Faith in the Future
FAITH IN THE FUTURE
2 Kings 7:1-16
INTRODUCTION: As I prepared the last few weeks on what I was going to talk about this morning I struggled over many topics and many passages of scripture. Bryan gave me the option of just spending the time sharing what we did in Honduras, but I did not feel that God was calling me to only share about my family and our trip. I did, however, have a very important topic thrust upon me when our pastor at King’s Baptist Church tendered his resignation on Mother’s day. For most in the church this came as quite a shock and I would wager a guess that most are in a state of fear and anxiety for the future of our church. But we are not alone:
Illustration: The University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research took a poll. They wanted to find out how people viewed the future. It is interesting to note that only 1 out of 5 people felt hopeful for the future. Now that is a lot of miserable people if they have no hope for the future. Four out of Five people confessed that they were not optimistic.
We live in a sad time. We look at our economic trends and we see them in a state of decline, the housing market leave a lot to be desired, and gas is $4.00 per gallon or more. We are still engaged in a war that seems to go on forever, terror ensues, and health fades, family members struggle with death, disease, drugs, and divorce. And we wonder why 4 out of 5 people feel they have no hope for their future. The main reason we feel there is no hope for the future is the fear of the unknown.
As Christians, we should be able to take a poll and come up with 5 out of 5 people who have a hope for the future because we have the promise and the grace and hope of Christ that there will be something better to come for our future and that what we have here on earth is only temporary. But, Christians still struggle with the immediate future.
As we come to 2 Kings 7 we find four men who also struggled with their immediate future. They had a choice to either go back, to stay where they were, or to go forward. These men had to struggle with the fear that each option brought them. But as we read this passage of scripture I want you to ask the question:
Proposition: How would the Lord have you respond to the future that he has for each of you? Today we will discover three principles in how to do this.
2 Kings 7:1-16 (ESV) Says:
Elisha Promises Food
7 But Elisha said, “Hear the word of the Lord: thus says the Lord, Tomorrow about this time a seah of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.” 2 Then the captain on whose hand the king leaned said to the man of God, “If the Lord himself should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” But he said, “You shall see it with your own eyes, but you shall not eat of it.”
The Syrians Flee
3 Now there were four men who were lepers at the entrance to the gate. And they said to one another, “Why are we sitting here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘Let us enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. So now come, let us go over to the camp of the Syrians. If they spare our lives we shall live, and if they kill us we shall but die.” 5 So they arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Syrians. But when they came to the edge of the camp of the Syrians, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had made the army of the Syrians hear the sound of chariots and of horses, the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Egypt to come against us.” 7 So they fled away in the twilight and abandoned their tents, their horses, and their donkeys, leaving the camp as it was, and fled for their lives. 8 And when these lepers came to the edge of the camp, they went into a tent and ate and drank, and they carried off silver and gold and clothing and went and hid them. Then they came back and entered another tent and carried off things from it and went and hid them.
9 Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city and told them, “We came to the camp of the Syrians, and behold, there was no one to be seen or heard there, nothing but the horses tied and the donkeys tied and the tents as they were.” 11 Then the gatekeepers called out, and it was told within the king’s household. 12 And the king rose in the night and said to his servants, “I will tell you what the Syrians have done to us. They know that we are hungry. Therefore they have gone out of the camp to hide themselves in the open country, thinking, ‘When they come out of the city, we shall take them alive and get into the city.’ ” 13 And one of his servants said, “Let some men take five of the remaining horses, seeing that those who are left here will fare like the whole multitude of Israel who have already perished. Let us send and see.” 14 So they took two horsemen, and the king sent them after the army of the Syrians, saying, “Go and see.” 15 So they went after them as far as the Jordan, and behold, all the way was littered with garments and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away in their haste. And the messengers returned and told the king.
16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Syrians. So a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.[i]
The situation in Israel was dire. The Syrians had placed the city under siege. You see, in the ancient world, they did not have the protection that we have today. They were not surrounded on the east and the west by great oceans. They did not have good neighbors to the north and the south. They did not have a missile defense system or NORAD or a great Army like we do to defend the borders.
The primary line of defense that a city had would be a great wall that was built around the city. These walls were massive and would allow for heavy fortification and would provide a great protection against warring enemies. They could be staffed with militia to help protect those within the walls
For the opposing armies to attack such a wall the only real strategy was to besiege the city and allow nothing to enter or to leave the city. It then became a waiting game to see who would crack first. Those within the walls would begin to run out of food. It’s not like you could just run down to the local Wal-Mart and pick up supplies. Even if you could, there would be no trucks to re-supply Wal-Mart. Eventually people would have to choose to either starve to death, or surrender and possibly die.
The situation for Israel had become desperate. If we were to read chapter 6 we would read of a story of two women who made an agreement to offer their sons as a sacrifice to their own hunger. They actually boiled one of the children and ate him to satisfy their own hunger. The following day when it was the second woman’s time to offer her child, she had hidden him away. The women who had eaten her own child the day before cried out to the king to rectify this injustice. The King seeing the desperation of the people to sink so low as to resort to cannibalism tore his clothes covered himself in sackcloth and mourned.
We can conclude that Israel was starving. Verse 13 alludes that many in Israel had already perished. There was no food. The livestock was certainly gone. Their water supply probably was running out and they were dying.
But then strangely, the narrative changes. It begins to focus not on the King, not on the hunger, not on the desperation, but on four lepers who were at the city gate. These four men would have been seen as outcasts. Now leprosy has been misunderstood over time. It is often thought of as highly contagious and in most circumstances it is not contagious at all. The biblical version of leprosy appeared to be no more than psoriasis of the skin that would turn the skin white and appear infectious. There were no limbs falling off as many today believe, but because of their differences, many people of ancient Israel believed that leprosy was a direct punishment for some sin. But, because of there differences in appearance, lepers were seen as ceremonially unclean which is why they were at the gate of the city and not inside.
These four men could not go inside the city because they were ceremonial unclean, they could not stay where they were because of the lack of food, and they did not feel they could go out because they were surrounded by the Syrians. They had no where to go. So the four of the are discussing what they are going to do and what they do has much to say about how we should go forward in the future, because what they do is quite profound and I think it has significant implications for us.
Transitional Sentence: What we learn first is if we are to move forward in faith, we cannot stay where we are.
I. DON’T STAY WHERE YOU ARE (vv. 3-4)
These lepers have a decision to make. One of them says we cannot go into the city. There is already starvation in the city if we go there we are going to die. Then he says we cannot just stay here or we will die also which brings him to the only logical choice, we have to go forward. He says maybe we can plead with the Syrians and they will spare our lives.
But what if they don’t? What is the implication here? The leper is saying if we stay we will surely die, but if we go we may live, but if we die what have we lost? So they made the decision to go out to the Syrians with the intent to beg for there lives.
They new the future was risky, but despite the fact that there was a far greater chance that they would be killed by the Syrians they recognized that there was at least a chance of survival. Even though there was just a smidgeon of a chance that they would survive they were willing to risk it all. They looked at it as even if we die we are no worse off than we are right now.
From this we learn that if we want to move forward in faith, if we are going to display a faith in the future we must first commit to not stay where we are or even worse to go back. There was never an issue whether or not to go back for these men because there was famine and death in the city, the issue was whether to stay where they were or to try their luck with the Syrians and they chose to go forward.
You see the future move so fast that to decide to stay where we are today is ultimately to resign ourselves to become relics in the future. To make a decision that says, “We like where we are, we’re comfortable where we are, things are nice the way we have them is ultimately to make the decision to be stuck in the past. And for a group of Christians to agree to not change is to accept a slow and painful death in the future.
Pretty much in every area of life we accept change. People grow, they adapt to their surroundings. Children are a great example of change. To watch a child grow and take his first steps or say his first words, this is change. The average American changes jobs every five years. We change our tastes, our attitudes, our like and our dislikes and all of this change is welcomed. So why is it so different in our church? Why is change so disregarded amongst Christians? I say that our acceptance to change should apply to our churches as well.
We have New Testament precedence for this.
Philippians 3:13-15, the apostle Paul says:
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.[ii]
Paul says, I don’t have my resurrection body yet. I’m not resurrected yet so what I am doing in the meantime is I am “Straining” forward to where God wants me to be. Paul knows that things will continue to change until he has received his resurrection body. Often we accept change in many areas of our life but sometimes we are reluctant to accept it in our church and I want to encourage you to understand and embrace change when it comes.
Illustration: It has been two years since I left Mt. Zion to attend Southern Seminary. So far I am in my second residence, my hair got shorter and I think I got bigger, my son became a responsible young man and in a few months a youth” of all things. I also have a new nephew who just recently turned one but in the time away from here has grown up and began to walk and is also beginning to talk.
This is all change. Everything that I have come to know and love changes, but this is what growth is all about. We expect change from our children and Christ tells us that we ought to come to him a little child.
If we are to be an effective witness we have to realize that the world around us is rapidly changing and if you make the conscious decision to wait behind you will be left in the dust and it will not be too long and the present will be the past and you will be left behind.
We can see the positive effects of change all around. As I sat this week I found myself expecting my cell phone to automatically call 618 numbers without dialing 618 just because I was here instead of in Kentucky. After a few frustrating moments and confused people I began to think how nice it was to not miss any of my phone calls from home. I also thought to myself that neither my son nor my 2 nephews will ever remember a time before cell phones.
It amazes me that I have 4 different phone numbers plus an internet phone that allows me to call Honduras for free. I can remember calling my mom and dad from a pay phone collect so when the operator announced my name my parents knew to come up and pick me up from the basketball game at the high school, or I waited until they showed up while feeling frustrated that there was no way to call them or talk to them. Now you just call. I talked to my parents this week in Alaska from a cruise liner in the northern pacific. There is no reason to not be connected.
My child will never remember a day that he did not have the internet. How great it would have been to have the internet for my fifth grade research project. I thought about just the changes that have happened since Isaiah was born:
- Technology – Computers have evolved to a point that my phone has more power and can do more than my first computer
- Software – When I began drafting I was using AutoCAD 9 and now it at AutoCAD 22.
- When Isaiah was born, Hum-V’s were military vehicles and now they are just another in a long line of SUV’s
- He will never remember rolling down car windows by hand
- In the last eleven years we have turned to bottled water because we still don’t trust what’s coming out of the tap.
Are we just going to sit idly by and allow everything else happen around us, or are we going to do whatever it takes to do whatever He wants us to do?
Transitional Sentence: If we are going to grow, to mature, to reach others around us for the Lord we cannot stay where we are, and secondly we must…
II. Trust God to Provide (vv. 5-8).
The lepers went out to the camp and the Syrians had abandoned it. You see we find that God had caused a great sound of chariots and horses that frightened the Syrians. Their King thought that Israel had hired the Hittites and the Egyptians to come and fight. It must have been a great sound because they not only left but they abandoned their camp leaving all of their food and possessions behind.
These men had no idea that God had gone before them, they did not know that the Syrians army had fled, yet they chose to go forward. And God had provided just as the prophet had predicted, abundance. When we make a decision to go forward we must also trust that God will provide for the future. Christ told Peter that on this rock, “I will build my church.” We also know that at the ascension Christ told the apostles that he would send us a helper, the Holy Spirit.
God will provide, but we must have the mindset that we are not going to be afraid to fail. You see God does not always give us the story before it is written and we must have the attitude that we are not afraid to risk it all for the sake of His glory.
The lepers risked their own lives in uncertainty and God provided them life. They came to the first tent and found it empty. They then ate and drank and then they gathered up gold and silver, clothing and other goods and began to hide them which wasn’t the best decision that they could have made. But men throughout history have lived their lives on bad decisions, especially when it comes to predictions.
- Julias Phontunus in AD 100 said that inventions had reached their potential and there would be no new inventions
- The chest, the heart, and the brain are all areas that will never see the hands of surgeons – John Erickson, surgeon for Queen Victoria in 1873
- Junias Brown said in 1873, law will be simplified in the future and lawyers fees will be lowered and almost unnecessary
- John Foster Dolus – Secretary of State said in 1954 that the Japanese will not make anything that the United States would want.
- Alex Lewitt, president of the Lewitt vacuum company said this in 1959; nuclear powered vacuum cleaners will be a reality in the near future. He must have had a dirty house.
- Albert Einstein’s teacher said this to his father in 1859 – No matter what he does in the future he will never amount to anything.
We really don’t know what the future holds and because of that we tend to shy away from it. But, the difference between you and me and the world that does not have Christ is that we do not put our faith in the future based on the predictions of men, we do so by putting our faith in the Word of God. It will not disappoint us, it will not let us down, it will not lead us astray, and that’s why I say when you decide to not stay where you are and want to move forward and make things better, trust God to provide.
Transitional Sentence: Make sure that you are in line with His word and His will and he will provide his blessings. So don’t stay where you are, trust God to provide, and finally…
III. Share His Blessings.
These lepers get into the camp and begin to hoard the possessions and they realize that what they were doing was not right. Their brothers and sisters were dying while they were enjoying the spoils of God’s provision.
So they go to the gate and they tell the guard that the Syrian camp was emptied and that there were all of these supplies and food and the guard sent word to the King who was more than a little skeptical. So the King not trusting that this was not a trap sent out spies to be sure and the spies return word that there were food and treasure scattered as far as the Jordan River.
So all the people go out. Why? Because, these lepers did not keep the blessing to themselves.
CONCLUSION: Two things stand out as we summarize this passage.
First, the camp of the Syrians was empty and just waiting for the lepers to come and take possession of it all and had the lepers chosen to stay where they were they would have missed out on the abundant blessings of God and they would most certainly have died.
Secondly we learn that when they went there they did not keep them for themselves, but they thankfully shared them with others, and that is what we are called on to do, to share our blessings with others. We are called to grow and adapt and to change to share our blessing with others.
When God blesses us we cannot keep it to ourselves. When we see times of blessings we should want even more to share them with others and not keep them for ourselves.
A Few Years ago a man by the name of Larry Walters made headlines. When he was 13 years old he went to an Army surplus store and became fascinated with the weather balloons. 20 Years later he purchased 42 weather balloons and strapped them to a lawn chair. Armed with a pellet rifle, his intention was to fly up over his home town in California and travel about 100 miles toward the mountains.
His plan was to shoot out the weather balloons with the pellet rifle so that he could make a gradual descent. So the big day came and he strapped himself into the chair and his buddies cut the ballast lines. But Larry was a poor planner. The chair launched up into the sky at a rate of 1000 feet per minute. So much for a couple hundred feet also, the chair rose to a height of 16,000 feet.
The wind that day began to blow him not toward the mountains, but toward the ocean. It was then that 2 airplanes flying into LAX spotted Larry and his flying chair. After scrambling a few helicopters they found Larry with a problem because his pellet rifle could not penetrate the balloons.
Finally he was able to descend and he was eventually fined a couple thousand dollars for flying an aircraft without a license. But when he was asked later about why he would do something so ridiculous, he merely answered, “Well, I couldn’t just sit around any longer.”
When we look to the story of the lepers we find 4 men who could no longer just sit around. If we go back we will die, if we stay where we are we will die, but if we go forward we have a chance.
But we have more than just a slim chance, God has already promised us that He has prepared a way and if we step out in faith we will reap the reward. So where will you go?
[i] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.
[ii] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001.