Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 72. The Siege Lifted

Prophets And Kings
Day 72
The Siege Lifted

Elisha's words from yesterday come true as the siege is lifted and food is available again.

2 KINGS 7:3-20
The king of Israel came to Elisha yesterday ready to kill him, blaming him for the nation's troubles, probably because the plot of the king of Aram to kill Elisha has failed. Elisha was prophetically receiving the battle plans of the king of Aram and telling them to Israel. But when the king of Israel came to him yesterday, Elisha foretold that by today there would be food again and at reasonable prices. Today we see this prophecy come true.

"Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, 'Why stay here until we die? If we say, 'We'll go into the city,'---the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let's go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.'" (2 Kings 7:3-4) The city is barricaded against the Arameans but these men are outside the gate because they are lepers. They are afflicted with the red contagious form of the skin disease and are outcasts. The men expect to die at some point in the future from their disease but in the meantime they are starving. There's no sense in trying to get inside the city because there's no food there. But just maybe if they surrender to the Arameans they will get something to eat.

"At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, 'Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!' So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives." (2 Kings 7:5-7) There are no guards at the edge of the camp, a puzzling thing. But the puzzle grows as the lepers realize that the soldiers are gone, leaving everything behind. 

"The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp, entered one of the tents and ate and drank. Then they took silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also." (2 Kings 7:8) The men don't know what caused the army to run off and leave everything behind but it must have felt like hitting the lottery. They are thirsty and hungry, without money and wearing threadbare clothes. Suddenly these riches fall into their laps.

After their thirst is quenched and their appetites sated, the men suffer an attack of conscience. "Then they said to each other, 'What we're doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace.'" (2 Kings 7:9) These men's words can also be applied to the good news of the gospel. It's not to be kept to ourselves. The Lord Jesus commissioned us to go into all the world and tell the gospel. 

"So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, 'We went into the Aramean camp and no one was there---not a sound of anyone---only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.' The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace." (2 Kings 7:10-11) I picture them standing in the dark, yelling the good news up to the soldiers stationed on the wall, then the soldiers sending the message to the king. I think the messenger ran with the message as fast as his legs could carry him.

"The king got up in the night and said to his officers, 'Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city. Their plight will be like that of all the Israelites left here---yes, they will only be like all these Israelites who are doomed. So let us send them to find out what happened.'" (2 Kings 7:13) The king decides to send men to see if the report of the lepers is true. Lest anyone balk at the idea of going outside the city, he points out that they are no safer inside the city. Death in the form of starvation awaits them inside the walls. As for outside the walls, who knows? Perhaps the report of the lepers is true and deliverance is at hand.

"So they selected two chariots with their horses, and the king sent them after the Aramean army. He commanded the drivers, 'Go and find out what has happened.' They followed them as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king." (2 Kings 7:14-15) The Arameans were in such a panic as they ran away that they discarded anything that might slow them down.

"Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of the finest flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the Lord had said." (2 Kings 7:16) Elisha's words have come true. This is exactly what the Lord told him would happen.

Another prophecy of Elisha's is about to come true. Yesterday the officer of the king scoffed at the idea that by today the Lord could lift the siege and make food plentiful again. Elisha told him that because of his words against the Lord he would see it happen but not eat of the food. "Now the king had put the officer upon whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house. It happened as the man of God had said to the king: 'About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.'" (2 Kings 7:17-18) We see here the only principle I can recall from my Economics class from the 1980s: the principle of supply and demand. During the siege, what little food was available was selling at highly inflated prices. But now they have all the food that belonged to the Aramean army and so it's selling at regular prices. Plus they have the assurance that now they can come and go from the city, resuming their normal trading and their normal agricultural pursuits.

"The officer had said to the man of God, 'Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?' The man of God had replied, 'You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!' And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died." (2 Kings 7:19-20) Apparently the people rushed to the food distribution area in a stampede, crushing the officer underfoot. 

In our day I think it probably doesn't happen very often that a person loses their life for mocking God, at least not the first time. But I suspect that this wasn't the officer's first time. We don't know his age or anything else about him, but it's possible he lived his entire life in opposition to God, with an irreverent attitude, with possibly all kinds of wickedness in his heart. It could be that his words to Elisha were the last straw and the Lord poured out some poetic justice upon him. Because the officer didn't believe the Lord could bring in plentiful food at reasonable prices, he didn't get to share in those blessings. In addition, this officer was living in extraordinary times. Everyone in Israel knew that Elisha spoke for God and that he had proven himself a true prophet time and time again with awesome miracles. Blaspheming the Lord in times like that takes an extra measure of wickedness of heart. This is similar to the times of Jesus, when those who accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan were warned that they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit. In the face of such undeniable miracles, it took an extra measure of wickedness in a person's heart to speak against the Lord. As a prophet, the words of Elisha were the very words of God. Calling him a liar was the same as calling God a liar. Likewise, the words of Jesus were the very words of God because He is God. Calling Him a liar was literally calling God a liar. 

A great supernatural deliverance has taken place in today's passage. We find here both the discipline and the mercy of God. The author indicates that the troubles that came upon the city were a result of their sinful idolatry. God could have allowed them to perish. He could have disowned His chosen people and left them there. But God is merciful and God keeps His promises. He promised never to abandon Israel and He never has and He never will.

Facing a time of discipline in the days of the prophet Jeremiah, when the Babylonians were about to come and take the people captive, Jeremiah wept often at the thought of his people being taken to a foreign land. In his heart he may have feared the Lord would cast them aside. But the Lord gave him this assurance, "This is what the Lord says, He who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar---the Lord Almighty is His name: 'Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,' declares the Lord, 'will Israel ever cease being a nation before Me.' This is what the Lord says: 'Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,' declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:35-37) 

No comments:

Post a Comment