Grace to the Enemy

2 Kings 6:21-23
21 As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?”
22 He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”
23 So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.

A short follow up to yesterday’s story leads us to thoughts of grace when in a position of power. If you will recall, in the midst of a skirmish with the Syrians Elisha has led the enemy right into the heart of the Israelite capital where they are completely vulnerable to slaughter. But once again, we get to see what is inside of God’s heart as He directs His people to treat the captured enemies with grace and mercy. Instead of slaughter, the Syrians are feed a sumptuous feast and sent on their way. This action finally brings peace between Israel and Syria. Taking advantage of their victorious position and wiping out the enemy would have most certainly brought on years of continued battle and struggle. God’s way of peace begets peace.

Proverbs 25:21–22 gives us advice as to how to best deal with those who hate us. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” This seems like the opposite of what should be done. In fact, it goes against everything we have inside of us! Our natural bent is toward revenge. But God’s way is different. He knows that a peaceful answer will cause our enemies to take another look. And that’s always a good outcome. Elisha’s counsel (by God’s Spirit) is wise and unexpected. And the result is felt for years to come. Indeed, every situation is not that neatly resolved for we live with the sins of others and of ourselves every day. But surely the path of peace is always better than the path of slaughter, be it physical, mental, or emotional. This is all tough to do, but worth the reward.