The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 24
The Prophet Series: Elisha part 24
2KI 7:10-20 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and they told them, saying, "We came to the camp of the Arameans, and behold, there was no one there, nor the voice of man, only the horses tied and the donkeys tied, and the tents just as they were." And the gatekeepers called, and told it within the king's household. Then the king arose in the night and said to his servants, "I will now tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone from the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, 'When they come out of the city, we shall capture them alive and get into the city.'" And one of his servants answered and said, "Please, let some men take five of the horses which remain, which are left in the city. Behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who are left in it; behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who have already perished, so let us send and see." They took therefore two chariots with horses, and the king sent after the army of the Arameans, saying, "Go and see." And they went after them to the Jordan, and behold, all the way was full of clothes and equipment, which the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. Then the messengers returned and told the king. So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. And it came about just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, "Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be sold tomorrow about this time at the gate of Samaria." Then the royal officer answered the man of God and said, "Now behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?" And he said, "Behold, you shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it." And so it happened to him, for the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died.
Finally satiated with food, drink, and gold the lepers finally come to their senses, awakening to the reality of their starving neighbors. Love your neighbor as yourself, so says the good scroll, “But not until I’m full and have plenty of stashed gold,” say the lepers. One wonders if they had realized the potential of the empty Aramean camp to alleviate the city’s plight immediately, but after being outcasts, ridiculed, and unloved they found their chance for revenge. Whatever the cause of their delay, it was not godly. We can understand them stuffing their faces, as hunger is so overpowering to mind and body, but taking the time to hide gold for themselves reveals the passion of greed, which always ends in want. We must not delay when God’s will is clearly set before us. Our Lord went without food for forty days in the wilderness, and while none of us are called to exhibit such stamina, surely we can set upon the Father’s business immediately and trust Him for our own needs.
Who might have ever been in a position like these lepers? Who has had incredibly good news made available to them, which news would be received with the highest excitement? It is rare for people to find themselves in such a situation. Yet, every good tiding eventually fades away. It is incredible to imagine, but we know it must have been true, that after Israel’s capital had satisfied its hunger, talk of the miraculous deliverance would have slowly faded, and over a few weeks it was likely a distant memory and soon enough, forgotten. What a pitiful lot we are. But then again, every beautiful sunset fades to black, every beautiful and fragrant flower withers and dies. However, there is one bit of good news that never fades. In fact, it took the very name “good news” for itself - forever. The gospel of Jesus Christ is within the heart of every believer, and every believer should have its good news upon his lips, trembling in excitement to be told, in order for the world to hear of the love of God for them in Jesus Christ.
When we read through the Old Testament, one thing we might notice is that rumor spreads amazingly fast, despite the lack of televisions and cell phones. The commander at the gate, on the night watch, probably quite late, hears the voices of the lepers, and dispatches guards to the palace to report the news to the king. By the time they delivered the good news and returned to the gate, the news would have begun its rapid human telecom from house to house. The news is that the Syrians (Arameans) had deserted their camp and left everything behind. Good news indeed. Who was going to believe it?
The believer who has the good news of the gospel in his heart, trembling upon his lips, knowing how good it really is, also has to deal with the fact that so many, far too many, don’t believe it. Reporting great news to someone who accepts it with elation is a wonderful experience, but to deliver the same news to another who in ignorance and stubbornness flat out rejects it is frustrating. Our souls are the gardens of the gospel, and we must carefully tend them. If we think only of the doubters then our witness will become as dull as dishwater. Remember your own salvation. Remember that God has a remnant in every generation and that you just might be proclaiming the gospel to one of them.
ISA 52:7 How lovely on the mountains
What happens in the palace is humiliating. The king had clearly heard the promise of Elisha the day before. He hasn’t forgotten it. Everyone in the palace knows what the prophet said, and everyone knows the reputation of Elisha as God’s prophet. Not long ago he led a pacified Syrian army right to the capital in complete submission. Miraculously the news concerning the Syrians and their supplies is given. All we hear in the king’s chamber is doubt. “If ungodly men bear themselves ill in sorrow, they bear themselves still worse in joy, and, worst, when the issue is doubtful.” [Edersheim] The ungodly are fearful of any solution that is not absolutely, empirically proven and in which they have not something proudly contributed.
Joram is aroused from sleep and his chief counselors gather around him and they all rejoice in the fulfillment Elisha’s prediction. Well … not quite. It would seem that Elisha’s name is not even mentioned. Joram puts his unbelieving brain to work and is sure he understands. “It’s a trap!” Can not the God of Israel deliver her from oppression and hunger? How does a king in Israel not know? May we never betray knowledge, which has been given to each of us in such abundance, and stand ignorant of the workings of our almighty God.
Joram seems to never see Yavah in anything. His mind only ever reflects himself. This same mind insisted that Yavah had called three kings together to kill him (2KI 3:10), that Naaman was sent to him only to pick a fight (2KI 5:7), and that Elisha led the Syrian army into the capital so they could slaughter them (2KI 6:21).
ISA 26:10 Though the wicked is shown favor,
Grace does not affect the soul of a person like king Joram. All that he has seen of God, of Elisha, of promises fulfilled, of the gracious mercy of the God of Israel, and now, after hearing Elisha’s promise just a day before and the current day’s news, this is all he can think of? - The Syrians have laid a trap!? Keeping God out will only result in calculated foolishness.
If it were up to Joram, all in Samaria would have died horribly while their salvation was only a short walk away. People go to their graves without regeneration when salvation and grace were, all of their lives, just moments away. And yet another application comes from Joram, and it is an important lesson to learn. Many of our fears and cares are imaginary. They exist in our souls only because of distrust and unbelief. What we thought might happen was never going to be a reality. Instead of rising to God’s promises, we remained only with our own thoughts, and what we imagined, calculated foolishness, was never going to happen. We feared a ghost. The Lord has spoken to us as if we were little children who completely trusted everything their father says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will care for itself.”
A hill always looks bigger before you begin to climb it. Fear and worry are powerful weapons against us. Christ told us that faith can move mountains, the mountains of problems, that is. The test comes upon us when in the hour of need; not that we are challenged to believe that there is a God in heaven, but that there is a living God within us who is working all things together for our good.
The lone man in the chamber, who had the courage to speak, saves the city. It seems to simply be the logic of despair. “We’re all going to die soon anyway, so why not go and take a look.” There are five horses left that haven’t been eaten, and if the riders come across the Syrian army and perish, they’re the lucky ones, not dying slowly of starvation. This counselor does not become a hero, but he does reveal to us, that in times when we assume things might go very badly and we complain of looming danger, why not go check it out for ourselves? There is nothing wrong with investigating things. Is there a monster under my bed? Quit your fear and look. And, if you do find a monster, well … at least now you know, and you can take the challenge of trusting that God allowed the ogre to pester you.
Two chariots head out as the sun rises. Through the city they go, from the palace to the gate; clattering hoofs, impervious to the gaunt people that filled the streets, milling around, eager to hear of any news concerning the prediction of the prophet. The city gates open and out the charioteers bound at great speed as beating hearts race in every chest in Samaria. Meanwhile, the Lord sits on high as does His prophet on earth, both in perfect peace, with the joy of knowing that again Yavah Jireh (the Lord who Provides) has provided for His obstinate people.
The chariots reach the Syrian camp in minutes and quickly they realize that it is just as the lepers said it was. Their hungry stomachs, like magnets draw them to bread and meat and grain. One wonders, did their hearts become strongly attracted to God and His prophet at the same time?
“Did the Syrians hide, ready for ambush?” Onward they go, taking the road to the Jordan, and all there is to see is haphazardly discarded weapons and clothes. It is like the road of life for some people - a disastrous trail of strewn hopes, pursuits, and occupations.
The watchmen in the highest watchtower continued to look from the city wall for any sign of the scouting party. If they had happened upon the Syrians then they would never be seen again. Perhaps an hour had passed, hope had risen and fallen, and then suddenly a dot on the horizon, now two, the chariots were returning. It could only mean one thing, and news spread fast throughout the city. The gates were thrown open and frothy, exhausted, wild eyed horses and their exasperated, wearied passengers rumble into the city and proclaim - it is all true! Samaria is free and there is food in abundance.
What would a populace, starving to the point of cannibalism, do when such news was heard? They would turn into a herd themselves, making the running of the bulls in Pamplona look like light Sunday traffic, and squeezing through the gates like water through an open dam; they poured out into the valley and sped towards salvation.
Surely, we haven’t forgotten the messenger from the king who spoke to Elisha.
2KI 7:2 And the royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, "Behold, if the LORD should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?" Then he said, "Behold you shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it."
Someone has to get control of the city as the mob went frantic with the joy of the good news. Who better than the one on whom the hand of the king leaned? Did the royal officer not remember Elisha’s promise, or perhaps did the king who put him in charge of the gate? Did he remember his taunting jeer about the windows of heaven as thousands of feet carrying hungry Samarians trampled over his body? Do the ungodly remember the words of the godly when judgment suddenly and finally comes upon them? Did Pilate remember, “You say correctly that I am a king.”? Did the Sanhedrin members remember, “I am.”?
The rabble, satiated in their bellies, began to sell the excess at the gate, and sure enough a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel and two measures of barley for a shekel, just as Elisha had said. But do we read of the people praising and worshipping God? Do we hear of one word of thanks to God or even Elisha? We only hear loud shouts of buying and selling, backs turned to Yavah while He pleads with them to open their eyes and ears rather than their mouths.
To Him be all glory and honor,