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THE UNBELIEVING LORD PUNISHED
2 Kings 7:18-20. And it came to pass at the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine four for a shekel, shall be to-morrow, about this time, in the gate of Samaria: and that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof. And so it fell out unto him: for the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died.
THIS is a repetition of what had been said in the two first verses of this chapter; or rather it is a renewed recital of the prediction, as accomplished in all its parts. Now we are not to imagine that this repetition was without design. It was doubtless intended to call our attention to the history in a more peculiar manner, that we might observe it carefully throughout. In truth, it is a singularly instructive history, especially as discovering to us, what we propose distinctly to consider, the folly and danger of unbelief.
The folly of unbelief—
Faith appears to many to be a weak credulity; and unbelief a discreet estimate of causes and effects. Sceptics look with contempt upon Believers, even as this nobleman did upon the prophet, for expecting himself, and teaching others to expect, so incredible an event, as that which he foretold. But this history rebukes the folly of such conceited men. They imagine that they have sufficient reason for their unbelief: but this history shews us, that all those things which are supposed to justify unbelief, are, in fact, no grounds for it at all. There are three grounds in particular, which, as most commonly urged in its defence, it will be proper for us to consider:—
The extremity of our case—
[Many, both under temporal and spiritual distresses, will say, that there is no hope; and that to expect relief under such circumstances as theirs would be the height of presumption. But can any state be more desperate than that of Samaria at this time? The famine was so grievous, that things which would not have been deemed fit for food at other times, were made articles of subsistence; nor could they be procured but at a most exorbitant price. Yea, so extreme was the pressure of their hunger, that a woman, who had agreed with another to boil their children for their mutual support, came to the king, to complain of the other woman for having hid her child, instead of giving it up according to their agreement, after having already fed upon the child of the complainant [Note: 2Ki 6:25-29 with Deuteronomy 28:56-57.]. Can any case be more extreme than this? We are almost ready to justify the nobleman who doubted the possibility of plenty being restored to the city in so short a time as twenty-four hours. But there are no circumstances under which God cannot interpose with effect [Note: Isaiah 59:1.]. On the contrary, he is pleased frequently to let our troubles advance so as to appear irremediable, on purpose that his power may be the more magnified in our deliverance [Note: Deuteronomy 32:36.].]
Our great unworthiness—
[It is nothing but pride, under the semblance of humility, that leads any upright person to be discouraged by a sense of his unworthiness. If a man live in wilful and allowed sin, he doubtless can expect nothing at the hands of God: but, if he desire to be delivered from all sin, the deeper his sense is of his own unworthiness, the more readily will he find acceptance in the sight of God. The truth is, that God gives freely according to his own sovereign will and pleasure; and often makes his “grace to abound most where sin has most abounded.” To whom did he send the promise recorded in our text? To Jehoram, an idolatrous king of Israel. And under what circumstances did he send the promise? It was, when this wicked prince, instead of being humbled by his distresses, took occasion from them to rage still more against the God of Israel; and immediately after he had, with bitter imprecations, resolved to murder the Lord’s prophet that very day [Note: 2 Kings 6:31-32.]. Yes, to that very murderer, at the moment he was about to commit the murder, was that promise given! It is scarcely possible to conceive a state of greater unworthiness than his: yet, behold, to him, I say again, was the promise given. Who then that desires an interest in the Lord’s promises, has any reason to despond on account of his unworthiness?]
The want of any visible means of relief—
[The nobleman doubted whether the prediction could be verified, even if the Lord should open the windows of heaven, and rain down wheat and barley upon them, as he did manna in the wilderness. And as there was no hope of such an interposition, he concluded the prediction to be false. But what if he could see no way of relief: was God at any loss for means whereby to accomplish his own purposes? The Syrians shall be struck with a panic, and with perfect infatuation shall desert their camp and every thing in it. Still the purpose is but half effected: for, how shall the people in the city know the state of the Syrian camp? Four lepers perishing with hunger, shall go over to the Syrians, to cast themselves upon their mercy; and they shall find the whole camp forsaken, and report it in the besieged city: and thus shall perfect plenty be afforded them even in the space of a few hours. What then cannot God effect for us? Whether our distress be of a temporal or spiritual nature, he can in a moment “supply our wants,” and far “exceed all that we can ask, or even think.” “Is there any thing too hard for God?”]
If in this history we see the folly of unbelief, we behold no less,
The danger of it—
Unbelief is justly most offensive to God—
[Its very nature is to doubt the power or veracity of God. And is this a light offence? See how greatly he was offended at it in his people of old [Note: Psalms 78:40-41.]: and doubtless he will be still more offended at us on account of it, in proportion as his mercy and truth manifested to us in the gift of his dear Son, have exceeded all that he has ever shewn to mankind from the foundation of the world— — —]
In the history before us we see how certainly, and how awfully, it shall be punished—
[The moment that the nobleman had expressed his contempt of God’s promise, his doom was sealed, and his punishment declared. But the nobleman, being high in the confidence of his prince, was invested with authority to control and regulate the disposal of the spoil: consequently, if there were any one person in the city that was sure to enjoy the newly-acquired plenty, it was he. Yet, behold, the very means which seemed almost sure to defeat the divine purpose, were instrumental to its accomplishment: for the extreme eagerness of the people to obtain the food, occasioned him to be thrown down, and to be trodden to death under their feet. Yes; so had God threatened; and “so it fell out unto him.”
Say then, ye who promise yourselves impunity in sin, whether “God’s word shall stand, or yours?” Shall it not “fall out unto you as God has said?” Yes, it shall: and “unbelievers shall assuredly take their portion at the last in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone [Note: Revelation 21:8.].” See what became of those who doubted God’s word in Paradise [Note: Genesis 3:6; Genesis 3:16-19; Genesis 3:24.], or of the antediluvian infidels [Note: 2 Peter 3:3-6.], or of the unbelieving Israelites in the wilderness [Note: Hebrews 3:18-19. See also especially Zechariah 1:6.]! did not God’s threatened vengeance fall on them? “Beware then, all of you, lest you also perish after the same example of unbelief [Note: Hebrews 4:11.].” Whether God promise or threaten, it shall surely come to pass according to his word: “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself [Note: 2 Timothy 2:13.].”
We may even notice some resemblance between the doom of that nobleman, and that which awaits the unbelieving world at large: “He saw the promised blessing, but he did not taste of it.” And will it not be thus in that great and awful day when all shall stand at the judgment-seat of Christ? Those on the left hand of the Judge shall see the blessedness of his believing people, but shall not taste of it: on the contrary, whilst God’s faithful people shall be admitted to a full enjoyment of their promised inheritance, the whole assembly of unbelievers shall be bidden to “depart accursed into everlasting burnings.”]
[Consider now how you are affected by the word of God: does it come with weight and authority to your minds, as if you saw it about to be accomplished before your eyes? Is it a fixed principle with you, that “not one jot or tittle of that word can fail?” This is what God expects at our hands: he expects us to “tremble at his word [Note: Isaiah 66:2.];” to entertain no doubt of its accomplishment, but to “be strong in faith, giving glory to God.” On that he suspends his bestowment of further blessings [Note: James 1:6-7.]: and, for the most part, he will make the strength of our faith to be the measure of his communications [Note: Matthew 8:13.].
Consider more particularly, how you are affected with all those “great and precious promises which he has given us” in Christ Jesus. Are you enabled to receive them “without staggering at them through unbelief?” This is your duty, this your privilege, this the pledge and earnest of all that God himself can bestow upon you.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Kings 7". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany