By J.R. Miller
2 Kings 7:1-16
The city of Samaria was besieged. The famine was great. The people were suffering. The king blamed it all on Elisha and sought to kill him. Men often charge their troubles on God. They may be divine judgments; but if so, the reason for the judgments is to be sought for, in the sins of those on whom the judgments are falling.
Elisha told the king that the famine was about over. "Elisha said, Hear the word of Jehovah." It is always well to listen to the word of the Lord. He always has something to say to us, especially in time of trouble or perplexity. When we are in sorrow--He has something to say which will comfort our hearts, if only we will listen to it. When we are tempted and are about to sin--He has something to say which will save us if we heed His words.
When we read what goes before Elisha's answer, we get a specially important lesson here. The king had been blaming all the trouble of the famine on the Lord, and complaining that He was too slow in sending promised help or relief. "Stop," says the prophet, "and hear the word of the Lord." We should never be quick to blame God when any trouble is upon us, or when He seems to be slow in keeping His promises. We should learn to wait for the Lord. He knows best when to give the blessing we seek. We must not judge any unfinished work of the Lord. Today He may give pain or disappointment--but wait until we see what He will give tomorrow.
Then Elisha foretold what change in the hard conditions in Samaria there would be, almost immediately. "Thus says Jehovah, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel." The king was complaining bitterly because of the famine, and this is the answer of God to his angry complaint. Even while the words of unbelief were on his lips--the blessing of bread was at the very door. Tomorrow provisions would be abundant and cheap. We see how useless was the king's anxiety.
The king of Samaria is now dead--but the lesson is for us. Do we ever get discouraged and fume and fret and grieve God by our complainings, when He leaves us without material help for a little time? We lose both faith and patience, because the help we need is not given instantly, or because the promise we find is not at once fulfilled. Faith is trusting--when we cannot see, believing God's promise--when it is not yet fulfilled. We ought therefore to be confident of blessing before it comes--if we have God's Word for it; and, no matter how long the delay--we should not be afraid.
We must notice here also that the king's unbelief and anger did not cause God to withhold His blessing. The king had tried to kill the prophet, as if he were the cause of the famine. He had spoken most bitterly, too, of God. But the answer to all this, was the announcement, "Tomorrow there shall be abundance of bread." There is great comfort in this. If our unbelief and sin shut the doors of God's kindness and cut off the flow of His mercies and favors--we would never get much of good from the divine fullness. But it is not thus that God treats us. He is patient with our impatience, ingratitude, and unbelief--and blesses us in spite of ourselves.
But the prophet's words were not received with confidence. "The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God--Look, even if the LORD should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?" There was a sneer as well as unbelief in the answer. The captain meant to say that such a thing was impossible. He made no account of the divine word spoken by God's prophet. He could see no way in which the thing could be done, and therefore refused to believe that it could be done.
We have many modern skeptics who are just as unreasonable. Indeed, they are more inexcusable, since now the evidences of God's power and grace are so much greater. They refuse to believe anything they cannot see or cannot understand. They will accept nothing as true--which cannot be accounted for on natural grounds. They ridicule prayer and say it is impossible that anyone hears requests made on the earth--or that they can be granted. They do not believe that God ever helps anybody bear a trouble, or sends relief to anyone in distress, or opens a way out of a difficulty. They sneer at all the old beliefs which Christians cherish, and tell you such things are impossible.
We should take a close look at this old-time skeptic, for he is a fair sample of his modern followers. These latter refuse to believe, though evidences are abundant. They will not believe in Christ, though the evidences of His life and death and resurrection are abundant and incontrovertible. They will not believe anything they cannot see or understand, though common life and their own experience are full of things they can neither see nor understand.
The answer of Elisha to the king's attendant was startling. "Behold, you shall see it with your eyes--but shall not eat thereof." We have but to read on through a few verses, to find that this word of the prophet was actually fulfilled. The things God says He will do--He always does. The courtier saw the abundance of food, saw the prophet's foretelling fulfilled--but while the starving people were eagerly taking possession of the provision God had given them, "the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold!"
It is strikingly true that the same answer may be made to the modern skeptic. He also shall see the fulfillment of the divine promises and the Christian's hopes at which he sneers--but he shall have no share in the blessings. A man may make light of the cross of Christ and the salvation it brings--but when the day of judgment comes and all who have believed find shelter under it--he will find no place there for him. He shall see others saved--but he shall be left unsaved. A man may mock at the promises of God's Word, and laugh at the simplicity of those who trust in them; but the day will come when he shall see others realizing all the blessings of these promises, while there will be nothing in them for him! Unbelief may be fashionable, and skepticism may appear 'smart'--but there will come a time when the unbeliever and skeptic would give worlds for the Christian's hopes--when worlds could not buy them for him! We must not forget that there is an "afterward" for all who despise God's Word.
In a strange way did the prophet's words come true. They were outcast men to whom it first became known. "There were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate--and they said one to another, Why sit here until we die?" The story is a striking one. Leprosy was a type of sin. These four men were shut out of the city and from association with other men. They were most wretched. The famine affected them, too. They were starving. If they stayed where they were--they would die. If they went into the city the famine was there--and they could only perish there. There was one place, however, where there was plenty of bread. The Syrians surrounded the city, and they had plenty of provision in abundance. True, they were enemies--but these lepers said they could do no more than kill them--and they would be no worse off than if they died of starvation, as they must do if they stayed where they were. Then there was a chance at least that the Syrians might spare them alive. So nothing could be lost--and much might be gained, they said, by going over to the Syrian camp. The lepers determined therefore to do this. They went, shrinking, fearing, and trembling--but when they got to the camp they found nobody there--and no danger. However, they did find provision in abundance. So their lives were saved.
This story-parable needs no explanation. Unsaved sinners are in just such a state, as were these four lepers. They are not lepers only--but they are in the camp of death. If they stay where they are--they will surely perish. Their souls will starve. All round them, however, are those whom they look upon as enemies. The Church of Christ has its camps on every side. Here there is bread. At last, in their great need, they determine to go over to Christ's people. It cannot be any worse, they say, than staying where they are. "I can but perish--if I go." So, trembling, shrinking, they move toward Christ's camp, to find no danger, no enemy--but only blessing, food in abundance, garments and riches, all they need. So the story has its rich spiritual lessons.
The Lord knows how to carry out His purposes of good. He always finds some way to defeat men's schemes. Here there was a siege surrounding the town, and there was no human hope that it could be broken. The Syrians were strong. The people within the city were hopeless. In some way the besieging army was made to hear what seemed to them the sound of an approaching army. "TheLord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army." It was a panic, we say--but it was brought about not incidentally--but in some providential way, and had its place in God's plan for the lifting of the siege and the relief of the city. It is a wonderful comfort, to know that there are no chances even in the most perplexed days, with the worst confusion of events and circumstances. God knows what is coming; into His plan of love and goodness every event fits, having its part in the working out of some great divine purpose.
We see, too, that God has many ways of defeating His enemies--and delivering His own people. He is not dependent on the largest guns or the best military strategy. In spiritual conflicts, our enemies often seem too strong for us. We can never overcome them by any strength of our own. In the open field they must defeat us. But let us remember always that God is on our side; the same God who made the panic here at Samaria and raised the siege--is watching over us, and by a breath can scatter the hosts of foes that encircle us--and give us deliverance. We need but to stand and wait--when enclosed by such circumstances. God is on our side; He is our Leader, and through Him victory will always in the end come to those who are faithful.
"Then they said one to another: We're not doing 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." They were right about it, too. They would have acted very selfishly--if they had eaten all they wanted and packed up for themselves all the valuables they could carry away. The people in the city were famishing and did not know that the enemy was gone and that abundant provision was lying close to the walls. Only these four lepers knew it, and they were bound by all the laws of humanity to make it known.
There is a great lesson here which should be remembered. Good things which fall to our lot--we should not grasp and enjoy selfishly. Nothing is more beautiful in a child, than the desire that others shall share whatever little luxury or pleasure it may have.