by Al Maxey

Issue #321 ------- October 18, 2007
The courage we desire and prize is not the
courage to die decently, but to live manfully.

Thomas Carlyle {1795-1881}

The Magnificent Micaiah
Fearless Prophet vs. Faithless Potentate

The noted historical figure Mohandas Gandhi [1869-1948], in his inspirational work titled Young India, astutely opined, "Fearlessness is the first requisite of spirituality." Though clearly never their intent, these words could quite easily provide the foundation for comprehending and appreciating the character of one of the least known, but most courageous, of all the many prophets of the Lord -- Micaiah, son of Imlah. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman [1820-1891], in his famous Memoirs, defined courage as "a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to incur it." Once again, these are words that could easily be spoken of the above mentioned man of God. Similar to his contemporary Elijah, he faced 400 false prophets who had very little regard for him, one of whom even struck him a blow to the head. The wicked king, by his own admission, declared that he could not stand this prophet of God. His message was unpopular, as it foretold of death and devastation for the king and his forces in the upcoming conflict. He was very likely summoned from a prison cell, and was most certainly returned to one, where he was fed only bread and water. From this same wicked king, and his equally evil wife, the prophet Elijah had fled for his life into the wilderness. Yet, Micaiah boldly stood his ground before this hostile assembly and declared God's Truth. Who was this courageous, devoted man of God, and what were the circumstances surrounding this magnificent demonstration of faithfulness and fearlessness? And what valuable lessons can we today learn from this event?

About this prophet himself we know very little, as he is mentioned on only one occasion in all of Scripture. As previously noted, he was a contemporary of the far better known Elijah. It also appears that Micaiah was not unknown to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel, and especially to King Ahab, who had no use for him whatsoever, as Micaiah was noted for speaking bluntly and boldly against the excesses of this particular king. "I hate him," Ahab said, "because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil" [1 Kings 22:8; 2 Chron. 18:7]. "This blunt, outspoken prophet made a name for himself in Israel as one who refused to be a yes man to the king or the majority" [William Barker, Everyone In The Bible, p. 243]. "Micaiah is presented as a prophet who was faithful to God's holy word despite both prophetic and royal opposition" [Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p. 895]. His name literally means "who is like unto Jehovah?" According to the Jewish historian Josephus (and to Jewish scholars generally), Micaiah was also the nameless prophet mentioned in 1 Kings 20:35-43, which, if true, would further explain the intense hatred of King Ahab for this man of God.

The individual toward whom the prophecies of Micaiah were primarily directed was Ahab, the son of Omri. He was the 7th king of the northern kingdom of Israel, reigning from the capitol city of Samaria for 22 years [1 Kings 16:29]. Ahab had the distinction of being one of the most wicked kings Israel ever had. "He did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him. And it came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that Ahab married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshipped him. So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab also made the Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him" [vs. 30-33]. A big part of Ahab's problem was his wife, one of the most wicked women of her time. "Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him" [1 Kings 21:25]. Both of these wicked individuals came to violent ends, and both experienced the humiliation of having dogs go after their remains. Elijah told Ahab, "In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs shall lick up your blood" [1 Kings 21:19]. In 1 Kings 22:38 we are informed that the body of Ahab was brought from the scene of the battle where he had expired to the city of Samaria, and "they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood." We are also told in this passage that this was the very pool used by harlots to bathe themselves. As for Jezebel, his wife, she was later thrown from a high window, trampled by horses, and then eaten by dogs. "In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel; and the corpse of Jezebel shall be as dung on the face of the field" [2 Kings 9:36-37]. All that would be found of her would be her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands [vs. 35]. A fitting end for these two godless wretches!

The other primary character in the event before us for consideration is Jehoshaphat, the son of Asa. At the age of 35 he became the fourth king of the southern kingdom of Judah, reigning in Jerusalem for 25 years [1 Kings 22:42]. Unlike the wicked Ahab, Jehoshaphat was a righteous king, a genuinely devout man of God. "And he walked in all the way of Asa his father; he did not turn aside from it, doing right in the sight of the Lord" [vs. 43]. "And the Lord God was with Jehoshaphat because he did not seek the Baals, but sought the God of his father, followed His commandments, and did not act as Israel did" [2 Chron. 17:3-4]. Josephus writes that he was "both righteous and religious, and sought to do something every day that would be agreeable and acceptable to God" [Antiquities of the Jews, book 8, chapter 15, section 1]. In 2 Chron. 17:10f we see that the neighboring nations feared the power of Judah, for God had blessed them with a powerful army. Indeed, he'd raised an army of some 1,160,000 "valiant warriors equipped for war." This would become something quite attractive to Ahab, and would explain, in part, his kindness toward Jehoshaphat. Another reason for the peaceful relations between them was that the two kingdoms were linked by marriage: Jehoram (aka: Joram), the son of Jehoshaphat, was married to Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel [2 Chron. 18:1]. The legacy of King Jehoshaphat was multi-faceted, but he will certainly be remembered as one of the great reformers of the citizens of the southern kingdom, "bringing them back to the Lord, the God of their fathers" [2 Chron. 19:4]. One of the few negatives in his reign was his ill-advised alliance with Ahab, for which he was rebuked by the Lord [2 Chron. 19:2].

Politically, the situation in the northern kingdom of Israel at this particular time was somewhat unstable. Although some three years had passed without any bloody conflict between Syria (Aram) and Israel [1 Kings 22:1], nevertheless this was more out of mutual fear of Assyria than any great love between Ben-hadad, king of Syria, and Ahab, king of Israel. Indeed, neither king was fully honoring the conditions of the treaty made between them. One of the things that perturbed Ahab the most was that the Transjordan border town of Ramoth-gilead continued to remain in the hands of the Syrian king, who had previously promised to return it [1 Kings 20:34]. This city was first mentioned in Deut. 4:43 as a city of refuge [see also: Joshua 20:8; 21:38], then later as one of the provincial centers under King Solomon [1 Kings 4:13]. "Ahab knew that he was powerless to enforce the terms of the Treaty of Aphek single-handedly without the help of his Southern ally whose military organization at this time was substantial" [James Smith, I & II Kings, p. 430]. Thus, when Jehoshaphat comes to Samaria for a state visit, Ahab takes advantage of this occasion to propose a joint attack against the Syrian forces. King Ahab asks, "Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?" [1 Kings 22:4].

The account in the book of Chronicles provides additional background to this request. Ahab apparently put on quite a feast for Jehoshaphat, all for the purpose of seeking to influence the southern king to join forces with him in his quest to retake the city of Ramoth-gilead from Ben-hadad. "And Ahab slaughtered many sheep and oxen for him and the people who were with him, and induced him to go up against Ramoth-gilead" [2 Chron. 18:2]. Some translations say that Ahab "enticed" Jehoshaphat. "The visit of Jehoshaphat was one of festivity, of which Ahab took advantage" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 3, p. 93]. "The chronicler, who dwells on the number of sheep and oxen slain for the feast, intimates that it was this generous reception that 'persuaded' Jehoshaphat to join in the war" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 531]. King Jehoshaphat makes a huge error in judgment, agreeing to assist Ahab in the upcoming effort to regain this strategic city. However, true to his righteous character, he says to Ahab, "First seek the counsel of the Lord" [1 Kings 22:5; 2 Chron. 18:4]. Even though he had been swayed by the enticements of Ahab, Jehoshaphat still had sufficient spiritual insight to know that the Lord needed to be consulted before any further action was undertaken.

"So the king of Israel gathered the prophets, about 400 men, and asked them, 'Should I go against Ramoth-gilead for war or should I refrain?' They replied, 'March up, and the Lord will hand it over to the king'" [1 Kings 22:6; 2 Chron. 18:5]. Most scholars feel that these were not true prophets of the Lord God, but "probably belonged to the state religion established by Jeroboam" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 163]. Other students of the Scriptures and biblical history suggest that they may have once been faithful prophets of God, but to remain in the favor of the king they had become little more than yes men. Whatever the king wanted to hear, whatever would keep him happy, this they would readily prophesy in his presence. "These prophets were not the prophets of Asherah or of Baal, but were all renegade prophets of Yahweh who were part of the apostate official calf worship of the Northern Kingdom. They were king-called rather than God-called prophets ... who had saved their lives by compromising with the crown" [James Smith, I & II Kings, p. 432]. Bro. Clarence DeLoach, who preaches at the Willow Avenue Church of Christ in Cookeville, Tennessee, wrote that these 400 were the "yes-men" of the king, whom he had called upon to "rubber stamp the decision" he had already made in his own heart and mind [Gospel Advocate, "Micaiah - A True Preacher," October 2007, p. 23].

However, Jehoshaphat was not taken in by their unanimous prophecy of success. He knew they were not true prophets of God. Therefore, he said to Ahab, "Isn't there a prophet of Yahweh here any more? Let's ask him" [1 Kings 22:7; 2 Chron. 18:6]. With tongue in cheek, Clarence DeLoach wrote, "Jehoshaphat seemed skeptical about 400 preachers agreeing on any one thing" [ibid]. "Jehoshaphat failed to be assured by these pseudo-prophets of an unlawful cult and asked whether a prophet of Yahweh were available for consultation" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 163]. In a word, he was "suspicious of these sycophants ... and pressed for another prophet" [William Barker, Everyone in the Bible, p. 243]. This combined effort to retake Ramoth-gilead would be a major undertaking, and Jehoshaphat "detected the obsequious conformity" of these 400 prophets "to their master's wishes" [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 347]. He realized they were nothing more than yes men, thus he sought the counsel of God, and was unafraid to make that desire known to Ahab.

King Ahab, desirous of the military might at the disposal of Jehoshaphat, sought to be accommodating to the latter, although he certainly had no personal desire to summon the one prophet of God immediately available. "There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah" [1 Kings 22:8; 2 Chron. 18:7]. An officer of the king is summoned and told to go get Micaiah and bring him into their presence. Many scholars speculate that the location of this prophet was well known because Ahab had him in prison at the time. It is felt the wording of 1 Kings 22:26 and 2 Chron. 18:25 confirm this, as Micaiah is ordered "returned" to the keeping of officials in another location. Clearly, King Ahab detested this prophet, and was not hesitant to declare such to his neighboring king, for which he received a mild rebuke: "The king should not say that" [1 Kings 22:8; 2 Chron. 18:7]. There follows a brief section [1 Kings 22:10-12; 2 Chron. 18:9-11] describing the scene into which Micaiah was about to be brought. The two kings are arrayed in their royal robes, seated upon their thrones, while the hundreds of prophets continue their proclamation of "smooth things" before them. The words of Isaiah certainly would apply to this scene: "For this is a rebellious people, false sons, sons who refuse to listen to the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, 'You must not prophesy to us what is right, speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions" [Isaiah 30:9-10]. Ahab and these prophets were the OT equivalent of what one discovers in the following words of the apostle Paul to the young evangelist Timothy -- "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths" [2 Timothy 4:3-4]. Ahab had already decided in his own mind what constituted "truth," and he didn't want to hear anything different. His "prophets" bowed to his wishes. Frankly, such men exist in the church today, and they are equally despicable in the sight of both God and the faithful.

The officer sent to fetch Micaiah had some words of advice for this prophet: "Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king. Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably" [1 Kings 22:13; 2 Chron. 18:12]. This is actually sound advice if one's only concern is physical survival and material prosperity. It is horrid advice if one is concerned about pleasing one's God. I'm reminded of the apostle Paul's words -- "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" [Gal. 1:10]. Micaiah had the same spirit. His response to this officer who had given him this advice is one of the classic statements of faith in all of Scripture: "As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak" [1 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 18:13]. "Micaiah's answer ought to burn into the soul of every gospel preacher!" [Bro. Clarence DeLoach, Gospel Advocate, p. 23]. Amen! Those men who want to be popular with the crowds and who fear offending others with the Truth had better consider another calling than that of a gospel preacher! Any man who waters down Truth so as to remain in the good graces of men has thereby incurred the wrath of God. Such "preachers" are beneath contempt. They are hirelings and profiteers. The people of God should run them out of town!!

Thank God for men like Micaiah!! "In a time when 'truth is fallen in the street' (Isaiah 59:14), the powerful example of Micaiah should help God's people set truth on its feet. God calls for faithful heralds who will deliver His truth" [ibid]. This prophet "could not be intimidated or bribed. He was not afraid to stand alone" [James E. Smith, I & II Kings, p. 435]. "As a faithful prophet of Jehovah he would not deviate so much as one inch from the path of his duty" [Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The OT, vol. 1, p. 601]. The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian brethren, "Pray for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given to me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should" [Eph. 6:19-20]. In similar fashion, Peter and John, after experiencing affliction by those who opposed Truth, prayed, "Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness" [Acts 4:29]. "And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly" [vs. 31]. Courage is contagious! Paul stated, "Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" [Philp. 1:14]. Yes, God expects His spokesmen to be fearless in the face of opposition. Such a spokesman was Micaiah.

"When he came to the king, the king said to him, 'Micaiah, shall we go to Ramoth-gilead to battle, or shall we refrain?' And he answered him, 'Go up and succeed, and the Lord will give it into the hand of the king'" [1 Kings 22:15; 2 Chron. 18:14]. This verse has shocked some students of the Bible, as we find Micaiah giving virtually the same answer to the king's question as the 400 false prophets. Has this man of God compromised his convictions? Has he succumbed to the pressures put upon him? No! In point of fact, he was being extremely sarcastic. He was mocking the king and his yes men. "Sarcasm is a fitting weapon to be wielded against those who have neither conscience nor reason" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 550]. Some disciples of Christ claim there is no place for sarcasm, ridicule and mockery in the arsenal of the Christian warrior. I disagree (see: Reflections #31 -- The Fine Art of Godly Mockery). The godly prophet Elijah, for example, a contemporary of Micaiah, mocked the false prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:27] and won a stunning victory over them at Mount Carmel. Perhaps the latter prophet had learned well from the former. "There is no more effective manner of meeting the argument of an opponent than by subjecting it to ridicule" [Dr. James E. Smith, I & II Kings, p. 438].

The sarcasm was not lost on Ahab. He spotted it immediately. "Then the king said to him, 'How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth in the name of the Lord?'" [1 Kings 22:16; 2 Chron. 18:15]. "No doubt Micaiah's mocking tone showed that his words were sarcastic" [Dr. James E. Smith, I & II Kings, p. 436]. "There must have been something in the prophet's intonation that smacked of sarcasm" [Dr. Jesse Long, The College Press NIV Commentary: 1 & 2 Kings, p. 265]. "Micaiah is a true disciple of the prophet Elijah in the defiant irony of the tone in which he takes up and mocks the utterance of these many false prophets, so bitterly as at once to show Ahab his scorn of them and him" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 3, p. 94]. In Ahab's hasty attempt to save face before his fellow king, he rebukes Micaiah, but only succeeds in exposing himself to further ridicule. By demanding that Micaiah "speak to me nothing but the truth," when Micaiah had only repeated verbatim the words of the 400 prophets, Ahab utterly indicts the message of these 400 "prophets" as something other than truth. In other words, he has just unwittingly declared all 400 of his prophets to be false.

In response to the king's plea for truth, Micaiah provides it. In 1 Kings 22:17-23 and 2 Chron. 18:16-22 this bold prophet of God reveals, in parabolic vision, the fate of Ahab and his forces in the upcoming venture. In a word: the king will die. "This is a mere parable, and only tells, in figurative language, what was in the womb of providence, the events which were shortly to take place, the agents employed in them, and also the permission on the part of God for these agents to act" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 2, p. 476]. "No one in the royal assembly failed to perceive that Micaiah was foretelling the dispersion of the Israelite army as a result of the death of the king of Israel. Ahab certainly understood the purport of those words. He had demanded the word of God and had received it" [James E. Smith, p. 436]. The shepherd would be lost and the sheep would scatter. A spirit of deception would enter the hearts of those the king had secured to speak unto him pleasantries. "He has sown to lies, he reaps to delusions. It is a conspicuous instance of the just judgment of heaven that King Ahab is lured to his death by the very imposters he had cherished and patronized. He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 543]. Paul speaks of those who "do not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved," indicating that "God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, in order that they may be condemned who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness" [2 Thess. 2:10-12].

When Micaiah had finished his prophetic proclamation, the reaction was immediate. One of the 400 prophets by the name of Zedekiah, who was very likely the leader of this prophetic band, "came up, hit Micaiah in the face, and demanded, 'Did the Spirit of the Lord leave me to speak to you?'" [1 Kings 22:24; 2 Chron. 18:23]. Unperturbed, Micaiah boldly tells Zedekiah, "You will soon see when you go to hide yourself in an inner chamber on that day" [1 Kings 22:25; 2 Chron. 18:24]. In other words, when Micaiah's prophecy comes to pass, and Zedekiah is cowering under his desk (so to speak), then he will know of a certainty that the Spirit of the Lord had indeed spoken through Micaiah. This, by the way, is the proof of prophecy -- does that which is spoken actually come to pass?! "But the prophet who dares to speak in My name a message I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods -- that prophet must die. You may say to yourself, 'How can we recognize a message the Lord has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the Lord's name, and that message does not come true or is not fulfilled, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him" [Deut. 18:20-22]. Micaiah had absolutely no fear of the king or of his prophets. His own personal safety and material prosperity was of no great concern to him. What mattered was that he spoke Truth.

Speaking the message of the Lord, however, can very quickly bring down upon that bold messenger the fierce wrath of the ungodly. This was to be the case with Micaiah. The king of Israel ordered, "Take Micaiah and return him to Amon, the governor of the city, and to Joash, the king's son, and say, 'This is what the king says: Put this guy in prison and feed him only bread and water until I come back safely'" [1 Kings 22:26-27; 2 Chron. 18:25-26]. Once again, however, Micaiah was unperturbed. He fearlessly responded, "If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me" [1 Kings 22:28; 2 Chron. 18:27]. In other words, he had prophesied that the king would die. Thus, if the king came back safely from the battle then the words of Micaiah were false, which would mean the Lord God had not spoken through him. Micaiah then calls upon all those assembled that day to act as witnesses to this exchange: "Listen, all you people!" [1 Kings 22:28; 2 Chron. 18:27]. No true prophecy of God is ever uttered in some dark corner. The world is called to witness the wisdom and power of God.

The outcome, of course, is a matter of historical record, and Micaiah's prophecy did indeed come to pass. Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, "goes straight into the jaws of death, the victim of his own folly and cruelty and sin" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 5, p. 544]. Even though he tried to disguise himself in the course of battle [1 Kings 22:30; 2 Chron. 18:29], hoping to fool the Syrian army, the Lord was not deceived. A lone archer, firing his bow completely at random, struck the fatal blow. The arrow entered through a joint in the armor of Ahab, and he was severely wounded, bleeding to death in his own chariot. Ahab was brought to the city of Samaria where he was buried. His chariot was taken to a pool used by harlots for bathing, and there his blood was washed from the chariot. It was then lapped up by dogs [1 Kings 22:34-38; 2 Chron. 18:33-34]. His wife Jezebel also came to an ignoble end, falling from a high window, trampled by horses, and eaten by dogs [2 Kings 9:30-37].

King Jehoshaphat returned from the battle to Jerusalem. He survived to continue his righteous reign over the southern kingdom. He was, however, rebuked by the Lord God for his ill-advised alliance with Ahab. "Of Micaiah's fate we know nothing; but it is hard to suppose that his bold and defiant testimony could escape the extreme penalty of death" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 3, p. 95]. We never learn the prophet's fate, but Ellicott is most likely correct. Micaiah probably was taken out and executed for his bold proclamation of Truth. He dared to dissent from the majority opinion, and for this fearlessness he suffered hatred, imprisonment, and perhaps even death. What a magnificent man of God was the prophet Micaiah. Oh, that there were more like him today!! As for the lessons we can learn from the inspiring example of this great prophet, let me leave you with five principles that Bro. Clarence DeLoach perceived from this account, and which he shared in his recent article published in the October 2007 issue of Gospel Advocate. Please take the time to reflect upon these five principles, as they are filled with food for thought:

  1. It is better to be divided by truth than united in error.
  2. It is better to tell the truth that hurts and then heals than to tell a lie that comforts and then kills.
  3. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.
  4. It is better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude.
  5. It is better to succeed ultimately with the truth than to succeed temporarily with a lie.

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Readers' Reflections

Special Announcement to Readers --- These weekly Reflections are now almost five years old. There are well over 300 in-depth studies, and the readers of these reflective essays now total in excess of 12,000 worldwide. God has truly blessed this ministry. However, many of you have stated that a critical feature is missing -- an index of references to the Scriptures I have cited in my studies. Over a year ago a devoted reader from southern Arizona took on the enormous task of providing an index to every Scripture cited within my Reflections, with an active link to each article that mentions or examines that passage. That work has now been completed and it is ready for your use. You can access it on the Reflections Archives web page (simply click on the second owl -- "Textual Index"), or you may go directly to that page: Textual Index. There is a picture on this new index page of the dear sister who provided this service, and I sincerely thank her for her labor of love. May God richly bless her! --- Al Maxey

From a PhD in Alabama:

Bro. Al, I thank God for your ministry! You are still one of the best writers and thinkers among those in the Stone-Campbell Movement. I am praying that God will continue to bless your ministry, which ministry promotes Jesus and unity among His people.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Dear Brother Al, I purchased your book Down, But Not Out from I have read it and passed it along to my dear Christian lady friend. I found your book most compelling and unusually sound, well-researched and insightfully analyzed. The conclusion was surprising, but very believable, and I am sure it will lift the burden, shame and "scarlet letter" of divorce from many innocent souls. My new friend is a Christian lady whom I have just recently met. In the past, when I learned that she and her husband were divorced, I felt it was best to back away lest we, by any relationship, should be seen as "adulterous." However, after having read the book you wrote, I now feel liberated to continue this relationship. What our future holds, God only knows, but I do feel liberated. Thank you, my brother, and may God continue blessing your ministry of sharing His Word in a very complex time.

From a Minister in Mississippi:

Bro. Maxey, It is also historic fact that not only the instrument, but also singing and praying were used in the Temple. To say, as Dr. John Mark Hicks did, that the exclusion of the instrument reflects a "covenantal break" would also involve singing and praying in the covenantal break, would it not?! Moreover, Dr. Hicks misses the significance of Paul's instructions on the keeping of holy days in Romans 14 and of the vow keeping incident in Acts 21:17f. The sensual aspects of worship are allowable. The one who holds a day to be holy does so oftentimes for sensual (as I understand Dr. Hicks to use the term) reasons. We're to worship God with soul, mind and body -- with all of our being (which includes the senses). Candles and incense do nothing for me, but for others such things help focus their minds on the majesty of our God. As long as the focus is on God, then there is no problem, in my opinion, with the various aids to worship such as candles, incense, and musical instruments. Moreover, I reject the argument that an instrument can not reflect the player's deepest emotions. As a lover of traditional blues, bluegrass and country music, I have heard many a guitar (as well as other instruments) "speak" at the behest of the player, and it "speaks" emotions that a human voice alone would have trouble conveying. On the other hand, as someone who has attended instrumental churches in the past, I have also heard some musicians who took away far more from the worship by their uninspired play than they ever added.

From a Student at Pepperdine University:

Bro. Maxey, Thank you for your Reflections on the issue of instrumental music in worship. Having been raised in the Churches of Christ I understand the great divide this issue has caused. I do not know if you are a musician or not, but I am. God has given me a gift to play guitar. I am not saying that boastfully, but others have told me so many times. And yet if I worship using my guitar I will be frowned upon by many in our movement. Yet, I am playing from my heart, because my passion is music. I can't sing well, so my guitar playing is one way I can express worship to God. Worship is not a Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night only event, but is a daily lifestyle. Through Christ we have the freedom to fully express in our lives the talents He has so richly imparted to us, as long as we are doing so for His glory and not ours. Well, these are just my personal perspectives and beliefs, and I do not believe them to be binding on others.

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Dear Bro. Al, I agree that Dr. John Mark Hicks has written an excellent defense of a cappella music in our worship assemblies -- by far the best I have heard in my 50+ years as a member of the church. To really cap it off, he is honest in his conclusion that his position is based on assumptions and personal preferences! He refuses to make the matter a salvation issue. Other than yourself, I have not had the privilege of meeting anyone so frankly honest. I believe in the final analysis, the whole question of instrumental or a cappella is one that is simply immaterial to God; He has left it up to us to decide which way we want to worship Him.

From a Christian Church Pastor in California:

Brother Al, Wow. How far we have come in this quest to breach the walls of separation! Dr. Hicks is an honest man who will likely moderate his views even more as he experiences the spiritual depth and fervor of those who worship with instruments. More exciting things have happened on this scene in the past decade than I ever dreamed I'd live to see. Instrumental and non-instrumental brethren have "discovered" each other! How much sweeter it will be when we "discover" that God has myriads of children in places we previously had written off as "denominationalist." What a wonder is the grace of God. Keep that keyboard humming, brother, for once the ball of grace and harmony gets rolling, it's powerful. Victor Hugo said, "There's nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Discovering the brightness of grace in its various manifestations is so much more exhilarating than lurking in the darkness of legalism with all of its gloom. Having been reared and trained to be a semi-legalist, I've been down that road. I'm now having a blast getting rid of that old baggage and discovering new brothers and sisters I never knew I had. Oh, we don't agree on everything -- but we don't have to, as long as we are together in Christ Jesus. "Grace, Grace, Wonderful Grace!"

From a Reader in California:

Dear Brother Al, I agree with you that Bro. Hicks makes about the best case in defense of a cappella music. The spirit of his argument is, in my opinion, right on. His defense of it, however, goes off on some flawed tangents. I think you correctly pointed out the flaws in his reasoning. I especially appreciated your handling of the Old Covenant worship style and the New Covenant worship style. I've always been suspect of the viewpoint that there is this huge divide between the God of the OT, and what pleased Him, and the God of the NT, and what pleases Him. It smacks a little too much of Marcion and his doctrine [Reflections #210]. We need to keep in mind that God is the God of the whole Bible, not just the God of the New Testament.

From an Elder in South Carolina:

Bro. Al, Thanks for discussing the presentation made by Dr. Hicks. I am an elder in an a cappella congregation, and my view is that music is not a "salvation" issue. I realize that those who espouse a restoration philosophy have not truly duplicated the first century experience, as our culture and traditions are so much different (church buildings, pews, sound system, song books, etc.). Nevertheless, I do think the restoration argument has merit, and as generally affluent Christians living in the United States, I think we might sometimes miss the obvious: God's plan of salvation and expectations in worship are both elegant and simple. Almost anywhere in the world there is sufficient water for baptism, and voices can be raised in praise without the need for a relatively expensive instrument (whether that device be a piano, organ, or something else). We truly serve an awesome God, whose practical, simple, loving approach encourages all people everywhere to respond to Him.

From a Minister in California:

Bro. Al, Great critique of Dr. Hicks' article. Your comments (3rd paragraph from the end) regarding "restoration" really hit a harmonious chord in my heart. I've been preaching and teaching for years that our vision is not to restore historical practices, but rather to honor the risen Christ! I continue to enjoy very much your weekly Reflections, and always look forward to the next offering. God's blessings, my friend, on you, your family, your congregation, and your ministry.

From a Doctor in Alabama:

Dear Brother Al, I have to say that this [Reflections #320] is exactly how doctrinal disagreements within the Body of Christ ought to be addressed: with mutually respectful reasoning. I applaud Dr. John Mark Hicks for his treatment of the issue, and I also applaud you for your rebuttal to his article. Both were well-reasoned. But, more importantly, both showed a true spirit of Christian love and respect toward all believers, including those who hold differing positions on the issue. I must confess that, though I'm more in agreement with your conclusions than with his, I found myself agreeing with much of what Dr. Hicks wrote. He presented what has to be the best argument against instrumental worship that I've ever come across. It was well-reasoned, and it avoided the simplistic and contrived arguments that are commonly put forward by those who oppose the use of musical instruments in the assembly. He certainly presented much food for thought. However, I feel that his argument ultimately failed for the same reason that most doctrinal arguments fail: he began with the conclusion he wanted to reach (that we shouldn't use instruments in worship) and he then constructed an argument designed precisely to reach that conclusion. That's letting the tail wag the dog! You can come up with an argument to support virtually any position you want, as long as you're free to pick and choose what evidence you'll cite in support of your case. I seriously doubt that anyone who wasn't already convinced in his own heart that the use of instrumental music in worship was contrary to God's will could have come up with the same argument that Dr. Hicks presented. Instead of trying to defend our own doctrinal convictions, and carefully selecting evidence to support our reasoning, we really ought to be looking at all of the evidence presented in Scripture, and then following that evidence wherever it may lead us. I applaud you for consistently doing this in your own writings! Keep up the good work.

From a Reader in California:

Bro. Al, As long as folks continue to make the use/non-use of instruments a matter of salvation, then we have a long way to go. Dr. Hicks is on the right track. It is so refreshing to see examples of good attitudes and open minds. Keep up your messages, Al ... don't give up. Somewhere this is all going to sink in for people. You have class, you have credibility, and you are so eloquent. I praise God for what you do!

From a Reader in Arkansas:

Dear Brother Maxey, I would like to let you know how much I appreciate your weekly Reflections articles. So many of these articles address questions that I have had through the years as a Christian and member of the Church of Christ. May God bless you and Shelly.

From an Elder in Missouri:

Bro. Al, I took the time to print out and read Dr. John Mark Hicks' article. I agree with you that it's one of the best, if not the best, written treatises on the subject. I think his approach is logical and sound. With the exception of his statement about Ephesians 5, I find myself in agreement with him. He seems, however, to have run into the same problem that many do: he applies the comments in Eph. 5:19 to an assembly. My view has been for quite some time that this is taking that verse out of context. The surrounding text speaks of Christian living. If one places the words "in the assembly" after each of Paul's recommendations in the entire passage, one can quickly see the fallacy of this interpretation. Proof-texting is dangerous business, and such a take on this verse just leads to further legalism. I once preached for a congregation out west that took this to a very legalistic extreme. I used to play the flute. There were times, when my mind was stuck or I just needed to relax for a bit, I would take the little flute from my desk drawer and play it for a few minutes. One of the elders discovered this and chastised me severely for having "music in the church." He pointed out that in the deed to the land it was stated that there would be no instrument of music "in the church." I had to take the flute home. AND YET ... he and his fellow elder would have gatherings at their homes and sing wonderful hymns around the piano -- and they saw no hypocrisy in this whatsoever!! They had completely misunderstood the meaning of "in the church."

From a Reader in Oklahoma:

Brother Al, I hope this email finds you in good health and enjoying the blessings of our Lord God Almighty! I was just wanting to ask if there will be a continuation of the story of that mangy mutt Warrior Willie?! At the very end of the 3rd installment of this saga there is a note advising us: "To be continued." I have had my share of dealings with "Willie" on an Internet discussion site, and this person is truly infuriating!! So when I get really infuriated and frustrated with Dave ... uhhh, I mean "Willie" ... I always go to the bottom of your Archives Page and read again these installments to help me mellow out. "Willie" and I have had our differences on the issue of MDR, and also on many other issues, which I'm sure you know about, regarding legalistic patternism (support for orphans' homes, fellowship halls, etc.). Bro. Al, please keep up the good work. I always look forward to your Reflections. God bless you and Shelly.

From a Reader in Texas:

Brother Al, Thank you so much for sharing with us this fine article by Dr. Hicks and your comments on it. I am always amazed at the excellent way you handle issues. Clearly the Spirit of Christ is always there with you. I really admire the way you continually discuss and teach on these varied issues. God has indeed given you a wonderful gift of writing, and also a mind to go with it. Having been set free of the legalistic views of the rigid Churches of Christ, I am finding out just how mean they can be when you disagree with them. At the age of 75, I am past these "issues" that these cultists continue to fight over. I am so grateful for men like Ketcherside, Garrett, Fudge, Hook, Scott, and especially for Maxey, for it was their/your writings that truly helped me finally understand the Scriptures. You are such a blessing to so many. Thank you!

From a Reader in [Withheld]:

Dear Brother Al, Please subscribe me to anything and everything that you send out!! In case you don't remember, I am the brother you wrote about in Reflections #314 -- A Disciple's Difficult Decision. Things are getting much better for us now that we are at the Christian Church we have decided to attend. I'm actually being spiritually fed for a change. The teachings here are all focused on how we need to personally change in order to conform to Christ, rather than how everyone needs to change in order to conform to party preferences. Thanks for all that you do, brother!

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