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157 - Trusting God in Desperate Times

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 2 Kings 6–7

Our study in 2 Kings chapters 6 and 7 gives us a glimpse, not only of Elisha’s fruitful ministry, but also of God’s concern for individuals as well as entire nations. There is much here to inspire us and encourage us to keep on serving the Lord.

Chapter 6 begins with these words:

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us.Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” (verses 1-2)

Here we have a group of young prophets in Israel who are being instructed and trained in the ministry. And apparently because of Elisha’s ministry, the number of young prophets has grown and packed out the little place where they are living. It reminds me of my missionary parents and their four sons all living in a little house with one bathroom—the line was always longer than we wanted.

Well, this family of prophets, more than likely located in Jericho, needs a larger dormitory. So, Elisha and all these young men go down to the Jordan River to cut down some trees to build a new facility.

We read in verse 5, “As one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, ‘Alas, my master! It was borrowed.’”

Now this might not seem like a big deal to us, but back in these days, an iron axe head was state-of-the-art equipment and very expensive. This one has been borrowed, and there is probably no way the man can pay for another one. This is a desperate situation.

Well, verse 6 says that Elisha throws a stick into the river, and miraculously, that iron tool floats to the surface, where it is retrieved. I imagine the stick Elisha threw into the water was merely a symbol of what he wanted that iron axe head to do—float. And it did!

How encouraging this must have been to all these prophets. God even cared about something personal like this.

Now the scene shifts here at verse 8, where Syria’s hostility toward Israel is causing trouble again. Elisha provides unusual revelatory assistance to Israel’s king by telling him what the Syrian army is up to and where they happen to be. It’s like Elisha has a camera taking intelligence photographs of the enemy army and then sending them to his king.

Verse 11 tells us this information is so remarkable that the Syrian king thinks he is being betrayed by someone on the inside. Then someone tells him, “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom” (verse 12). In other words, “Your life is an open book to Elisha!”

So, the king of Syria sends a large army to the town of Dothan, where Elisha is staying, to capture the prophet. When Elisha’s servant gets up that morning, he sees the city surrounded, and he is terrified. But when he delivers the news to Elisha, the prophet is not at all concerned. He calmly responds here in verse 16, saying: “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Evidently that young man looked around and said, “I don’t see anybody at all!” So, Elisha prays:

“O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (verse 17)

What a great reminder to us today that even when life is desperate and we cannot see what God is doing, the air around us is filled with God’s invisible, angelic army. They are always on call as they serve the God of the universe on our behalf.

Well, the Lord opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, but He now closes the eyes of the Syrian army. Elisha prays again in verse 18, and we read that the Lord “struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.” That’s not all. Elisha then leads the entire Syrian army right into Israel’s capital city of Samaria. And once the soldiers are inside, their sight is restored, and they see they are now captives of the Israelites. Not a shot has been fired in this victory.

Now you might think they will be killed or imprisoned, but Elisha orders the Israelites to feed and release this army and demonstrate the grace of God. And let me tell you, when this meal is finished and the soldiers are allowed to leave, they end their raids on Israel for quite some time. It’s true, isn’t it, that the best way to lose an enemy is to make him a friend by serving him? PQ

Unfortunately, the king of Syria is not as impressed as his soldiers are, and sometime later he decides to wipe Israel off the map. He sends his army to surround Samaria and essentially starve the people into surrender. The famine conditions become so desperate, verse 28 tells us, that some Israelites actually turn to cannibalism in order to survive.

In the midst of this, Elisha steps forward and makes a promise to the king of Israel, here in chapter 7. He says the famine is going to come to an end in twenty-four hours and food will be plentiful once again (verse 1).

The king’s aide scoffs at Elisha’s prophecy and effectively says what Elisha has promised is impossible. So, Elisha tells him here in verse 2, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”

Now how in the world is the Syrian threat going to disappear and food become plentiful within twenty-four hours?

Well, the following verses tell us how it all happens, through the experience of four lepers who have been sitting there at the gate of Samaria. Early that next morning they decide to take their chances and surrender to the Syrians since they are going to die anyway. Maybe they will get some food to eat. So, they walk into the Syrian camp, and they find it completely abandoned. Verses 6-7 tell us what had happened:

The Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army so that . . . they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys.

So, these lepers have just walked into a gold mine. They are gorging on food and gathering clothing and money that has been left behind.

But suddenly they realize their hometown back there is still starving. So, they return and report the good news. The city is delivered, just as Elisha had promised.

What about the other part of Elisha’s prophecy concerning the king’s aide who had mocked him? Verse 17 records that as people stampeded out the gate to find food, “the people trampled him in the gate, so that he died.”

Isn’t it interesting that God would choose humble lepers to deliver the good news to their people? Centuries later God will use humble shepherds to announce the good news of Christ’s birth.

Regardless of what position you might hold, don’t forget to tell those in the traffic pattern of your life the good news of Jesus Christ. They need what you have in Christ. They are starving spiritually. Show them what it means to trust God, to walk with God, even in desperate times.