Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”
That was what Micaiah the prophet said to Ahab, king of Israel before he went on his last battle. The passage is apt to generate discomfort. How would God deceive someone? I handle these sort of situations by starting from the beginning and listing what I know.
- Ahab had been a bad king who consistently refused to mend his ways. God, as the judge of all the earth, had decided that it was time Ahab died.
- Ahab wished to make war against the king of Aram and God intended to kill him in that battle.
- But there was evidently the chance that Ahab would change his mind, because God wanted to make sure Ahab walked into the trap. i.e. God had decided on the death of Ahab and was carrying out his judgment.
- One spirit offered to make liars of Ahab’s prophets, so as to lead him into a war that would kill him. God gave permission for that deception. This should not be surprising. Everything that happens can only happen if God allows it. (At least that’s what my mom told me). Lying is only one of the many evil things God allows to happen.
- God himself did not lie to Ahab or his prophets. He told the prophets what would happen. He told Ahab that his prophets were lying. He correctly calculated that Ahab, who already had a tendency to listen to the prophets who told him what he wanted to hear, would ignore the warning. This was a calculated take-down of an evil king.
Assuming that you agree that God has the right to sentence someone to death and carry out the sentence, the question is: Is God just to allow evil?
He knew that spirit was going to make Ahab’s prophets lie and he gave the go-ahead. I would argue that God did not command the evil; doing so would give the act legitimacy, the same as if he declared white to be black. He simply knew of an evil act that was about to happen and said to the spirit “go and carry out your evil plan”. The question then is: “Is it morally obligatory for God to put an end to an act of evil if he knows it is going to happen?” My emotions say yes, but I haven’t listened to them in forever. My head is too exhausted to ponder the question right now.