The Syrian Army
3About the same time, four men with leprosy were just outside the gate of Samaria. They said to each other, “Why should we sit here, waiting to die? 4There's nothing to eat in the city, so we would starve if we went inside. But if we stay out here, we will die for sure. Let's sneak over to the Syrian army camp and surrender. They might kill us, but they might not.” 5-8That evening the four men got up and left for the Syrian camp.
As they walked toward the camp, the Lord caused the Syrian troops to hear what sounded like the roar of a huge cavalry. The soldiers said to each other, “Listen! The king of Israel must have hired Hittite and Egyptian troops to attack us. Let's get out of here!” So they ran out of their camp that night, leaving their tents and horses and donkeys.
When the four men with leprosy reached the edge of the Syrian camp, no one was there. They walked into one of the tents, where they ate and drank, before carrying off clothes, as well as silver and gold. They hid all this, then walked into another tent; they took what they wanted and hid it too.
9They said to each other, “This isn't right. Today is a day to celebrate, and we haven't told anyone else what has happened. If we wait until morning, we will be punished. Let's go to the king's palace at once and tell the good news.”
10They went back to Samaria and shouted up to the guards at the gate, “We've just come from the Syrian army camp, and all the soldiers are gone! The tents are empty, and the horses and donkeys are still tied up. We didn't see or hear anybody.”
11The guards reported the news to the king's palace. 12The king got out of bed and said to his officers, “I know what those Syrians are doing. They know we're starving, so they're hiding in the fields, hoping we will go out to look for food. When we do, they can capture us and take over our city.”
13One of his officers replied, “We have a few horses left—why don't we let some men take five of them and go to the Syrian camp and see what's happening? We're going to die anyway like those who have already died.” 14They found two chariots, and the king commanded the men to find out what had happened to the Syrian troops.
15The men rode as far as the Jordan River. All along the way they saw clothes and equipment that the Syrians had thrown away as they escaped. Then they went back to the king and told him what they had seen.
16At once the people went to the Syrian camp and carried off what was left. They took so much that a large sack of flour and two large sacks of barley sold for almost nothing, just as the Lord had promised.
17The king of Israel had put his chief officer in charge of the gate, but he died when the people trampled him as they rushed out of the city. 18Earlier, when the king was at Elisha's house, Elisha had told him that flour or barley would sell for almost nothing. 19But the officer refused to believe that even the Lord could do that. So Elisha warned him that he would see it happen, but would not eat any of the food. 20And that's exactly what happened—the officer was trampled to death.
In December 2013, a young public relations executive tweeted an offensive joke before turning off her phone for a flight to Africa. If someone would have told her that in 11 hours, her name would be known in every part of the world as millions followed her flight on Twitter, she wouldn’t have believed it.
In this passage, when Elisha tells the chief officer that in 24 hours, food will be so abundant in besieged Samaria that it will cost almost nothing, it sounds inconceivable. Either this officer’s position or his rational education becomes a barrier to belief. “The officer refused to believe that even the Lord could do that” (v 19).
The king also dismisses the miracle, but for different reasons. When he hears claims that the Syrian camp is empty, he’s immediately suspicious. This kind of news doesn’t fit his grid, and he assumes it must be a trap.
The only ones who have no trouble believing the miracle are the lepers outside the gate. Throughout Scripture, it’s the marginalized who get the front seats for God’s greatest acts: the adulterous woman experiences forgiveness, servants see Jesus turn water into wine, a young boy sees Jesus multiply his meagre lunch, women see the empty tomb first. Meanwhile, the powerful, the learned and the elite are excluded from firsthand experience. Why?
The problem is that accomplishment creates barriers. Belief is blocked by skepticism, conservatism and inhibitions—traits common to the wealthy, powerful, famous and educated. Meanwhile, need and naiveté remove these barriers.
What holds back your faith in God? Have your hunger and thirst grown strong enough? What are you willing to risk to allow God to work freely in your life? Don’t let your unbelief keep you from becoming like a child to believe the unbelievable, to trust the Lord’s promise or enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3).
Almighty God, we believe that nothing is impossible for you. Help our unbelief! Make us pure in heart so that we can see you. Give us the faith of a child so that we may enter the kingdom of heaven here on earth. Through Jesus Christ who gives us faith. Amen.