2 Kings 8

2 Kings 8
By Pastor David Groendyk

Elisha has been an awesome minister of grace and restoration for the people of Israel so far, mainly saving, helping, and delivering. But chapter 8 is something of a turning point in his ministry. As Ralph Davis says, Israel has been sinning away her day of grace, wasting it, and not turning back to the Lord in repentance, so God is about to take action.

The first half of this chapter contains two different stories of Elisha that are more connected than first meet the eye. In verses 1–6, the Shunammite woman from chapter 4 is back! She had apparently been advised to leave the land of Israel for at least seven years because of a famine, and when she came back home she found her house and property had been taken by someone else. The grand coincidence of it all? At the exact moment she goes to appeal to the king to get her stuff back, Elisha’s servant Gehazi just so happens to be speaking with the king about this woman! The king is taken aback, and he immediately restores everything that was hers. Then, in verses 7–15, Ben-hadad king of Syria is sick and sends his servant Hazael to ask Elisha if he will recover. After an ominous conversation between Hazael and Elisha, Hazael returns to the palace, assassinates Ben-hadad, and becomes king. In a different sense, Hazael is “back” too. All the way back in 1 Kings 19, God had promised Elijah that he would anoint Hazael to be king over Syria in order to bring about judgment on the apostate Israelites. So now in 2 Kings 8, it’s finally happening.

There is a fascinating thread running through verses 1–15. The Hebrew word for ‘to live’ occurs ten times in those verses (vv. 1, 5, 8, 9, 10, 14; some of those instances the ESV translates as ‘recover’, but it’s actually the same Hebrew word as ‘live’). In the story of the Shunammite woman, God is the life-giver; on the other side of the coin, God is the death-bringer with Hazael and Ben-hadad. The bigger picture here is that God is about to bring justice and judgment upon his people through Hazael, while also eventually restoring a remnant of survivors and making them alive again. There is both justice and restoration coming for Israel. Both are delayed, but neither are forgotten. God does not overlook and forget sin, and neither does he overlook or forget his salvation. All of God’s promises, both the good and the bad, are sure to come about.

How are God’s people holding up in the midst of Elisha’s ministry? Apparently not well. The king of Judah has married into the family of the former king of Israel, Ahab, the most wicked and evil king Israel ever saw (vv. 16–18). The corruption and apostasy of Israel is spreading to Judah, and it’s becoming a generational corruption (vv. 25–27). All of this is setting up 2 Kings 9 when God will anoint and use Jehu as an instrument of judgment against all the wickedness of the kings of Israel and Judah. Are God’s people lost for good? No! Verse 19 gives us hope. Judah’s dynasty will live on because God made a promise to David that his descendants would forever sit on the throne (see 2 Samuel 7), and God is intensely and steadfastly committed to keeping that promise. There will always be a light on in Judah, so to speak. Because of this promise, the small faithful remnant in Judah can cling to the restoration and redemption, just like the Shunammite woman got. Likewise, because we have the true and final offspring of David now sitting on the throne of heaven in victory, Jesus Christ, we always have the light of hope for deliverance no matter the darkness that surrounds us.