Welcome to everyone who has braved the cold weather to join in this service, as well as everyone who is listening in.
The portion of Scripture for today includes three people. Firstly, a prophet of God who was fearless even when faced with death or imprisonment. The other man, Ahab, lived a godless life but tried to drag God into things. Then there was one more man, King Jehoshaphat, who lived a fairly upright life but became disobedient and confused. The text is from 1 Kings 22.
For three years Syria and Israel continued without war. 2 But in the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. 3 And the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we keep quiet and do not take it out of the hand of the king of Syria?” 4 And he said to Jehoshaphat, “Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?” And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
Ahab was probably the most godless king Israel ever had. Jezebel was his wife. Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah was a god-fearing man who visited Ahab because their children were married, and they were thus related. Here we find Ahab dragging Jehoshaphat into a war with a godless king. His visit was not merely a courtesy visit.
5 And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.”
Yet, Jehoshaphat wanted to hear what God said about the matter. (Be on your guard, the devil will deceive you – even if you seek God’s face on an issue.)
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go to battle against Ramoth-Gilead, or shall I refrain?” And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”
Ahab was godless. When he got the go ahead from these 400 prophets, he was ready to go. Jehoshaphat was a God-fearing man and he felt uncomfortable about what the prophets had said. You can come to church (in the way Ahab came to the prophets) and you will get the wrong message because you are spiritually blunt. Jehoshaphat was spiritually sharp, and he was uncomfortable with the prophet’s message. So we read:
7 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here another prophet of the Lord of whom we may inquire?”
While living a God-fearing life, it is critical to hear the voice of God. Reading God’s word will not necessarily help you if you do not live a God-fearing life and if you are not obedient to God.
8 And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah the son of Imlah, but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil.” And Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.”
13 And the messenger who went to summon Micaiah said to him, “Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favourable to the king. Let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favourably.” 14 But Micaiah said, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I will speak.”
Listen to a prophet of God who preaches the truth fearlessly, no matter what the world or the king says. Stay away from a prophet who does not have this spirit.
17 And he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master; let each return to his home in peace.’”
24 Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, “How did the Spirit of the Lord go from me to speak to you?” 25 And Micaiah said, “Behold, you shall see on that day when you go into an inner chamber to hide yourself.” 26 And the king of Israel said, “Seize Micaiah, and take him back to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king's son, 27 and say, ‘Thus says the king, “Put this fellow in prison and feed him meagre rations of bread and water, until I come in peace.”’” 28 And Micaiah said, “If you return in peace, the Lord has not spoken by me.” And he said, “Hear, all you peoples!”
They went to war. Jehoshaphat decided to go to war with Ahab. He did not pay attention to the words of Micaiah. If a king went into battle, all his people had to follow the decision of the king. The battle was fierce.
32 And when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, they said, “It is surely the king of Israel.” So they turned to fight against him. And Jehoshaphat cried out. 33 And when the captains of the chariots saw that it was not the king of Israel, they turned back from pursuing him. 34 But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armour and the breastplate. Therefore he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around and carry me out of the battle, for I am wounded.”
Ahab reminds me of modern-day Christians. He lived a godless life, he allowed his wife to worship Baal and kill the prophets of God; he killed Naboth for his vineyard, but he quite comfortably also listened to the prophets. Nowadays people live as they like; they go to church and enjoy the service. They continue drinking, they continue making girls pregnant, but they are in church and sing in the choir. Their grandparents must care for all the children that are born out of wedlock. What a pathetic situation the church is in today. Grandparents must care for the children who have been born of their children.
This Biblical incident story made me realise how dangerous this situation was, especially for Jehoshaphat. He was once God-fearing but ended up fighting in a battle together with wicked Ahab. He was somehow deceived and confused when he listened to the prophets and to the prophecy of Micaiah. We too will be faced with situations where we must decide what is right and wrong, what is God’s will and what does Satan want. It is easy to be deceived.
A new trend is taking the western world by storm where when a baby is born, its sex cannot be defined as male or female. The baby can be male or female. The child can grow up and decide to be male or female. If he is a male and does not want to grow up as a male, his biological sex can be altered using medicine. This is the same with females. Medical doctors are publishing their views on this issue. In 2014, a sex change was regarded as a good thing with positive results. In 2016, 2017 numerous publications also supported these views. In 2020, however, the British High Court decided that there is insufficient research regarding this issue and there are lies in the present information. This court’s decision will influence many countries around the world. They decided that children under the age of 15 are unable to know what is best and cannot make the decision to change their biological sex. The court stated that any child wanting to change their biological sex must obtain court consent. A Swedish hospital, Lindgren Children’s hospital, connected to Karolinska University Hospital has followed the English example. They say that the medicine used for a sex changs (which is powerful) has detrimental effects on children: their bones weaken and break; they cannot have children later in life; there is a greater risk of cancer. A sex change will require injections every 3 months or so for the rest of a person’s life because the body will naturally revert to the sex he/she was born with.
The NIH, the National Institute for Health in Britain says the same thing and has advised the British government. The American College of Paediatricians advised the same. Dr Michelle Cretella says that every boy has in each cell of his body 6500 differences from a girl. Cutting the breasts off a female does not make her male. Removing the private parts of a male does not make him a female. If a person would remove a healthy arm or leg, it would be assumed that the person is mentally unhealthy. But if a child wants to remove parts of his body, we say that it is wonderful. The biological reality does not matter, only what a person thinks in his brain matters. Therefore, if I am 20 years old and I ‘feel’ like a 60-year-old, I can ask to be treated like a 60-year-old. I can demand the rights of a 60-year-old person simply because I feel that way and my mind tells me this. Dr Cretella says that such a person would be treated as delusional. But now, if a boy with a male body wants to become a female, it is regarded as normal and it is acceptable.
An important court case in Britain involves a female, Keira Bell. She changed her sex when she was young and became unhappy with the change. She now says that she had made that decision when she was still a teenager, and that at the time she was not thinking properly and now she is in a mess. She wants to be a female.
Slowly but surely, more doctors are saying that this no longer makes sense.
The first hospital in America that performed these operations has now stopped doing so because the people become depressed and unhappy and end up having big issues. Johns Hopkins psychiatrist, Dr Paul McHugh said that he refuses to help people change their biological sex.
In Canada a violent criminal was arrested and jailed. In prison he said that he hadchanged his mind and he wanted to identify as a woman. So, this man has been jailed together with female prisoners! Doctors continue arguing about this issue and court cases are ongoing but what does God’s word say about this?
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
We read that men who have sex with men will not inherit the kingdom of God.
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonourable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. Romans 1:26,27
So, I have presented to you material where doctors say sexual change is fine; material where others say that it does not work. And I have read what the Bible says - so I leave the decision over to you.
Remember the context of this message. The mistake that Jehoshaphat made landed him in a battle which almost killed him. Why did he not listen to Micaiah? He may have thought they were all one nation – Judah and Israel - all children of God who believe in the same God, all brothers who could fight the King of Assyria. How did he get so confused about something that God was so clear about? He was disobedient to God’s word. Do not take this lightly. Disobedience to the word of God stops the spirit of God from penetrating and speaking to us. Disobedience is the main reason why God withdraws His Spirit from us. Let me illustrate it in this way: We are like sponges that absorb water. We should absorb the voice of the Holy Spirit. It should penetrate our hearts and stay there. If a water-logged sponge is put in a bucket filled with water, it cannot absorb any more. If water is poured over it, it will not absorb any more. It can be thrown into a dam; swimming pool or river and it will absorb no more water. Disobedience does this to our hearts. We can sit in church and listen to God’s word, but the Holy Spirit cannot bring it into our hearts and make it alive. For the sponge to absorb water, everything in it must first be squeezed out. This is what God needs to do with us so that we can hear God’s voice.
This is what happened to Jehoshaphat. When he was in the heat of the battle with the enemy turning on him to kill him, God squeezed him like a sponge, and he suddenly realised that he had been deceived. If God places us into difficult situations, it is to squeeze out all the self in us and to speak to us. I can sometimes think that I am doing all that God wants me to do, until God puts me into a position where He squeezes me and gets rid of all that is inside and my eyes open to the deception I am in. When all the soldiers were against Jehoshaphat he cried out in desperation. In 2 Chronicles 18 where the same incident is related, we read … but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him…
Do you find yourself in a place where you are in danger of losing your life? Are you part of an army where everyone will lose their lives? Are you in a place where, to your left and right, people are losing their spiritual lives? Jehosophat saw the crisis. It was he, the leader, who had put his nation into this predicament. He reached a point where he realised that he was dying spiritually. It did not matter that he had soldiers all around him and that he had Ahab who was encouraging him; he knew that death was in the camp and they were all going to die. Jehoshaphat was fighting in an army he should never have got involved with. Jehoshaphat put aside his pride as a king and like a helpless baby he screamed out in desperation. I do not believe that he screamed only because he saw death facing him, but he realised that he was in the wrong army, fighting the wrong battle. He should never have been there. He abandoned his self-esteem and like a helpless baby he screamed out. It was a choice. He could have died with Ahab - and you in the same way, can die with the world (even though you say they are my brothers) or you can break away and choose God.
This battle was not between Ahab and Jehoshaphat. It was Satan himself who wanted to kill Jehoshaphat. Do not let people say that the battle is between Ahab and Jehoshaphat. Look around - are the people around you drowning in sin or living a victorious life? Is the spirit of God amongst you? Is it drawing you together? When you must make a decision about a sex change, are you lead by the Spirit of God? Be a man. Humble yourself. If you see that you are downing in sin, admit it and scream out. Whether that sin is a grudge or a hatred towards others because of what they have done to you; whether it is the world entering the youth through their hairstyles and clothing, open your eyes like Jehoshaphat and say, “We are dying in this battle!” Jehoshaphat may have cried out because he feared death, but there was something else – he cried to God to have mercy on him because he did not hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It is a blessed place to be where the Lord has squeezed you so that you become open to the voice of the Holy Spirit; when He tells you that something does not belong in your life, and it will kill you. This experience humiliated Jehoshaphat. Jesus said that if you lose your life, you will save it but if you try to save it, you will lose it. When do you lose your life? When the Holy Spirit enters your life and tells you that this is a sin, and you admit it. Are you going to stay proud while you watch the people of God being wiped out. Will you be like Jehoshaphat who went further and said, “As a king I have made the wrong decision which has destroyed many people around me.” This is my cry. “Lord, help me to humble myself and scream.” Bring out the most sensitive things in your life; bring out the biggest secrets in your life. This is how you scream out. Bring out the things that you are most ashamed of. Bring them to a holy God whom you know hates the sin.
There is no counselling that will set you free if it does not go together with justice. If you scream out your sins with someone who assures you that they are not so bad after all, your life will not be saved, you will die. Bring your shame and sins and get rid of them in front of a child of God. Then on issues, like sex changes, the truth will be clear to you. Bishop Festo Kivengere of the East African Revival said this: “If I would be left alone to discover on my own what sin is I am as blind as a bat. You can listen to all the arguments and you will be left blind and confused. But God takes me to a place where I am squeezed out and exposed to the love of God on the cross of Calvary. This is the place where God sorted me out and the sins in my life.”
This is salvation: when you scream out like Jehosophat, when you expose your errors and receive forgiveness. What happened to Ahab? We read that he did not dress like a king but entered the battle like an ordinary soldier. A soldier hit him at random between the sections of his armour and he was killed. If you have lived as a child of the king with the children of God, do not think you can go into the world and Satan will not take any notice of you. Satan will tell his demons to get you and you will fall lower than all the others.
There was another person who also screamed out. He experienced death. He was not a sinner. He became part of the army of man because His Father had sent Him to be amongst us. Satan forgot about everyone else and focussed all his demons on him, the spotless, blameless Lamb of God who was sent among us; we who were damned and doomed for hell. We grabbed Him and listened to Satan as he told us to nail him to the cross. There He hung. He cried like Jehosophat and said, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” He was forsaken by God. He was part of the enemy group of man - fallen man, yet He was sinless and blameless. When He cried out God heard His prayer, and He opened the door for each one of us to escape from this damned army on the way to hell. God answered His prayer.
Do the same. If you realise that you are being killed by your sin, follow the example of Jehoshaphat. Drop your pride and cry out, “Lord, help me I am dying!” Expose your biggest shame and ask for forgiveness. God will make you part of His army and we will stand together against the enemy and Satan - and we will be one in heart and soul. We will not be divided. Everyone will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit because we are ‘empty’ and have been squeezed out and there is nothing that quenches God’s spirit in our lives. We will know how to guide our society when it needs to make decisions and when people come with their questions, arguments and doctors. We will hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and be able to take a stand regarding what we believe is right.