yahweh.'

So the king of Israel called the prophets together, four hundred of them. 'Should we go and attack Ramoth-Gilead,' he asked, 'or should I hold back?' 'March,' they replied, 'for God will deliver it into the king's power.'

Jehoshaphat, however, said, 'Is there no other prophet of Yahweh here, for us to consult?'

The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, 'There is one more man through whom we can consult Yahweh, but I hate him because he never has a favourable prophecy for me, always unfavourable ones; he is Micaiah son of Imlah.' 'The king should not say such things,' said Jehoshaphat.

The king of Israel then summoned a court official and said, 'Bring Micaiah son of Imlah immediately.'

The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah were sitting each on his throne, wearing their robes; in an open space just outside the gate of Samaria, with all the prophets prophesying before them,

Zedekiah son of Chenaanah, who had made himself some iron horns, said, 'Yahweh says, "With horns like these, you will gore the Aramaeans till you make an end of them." '

And all the prophets prophesied in the same vein, saying, 'March on Ramoth-Gilead! Success is sure, for Yahweh has already given it to the king!'

The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, 'Look! What the prophets are saying is uniformly favourable to the king. So I hope you will say the same as they do and speak favourably.'

Micaiah said, 'As Yahweh lives, I shall speak exactly as Yahweh tells me!'

When he came to the king, the king said, 'Micaiah, should we march to attack Ramoth-Gilead, or should I hold back?' He replied, 'Go and conquer, Yahweh will deliver them into your power!'

The king went on, 'How often must I put you on oath to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of Yahweh?'

Then he spoke out. I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains like sheep without a shepherd. And Yahweh said, 'These have no master, let them all go peacefully home!'

At this the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'Did I not tell you that he never gives me favourable prophecies, but only unfavourable ones?'

Micaiah went on, 'Now listen to the word of Yahweh. I saw Yahweh seated on his throne with the whole array of heaven standing on his right and on his left.

Yahweh said, "Who will entice Ahab king of Israel into marching to his death at Ramoth-Gilead?" At which some answered one way, and some another.

A spirit then came forward and stood before Yahweh and said, "I will entice him." "How?" Yahweh asked.

He replied, "I shall go and be a deceptive spirit in the mouths of all his prophets." Yahweh said, "You will succeed in enticing him. Go and do it."

And now, you see, Yahweh has put a deceptive spirit into the mouths of your prophets here, for in fact Yahweh has pronounced disaster on you.'

Zedekiah son of Chenaanah then came up, struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, 'Which way did Yahweh's spirit leave me, to speak to you?'

'That is what you will find out,' Micaiah retorted, 'the day you go from room to room, trying to hide.'

The king of Israel said, 'Seize Micaiah and hand him over to Amon governor of the city, and Joash the king's son,

and say, "These are the king's orders: Put this man in prison and feed him on nothing but bread and water until I am safely home." '

Micaiah said, 'If you ever do get home safely, Yahweh has not spoken through me.'

The king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah marched on Ramoth-Gilead.

The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'I shall disguise myself to go into battle, but you put on your robes.' So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

Now, the king of Aram had given his chariot commanders the following order, 'Do not attack anyone of whatever rank, except the king of Israel.'

So, when the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, 'That is the king of Israel,' and surrounded him to attack. But when Jehoshaphat shouted his war cry, Yahweh came to his help, God drew them away from him,

for the chariot commanders, realising that he was not the king of Israel, broke off their pursuit.

Someone, however, drawing his bow without any special aim, shot the king of Israel between the joints of his armour. 'Turn about!' he said to his charioteer. 'Get me out of the fighting; I am collapsing.'

But the battle grew fiercer as the day went on, and the king of Israel had to be held upright in his chariot facing the Aramaeans until the evening, and at sunset he died.

Jehoshaphat king of Judah returned home safely, however, to Jerusalem.

Jehu son of Hanani the seer went to meet him and said to King Jehoshaphat, 'Should a man give help to the wicked? Should you love those who hate Yahweh and so bring his retribution on yourself?

All the same, there are good things to your credit, since you have removed the sacred poles from the country and have set your heart on seeking God.'

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Chronicler, in this chapter, doesn’t want to describe Micaiah as a true prophet or to continue the description of Jehoshaphat’s loyalty to the Lord. He wants to show the ambiguity of Jehoshaphat, instead. Actually, if we consider his behaviour, for example he accepts the sacrifices Ahab makes in his honour, Jehoshaphat give the impression of approving the religious system of the North in some way. We feel there is certain complicity between Jehoshaphat and Ahab, king of the North. Ahab asks Jehoshaphat to join him and attack Ramoth of Gilead. Jehoshaphat accepts to unite Judah’s forces with Israel’s forces in this battle, but he insists on asking Lord’s advice. So Ahab gathers four hundred prophets, he asks them a question and also Jehoshaphat is involved: “Shall we go to battle against Ramoth-Gilead?” The answer of these pseudo prophets is absolutely affirmative. Yet Jehoshaphat doesn’t trust them and propose of consulting a true prophet of the Lord. Ahab says that Micaiah, son of Imlah, may be consulted but he prophesies nothing but disasters. And it cannot be otherwise, because Ahab is the king of a schismatic reign (v. 7). While they wait for Micaiah to arrive, Ahab’s prophets foretell Israel’s victory, that’s what the king wants to hear from them. Zedekiah, one of them, even makes iron horns to dramatize Ahab’s victory in the battle. Meanwhile they try to persuade Micaiah to prophesy in favour of the war like the other prophets. But Micaiah does not agree to any compromise. At first he answers ironically, then as Ahab keeps insisting he tells him about his two visions. The first one is about a flock scattered on the hills without a shepherd. The prophet predicts Ahab’s death, but also the consequences of his corrupt reign which led his people away from God. The people will live in peace only after returning to their homes without their king. The second vision is about an assembly in the heavenly court; they are considering the battle at Ramoth –Gilead and Ahab’s destiny: they agree on Ahab’s death and the defeat of Israel and Judah’s army (vv. 18-22). Micaiah’s message about a “lying spirit” reveals the deceitful nature of Ahab’s prophets. Micaiah is slapped and then put in prison in Samaria as a traitor but his word will come true. As Jehoshaphat realizes he is surrounded by enemy soldiers during the battle, he cries out and they leave him. Despite his sin, he keeps seeking the Lord so his life is saved. Ahab, on the contrary, doesn’t seek the Lord and his destiny is different. He tries to hide from enemies, but he can’t hide from God. An arrow, directed from the Heaven, hits him to the death. It’s no use his heroic effort to brace himself up on chariot until evening and stir up his soldiers. Jehu, the seer accuses Jehoshaphat of loving those who hate the Lord: not only does he disapprove Jehoshaphat’s affection for Ahab; indeed he blames the king’s loyalty to an alliance the Lord disapproves. Nevertheless, Jehoshaphat is forgiven and saved thanks to his good deeds. The new Israel will be restored only if they place their trust in the Lord. Despite past betrayal and present imperfection, the Lord is always prepared to welcome those who seek him with all their heart.


11/06/2012
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