Have you ever been under siege? I have. I went camping with my cousins to Harrison Bay State Park when I was little. In the center of the campground is a playground. It was a wide-open space with a wooden play fort in the middle. The fort was up on stilts and had little windows cut in it. What fun! While I was playing in the fort with my cousins, who were even smaller than I was, and we heard some shouts. We looked around and saw these big boys coming. They must have been eleven or twelve. They were coming and one of them had a green shirt and green pants. I remember that because we called him "Green." Green was the leader. "Get off of our playground!!" We were scared of them. These guys were like four feet tall and stuff. "Man! What are we going to do?" We were too afraid to run across the field. They would catch us with their bikes. Who know what would happen. So we shut ourselves up in the fort. We were under siege. They proceeded to throw rocks at the fort. Every once in a while they would even get some through the windows. We just laughed at them, and they threw all the more. It was kind of fun at first but they kept going. It was getting supper time. Now it was getting serious. We were getting hungry. Fortunately, it was their supper-time too. So we escaped. After that, we kept a lookout for our enemies. If they approached the fort, we let them have it. We did not wish to be caught in there again! "You guys can have it. We don't want to be under siege again."
Are you under siege? Are their circumstances which make you feel surrounded? Is work overwhelming you? Or the lack of work? Is your schedule inhuman? Are temptations surrounding you? Students, is homework already getting you down? Don't put it off. It's only going to get worse. If you think that you are under siege, let's look at the real thing.
2 Kings 6. This story of Elisha is number nine in our ten-part series. Next Sabbath, Elder Gettys will bring the conclusion.
2 Kings 6:24. A fascinating but lengthy story. Sometime later, Ben Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. What exactly is a military siege? In the days when people lived around fortresses, if an enemy approached they would run inside the fortress and shut the gates for protection. They had good stored there for such an emergency. If the enemy could not get inside, they would surround the fortress and wait out of bow-shot. They could wait and wait and wait month after month after month. Sieges could last a long time. They simply waited until the people inside got so hungry because they couldn't receive any food through the siege-line, or so thirsty if the water got cut off that they would come out and surrender. If they were taking too long, the enemy would devise all kinds of wicked things to do to them. One way was to catapult the carcasses of dead animals into the fortress to help the spread of disease, a kind of germ warfare. Anything to get them to come out from under the siege and surrender. A modern example of a siege is when sanctions are place upon a country until they behave like we have on Iraq.
Just how terrible is a siege? Look at verse 25. There was a great famine in the city; They couldn't do anything about what was outside the city, but they were having a famine inside the city. It wasn't just a physical famine. There was also a spiritual famine going on. The siege lasted so long that a donkey's head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a cab of seed pods for five shekels. This is bad! Would a donkey even be considered kosher? I don't think so. This is desperation! They're eating anything! Last time I looked at a donkey there was not much meat on his head. I don't know what they did with it. Maybe they boiled it to get soup. I'm glad we are not having potluck today! This is awful. A fourth cab of what? Actually, the Hebrew does not say seed pods. It says "dove dung" like in the King James Version. What is fourth cab? My best estimate is about 1 cup. A handful of dove droppings selling for 5 shekels! How bad can it get? But it gets worse, much worse!
Look at verse 26-29. As the king of Israel was passing on the wall, a woman cried to him. "Help me, my lord the king."
That was her first problem: the king was her lord, not the heavenly Lord. The king replied, "If the Lord does not help you, where can I get help for you? From the threshing floor? From the winepress?" Then he asked her, "What's the matter?"
She answered, "This woman said to me, 'give up your son so we may eat him today, and tomorrow we'll eat my son.' So we cooked my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, 'Give up your son so we may eat him,' but she had hidden him."
They had resorted to cannibalism! Notice that this lady seemed more concerned that she did not get to eat today than she was about losing her baby yesterday. Unfortunately, this is not as long ago and far away as it seems. Abortion clinics are the scenes of such indifference today, without a famine.
How did the king respond? Look at verses 30-31. When the king heard the woman's words, his tore his robes. As he went along the wall, the people looked, and there, underneath, he had sackcloth on his body. He said, "May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if the head of Elisha son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today!" This story gets to the king. Cannibalism in his own city. In despair, he tears his clothing and people notice that he is wearing sackcloth, the symbol of humility. But notice, he is wearing the sackcloth under his royal robes. It is as if he is trying to appease God by going through the symbolic gestures and yet remain himself. The king, ruler of his own destiny. People do that very thing today. They try the appearance of Christianity so that God will be pleased but the heart has not been broken. The king rent his clothing but not his heart. He blamed God for what was happening but since he couldn't touch God he decided to silence God's word by killing his prophet. The interesting thing is, God's prophets are immortal if God is still using them. You can't touch them. The king should have known this.
Well, what was Elisha doing during all this? Where is Elisha? How was he reacting to the siege and the famine? Look at the first part of verse 32. Now Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him.. I like this. In the midst of the storm we find a house of peace. Elisha is sitting. He was not pacing, he was not wringing his hands, saying "Oh dear, when is this going to end. What's God going to do next?" He was waiting on the Lord. Notice that he is not waiting alone. The city elders must have decided that sitting next to God's prophet was a safe place to be.
The king sent a messenger ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to his elders, "Don't you see how this murderer is sending someone to cut off my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door and hold it shut against him. Is not the sound of the master s footsteps behind him?" What's this? Elisha doesn't wish to speak to the messenger. "Hold the door against him until the king shows up. He's right behind him. Then we're going to talk to the king."
Verse 33 - 7:1. While he was still talking to them, the messenger came down to him. And the king said, "This disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?"
Elisha said, "Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of flour will sell for a shekel an two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria." Wow! Good news! The siege will be over within twenty four hours! Inflation will be reversed! Food will be available! What was the reaction to the good news? Verse 2. The officer on whose are the king was leaning said to the man of God, "Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?"
"You will see it with your own eyes," said Elisha, "but you will not eat any of it!"
When we are skeptical of the power of God to overcome our problems, we become like the servant we lose out on God's blessings. This was Elisha's second prophecy for the coming day. The first one was: the famine's going to be over. The second one is: "you're not going to eat any of it." Meanwhile, back at the ranch....
The story shifts gears. Look at verses 3-4. Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, "Why stay here until we die? Consider these poor fellows. These guys are between a rock and a hard place. They can't go inside the fortress because they have leprosy. Nobody will let them in. They can't leave the gates of the fortress because they are under siege. They are waiting around between the walls and the army. "What do we do?" I imagine at first their relatives had thrown them some food, but then the food became unattainable. These guys are starving to death! "What are we to do? We can't leave. We're surrounded. We can't go in: we're sick."
A kind of fatalistic attitude happens here. Verse 4. If we say we'll go into the city, the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here we will die. So let's go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us we live. If they kill us then we die. We're going to die no matter what we do. Our best chance is to seek a little mercy from the enemy."
Verse 5. At dusk the got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. At dusk? I wonder, why did they wait until dark? Maybe they didn't want the people in the city to se them act like traitors, going over to the enemy. So they went over at dark and when they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, "Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!" So they got up and fled in the dusk ad abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.
Wow! Can you picture that? Remember last week, the enemies' eyes were closed. This time, their ears are opened to what was surrounding them. It wasn't the Egyptians or the Hittites, it was the angel's hosts. I don't know how God created this great noise but I picture Him using His angels. I would love to have been an angel that night. "Go down and scare those people to death. Run off the enemy of My people." I would have been a volunteer!
This reminds me of when we lived in south Georgia. Our home was in a small subdivision and my office was one of the front bedrooms. The church had no space for an office. I found it hard to study during the summer months because the children were out of school and playing loudly all through the subdivision. I would be easily distracted and not get as much done as I should. Not wanting to go out and ask them to be quiet, I came up with an idea. I raised the window a couple of inches with the blind lowered. I had overheard them calling each other by name so I knew that one was Jonathan, one was Aaron, as well as the names of several others. Using my most convincing feminine voice, I called: "Jonathan, come home." Quickly Jonathan got on his bike and rode home. A few minutes later, he came back and explained to his friends that his mother had not really called. So I called him again. He took off again in a huff and returned bewildered. Then I called Aaron to come home trying to use his dad's voice. He soon returned bewildered because his dad wasn't even home yet. This went on for a while until they all went to play somewhere else. Then I found myself wishing they would come back so I could torture them some more.
I would love to have been an angel there making all kinds of noises, scaring these guys off. Yes, I wonder if this kind of stuff is fun for the angels. They sure did a good job because in their effort to escape, the soldiers didn't even think to take their horses. They ran for their lives leaving all behind.
Verse 8. The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also. What are they doing? How did the lepers respond to the good news of the enemy retreat? First, they satisfied their need. Nobody can begrudge them that. These guys are hungry. But then they began to hide it and to horde it. Then, just as your stomach hurts when it is too full, their consciences began to hurt because they were so full of the good news and hadn't given it to anyone else.
Look at verse 9. Then they said to each other, "We're not doing right. Underline that! "We're not doing right." This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let's go at once and report this to the royal palace. "If we wait till daylight..." I know people who are waiting for the opportune time. This is it! This time has been designated as the time for spreading the good news. We have an abundance of good news. If we wait too late to share it, some may not hear. There is not better time than the present to spread the good news. There is food to be had for the hungry.
Verse 10, 11. So they went and called to the city gatekeepers and told them, "We went into the Aramean camp and not a man was there-not a sound of anyone-only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were." The gatekeepers shouted the new, and it was reported within the palace. The gatekeepers had the right idea! They hear the good news and they don't keep it. They spread it, they shout the good news for all to hear, even in the middle of the night. In fact, what better time than when people are in darkness to share the light!
How did the King respond? "Yes, the armies are gone! God is great!" Great? Verse 12. The king got up in the night and said to his officers, "I will tell you what the Arameans have done to us. They know we are starving; so they have left the camp to hide in the countryside, thinking, they will surely come out and then we will take them alive and get into the city. He didn't believe it. He had lost all sense of the power that God has. Even though it had been predicted a few short hours before that this would happen. Fortunately, one of his officers had a little more faith. He was of the "taste and see" variety of people. "Let's check it out and see if it is for real."
Verse 13-16. One of his officers answered, "Have some men take five of the horses that are left in the city. Their plight will be like that of all the Israelites left here-yes, they will only be like all of the Israelites who are doomed. So let us send them to find out what happened.
So they selected two chariots with their horses, and the king sent them after the Aramean army. He commanded the drivers, "Go and find out what happened." They followed them as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messenger returned and reported to the king. Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of flour sold for a shekel, and two seah of barley sold for a shekel as the Lord had said. Five shekels for a handful of dove droppings! And now, food is suddenly abundant and cheap. The first prophecy of Elisha had been fulfilled! The siege was over! Inflation was down. The price of gas was what it should be! All over night. But what about his second prophecy that the kings servant would not eat it?
Verse 17. Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house.
What an amazing story. It was long ago and far away. Yet, it is an amazing parallel to these days. This world was under siege from the beginning, but the power of the enemy was defeated 2000 years ago at a place called Calvary! Yet, most people act as if the enemy is still in control. They are satisfied with dove droppings when they could have the Heavenly Dove. They are satisfied with a show of religion rather than a truly broken heart. Yet sinners have found good news! The enemy has been conquered! What is your response? Do you share with everyone like the guards? Do you disbelieve like the king? Are you looking for proof like the officer? Do you mock like the king's servant?
Are you like the lepers who were keeping it to themselves, hoarding and hiding more than they needed? Or are you like they were when they came to their senses and said, this is wrong. They became ready to share before the morning comes! Are you sitting on the good news because you are so besieged by what is surrounding you? So many excuses: I don't have time, and this and that.
Last Sabbath, my wife arrived at Sabbath School with bad news. Our dog, Heidi, had gotten out of her pen and was on the neighbor's porch. That was bad news. I headed home as soon as I was able because I didn't want her to be an that porch when my neighbors got home from church. She likes to jump up on people, even in their Sabbath best.
As I turned onto Bancroft road in my hurry, I got behind a very slow vehicle. Exasperated at the delay, I looked to see why the vehicle was going so slowly. The little car was pulling a fishing boat. But it was obvious that they had not been to the lake. They had been to Home Depot. The boat was full of lumber! It stacked high in 2x4's and 2x6's. This man was using his fishing boat for a lumber wagon!
Is that what you are doing? Jesus has asked us to spread the good news. He has asked us to be fishers of men! Is your fishing boat so full of dead wood that there is no time for fishing? Are you hauling stuff in your fishing boat that you have no business hauling? Are the burdens that besiege your life keeping the light from others? Jesus says, "Cast you burden on Me and then go fishing." Empty your heart of everything that does not belong. Make room in your heart for the people who are still under the siege of Satan. Let them know the enemy is on the run. The siege is over.
A lady from another church calls me from time to time in order to criticize the church for this and that. She has been doing this for many years. I finally asked her, You have been a Christian for many years. I imagine you have won many for Jesus. How many do you think have joined the church because of your work. She has not called me back! What a sad testimony. So many wasted years filled with burdens and not a single fish! Cast your burdens on Jesus. Empty your life of everything that does not belong. Make room in your heart for the people under the siege of Satan. Let them know that the enemy is on the run!
My children play a game. It's called "Go Fish." Sounds like a good idea!
Hymn of Praise: #11, The God of Abraham Praise Scripture: 2 Kings 7:8-9 Hymn of Response: #580, This Little Light of Mine
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last updated 9/2/2001 by Bob Beckett.