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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Unbelief and the Floodgates of Heaven - II
Text:2 Kings 7:3-20 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2017/04/23
Added:2017-05-02
Updated:2017-05-02
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 

Unbelief and the Floodgates of Heaven - II”
2 Kings 7:3-20
 
Have you ever gone to the hospital to visit someone only to find that they are quarantined? You see the notice on the door. The sign warns you that in order to enter the room you must put on a hospital gown, latex gloves, and you need a mask over your nose and mouth. As you enter the room you are reminded of just how serious a thing it is to have a contagious disease.
 
But if anyone understood what it was like to have a contagious disease, to be quarantined, it was the lepers who lived in Old Testament times. There was no way for them to don a hospital gown, latex gloves and a mask for their mouth. According to Mosaic law they were not allowed within the city gates. Leprosy was a contagious skin disease, and every leper led a lonely life, among other lonely lepers, outside the city gates, away from family and friends they once knew, unable to be visited or to visit.
 
That was the position these four men with leprosy, at the entrance of the city gate, found themselves in back in Elisha’s day. They said to each other, in verse 3-4, “Why stay here until we die? 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 (Syrians) and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”
 
So at dusk they got up and they went to the camp of the Aramaeans – the camp of the Syrian army. They were greeted with a great surprise. The camp was empty! There wasn’t a Syrian soldier to be found anywhere. They went into a tent and there was food and drink in great abundance. There was even silver and gold and all sorts of good clothes!
 
What a treat for men who had been, not only outside the city gate as lepers, but also victims of the great famine that had come on Samaria as it was surrounded by the Syrians. They ate and drank to their hearts content and then they carried off some of the silver and gold and the clothes and they hid them away.
 
But afterwards they became convicted that what they were doing was wrong. In verse 9 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.”
 
As the lepers go to the gatekeepers, and the gatekeepers in turn, describe to King Joram the report of the lepers, we see a number of truths unfold from this passage, including the disastrous nature of unbelief.
        
The Disastrous Nature of Unbelief
 
We heard the unbelief of the king’s servant last week. We read from 2 Kings 6:24-7:2, where King Joram blamed the Lord for the famine; he also blamed God’s servant, Elisha, and threatened to put him to death. The famine had become so severe that a donkey’s head sold for the equivalent of about $640 in U.S. dollars. A small batch of dove’s dung, or a small amount of seed pods, sold for about $40 in today’s currency. We read about horrific cannibalism as two starving mothers agreed to boil their young sons and eat them. They boiled the one son and ate him, but the mother of the other son hid him so that they could not eat him.
   
With that tragic background King Joram and his servant arrived at Elisha’s house, blaming God and blaming Elisha for the famine. But Elisha calmly told them, in chapter 7:1, “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 and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.”
 
Wouldn’t you expect that the king’s spirits would be lifted? Wouldn’t you expect that the servant would be filled with joy? All the things that God had done through Elisha were well known. It was Elisha who had delivered the Syrian army into the hands of King Joram as described earlier in chapter 6. God had done a variety of miracles through Elisha including the healing of Naaman from leprosy. God had even allowed Elisha to be the instrument of life, restoring life to the Shunammite’s son who had died.
 
And now this man of God, whom the Lord had worked through with miraculous power time and again, was perfectly calm amid a city that was an intense turmoil and filled with fear. And the reason for his calmness is that he knew that the famine was going to end; he knew that the Lord would rescue and provide for his people. He had no doubt that within a day a seah of flour would sell for a shekel and so would two seahs of barley. In other words, the cost of food would plummet; the people could eat, gain back their strength and go on with their lives. This was truly great news!
 
But how did the king’s servant respond? In verse 2 he exclaimed, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?”  His question was not asked with sincere amazement in the power of God to accomplish his purposes. Rather, with that exclamation he was making a statement. His statement was a blatant denial that the God who raised a boy from the dead, and cleansed the Syrian leader from leprosy, and led the Syrian troops into the hands of King Joram, not all that long ago, would now perform another miracle and bring an instant end to the great famine that had seized Samaria. He did not just doubt Elisha; he doubted Elisha’s God.
 
And the same was true for King Joram. When the gatekeepers came in the middle of the night to tell him that the Syrian troops had fled he didn’t believe their message. King Joram didn’t pause for a moment to reflect on what Elisha had said just a few hours before. If he had reflected in faith on Elisha’s word – the word of the Lord through Elisha – he could have joyfully exclaimed to his servants, “God is true to his promises just as Elisha said!”
 
But that was not his response! Instead, in verse 12 he said, “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 had no faith in what the servant of God had said. He had no faith in the power of God to deliver the people from famine. He was a double minded man. As we saw last week he wore sackcloth beneath his royal robes. But there was no true repentance in his heart. He could put on a show, but he had no faith in God within him. He fit the description of the double minded man that James describes in James 1:6-7, the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
 
And as we hear these two expressions of unbelief, from the top two people in Samaria, we are reminded of how disastrous unbelief is, not just for King Joram and his servant, but for all who follow in their footsteps.
 
Sometimes it is pointed out that there is an “unforgivable sin.” It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, a sin which Jesus spoke about (Matthew 12:31-32). But that is a sin that none of us has ever committed. If you ever thought that you committed that sin, you can be assured that you haven’t. That sin ascribes the work of God to the devil. Many commentators believe it was only committed in the first century when Jesus was on earth and cannot be duplicated today.
 
But there is another sin that is unforgivable. It is a sin that is committed on a massive scale. It is the sin exhibited by King Joram and by his servant. And it is the sin committed by the majority of all the masses of humanity over the history of the world. It is the sin of unbelief. If you refuse to believe in the power of God, specifically in the power and grace of God to forgive your sins through faith in Jesus Christ, then there is no salvation offered. Instead there is only the certainty of judgment for unbelief.
 
God and Our Senses
 
There are a number of other truths that flow out of this passage, including that God made our senses and can affect them as He wills. Why do you suppose that the Aramaeans thought that King Joram had hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack them? Some commentators theorize that they saw the four lepers in the dusk of the evening and mistook them for Hittite and Egyptian kings. We don’t know whether that was the case; the Bible doesn’t outline for us exactly how they became so terrified. But the Bible does teach us in many different passages that the God who made our senses is also able to affect them as he wills.
 
We have Zechariah, the high priest and the father of John the Baptist, unable to speak until finally his son is born and he says his name is to be John. God has that power to withhold speech or to take away sight, or to magnify hearing, as seems to be the case here.  In Exodus 4:11-12 we read these words: “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
   
When we read accounts such as this, the skeptic writes them off as an impossibility. But we who believe in the Lord God Almighty recognize that nothing is too hard for God; he is able to do that which is impossible for us to do. (Matthew 19:26)
 
 
God Provides for His People
 
We also see that the Lord, for the sake of Christ, God provided food for His people just as He does today. Last week we saw that the famine was brought upon Israel because of their sinfulness. The Lord had warned them in Deuteronomy 28 that he would bring curses upon them if they disobeyed him, but would bring great blessing upon them if they would live according to his word.
 
They disobeyed, and disobeyed willfully and defiantly. They brought the judgment on them-selves, and God being just, allowed the famine to come upon them. But God, being merciful, also brought relief in a remarkable way. And he did it for the sake of Christ. He provided for his people. He would not allow them to the wiped off the face of the earth but would preserve the remnant that, by his grace, was true to him. And thus all Samaria was blessed, because of God’s blessing on Elisha, on the company of prophets, and on the small minority that was faithful to the Lord.
 
And still today he promises to provide for his people. Lean times come into our lives. There may be many things that we would like that we do not receive because they are not true necessities. But God always provides daily bread for his people, and that is why Jesus told us not to worry about the necessities of life, for his Father knows that we need them and will surely supply them, in His way, at the right time.
 
Proclaiming Good News
 
How do we apply this very unusual Old Testament account to your life and to mine today? One application: We are not to feed on the feast without telling others the good news of the gospel. In this passage the lepers were feasting on the food left behind by the Syrian army. But they realized that what they were doing was not right. In verse 9 they said, “What we’re doing is not right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.”
 
But do you realize that a lot of Christians today do the same thing as those lepers did long ago? Is it possible that in your life, you have done that? I know that in my life, unfortunately, many times I have feasted on the gospel without telling others the good news.
 
Isaiah 55 describes the gospel as a great feast and gives a wonderful invitation to come to the feast. Isaiah 55 is a foretaste of the wedding feast of the Lamb described in Revelation 19. Isaiah records these words:
 
“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
 
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.
 
Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
 
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
 
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
 
The higher thoughts of God include that he is willing to forgive those who come to him in  repentance and faith. He will have compassion on all who turn to him, and he will abundantly pardon our sins.
 
He offers us the feast of the gospel. We see it not only from afar in the wedding feast of the Lamb yet to be revealed, but each time we take the elements of the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of a great feast. We take it with joy, but do we tell others of the joy of salvation? Do we take seriously that we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth?  (Matthew 5:13-14)
 
The lepers set before us an excellent example, and also a great challenge. They said, “This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves.” We have far greater news than they have. May you and I joyfully proclaim the good news, even as they did.
 
The Punishment and Sorrow of Unbelief
 
The passage not only teaches us about the good news of the gospel, but it also warns us that the punishment of unbelief includes the sorrow of seeing the blessing, but not partaking of it. That is exactly what happened to the servant of the king. In verse 16 we read how the people plundered the camp of the Syrians and how a seah of flour and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, just as the Lord had said. But the servant of the king never got to taste any of the Syrian food.
 
In verse 2, when Elisha had told the servant of the king what would happen, Elisha had said, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” and that is exactly what happened. The servant saw the great abundance. He saw other people enjoying the delicacies of the Syrian army. He saw the joy and wonderment in their eyes as they took of the food that was put before them in abundance.
 
But he himself never partook of those joys. He was so close to abundant blessings, and yet so far. But he is not alone. All those who doubt the word of the Lord and harden themselves in unbelief, will come under the Lord’s judgment. And part of that judgment is seeing the blessing and glory of salvation, but not tasting it themselves.
 
In Matthew 25 Jesus describes the final judgment. Jesus describes how the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.”
 
Unbelievers will hear those words and they will see the blessing bestowed upon those who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. But instead of receiving those blessings they will receive judgment which includes the sorrow of seeing the blessing, but not being included in it.
 
We read of that in Matthew 25:41-46 where Jesus says, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
 
Part of the agony of judgment in the eternity of hell will be the knowledge that the glory of heaven would have been theirs had they believed. It will include the full knowledge of Romans 1:20, that since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
 
Those who receive God’s righteous judgment will realize that if they had believed they would have had the works that flow from saving faith in Jesus Christ, for we are saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. Our deeds – our works – only reveal the gift of faith within us (Ephesians 2:8-10)
 
And the reason why judgment is certain, is that God is true to His warnings of judgment just as he is faithful in fulfilling his promises to save. The fulfillment of the warning given in verse 2, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” is fulfilled in verse 20: And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people trampled him and the gateway, and he died.
 
God is true to his promises of salvation. Just as he had compassion on the starving people in Samaria, so he has compassion on all who turn to him in repentance and faith. But God, being just and righteous, must also be true to his warnings of judgment.
 
One of the best known verses in the Bible, John 3:16, contains the heart of the gospel. But so many people focus on that wonderful promise, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life without reading the context of the verse. They never go on to the context in verse 18, He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And verse 36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (NAS)
                  
God is true to his warnings of judgment just as he fulfills his promises to save. We see that throughout the record of Scripture, whether in John chapter 3, 2 Kings 7, or any number of other passages.
 
As we witness the unbelieving servant trampled to death we are reminded that God, in merciful grace, gives you and gives me many warnings against unbelief, including the tragic example of the king’s servant.
 
May you and I, this evening and always, see with the eye of faith the gracious work of our Lord in redeeming us from our sin. With a heart of faith may we claim the wonderful promise of John 3:16. But with repentance may we always remember the context of the third chapter of John, and live by faith and not by unbelief.
 
For the last verse of that John chapter 3 sums up all of history. John 3:36 sums up the life and death of the unbelieving servant, but it also sums up every person’s life, including yours and mine, as it declares: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
 
May you and I not be like the unbelieving servant, or double minded like King Joram. Instead, by God’s grace may we joyfully believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, this evening and always. Amen!
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
The officer had said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” The man of God had replied,
“You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” – 2 Kings 7:19
 
 “Unbelief and the Floodgates of Heaven - II”
2 Kings 7:3-20
 
I.  This passage teaches:
     1) The disastrous nature of unbelief, both of the servant (2) and king Joram (12), and by implication all who follow in their footsteps    
 
 
 
 
     2) God made our senses and can affect them as He wills (6; Exodus 4:11)
 
 
 
 
     3) For the sake of Christ, God provided food for His people (16), just as He does today (Matthew 6:25-34)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) We are not to feed on the feast without telling others the good news of the gospel (9; Isaiah 55:1-7)
 
 
 
 
      2) The punishment of unbelief includes the torment of seeing the blessing, but not partaking of it (19; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 16:23)
 
 
 
 
      3) God is true to His warnings of judgment just as He fulfills His promises to save (20; John 3:16, 18, 36)

 

 

 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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