God revealed to Elisha that he had decreed a famine of seven years. The first thing Elisha did was tell the Shunammite woman who had shown him such hospitality so that she could escape. As a woman who had faith, she did not stay around to see if Elisha was telling the truth, but she left to Philistine territory.
Now some people are jolted right there and miss the mercy of God being highlighted for this woman. Why would God “decree a famine”? Isn’t this abusive? Wrong? Immoral?
The Judgment of God
Remember that this was a season of just ridiculous levels of immorality and violence against the innocent. God had made a covenant with the Israelites and said he would bless them if they followed him, but if they persisted in violence and rebellion, he would bring judgment to them. Not all famines are God’s judgment, some of them are man-made by our own stupidness to the earth and to each other. But sometimes, famines and other disasters are from God. To wake us up in the face of judgment.
But the woman was a rare one who had faith. One who not just proclaimed faith but acted upon it, showing kindness to the man of God. For his we see God’s mercy being extended to her. And after the famine, she returned to the land and was given her property back as well as any profits that were made off her land while she had been gone. Furthermore she was able to testify to the king of Israel about God’s work through Elisha.
Elisha and Hazael and a Strange Message for the King
Some time later Elisha was way north in the great city of Damascus, Syria. While there the king fell ill and sent his servants to ask Elisha if he would live or die. Elisha told the messenger Hazael to tell the king that he would live, but that Elisha also knew he would die.
“Elisha answered, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael was embarrassed. Then the man of God began to weep” (2 Kings 8:10-11).
Wait a minute. Is Elisha instructing Hazael to lie to the king?
The question that was being asked by the king is would he die of the disease he had been struck with. Elisha correctly was instructing Hazael to tell him that he would not die of the disease. But Elisha was grieved. He knew that while the king wouldn’t die of the disease, he would indeed die by the hand of Hazael. And that is exactly what happened.
Hazael told the king he would not die from his disease, but then he himself took a cloth in water and suffocated him to death in his weakness. Then Hazael became king of Aram.
Some time later King Hazael then went down south and made war against Israel. The Arameans were successful in getting a shot off at Joram who was King of Israel at the time. They wounded him but not mortally. He went home to recover from his wounds.
And this is how the history of time was. Evil kings rising, prophets proclaiming judgment if there’s no repentance, Kings dying at the ends of enemies and more. It happened ad nauseum. And the bottom line? All of this could have been avoided had Israel listened and obeyed the LORD.
O that we would only learn.