Chapters six and seven of 2 Kings record an interesting event in the history of Israel. The king of Aram had mobilized his army and advanced into Israelite territory. He laid siege to the city of Samaria, trying to outlast the Israelites with the hope that they would run out of food and be forced to surrender. The strategy was working. There was such a great famine in the city that even a donkey’s head would bring a big price, if you could find one. Other food was either unavailable or priced at ridiculously high levels. Some even resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.
When the king of Israel heard about the cannibalism, he was shocked into a state of anger and grief, and he blamed the prophet Elisha for the city’s misfortune. All too often, when things go wrong, some people blame God or God’s messenger. In his anger, the king sent an executioner to cut off Elisha’s head. Then the king apparently had second thoughts and set out for Elisha himself, hoping he was not too late to spare the prophet’s life.
When the king arrived at Elisha’s house, the prophet was safe, and he had a welcome prophecy from the Lord. The famine would end the very next day, and food would be available for reasonable prices. The king, yearning for any small glimmer of hope, apparently believed the prophecy. His right-hand man, however, ridiculed the idea, thinking it was impossible. Elisha told him that he would see it happen with his own eyes, but he would not eat any of the food.
Then the story shifts to four men with leprosy who were outside the city gate. Lepers were excluded from society because of their disease. They had to count on other people to bring them food they needed to survive. But because of the famine, no one had any food to share with these four men.
The leprous men realized that they had no other options, so they decided to throw themselves on the mercy of the Aramean army. If they did nothing, they would die. What did they have to lose?
When the four men entered the Aramean camp, they found it abandoned. God had intervened on behalf of his helpless people. He had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of horses and chariots and a great army, so they fled for their lives, leaving all of their supplies behind. So the four men entered one of the tents and began to eat and drink. Then they took silver, gold and clothes and went off and hid the loot for themselves. Then they had a moment of self-examination. 2 Kings 7:9 says, “Then they said to each other, ‘What we’re doing is not 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.’”
So they went and told the gatekeepers the good news, and it was reported in the palace. The king was awakened and told of the report. He was skeptical, however, thinking that it could be a trap. His advisors suggested that they send out a scouting party. So that’s what they did, and the scouts came back with the report that everything was just the way the lepers had said. The Arameans had abandoned their camp, and food and drink was readily available.
The people went out to get the food that they so desperately needed, and in the rush, they trampled to death the king’s right-hand man. The prophecy came true! God provided salvation for his people, but the man who doubted this could happen saw it with his own eyes, but was denied the opportunity to participate in the blessed event.
So what important truths do we need to understand from this story?
First of all, we all need salvation. The Bible says that all sin and fall short of the glory of God and that the wages of sin is death.
Secondly, there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. We must trust in the hand of God to do that for us, and in his grace and mercy he has provided salvation for us through his Son, the crucified and risen Jesus. Those who refuse to believe will not receive the blessing of salvation.
Finally, we need to realize that this news is too good to keep to ourselves! Like the leprous men in the Scripture, we need to share the good news about salvation through Jesus with people who are currently dying in their sins. If we are truly thankful for our salvation, we will be willing and eager to share the good news with others.