The Siege of Samaria / Paul the Roman Citizen before the Sanhedrin: July 3rd 2021

2 Kings 6:24-8:15

The Arameans besieged Israel’s capital city, Samaria. There was a great famine because the siege was so long. People had to resort to eating each others babies and the king abdicated from his responsibility to help them in their need (2 Kings 6:27).

Even though the Israelite king, Joram, was wearing sackcloth under his robes, God was not responding. The king lost patience and decided to get revenge on God by executing his representative, Elisha. Elisha was remarkably calm about this and prophesied that by the next day, food prices would tumble. One of the king’s officers doubted his words and Elisha told him that he would see this happen but not eat any of the newly abundant food (2 Kings 7:2).

Four men with leprosy at the city gate had decided to go to the Aramean camp as it was their one chance of surviving the siege. They reached the camp to find the Aramean army had run away. God had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of a great army advancing on them (2 Kings 7:6). The men with leprosy ate and drank in the abandoned army tents and hid treasure. Eventually, they decided they should report back to the city that the siege had been lifted. They were compelled to announce the good news to rescue others (2 Kings 7:9). The king was wary that this was a trap but after he had sent chariots to confirm the Arameans had fled, the people ran out of the city and plundered the Aramean camp.

Before I was born again, I was similar to a leper hanging around the city gates. I was unclean and disfigured by a life-destroying condition, habitual sin.  I knew I was a different ‘species’ to secular, worldly people but I still hung around their gates. Like the lepers, I realised this halfway house would only result in death and so I took the plunge and turned my back on the secular world. I ventured out to find out more about Jesus. When I did, I found abundant treasure and food for my soul as my demons fled at the sound of God’s word. I took God’s word, I consumed it and saved some for hard times. After a while, I realised I could not keep the good news about salvation to myself and started to testify; it was my duty to save others. Some people chose to accept life and eat the bread of eternal life, others were suspicious and thought it may be a trap. Jesus offers abundant life for all that run towards him.    

Food prices tumbled as Elisha had predicted. The officer who had doubted Elisha’s prophecy was killed in the stampede as people rushed out of the city to get food.

If we hear prophetic words, we should rejoice and have faith that they will come to pass. God does not like disbelief.

Elisha had warned the lady, whose son he had brought back to life, to leave Israel for seven years to avoid the famine. She had gone to live with the Philistines. On her return she went to beg the king for her property just at the exact moment that Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, was telling the king about how her son had been brought back to life. The king decreed that all her possessions and the income from her land for the last seven years should be given to her. The benefits from her faith in God and hospitality towards Elisha kept materializing.

Elisha went to Damascus while the king of Aram was ill. The king, Ben-Hadad, asked Hazael to take a gift to Elisha and ask the prophet if he would recover. Elisha predicted that he would recover but also die, which isn’t the best prognosis. Elisha could see the wickedness in Hazael and started to weep (2 Kings 8:11-12).

Elisha predicted that Hazael would do terrible harm to the Israelites when he became king. When Hazael returned to the king he told him that he would recover. The king of Aram must have been very relieved to have heard this prophesy from a world-class prophet. Unfortunately, the next day Hazael murdered the king and succeeded him. One wonders how much ambition Hazael had in the back of his mind before Elisha told him he would be king. Did the prophesy initiate or just speed up his wicked crime? Prophets don’t seem to have much of a filter. They just pronounce the Word of God as directed even if it might give bad people confidence to carry out their evil crimes. However, God must have wanted Hazael to succeed Ben-Hadad at this moment in history. God will manipulate evil people in order to achieve his good purposes in the end (‘the Lord determines our steps’ (Prov.16:9).

Acts 22:22-23:11

Paul, under arrest, was going to be flogged and questioned by the Roman soldiers to find out why the Jerusalem riot had occurred. However, Paul was from Tarsus and a Roman citizen. He asked whether it was legal for a Roman citizen to be flogged without a trial (Acts 22:25). This alarmed the commander of the Roman soldiers who should not have put Paul in chains. He released him the next day but had him stand in front of the Sanhedrin.

Paul told them that he had fulfilled his duty to God in all good conscience. The Chief Priest ordered that he should be punched in the mouth for this statement. Appearing before this group of priests could be a brutal affair.

Paul tactically started an argument between the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Paul was a Pharisee and he, like the others, acknowledged the resurrection of the dead, angels and spirits. Paul was on trial because of his hope in the resurrection of Jesus. The Sadducees had a different theology and there was a great uproar between the different factions. The Roman commander had to rescue Paul from the mob and bring him to the barracks.

Jesus stood near to Paul the following night and encouraged him. Paul would now be called to testify about Jesus in Rome, the centre of the Roman empire (Acts 23:11). Saint Paul is a model for us as regards confidently testifying about Jesus no matter how testing the circumstances.

Proverbs 16:8-17

God does not like injustice. If we work in business, we should put righteousness above dishonest profit.

A wise leader takes pleasure in hearing the truth, even if it is a rebuke. Do not work for a company where only ‘yes people’ rise to the top and honesty is punished. We should avoid evil as we travel on our career highway.

An angry manager in a company can destroy people’s careers and their lives. A wise person will appease them, so their face brightens and they gain their favour.

We might imagine we will work at the same company until we retire only to find ourselves suddenly made redundant or sacked. However, God always has the best intentions for our lives (Romans 12:2). Our mediocre personal plans might not match God’s desires for our life and so he takes charge to map out our steps (Prov.16:9).

Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

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