Samaria is under siege by Syria. The people are starving. Today their deliverance comes from the Lord. They will ALL have plenty to eat.
If only the mothers had held out a few more days. The Lord is about to do a miracle that would have saved them and their children. But without their plight the king wouldn’t have sent to seize Elisha. Their story is what put the king over the edge. And the king seeking to kill Elisha was what told God that the people were really ready to listen.
The deliverance God has planned something only God could do. No “We won!” or “We waited them out.” TRULY an act of God. Let’s rejoin our story.
♥ ♦ ♥
The captain and the messenger returned to the king. They shared Elisha’s words of deliverance. The king is angry that they didn’t bring Elisha along for judgement. His words now make him look boastful and impotent. He had sworn an oath when he said, “May God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on his shoulders today” (verse 31).
“We will wait and see what tomorrow brings” growls the king.
The captain bows then quickly leaves. He wants to be gone before the king changes his mind and punishes him for not bringing Elisha. The messenger also quickly retreats.
In the house of the prostitutes Beria continues to plead with Abigail.
“I know your child is dead for you have not once fed him or even held him this day. Don’t let his body go to waste!”
Abigail weeps under Beria’s assault but does not give in. She cannot bear the thought of eating her child.
The elders have left the home of Elisha. They heard his words to the messenger and captain but they too have trouble understanding how God is going to accomplish this. They at least have the good sense to keep their mouths shut.
The sun continues its trek across the sky. The people continue to be hungry. All is as it has been for some time; at least until the sun touches the horizon.
The moment the sun touched the hills to the west of Samaria a sound of a thousand hoofs resounds in the camp of Syria. It is accompanied by the sound of chariot wheels rolling quickly across the plain and the clinking of chains linking the horses in their yokes.
These sounds strike fear into the hearts of EVERY Syrian soldier, from the foot soldier to the commanders of thousands. They begin to scramble to get out of the way of the approaching armies.
“Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us” (verse 6b).
Everything is left where it lay. There is no time to break camp or even retreat into a tent to take up arms. The whole camp is in a mad dash away from Samaria. During their run they unburden themselves of ANYTHING except their fastest shoes and the tunic on their backs. Everything else is either left or shed as they run, leaving clear indications as to their eifection.
In Samaria the setting of the sun brings nothing unusual. They prepare for another night of empty bellies and restless sleep. It is expected by most that tomorrow will bring again more of the same. There are, however, a few people who wait with expectation. Elisha is chief among them.
As the sun sinks the rest of the way behind the horizon a group of four lepers are deep in conversation by the gate. Due to their disease they are not allowed to live in the city. For their own protection against Syria, they stay at the entrance of the gates. The archers have kept the Syrians from overrunning this space and they feel safe here. But they suffer the same starvation that grips the city. Their fate is even worse as no one is parting with any money now. Money, and a lot of it, is the only means of getting food. The lepers have neither.
“Why are we sitting here until we die” (verse 3b) asks the first. “If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine ins in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die” (verse 4).
“This is wisdom” replies another.
His companions nod in agreement. They slowly rise from the ground and begin making their way to the camp of Syria. It is not yet dark so they approach slowly to ensure they are not seen as a threat. They keep their hands in sight and their faces turned toward the ground in humility. They want to present NO threat as they approach.
One of the men has noticed the absence of noise. In a camp filled with soldiers one would expect to hear voices or the sound of dinner preparations. Instead the only noise comes from the side of the camp and it is made by the animals that accompany such a large encampment. He raises his head up and looks around.
“There doesn’t appear to be anyone here” he says with wonder and fear in his tone.
The other three raise their heads also and they begin to search the camp. They are looking for inhabitants AND food.
In the very first tent the lepers find food enough to stuff their empty bellies. The also find items of gold and silver along with beautifully made garments. They feel as if they have entered the very gates of heaven!
“Grab whatever you can carry and follow me!” encourages the eldest leper.
They all load themselves down with clothing and items of value. Once they have all they can carry they follow the eldest leper to a grove of olive trees.
“Dig here” he points to the base of the largest tree. “This is my private stash. No one has bothered anything I’ve kept here for years.”
It doesn’t take long for them to burry what they have brought. It looks much smaller lying in the hole.
“Let’s go back and see what else we can find” says another man.
They hurry back to camp and make their way through two more tents before returning to their hiding spot. While they are pushing earth back over their second haul the youngest of the group begins feeling uncomfortable with what they are doing.
“We are not doing right. This is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household” (verse 9).
Heads nod around the group and they set off for the gates of Samaria. Upon arrival they begin pounding on the gate. The captain who had met Elisha that morning was on duty at the gate.
“Quiet down! What is all this about?” he yells from behind the closed gates.
“We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tests as they were” called back the eldest of the group.
The gatekeeper sent a messenger immediately to the king’s palace. He began calling out to the night staff.
“Rouse the king! I have urgent news.”
The king is angry at being dragged from his bed but his anger quickly dissipates as the messenger relays the leper’s words. But instead of the joy the messenger expected from the king he receives skepticism.
“I will tell you what the Samarians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city’” (verse 12b).
The messenger hadn’t thought of this. It is quite possible the king could be right. Another of the king’s servants wasn’t as easily swayed by the king’s fears.
“Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see” (verse 13b).
The king thought over the suggestion for a moment before agreeing to it. “Go and see” (verse 14b).
The servant let out a breath he had been holding while the king made his decision. He didn’t know what they would find but he had hope for he had heard the words spoken by Elisha. This may be the way God delivered His people. He hurried back to the captain.
“The king commands we go and see the fate of the Syrians.”
The captain sent out two horsemen instead of five but they were his best. They made their way to the Syrian camp and then followed a very visible trail of retreat. All the way to the Jordan there was evidence of an army in flight. Garments and equipment littered the ground. The riders turned around at the Jordan. There was no use pursuing them any further. It was clear they had no intention of returning or setting an ambush against the city.
Dawn brought with it the return of the riders. They went straight to the king to report their findings. During the night word of the leper’s discovery had made it through the city. Along with that news were the king’s fears. When the riders returned the whole city was waiting for word.
“O king, the Syrians are gone! They have fled beyond the Jordan. Their spoil is great and right outside our door.”
“Let the people know.”
No sooner had the words left the king’s mouth than the people began to press their way out of the city. Food waited just beyond the gates. Elisha was right! God had indeed sent them a miracle. Elisha was also right in the fact that the captain who had stood at his door the morning before would taste none of it, for as the people rushed to plunder the camp he was trampled underfoot at the gate. He had not opened the gate fast enough or gotten out of the way soon enough. His body lay between the posts.
The two prostitutes fell on one another, tearing one another’s clothing and ripping hair out by its roots. Self-loathing and blamed filled them both. If only they had held out a little longer. They both had participated in the death of Beria’s son and ate of his flesh. They would never be the same. Abagail also carried the added burden of how she had deceived Beria and caused her to sin.
Elisha waited for the fervor to die down before he went and collected spoils from the camp. He knew there was plenty and that the Lord would save some for him. The king also waited. He wanted to see his people fed first. He also felt the need to visit Elisha and give thanks to God for their deliverance; eventually.
♥ ♦ ♥
I wonder how many people heard Elisha’s words of the coming bounty. And of those who heard, how many believed or even had renewed hope? How many washed their bowls and set the table and how many shook their head at such a foolish idea? With Elisha’s ‘track record’ I would bet there were quite a few who prepared for the meal to come.
I never thought about the two women in the story before now. What did become of them? Were they forever changed by their deeds? Did they repent before the Lord? Did they seek solace in their gods? Did they go their separate ways? Did the second ever surrender her son?
Their actions were the tipping point for the king. Did he become angry that God didn’t answer a day or two earlier to prevent this abomination? How did the king change after this great deliverance?
What is our ‘tipping point’? What is the ‘tipping point’ of my children and grandchildren? My mom told me of a mother who faithfully prayed for her child to return to the Lord. She told God to ‘Do whatever it takes’ to make that come about. Her daughter was killed in a car accident but she accepted the Lord before passing away. It took her last next to last breath as her ‘tipping point’. The mother praised God afterwards for she knew her child was safe in the arms of the Father.
Father God, my heart cries out for my own children to return to You. I know Your promises and I am standing firm in them. I don’t want the same ‘tipping point’ that other mother faced with her child but do what it takes Lord.
Thank You that NOTHING is beyond Your reach! As surely as You fed the people that day, You care about my needs. They are NO WHERE as dire as the people of Samaria’s but they are still important to me. My biggest one now is direction and patience in my life. Lead me where You will; help me control my frustration; and use me as Your instrument in whatever way You so desire.