The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 23
The Prophet Series: Elisha part 23
2KI 7:3-9 Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, "Why do we sit here until we die? "If we say, 'We will enter the city,' then the famine is in the city and we shall die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die." And they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there. For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, "Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us." Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life. When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them. Then they said to one another, "We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household."
We can imagine that the general substance of the interview between the king’s messenger and Elisha had spread all throughout Samaria. We don’t know how the interview ended, but as king Joram and his attendants left Elisha’s home, news of what Elisha proclaimed would have spread fast, especially since it was of such an unimaginable promise. Soon enough, everyone in Samaria is carrying the gospel on his lips. Some in sincerity of faith, and others just passing on the news, but no matter, Christ is being preached. The very next day, after so long steeped in famine, food will be plentiful and cheap. The providence of God will visit His people.
What a night that must have been. The horrible rumor of a woman eating her own son spread from house to house. The gloom that such a thing brought upon all of their heads, somehow associated with its doing, disgusted and personally stained. Following soon after is another rumor - the promise from Elisha. Though Elisha is not the most loved man of the city, he is at least known to be a prophet from God, and such a prediction, as impossible as it seemed, was all too welcomed. As the news spreads the city finds light descending upon it again. The gospel must always have this effect, at least for a while. But, as night falls does hope fall with it? Did the city buzz with excitement at the news of the prophet’s prediction only to do what such things often do, fade with each telling until hopelessness reigned again? Mothers tucked in weeping children who spent another day with an empty stomach, fathers laid down exasperated at not being able to provide for their families, and all of them struggling to find a peaceful sleep so that they might forget their circumstances for a few hours. What dreams were dreamt that night? Certainly they dreamed of lush banquet tables covered in bountiful, rich foods, as they once had been, but who dreamt of Elisha’s promise coming to fruition? Did Joram’s messenger dream of Elisha’s words to him, "Behold you shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it." (7:2)
What we don’t know can truly affect us. What the people of Samaria don’t know, as they roll around restlessly on their beds, is that the Syrian army no longer surrounds the city. The people go to sleep imagining that that night was the same as previously, but they are quite free and an abundance of food sits all around the city just for the taking. How poignant this is to the most desperate need of the world.
2CO 5:18-19 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Every unbeliever is in bondage to death and sin, and yet, these enemies have already been vanquished by Christ. The people of this world do not have to exercise faith in order to move Christ to come and reconcile them. It is already done! Each one can exercise faith in Christ because by His work sin is already paid for, their debt is already wiped away, death has already been overcome through the resurrection of Jesus. While so many sleep under the misery of coming judgment, they fail to believe the gospel so as to be free.
ROM 5:18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.
“Having as sinners felt our need of such provision, faith has simply to realize it as made for us, and to lay hold on this provision as announced to us in the Gospel. Faith does not procure anything for us; faith sees that all has been procured for us by our Blessed Savior. It simply accepts what He has given; and therefore we may expect instantaneous conversion, since all that is requisite is to credit God’s testimony concerning the finished and accepted work of His dear Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” [Edersheim]
It is fitting that at this time, the city has at its gate, almost like an emblem, four lepers. Outcast, condemned as cursed of God, these decaying men are going to be the four riders of the non-apocalypse. The leper was banished outside the city, and because of that, they would be the first to see that the Syrian army had abandoned their camp. God so often chooses the most unlikely people to be his messengers, i.e. Saul of Tarsus, so that they are shown to be tools in His hands, that the work could only be seen as His as well as all the glory. God chose four starving, thievish lepers to communicate deliverance to Samaria.
1CO 1:27-29 God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen, the things that are not, that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God.
Now, we don't have to be lepers to serve God, or foolish, or weak. The foolish and the weak are according to the world's standards. In Christ we are wise and strong, but not in worldly matters, which carry no importance to our mission. To God there are not the opposites of rich and poor, weak and strong, as the world defines, but to Him there are those who love and those who do not. There are those that believe in Him and those that do not, and those who serve Him and those who do not.
The lepers are at the end of their rope. They are weakened more by the famine than anyone, and are about to die anyway. Why sit and die when you can walk over to the Syrians and die. At least they've got food. Maybe they'll catch of whiff of something succulent before their run through.
God knows all the people who are going to respond to the gospel at the time that their end is upon them. I pray that it has been every man, but although that may be too optimistic, I truly believe that there are going to be many more in heaven than any Christian expects. On their dying beds they were not able to do any works, and they didn't confess any sin, but they believed the gospel, and their loving Father knew they would. I loathe those ministers who add to the gospel of grace and so attempt to make the narrow gate even narrower.
ISA 55:1 "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
REV 21:5-7 And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true." And He said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. "He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son."
The lepers make their way across the steppe to the Syrian camp in the cover of darkness. Meanwhile, God is impressing upon each Syrian's heart the sounds or horses and chariots approaching from the south (Egyptians) and then more sounds approaching from the north (Hittites). It was vain to look into the darkness that had just fallen. They likely asked one another, "Is that a storm approaching, or the wind. What does it sound like to you?" And as the sound grew louder, one man after the other, experienced soldiers, knew exactly what it was, horses and chariots and lots of them, coming from both directions. With the sea to the east, there was only one way to go, west across the Jordan. There was no time to pack, for the enemy sounded near. Their only hope was to sneak away with only the clothes on their back across the Jordan Valley. They left everything behind.
But there were no Egyptians, nor Hittites, only the Lord striking fear in the hearts of His enemy, and simultaneously preparing deliverance for His people, obstinate though they were. The enemy fled pursued by no one but their fears, and Israel slept, provided for once again by the God they did not heed. God did not need the Egyptians or the Hittites or Israel. There is another thing that He will do alone, without the help of anyone, and that is to establish Israel as the nation to which all the other nations will come and bow. He is the only One who can do it.
God delivers us miraculously. Hold firm that truth in faith and look to the future with hope.
They who oppose God will always lose, though for a time it may appear that they are winning. The enemy prepares weapons and surrounds the people of God, but it is only temporary affliction.
What the Syrians heard loud and clear, the four lepers did not. They were ignorant of the whole thing.
It would have taken them a while to deduce that all the men were gone, since the animals were left behind making quite a bit of noise and fires were burning. We can imagine their nervousness as they approached, imagining what their reception might be, which had every possibility of a lightning fast sword thrust. But as they get closer they spot no guards, closer still and no human voices, walking around the edge of the camp, straining their eyes to see, a few more steps and they must think the whole army is hiding and waiting to ambush four poor lepers. But no one was there. They come to the first tent, sure that battle hardened Syrians are waiting inside, and with a jolt throw back the tent flap - empty. So was the next and the next, and every tent stocked with goods, and most importantly, FOOD! They could not believe their luck, but we hope that what they would initially have thought of as fortune would come to be known as divine providence.
They eat, but the first thing they think of is to take the gold and silver out of the tents and hide them for later. With the craving for calories and wealth fully satiated, it finally dawns on them that their people are starving. Certainly they don't have the spiritual compass of an Elisha, but they do come to their senses and think of their starving people. Anyone must have done so.
And so the four lepers head back to the city to bring the good news. God yet adds another unlikely evangelist to His roster.
To Him be all glory and honor,