“Now the Lord has put a lying spirit into the mouths of all these prophets” (1 Kings 22:23).
While we believe that God is working out His good purpose – “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28), we must remember that history tells the story of our sin as well as God’s salvation. Where there is sin, there is also judgment. We see this in John 3:17-18 where the great words of salvation – “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through Christ” (verse 17) – are followed by these very serious words of warning – “Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s only Son ” (verse 18). “Because he has not believed …", there will be condemnation.
Scripture says that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). This is the fulfilment of God’s wonderful promise: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21). If we miss out the words, “who calls on the name of the Lord”, we would be left with the statement, “Everyone will be saved.” This might be what we would like to hear, but it’s not what God’s Word says. It says that the way of receiving God’s salvation is the way of calling on the name of the Lord we receive God’s salvation, we must call on the name of the Lord.
How does this help us to understand the words of 1 Kings 22:23 – “now the Lord has put a lying spirit into the mouths of all these prophets”? The NIV Study Bible offers this comment: “The Lord had given 400 prophets over to the power of the lie because they did not love the truth and had chosen to speak out of their own hearts.” We may say that the Lord’s action as an act of judgment. He says to those who follow the way of disobedience, “If that’s the way you have chosen to go, I will not stop you.” He doesn’t stop them in their tracks and turn them around. He allows them to continue on in the way they have chosen.
Here, we see the great conflict between God and Satan. We must remember that Satan is “the father of lies” (John 8:44). In its comment on 1 Kings 22:23, the NIV Study Bible says, “see also note on 2 Samuel 24:1). Commenting on 2 Samuel 24:1, it points out two things – (1) “God does not cause anyone to sin” – “When tempted to sin, no-one should say, 'God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed, Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin … ” (James 1:13-15). (2) “Satan’s evil acts are under God’s sovereign control” – “The Lord said to Satan, ‘Very well, then, everything he has in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.'” (Job 1:12).
When we consider the ongoing conflict between God and Satan, we must never forget that the final outcome is certain: “the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur” (Revelation 20:10). Along with God’s judgment on “the devil”, there is also His judgment on “the false prophet” (Revelation 20:10).
It is this judgment of God that we must see in the words of Proverbs 16:1 – To man belongs the plans of the heart, but from the Lord comes the reply of the tongue.” While we are still on this earth, God speaks to us His Word of warning – “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven?” (Hebrews 12:25). God is calling us to stop turning away from Him and start turning to Him. If, however, we persist in turning away from Him, the word of warning will become the word of judgment: “I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:23).
There is a better way than the word of warning becoming the word of judgment. When there is “a violent earthquake” in our life – the shaking of our whole life (which makes us think about the direction in which our life is heading), we can turn to the Lord with the question, “What must I do to be saved?” When we ask this question, God will speak to us with His wonderful answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:26-31).