Yoder-Short: Brave enough to speak

Jan 7, 2019 by

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How brave are we at speaking up in the face of opposition? We all remember times when we stayed silent knowing that our opinions would not be welcome. It’s easy to fall in line with the surrounding tone. I remember the time I sat quietly at a church committee meeting as someone told a joke that drew humor from a character’s sexual orientation. This memory returned as I read the story of Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:1-40. Micaiah wasn’t afraid to challenge the bullies. His boldness underscored my lack of courage.

Jane Yoder-Short

Yoder-Short

Micaiah speaks an unwelcome message in an unsafe space. He defies the wishes of the king and contradicts the testimony of 400 well-paid prophets. His story nudges us to question the manipulated truth in our culture and prods us to offer a counterview.

Micaiah’s story starts with King Ahab’s desire to control Ramoth-gilead. Ahab calls in Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, to join him in battle. Jehoshaphat suggested they check their battle plans with Yahweh.

King Ahab calls in his 400 prophets. They knew the expected answer, the right punch line. Not supporting the king’s aspirations likely meant you would find yourself without a prophet’s authorization, without a press pass. Saying the wrong thing could get you fired or jailed. When asked if Israel should go to battle, the royal lackeys unanimously declare, “Yahweh will give Ramoth-gilead into the hand of the king.”

Jehoshaphat, a little suspicious, inquires if there are other prophets. Ahab confesses that there is one more but adds, “I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.” At Jehoshaphat’s insistence, Micaiah is summoned.

Prior to the meeting, Micaiah is informed that he should speak favorably to the king, as have the other prophets. Diverging opinions are not welcome. When it’s Micaiah’s turn to speak, he repeats verbatim what the other proph­ets have said. “Go up and triumph; Yahweh will give Ramoth-gilead into the hand of the king.”

Catching Micaiah’s sarcasm, the king responds, “How many times must I make you swear to tell me nothing but the truth?”

Micaiah proceeds to tell the king he will die in battle. Israel will be scattered. Despite intimidation, Micaiah speaks. He remains steadfast in his prediction. Micaiah ends up in prison. Ahab dies in battle.

Four hundred paid royal prophets declaring something to be true doesn’t make it true. When the powerful manipulate the truth, we can do more than repeat their message. Knowing our voices aren’t welcome doesn’t excuse our silence. Everyone in the room laughing doesn’t mean a joke is appropriate.

Micaiah reminds us to speak an alternative word even when the powerful voices drown out God’s message. It’s tricky. It’s not always easy to sort out which voices speak from their own interests and which from the heart.

We struggle to sort out conflicting voices. Sometimes the minority voices on the margins are hard to hear.

We struggle to find our voice. We lament our silence and at the same time resolve to be courageous.

Jesus offered a counterview that cost him his life. Are we ready to hear the minority positions? To offer an unwelcome counterview? The beginning of a new year seems like a good time to get out of the Mennonite rut of being the quiet in the land.

Jane Yoder-Short attends West Union Mennonite Church in Parnell, Iowa.


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