Introduction: Some people presume that you must choose between reading the Bible as a record of historical events or reading it as allegory. But this is a false choice. Every verse in the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit and historically accurate (2 Tim. 3:16). At the same time, every Old Testament passage foreshadows either something in Jesus’ life or one of His promises. Jesus made it clear that the entire Old Testament is about Him: “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Lk. 24:27). “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;” (Jo. 5:39). In 2 Kings 7, God provides a record of how He miraculously lifted a siege on the capital of Northern Israel. These events should be read as real historical events. They show God’s love for His people and His awesome power. Yet, they also foreshadow Jesus’ New Testament promises of restoration and judgment based upon your faith.
First, following a prolonged siege on the capital of Northern Israel, Elisha foretold that God would lift the siege and restore the Jews within a day. Yet, for a royal official who refused to believe, Elisha warned that he would not live to see it. From this account, God reveals that Jesus promises you either restoration or judgment based upon your faith. Second, the Jews did nothing to deserve God’s help. But four leper witnesses confirmed God’s mercy and grace in driving out the Syrians. They foreshowed the four witnesses to Jesus’ mercy and grace found in the books on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Out of mercy and grace, Jesus conquered sin and death with His sacrifice at the cross. For those who believe, He also offers to drive away your spiritual enemy. Third, the four lepers were outcasts in society. But God blessed them first and then used them to spread His good news. God also blesses and uses the humble to deliver Jesus’ good news. Fourth, a proud Jewish king of Northern Israel refused to believe the good news. He had no faith and did not believe that God would intervene to save them. Sadly, the proud and those without faith will also reject Jesus’ good news. Fifth, five scouts, the number associated with grace in the Bible, then confirmed that the enemy had miraculously fled. God performed many miracles in the Old Testament. These miracles verify that Jesus’ New Testament promises of restoration are true and can be trusted. Sixth, just as Elisha promised, God restored Israel by lifting the famine and restoring food prices to their normal levels. The people who believed enjoyed the fruit of God’s restoration. If you have faith, Jesus’ New Testament promises of restoration will also be fulfilled. Finally, just as Elisha promised, the royal official who refused to believe died the same day that God restored Northern Israel. If you don’t have faith, Jesus also warns of future judgment. At the end of time, these warnings will also be fulfilled.
Elisha promised restoration for Northern Israel and judgment for an unbelieving officer. After the Jews had suffered a prolonged siege leading to famine and even cannibalism, Elisha foretold that the siege would be lifted within 24 hours. But he also warned that a doubting royal officer would not live to see it: “1 Then Elisha said, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord; thus says the Lord, ‘Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.’’ 2 The royal officer on whose hand the king was leaning answered the man of God and said, ‘Behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?’ Then he said, ‘Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it.’” (2 Kgs. 7:1-2). The people of Northern Israel had given up hope. Ben-hadad II from Syria surrounded the fortified capital of Samaria and slowly starved the population. During the siege, the Jews first broke God’s law by eating unclean animals like a “donkey’s head.” (2 Kgs. 6:25; Lev. 11:2-7; Dt. 14:4-8). And they ate these things at grossly inflated prices. One donkey’s head sold for 80 shekels of silver (2 Kgs. 6:25). They also bought “dove’s dung,” possibly for fuel (2 Kgs. 6:25). Out of desperation, the Jews then broke God’s law by turning to cannibalism (2 Kgs. 6:26-29; Lev. 26:27-29). Jehoram then blamed God for the Jews’ calamity and gave up any hope that God would intervene. And he even tried to kill Elisha: ‘“Behold, this evil is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?’” (2 Kgs. 6:33). At the moment when the Jews felt that they could not defeat the Syrians on their own, Elisha foretold that God would miraculously restore them in only 24 hours. The famine would be lifted and prices would return to normal. Yet, a royal officer mocked this prediction. He assumed that the only way that God could help would be if opened a window from heaven. Because the officer lacked any faith in God’s promises, Elisha warned the officer that he would not live to see them fulfilled.
Jesus’ promises of restoration are based upon your faith and not your works. The Jews had done nothing to deserve God’s restoration. The dual fates of the Jews and the unbelieving officer establish that the Jews’ salvation would be based upon their faith and not their works. Through Jesus, salvation is also only possible based upon your faith in Him as your Lord and Savior (Ro. 7:6; 8:3). You cannot earn your salvation through your works. If salvation could be earned by keeping the Law, Jesus would have died needlessly at the cross (Gal. 2:21).
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. The royal officer would not live to see the restoration because he had no faith: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). As one commentator explains: “All in all, the officer well illustrates the conduct of unbelief: · Unbelief dares to question the truthfulness of God’s promise itself. · Unbelief says, ‘This is a new thing and cannot be true.’ · Unbelief says, ‘This is a sudden thing and cannot be true.’ · Unbelief says, ‘There is no way to accomplish this thing.’ · Unbelief says, ‘There is only one way God can work.’ · Unbelief says, ‘Even if God does something, it won’t be enough.’ (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 7).1 If you do not believe in Jesus’ promises, nothing you do will please Him.
Four lepers are the first witnesses to God’s mercy and grace. God used four desperate and rejected lepers to be the first witnesses to His miracle in routing the Syrians: “3 Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, ‘Why do we sit here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.’ 5 They arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, ‘Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.’ 7 Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life.” (2 Kgs. 7:3-7). Because leprosy was contagious, lepers were not allowed inside of the cities (Lev. 13:46; Nu. 5:3). As a result, the lepers were outcasts in society and shunned by all. They faced starvation at the edge of the city. Although the enemy might kill them if they asked for food, death seemed inevitable if they stayed. Unknown to them, God had caused the enemy to become consumed with fear with the sounds of an attacking army. The enemy assumed that the Jews had formed an alliance with either the Hittites in Turkey or the Egyptians and that an army was coming to attack them. They left in such a hurry that they left behind food, clothes, cattle, silver, and other things of value. God selected these four lowly outcasts to be the witnesses to His mercy and grace.
God used four rejected lepers to confirm His miracle2
The humble were the ones to first experience Jesus’ miracles. Like the lepers, Jesus also had four lowly witnesses confirm His victory over your spiritual enemy. These were the witnesses named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Matt. 23:12). If you humble yourself, you too can experience Jesus’ power of restoration through the Holy Spirit.
God is sovereign and can use His mercy and grace to defeat your enemies. God’s miraculous deliverance of the Jews also shows that He is sovereign and has control over kings, nations, and all time. Although Satan controls many kings and nations’ leaders, his power is no match against God’s mighty power. Daniel explained: “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding.” (Da. 2:21). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.” (Job 12:23). “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.” (Is. 40:15). “All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Is. 40:17). “The LORD is King forever and ever; nations have perished from His land.” (Ps. 10:16). “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; . . .” (Is. 9:3(a)). “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’” (Dan. 4:35). Even when evil surrounds you or when you are ruled by evil leaders, do you trust that God is ultimately in control?
God can even bring terror to enemy’s armies. God repeatedly promised to bring terror to His enemies and protect His peoples when they walk in faith-led obedience. “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you.” (Ex. 23:27). Jonathan and his armor bearer caused an entire army to flee after killing 20 enemy soldiers: “And there was a trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. Even the garrison and the raiders trembled, and the earth quaked so that it became a great trembling” (1 Sam. 14:15). “As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.” (Gen. 35:5). “But the LORD your God will deliver them before you, and will throw them into great confusion until they are destroyed.” (Dt. 7:23). “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7). “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, . . .” (Prov. 28:1). Do you trust in God’s protection when you are under attack?
The four rejected lepers are the first to receive and report God’s “good news” to the Jews. The four lowly lepers were also the first to enjoy God’s blessings. Then, prompted by the Holy Spirit, they shared the good news with the other Jews: “8 When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hid them; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them. 9 Then they said to one another, ‘We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.’ 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and they told them, saying, ‘We came to the camp of the Arameans, and behold, there was no one there, nor the voice of man, only the horses tied and the donkeys tied, and the tents just as they were.’” (2 Kgs. 7:8-10). The four lepers were not only the first to receive God’s gifts, God blessed them with more that they could even consume or carry. This included food, clothes, and silver and gold. They then shared the good news.
God blessed the lowly lepers, and the lepers returned to share His “good news”3
Jesus came to minister first to the lowly, the humble, and the brokenhearted. The gifts given first to the lepers foreshadowed Jesus’ ministry to the poor and the oppressed: “the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.” (Matt. 11:5; Lk. 7:22). “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners;” (Is. 61:1; Lk. 4:18). “Your tackle hangs slack; it cannot hold the base of its mast firmly, nor spread out the sail. Then the prey of an abundant spoil will be divided; the lame will take the plunder.” (Is. 33:23). The abundant food and wealth that God gave lepers foreshadowed the abundant life that Jesus offers. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jo. 10:10). If you are in need, give your needs to Jesus.
If you seek God, He will also add everything else you need. If you diligently seek God, He also promises to provide for your needs: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jo. 15:7). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6). “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4). If you diligently seek Him, you will also find Him: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). If you are in need of provision, turn first to Jesus.
Share Jesus’ good news with others. God allowed the lepers to enjoy His riches so that they could share with excitement what they had found. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, they shared God’s good news with the Jews. The prophet Nahum also encouraged the Jews to celebrate their deliverance from the evil one: “Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; he is cut off completely.” (Nahum 1:15). “Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!’” (Is. 40:9). “Formerly I said to Zion, ‘Behold, here they are.’ And to Jerusalem, ‘I will give a messenger of good news.’” (Is. 41:27). “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!”’ (Is. 52:7). Believers should also be motivated to share the riches of Jesus’ mercy and grace that they have experienced with others. This includes sharing the good news of the gospel with others (Rom. 10:13-15). “just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit but the profit of the many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Cor. 10:33). Are you sharing Jesus’ good news with others (Matt. 28:19)?
Provide for others in need. Like the lepers, you should also share your material blessings with others: “Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” (1 Cor. 10:24). “For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 2:21). If God has blessed you with material things, are you sharing those things with others?
Jehoram refused to believe in God’s good news. Although four witnesses confirmed God’s good news, Jehoram refused to believe: “11 The gatekeepers called and told it within the king’s household. 12 Then the king arose in the night and said to his servants, ‘I will now tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know that we are hungry; therefore they have gone from the camp to hide themselves in the field, saying, ‘When they come out of the city, we will capture them alive and get into the city.’’” (2 Kgs. 7:11-12). Jehoram believed that the Syrians were seeking to lure his troops into a trap. Without Elisha’s prophecy, his skeptical views would have made sense. The Syrians had nearly defeated the Jews with their long-term siege. The Jews were starving and had no will to fight. Without a miracle, their disappearance made no sense. Yet, Elisha declared that this was a miracle. Thus, Jehoram’s real problem was his lack of faith in God.
A person without faith leans on their own worldly understanding. Jehoram showed that he had no faith because he followed his own worldly understanding: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). For people like Jehoram, consulting God will appear to be foolishness. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). If you are facing a dilemma, turn to God.
Many today also will not hear about Jesus’ good news during times of suffering. The king’s actions here foreshadow the rejection that many have made of Jesus’ good news. He defeated death through His crucifixion. But, like Jehoram, many are sadly unwilling to allow Jesus’ good news to bring them comfort during times of distress. “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’ However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘LORD, who has believed our report?”’ (Ro. 10:15-16).
Men on five horses verify God’s miracle. At the insistence of the King’s servants, five men on horses then confirmed that God’s miracle was true: “13 One of his servants said, ‘Please, let some men take five of the horses which remain, which are left in the city. Behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who are left in it; behold, they will be in any case like all the multitude of Israel who have already perished, so let us send and see.’ 14 They took therefore two chariots with horses, and the king sent after the army of the Arameans, saying, ‘Go and see.’ 15 They went after them to the Jordan, and behold, all the way was full of clothes and equipment which the Arameans had thrown away in their haste. Then the messengers returned and told the king.” (2 Kgs. 7:13-15). In the Bible, the number five is typically associated with God’s grace. These five witnesses confirmed that God had graciously vanquished the Jews’ enemies. The fact that the enemy did not even take their clothes and equipment confirmed that this was not a planned withdrawal. Instead, these were signs of a panic-stricken enemy.
God fulfills His promise to lift the famine. Just as Elisha had foretold, God lifted the famine and restored the Jews’ food at their normal prices: “16 So the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. Then 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. 17 Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate; but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him. 18 It happened just as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, ‘Two measures of barley for a shekel and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, will be sold tomorrow about this time at the gate of Samaria.’” (2 Kgs. 7:16-18). After God first provided for the lepers, He provided generously to all the citizens of Samarian through the abandoned food, equipment, and money that the enemy abandoned. The abundant food instantly caused the price of food to return to normal, just as Elisha predicted (2 Kgs. 7:1). This confirmed that God’s Word always comes true.
Jesus’ promises of restoration are trustworthy because His Word is always fulfilled. Like the Jews who received Elisha’s promises of restoration, you can also trust in Jesus’ promises to restore and bless you: “God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:9). “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.” (2 Thess. 3:3). ‘“For I the LORD will speak, and whatever word I speak will be performed. It will no longer be delayed, for in your days, O rebellious house, I will speak the word and perform it,’ declares the Lord GOD.”’ (Ezek. 12:25). “The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,”’ (Is. 14:24). “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Is the LORD’S power limited? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”’ (Nu. 11:23). “to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” (Acts 4:28). In order to enjoy Jesus’ promises of restoration, all you need to do is believe in faith.
An obedient nation will be blessed with God’s healthy food. God also promises to bless an obedient nation with food: “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.” (Dt. 28:5). If the Jews followed God’s Law, He also promised rain for the produce to grow (Dt. 11:10-17; 32:1-3; 1 Ki. 8:34-35; 18:41-46). With obedience, He also promised that the Jews would have no food insecurity within the land (Lev. 26:3-5). Isaiah also promised that obedience would bring God’s blessings to the land: “If you consent and obey, you will eat the best of the land;” (Is. 1:19). We see an example of this type of blessing with Isaac. Because of Isaac’s faith, he was obedient. Because of his obedience, God blessed his harvest 100 fold: “Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the LORD blessed him,” (Gen. 26:12).
God fulfills His promise of judgment upon the unbelieving officer. Although many had a chance to celebrate in God’s blessings, the unbelieving royal official who doubted Elisha’s prophecy did not: “19 Then the royal officer answered the man of God and said, ‘Now behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could such a thing be?’ And he said, ‘Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it.’ 20 And so it happened to him, for the people trampled on him at the gate and he died.” (2 Kgs. 7:19-20). The royal official previously mocked God’s promise of restoration (2 Kgs. 7:2). Because he did not believe, God fulfilled Elisha’s prophecy and killed him.
The unbelieving royal officer is trampled, fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy4
God is slow to anger and quick to forgive but will ultimately judge. God could have immediately killed the royal official who mocked Elisha’ prophesy. Instead, God gave him 24 hours to repent. Only because he did not repent did God fulfill the prophecy. Jesus never changes (Heb. 13:8). He is slow to anger and quick to forgive because He wants all to come to repentance: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Ro. 2:4). If God has delayed your judgment, repent without delay.
Know your need for God’s mercy. There is a temptation amongst many pastors to skip over verses that talk about God’s judgment. It is always uncomfortable to read about His judgment. Some might feel that judgment is not a helpful topic when trying to create a seeker-friendly image. Likewise, for a casual believer looking for a motivational sermon to feel better about themselves, these verses do just the opposite. But verses about God’s judgment are spread throughout the Bible. It is a sin of omission never to speak about them. If you never read about God’s judgment, you will never fully appreciate how much you need God’s mercy and the true value of Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23; Matt. 25:46; Jo. 3:36; Mk. 16:16). If you know the value of God’s mercy, you should show it by living your life transformed as a living sacrifice to Jesus (Ro. 12:1-2).