An Old Testament Echo Chamber

We create an echo chamber when we manipulate our environment in such a way that we avoid any opposing views while engaging only with those who agree with us.

1 Kings 22

1For three years there was no war between Aram and Israel. 2Then during the third year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to visit King Ahab of Israel. 3During the visit, Ahab said to his officials, “Do you realize that the Arameans are still occupying our city of Ramoth-gilead? And we haven’t done a thing about it!” 4Then he turned to Jehoshaphat and asked, “Will you join me in fighting against Ramoth-gilead?”

And Jehoshaphat replied to King Ahab, “Why, of course! You and I are brothers, and my troops are yours to command. Even my horses are at your service.” 5Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the LORD says.”

6So King Ahab summoned his prophets, about four hundred of them, and asked them, “Should I go to war against Ramoth-gilead or not?”

They all replied, “Go right ahead! The Lord will give you a glorious victory!”

7But Jehoshaphat asked, “Isn’t there a prophet of the LORD around, too? I would like to ask him the same question.”

8King Ahab replied, “There is still one prophet of the LORD, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but bad news for me! His name is Micaiah son of Imlah.”

“You shouldn’t talk like that,” Jehoshaphat said. “Let’s hear what he has to say.”

9So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Go and get Micaiah son of Imlah.”

10King Ahab of Israel and King Jehoshaphat of Judah, dressed in their royal robes, were sitting on thrones at the threshing floor near the gate of Samaria. All of Ahab’s prophets were prophesying there in front of them. 11One of them, Zedekiah son of Kenaanah, made some iron horns and proclaimed, “This is what the LORD says: With these horns you will gore the Arameans to death!”

12All the other prophets agreed. “Yes,” they said, “go up to Ramoth-gilead and be victorious, for the LORD will give you victory!”

13Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

14But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the LORD lives, I will say only what the LORD tells me to say.”

15When Micaiah arrived before the king, Ahab asked him, “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead or not?”

And Micaiah replied, “Go right ahead! The LORD will give the king a glorious victory!”

16But the king replied sharply, “How many times must I demand that you speak only the truth when you speak for the LORD?”

17So Micaiah told him, “In a vision I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.’”

18“Didn’t I tell you?” the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat. “He does it every time. He never prophesies anything but bad news for me.”

19Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the LORD says! I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left. 20And the LORD said, ‘Who can entice Ahab to go into battle against Ramoth-gilead so that he can be killed there?’ There were many suggestions, 21until finally a spirit approached the LORD and said, ‘I can do it!’

22“‘How will you do this?’ the LORD asked.

“And the spirit replied, ‘I will go out and inspire all Ahab’s prophets to speak lies.’

“‘You will succeed,’ said the LORD. ‘Go ahead and do it.’

23“So you see, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouths of your prophets. For the LORD has determined disaster for you.”

24Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah walked up to Micaiah and slapped him across the face. “When did the Spirit of the LORD leave me to speak to you?” he demanded.

25And Micaiah replied, “You will find out soon enough when you find yourself hiding in some secret room!”

26King Ahab of Israel then ordered, “Arrest Micaiah and take him back to Amon, the governor of the city, and to my son Joash. 27Give them this order from the king: ‘Put this man in prison, and feed him nothing but bread and water until I return safely from the battle!’”

28But Micaiah replied, “If you return safely, the LORD has not spoken through me!” Then he added to those standing around, “Take note of what I have said.” (1 Kings 22:1-28, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this digital age of social media and misinformation, the term “echo chamber” has become popularized. It refers to the scenario where a person only encounters information and only engages with opinions that reinforce their own views.

In this chapter of 1 Kings, we see an ancient example of the echo chamber. The nation of Israel had become divided after the reign of Solomon, resulting in two kingdoms – the southern kingdom consisting of the tribe of Judah, and the northern kingdom that consisted of the rest of the tribes of Israel.

Though these two related nations were often at odds, at this point in time, there is peace between them. Ahab, the king of Israel (the northern kingdom) asks Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah (the southern kingdom) if he will join him in going to war against the Arameans.

Jehoshaphat agrees but first asks if they could hear from the Lord on the matter.

Ahab summons 400 of his prophets to come and tell them if the Lord will give them victory over the Arameans. All of the prophets concur that the Lord will give them a “glorious victory.”

Jehoshaphat must realize that these prophets are not spokesmen for the true God because he asks Ahab if there is not a prophet of the Lord available that they could consult.

Ahab says there is one guy, Micaiah, but since he never gives good news, Ahab doesn’t listen to him.

This is an ancient example of the modern phenomenon we call the “echo chamber.” Ahab had already decided what he wanted to do and he was going to do it no matter what. His prophets had learned to tell him what he wanted to hear. This is obvious as Micaiah enters the scene and Ahab’s messenger tells him:

“Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

Ahab is not really interested in knowing what the Lord thinks or says about the matter. Instead, he surrounded himself with so-called prophets who simply validated the plans he was going to implement anyway.

Unfortunately, we do the same thing today that Ahab does in this passage. Whether it’s our social media feeds, our network of facebook friends, the books we read, the news we consume or the people we choose to actively connect with, we often shield ourselves from people and opinions that might contradict or challenge our views, while at the same time, listening only to those people who will put a rubber stamp of approval on anything we might say or do.

This method of manipulating the counsel we receive is an indication of a proud spirit and a stubborn heart.  It demonstrates that the person’s will is not inclined to the Lord and is not open to truth.

And when a person is not open to the truth, Jesus says that person is actually evil (see John 8)!

Reflection

What are some current issues or topics where you might be susceptible to living in an echo chamber instead of engaging with opposing views?

Describe a time when someone asked for your advice but ignored it, doing what they wanted to do anyway. How did that make you feel?

Why do you think people tend to ask for advice from only those people they know will agree with them?

What are some steps you can take to avoid living in an echo chamber? How can you ensure that your heart doesn’t become hardened and resistant to truth? How can you cultivate a heart and spirit that is open to the Lord?

 

Photo by Andi Mihailescu on Unsplash

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