The messenger who had gone to summon Micaiah said to him, “Listen, the prophets all agree that the king will succeed. You should say the same thing they say and prophesy success.” But Micaiah answered, “As surely as the Lord lives, I will say only what God tells me to say.” – 2 Chronicles 18:12-13 (CEB)
As the king prepared for war, the message to the prophet Micaiah was clear: Fall in line and tell the king he’ll be victorious, just like the other prophets did. Micaiah’s response was equally clear: I will only say what God tells me to say. If God says victory, then it’s victory. If God says otherwise … well.
This is the “speaking truth to power” that we hear about. Micaiah knew the risk of not prophesying as instructed. But Micaiah answered to a higher authority. Warning the king of defeat, he was punished. Fixated on war, the king died in battle.
The ancient desire for divine blessing of war and assurance of victory still thrives today. Plenty of “prophets” eagerly “profitize,” speaking divine favor for the empire’s violence and injustice, making some serious cash by telling powerful people that God is on their side. History shows that speaking truth to power comes at a cost, more often leading to persecution than prestige.
How might we discern the difference between self-proclaimed and God-ordained prophets? When a prophet pleases power, the motivation is profit. When a prophet speaks truth to power, the inspiration is from God. When a prophet-for-profit speaks, people die. When a prophet of God speaks, the people thrive.
Deliver us from those who claim your name for profit. Strengthen us to speak truth to power, no matter the cost. Amen.
Chris Mereschuk is an Unsettled Pastor in the Southern New England Conference with a call to transitional ministry.