Bible Study on the Prophet Elisha
2 Kings 6:24-7:20: Faith’s Breaking Point

By I Gordon
 

Introduction

Have you ever felt like you cannot go on? Ever felt like you cannot trust God one day more? Ever felt like you can’t wait for God a moment longer? Yeah? Then this may be the story for you. It’s a true story filled with despair, heartache and death. If that didn’t do it for you then let me add that after plummeting to the depths of despair, the story shall also rise to the greatest heights of God-given deliverance and joy. It has the valley of the shadow of death, but also the green pastures and still waters. The lows and highs of this story may just mirror your life. So if you are currently faced with difficulties that stretch your faith to breaking point I would ask you to read on.

Faith under siege!

2 kings 6:24-29 Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods for five shekels. As the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried to him , “Help me, my lord the king!” The king replied, “If the LORD does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?” Then he asked her, “What’s the matter?” She answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we’ll eat my son.’ So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give up your son so we may eat him,’ but she had hidden him. When the king heard the woman’s words, he tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and there, underneath, he had sackcloth on his body."

So here’s the general setting for our story: Samaria is under siege [1] as the king of Aram once again declares war. Prices for donkey heads and seed pods [2] have gone through the roof as food becomes scarce. Samaria is holding on for as long as it can but things are getting desperate. Crying out for help to the king, a woman is told ‘If the Lord does not help you, where can I get help for you? There are times in everyone’s life when all natural support is cut off. It was for Samaria here and the king knew it. He had no extra wheat to feed his people and it was now at the point where it was God or nothing. Can you imagine the pressure these people where under?

And then the king hears something that pushes him past his breaking point… In what is probably the bleakest and most horrific story in the Old Testament, the king hears that this mother became so desperate that she cooked her own son for food. Unbelievable… We can barely imagine the severity and utter desperation of this situation!

Bring on the blame game

2 Kings 6:31-33 He said, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!” Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. The king sent a messenger ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to the elders, “Don’t you see how this murderer is sending someone to cut off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold it shut against him. Is not the sound of his master’s footsteps behind him?” While he was still talking to them, the messenger came down to him. And the king said, “This disaster is from the LORD. Why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”

The breaking point has come for the king and he now swears that it will cost Elisha his head by the day’s end! Now, we may have to read a little between the lines here. You will probably remember from 2 Kings 6 that previously when the Aram had come against Israel, Elisha had been an early warning system for the king and warned him in advance. It is most probably the same here. Elisha would have told the king that they would be tested but that the Lord would deliver them… Wait for His help. But the king won’t wait any longer. He has waited… he has repented… he has worn sackcloth in a sign of humility before God… But nothing. No answer, no sign of help. “Off with Elisha’s head” the king says. “I’m not waiting one minute more… this disaster is from the Lord! You lied to me Elisha”

Have you ever got to that point? The king blamed Elisha for their trouble but maybe you have been blaming God? Have you got to the point where you have decided that you can wait no longer and must act? You have been seeking the Lord… praying… reading the Bible looking for an answer… and the only reply you have got is silence. Maybe you’ve had a promise from God earlier in your life and now years have passed and, like Abraham, you now feel that you should take matters into your own hands to try bring about an answer?

Well, if that is you, you are not alone. The king and the woman who cooked her son in this story are with you in the need to take matters into your own hands. [3]

The God of the Impossible

2 Kings 7:1-2 Elisha said, “Hear the word of the LORD. This is what the LORD says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria .” 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?” “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!”

Elisha, unfazed that the king wants his head, responds by prophesying that within 24 hours the siege would be over and there would be plenty to eat! [4] Amazing! Can God work so fast? The officer listening to Elisha certainly doesn’t think so and openly states as much. His lack of faith in God’s ability to do such a wonderful thing gets an immediate response – “You will see it, but you won’t participate in it!”

Let’s bring this back to you. Have you got something that is a real trial and test for you right now? If so, then don’t give up. The waves may come but the word of God says that there is an anchor that will keep you firm and secure. Do you know what that anchor is? Do you know what it is that keeps your soul stable? It is HOPE based upon the unchanging nature and faithfulness of God. [5] Don’t be like the officer who just can’t see how God could or would bring deliverance. He doubted God’s ability, God’s willingness and God’s promise. Beware the unbelief that lies within your corrupted nature. Unfortunately it comes so very easy to a fallen humanity. Always remember, as we shall soon see, that God is very, very, resourceful!

The God of the weak

2 Kings 7:3-8 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.” At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man 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. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away 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 .

I love this. When God was going to bring victory over Jericho He got them to march for 7 days and blow horns. He overcame 120,000 Midianites by getting Gideon and his 300 men to shine their lights and blow their trumpets. When Balaam is out of line, he uses his donkey to talk some sense to him! And here, when all things seem lost, he uses 4 leprous men [6] and some spooky sounds to bring deliverance. God can always make a way!

Now you also have to like the logic of the lepers that God chooses to use. Their reasoning is simply this: “If we stay here, we die. If we go to the city we die. If we go to the camp of the Arameans we probably die. So we’ve got certain death, certain death, probable death. Mmmm, I vote probable death. Yeah, probably death has never looked so good!” [7] Now the lepers didn’t know they were doing God’s bidding. They didn’t they know that they were in the centre of His will, being lead by God as His means of bringing food and deliverance to the whole region of Samaria. But they were. They simply couldn’t believe their good fortune! At death’s door one day, as rich as kings the next. They’ve got so much they even start hiding their loot!

Our response to God’s blessing

2 Kings 7:9-16 “ Then they said to each other, “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.” So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and not a man 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... 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. Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the LORD had said.

The final thing that I’ll draw your attention to in this story is the response of the lepers to this overwhelming blessing of God. Here they are, gorging on food, trying on clothes, hiding their abundant loot and suddenly a thought comes into their mind… “you are not doing right… this isn’t just for you!” [8]

It maybe that you are currently in the middle of difficulty where your faith is under pressure and you are waiting for the Lord. It may also just be that you have experienced his deliverance and help like those in our story here. If so, share! [9] Share what He has done for you. Learn from the lepers!

Conclusion

Waiting is a hard thing. In my experience God often makes us wait longer than we would like. And He is often more silent than we would like. But continue to trust for “perseverance produces character; and character, hope.” I’ll just leave you with the words of a song that I like that seem appropriate.

“God will lift up your head” (Jars of Clay - based on an old hymn)

Give to the wind your fears
Hope and be undismayed
God hears your sighs and counts your tears
God will lift up, God will lift up, lift up your head
God will lift up your head. He will lift up your head…
 Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command
Then shall we wandering on His way
Know how wise and how strong
How wise and how strong
God will lift up your head. How strong is His hand...
 Through waves and clouds and storms, He gently clears the way
Wait because in His time, so shall this night
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy
Soon end in joy, soon end in joy
God will lift up your head. Soon end in joy…


[1]  I’m sure you know what a siege is. Seen the Alamo? Davy Crockett and a couple of hundred Texans in a fort under siege by a few thousand angry Mexicans… Well, this siege is against Samaria and it is a lot bigger! The method is to create a vice like grip upon the whole city so that nothing comes in or out. The intended result is starvation or surrender. Well, in the verses above we see that the king of Aram is succeeding very well.

[2]  For ‘seed pods’ my Bible says ‘doves dung’! Now that would be getting desperate! Although don’t be alarmed… I looked it up in a Bible dictionary and it said that ‘Doves dung’ was a plant with an edible bulb. Not sure who gave that plant such an attractive name but it’s a fair guess that it wasn’t used to make perfume.

[3]  Sorry to associate you with such infamous company. The king of Israel at this time was Joram, the son of the even more infamous Ahab ((2 Kings 8:16) whom Elijah had severely admonished for his wickedness! And the woman… boy… can you imagine being her? For the rest of her life she will live with the fact that she gave up hope and faith in God one day too soon! She sacrificed her son because she thought she could wait no longer and deliverance came the next day! Can you imagine the guilt and despair for the rest of her life?

[4]  My Bible says ‘Then Elisha said…’ Now whenever you see a ‘then’ ask yourself ‘when’. When did Eisha respond? When faith was gone, when hope had dried up, when things in the natural where at their worst… then the word of the Lord came. Sometimes the word of the Lord only comes at the last minute… But it is not a moment too late in God’s timing. Someone once said ‘God’s help comes, not too soon, lest we should not know the blessing of trusting in the dark, and not too late lest we should know the misery of trusting in vain.” And that is a true word! When things were at their darkest, Elisha tells them that a new day will dawn tomorrow and all their problems will be over!

[5]  Hebrews 6:17-20 ‘Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.’

[6]  Charles Spurgeon said ““If you were to take out of the Scriptures all the stories that have to do with poor, afflicted men and women, what a very small book the Bible would become, especially if together with the stories you removed all the psalms of the sorrowful, all the promises for the distressed, and all the passages which belong to the children of grief! This Book, indeed, for the most part is made up of the annals of the poor and despised.”

[7]  As Dylan once sang “When you aint got nothing, you got, nothing to lose!”

[8]  To quote Spurgeon again on this: “If the only result of our religion is the comfort of our poor little souls, if the beginning and the end of piety is contained within one’s self, why, it is a strange thing to be in connection with the unselfish Jesus, and to be the fruit of his gracious Spirit. Surely, Jesus did not come to save us that we might live unto ourselves. He came to save us from selfishness.”

[9]  While it is on a different topic, this story of the lepers going into the camp of the enemy and finding that God had already brought about their victory is a great picture of salvation. For God performed all that was needed for our victory before we came to believe or check it out. And we can learn from the attitude of the lepers who knew that such a wonderful deliverance was not just for them, but that they should tell others so that many could share in such a wonderful event.