Experiencing God’s Promise
Text: 2 Kings 7:3-16
Joke: Preacher I just sit here till I show a profit.
Sometimes we as Christians aren’t much smarter. We think that we can reach a certain place and just stay there, remain still and unchanging, but we can’t. To remain inactive, to remain still, to decide not to move is to not living long it is dying long. We have go, we have to move, we have to go forward. It is a life or death matter not just to us but to those who have still yet to hear the gospel if we do not go forward who will reach them.
We are now in the northern Kingdom of Samaria, which has been at war for decades against their own brothers and sisters in the southern kingdom of Judah. After the rebellion of Jeroboam against Solomon’s son Rehoboam, the two peoples never come back together and become bitter enemies. This animosity can even be seen in the New Testament when the Bible tells us the story of the Samaritan women at the well. The Jews had nothing to do with the Samaritans.
Turn with me to 2 Kings 7:3 and look at this reality in a story which makes it very clear.
Hopelessness of Standing Still
Lepers At the Gate.
The Siege and the Famine
King Benhadad of Syria had been attacking the northern kingdom of Israel for many years. At first he sent raiding parties into Israel, but Elisha has asked God to strike them blind and after taking them to the King of Samaria their sight was restored were released back to Syria. This stopped the raiding partys but in chapter 7 Ben-hadad, sends his entire army to conquer Samaria.
He besieges the capital city and the siege lasts so long that a terrible famine is within the walls of the city as we read in 2 Kings 6. This famine went on so long that the people were forced to eat donkey’s heads and doves droppings and for these they paid exorbitant prices, two pounds of silver for the head of a donkey and two ounces of silver for the bird droppings.
King Joram, the son of evil Ahab and Jezebel blames Elisha, who had struck the raiders with blindness but now is doing nothing, in 2 Kings 6:31 Joram said, “God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.”
The king sends a servant to get Elisha, but God warns the prophet and Elisha and those in his house with him hold the door against the king’s messenger, until the king also arrives. When he gets to the locked door, which really couldn’t have helped his mood any, he calls out 2 Kings 6:33 “Behold, this evil is of the LORD; what should I wait for the LORD any longer?” The king had not learned anything from the fate of his parents, nor had he called out for the people to repent of their sin and pray to God as Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah had done in the Southern Kingdom. Instead of praying and repenting, Joram blames the God and refuses to trust Him.
Elisha then gives a prophecy, 2 Kings 7:1 From behind the closed door he calls out, “Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.” These were pre-famine prices and it was impossible.
One of the kings advisers mocks Elisha, 2 Kings 7:2 “Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” Then Elisha in response to the mocking and denial of God’s promise says, “Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof.”
That gives us the setting for our story in 2 Kings 7:3-20. And like a play or a drama, opening its second act we find ourselves huddled outside the city gates and looking at four men, who are in far worse shape than the people inside the city.
The four lepers. 2 Kings 7:3-4
And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
The lepers were dependent upon their family or charity from the people of the city, but with a famine they were no longer being fed. They realize that they must do something. They had 3 courses of action.
They could stay where they were. They could complain and wail and wish things hadn’t changed for the worse, and they could do that until they simply died.
Or they could try and go to another city, but the Syrians invasion had cut off any travel.
Or they could go into the camp of the Syrians! Now that was a radical idea and that was the course of action they chose. They said, “Why sit here until we die?” They understood, that to remain where they were was a death, but to move, to take action was a chance and it could even be their deliverance.
I don’t think any of us will ever find ourselves in the same horrific place that these four men found themselves but their decision and their actions that day can be a very strong and important lesson for us as Christians. Here is the lesson…
As Christians sometimes we aren’t as decisive as these 4 lepers. We see that our society, our nation, our family and even my own life has taken a change for the worse and we don’t like it. But unlike the lepers, caught up in the terrible changes in their life, we don’t take action. We can if we are not cognizant and alert, literally sit until we die.
Here is a the principle from Gods word “Doing Nothing Means Dying Slowly.”
It’s true in our life and its true in the Lords work. We all need 2 Kings 7:3 written in large letter on the wall of my office. “Why sit we here till we die?” I need to remember it and practice the truth of it in all areas of my life, ministry and relationships.
I need to think of it when I’m trying to get out and exercise. I need to think of it when I’m trying to eat right or make plans for the future. I need to be motivated by the question, “Why sit here until I die?” when it comes to my broken relationships with family and friends. I need to remember it when I have an opportunity to share the love of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We are commanded in God’s Word to grow, to change, to not stand still
2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 5: 12-14 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Philippians 3:13-14 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
You can't stand still, not in our physical life, our spiritual life, or in your relationship and service to God. Life is flying by us. Change is taking place everywhere we look. Some of the changes are good, some are neutral and some are destructive, but ignoring them and standing still is not an option. If I ignore the change happening around me and do nothing then it is a slow, sure death, just like the lepers outside the gate faced.
Illustration: The Dedication of Ezra’s Temple
The older people wept at the completion of the temple because they remembered the glory of the old.
Ezra 3:12-13 But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.
That day some wept at the changes, wept at the loss, but more important were the people who shouted for joy at the start of a new work for God. They could have left the Temple in ruins, but instead they rebuilt, they went forward, they made a choice to grow and the future had hope because they chose to act.
As terrible as it would have been to stand still and die there was an even a greater sin that could have taken place and that was staying silent while others died.
Harm of Staying Silent 2 Kings 7:5-9
Lepers at the Camp
They lepers move into the camp of the invading Syrian army and there, amazingly, they find the camp deserted. 2 Kings 7:5-7 And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there. For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life.
God had caused the Syrian army, many who had been blinded in a previous raid, to hear the sound of a great host of chariots, cavalry and marching men and they fled, believing Joram had somehow hired armies and mercenaries to come to the defense of the city.
The lepers go from tent to tent taking treasure and food. 2 Kings 7:8 And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it.
They begin to hoard God’s blessings, to keep them to themselves and they forgot all about those starving back in the city. Finally, though they realize to not share the good news, is to invite punishment into their own lives. 2 Kings 7:9 Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore come, that we may go and tell the king's household.
God had chosen these men to go and discover the empty Syrian camp but He also chose these men to carry the news of the promise, back to the besieged city. If they failed, they knew God would deal with them.
Be A Blessing
If you were in the place of the lepers wouldn’t go back to the city? Wouldn’t you take the good news to your family and friends, even to your enemies? There was so much of God’s promise to go around, how could anyone not share it.
Can you imagine what joy it was for these men to run back to the city and say, “Come and see, God has driven away the enemy. You only have to come accept the promise He has provided.”
Ah but what is a camp filled with spoils compared to heaven filled with the promise of eternal life? We must not keep it to ourselves.
Paul Harvey once said, "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium."
Like the lepers, we must realize not only that God has blessed us, but that He has also chosen us to tell others what we have experience. Like the lepers we have to know that there is a price to pay if we hoard the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Scripture: Ezekiel 33:7-9 So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.
Some teach that one day in heaven we will stand before the Lord and see blood on our hands for the people we did not witness to. Of course, nothing like that is repeated in the New Testament when we actually read about the Judgment seat of Christ. There the Bible says we are rewarded, or we suffer the loss of reward. There is nothing about literal bloody hands, no matter how many times you’ve heard that preached.
So what is this passage teaching and what can I apply from that interpretation into my life? The context of course is God calling Ezekiel as a prophet to the exiled Israelites and it is easy to see that God is telling Ezekiel, if you don’t preach and warn the wicked then they will die in their sins and you will suffer my punishment for not warning them. The punishment is right there in the verse, thou hast delivered thy soul. If Ezekiel didn’t do as God commanded, he would be guilty of the blood of other men and God will take his life.
But you and I aren’t prophets in that OT sense. Instead we are commissioned by our savior, Jesus Christ to Go, Disciple, Baptize and Teach. If we fail to do this then yes, we will be guilty of disobeying our Savior and we will lose our reward, a reward that was set aside for me, a reward that I would have lain at the feet of Jesus Christ one day. The principle though, is the same, obey God and tell others of His promises of eternal life and yes also of eternal death. If you choose to disobey then just like the lepers understood, and just like God told Elijah, there will be a price to pay. It won’t be literal blood on our hands, it many ways it will be worse. People who didn’t hear the gospel because you did not tell them, died and then suffered the wrath of God for eternity. We knew this and yet we did nothing.
We didn’t tell anyone about God’s promises, we didn’t give to missions so a missionary could tell them, we didn’t support the church so the church could tell the community. We sat here until they died!
Illustration: Dead Sea Christians
The Dead Sea receives the same fresh, life giving water that the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan river receives. Yet it does not live. No fisherman can fish it’s waters, no crops can be grown from on its shores. The Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River pass on the life giving water but the Dead Sea holds all the water that come to it. Ultimately the very lifegiving water it hoards destroys it.
Don’t be a “Dead Sea Christian.” Don’t hoard the blessings and promises of God by not sharing them with others. Part of experiencing God’s promises is telling others so they can experience them as well. There is no limited supply, you can’t run out of God’s blessings, you can’t exhaust God’s promises. Don’t let your life become a dead, spiritual wasteland. Experience the promise of God all over again by passing them on to others.
Don’t you love the characters of the lepers? They are dying but they choose to act and, by that decision, they go from helpless to heroes. What a great story.
Heroics of Shouting Strong 2 Kings 7:10-11, 14-16
Lepers at Salvation Celebration
The lepers return to the dying city, stand outside the gate and shout the good news. 2 Kings 7:10-11 So they came and called unto the porter of the city: and they told them, saying, We came to the camp of the Syrians, and, behold, there was no man there, neither voice of man, but horses tied, and asses tied, and the tents as they were. And he called the porters; and they told it to the king's house within.
Joram, the unbelieving and unfaithful King believes they are being tricked by the Syrians and he sends a team to investigate. 2 Kings 7:12, 14 And the king arose in the night, and said unto his servants, I will now shew you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we be hungry; therefore are they gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, When they come out of the city, we shall catch them alive, and get into the city…They took therefore two chariot horses; and the king sent after the host of the Syrians, saying, Go and see.
After the scouts return and tell the King that the Syrians have fled, the people of the city rush out to the camp and are saved by the promise of God. 2 Kings 7:16 “And the messengers returned, and told the king. And the people went out, and spoiled the tents of the Syrians. So a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the LORD.”
The city was saved, not because the lepers were influential, nor because they were persuasive, but because they brought back the simple truth that God’s promise was real.
Be A Hero
It’s time for some heroes in God’s work. From this story you know that you don’t have to be important, these were lepers, the lowest of the low in their society. You don’t need to be influential, persuasive or educated.
All you need to do is act and tell people the truth of God’s word, the reality of God’s promises. Tell them…
God will save. He saved me. God will forgive, I know because I have been forgiven. God will bless, He has more blessing right now than we can describe and more blessing in eternity than we can imagine.
It is up to us to be the heroes that tell our experience of the Promise of God. It is up the those we tell to accept and expererience those promises for themselves.
The Samaritans had to go to the camp of the enemy and see that God had defeated the Syrians. Those we tell have to go to the empty tomb and see that Jesus has defeated our enemy, death.
Illustration: Sergeant York.
Let me close by telling you about a another hero, Sargent Alvin York. Sargent York was the most decorated hero of WW1. In a battle where half of his 17 man patrol was wiped out and his commanding officer killed, York, then a corporal, took command. While the rest of his men were pinned down by enemy machine gun fire, he risked his life by running in plain view of the machine guns to a good firing position. Then completely by himself with only his rifle and a pistol, York stormed 9 machine gun bunkers, killed 25 enemy soldiers and forced the others to surrender. On his way back to the American lies he captured another 130 enemy troops. When asked why he did it, he replied, “Well those machine guns were picking off my buddies and I realized that if I didn’t do something a lot of people were going to die.”
You know what it takes to be a hero, not intelligence, or ability but just the realization that if we don’t do something people are going to die. Sin will slay them. They will die physically, by drugs, alcohol, violence or an immoral lifestyle. They will die emotionally by bitterness, anger or betrayal. But worst of all they will die spiritually because I chose to sit, instead of go or I chose to be silent instead of shouting the good news of Jesus Christ.
There is one last unresolved detail in this story.
Let me share it with you in our conclusion. Do you remember the King’s advisor who mocked when he heard the promise of God’s salvation? He said, If the windows of heaven were opened and food poured down like rain, this still couldn’t be true.”
We pick up his story in 2 Kings 7:17 And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him.
As the starving people ran out to experience the promise of God this man was crushed under the feet of a human stampede. He rejected the promise of God, he rejected the message of God from God’s servant, but he still experienced the promise of God, for Elisha had told him, “your eyes shall see it but your mouth will not taste it.”
You may be here today and you don’t think of yourself as mocking God’s promise or God’s messenger and yet you reject the promise of God’s salvation and forgiveness. In a sense you are right here standing at the gate while others have trusted you just stand there and watch them go by.
There are other promises that await those who refuse to accept the blessing of God. Do I need to repeat them? I don’t think so. You already know them. The Holy Spirit can speak to your heart better than I can. Which promise will you choose this morning? What action should all of us decide to take, so that we and others can experience the wonderful blessing and promises of God?