One of the first games we learn as a child is peek-a-boo. It is a simple game, where a grown-up hides their face from an infant with their hand… and then removes their hand quickly to reveal their face… and says, “Peek-a-boo, I see you.”
This game then moves up to the familiar game of hide-and-seek. What a great game! The excitement of running to your favorite hiding spot, and the anticipation of either being found or passed by.
As a child, I never wanted to be found… I always looked for a spot where they would actually have to call me out: “Seth, we give up—come out, come out, wherever you are.” This is how we all played the game—we would never hide in plain sight.
In 1 Kings 22:29-37, King Ahab thought he could play hide-and-seek with God… but to God, Ahab was always hidden in plain sight. In fact, God would prove that with a divinely guided arrow that would end Ahab’s life. At the beginning of chapter 22, King Ahab (King of Israel) desired to go to war in order to reclaim the land at Ramoth-Gilead that had been lost to the Syrians three years prior.
To strengthen his army, Ahab wanted to unite with Judah. But before Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, committed his allegiance and his army, he wanted to hear from a prophet of God.
It was customary, before making such a major decision as going to war, that the king would seek a message from a prophet to know God’s will. Ahab brought out his 400 false prophets and presented them to King Jehoshaphat and they began to prophesy that the king would be victorious.
But King Jehoshaphat was a godly man and he was skeptical of these prophets; he wanted to hear from a true prophet of God. He asked if there was a prophet of the Lord.
King Ahab responded that there is one—but he doesn’t like him because he never tells Ahab what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing this prophet.
So King Ahab brought Micaiah before them. Micaiah started to prophesy in a mocking way saying, “Attack and be victorious, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
This upset Ahab, so he shouted at Micaiah, “Speak the truth of the Lord.”
Then Micaiah truthfully told Ahab that the 400 prophets before him were filled with a deceitful spirit to entice him to go to war. If he goes to war, all of Israel will be scattered, and Ahab will die in the battle.
This prophecy angered Ahab. So he threw Micaiah into prison.
King Ahab went forward anyway, and King Jehoshaphat, knowing Micaiah’s message, still decided to join him. But, fearing the prophecy to be true, Ahab came up with a plan. Ahab had King Jehoshaphat wear royal robes, while he disguised himself as a soldier.
Ahab did not disguise himself to hide from the Syrians, but to hide from God. This brings us back to the arrow which struck King Ahab and took his life.
Let’s focus on an object in the story that may seem small and insignificant—let’s focus on that arrow.
Many ministers teach only stories of hide and seek in which God finds men and women where they are, restores them, and uses them for good. People like Moses, David, the Apostle Paul. But that did not happen with King Ahab. Sure, God found him, but not in the same way as the others. King Ahab was found by what can only be described as a divinely guided arrow, not to restore him, but to destroy him.
A Syrian soldier drew his bow and shot it at the Israelite army. This divine arrow soared through the air and hit King Ahab right in the weak section of his armor. To the Syrian soldier, it was all chance… random… a lucky shot.
But God knew that arrow had only one purpose… to seek and find Ahab in his hiding spot. To God, Ahab was hidden in plain sight.
This event is a great illustration of our inward sinful nature. King Ahab’s stubbornness, self-centeredness, his inward resistance to listen to God—this is how we resist God’s will for us. We can put on the armor of self-righteousness, the armor of respectability, or the armor of good works and a moral life, but this armor will not protect us from the divine arrows of God that seek and find us.
Understand, I am not saying this divine arrow will literally kill us as it did King Ahab. Yet, it could, if the truth delivered to us is rejected. But the purpose of this arrow is not our destruction. The purpose of this arrow is to lead us to repentance. In a spiritual way, this arrow is sent to penetrate the “armor” that we have put around our sin, the sin we try to hide from ourselves, from our family, friends, and from God.
Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known” (Luke 12:2). Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.”
This divinely guided arrow of the Holy Spirit penetrates our armor and reveals to us our sin. God uses the arrow to draw our attention to his Word. Through the Word, and the power of the Holy Spirit, we learn what God has to say about our sin. We learn that sin brings death, and that Christ alone can protect us from death through his atoning work on the cross. Paul wrote, “…the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
God sent his Son into the world to overcome sin and death. Jesus went to the cross on our behalf to free us from sin, guilt, shame, and ruin, and to provide us with an eternal home.
God doesn’t like to play the game hide-and-seek. He likes to play peek-a-boo. Unlike our version, he removes your hand from your face and he looks at you as his precious child and says, “I see you and I love you.”
Seth Leivestad serves as pastor at Calvary Community Church in Fullerton, California.