We normally like to have several kinds of cereal on hand for breakfast but the other day the shelves were bare, so I went to the grocery store to stock up. Now when I say our shelves were bare that just meant we didn’t have cereal, but we had lots of other food items to choose from. When I went to the store to stock up, there were lots of empty places where cereal should have been. I am not sure if this was a toilet paper thing but the three stores that we shop at were all short of cereal. I was looking for one particular kind and that was not available but there were other kinds. I guess it would have been a good excuse to get some Fruit Loops or Captain Crunch as there seemed to be lots of those kinds of cereals.
No this is not a catastrophe or even an inconvenience, we were just out of cereal, so I went and got some more cereal even though one of the kinds I wanted was not available. There were other kinds available just not on sale. One of the employees told me one time when I was looking for something they did not have in stock that some people get quite irate with them as if it is their fault. Probably the same people getting upset at the part-time employee at the pharmacy when their medication is not quite ready or there has been a delay and probably the same people yelling freedom and screaming at the tyrannical government they think we have. That really is disgusting when you see what is happening in Ukraine where people have actually lost their freedom and their country is being annihilated by a tyrant. This should be a wake-up call for those calling for freedom in Canada, one of the freest countries in the world. The point is I could go to three grocery stores and keep our pantry stocked with food. I can go to the pharmacy and pick up medication no problem. On the way home I could choose from multiple gas stations and fill up my car. When I get home the lights work, the furnace comes on when needed, the fridge keeps things cold and the roof and windows keep the snow and rain out. We really do have a life of ease.
Now take that all away. The other day I listened to a doctor describe what will happen in Ukraine as cities are being pummeled. There is no grocery store anymore, so no food. There is no pharmacy anymore so no medications. Supply chains totally cut off. She then listed off all the problems that entails and how people will die from preventable diseases. Your home is gone. No Hydro. No Internet. There is no safe drinking water. Using the bathroom is just something we do without thinking but now no sanitation. There is no fuel. I am sure you have heard the stories from this humanitarian disaster that has unfolded. As you watch the news and there is a lot of it, picture yourself with nothing, no access to anything and expecting at any minute to die. Most of us here in North America do not have to think about this. Having said that there are many around the world where this is the life they face every day.
As we continue to look at God baring His arm in power, the backdrop for today’s blog is famine of hearing God’s word. Amos 8:11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” The examples of famine in the land will help us better understand the spiritual famine we are in as a church and how severe this lack of hearing really is and the desolation it has caused. So, keep this verse in mind as you read these next few examples and how severe they are. There are many examples of famine in the bible, but 2 Kings gives us not only how severe a famine could be while under siege but how God redeemed the people. It is really important to read Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 to understand why we must obey God. These chapters show us what happens if we do and what happens if we do not. These verses clearly describe God’s response to our obedience and disobedience. Deuteronomy 28:1 “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God,” and then they are listed. 15 “However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you,” and then they too are listed. When we do not obey God, God turns His face from us. When this happens, evil is allowed to prevail and it can be horrendous. When you read the curse side of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 you see exactly what will happen due to our rebellion. More specifically what happens during a siege is even described. “53 Because of the suffering your enemy will inflict on you during the siege.” This is a horrific scene. You would think they would have listened but did not.
2 Kings 6:24 “Some time later, Ben-Hadad king of Aram mobilized his entire army and marched up and laid siege to Samaria. 25 There was a great famine in the city; the siege lasted so long that a donkey’s head sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a quarter of a cab of seed pods (dove dung) for five shekels.” This was severe. I will let you read the passage to see how horrific it actually was. They were warned this would happen. Probably the only thing that saved them was Elisha was there in the city that was under siege. The king of Israel pretty much wanted Elisha dead. The king said 2 Kings 6:33 “This disaster is from the Lord. Why should I wait for the Lord any longer?” Elisha then makes this amazing prophecy. 2 Kings 7:1 “Elisha replied, “Hear the word of the Lord. This is what the Lord says: About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” 2 The officer on whose arm the king was leaning said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen? “You will see it with your own eyes,” answered Elisha, “but you will not eat any of it!” So you went from a donkey head and doves dung (other translations say dung for seed pods - either way it is disgusting. Things get real bad during a siege. Yesterday we talked about Sennacherib laying siege to Jerusalem. They were told if they don’t surrender they 2 Kings 18:27 “will have to eat their own excrement and drink their own urine?” I know -gross) to the finest flour and barley.
So this is amazing. In one day, everything changed. There were four lepers who figured they were dead either way. 2 Kings 7:4 “And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.” So they decided to go and when they get there are completely shocked at what they see. Here is what happened. 2 Kings 7:5 “At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, no one was there, 6 for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” 7 So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.” After the report form the lepers, they sent out riders to see where the enemy went. 14 So they selected two chariots with their horses, and the king sent them after the Aramean army. He commanded the drivers, “Go and find out what has happened.” 15 They followed them as far as the Jordan, and they found the whole road strewn with the clothing and equipment the Arameans had thrown away in their headlong flight. So the messengers returned and reported to the king. 16 Then the people went out and plundered the camp of the Arameans. So a seah of the finest flour sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley sold for a shekel, as the Lord had said.”
If you were told what Elisha had said, would you have believed? Remember the officer with the king who did not believe what Elisha said. 2 Kings 6:17 “Now the king had put the officer on whose arm he leaned in charge of the gate, and the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died, just as the man of God had foretold when the king came down to his house. 18 It happened as the man of God had said to the king: “About this time tomorrow, a seah of the finest flour will sell for a shekel and two seahs of barley for a shekel at the gate of Samaria.” 19 The officer had said to the man of God, “Look, even if the Lord should open the floodgates of the heavens, could this happen?” The man of God had replied, “You will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat any of it!” 20 And that is exactly what happened to him, for the people trampled him in the gateway, and he died.”
Now I realize if you read these passages you may think to yourself, I never heard these stories in Sunday School or I never knew the bible has this in it but this is in the bible so we must listen. These passages are intense, but so is famine especially during a siege. When you think about what is happening in the Ukraine and what has happened during severe famines down through the ages, understand there is no worse famine than a famine of hearing the word for the Lord because this means a lack of hearing that will lead to eternal damnation. If we return to God, He will do amazing things that we cannot do on our own as you just read. Causing an enemy to flee for no reason at all is fear sent from God. We are told this will happen. If we obeyed God Leviticus 26:7 “You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. 8 Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.” If we do not obey what happened to the Arameans will happen to us. Leviticus 26:36 “‘As for those of you who are left, I will make their hearts so fearful in the lands of their enemies that the sound of a windblown leaf will put them to flight. They will run as though fleeing from the sword, and they will fall, even though no one is pursuing them.” That is not the fear of God you want to have.
If we return to God, He will make a way, even during a famine of hearing His word. Leviticus 26:40 “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. 43 For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. 44 Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the Lord their God. 45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the Lord.’” We were told Matthew 13:13 “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. 14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. 15 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Unbelief leads to a calloused heart. If they did believe, God would turn and heal them. The rebellious church has caused this famine but as we see throughout scripture God makes a way if we trust Him. Joseph was sent to Egypt to save God’s people during severe times. Genesis 41:57 “And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere. After they were saved Joseph said to his brothers who had tried to kill him, Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” We serve a sovereign and all-powerful God.