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The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 21


The Prophet Series: Elisha part 21

2KI 6:24-31 Now it came about after this, that Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria; and behold, they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver. And as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall a woman cried out to him, saying, "Help, my lord, O king!" And he said, "If the Lord does not help you, from where shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the wine press?" And the king said to her, "What is the matter with you?" And she answered, "This woman said to me, 'Give your son that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.' "So we boiled my son and ate him; and I said to her on the next day, 'Give your son, that we may eat him'; but she has hidden her son." And it came about when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes — now he was passing by on the wall — and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body. Then he said, "May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today."

When will it end? 

There will always be war. The seed of the serpent is forever at war with the seed of the woman. Though the captive army division of Syrians was returned safely, Syria still declares war on Israel. Rather than be softened by the grace of God, the king of Syria is actually angrier. Lust for supremacy and ambition will never bow to grace and be healed. This time Ben-hadad will send the entire army, which will meet with initial success and then total disaster at the hand of Yavah Elohim.

The character of Yavah.

The king of Syria only sees Yavah as another god, who is much like a man, as are the rest of the gods in which he believes. If the God of Israel could provide the way of escape from one division, so the king thought, it might not be that He can deliver from ten divisions. Where does the blindness of man come from? God said through the prophet Isaiah, "render their eyes dim." But is God blinding them? It could never be. Darkness hates light, and when God shines more of His light, as in freeing the Syrian captives (2KI 6:23), those who love darkness crawl deeper into their holes.

Change to man is always inward.

The king of Israel, Joram (also called Jehoram), is another character enshrouded in darkness. Joram has shown some outward religion from time to time, but inwardly he has no connection to Yavah. Change to the man sickened with darkness must always be from within. Outward cleaning up is of no use to the power of darkness.

The famine about to come upon Samaria will be so severe that the entire population will be in danger. In such circumstances, the lovers of darkness may find themselves finding some religious feeling, making resolutions, and perhaps all in sincerity. But when the clouds of danger move away, they are immediately back to their old tricks. Was this a godly sorrow that leads to repentance?

Change does not come by fear.

Many in Israel will be afraid during this great famine, but fear will not save them, only their faith in the love of God will. They might be like Felix, the procurator of Judea, who when he heard the apostle Paul speak of the gospel of Christ several times, he felt afraid and chose rather to walk away from it then believe it (ACT 24:25). Fear does not move a man's heart, but only love does. Christ has moved the world upside-down with His love. How much of what some people call their religion would be left, if all fear of death and hell were removed? A religion whose sole motive is fear is not spiritual.

The Bible tells us that love, not fear, rejoices with the truth, 1CO 13:6. 1JO 4:18 tells us that perfect or mature love casts out fear. We are all to grow up to the fullness of the stature that belongs to the full knowledge of Christ. That's quite a trip from where we begin at salvation. Is it easier to get to a destination when in rejoicing or in fear?

Let's say that you have set out on a long road trip. The destination is a place you can't wait to get to, for the place fills you with joy. The car you are driving is sound, and fun to drive, comfortable. The people you are going with are fun to hang out with and very comfortable to be around. Such a trip will fly by. Now let's imagine a different situation. The thought of the destination only fills you with fear. The car isn't reliable, and the travelling companions are awkward. What is that trip like? Fear is not a motivator in the plan of God. Machiavellianism is right in that fear will keep people in line, but God is not looking for behaving robots. He is making children of a certain character or type, and that is the example of the first trip.

The enemy will never succeed.

The enemy is always lurking and seeking destruction, but they will never see their goal. Satan has tried time and again to destroy both Israel and the church. The fact that both remain is a guarantee of certain destruction for Satan and his demons.

Faith is exercised in times of peace

Faith doesn't jump into existence when problems arise. That is like saying that a lack of water is no problem because at the moment I’m not thirsty. Faith must already be existent in the soul of the believer before the appearance of the conflict. The king of Israel and the people are completely unprepared for the Syrian invasion, that's the first failure of faith. Faith in Yavah would have made them strong and ready. After the invasion with the city was surrounded and the king and the people despaired, and that is faith failure number two; not responding in confident expectation of the deliverance of Yavah. In order to meet the imminent danger the people would have to be unified and strong in faith, and they are neither.

Often we behave badly when a sudden trial comes upon us. We usually make the excuse that it caught us off guard or that we didn't see it coming. Yet, it is precisely in these times that we see our real selves. If you had time to prepare then you would be, what C.S. Lewis says, putting on a disguise. "Surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth?" [C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity] We are not to reveal faith from time to time, when it is needed. We are to be men and women of faith, meaning, we walk by faith in every step of the journey.

Israel has a purpose and a calling. She is far more than a nation of people with a government and an economy. So also, the believer is more than a human existence. Every believer has a purpose and a calling. Israel has lost all sense of hers and every believer must be careful not to lose their own. Let not God have to say to any of us, “Who has bewitched you?”

Loss of humanity

It is sobering to think of how easily God could reveal the very heart of man by simply making necessity as a game of musical chairs. In the game there are not enough chairs for everyone, but it’s just a game. We don’t usually see it result in murder for the obtaining of the last seat. Yet, if the situation is not enough food, water, or shelter, then we see the reality of mankind.

In a situation of severe famine, the things that hold society together in any relative peace dissolve away. Money is worthless, economy is nonexistent, and hungry people will find themselves to be thieves, thugs, and murderers. “Never is man more selfish, or else more generous, than on such occasions.” [Edersheim] In Israel, it had gotten so bad that dove’s dung was a desirable fuel source, and it was pricey.

What of those who feared the Lord? They would suffer with the rest, but not in the same way. The worshipper of God trusts in the Lord. My favorite passage on this is JER 17:7-8. I always use it in Bible class to communicate this principle. The righteous certainly suffer hunger along with the rest of them, but the righteous would be gracious with what little they had, even in such need. The righteous would not despair, for even in death, if it be so, they would only be travelling to the banquet tables of the kingdom of God. Not so with the unrighteous. Their kingdom is the earth, and when it has gone cold and hungry, they will do the most despicable things in order to remain alive in their empire of dirt.

“What have I become
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know goes away
In the end
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt”
[Johnny Cash]

Our existence is not bread alone.

JER 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord
And whose trust is the Lord.
For he will be like a tree planted by the water,
That extends its roots by a stream
And will not fear when the heat comes;
But its leaves will be green,
And it will not be anxious in a year of drought
Nor cease to yield fruit.”

God won’t help you!

The despairing cry of the soul that has forsaken the Lord’s way to those who suffer - “Curse God and die.” The ungodly are blind to God’s providence and they bid others to despair, since to their clouded vision it seems obvious that there is no help in Yavah Yireh (the Lord who Provides). So Joram reveals his true heart, in that he knows that Jehovah lives, but he deems Him to be of no help. So he offers counsel to the woman who has become friends with madness, having eaten her own son and served his flesh to others. What depravity Israel has fallen into.

Wake up! Wake up!

Should hunger erase the basic instinct of a mother’s love and protection of her child? The picture is too horrible to look upon. Yet the woman’s complaint to the king is not a form of repentance or despair concerning her own actions, but only that her neighbor didn’t keep up her end of the bargain, a bargain made among devils. Would her guilt and misery become less if the other woman had boiled her son as agreed? Would everything have been made right? It is if she is in a nightmare, where the world of dream possesses much different laws. In that world, as we run a hide from whatever monsters lurk, hunting our scent, relief is sought in the strangest ways. This woman, the king, all in Israel needs to wake up!

EPH 5:14 "Awake, sleeper,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you."

Sorrow without repentance.

The tale of the poor woman leads the king to tear his clothes and walk before the people in sackcloth. Sackcloth was significant in Israel as depicting a penitent mind. If it were true that Joram had discovered his own bankruptcy, and found his need to turn to the Lord, and mourned his depraved life, desiring to change his heart and worship the God of his fathers, the one and only God of the earth, then all would have changed. As with the good kings of Israel (all found in Judah and none in Israel) as well as all the Judges, their piety has a great effect upon the people and their circumstances. But this is not the case with Joram.

Joram is like any man in grave sorrow. An ungodly man will take upon himself some religion, some morality, give up some sins, make some resolutions. A man destitute of religion will wear his sackcloth if life gets bad enough, and he will take it right off when the clouds of sorrow depart.

2CO 7:10 For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

King Joram certainly makes his resolution. "May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today." He will get his wish, but the God of forbearance will not send the angel of death on that day.

To Him be all glory and honor,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries
 

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