2 Kings 7:1, 2
Then Elisha said, Hear you the word of the LORD; Thus said the LORD…
Elisha interrupts the king's evil design by a prediction of plenty in Samaria. His mention of a fixed time doubtless induced the king to wait until he should see if the prophecy was fulfilled. "Thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria." It was a bold statement to make, for there was no human likelihood of its fulfillment. If the next day had proved Elisha to be a deceiver, no doubt he would have been torn limb from limb by the infuriated and hungry populace. But Elisha makes not the state-inert on his own authority, but uses the words, "Thus saith the Lord." One of the king's principal courtiers, on whose arm he leaned, could not conceal his scorn and incredulity. "Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?" Observe, his statement is not "If the Lord would make windows in heaven, this thing might be." He doesn't even admit that. It is a question expressing entire impossibility. "Even if the Lord would open windows in heaven, is it at all likely that such a thing as this would happen?" But what seemed impossible to him was possible with God. The prophet warned him that he would suffer for his unbelief. "Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof." As it was predicted, so it came to pass. During the night, the Lord caused the Syrian army to hear a great noise, like the noise of horses and chariots and a mighty host, and they fled in terror, leaving their camp with all their possessions and provisions behind them. Four lepers, going out of the city in the evening twilight, discovered the deserted camp. They brought back the news to the beleaguered city. At first, a stratagem was feared; but by-and-by in wild eagerness for food and plunder, the famished citizens rushed forth. The unhappy lord, who had doubted the prophet's message and the promise of God himself, was trodden upon at the gate and died. From this striking and tragic story we may learn -
I. UNBELIEF MAY HAVE REASON, APPARENTLY, ON ITS SIDE. This courtier might have given many plausible reasons for doubting the prophet's message.
1. He might have disputed the prophet's right to speak in the name of God at all. He might have said, "How do I know that this man is speaking the truth?" though even there Elisha had already given pretty tangible proof of his credibility and trustworthiness. The faithful minister of Christ need not mind the sneers of men, provided God has owned his work, and set his heavenly seal upon his ministry.
2. Or he might have said, "The thing is utterly incredible. It is utterly impossible. Where is flour to come from in such plenty as to supply this whole city of Samaria? There has been a besieging army around our walls for many days. They have desolated and plundered the country round about. Where is the food to come from, even if there was any one to bring it to us? And we know of no friendly army that is coming to raise the siege or cut its way through the serried ranks of the Syrians." All these would have been very natural thoughts to pass through that courtier's mind. No doubt they were the very reasons, or some of them, which led him to disbelieve Elisha's message. Probably, if he had stated his reasons to the people, he would have got a hundred to agree with him for every one who believed Elisha. No doubt they all looked upon Elisha as a fanatic and an enthusiast. They, to all appearance, had common sense, had reason on their side. And yet it turned out to be one of those many cases in which "God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and the weak things to confound the mighty." Unbelief can be very plausible. Unbelief nearly always appears to have reason on its side. There is not a doctrine of the Bible against which the most plausible arguments might not, and have not, been advanced. Even Scripture itself can be quoted in support of unbelief and sin. "The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose." Good arguments are not necessarily a proof of the truth or justice of a case. This needs to be remembered in an age when many arguments are urged against the truth of Christianity. What plausible reasons have been urged against the main truths of the Christian religion! Take the Deity of Christ, for example. How plausible are the arguments which human reason can bring forward against the doctrine of the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ! And yet of what value are such arguments when placed side by side with our Lord's statement, "I and my Father are one;" with the statement of the Apostle John, "The Word was with God, and the Word was God;" or with the statement of the Apostle Paul, that "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily?" In the same way the most plausible arguments can be, and are being, brought against the atoning nature of Christ's death, although we have the clear statements of God's Word that "he bore our sins in his own body on the tree," and Christ's own statement that he laid down his life for the sheep. Over and over again it has been asserted that the Gospel miracles are incredible. Over and over again the most plausible arguments have been brought against future punishment, although we have the clear and emphatic statements of our Lord Jesus Christ himself on the subject. Unbelief may have reason, apparently, on its side.
II. OUR REASON IS NO TEST OF POSSIBILITY. Our ideas are no test as to what is possible or impossible. Our minds are limited in their range. How often in the march of scientific discovery and invention it has happened that things, which seemed impossible in one century were proved to be possible in the next! It is not yet three hundred years since Galileo was condemned to imprisonment by the Inquisition for asserting that the earth moved round the sun. Even our own Sir Isaac Newton, little more than two hundred years ago - the man who discovered the force of gravitation, and invented the first reflecting telescope - was assailed with such abuse on propounding his discoveries, that he actually determined on suppressing the third book of the 'Principia,' which contains the theory of comets. And what shall we say of the invention of the steam-engine by James Watt, scarcely a hundred years ago - an invention which has revolutionized our manufactures, and made possible a speed of locomotion by land and sea that would have been ridiculed as impossible only a few years ago? Every discovery of science, every invention in the useful arts, has at first been scorned as an impossible dream, then laughed at as impracticable, and finally accepted when it became impossible to deny the truth of the one or the usefulness of the other. The impossibilities of today turn out to be the possibilities of tomorrow. It is well to remember this, that, because we are unable to conceive of something taking place, it does not therefore follow that it is impossible. The fact is, that when we say anything is "impossible," we just mean that we cannot conceive it. But, as has already been shown, this is no reason why a doctrine or statement may not be true, or why a certain occurrence may not take place. We may have never known anything of the kind to occur before; but that is no proof that a thing is impossible, though in the minds of many people it is the only argument. What has never occurred before may occur yet. There are discoveries in science still undreamed of in our advanced philosophy. There are inventions yet to be conceived which, if today we could hear of them, we might pronounce the wild ravings of a fanatic. There are infinite resources in the hand of him who rules the world. Who are we, that we should limit God? Who are we, that we should set bounds to his power? Who are we, that we should set bounds to his justice on the one hand, or to his mercy on the other? Must we not bow in deep humility before all the problems that affect his dealings with men, and say, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Must we not reverently accept whatever he has been pleased to reveal in his own Word of his Divine purposes and plans, no matter what our reason may say?
III. THE DANGEROUS CHARACTER OF UNBELIEF. We have seen how unreasonable this courtier's unbelief was. Not only so, but it was injurious. So unbelief in a professing Christian is injurious to himself and to others. It hinders his own usefulness. It hinders the progress of the gospel. It hinders the success of Christian work. It is the Achan in the camp, the canker of Christian life and power, the chilling blight of the Christian Church. What an age of deadness in the Church of Christ in England, Scotland, and Ireland, was the eighteenth century, the age of moderatism, the age of indifference and rationalism! What an absence of missionary enterprise! What an absence of evangelistic effort! As Churches and as individuals, we should pray to be delivered from unbelief, and to be filled with living, working, all-conquering faith. Mr. Spurgeon says, in his remarks on this passage, that if we are hindering God's work by our unbelief, it may happen to us as it happened to this nobleman, that God may see fit to take us out of the way. He says that he has remarked, "that when any truly good man has stood in God's way, God has made short work with him. He has taken him home, or he has laid him aside by sickness. If you will not help and will hinder, you will be put aside, and perhaps your own usefulness will be cut short." If you have not faith enough in the power of the gospel, if you have not faith enough in the promises of God, if you have not faith enough in the power of prayer, then be in earnest in asking for more faith - such faith as will stand firm in the day of temptation, of trial, of conflict, of opposition. Never say to yourself about any Christian work, "If the Lord would make windows in heaven, might such a thing be?" An affectionate word to the unbeliever, to the sinner. Unbelief is dangerous. Christ speaks of unbelief as a sin. He says of the Holy Spirit that "he will convince the world of sin, because they believed not on me." Men may call it a hard doctrine, but there it is. "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God." Is there anything hard in that? The offer of salvation is made to every one. It is so plain that there can be no mistake about it. If there had been any other way, any other Savior, men might plead uncertainty. But they are plainly told, "neither is there salvation in any other." Those who believed not the warnings in the days of Noah, perished. Their day of grace was long, but they neglected it. So with the Israelites whose bones lay whitening in the wilderness. "They entered not in because of unbelief." Oh, how terrible that unbelieving courtier's doom: "Thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof!" - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the LORD; Thus saith the LORD, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.
WEB: Elisha said, "Hear the word of Yahweh. Thus says Yahweh, 'Tomorrow about this time a measure of fine flour will be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.'"