One of the most dramatic incidents in Elisha’s exciting life took place during a war between Israel and its neighbour, the kingdom of Syria. The Kings Captain, his chief advisor, made a fatal financial error.
You can read the full story in 2 Kings 6:24 – 7: 20. (Bible quotes in italics)
The Syrian king Ben-hadad laid siege to Samaria, Israel’s capital. The siege went on for a long time, with Samaria surrounded by a large enemy army and unable to receive any supplies. Conditions became indescribably horrible. Normal sources of food were exhausted. Nobody had any more grain or anything else decent to eat.
Due to the shortages, hyperinflation set in and the economic situation got so bad that head of a donkey was selling in the city for an astronomical price of a kg. of silver. They were even selling seeds that had passed and excreted through pigeons– a 250 ml. cup for 5 shekels or 55 grams.
“And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver.” (2 Kings 6:25)
Things were to get much worse. At the height of the siege a woman approached Joram, the king, with a grievance. She and a friend, desperate for food, had killed her baby and eaten it with the understanding that the next day they would eat the friend’s child. But the friend had reneged on the deal. When he heard this appalling story, the king snapped. The mothers’ cannibalism was more than he could take, and Joram was filled with blinding rage – not so much at the women, but at God whom he held responsible for the terrible predicament they were all in. And since he could not attack the Lord directly, he decided to kill the Lord’s prophet Elisha. King Joram sent his Captain, his chief advisor, to seize Elisha and cut off his head.
Elisha remained calm, knowing that the Lord would perform an economic miracle.
He passed on a word from God to the Captain., saying that God would turn the economy of the city around.
“But Elisha said, “Listen to this message from the LORD! This is what the LORD says: By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, six quarts of choice flour will cost only one piece of silver, and twelve quarts of barley grain will cost only one piece of silver.”
The Captain was having none of it and was thoroughly dismissive at such a thought that God could change an economic situation overnight! He was not challenging Elisha … he was challenging God. The officer said cynically, “look, even if God should make windows in heaven, this would still not happen!”
In other words, even if manna, quail and all the other foods that God brought down from heaven to the children of Israel in the wilderness were brought down now, it would not help their situation. Their situation was too difficult for God to handle. He didn’t believe that God could take Samaria from starvation, where food was so expensive and rare that people were succumbing to cannibalism, to a situation where barley and wheat would be cheap and easy to find within 24 hours.
Elisha said to the Captain, “You will see it happen with your own eyes, but you won’t be able to eat any of it!”
That night, after Elisha had told his wonderful prophecy, a strange thing happened. God made the Syrians hear the sound of rolling chariots , charging cavalry and rushing troops, whereupon terrible fear came into their hearts. They thought that the king of Israel had hired the kings of the Hittites and Egyptians to drive off the Syrians, and so they fled for their lives, leaving everything behind.
Four lepers arrived at the camp and found no-one, but food, wine, silver, gold and clothes. They went back to the city and told the gatekeepers who passed the news on to the king and his Captain.
Many people, eager to enjoy the bounty of the Syrian army, rushed out of the city and the Captain was told to control the stampeding traffic at the gate. It got so bad that he was trampled to death by the crowd.
“So everything happened exactly as the man of God had predicted when the king came to his house. The man of God had said to the king, “By this time tomorrow in the markets of Samaria, six quarts of choice flour will cost one piece of silver, and twelve quarts of barley grain will cost one piece of silver.” (2 Kings 7:18)
The Captain of the king’s guard would not believe that God could change economic circumstances. His unbelief shone through. Because of his unbelief, he saw others enjoy God’s provision but he did not.
First, he doubted the power of God. If God willed it, He certainly could open windows in heaven and drop down food from the sky for the hungry, besieged city of Samaria.
Second, he doubted the creativity of God. He had no idea that God could bring provision in a completely unexpected way.
Third, he doubted the messenger of God. Though the promise was admittedly hard to believe, the king’s officer could have and should have believed it because it came from Elisha, a man with an established track record of reliability.
Failing forward is believing that God can change your economic circumstances and provide for you in ways you cannot imagine. It is believing and acting on the fact that God can do anything He pleases. It is trusting God through extremely tough times, knowing He will provide a way out.
“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)
Next time: A corrupt couple, problems with power and possessions!