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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Warnings of God Fulfilled
Text:2 Kings 8:7-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Running the race
 
Preached:2017/05/07
Added:2017-05-16
Updated:2017-05-16
 

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.


 
“Warnings of God Fulfilled”
1 Kings 19:15-18; 2 Kings 8:7-15
 
Maybe you have seen this happen; I have seen it happen in a number of other churches: You have someone in the church who seems almost indispensable. They are a spark plug on whatever committee they serve. When something needs to be done in the church they seem to have a sixth sense; they go ahead and do what needs to be done without ever being asked.
 
Those people are a real blessing to any church! But I’ve noticed on several occasions that they are the ones who seem to “burn out.” They work tirelessly and diligently for so long and then all the work and all the labor seems to catch up to them, and they say in effect, “I’ve had enough, Lord.” And they fade away into the background of the church, sometimes leaving the church altogether.
 
Perhaps those people have an “Elijah complex.”  Elijah was a tireless, dedicated, faithful worker within the kingdom of God. He confronted evil kings, helped ailing widows, was used by the Lord to restore life to a boy who had died, just as Elisha was used by the Lord to perform the same type of miracle by God’s power. While Elijah accomplished much in the kingdom of God he is best known for taking on the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel. In dramatic fashion he proved the power of God as a water-drenched altar was lit on fire. Afterwards he ridiculed the priests of Baal who failed to produce the same result and put 450 of them to death.
 
Elijah was a tireless, dedicated, faithful worker within the kingdom of God. But he lost heart when wicked Queen Jezebel put a price on his head and vowed to take his life. In 1 Kings 19 we find him on the run from the wicked queen. He stopped to rest underneath a broom tree and he prayed to the Lord that he would die. He prayed, “I have had enough Lord, take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)
 
He threw in the towel. He was finished; he had enough. And we see that in his response to the commands that God gave him in 1 Kings 19:15-16. Elijah only fulfilled one of those commands, the anointing of Elisha to succeed him. And, as several commentators have pointed out, that was done in a halfhearted way. He never did anoint Hazael king over Aram (Syria), nor did he anoint Jehu king over Israel as commanded by the Lord.
 
Other commentators point out that undoubtedly Elijah spoke to Elisha about the will of God, explaining to him that Hazael would become king over Aram and Jehu the king over Israel. And thus they point out that he fulfilled what was asked of him by clearly passing that information on to Elisha.
 
And apparently that was fine with the Lord because, as we know, Elijah was carried into the glory of heaven in a chariot of fire. Obviously the Lord was pleased with his ministry and his work, even though at the end he seems to have become totally discouraged, was ready to quit, and asked the Lord to take his life.
 
And now in this passage, and in the chapters that follow, Elisha begins to complete the work that Elijah had left undone. The first step was to anoint Hazael king over Aram. The word for “anoint” can also mean to appoint, and that is what Elisha did through the unusual encounter with Hazael recorded in the passage before us.
 
Judgment and Patience
 
As Elisha began to do the work that was originally asked of Elijah, we are reminded that God is patient and gives many opportunities for repentance, even in the temporal judgments that come upon the wicked. One example of God’s judgment – and his patience in giving an opportunity for repentance – can be seen through the famines that we have read about in previous chapters.
 
Some notable famines include the famine described in chapter 4 where Elisha put some flour in a pot of stew that was contaminated, and the stew, instead of bringing death, sustained the lives of the men in the company of prophets. During that same famine the Lord sustained the company of prophets through the 20 loaves of barley bread which had been donated to Elisha. Elisha’s servant doubted that twenty small loaves of bread could feed 100 men, but Elisha had said, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’ Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. (2 Kings 4:43-44)
 
Later on, we read of that horrific famine brought upon the people of Samaria as they were besieged by the Syrian Army. The famine described in the first two verses of chapter 8 appears to be the same famine that is described in chapter 4. It is one more reminder that God uses whatever means he chooses – whether famine, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes or other natural disasters – to be both judgments and opportunities to turn to him in repentance.
 
The people who faced famine back in Elisha’s day were certainly forced to examine themselves. They were forced to come to the realization that they were dependent upon the Lord. As we saw last week and when we read chapter 4, those who turned to the Lord in faith were sustained. The stew was purified, the bread was multiplied, and the Shunammite woman and her son were sustained by the Lord in the land of the Philistines.
 
But for others the famines served as a temporal judgment upon them for the hardness of their heart. We saw that in the attitude of King Joram who blamed God for the famine and blamed God’s servant, Elisha, for the horrific conditions brought on by the famine. We heard the unbelief of the king’s servant who doubted that God could bring an end to the famine, even if the floodgates of heaven were open.
 
We see, then, that the same event which brings temporal judgment upon some – a foretaste of eternal judgment – reveals the mercy of God in sustaining his people, and his mercy in giving all people incentive to repent and trust in his provision for them.
 
That is true not only for famines, but for all natural disasters. When an earthquake brings death and destruction, or a hurricane or tornado rips apart homes and towns, we are reminded of both of the power of God to bring judgment, and the mercy of God to cause people to call upon him, recognizing that he is the only source of strength, help and stability in this fallen world.
 
Increasingly Strong Warnings
 
This passage also reminds us that when people do not respond to one warning, God often brings increasingly strong judgments upon them. He does that even when life appears tranquil beforehand. The people of Samaria had not responded to the Lord in repentance after the famine, so the Lord, who is sovereign over the kingdoms of nations, had appointed Hazael to bring judgment upon Israel.
 
The famine had been severe, so severe that cannibalism had taken place as we read in 2 Kings 6. But because the Lord knew the hardness of the people’s heart – he was not caught unaware by their refusal to repent and believe in him – he brought further judgment upon them in the form of the King Hazael, who is described in verse 12 as the one who will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.
 
Yet even though this terrible turn of events was to come upon unrepentant Israel, everything seemed remarkably calm beforehand. The famine was over. King Joram seemed to be on good terms with Gehazi. The king of Aram (Syria), Ben Hadad, who had caused so much trouble to the Israelites, was ill which probably seemed like a good thing to Joram and the Israelites.
 
Meanwhile, Ben-Hadad seemed to get good news from Hazael who assured him that the prophet Elisha had said that he would recover from his illness. Things seemed to be looking up, but judgment was coming upon both Israel and the Syrian king, Ben Hadad.
 
When people do not respond to one warning, God often brings increasingly strong judgments upon them. He does that even when all appears tranquil beforehand. We see that, not only in this passage but in many other passages of Scripture. And we will see it most clearly when Jesus returns.
 
The days preceding the second coming will be like the days of Noah, when people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage. People were living carefree lives, doing as they pleased with no regard for God, when the great flood came upon them (Matthew 24:37-38). And that is how it will be at the second coming of Christ. Peter gives this description of the calm before the storm, so to speak, at the second coming of Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 3:3-7:
 
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
 
Both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament we are given warning after warning that God’s judgment is coming upon all those who have not placed their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But those of us who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ see those warnings as signs of God’s mercy as he patiently waits for all those ordained unto salvation to believe. (Acts 13:48)
 
If there are any among us who have never placed their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation, how crucial it is to recognize that the temporal judgments on earth are given by God in mercy, as warnings of the final judgment. After the final judgment it will be too late to turn in repentance and faith to the Lord Jesus Christ.
                     
But until that day, recognize the great mercy of God, and by his grace and enabling Spirit, put your faith in Jesus Christ alone. He has borne the wrath of God the Father in his own body on the cross of Calvary, so that that judgment those who believe in him deserve has already been meted out through his sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)
 
God’s Plans Cannot Be Thwarted
 
In this passage we also see that God’s plans are never thwarted. Psalm 33:10-11 puts it this way: The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; he frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.
 
The truth that the counsel of the nations comes to nothing and that the counsel of the Lord stands forever becomes clear in this passage and the chapters that follow. It is in these passages, gruesome as they are, that the commands given to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:15-16 are fulfilled.
 
For the secular person, reviewing history is often disappointing and discouraging. History is filled with heart wrenching events. We see the inhumanity of man over and over in the rise and fall of nations, in the waves of crime that sweep through every culture, and in the greed and self-centeredness that is evident whenever natural disasters strike. To look at history without recognizing that all history is the story of God’s work in redeeming his people from the curse of sin, is a thoroughly frustrating experience. The evil one tempted Eve; all humanity fell into sin and the result is the age old battle of the serpent – the devil – against God and his people. That spiritual battle of the ages results in horrific and discouraging events, such as we read in this account before us.
 
The secular historian can only conclude that history is a tragic circle which keeps repeating itself over and over.  But in this passage, and the chapters that follow, we see that God is at work. God allowed the cruelty of Hazael to bring judgment on rebellious Israel. In turn, God will bring about the demise of Hazael and the Syrians.  His counsel stands forever, and he holds all nations, and all the events of the world, in his hands.
 
When we understand that, then even the great tragedies of history, which break our heart, are yet understandable. We realize that it is not because God is uncaring that tragedy comes into the human experience, but rather the evil one is in constant conflict against God and his people. But God brings good out of tragedy for his people, and in the rise and fall of nations he yet works for the good of his eternal kingdom and for all those who believe with saving faith in his Son.
 
How else do we apply a passage such as this, filled with tragedy as it reveals the darkness of the human heart? One application is that the fear of death grips even the most hardened of sinners, but repentance and faith most often eludes them.
 
Terrified of Death; Unable to Repent
 
Ben Hadad was as cruel a king as you could find anywhere. It didn’t seem to bother him in the least bit that when his troops surrounded Samaria, the Israelites within her walls were starving to death, even resorting to cannibalism. But when he became gravely ill he was obviously gripped with fear. When he heard that Elisha went to Damascus he said to one of his servants, Hazael, “Take a gift with you and go meet the man of God. Consult the Lord through him; ask him, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”
 
As you may have noticed, the gift was more than extravagant. Hazael met Elisha with 40 camel loads of the finest wares of Damascus. It is reminiscent of what the famous French atheist, Voltaire, offered his doctor when he found out that he, too, was on his deathbed. He offered him half of his estate – which was vast – if he would give him just six more months to live. But, of course, the doctor told him that he could not add even one day to his life.
 
But even with that knowledge Voltaire did not repent, and the Scripture certainly speaks nothing about Ben Hadad repenting. Even if Hazael had not murdered him, even if the verdict had been, “Ben Hadad, you only have seven more days to live and then you will certainly die,” do you think Ben Hadad would have repented?
 
Those who do not believe in the Lord harden their hearts against him throughout the course of their life. When they reach their death bed, even though they are gripped by fear, they seldom repent of their sins and believe in the Lord.
                 
Deathbed conversions do happen, but they are rare. Don’t ever think, young people, that you can put off a commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ, and then make that commitment later in life, even on your deathbed. Most often, by that time your heart will be thoroughly hardened, and you will die in your sin rather than being saved from it.
 
The Growing Enticement of Sin
 
Another application which should serve as a warning to each one of us is that sin which initially shocks us becomes less shocking if it is mulled over in our mind and heart. Did you notice Hazel’s reaction in verse 13?  He said, “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?”
 
He was referring to becoming the king of Syria and he was acknowledging that he did not have a kingly background. He was a servant, in his words “a mere dog,” and he was questioning how he could be so cruel as to set fire to (the Israelites) fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women. His question regards the measure of evil that Elisha had told him he would commit. He questioned whether he would really be that evil as to commit those grievous atrocities.
 
But after mulling it over in his mind for a little while – within a day’s time – he decided murdering Ben Hadad was well worth receiving the kingship.
 
But it is not just a heinous murder such as Hazael committed, which becomes less shocking if we mull it over in our mind. Every type of sin imaginable becomes less shocking the longer we think about it. It was Thomas a Kempis who pointed out, “First there comes to mind the bare thought of evil, then a strong imagination thereof, afterward, delight and evil motion, and then consent.” That is why it is so crucial to flee from sin and to focus in faith on Christ.
 
If we don’t flee from sin and focus in faith on Christ we will begin to be captivated by our own thoughts of sin. James brings that out clearly in James 1:13-15, where he writes: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
 
It is that thought process, described by James, which captivated Hazael. The longer he mulled over the prospect of being king, the less heinous the murder seemed. Hazael’s thought process went from shock to acceptance as he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king’s face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king.
 
Our Actions Define Our Character and Identity
 
And as that tragic verse concludes this passage of Scripture, it also reminds us, by way of application, that your actions and mine define our identity and character – either for good or evil.
 
Did you notice how Elisha is described in both verse 7 and verse 11? He is described as “the man of God”.  Verse 7 describes how the king was told, “The man of God has come all the way up here” (to Damascus).  Verse 11 describes Elisha as the man of God, as he wept, knowing the evil that Hazael would do, not only to Ben Hadad but to the Israelites as he brought judgment on them.
 
Why is he referred to in those verses, and so many others in 2 Kings, as “the man of God”? It is because our actions define our identity and character, and his actions showed that he was a man of God. He showed his identity as a man of God in so many ways: He cared for the widow who was poverty-stricken; he helped the Shunammite when her son had died, and he provided food in times of famine.
 
In all these instances, and in so many other ways, Elisha showed by his conduct that he was a man of God. Proverbs 20:11 points out that even a child is known by his actions. In other words, what you do reveals your true identity and character.
 
The same was true for Hazael. His true identity and character was shown through his actions. As Jesus put it in Luke 6:44-45, “Each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
   
The question for each one of us then becomes, “What do my actions reveal about my identity and character?  By the way we live and by the things we do, do you and I reveal to others that we belong to God?  Do we show that we are men of God, women of God, and children of God by the way we conduct ourselves?  Or do we show by our actions that the profession of our lips has never truly taken root in our heart?”
 
May it be said of you and me that our actions – which are brought about by God’s gracious work within us – show that we truly belong to him. By God’s grace and sanctifying Spirit may it be evident to all that we are men, women and children who belong to the Lord God revealed in Scripture, living in obedience to his word, out of gratitude for his saving grace in our lives through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Amen.
 
- bulletin outline -
 
 
When Ben-Hadad asked, “What did Elisha say to you?” Hazael replied, “He told me that you would certainly recover.” But the next day he took a thick cloth,
soaked it in water and spread it over the king’s face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king. – 2 Kings 8:14-15
 
“Warnings of God Fulfilled - I”
1 Kings 19:15-18; 2 Kings 8:7-15
 
I.  In this passage (and the next chapters) Elisha begins to complete what Elijah left undone (1 Kings 19:15-16). As he does so we are reminded that God is
    patient and gives many opportunities for repentance:
     1) The famines (2 Kings 4:38-44; 6:24-7:2; 8:1-2) were both judgments from God and opportunities to turn to Him in repentance
 
 
 
     2) When people do not respond to one warning, God often brings increasingly strong judgments upon them (12), even when all appears tranquil beforehand
         (10, 14; 2 Kings 8:1-6; 2 Peter 3:3-7)
 
 
 
      3) God’s plans are never thwarted (Psalm 33:11). In this passage, and the chapters that follow, the decree of 1 Kings 19:15-16 is fulfilled
 
 
 
II. Applications:
      1) The fear of death grips even the most hardened of sinners (7-8) but repentance and faith most often eludes them
 
 
 
       2) Sin that initially shocks (13) becomes less shocking if it is mulled over, allowing the mind to be enticed by it (15; James 1:13-15)
 
 
 
       3) Our actions define our identity and character, either for good or evil (7d, 11c, 15; Proverbs 20:11; Luke 6:43-45)
      



* 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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