A highlight from Hope for the Cursed (2)
Well, let me ask you to turn in your Bibles to 2 Kings 7, and we're going to read verses 1 -20. 2 Kings 7, beginning in verse 1, this is the infallible, inerrant word of our God. Then Elisha said, hear the word of the Lord, thus says the Lord, tomorrow about this time, a saith of fine flour should be sold for a shackle, and two saith of barley for a shackle at the gate of Samaria. So an officer, on whose hand the king leaned, answered the man of God and said, look, if this thing be, and he said, this is Elisha now talking, and he said, in fact, you shall see it with your eyes, or you shall not eat of it. Now there were four lepers, men at the entrance of the gate, and they said to one another, why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, we'll enter the city, the famine is in the city, and we'll die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live, and if they kill us, we shall only die. And they rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. And when they'd come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp, to their surprise, no one was there. For the Lord had caused the army of the Syrians to hear the noise of chariots and the noise of horses, the noise of a great army. So they said to one another, look, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us. Therefore they arose and fled at twilight and left the camp intact, their tents, their horses and their donkeys, and they fled for their lives. And when the lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they went into one tent and ate and drank and carried from it silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried some from there also and went and hid it. Then they said to one another, we're not doing right. is This day a day of good news and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household. So they went and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them saying, we went to the Syrian camp and surprisingly no one was there, not a human sound, only horses and donkeys tied in the tents intact. The gatekeeper called out and they told it to the king's household inside. So the king arose in the night and said to his servants, let me now tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we're hungry, therefore they've gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the camp and they'll catch them alive and get into the city. And one of his servants answered and said, please let several men take five of the remaining horses which are left in the city. Look they may either become like all the multitude of Israel that are left in it or indeed I say they may become like all the multitude of Israel left from those who are consumed. So let us send them and see. Therefore, they took two chariots with horses and the king sent them in the direction of the Syrian army saying, go and see. And they went after them to the Jordan and indeed all the roads was full of garments and weapons which the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. So the messengers returned and told the king and the people went out and plundered the tents of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shackle and two seahs of barley for a shackle according to the word of the Lord. Now the king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate but the people trampled him in the gate and he died just as the man of God had said who spoke when the king came down to him. So it happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king saying, two seahs of barley for a shackle and a seah of fine flour for a shackle shall be sold tomorrow about this time in the gate of Samaria. And that officer had answered the man of God and said, now look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, could such a thing be? And he had said, in fact, you shall see it with your eyes but you shall not eat it. And so it happened to him for the people trampled him in the gate and he died. The grass withers and the flowers fade but the word of our God endures forever. Let's pray. Our Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that it is true truth and we pray that that truth would reach into the minds and hearts of your people this evening and we ask this in Jesus' name, amen. Well, there's congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ. You may recall from last week that I said from chapter 6 verse 24 all the way down through the end of chapter 7 where we're dealing with a text that hangs together. It's a single narrative. I chose to divide it up for practical reasons but I do want you to know this, the chapter break, chapter 7 is a bit arbitrary. Now on the previous Lord's Day, we focused on chapter 6 that highlights some of the implications of Israel's desperate predicament. The Syrian army had besieged Samaria which meant there was a blockade around the entire city, nothing going in and nothing going out. And just as the siege intended, it created in Samaria a catastrophic famine where something as unsavory and unappetizing as a donkey's head or dove dung cost an absolute fortune. So the people simply had nothing to eat. Now you'll remember from last week the implication of their predicament was much worse than donkey heads and dove dung. King Jehoram went out and he was inspecting the city walls and he encountered an evil. That's truly breathtaking. There were mothers who were killing and eating their children and it's important to pause here and remember what we learned last week, that Syria besieging Samaria, the famine and even that grotesque cannibalism were actually implications of Israel's predicament. Their predicament, their actual problem is that on account of their idolatry and disobedience, they had fallen under God's covenant curses. Now if you want to explore God's covenant curses as they relate to this passage, you can check them out at Deuteronomy 28 verses 52 through 57, Leviticus 26 verses 27 through 29. We looked at that passage last week. The point is God had given them over and he's pulled back his hand of restraint and we're Well even Jehoram seemed to be shocked by the events and he made a show of tearing his clothes so that people could see he seemed to be mourning and then underneath the clothes on the outside he was wearing sackcloth on the inside and that of course is a garment typically associated with repentance and his repentance was a sham. We know that because instead of seeking out God's prophet for a word of direction or a word of comfort or a word of deliverance, the king's impulse was to have Elisha murdered. He actually sent an assassin to take Elisha's head but of course the prophet of God to whom God reveals himself knew what was happening and barred the door from the messenger and assassin. And as the men held the door, the king showed up right on the heels of the assassin likely wanting to make sure that the job got done and we began to learn there near the end of chapter 6 that the reason Jehoram was filled with bitter anger toward Elisha is because he's the one who told the king that those events that Samaria was experiencing were the Lord's judgment and that he must repent and wait on the Lord. And now having learned what those women were doing Jehoram's done waiting and chapter 6 ends with Jehoram making it clear that from his perspective the one to blame for this whole sordid mass is Yahweh. It's his fault. Look there at the end of verse 33 in chapter 6. Surely this calamity is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer? Most of Israel is living in spiritual darkness choosing to worship false gods. Samaria is enduring God's just covenant curses and they aren't at all bashful in telling their king that they're engaged in the worst imaginable kind of evil, cannibalism. And King Jehoram no longer has patience to wait for Yahweh and the reason he wants to take Elisha's head is because he can't get to Yahweh's head. And one of the most surprising truths that unfolds when we make the transition to chapter 7 as great and shocking as Samaria's sin is, as great and shocking as Jehoram's sin and impatience is, we come to something more shocking, something that's gloriously shocking. We learn that God's grace and patience eclipses their sin and impatience. We're getting a picture that God's grace is greater than all our sin. I mean the king is at Elisha's house to kill God's prophet and God's going to announce through his prophet a message of good news. That's why I entitled the message this week and last week Hope for the Cursed and that's what we pick up this evening. Look there at verse 1, it sets the stage. Then Elisha said hear the word of the Lord, thus says the Lord, tomorrow about this time a saya of fine flour shall be sold for a shackle and two sayas of barley for a shackle at the gate of Samaria. He said don't miss this. Elisha provides a kind of double affirmation to make it clear what he's about to speak is a divine message. Hear the word of the Lord and then thus says the Lord. It was a way of saying this is God's word you're hearing, don't miss this. This isn't just my voice you're hearing, you're hearing God's voice. And the message from Yahweh is that in just 24 hours there will be relief. Prices will return to normal, commerce will resume at the marketplace, at the gate, at the entrance of the city. It's amazing news and it's nothing less than God's good news of deliverance to people who utterly don't deserve it. Of course the news is so amazing and so good that Jehoram's captain is convinced it's simply too good to be true. And listen to the poetic way he describes his skepticism. Look, if the Lord would make windows in heaven could this thing be? The captain sure knew how to turn a phrase didn't he? But his eloquence simply masks his rank on belief. God's made a glorious promise. He's offered good news in a context of utter despair and hopelessness but that's not for him. He can't make sense of it so he just settles in his doubt. God can't possibly do this thing. And by the way we can rightly criticize this captain but isn't that a thought that plagues our minds often? We hear the promises of God and in the back of our mind. We think God can't really do this thing can he? I think we can struggle with that as well. Well as hope begins to emerge here in chapter seven we also do get this word of judgment. Because where there's salvation there's going to be judgment. And so Elisha tells the captain you're going to see God pour out this promised abundance on his people. You'll see the promise fulfilled but you won't participate in the cursed estate. And we'll see when we get to the end of the chapter that not only is God's word of promise and salvation fulfilled but there's always his word of judgment so sort of hold that thought for a couple minutes. Now Elisha didn't tell Jehoram or his officer how God would fulfill his promise but we're sort of privy to what's going on. You know it's something they used to do in the older movies. Meanwhile over here and that's sort of what we get. Meanwhile over here we find God's rescue and deliverance is going to begin in an unlikely place and with some unlikely man. We're told in verse three that there are four lepers who are at the gate of the city. That's an interesting place to be because lepers were driven out of the city and they wouldn't have been normally hanging out at the gate. They would have been pressed beyond it. So you have to think it's because there's a blockade and because the gate's closed they've gotten over there. Because lepers ordinarily can't enter the city where God's people dwell because they're unclean. So the gates shut up tight. But here's the thing, they're in this weird predicament where they can't get into the city to get away from the Syrians. They're sort of pushed between the Syrian and Samaria and they're in a desperate place. And they start to take stock of their situation and they apply some leper logic. If they stay at the gate they'll die. They think if we manage to find a way to get into the city and this famine continues we'll die. On the other hand if we go to the Syrian camp we could very well die. I mean they may very well kill us but at least there, there's this slim possibility, just a slim possibility that they might let us live. So having weighed their options leper logic said we're going to the Syrian camp. And we're told there in verse five, and they rose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians and when they had come to the outskirts of the Syrian camp to their surprise no one was there. And what a surprise it must have been. They certainly thought when we get to the camp we're going to be in grave danger. But they're not. And they must have wondered what in the world has happened. And again we're privy to what God was doing. Yahweh had made the Syrians here what sounded like a great army, an army with a mighty cavalry and they heard these incredible sounds. It's hard to contemplate the volume, the decibels that must have been thundering outside of Samaria. And the Syrian soldiers they're sure that Jehoram has hired mercenaries to come from the Hittites and the Egyptians and the Syrians were so terrified at these loud sounds of soldiers and armies that they don't even bother breaking camp. They simply beat feet out of there leaving behind their tents, their livestock, even their gold and silver. What they heard struck terror in their hearts and then they fled for their lives. It's really something isn't it? And you'll remember we learned this just a couple weeks back. It shows us the story of the sovereignty of God over his enemies and ours. God had blinded the Syrians to protect Israel and especially to protect his prophets. God was feeding intelligent reports to Elisha again to protect his people and protect his prophets. Now he overcomes their enemies with the sounds of a great military. Again, behind this is God's willingness to fight for his people, to ensure this victory for his people. Whether it's blinding, deafening sounds, secret intelligence reports, God is fighting the battles of his people. And when the lepers, again they don't really know this. We know this, but the lepers don't know this. They enter the abandoned camp and they experience what will be for them. A life changing, transforming reversal of fortunes. In that moment they went from poverty to plenty. And basically they're granted all the benefits of the spoils of war without ever having to lift a finger to fight it. And as soon as they get their bellies full of food and drink they actually start stockpiling gold and silver. One moment these poor four lepers were destitute and the next moment they've got a fully funded retirement account. And this really is one of those passages that you read and you can't help but see all kinds of gospel reflections, right? I'm sure some of those have come to your mind. Let me just mention a couple. First, the lepers were transformed from a state of desperation to a state of salvation. They were little more than the walking dead, right? Now they have life and they have it abundantly and it was all God's doing. It was the sheer undeserved grace of God. These lepers didn't deserve kindness any from God and yet they're the objects of the exceeding kindness of God. And this certainly describes how God saves sinners, doesn't it? It's a little picture of that. How God saves sinners and grants us new life in Christ. Even when we were the walking dead, dead in trespasses and sin, God made us alive together with Christ by grace. You've been saved, Ephesians 2 .5. And we've been raised up and seated with Christ in the heavenly places so that in the coming age we will see the exceeding riches of God's grace for us in Christ, Ephesians 2 .7. Grace and riches are what deliver us from the dead lepers experienced. It's only a faint blip on the radar screen compared to the grace and riches God provides us in Christ. And again, we don't lift a finger and the victory is won for us and we enjoy that inheritance forever. A second way we see a gospel reflection is that the lepers experienced sovereign grace. Now it's obvious as day just reading through this passage that the lepers good fortune is clearly God's doing and all of God's doing. But there's a little detail in the text that seems to be inserted here to show us just how precisely God's orchestrating these events. It says in verse 5, the lepers left for the Syrian camp at twilight. And then we see in verse 7, it was right at twilight that the Syrians fled. By the way, this word twilight in the whole Samuel, Kings, Chronicle narrative is used three times. Once back in 1 Samuel 30 and then twice here. So this word is meant to catch our attention. The lepers left at twilight. The Syrians left at twilight. And perfect timing. It's not arbitrary, not accidental, and not coincidental. It's to highlight that God's working out the purposes of his will to bring a salvation to these lepers right down to the precise time that one leaves and the other shows up. God's superintending over the details to provide salvation and an undeserved inheritance to the lepers. And then we see and isn't that what we have? In Christ we have obtained an inheritance having been predestined according to him who works out all things according to the counsel of his will. Ephesians 1. There are a number of little gospel gems here, but I'll leave it there. The lepers, they're enjoying their new fortune. And some are very critical of the lepers because it took them a while to realize this, but they do realize something. They realize while they're enjoying God's blessing, there are still people inside Samaria who are starving. And so in verse 9 they said to one another, we're not doing right. This day is a day of good news and we remain silent. If we wait until morning light, some punishment will come upon us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king's household. Indeed it is a day of good news and they want to proclaim it. You know it's interesting, we heard something of that in Psalm 96 this morning, didn't we? Psalm 96 verse 2. Sing to the Lord, bless his name, proclaim the good news of his salvation from day to day. These lepers, they've experienced that good news and they want to proclaim it to the folks in Samaria. The word good news in Psalm 96 and in 2 Kings 7 is from the root word that means that's besor or besorah. And it's the Greek translation of that word is probably one you've at least heard echoes of. It's euangelizumai, it's the evangel, it's glad tithings, it's good news, it's gospel. And for these lepers having personally experienced this good news, it's their impulse to go and tell others and they know if we don't do that we'll be guilty of being stingy with the good gift God's given them. Now you could probably arrange a whole sermon around what this teaches about evangelism and frankly some very wonderful expositors have done that but we don't have time but you could ground a whole sermon on evangelism from this text and you wouldn't be stretching the text. You could describe how these lepers were beggars who had nothing to eat and all they were looking for was scraps and once they had been given bread they wanted to go and tell other beggars where they could find bread. You could work that kind of thing out or you could point out that the lepers were outsiders who are now saved and go to tell insiders, right? Because these are the people who weren't allowed into communion and fellowship with the covenant community and now they're the ones with the gospel. I was talking to someone very recently within the last couple of weeks and I mentioned to them that America receives the second highest number of missionaries of any country in the world, right? So again the harvest is plentiful and those of you who like and have been blessed by the ministry of Alistair Begg, he came to this country some 30 plus years ago to be a missionary and you know what he identified as his mission field? The evangelical church.