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

The Prayer of Rebellion

Jeremiah 44

11“Therefore, the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I have made up my mind to destroy every one of you! 12I will take this remnant of Judah that insisted on coming here to Egypt, and I will consume them. They will fall here in Egypt, killed by war and famine. All will die, from the least to the greatest. They will be an object of damnation, horror, cursing, and mockery. 13I will punish them in Egypt just as I punished them in Jerusalem, by war, famine, and disease. 14Of those who fled to Egypt with dreams of returning home to Judah, only a handful will escape.”

15Then all the women present and all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to idols—a great crowd of all the Judeans living in Pathros, the southern region of Egypt—answered Jeremiah, 16“We will not listen to your messages from the LORD! 17We will do whatever we want. We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and sacrifice to her just as much as we like—just as we and our ancestors did before us, and as our kings and princes have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! 18But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her, we have been in great trouble and have suffered the effects of war and famine.”

19“And,” the women added, “do you suppose that we were worshiping the Queen of Heaven, pouring out drink offerings to her, and making cakes marked with her image, without our husbands knowing it and helping us? Of course not!”

20Then Jeremiah said to all of them, men and women alike, who had given him that answer, 21“Do you think the LORD did not know that you and your ancestors, your kings and officials, and all the people were burning incense to idols in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 22It was because the LORD could no longer bear all the evil things you were doing that he made your land an object of cursing—a desolate ruin without a single inhabitant—as it is today. 23The very reason all these terrible things have happened to you is because you have burned incense to idols and sinned against the LORD, refusing to obey him and follow his instructions, laws, and stipulations.”

24Then Jeremiah said to them all, including the women, “Listen to this message from the LORD, all you citizens of Judah who live in Egypt. 25The LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You and your wives have said that you will never give up your devotion and sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven, and you have proved it by your actions. Then go ahead and carry out your promises and vows to her!

26“But listen to this message from the LORD, all you Judeans now living in Egypt: I have sworn by my great name, says the LORD, that my name will no longer be spoken by any of the Judeans in the land of Egypt. None of you may invoke my name or use this oath: ‘As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives!’ 27For I will watch over you to bring you disaster and not good. You will suffer war and famine until all of you are dead.

28“Only a small number will escape death and return to Judah from Egypt. Then all those who came to Egypt will find out whose words are true, mine or theirs! 29And this is the proof I give you, says the LORD, that all I have threatened will happen to you and that I will punish you here: 30I will turn Pharaoh Hophra, king of Egypt, over to his enemies who want to kill him, just as I turned King Zedekiah of Judah over to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. I, the LORD, have spoken!” (Jeremiah 44:11-30, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet who lived about 2600 years ago. The book of Jeremiah chronicles the many prophecies he gave to the people of Judah in which the Lord promised to punish the people for their continued unfaithfulness and wickedness. This punishment would come at the hands of the Babylonians who would invade the land, overtake the capital city of Jerusalem and take the majority of its citizens back to Babylon as captives of war.

Throughout the book, many false prophets opposed Jeremiah, claiming that he had not heard from the Lord. These false prophets predicted that Babylon would not invade and if they did, they predicted that God would protect His people and enable them to withstand and resist any invading army.

At this point in the book, all of Jeremiah’s prophecies have come true. The Babylonians have come and laid siege to Jerusalem, overtaking its walled barriers and taking its people back to Babylon as prisoners of war.

However, a remnant of people are left in Judah to tend to the land and continue living under a Babylonian appointed governor.

It’s at this point that those who are left decide that they would be better off fleeing to Egypt and living under the rule of Pharaoh instead of living in their own land under Babylonian occupation.

Jeremiah comes to this group and gives them the Lord’s directive, which is to stay in the land and NOT flee to Egypt. God’s reasons are clear: He is going to punish the Egyptians by the very army that He used to punish the Israelites. If this remnant of Jews decides to flee to Egypt, they will only be putting themselves in the very harm’s way that they are trying to escape.

This chapter outlines the conversation Jeremiah has with key leaders of this remnant group which has made its way to Egypt. Jeremiah explicitly states that the Lord has decided that because this group has insisted on rejecting His direct command to stay in Judah, they will all die from the very things from which they fled, namely war and famine.

What is the response of the people?

You would hope that they would listen to Jeremiah and the word of the Lord. You would think that maybe they would repent and follow, for once, the command of the Lord.

But that’s not what happens. Instead, their response is:

“We will not listen to your messages from the LORD! 17We will do whatever we want. We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and sacrifice to her just as much as we like—just as we and our ancestors did before us, and as our kings and princes have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! 18But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her, we have been in great trouble and have suffered the effects of war and famine.”

God’s response to this overt rebelliousness and rejection of Him is to allow them to experience the consequences of their choices and actions. By rebelling against the Lord, they were unknowingly putting their lives in danger by subjecting themselves to forces and circumstances that they could not possibly have seen or predicted on their own.

It seems to me that I often act just like this group of Judeans.

God no longer sends physical prophets like Jeremiah to speak to His people and warn them of potential disaster. He doesn’t need prophets to communicate these messages of warning because He has His holy Word that speaks for Him.

God’s word functions as the prophet in our current environment. Everything God wants us to know about righteous and wise living is summed up in His word. And yet, I often fail to consult His word to get input and wise advice concerning the issues I’m facing.

Often times, I don’t just ignore what God’s word says, I KNOW what it says and choose to overtly rebel anyway. I follow the pattern of rebellion these women modeled as I say to the Lord:

I will not listen to your messages, LORD! 17 I will do whatever I want. I will burn incense to whatever God or deity I want and sacrifice to her just as much as I like—just as we and our ancestors did before us, and as our leaders have always done in our towns and communities.

This is what I call the prayer of rebellion, in which I vocalize my rejection of God’s commands and His will for my life and I exert my own stubborn independence to live apart from Him.

Though Jeremiah lived 2600 years ago in a time and era that was much different than today, one thing is still the same – people are still rebelling against God’s word and will and living instead for their own personal desires and preferences.

We may not be taken into captivity by an invading army but by resisting the Lord’s will and disobeying Him, we most certainly will experience negative consequences and even disaster in our lives.

Reflection

These women made a habit of burning incense to a foreign god. They were putting their trust in a foreign deity and false god instead of God Himself. What are some potential idols in your own life that you are tempted to trust in place of God?

What are some times in your life where you have expressed “the prayer of rebellion” towards God. What were the circumstances?

In what ways can you prepare yourself from drifting and serving other gods or idols in your life? What are some practical tips that might keep you from experiencing spiritual drift?

What can you learn from this passage about the importance of being yoked (married) to someone who shares your same spiritual values and commitment to the Lord? 

 

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash