Elisha ~ Part 7

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:8-10 where we introduced to another Great Women. In this post, we continue to learn more about this Great Woman in 2 Kings 4:11-17.

The Great Woman Bears A Son

11 One day Elisha came to visit there, and he went into the upper room to lie down. 12 He said to Geichazi, his servant, ‘Call this Shunamit.’ He called her; and when she arrived, 13 he said to him, ‘Tell her this: ‘You have shown us so much hospitality! What can I do to show my appreciation? Do you want me to say anything to the king for you? or to the commander of the army?’ She answered, ‘I’m happy living as I do, among my own people.’ 14 He said, ‘What, then, is to be done for her?’ Geichazi answered, ‘There’s one thing — she doesn’t have a son, and her husband is old. 15 Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ After he called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 He said, ‘Next year when the season comes around, you will be holding a son.’ ‘No, my lord,’ she answered. ‘Man of God, don’t lie to your servant!’ 17 But the woman conceived and gave birth to a son the following year when the season came around, just as Elisha had said to her.” ~ 2 Kings 4:11-17 (CJB)

The second part of the story introduces Geichazi, the assistant to Elisha, as an intermediary between Elisha and the unnamed woman. The prophet and his servant were resting in the room when Elisha expressed a desire to do something special for the woman because of her kindness to them, and he asked Geichazi to call her so that he could discuss the matter with her. Elisha poses the same question for to her as he did for the widow who came to plead her case: What can I do to show my appreciation? (2 Kings 4:2).

Elisha addressed his words to Geichazi possibly because the woman held Elisha in such high regard that she did not feel worthy to speak with him. However, her reply was humble and brief: I’m happy living as I do, among my own people. She did not want Elisha to intercede with the great God because she had no desire to be treated like a great person. She was hospitable because she wanted to serve the Lord.

Discussion with Geichazi reveals her real need: Unlike the widow, she cannot lose her children, because she has none. Her husband was older than she, so perhaps conception was impossible; but if God could do it for Avraham and Sarah, He could do it for them. It was likely that her husband would precede her in death, and without a family, she would be left alone and without support. Geichazi called her a second time, and this time Elisha spoke to her personally. He gave her a promise that sounded very much like God’s words to Avraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:21; 18:14).

How many blessings husbands with nominal faith have received because of the dedication of their godly wives! The promise was fulfilled, and the woman gave birth to a son. Grace brought life where once there had been no life.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn about this Great Woman’s Sorrow in 2 Kings 4:18-28.

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Elisha ~ Part 6

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:1-7 where we learned that Grace Pays the Debt. In this post, we learn in about another Great Woman in 2 Kings 4:8-10.

8 One day Elisha visited Shunem, and a well-to-do woman living there pressed him to stay and eat a meal. After this, whenever he came through, he stopped there for a meal. 9 She said to her husband, ‘I can see that this is a holy man of God who keeps stopping at our place. 10 Please, let’s build him a little room on the roof. We’ll put a bed and a table in it for him, and a stool and a candlestick. Then, whenever he comes to visit us, he can stay there.’” ~ 2 Kings 4:8-10 (CJB)

In the previous passage, a widow of one of the guild prophets supporting Elisha seeks out his assistance in her dire need. In this second story, a woman of means urges the prophet to accept her hospitality whenever he passes by on his journeys through the Yizre’el Valley. Shunem, also the home of Avishag (1 Kings 1:3), was in Yissakhar (Joshua 19:18). The valley between Shunem and Yizre’el formed a pass to the Jordan River.

Elisha has to pass the location regularly on his journeys from Karmel (4:9); like Sh’mu’el (1 Samuel 7:15-17), he probably follows a circuit in the administration of his duties. The average traveler on foot could cover fifteen to twenty miles per day, so Shunem was the perfect halfway point for Elisha whenever he went to Mount Carmel to pray, meditate, and seek the Lord in a new way. Since Mount Karmel was a very special place because of Eliyahu’s ministry, perhaps there was also a school of the prophets there.

Elisha is regarded as a holy man, distinguished from the other prophets who continue to have regular vocations. This status may have been the reason for providing a separate room for him. Separate quarters protect the family from having inappropriate intimacy with this man of God. The room is furnished simply but adequately for a regular guest.

A Great Woman

This unnamed woman discerned that Elisha was a man of God, and she wanted to serve the Lord by serving His prophet. We get the impression that her husband might have lacked his wife’s spiritual insight, but at least he did not oppose her hospitality to the itinerant preacher. He permitted her to have a permanent room built on the roof of the house and to outfit it with a bed and a table in it for him, and a stool and a candlestick.

In this day of motels and hotels, hospitality to God’s people, and especially God’s servants, is becoming a neglected ministry and a lost blessing. One of the qualifications for an elder is to be hospitable (1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:8). Messianic Jews 13:2 exhorts all believers to practice this virtue. We should open our hearts and homes to others and not complain about it (1 Kefa 4:9).

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we continue to learn more about this Great Woman from Shunem in 2 Kings 4:11-17. We will be learning a lot more about her and her family over the next three posts.

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Elisha ~ Part 5

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 3 Kings 3:11-20 where we learn of another Divine Intervention. In this post, we learn that Grace Pays the Debt in 2 Kings 4:1-7.

1 The wife of one of the guild prophets complained to Elisha. “Your servant, my husband, died,” she said, “and you know that he feared Adonai. Now a creditor has come to take my two children as his slaves.” 2 Elisha asked her, “What should I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She answered, “Your servant has nothing in the house but a flask of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go, and borrow containers from all your neighbors, empty containers; and don’t borrow just a few! 4 Then go in; shut the door, with you and your sons inside; and pour oil into all those containers; and as they are filled, put them aside.” 5 So she left him and shut the door on herself and her sons. They brought her the containers while she poured. 6 When the containers were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container”; but he answered, “There isn’t another container.” Then the oil stopped flowing. 7 She came and told the man of God; and he said, “Go, sell the oil, and pay your debt; then you and your sons can live on what’s left.” ~ 2 Kings 4:1-7 (CJB)

From the great international conflict, Elisha returned to the concerns of the guild prophets. He followed the example of his mentor, Eliyahu, who had ministered to families (1 Kings 17:8-24). The fact that the woman was a widow and the mother of two sons shows that the guild prophets were not a celibate monastic group. It appears that Elisha knew this man and that he had a reputation for godliness.

This nameless widow of the prophets is rescued from anonymity early on in Jewish tradition. Josephus makes her the wife of Obadiah, the servant of Ach’av (1 Kings 18:3-4), who risked his life to save a hundred prophets otherwise to be slain by Izevel (Ant. 9.47-48). The cause of the debt is that Obadiah borrowed money for the maintenance of the prophets while in hiding. After he died his widow and her children are in danger of being carried off into slavery. The widow’s plea is that Elisha will have mercy on her because of the noble deed of her husband in preserving the prophets. The Targums [1] also identify the widow as the wife of Obadiah.

According to Hebrew law, a creditor could take the debtor and the children as servants but was not to treat them like slaves (Exodus 21:1-11; Leviticus 25:29-31; Deuteronomy 15:1-11). It would be heartbreaking for this woman to lose her husband to death and her two sons to servitude, but God is the defender, sustainer and provides justice for the widow (Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalms. 68:5; 146:9) and He sent Elisha to help her.

God often begins with what we already have. Moshe had a rod in his hand, and God used that to accomplish great things (Exodus 4:2). Kefa and his partners had fishing nets in their hands (Luke 5), and the lad had a few loaves and fishes (John 6). All that the poor widow had was a little oil in a vessel. Elisha instructed her to shut the door so that nobody would see that a miracle was occurring in her house, and no doubt she warned her sons to keep quiet. The number of vessels she had limited the amount of oil she received, and that was controlled by her faith. When she sold the oil, she had enough money to pay off the debt and maintain herself and her two sons.

The story of God’s provision is told without embellishment. Elisha asks two questions about the widow’s need and resources, to which she responds. He then tells her what to do, and she dutifully obeys. The oil is a divine gift that is not dependent on the presence of the man of God and cannot be viewed as some trick. No details are given following Elisha’s final instruction (v. 7), but it may be assumed that the woman obeys without question. Her debts are paid, and her family remains together.

The Lord does not always perform miracles of this kind to help us pay our debts, but He does meet our needs if we trust and obey. If we give everything to Him, He can make a little go a long way. This miracle also reminds us of the greatest miracle of all, the gracious forgiveness of our debts to the Lord through faith in Yeshua. It did not cost Elisha anything for God to provide the needed money to pay the debt, but it cost Yeshua His life to be able to forgive us our sins.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn about another Great Woman in 2 Kings 4:8-10.

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[1] An ancient Aramaic paraphrase or interpretation of the Hebrew Bible, of a type made from about the 1st century CE when Hebrew was declining as a spoken language. ~ Oxford Dictionary.

Elisha ~ Part 4

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 2:22-25 to see what can happen when you tease a prophet of God. In this post, we pick up the ministry of Elisha in 3 Kings 3:11-20 where we learn of another Divine Intervention.

We don’t know what Elisha was doing between 3 Kings 2:25 and 3:11, but a little background is essential.

1 Y’horam the son of Ach’av began his reign over Isra’el in Shomron during the eighteenth year of Y’hoshafat king of Y’hudah, and he ruled for twelve years. 2 He did what was evil from Adonai’s perspective; but he was not as bad as his father and mother, because he got rid of Ba’al’s standing-stone which his father had made.” ~ 2 Kings 3:1-2 (CJB) 5 But after Ach’av died, the king of Mo’av rebelled against the king of Isra’el. 6 Y’horam left Shomron and mustered all Isra’el. 7 He also went and sent this word to Y’hoshafat king of Y’hudah: “The king of Mo’av has rebelled against me. Will you join me in attacking Mo’av?” He answered, “I will join in the attack — I’m with you all the way; think of my people and horses as yours…” 2 Kings 3:5-7a (CJB) 9 So the king of Isra’el set out, along with the king of Y’hudah and the king of Edom. After a roundabout journey of seven days, there was no water for either the army or the animals following them.” 2 Kings 3:9 (CJB)

Map by Crossway Bibles

A Divine Intervention

11 But Y’hoshafat said, “Isn’t there a prophet of Adonai here through whom we can consult Adonai?” One of the servants of the king of Isra’el answered, “Elisha the son of Shafat is here, the one who used to pour water on Eliyahu’s hands.” 12 Y’hoshafat said, “The word of Adonai is with him.” So, the king of Isra’el, Y’hoshafat and the king of Edom went down to consult him.

13 Elisha said to the king of Isra’el, “What do you and I have in common? Go, consult your father’s prophets and your mother’s prophets!” But the king of Isra’el answered him, “No, because Adonai has called these three kings together to hand them over to Mo’av.” 14 Elisha said, “As Adonai-Tzva’ot lives, before whom I stand if I didn’t respect the fact that Y’hoshafat the king of Y’hudah is here, I wouldn’t even look in your direction or take notice of you. 15 But now, bring me a musician.” As the musician played, the hand of Adonai fell on Elisha; 16 and he said, “Adonai says to dig until this valley is full of trenches. 17 For here is what Adonai says: ‘You won’t see wind, and you won’t see rain. Nevertheless, the valley will be filled with water; and you will drink — you, your cattle and your other animals. 18 That’s an easy thing to do, from Adonai’s perspective. He will also hand Mo’av over to you. 19 You will conquer every fortified city and every choice town; you will chop down every good tree, stop up every well and ruin every good field with stones.” 20 The next morning, around the time for making the offering, water came from the direction of Edom, and the countryside was filled with water.” ~ 2 Kings 3:11-20 (CJB)

Elisha made it clear that he wasn’t helping Y’horam, son of Ach’av, but Y’hoshafat, son of David. Once again, it is God’s covenant with David that introduces the grace of God and brings about God’s rescue of His people.

The musician brought quietness to the prophet’s mind and heart and helped to facilitate his communion with the Lord. That can help us as well. After quieting his soul, Elisha revealed God’s plan. The kings were to command their soldiers to dig trenches in the dry valley. God would send rain in the distant mountains, but the army of Moav wouldn’t know it because there would be no sound of wind or storm. The rain would create a flood that would move down from the mountains and cover the arid plain. Some of the water would collect in the trenches and be available for the men and beasts to drink. But God would also use those pools to deceive and defeat the army of Moav.

Then Elisha added that God would enable the three armies to defeat the army of Moav, but it must be a complete victory. They were to tear down, stone by stone, all the fortified cities in Moav and throw the stones in the fields. They must also cut down the trees and stop up the wells. In other words, the three armies should so destroy Moav’s resources that they would not be able to regroup and start fighting back. And we learn in the rest of Chapter 3 they accomplished their mission.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn that Grace Pays the Debt in 2 Kings 4:1-7.

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Elisha ~ Part 3

In my last post, we examined Elisha’s second miracle in 2 Kings 2:19-22 ~ Healing of Bad Water. In this post, we continue to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 2:22-25 to see what can happen when you tease a prophet of God.

23 Elisha left to go up to Beit-El. As he was on his way up the road, some boys came out of the town and began making fun of him. “Go on up, baldy! Go on up, baldy!” 24 He looked behind him, saw them and put a curse on them in the name of Adonai; whereupon two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. 25 He went on from there to Mount Karmel and then returned to Shomron.” ~ 2 Kings 2:23-25 (CJB)

Go on Up, Baldy

Graphic courtesy of Google Images

This event took place at Beit-El, one of the locations that had become a center for idol worship in the land (1 Kings 12:28-33; Amos 7:13). Recall that Beit-El means House of God. The Hebrew word translated boys refers to people from twelve to thirty years old who were able to discern right from wrong and make their own decisions. This was not a group of playful children making a clever joke but a gang of smart-aleck youths maliciously ridiculing God and God’s servant.

Because he knew the Word of God, Elisha understood that what they were doing was a violation of God’s covenant, so he called down a curse upon them. (One of the covenant warnings was that God would send wild beasts to attack the people. See Lev. 26:21-22.) These young men were not showing respect to Adonai, Eliyahu or Elisha, so they had to be judged. The two bears mauled the youths but didn’t kill them, and for the rest of their days, their scars reminded everybody that they couldn’t trifle with the Lord and get away with it.

We frequently find the Lord sending special judgments at the beginning of a new period in Bible history, as though God were issuing a warning to His people that the new beginning doesn’t mean that the old rules have been changed. After the tabernacle ministry began, God killed Nadav and Avihu for offering strange fire before the Lord (Leviticus 10). After Israel’s first victory in the Promised Land, God ordered Akhan to be slain because he took treasures from the spoils of war that were wholly dedicated to God (Joshua 7). At the outset of David’s reign in Jerusalem, he had the Ark of the Covenant brought to the city, and ‘Uzah was killed for touching it (2 Samuel 6:1-7). [1] When Hananyah (Ananias) and Sappirah (Saphira) lied to the leaders in the early church, God took their lives (Acts 5). Now, at the beginning of Elisha’s ministry, the mauling of the youths gave fair warning that the Lord God of Eliyahu was still reigning and still took His covenant seriously.

The attitude displayed by these youths, as it spread through the land, is what eventually led to the fall of both Shamron (Samaria) and Y’hudah. “The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising His words and scoffing at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD rose against His people until there was no remedy.” ~ 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (ESV)

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we pick up the ministry of Elisha in 3 Kings 3:11-20 where we learn of another Divine Intervention.

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[1] I confess that I still have a tough time with this punishment of ‘Uzah. After all, he was just trying to steady the Ark so it wouldn’t fall. Why wasn’t David punished for ordering the Ark to be transported on a cart instead of being carried by the priests as God had instructed?

Elisha ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began our study of Elisha by returning to 2 Kings 2:13-18 where Elisha picks up the mantle of Eliyahu and Parts the Yarden River. In this post, we continue to explore the ministry of Elisha by examining his second miracle in 2 Kings 2:19-22 ~ Healing of Bad Water.

19 The men of the city said to Elisha, “My lord can see that this is a pleasant city [Yericho] to live in; but the water is bad so that the ground is causing miscarriages.” 20 “Bring me a new jug,” he said, “and put salt in it.” They brought it to him. 21 He went out to the source of the water, threw salt into it and said, “This is what Adonai says: ‘I have healed this water; it will no longer cause death or miscarrying.’” 22 The water was healed and has remained healed to this day, in keeping with Elisha’s spoken word.” ~ 2 Kings 2:19-22 (CJB)

Healing the Bad Water

I don’t know about you, but I am not a fan of salt water. We live in an area that has hard water, so we have a water softener. And what do I have to do about every six to eight weeks? Heft forty-pound bags of water softener salt into the tank. Go figure!

The passage describes Elisha’s role as a channel for God’s works by performing his second miracle ” one that demonstrated the practical benefits of God’s great acts. Not only did Elisha enjoy the loyalty of the guild prophets, but the leaders of Yericho also respected him and sought his help. It should be no surprise to us that the water at Yericho was distasteful and the soil unproductive, for the city was under a curse (Joshua 6:26).

The history of the water problem at the Ain es-Sultan spring by Yericho can be reviewed in the comments on Joshua 6:26 and 1 Kings 16:34. An alternative to the parasite theory suggested in those comments is that the geological shifts that could have been related to the fall of Yericho brought the spring water into contact with radioactivity in the rock layers that polluted the water and caused sterility. 1

This miracle reminds us of the miracle at Marah (“bitter“), when Moshe threw in a piece of wood and healed the water (Exodus 15:22-26). At Marah, God revealed Himself to His people as Adonai Roph’ekha (Rapha) The Lord Who Heals.”

The miracle was an “action sermon” that reminded the people that the blessings of God were for a nation that was loyal to His covenant. To disobey His law meant to forfeit His blessings (Deuteronomy 28:15ff).

If you are permitted to visit Yericho today, tour guides will point out Elisha’s fountain and invite you to take a drink.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, Elisha curses those who call him Baldy in 2 Kings 2:23-25.

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1 The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Elisha ~ Part 1

In my last post, we completed our series on Eliyahu from the Tanakh and Brit Hadasah. In this post, we will begin a new series on Elisha. We were briefly introduced to Elisha as we studied Eliyahu, but he was left holding Eliyahu’s mantle (cloak)as he saw him taken up to heaven in the fiery chariot. We begin our study of Elisha by returning to 2 Kings 2:13-18 where Elisha picks up the mantle of Eliyahu and Parts the Yarden River.

13 Then he picked up Eliyahu’s cloak, which had fallen off him. Standing on the bank of the Yarden, 14 he took the cloak that had fallen off Eliyahu, struck the water and said, ‘Where is Adonai, the God of Eliyahu?’ But when he actually did strike the water, it divided itself to the left and to the right; then Elisha crossed over. 15 When the guild prophets of Yericho saw him in the distance, they said, ‘The spirit of Eliyahu does rest on Elisha.’ Advancing to meet him, they prostrated themselves on the ground before him 16 and said to him, ‘Here now, your servants include fifty strong men. Please let them go and look for your master, in the event that the Spirit of Adonai has taken him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.’ He answered, ‘Don’t send them.’ 17 But they kept pressing him until finally, embarrassed, he said to send them. So they sent fifty men. For three days they searched, but they didn’t find him. 18 On returning to him where he was waiting in Yericho, he said to them, ‘I told you not to go, didn’t I?’” ~ 2 Kings 2:13-18 (CJB)

Background [1]

The work of Eliyahu and Elisha formed two parts of one whole, the one supplementing the other, and though there are obvious parallels between them, there are also marked contrasts. Both of them were prophets; both dwelt in Samaria, both were confronted with much the same situation. The falling of Eliyahu’s mantle upon Elisha intimated that the latter was the successor of the former and that he was called upon to continue his mission. The first miracle performed by Elisha was identical with the last one wrought by his master: the parting of the waters of the Yarden with the mantle.

Striking as the points of agreement are between the two prophets, the contrasts in their careers and work are just as vivid. The one appeared suddenly and dramatically on the stage of public action, without a word being told us concerning his origin or how he had been previously engaged; but of the other, the name of his father is recorded, and an account is given of his occupation at the time he received his call into God’s service. The first miracle of Eliyahu was the shutting up of the heavens, so that for the space of three and a half years there was no rain according to his word; whereas the first public act of Elisha was to heal the springs of water (2 Kings 2:21, 22) and to provide abundance of water for the people (3:20).

The principal difference between them is seen in the character of the miracles wrought by and connected with them: the majority of those performed by the former were associated with death and destruction, but the vast majority of those attributed to Elisha were works of healing and restoration: the one was more the prophet of judgment, the other of grace. The former was marked by loneliness, dwelling apart from the apostate masses; the latter seems to have spent most of his time in the company of the prophets, presiding over their schools. The one was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire, the other fell sick in old age and died a natural death (2 Kings 13:20).

Eliyahu was gone, and Elisha couldn’t turn to him for help, but the God of Israel was still on the throne. From now on, Elisha’s faith would put him in touch with the power of God and enable him to accomplish God’s work in Israel. Three miracles are recorded in the remainder of 2 Kings 2, each with spiritual messages that we need to understand today. We will examine the first in this post.

Crossing the River

Why did Eliyahu leave the Promised Land and go to the other side of the Yarden? Was he abandoning his own country and people? Indeed, God’s whirlwind could have lifted him just as easily from Beit-el or Yericho. Technically, Eliyahu was still in Israelite territory when he crossed the river since Reuven and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh had their inheritance east of the Yarden. But there was more involved. By taking Elisha west of the Yarden, Eliyahu forced him to trust God to get him across the river and back into the land! Eliyahu’s successor was now like Y’hoshua ~ he had to believe that God could and would open the river for him.

In taking up Eliyahu’s mantle, Elisha was making it clear that he accepted the responsibilities involved as he succeeded the great prophet and continued his work. By using the mantle to open the waters of the Yarden, he was declaring that his faith was not in the departed prophet but the ever-present living God. Indeed, we ought to honor the memories and accomplishments of departed leaders. “Remember your leaders, those who spoke God’s message to you. Reflect on the results of their way of life and imitate their trust.” ~ Hebrews 13:7 (CJB) Elisha called on the God of Eliyahu to assist him, and the Lord honored his faith. Elisha wasn’t a clone of Eliyahu, but the two men had this in common: they both had faith in the true and living God.

Elisha’s miraculous crossing of the Yarden River not only demonstrated the power of God and the faith of His servant, but it also announced to the guild prophets that Elisha was their new leader. When God opened the Yarden, so the tribes Israel could cross into the Promised Land, He used that miracle to magnify Y’hoshua’s name and declare that His hand was upon the new leader. No matter how they were trained or chosen, true spiritual leaders assure their followers of their divine calling by demonstrating the power of God in their lives. So you will recognize them by their fruit.” ~ Matthew 7:20 (CJB)

The fifty guild prophets who saw Elisha cross the river on the dry ground had no problem submitting to him and accepting his leadership because God’s power was evident in his ministry.

But the fifty servants didn’t believe that their former leader had gone to heaven; they asked for on-site verification. God had openly demonstrated that Elisha was their new leader, so why search for Eliyahu? And why would the Lord catch His servant up in the whirlwind only to abandon him in some forsaken part of the country? Is that the kind of God they served? The entire enterprise was ridiculous, and Elisha permitted the search only because he was annoyed by their repeated requests. When the search parties returned to Elisha at Jericho, he at least had the privilege of telling them, ‘I told you not to go, didn’t I?’

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. We will examine Elisha’s second miracle in 2 Kings 2:19-22 ~ Healing of Bad Water.

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[1] Material in this section has been gleaned from “Interpretation of Scripture” by A.W. Pink and “Biblical Exposition Commentary -Old Testament” by Warren Weirsbe.

Eliyahu ~ Part 20

In my last post, we explored other references to Eliyahu in the Tanakh and Brit Hadasah. In this post, we will continue our study of Eliyahu by examining passages in the Brit Hadashah that refer to him. There are multiple references to Eliyahu in the Gospels and rather than try to put them in chronological order; I have decided to start with Mattityahu (Mathew) and go thru to Yochanan (John) before moving on to the epistles.

Our first reference in Mattityahu is in answer to Yeshua’s question to his talmidim on who people were saying He is. “They said, ‘Well, some say Yochanan the Immerser, others Eliyahu, still others Yirmeyahu (Jeremiah)or one of the prophets.’” ~ Matthew 16:14 (CJB) (see also Mark 8:28 and Luke 9:19). It had been prophesied that Eliyahu would come again, and some thought that this prediction was fulfilled in Yeshua. However, Yeshua did not minister as did Eliyahu. Yochanan the Immerser had previously been associated with Eliyahu and baptized Yeshua. He had already been beheaded by Herod, so it’s hard for me to understand how Yeshua could have been mistaken for him. Yirmeyahu was the weeping prophet whose tender heart was broken at the sight of the decay of the nation. Certainly, this attitude was seen in Yeshua, the Man of sorrows. As Warren Wiersbe says: One thing is clear: We can never make a true decision about Jesus Christ by taking a poll of the people.”[1]

As an aside, there are several passages relating Eliyahu to Yochanan the Immerser in the Brit Hadashah. Perhaps the two most telling are Yochanan’s denial and Yeshua’s clarification of the relationship. The Priests and Levites from Yerushalayim asked him, Who are you?’ he was very straightforward and stated clearly, ‘I am not the Messiah.’ ‘Then who are you?’ they asked him. ‘Are you Eliyahu? ‘No, I am not,’ he said.” (emphasis added.) ~ John 1:19b-21a (CJB) In referring to Yochanan the Immerser, Yeshua stated: I tell you that Eliyahu has come, and they did whatever they pleased to him, just as the Tanakh says about him.” ~ Mark 9:13 (CJB) Clearly, Yochanan had ministered in the spirit and power of Eliyahu.

We now come to one of my favorite passages, Yeshua on the Mount of Transfiguration. “Yeshua took Kefa, Ya‘akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. 2 As they watched, he began to change form — his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light. 3 Then they looked and saw Moshe and Eliyahu speaking with him. 4 Kefa said to Yeshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Lord. I’ll put up three shelters if you want — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” 6 When the talmidim heard this, they were so frightened that they fell face down on the ground. 7 But Yeshua came and touched them. “Get up!” he said, “Don’t be afraid.” 8 So they opened their eyes, looked up and saw only Yeshua by himself.” ~ Matthew 17:1-8 (CJB) Similar passages also appear in Mark 9:2ff and Luke 9:28ff.

The presence of Moshe and Eliyahu was significant Moshe represented the Law and Eliyahu the prophets. All of the Law and Prophets point to Yeshua and are fulfilled in the Messiah (Luke 24:27; Hebrews 1:1). Not one word of the Tanakh Scriptures will be unfulfilled. But why Eliyahu? Why not Yesha’yahu, Yirmeyahu or one of the other great prophets of old? Perhaps Luke answers that for us in his version of this passage. They (Moshe and Eliyahu) appeared in glorious splendor and spoke of his exodus, which he was soon to accomplish in Yerushalayim. Luke 9:31 (CJB) Clearly, both had experience with their own exodus experience.

Continuing in Mattityahu, the next and last reference to Eliyahu is during Yeshua’s crucifixion as He quotes from Psalm 22. 46 At about three, Yeshua uttered a loud cry, “Eli! Eli! L’mah sh’vaktani? (My God! My God! Why have you deserted me?)” 47 On hearing this, some of the bystanders said, “He’s calling for Eliyahu.” 48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, soaked it in vinegar, put it on a stick and gave it to him to drink. 49 The rest said, “Wait! Let’s see if Eliyahu comes and rescues him.” 50 But Yeshua, again crying out in a loud voice, yielded up his spirit.” ~ Matthew 27:46-50 (CJB) Apparently, the crowd wasn’t as well versed in the Tanakh as we might expect. Eli is not a nickname for Eliyahu but is in fact “My God.” Yeshua was reciting the first verse of Psalm 21. In Jewish tradition, the first verse is sufficient for reference to the entire passage. Tradition also held that Psalm 21 was and is a Messianic passage.

Sha’ul makes a brief comment on Eliyahu in Romans 11:2 referring back to the material we previously covered in 1 King 19.

Our last direct reference to Eliyahu is in James 5:17 which I have previously shared, but I think is worthy of an encore. Eliyahu was only a human being like us, yet he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and no rain fell on the Land for three years and six months.” James 5:17 (CJB) I think that it is critical for us to remember that, except for Yeshua, all the Biblical characters were just as flawed as many of us, yet they were also obedient to God’s will for them.

Finally, as I declared in my blog post on The Two Witnesses in Revelation 11:3-6, I firmly believe that the two witnesses are Hanokh and Eliyahu.

In my next post, we will begin to explore the life of Elisha.

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[1] Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament by Warren Wiersbe.

Eliyahu ~ Part 19

In my last post, we saw Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service. In this post, we explore other references to Eliyahu in the Tanakh and Brit Hadasah.

There are a few more references to Eliyahu about Elisha’s ministry in 2 Kings 2:13-15 and 3:11. (I’m still not sure whether I will dig into Elisha after the conclusion of this series.)  There are also a few references in conjunction with King Ach’av that we previously examined in 2 Kings 9:35; 10:10 and 10:17.

In 2 Chronicles 21:12, we come across another word of God through Eliyahu before he ascended in the fiery chariot.

12 A letter came to him [King Y’horam] from Eliyahu the prophet which said, “Here is what Adonai, the God of David your ancestor, says: ‘You have not lived by the examples of Y’hoshafat your father or Asa king of Y’hudah. 13 Instead you have lived by the example of the kings of Isra’el and have caused Y’hudah and the people living in Yerushalayim to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ach’av caused [Isra’el] to prostitute themselves. Moreover, you killed your brothers from your father’s house, men better than you. 14 Because of all this, Adonai is going to strike your people with a terrible disease, also your children, your wives and everything you have. 15 You will be very ill from a disease in your intestines, until your intestines protrude, because of the effects of this disease, day after day.’” 2 Chronicles 21:12-15 (CJB)

 Eliyahu was alive and ministering during the early part of Y’horam’s reign. We don’t know how much time elapsed between the accession of Y’horam, King of Israel, and the ascension of Eliyahu. Writing this letter to the king of Y’hudah may have been one of Eliyahu’s last ministries.

The prophet reminded Y’horam of three great kings of Judah: David, who founded the royal dynasty; Asa, a godly king who purged the land of evil; and Y’horam’s father, Y’hoshafat. Instead of following in the ways of these kings, Y’horam patterned himself after Ach’av. As a consequence, the people followed his bad example, and it wasn’t difficult for him to make Ba’al worship famous in Y’hudah, the one place where Adonai should have been worshiped without compromise.

Not only was Y’horam an idolater, but he was also a murderer and killed his brothers; so the Lord would now cause him to reap what he had sown. The enemy would invade and loot the kingdom of Y’hudah and take Y’horam’s treasures as well as his wives and sons. Then, the king would be afflicted with an incurable bowel disease that would give him great pain and ultimately take his life. Both of these predictions came true.

The Philistines and the Arabs invaded Y’hudah, robbed the palace of its treasures, and took Y’horam’s wives and sons, except for young Achazyah. The king contracted a painful, lingering bowel disease and died after two years. But the people didn’t mourn his death, nor did they stage the traditional “royal bonfire” in his honor. But perhaps the most humiliating thing was that his body wasn’t placed in a royal tomb, although he was buried in the city of David.

Was Y’horam’s compromise worth it? Of course not! There can be a way which seems right to a person, but at its end are the ways of death.” ~ Proverbs 16:25 (CJB)

We may be more familiar with the last reference to Eliyahu in the Tanakh:

“Look, I will send to you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible Day of Adonai.” ~  Malachi 4:5 (CJB)

The promise in Malachi 4:5 was often discussed and debated by the Jewish rabbis who asked, “Who is the Y’hoshafat whom the Lord will send?” The Jewish leaders interrogated Yochanan the Immerser about it (Yochanan 1:19-21), and Kefa, Ya’akov, and Yochanan asked Yeshua about it (Matthew 17:10).

The prophet Eliyahu is mentioned at least thirty times in the Brit Hadashah, and ten of those references relate him to Yochanan the Immerser. But Yochanan the Immerser said that he was no Eliyahu (Yochanan 1:21, 25). He did come in the “spirit and power” of Eliyahu and turn the hearts of fathers and children (Luke 1:16-17). Like Eliyahu, Yochanan was a courageous man, a man of prayer empowered by the Spirit, a man who lived alone in the wilderness, and a servant who turned many people back to the Lord, but he was not Eliyahu returned to earth.

However, for those who believed in Yeshua during His earthly ministry, Yochanan the Immerser performed the work of Eliyahu in their lives: he prepared them to meet the Lord. Yeshua declared: Indeed if you are willing to accept it, he is Eliyahu, whose coming was predicted. ~ Matthew 11:14 (CJB) Yeshua also said: On the one hand, Eliyahu is coming and will restore all things; 12 on the other hand, I tell you that Eliyahu has come already, and people did not recognize him but did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way, the Son of Man too is about to suffer at their hands.” ~ Matthew 17:11-12 (CJB)

But Malachi 4:5 promises that Eliyahu himself will come, and that his coming is related to the great and terrible Day of the Lord that will burn the wicked like stubble (v. 1). That’s why Yeshua made the declaration in did in Matthew 17 above. Since the great and terrible Day of the Adonai has yet to occur, we have to believe that Yochanan the Immerser was not the promised Eliyahu, even though he ministered like Eliyahu. Therefore, this prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.

In my next post, we will explore additional passages in the Brit Hadashah that relate to Eliyahu.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 18

In my last post, we continued in 2 Kings 2:1-6 where we learn what God Wants Us to Remember. In this post, we examine 2 Kings 2:7-12 as we see Eliyahu riding a fiery chariot into heaven as God’s Reward for Service.

7 Fifty of the guild prophets went and stood watching them from a distance, while they stood by the Yarden. 8 Then Eliyahu took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it; and the water divided itself to the left and to the right; so that they crossed on dry ground. 9 After they had crossed, Eliyahu said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away from you.” Elisha said, “Please! Let a double share of your spirit be on me!” 10 He replied, “You have requested a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, you will get what you asked for; but if not, you won’t.”

11 Suddenly, as they were walking on and talking, there appeared a fiery chariot with horses of fire; and as it separated the two of them from each other, Eliyahu went up into heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Isra’el!” Then he lost sight of him. Seizing his clothes, he tore them in half.” ~ 2 Kings 2:7-12 (CJB)

God’s Reward for Service

As Eliyahu and Elisha stood by the Yarden River, they were watched by fifty of the guild prophets, men who stood afar off. They knew that Eliyahu was going to leave that day, but they didn’t know how he would depart or when God would call him. It’s likely that only Elisha saw Eliyahu go up into heaven, and after the prophet disappeared, the fifty students thought he hadn’t left them. They saw Eliyahu open the waters of the Yarden and close them again, and they saw Elisha repeat the miracle, but they didn’t see what Elisha saw when the whirlwind took Eliyahu to heaven. The fifty men were spectators that saw only part of what happened, but Elisha was a participant in the miracle and the heir to Eliyahu’s ministry.

Eliyahu didn’t give his successor three wishes; he merely asked him to name the one gift he wanted more than anything else. Every leader needs to be right in his priorities, and Elisha had a ready answer: he wanted a double portion of the spirit of his master. This was not a request for twice as much of the Holy Spirit, or for a ministry twice as great as that of Eliyahu, but for a greater degree of the inner spirit that motivated the great prophet. The request was based on Deuteronomy 21:17, the law of inheritance for the firstborn. Though there were many guild prophets, Elisha saw himself as Eliyahu’s firstborn son who deserved the double inheritance that Moshe commanded. Like a firstborn son serving a father, Elisha had walked with Eliyahu and attended to his needs, but the only inheritance he desired was a double measure of his master’s inner spirit of courage, faithfulness, faith in God, and obedience to God’s will. In saying this, Elisha was accepting the prophetic ministry that Eliyahu had begun and declared that he would carry it on to completion, with God’s help.

Up, Up and Away

Eliyahu was honest with his friend and told him that such a gift was not his to grant, for only the Lord could do it. However, if the Lord allowed Elisha to see his ascendance from earth to heaven, that would be proof that his request had been granted. Then it happened! As the two friends walked along talking, a fiery chariot drawn by fiery horses came between them, and a whirlwind lifted Eliyahu out of sight—and Elisha saw it happen! This meant his request had been granted and the Lord had equipped him to continue the ministry of Eliyahu. Eliyahu was undoubtedly the prophet of fire, for Scripture records at least three instances of his bringing fire from heaven (1 Kings 18:38; 2 Kings 1:10 and 12), so it was right that God sends fiery horses and a chariot of fire to accompany His servant to glory.

Elisha’s response was one of grief, like a son mourning over the loss of a beloved father. But he paid high tribute to Eliyahu when he called him the chariots and horsemen of Isra’el. This one man was the equivalent of a whole army! In His covenant with Israel, the Lord promised that, if the nation obeyed Him, He would enable a hundred Israelites to chase ten thousand enemy soldiers (see Leviticus 26:6-8), and Moshe promised that God would cause one man to pursue a thousand and two men to chase ten thousand (see Deuteronomy 32:30). One plus God is a majority.

To me, this is one of the most fascinating passages in scripture. While it is reminiscent of Moshe parting the Red Sea at the Lord’s direction and the Yarden parting when the priest carried the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the river so that the Israelites could cross on a dry river bed into the promised land, the fiery chariot with horses of fire transporting Eliyahu into heaven ~ WOW!

Now, you may be thinking that we have completed our character study of Eliyahu since he has ascended into heaven, but scripture has more to say about him. In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. We will be looking at both the remainder of the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah for references to this fascinating prophet of God.

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