Summary: Believe God's promises even when they seem utterly unbelievable.
This is our last sermon on Elisha, that bald ‘n’ bold prophet. We’ve seen how he’s been a man of action. Three weeks ago we heard how he kept an entire army from dying of thirst in the desert when he promised that water would appear out of nowhere. Then he saved two boys from being sold into slavery when he promised their mother that the little olive oil she had left would stretch so that she would end up with enough extra oil to sell for a profit. And last week we marveled at how Elisha brought a dead boy back to life! What about the miracle Elisha worked in today’s sermon text? Do you remember what that was? You’re right. Elisha did nothing. He was simply the mouthpiece through whom God promised an amazing rescue for the citizens of Samaria. In fact you could say that about all the miracles Elisha worked. He was nothing but the conduit through whom God worked to help his people, just as the pipes in your house don’t produce the water you need to survive but only deliver it.
As we review today’s featured miracle, the saving of Samaria from hunger and from an enemy army, the Holy Spirit is going to teach us again the importance of not only hearing God’s Word, but believing it - even when what God has promised seems utterly unbelievable.
The situation in the city of Samaria was this: it was under siege by the Aramaeans – people from present-day Syria. They surrounded the city so that there was no way out or in. To make matters worse there had been a famine in the land so that it seems that when the siege started, the citizens of Samaria were already low on food. The situation became so desperate that one woman suggested to another that they take turns eating each other’s children! But when it was the second woman’s turn to give up her child, she refused. When the matter came to King Joram’s attention, he was shocked and then fumed: “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!” (2 Kings 6:31)
Huh? What did Elisha have to do with it? Well according to 2 Kings 8, Elisha had predicted seven years of famine and had urged the Shunammite woman (whom we met last week) to leave the country for a place where there would be food. Had Elisha actually prayed for this famine the way his mentor, the prophet Elijah, had prayed that it wouldn’t rain during the time of King Ahab as a testimony against that king’s wickedness? If so, we can understand why Joram would be angry with the prophet.
But even if King Joram and the people of Samaria were wicked and deserving of such a calamity, why make the children suffer? Didn’t God care about those kids whose mothers were willing to eat them? I don’t have an answer that will satisfy those who have no use for the God of the Bible. What I can say is what Jesus stated when he was asked why bad things happen to seemingly innocent people. In Luke 13 Jesus was asked about a number of Jews whom the Roman governor Pilate had killed while they worshipped at the temple. The people wanted to know what sin these men had committed that God would let them die the way they had. But Jesus told his audience that they were asking the wrong question. Instead they were to ask: “What if that had been me? What if I had died at that moment? Would I have been ready to meet my Maker?”
That’s also the question that we need to ask ourselves when we hear about dreaded diseases like Ebola or when we read in the news about violent terrorists. Instead of shrugging and saying: “Those things could never happen here,” those disasters should remind us that yes, someday we too will die. In fact death could come sooner than we expect. It does not matter that you are still only a child or still in high school. Death does not discriminate. Are you ready even at this moment to stand before the holy God and answer for your life?
On one hand we have every reason to be afraid to stand before God. Tell me, how do you feel when your cell phone or your internet connection keeps cutting out on you? Do you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Ah, well I shouldn’t expect any better.” Of course you don’t. You expect your tech toys to work as designed and you will complain until your service is running the way it should! So why should God expect anything less from people he created and designed to thank and praise him 24/7? How can God be pleased when our selfishness interrupts our service to him? Yes, we have every reason to be afraid of God because of our sins.