Small Leader Study Guide
Date: October 14, 2018
Series: The kings and the King: Season 4 (2 Kings)
Bible Text: 2 Kings 6-7
This Week’s Printables:
In this week’s lesson, we look at a difficult question: when is it time to draw a line on personal conviction and say this far and no more?
Each one of us finds ourselves in situations where we find our personal convictions are being challenged. Throughout our study, we have stressed the importance of Christians staying engaged in the cultural dialog in order to share the gospel, which is the only hope for a nation riding the rails towards destruction. Yet, there comes a time when we are no longer associated with evil, but become complicit in the act of evil. Where is that line?
In some cases, this distinction is clear black and white, but in many others, it is grey. Moreover, given this is a matter of conviction, we must consider personal ethics and morals. If these morals and ethics are rooted in the truth of a biblical worldview, we are building on a firm foundation. If these morals and ethics are rooted in the shifting sands of cultural acceptance, we are in dangerous territory.
In this week’s lesson, we will look at these issues and suggest several ways we can respond as Christians.
Video Overview of This Week’s Lesson
Memory Verse for This Week
Ephesians 2:4-5a “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—”
Core Belief: The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14): We believe the God of the Bible is the only true God and is eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Take Home Truth
It’s what we don’t see that enables us to understand what we do see.
Can you think of an example when your personal convictions were being challenged? Can you share this example?
Can you point to an example where you believe the “moral compass” of our culture has shifted on an issue? What used to be wrong is considered Ok today?
Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text
Read 2 Kings 6-7.
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
Summarize what is happening in 2 Kings 6-7.
In 2 Kings 6-7 we continue to see the miracles of Elisha, God’s prophet in Israel. Starting with the transfer of prophetic responsibilities between Elijah and Elisha in 2 Kings 2, the narrator has been highlighting several miracles to underscore Elisha’s prophetic ministry. Keep in mind, that these stories are not in chronological order.
In this week’s text, here are the talking points of Elisha’s activities:
God’s Protection of Elisha and God’s Provision for Samaria, 2 Kings 6-7
- The Miracle of the Floating Axe Head (6:1-7)
- The Invisible Army of God becomes visible (6:8-17)
- The Visible Enemy is Blinded (6:18-23)
- The Siege of Samaria and a Great Famine (6:24-33)
- God’s Promise to Samaria (7:1-2)
- Lepers Discover the Syrian Abandoned Camp (7:3-9)
- Israel Plunders the Syrian Camp (7:10-17)
- The Death of the Doubting Officer (7:18-20)
What lessons can we learn from this week’s text?
There are several lessons we can learn from this week’s text including:
- This collection of miracles shows that God’s will is accomplished on earth even during times of apostasy, political conflict, suffering, and despair.
- Even the miracle of the floating ax head shows a simple act of mercy; no prophetic word is fulfilled, no judgment state, no promise given. Just an act of mercy for an individual.
- The brutality of governments toward their own people is ever present. Even today, famine is used as a murder weapon by governments.
- The story of the two cannibal mothers during the Siege of Samaria calls our attention to God’s intervention on behalf of suffering individuals. Only God can intervene in such calamity, as the King of Israel himself acknowledges in his despair (6:27).
- These stories illustrate the absolute savageness of human beings and the mercy of God in the midst of such man-made tragedies.
Application for Christians Today
What does it look like to stand for your convictions in 21st Century America?
If you want to quickly draw fire in today’s culture, simply stand on your convictions. Nothing brings angry, heated attack more than saying either verbally or through your actions, “this is true, and that is false.” The “Culture of Tolerance” is only tolerant for the beliefs they hold to be true, all others are treated with complete intolerance.
Consider the case of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and cake artist. For more than 20 years, Phillips has created wedding cakes through his bakery, Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. As a devout Christian, Phillips has always considered his cakeshop to be an extension of his faith. He cannot separate business life from his walk with God.
In 2012, two men approach Phillips about creating a custom cake for their same-sex wedding. Phillips said no. He offered to sell them any cake in his bakery, but he explained that creating a custom cake was an expression of art and that it would be a violation of his faith and freedom of expression.
Suddenly, Phillips found himself in the crosshairs of the Colorado’s Civil Rights Commission. He was accused of discrimination based on sexual orientation. In December 2013, an administrative law judge ruled against Phillips stating that designing and creating cakes is not a freedom of speech issue and, therefore, not protected by the First Amendment. The Civil Rights Commission ordered Jack to either begin creating cakes for same-sex weddings or to stop creating cakes all together. Moreover, the Commission ordered Phillips and his staff to undergo a “reeducation” process in which they would have to acknowledge that a business is not an extension of one’s faith, and that Phillips was wrong to have stated this belief. Furthermore, the Commission required Phillips to begin filing quarterly “compliance” reports telling the government every time he declined to create a cake for a customer and his reason why he declined.
In June 2018, the US Supreme Court sided with Masterpiece Cakeshop in a 7-2 decision that reversed the Colorado Civil Right Commission’s rulings and permitted Phillips to continue operating his business as an extension of his faith. In spite of the ruling, however, the Court was very careful to apply the ruling only to Masterpiece Cakeshop, so it does not set a precedent for other cases of judicial abuse.
You can watch an 8 minute video describing Jack Phillips’ court battles here:
Where are we most likely to find ourselves in conflict with the cultural values of today?
Without question, the two places where Christians will find their convictions challenged is at school and in the workplace. In both places, Christians find themselves under the authority of others who are answering to the politically correct overlords of our day–either within the education system (through the U.S. Department of Education, State Department of Education, and local school board), or through governments or corporations that seek to use their economic power and political power to further the progressive values of Cultural Marxism.
(NOTE: I reference Cultural Marxism frequently. This is the value/faith system of what is called progressivism in America today. To understand more fully what Cultural Marxism is and how it impacts our culture, see “The Rise of Cultural Marxism in America,” a paper I wrote in partial fulfillment of a graduate degree in apologetics.)
This often puts Christians in the position of a conflict of authority. Do I obey my school principal or business manager, or do I obey God and His Word?
How should we respond to conflicts of conscience in our culture today?
First, it is important to note that when it comes to man’s laws verses God’s laws, God wins. This often puts Christians in direct opposition to the law of the land. As Erwin Lutzer notes, “Devout Jews and Christians have often been lawbreakers; from midwives who refused to kill male babies in the days of Moses to the apostles who refused to obey an order against preaching the gospel, those who are godly have often faced the choice of whether to obey God or man. And sometimes the answer is not clear. As Russell Moore put it, ‘A Christianity that is without friction in the culture is a Christianity that dies.’”1
As we noted a couple of weeks ago, there are three ways we can respond: in anger and isolation, through assimilation, or through infiltration without contamination. It is this third option that describes the biblical response of a Christian in a pagan culture.
In many ways, we see this option personified by Elisha the prophet. He was clearly a part of Israel’s culture at that time, but he was a strong voice for God’s laws and God’s ways in the midst of a culture that was violently opposed to the ways of God. Yet, in spite of all the attempts to silence him, Elisha was protected by God and strengthened through His Word.
How do we distinguish personal convictions from biblical convictions that apply across all boundaries?
This is a tough question that I cannot answer for you. But God’s Word does, and each one of us need to know where God’s Word draws a line concerning the issues we are confronted with on a regular basis. In some cases, our personal conviction may be in a different place than it is for others, but in other cases, the Bible is clear about where the line should be drawn for all people across all cultures and throughout time.
Let me illustrate: I personally believe it is wrong to mow your yard on Sunday. I would never do it. I would feel like I was sinning if I mowed my lawn on Sunday. I believe Sunday is a day set aside for the Lord, and while I don’t hold to a Christian Sabbath, I do believe that observing Sunday as the Lord’s day is an important distinction and one that clearly demonstrates my conviction to the Lord.
Still, I would not consider my neighbor’s decision to mow his lawn on Sunday a sin. I would not even question his faithfulness to the Lord based on his decision to mow his lawn on Sunday. This is my personal conviction, and it would be legalistic of me to project my conviction upon my neighbor.
I also consider it a violation of my conscious to kill. I believe the Bible is clear that human life is made in the image of God and that it is a violation of Scripture to take the life of another human being. This “commandment” is one of the foundations of Western Civilization. Governments and nations throughout history of recognized that human life is valuable and that the taking of another person’s life without just cause is considered murder.
Where this gets tricky is when governments and nations begin to see shades of grey in a cardinal law like homicide. Is it murder to abort a baby? Our government says no. But as a Christian, what does God’s Word say? Yes, human life begins at conception (Psalm 100:3, Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5. Isaiah 44:24, Isaiah 64:8, Luke 1:41, 44, Galatians 1:15), and is created in the image of God. It is morally wrong (sinful) for a Christian to contribute to any means that would support abortion.
We see this mostly clearly tested in the “Hobby Lobby Case” (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.) argued before the Supreme Court. The Green Family, owners of the Hobby Lobby stores refused to pay for life-terminating drugs (abortifacients) and devices through their employee health insurance. Under Obamacare, the Federal Government mandated that employers were required to pay for such drugs. The Green family filed a lawsuit stating that the mandate violated their deeply held religious beliefs, and the case reached the Supreme Court.
In its decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Green Family and their business, Hobby Lobby. In this case, unlike the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby set an important precedent and was a key victory for religious freedom protected under the First Amendment.
How do we determine when it is time to draw a line and stand on our conviction?
First, we must remember that God is sovereign. He is sovereign in Ankeny, in Iowa, in the United States, throughout the world. God is sovereign. Many times, we only see half of the equation. Consider the example from this week’s text in 2 Kings 6:13-18. Elisha’s servant saw the armies of Syria camped around the city of Samaria. Understandingly, he was frightened. Elisha was not. He prayed and asked the Lord to open the eyes of his servant so he could see, and suddenly, the servant saw the armies of Heaven protecting Elisha.
So it is in our battles today. God is working through many mysterious ways to bring about His will. Sometimes, God’s plan makes perfect sense to us, but many times, it does not and requires faith on our part. Our place is in the battle, not hiding in the rear or surrendering and going to the enemy.
Second, we must distinguish between “association with” and “participating in” the enemy’s plan. To underscore an important point, we are to infiltrate without contamination, not isolate ourselves from the culture. We cannot have an influence if we withdraw from all areas of conflict. This means that we will often find ourselves in association with people and organizations we disagree with, but not participating in the sin of those organizations.
For example, a Christian doctor may associate (through a large healthcare provider) with a doctor who performs abortions while not performing abortions himself. A teacher may work for a school district that openly teaches values that are in contradiction to Scripture (concerning sexuality, transgender issues, etc.) without teaching those values in her own classroom.
Third, we must seek to be gracious when it comes to matters of the conscious. Let’s be clear, some things are simply not spelled out clearly in Scripture. There are principles that apply, but specific examples may not apply.
For example, as Christians, we believe men and women are created differently. Gender matters. A man or woman who believes “they” are the opposite of “their” birth gender has a crisis of belief, but their crisis of belief does not require me to change the biblical principle that God created men and women differently (Genesis 5:2).
If a friend tells you he is now identifying as a woman and would prefer to be called “she” rather than “he,” you might agree to do so simply because you don’t want to be rude, and you value your relationship with this person. That is your personal opinion. I don’t know that I have any biblical argument against it. On the other hand, if you tell me you refuse to address your friend as a “she” because they are male and this violates your conscious, I would accept that. It is your conviction.
These can be tricky matters and the rules are constantly changing. We need to be gracious with one another as we all seek to navigate this minefield of political correctness.
Four, we must know and understand our own deep personal convictions. The modern-day Halls of Faith are filled with men and women who had strong convictions. Many of them became martyrs. There is a time to say “No, not any further,” and we all must know where that line is in our own heart. Sometimes, we may not know where the line is until we are directly challenged, but at all times, we must listen to our conscious.
I find myself being challenged by media today. Without anyone telling us they were moving the line, the line of decency has moved. Not long ago we had a rating system that helped govern our media consumption. We knew, going in, that an R-rated movie had aspects to it that would be offensive to our Christian sense of morality. Not so today. Much of our “television” consumption comes from streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, etc.) that are not governed by any kind of rating system. Many of the series that are shown on the streaming services use profane language and contain a lot of nudity and sexuality. There is no R-rating or warning about “inappropriate content for younger audiences.” Recently, I found myself watching a series that many recommended, and I felt great conviction as I watched it. In fact, I felt guilty! I stopped. I didn’t continue with the series. Five years ago, this was not a problem. Today it is. I needed to draw a line.
Fifth, we must commit to radical obedience to the Word of God. If there is a fault within the church today, it is the reality that we have become too comfortable with sin. We live in the “age of cheap grace” when all things are covered by the blood of the cross, so live life to the fullest. This is a disgrace to those who went before us and gave their lives to be obedient in areas where we scoff at their testimony and charge ahead confident in the grace and mercy of God. Too often, we point our accusing finger at the evil in the unbelieving world without looking at the evil in our own house!
Tim Keller says this well:
Christians should be humbled before the new pagan pluralistic situation. Just as with the exiles, the situation is due in large part to our own failings. The Church did not lose its position of privilege simply because of evil enemies of the faith. We lost our position as part of God’s judgment on our pride, our hypocrisy, our love of power, our prejudice, our bigotry and failure to hold onto the truth. This is the way in which God gets people’s attention.
We must be far harder on ourselves in gracious, humble repentance than we are on the unbelieving culture around us. That was a major lesson for the exiles and for us. Our first response should be repentance. We should be very understanding toward people who have failed to believe in Christ because of the weakness of the Church’s testimony. A lot of what is happening in our culture today may be more our fault than we are willing to admit.3
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer Focus for the Week of October 14 …
Pray for the strength to stand, knowing that the enemy seeks to seduce us, silence us, and make us afraid: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Eph. 6:10–11).
Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:
- Take Action: Where do you find your convictions being challenged today? If you are uncertain how to respond, make a note of the conflict and begin praying and reading your Bible with this question in mind. The Holy Spirit will give you clarity.
- Take Courage: God is merciful to us in the midst of manmade calamity. The cultural crisis we face today continues to worsen, not improve. God is with us and will strengthen us in the midst of these difficult times.
Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: Ephesians 2:4-5a “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—”
Our Core Belief this week is The Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14): We believe the God of the Bible is the only true God and is eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.
2 Kings 6
Elisha and the Syrians
1] And the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See now, the place where we dwell with you is too small for us.
Their accommodations had become inadequate because of the growing number of young men, a tribute to the effectiveness of Elisha’s ministry. This may have been the school at Jericho since the young men went to the nearby Jordan River for their wood.
2] Please, let us go to the Jordan, and let every man take a beam from there, and let us make there a place where we may dwell.” So he answered, “Go.”
3] Then one said, “Please consent to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.”
4] So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees.
5] But as one was cutting down a tree, the iron ax head fell into the water; and he cried out and said, “Alas, master! For it was borrowed.”
In the process of cutting down trees, an iron axhead flew off its handle and fell into the river. The man wielding the ax cried out to his lord (i.e., to Elisha) in dismay because his tool had been borrowed.
6] So the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” And he showed him the place. So he cut off a stick, and threw it in there; and he made the iron float.
Ascertaining where the axhead had fallen into the water Elisha threw a stick into the river. Miraculously the iron implement floated to the surface. The workman was able to retrieve it easily.
7] Therefore he said, “Pick it up for yourself.” So he reached out his hand and took it.
Certainly, this miracle encouraged the group of faithful followers of the Lord that their God really is alive and that He would supernaturally provide for their needs even though many Israelites in that day had turned from the true God to Baal.
Military Secrets At Dothan
8] Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, “My camp will be in such and such a place.”
The Arameans were sometimes at war and sometimes at peace with Israel during the years of Elisha’s ministry. At the time of this particular incident the Arameans were making profitable surprise raids into Israel. The king of Aram (cf. 5:1) was probably Ben-Hadad II. (Of the major persons in this narrative only Elisha is mentioned by name. This may suggest that readers should focus on the Lord and His prophet.) In preparation for another raid Ben-Hadad planned to pitch his camp on the border of Israel from which he could strike unexpectedly.
9] And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.”
However, God informed Elisha of the place and the prophet passed his information on to the king of Israel (Jehoram) with a warning to beware.
10] Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice.
Jehoram checked Elisha’s information, found it to be correct, prepared for the encounter, and frustrated Ben-Hadad’s secret attack. This happened several times.
11] Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?”
Enraged by his continual failure to surprise the Israelites Ben-Hadad concluded that one of his men was tipping off the enemy.
12] And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”
The first recorded phone tap! An officer assured the king that there were no traitors in his camp but that it was Elisha who had supernatural knowledge of all his plans. The very words you speak in your bedroom mean even his most private conversations were known to the prophet. Obviously this officer had somehow learned of Elisha and his powers.
13] So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.” And it was told him, saying, “Surely he is in Dothan.”
As long as Elisha remained free the army of Aram would be unsuccessful, so Ben-Hadad ordered that he be located and captured. He stealthily sent a strong contingent of soldiers with horses and chariots by night and completely surrounded Dothan (12 miles north of Samaria), where Elisha was staying.
14] Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.
The fact that Ben-Hadad would try to take Elisha by surprise even after the prophet had repeatedly anticipated the Arameans’ moves indicates the king’s lack of faith in the supernatural origin of Elisha’s ability. Therefore he needed to be convinced that Yahweh is the living and true God.
15] And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?”
(Since Gehazi had been dismissed as a disobedient servant and “leper” (5:27), the Naaman story must follow this one if Elisha’s servant here is Gehazi. Or this servant may be someone who replaced Gehazi.) Early the next morning the servant was terrified to see that the whole city was under the Arameans’ control, or so he thought. He returned in a frenzy to Elisha and nervously asked, What shall we do? The servant’s anxiety reflected his lack of understanding and trust in the Lord which, one would think, Elisha’s previous revelations would have changed.
16] So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Elisha was not at all disturbed by the present situation. He encouraged his aide to stop fearing, and assured him that they had behind them a force superior to that of the enemy.
17] And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Elisha then, probably with some frustration or impatience, asked the LORD to enable his servant to see this host and the Lord did so. He gave the servant the ability to see the normally unseen world of invisible spirits (angels) that are constantly ready to do God’s bidding (cf. Gen 28:12). The hills around Dothan were filled with superior horses and chariots. These appeared as fiery agents of God suggesting to the servant their extraterrestrial origin (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11). The LORD had surrounded the armies of Aram and was in complete control.
18] So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
19] Now Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” But he led them to Samaria.
Elisha said, This is not the road and this is not the city for that road and city were not where God intended them to go. They unknowingly followed Elisha inside the walls of Samaria, the capital of Israel.
20] So it was, when they had come to Samaria, that Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and there they were, inside Samaria!
What the Israelite army might not have been able to do except with much fighting and loss of life, God did peacefully through one man. In response to Elisha’s prayer God opened the eyes of the Arameans and they discovered that they were surrounded and helpless captives at the mercy of the king of Israel.
21] Now when the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?”
22] But he answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those whom you have taken captive with your sword and your bow? Set food and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”
Elisha said no. Jehoram probably would not have killed soldiers captured in battle and furthermore God’s purpose was not to destroy the Arameans’ lives but to save the Israelites’ lives. The king then assured them of this in an unusual way. By setting a great feast before the soldiers he was expressing confidence in God’s ability to control the enemy; Israel had absolutely nothing to fear and could even treat these soldiers as friends because God had them in His sovereign power.
23] Then he prepared a great feast for them; and after they ate and drank, he sent them away and they went to their master. So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel.
In the ancient Near East eating together under one’s roof constituted making a covenant of peace.1 The Arameans were now bound by social custom not to attack the friend who had extended his gift of hospitality and protection. For these reasons the Arameans stopped raiding Israel’s territory for a time. This incident demonstrates Yahweh is His people’s defense. So to depart from Him was the height of folly. Israel’s victory by means of God’s prophet rather than by warriors undoubtedly should have encouraged many in Israel and Aram to fear the Almighty God. However, Jehoram and the nation of Israel failed to turn back to the Lord as a result of the previous incident. Consequently God sent a more severe situation to draw them back to Himself:
The Siege of Samaria and a Great Famine
24] And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria.
25] And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver.
Since no one could leave or enter the capital, a great famine resulted. It was so severe that one donkey’s head, one of the least nourishing and most repulsive parts of this animal, unclean to the Israelites, became a highly valued commodity selling for 80 shekels (ca. two pounds) of silver. Approximately a half pint of (NIV,seed pods;KJV & LXX, dove’s dung), normally
considered animal fodder, cost 5 shekels (ca. two ounces) of silver.
26] Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, “Help, my lord, O king!”
27] And he said, “If the Lord does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?”
Jehoram’s reply (Where can I get help for you?) to a woman who called to him revealed his frustration. He was angry with the LORD for permitting this situation (cf. v. 33). God had promised that such conditions would discipline His people if they turned from Him (Lev 26:29; Deut 28:53, 57). Jehoram sarcastically told the woman that he could not provide bread from the grain on the threshing floor or wine from the grapes in the winepress; he was not greater than God was supposed to be.
28] Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you?” And she answered, “This woman said to me, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.’
Having vented his frustration with these words the king then invited the woman to explain her problem. She said that a friend had persuaded her to cook her son but the next day, when the friend was to cook her son she had hidden him.
29] So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, ‘Give your son, that we may eat him’; but she has hidden her son.”
30] Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body.
Learning the desperate extent to which the siege had driven his people, the king angrily tore his robes, an expression of deep distress and sorrow (cf. 2:12; 5:7; 11:14). Sackcloth, coarse material made from black goat’s hair, was worn as a symbol of repentance and self-affliction.
31] Then he said, “God do so to me and more also, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat remains on him today!”
But Jehoram’s repentance seems to have been rather shallow in view of his attitude toward God’s servant Elisha. Rather than dealing with the real cause of God’s discipline, his own apostasy, Jehoram blamed Elisha who had perhaps only explained the reason for Israel’s condition.
32] But Elisha was sitting in his house, and the elders were sitting with him. And the king sent a man ahead of him, but before the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, “Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to take away my head? Look, when the messenger comes, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door. Is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him?”
The elders who were sitting with Elisha in his house (cf. 5:9) were the officials of the land. Perhaps they were meeting with the prophet to discuss what should be done. Warned by God, Elisha announced that the king was sending someone to have him beheaded. The prophet’s instruction to the elders to bar the door against the executioner was evidently intended to postpone any violence until Jehoram himself would arrive. (Is not the sound of his master’s footsteps behind him?) The instruction would also give Elisha opportunity to announce God’s message of imminent deliverance.
33] And while he was still talking with them, there was the messenger, coming down to him; and then the king said, “Surely this calamity is from the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer?”
When Jehoram did arrive he asked Elisha why he should wait any longer for God to act. Apparently Elisha had told Jehoram that God had said he should not surrender to Ben-Hadad but should wait for divine deliverance. Since that help was not forthcoming Jehoram had decided to take matters into his own hands. As he had done many times before he was disobeying the orders of his Lord through Elisha, acting as an unfaithful administrator (cf. 1 Sam 15:11). Since, as Jehoram stated, the disaster (the siege and the famine) was from the LORD, the king should have obeyed Him.
: Erwin W. Lutzer and Ed Stetzer, The Church in Babylon: Heeding the Call to Be a Light in the Darkness (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2018).
: ACLU Website, Prayer and Proselytizing in School, https://www.aclu.org/issues/religious-liberty/religion-and-public-schools/prayer-and-proselytizing-school
: Tim Keller, “Exiles in a Foreign Land,” from Living in a Pluralistic Society (Bible study), (New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2006) http://s3.amazonaws.com/churchplantmedia-cms/chatham_community_church_pittsboro_nc/engage-series-discussion-guide.pdf.