March 12, 2017 – Desperate Measures: Surprising Relief
Preacher: Rev. Charles Drew
Sermon Series: Changing World, Unchanging God
2 Kings 6:24 – 7:20 (ESV)
24 Afterward Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. 25 And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver. 26 Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!” 27 And he said, “If the Lord will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?” 28 And the king asked her, “What is your trouble?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him.’ But she has hidden her son.” 30 When the king heard the words of the woman, 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— 31 and he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today.”
32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. Now the king had dispatched a man from his presence, but before the messenger arrived Elisha said to the elders, “Do you see how this murderer has sent to take off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold the door fast against him. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?” 33 And while he was still speaking with them, the messenger came down to him and said, “This trouble is from the Lord! Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”
7:1 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” 2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
3 Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” 5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, 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 Egypt to come against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.
9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” 11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household. 12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’” 13 And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.” 14 So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.” 15 So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.
16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord. 17 Now the king had appointed the captain on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate. And the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died, as the man of God had said when the king came down to him. 18 For when the man of God had said to the king, “Two seahs of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a seah of fine flour for a shekel, about this time tomorrow in the gate of Samaria,” 19 the captain had answered the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?” And he had said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.” 20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gate and he died.
Introduction: When things go wrong, it is often easier to blame God for them than to listen to God in them. The king of Israel does this in our story.
I) The back story
A) God’s warning from ages ago
- Dt. 28.15, 18, 53: If you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God…cursed shall be the fruit of your womb…. You shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters….
- 400 years of disobedience and unbelief
B) The message of our story, and the whole Bible story
- If we persist in pushing God away, it will kill us
C) Psalm 139.5, 23-24:
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me…Search me and know me…lead me in the way everlasting.
- Are we more like the king or more like Elisha, sitting in his house (6.32)?
II) Why trust God?
A) He keeps his word—his warnings
- Infanticide and cannibalism
- The death of the king’s captain
B) He keeps his word—his promises
- Food for the besieged
- What God is saying
C) Does he really keep his promises?
- Jesus and Psalm 91
True for Jesus
True for us
D) Why did God do this?
- The four lepers
- Food for the child killer
- The only unforgiveable sin
Questions for Reflection
- Why do people blame God when things go bad in their lives? Recall and share a story in which you were tempted to do this, or in which you actually did it. How did you make your way through that episode?
- Why is the woman who cries to the king upset (6.26ff)? What is wrong about her complaint?
- The king and Elisha both live in the besieged city. Compare the king’s response to the circumstances (6.26-31) to Elisha’s (6.32). Why the difference?
- Why does the king vow to kill Elisha? Compare the reasons for the king’s grief to the reasons for God’s grief, according to Deuteronomy 28.1-3, 15, 16, 18, 53?
- Reflect on the following statement: “The message of our story and of the whole Bible is that if we persist in pushing God away, whether as individuals, churches, or cultures, we will die. Even before we literally die, we die in many ways, often horrifically, often through self-inflicted wounds. One of the symptoms and causes of encroaching death is choosing to blame God for our woes rather than choosing to sit at his feet and learn from him through them.”
- We see God keeping his word multiple times in our passage, both his words of warning and his words of promise. List and discuss the examples of his faithfulness to his word. What strikes you particularly about his warnings?
- Read Psalm 91:14-16. How did the promises there prove not to be true for Jesus at the end of his life? How have they proven true for Jesus after the end of his life? Why is the seeming failure of these promises at the end of Jesus’ life such a great hope for us, given our failure to trust God as we should?
- What is significant about the fact that the first people to benefit from God’s deliverance were lepers? What does this tell us about God? How does it challenge and encourage you? Spend some time praying about your answers.
Prayer of Confession
Our heavenly Father, you are faithful and invincible: You never lie; your words are ever true. We confess that we struggle to trust you. We are apt to be cynical about your promises, filling our minds with what we see and hear rather than with what you say. We are slow to obey, often choosing to be driven by what we want and fear rather than choosing to be drawn to what you command. We confess with grief that we belong to a world whose mistrust of you has given rise to unspeakable horrors. Pardon our sins, for they are many and continual. Transform our appetites so that we love what you love and gladly order our choices and dreams around what you have said. We pray in the name of Jesus Christ, who has borne our sins and poured out his Spirit upon us. Amen.