Works of Arthur Pink: Pink, Arthur - Gleanings From Elisha: 25-Fifteenth Miracle - Four Leprous Men

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Works of Arthur Pink: Pink, Arthur - Gleanings From Elisha: 25-Fifteenth Miracle - Four Leprous Men

TOPIC: Pink, Arthur - Gleanings From Elisha (Other Topics in this Collection)
SUBJECT: 25-Fifteenth Miracle - Four Leprous Men

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Chapter 25

Let us briefly review our last two chapters upon this miracle. First, we

emphasized its reality, seeking to show it was indeed a miracle which

took place and that it might justly be regarded as connected with Elisha.

Second, we dwelt upon its occasion, which was the fearful shortage of

food in the city of Samaria, resulting from its being so closely

surrounded by the Syrians that none of its inhabitants could go forth and

obtain fresh supplies (2Ki_6:24-25). So acute did conditions become

that the vilest of offals were sold at exhorbitant prices, and mothers

had begun to consume their own babies. So far from humbling himself

beneath the hand of divine judgment and acknowledging that it was his own

idolatry and impenitence which was the procuring cause of reducing his

kingdom to such sore straits, Israel's king turned an evil eye upon

Elisha and determined to make a scapegoat of him, taking a horrible oath

that he should be slain forthwith (2Ki_6:31)-evidencing that he was a

true son of Jezebel (1Ki_18:4).

"But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him"(2Ki_6:32);

he calmly awaited events. Announcing that "this son of a murderer hath

sent to take away mine head," he gave orders that the door should be shut

and the royal messenger not be admitted. Jehoram himself hastened on just

behind. The prophet and the king then came face to face, and the former

announced the impending miracle. "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" (2Ki_7:1). That was tantamount to

saying, God in His high sovereignty is going to show mercy on your

wretched kingdom, and within a day will work a miracle that shall

entirely reverse the present situation. Not only will the Syrians depart,

but there shall be provided an abundant supply of food which will fully

meet the needs of your people, without a blow being struck or your royal

coffers being any the poorer.

"Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and

said, Behold, if the LORD would make windows in heaven, might this thing

be?" (2Ki_7:2). Such a message of good news as the prophet had just

proclaimed, of deliverance from the enemy and food for the starving,

seemed utterly incredible to carnal reason, and therefore instead of

being received with fervent thanksgiving, it was met with a contemptuous

sneer. Unbelief presumed to call into question the divine promise.

Arguing from what he could see, no possible relief being visible, this

wicked lord scorned the likelihood of its fulfillment. That which Elisha

had announced was indeed impossible to anyone but the living God, for

only by a miracle could it be made good; yet it was the express word of

Him that cannot lie and who is endowed with omnipotence. Despite the

effort of his unbelieving courtier to prevent any weakening of his

resolution, the king of Israel decided to wait another day before

carrying out his murderous design, and during that interval the

prediction was accomplished. We now continue this study.

Fourth, the Heralds of the Miracle

Heralds are the ones made use of by the Lord to proclaim the wonder of

mercy which He had wrought. Strange indeed do the divine methods often

appear to our dim vision, yet in the light of Scripture their

significance is not lost upon those favored with anointed eyes. It was

not "the elders of Israel" who had sat with Elisha in his house, nor was

it "the sons of the prophets" whom the Lord honored on this occasion. God

is sovereign and employs whom He pleases. Often He acts as He does in

order to stain the pride of man, for He is jealous of His own honor and

will suffer no flesh to glory in His presence. It is true that He has

called certain men to the special work of the ministry and set them

apart, and that He frequently works through them in the converting of His

people; yet He is by no means tied to that particular agency, and often

manifests His independence by making use of the most unlikely ones to be

His agents -as appears in the more extreme cases of Balaam and Judas. So

it was here.

"And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they

said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?" (2Ki_7:3). More

unlikely instruments could scarcely be imagined. They were pariahs,

outcasts, men debarred from mingling with their ordinary fellow citizens.

They were lepers, and as such excluded by the divine law (Lev_13:46).

Yet these were the ones whom God was pleased to employ. How different are

His thoughts and ways from man's! But let us observe the position which

they occupied and the strange anomaly which that reveals. They were

sitting "at the entering in of the gate," that is, of Samaria (2 Kings

7:1, 3), namely, on the outside of the city's walls-as the next verse

shows. There we have a striking sidelight on the inconsistency of

perverse human nature, especially in connection with religious matters.

Though idolaters devoid of any respect for Jehovah, yet Jehoram and his

officers were punctilious in carrying out the requirement of the

ceremonial law as it respected the exclusion of lepers! They were

diligent in tithing mint and anise while omitting the weightier matters

of the moral law (Mat_23:23).

That to which we have called attention is frequently exemplified on the

pages of Holy Writ. Instead of utterly destroying Amalek and all his

possessions, as commanded when God delivered them into his hands, Saul

permitted the people to spare the best of the sheep and oxen that they

might offer them in "sacrifice unto the LORD." To these Samuel declared,

"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of

rams" (1Sa_15:22). Because it was the eve of the Passover the Jews

besought Pilate that the bodies of Christ and the two thieves who had

been crucified with Him "might be taken away" (Joh_19:31), that their

solemn feast might not be defiled. What a strange mixture human nature

is! Those ceremonially unclean lepers must be shut out of Samaria, even

though Jehovah Himself was treated with the utmost contempt! And do we

not see the same principle illustrated in Christendom? Let a Christian

attend morning services, and he may spend the remainder of Sunday as he

pleases. Being a stickler for a particular form of baptism, breaking

bread each Lord's day morning, or spending five days at a "communion," is

a mockery if we love not our neighbor as ourselves.

"And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they

said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?" It will probably

surprise many to know that some have been taught that this is the proper

attitude to assume when one has been convicted of his lost condition.

Appeal for this is made to such passages as "Blessed is the man that

heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors"

(Pro_8:34), "In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind,

halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water" (Joh_5:3). The

awakened sinner is told that he is utterly helpless to do anything for

himself, entirely dependent on God's sovereign pleasure, and then since

there is a set time to favor Zion (Psa_102:13), he must meekly wait for

God's appointed hour of deliverance, should He deign to deliver him. But

such counsel is an utter misuse of both the truth of God's sovereignty

and of man's spiritual inability. Proof of its error is found in the fact

that it both clashes with the call of the gospel and is a repudiation of

human responsibility.

The truth is that the spiritual inability of the natural man is both a

voluntary and a criminal one. He does not love and serve God because he

hates Him; he believes not the gospel because he prefers to cherish a

lie; he will not come to the Light because he loves darkness. So far from

his "I cannot repent, I cannot believe" expressing an honest desire to do

so, it is but an avowal of the heart's enmity against God. If the

doctrine of the cross and the glorious message of the gospel contain

nothing to overcome such enmity and attract the soul to Christ, it is not

for us to invent another gospel and bend the Scriptures to the

inclination of man's depravity. It is we who must bend to the Scriptures;

and if we do not, it will be to our eternal undoing. The one who wrings

his hands over his inability to believe and asks, What can I do? is not

to be soothed by something other than the gospel of Christ, or encouraged

to suppose that he is willing to be saved in God's way. Yet that is the

very delusion such souls cherish, imagining they are as willing to be

saved from their sins as the impotent man by the pool was desirous of

being made whole.

Neither Christ nor any of His apostles ever told a convicted soul to

passively wait for God's appointed hour of deliverance. Instead, He bade

the heavy laden "Come unto me." And instead of informing those who

followed Him across the sea, "It lies not in your power to do anything to

secure the bread of life," He exhorted them to, "Labor . . . for that

meat which endureth unto everlasting life" (Joh_6:27). Rather than tell

men they must sit quietly before it, Christ commanded, "Strive to enter

in at the strait gate" (Luk_13:24). When his hearers were pricked in

their hearts and asked, "What shall we do?", instead of saying, "You can

do nothing, except wait until God speaks peace unto you," Peter bade them

"repent" (Act_2:37-38). Those who think they have been given a sense of

their helplessness are quite content if some physician of no value will

inspire them with a hope in the way they are now in, and encourage them

to expect that if they remain passive, God will release them by a "moving

of the waters." We do but miserably deceive souls if we give them any

comfort or hold out any hope for them while they remain impenitent and

away from Christ.

It is recorded that the passengers of a ship off South America went

ashore on a brief expedition, ascending one of the mountains. But before

they were aware, night and a very cold fog came on. They felt a strong

inclination to sleep, but a medical man in the party remonstrated against

any such indulgence, warning them that there would be the utmost danger

of their never waking. As the one who chronicled this incident asks,

"What had been thought of his conduct if, instead of urging his

companions to escape from the mount, he had indulged them in their

wishes? The Scriptures declare 'he that believeth not the Son shall not

see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,' and surely we ought not

to contradict that, either by directing to the use of means short of

'believing' or by encouraging those who use them to hope for a happy

issue." Paul did not offer the jailor comfort on the ground of his being

in great distress, but bade him "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." The

word to troubled souls is not, "Sit still," but, "Seek and ye shall find;

knock, and it shall be opened unto you."

But to return to the narrative. "They said one to another, Why sit we

here until we die? If we say, We will enter into the city, then the

famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here,

we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall into the host of the

Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we

shall but die" (2Ki_7:3-4). How those poor lepers put to shame the

"do nothing" fatalists! Those men rightly recognized the hopelessness of

their case, perceiving that continued passivity would profit them

nothing, and hence they decided to act. And if you, my reader, are

already convicted of your perishing condition, do not rest content with

that conviction and persuade yourself that in due time God will save you.

Embrace the gospel offer and receive Christ as your Lord and Savior, for

He has declared, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out."

We ask the indulgence of others who have not been infected with such

paralyzing teaching while we add a further word. We would ask them to beg

God to use these paragraphs to deliver some souls from this subtle snare

of the devil. If one who reads these lines has been made to feel his lost

condition, then consider, we pray you, the far happier situation facing

you from that in which those lepers were. They decided to come unto an

enemy and cast themselves upon his mercy, while you are invited to betake

yourself unto the Friend of publicans and sinners! They had no invitation

from the Syrians, but you have from the Lord: "If any man thirst, let him

come unto me and drink." They had nothing better than an "if they save us

alive" to venture upon, whereas you have, "Believe on the Lord Jesus

Christ, and thou shalt be saved." They were confronted with the possible

alternative of being killed; not so you; "He that believeth on the Son

hath everlasting life." Then why hesitate?

"And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians:

and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria,

behold, there was no man there" (2Ki_7:5). What was before us in 2

Kings 7:3-4 did not end in idle talk. The situation for those lepers was

a desperate one; and prompted by a sense of urgency, they acted. Their

sitting still had gotten them nowhere, so they "rose up" and proceeded at

once to their proposed objective. They did not puzzle their heads about

God's secret decree and whether or not His ordained hour had arrived, for

that was none of their business. Instead, they responded to the instinct

of self-preservation. Again we say, how far superior is the sinner's

case: he need not wait a moment for the prompting of any instinct, but is

invited, "Come; for all things are now ready" (Luk_14:17). Come just as

you are with all your sinfulness and unworthiness; and if you cannot come

to Christ with a melted heart and faith, then come to Him as a patient

desperate for them.

Fifth, the Means of the Miracle

The divine narrative breaks in upon the account of the heralds of this

miracle to show us its means. For before we see those lepers going forth

to publish their good news, we are first informed how it was that they

came to find the camp empty. "For the Lord had made the host of the

Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and the noise of horses, even the

noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of

Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of

the Egyptians, to come upon us" (2Ki_7:6). This is to be regarded as

the sequel to 2Ki_6:24: Ben-hadad's purpose was to starve out

Samaria. But man proposes and God opposes and disposes. "The LORD

bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of

the people of none effect" (Psa_33:10).

The Lord accomplishes His purpose by a great variety of measures and

methods, sometimes employing the supernatural, more often using the

natural. What were the means He used here? In the light of what is not

said in 2Ki_7:6, it seems strange that Thomas Scott should write,

"The infatuation which seized the minds of the whole Syrian army was

equal to the illusion put upon their senses, and both were from the Lord,

but how produced we know not." Little better is Matthew Henry's "these

had their hearing imposed upon." There was neither illusion nor

imposition. It does not say, "The Lord made them to hear a noise like as

of chariots and horses," but the actual thing itself. That is to say, He

so attuned their auditory nerves that they registered the sound of what

previously was inaudible to them. This is but another instance of how we

create our own difficulties when reading the Word through failing to

attend closely to exactly what is said.

If we allow scripture to interpret scripture, we should have no

difficulty in ascertaining the precise means used on this occasion. On a

previous one God had employed "horses and chariots of fire round about

Elisha" (2Ki_6:17), and as we showed, the reference there was to

angelic beings. Then why not the same here! In the former case, God

"opened the eyes of the young man" in order to see them; here, He opened

the ears of the Syrians to hear them. It may well be that in their

original condition our first parents were capacitated to both see and

hear celestial beings, but the fall impaired those as well as all their

faculties. The "clairvoyance" and "clairaudience" of spiritist mediums

could be the devil's imitation of man's original powers. That the

Syrians, unregenerate idolaters, misinterpreted what they heard is only

to be expected. Those who heard the Father speaking to His Son thought

"it thundered" (Joh_12:29), and those who accompanied Saul heard the

voice which spoke to him (Act_9:7) but "heard not the voice" (Acts

22:9)-distinguished not the words.

"Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and

their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for

their life" (2Ki_7:7). How true it is that "the wicked flee when no

man pursueth." Supposing that a more formidable force had come to the

relief of the besieged Samaritans, the Syrians were filled with

consternation and at once abandoned their well-provisioned camp. So

thoroughly panic-stricken were they that they left their "horses" which

would have helped their flight. How easily can the Lord make the heart of

the stoutest to quake, and how vain and mad a thing it is for anyone to

defy Him! "Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the

days that I shall deal with thee? I the LORD have spoken it, and will do

it" (Eze_22:14). Then throw down the weapons of your warfare against

Him and make your peace with Him now.