DAY ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FOUR : 2 Kings 6 v. 24 – 8 v. 15; Acts 22 v. 22 – 23 v. 11; Proverbs 16 v. 8 – 17
Famine in Besieged Samaria – Ben-Hadad and his troops (from Aram) lay siege to Samaria. During this time there’s a great famine in the city (a donkey’s head could fetch 80 shekels of silver; a fourth of a cab of seed pods for five shekels).
The king of Israel is passing by the wall, when a woman cries out for help. He asks her what the matter is.
The woman tells a story of a pact she made with another woman where each would give up her son to kill and eat. She had kept her side of the bargain, and cooked and ate her own son, but the other woman had hidden her son!
The king of Israel is heartbroken by this story, tears his robes and walks about in sackcloth. He pledges to get the head of Elisha before the day is out. He sends his messenger out to get Elisha, but Elisha and the elders hold the door shut against him. Elisha prophecies that by that same time on the next day ‘a seah of flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel’.
The king’s officer suggests that this is wholly unlikely, ‘even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens’.
Cryptically, Elisha says that the officer will see it happen, but will not eat any of it.
The Siege Lifted – Next the story turns to four lepers at the gate of the city. They realise that if they venture further into the city they will die because of the famine, but if they stay put at the city gate they’ll die there also. So they decide to surrender themselves to the Arameans, and they head over to their camp. When they got to the camp, the Arameans had fled, for ‘the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army’. Believing it was the Egyptians attacking, they’d fled.
When the lepers enter the camp the help themselves to the food and drink, the silver, gold and clothes they find in one of the tents. Then they decide to head back to Samaria and let the palace know of their great find (‘we’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves’).
The king is woken, but suspects it’s a ploy from the Arameans to draw them out to the camp and then ambush them. So a small advance group is sent ahead to check out where the Arameans have gone. All they discover are the strewn clothes and equipment the Arameans have lost in their quick exit. So the Samarians went out to the camp and plundered it completely.
The officer who had questioned Elisha’s prophecy that the situation of famine would change completely in 24 hours was posted on the city gate, and is trampled to death in the stampede to and from the Aramean camp.
So Elisha’s prophecy is proven true, as ‘a seah of flour will be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel….you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it.’
The Shunammite’s Land Restored – Earlier, Elisha had predicted the famine, and urged the woman whose son he had brought back to life to go elsewhere for the next seven years. She had gone into the land of the Philistines for that length of time.
After seven years, she returned, asking the king for her house and land back.
At just the right time, as Elisha’s servant Gehazi is in conversation with the king about Elisha’s miraculous ministry, the woman turns up and verifies Gehazi’s claim that Elisha has brought people back from death.
Because of this precisely timed turn of events, ‘the king assigned an official to her case and said, ‘Give back everything that belonged to her, including all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now…’
God’s timing is so often so perfect, that we couldn’t have arranged it better ourselves…the king gets a taste of how powerfully good Elisha’s ministry is…and the woman gets much more than she’d hoped or wished for…including seven years of income from her land! All to do with God’s good timing.
Hazael Murders Ben-Hadad – Elisha is in Damascus, at a time when king Ben-Hadad of Aram is very ill. The king hears that Elisha is there and sends Hazael to Elisha to enquire whether he will recover from this illness (he seems unaware of the healings which have accompanied Elisha’s ministry, but focusses on his prophetic renown).
Hazael takes with him 40 camel-loads of the finest wares in Damascus (where would Elisha keep all that ?).
Elisha gives the message, ‘Go and say to him (the king), ‘You will certainly recover’, but tells Hazael, ‘the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die’.
Elisha stares straight into Hazael’s eyes; Hazael feels a strong sense of shame rise up in himself – Elisha is touching on the plan Hazael has to murder the king. Elisha begins to weep, and Hazael asks why he is crying. Elisha tells of all he, the prophet, sees ahead for the people of Israel, and the role Hazael will play in setting fire to cities, killing Israel’s young men and children and pregnant women.
Hazael claims he doesn’t know how all this might come about – Elisha retorts‘The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram.’
Hazael returns with the news that the king will recover, but the next day he smothers the king with a thick cloth soaked in water.
Hazael becomes king !
RELEASE INTERNATIONAL : Praying for Persecuted Christians (check out their website : www.releaseinternational.org)
Pray for the release of Mussie Eyob, an Eritrean Christian being held in Saudi Arabia.
A relatively new convert to Christianity, Mussie was arrested in February for sharing his faith.
Paul the Roman Citizen – Paul has finished addressing the crowd, and now they turn against him again, shouting
‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’
Paul is taken to the barracks as the crowd throw cloaks, kick dust, shouting.
Paul is being stretched out ready to be flogged, when he asks the question, ‘Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?’
Good question – the answer, of course, is ‘no – it’s not legal’.
The commander is brought and he asks Paul directly if he is a Roman citizen. Paul confirms that he is. Although the commander had had to pay a high price for his citizenship, Paul was born a citizen! Paul’s questioners withdraw, and the commander is alarmed at what he has done.
Oh the power of a well-placed, well-timed question
Before the Sanhedrin – to try to get to the bottom of things, the next day the commander releases Paul, but calls the chief priests and the Sanhedrin to meet, and summons Paul before them.
Paul begins by proclaiming his obedience to God. The high priest responds by telling those near him to strike Paul on the mouth.
Then Paul lets rip:
‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck’.
People are shocked that Paul has insulted the high priest, but Paul claims he was not aware that he was the high priest.
Paul then seeks to divide his accusers by raising the issue of his ‘hope in the resurrection of the dead’. It’s a belief which splits his audience. The Sadducees don’t believe in a resurrection (nor in angels or spirits), but the Pharisees do. So they start arguing between themselves.
The argument gets more and more heated, with the Pharisees beginning to side with Paul in his belief in a resurrection.
‘The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them’, so Paul is whisked away to the barracks.
The next night Paul has a vision of the Lord standing before him, saying
‘Take courage! As you have testified in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome.’
God has not finished with Paul yet !!
‘Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice’
‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps’
‘Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth’
‘How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver’