Elisha ~ Part 12

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:42-44, where we learned about a Grace Satisfies the Hungry in 2 Kings 4:42-44. In this post, we learn about Na’aman who both Needed and Sought the Lord in 2 Kings 5:1-10.

1 Na‘aman, commander of the king of Aram’s army, was highly respected and esteemed by his master; because through him, Adonai had brought victory to Aram. But although he was a brave warrior, he also suffered from tzara‘at [commonly translated as leprosy]. 2 Now on one of their raids into Isra’el’s territory, Aram carried away captive a little girl, who became a servant for Na‘aman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, ‘I wish my lord could go to the prophet in Shomron! He could heal his tzara‘at.’ 4 Na‘aman went in and told his lord, ‘The girl from the land of Isra’el said such-and-such.’ 5 The king of Aram said, ‘Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Isra’el.’

He set out, taking with him 660 pounds of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold and ten changes of clothes. 6 He brought the king of Isra’el the letter, which said, ‘When this letter reaches you, you will see that I have sent my servant Na‘aman to you so that you can heal his tzara‘at.’ 7 When the king of Isra’el finished reading the letter, he tore his clothes. ‘Am I God, able to kill and make alive,’ he asked, ‘so that he sends me a man to heal of tzara‘at? You can see that he is only seeking an excuse to quarrel with me.’ 8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Isra’el had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king: ‘Why did you tear your clothes? Just have him come to me, and he will know that there is a prophet in Isra’el.’

9 So Na‘aman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, who said, ‘Go and bathe in the Yarden seven times. Your skin will become as it was, and you will be clean.’ ~ 2 Kings 5:1-10 (CJB)

Elisha was a miracle-working prophet who ministered to all sorts of people who brought him all kinds of needs. In Chapter 5, we will see Elisha healing a distinguished commander, judging his servant, and helping a lowly student get back to work. It may seem a long way from the high head of the army to a lost ax head, but both were important to God and God’s servant. Like our Lord when He ministered here on earth, Elisha had time for individuals, and he was not influenced by their social standing or their financial worth.

However, as important as the miracles are in this chapter, the theme of ministry is even more critical. The Lord not only gave new life to Na’aman, but He also gave him a new purpose in life, a new ministry. He would return to Syria (Aram) as much more than a commander, for now, he was an ambassador of the true and living God of Israel.

Na’aman Needed the Lord

The king of Syria was Ben Hadad II, and as commander of the army, Na’aman was the number two man in the nation. However, with all his prestige, authority, and wealth, Na’aman was a doomed man because under his uniform was the body of a leper. It appears from verse 11 that the infection was limited to one place, but leprosy tends to spread, and if left unchecked, it ultimately kills. Only the power of the God of Israel could heal him.

Although Na’aman did not realize it, the Lord had already worked on his behalf by giving him victory over the Assyrians: Adonai is the covenant God of Israel, but He is also Lord of all the nations and can use any person, saved or unsaved, to accomplish His will. The Lord also did a gracious thing when He permitted Na’aman to bring the captive Jewish girl into his house to be his wife’s servant. The girl was a slave, but because she trusted the God of Israel, she was free. Even more, she was a humble witness to her mistress. Her words were so convincing that the woman told her husband and he, in turn, informed the king. Never underestimate the power of a simple witness, for God can take words from the lips of a child and carry them to the ears of a king.

Na’aman Sought the Lord

Na’aman could not leave Syria without the king’s permission, and he also needed an official letter of introduction to Yoram, king of Israel. After all, Syria and Israel were enemies, and the arrival of the commander of the Syrian army could be significantly misunderstood. Both Na’aman and Ben Hadad wrongly assumed that the prophet would do whatever the king commanded him to do and that both the king and the prophet would expect to receive expensive gifts in return. For that reason, Na’aman took along 660 pounds of silver, 6,000 pieces of gold and ten changes of clothes. The servant girl had said nothing about kings or gifts; she only pointed to Elisha the prophet and told her mistress what the Lord could do. Unsaved people know nothing about the things of the Lord and only complicate that which is so simple (1 Corinthians 2:14). We are not saved by bringing gifts to God, but by receiving by faith His gift of eternal life.

This was King Yoram’s opportunity to honor the Lord and begin to build peace between Syria and Israel, but he failed to take advantage of it. Although 3:11 suggests that Yoram and Elisha were not close friends, the king did know who Elisha was and what he could do. He also surely knew that Israel’s task was to bear witness to the heathen nations around them (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). However, Yoram’s concerns were personal and political, not spiritual, and he interpreted the letter as a declaration of war. Alarmed by the thought, he impulsively tore his clothes, something that kings rarely did; but his mind was blinded by unbelief and fear, and he did not understand what the Lord was doing.

The prophet was in his home in the city of Samaria, but he knew what the king had said and done in his palace, for God hides from His servants nothing they need to know (Amos 3:7). His message to Yoram must have irritated the king, but at the same time, Elisha was rescuing Yoram from personal embarrassment and possible international complications. Yes, there was a king on the throne, but there was also a prophet in Israel! The king was helpless to do anything, but the prophet was a channel of God’s power.

Elisha knew that Na’aman’s pride had to be humbled before he could be healed. Accustomed to the protocol of the palace, this esteemed leader expected to be recognized publicly and his lavish gifts accepted with exaggerated appreciation, because that is the way kings did things. However, Elisha did not even come out of his house to welcome the man! Instead, he sent a messenger (Geichazi) instructing him to ride thirty-two miles to the Yarden River and immerse himself in it seven times. Then he would be cleansed of his tzara‘at.

Na’aman had been seeking help, and now his search was ended.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we continue with Na’aman as he Resists and Then Trusts the Lord in 2Kings 5:11-15a.

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Elisha ~ Part 11

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:38-41, where we learned about a Grace Removes A Curse in 2 Kings 4:38-41. In this post, we learn about Grace Satisfies the Hungry in 2 Kings 4:42-44.

Grace Satisfies the Hungry

42 A man came from Ba‘al-Shalishah bringing the man of God twenty loaves of bread made from the barley firstfruits and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said, ‘Give this to the people to eat.’ 43 His servant said, ‘How am I to serve this to a hundred men?’ But he said, ‘Give it to the people to eat; for Adonai says that they will eat and have some left over.’ 44 So he served them, and they ate and had some left over, as Adonai had said.” ~ 2 Kings 4:42-44 (CJB)

I do not know about you, but I know I have seen this passage numerous times as I have read through the Scriptures. However, it was not until I began to write this post that I realized the significance with Yeshua feeding the 4,000 and the 5,000 in the Brit Hadashah.

In the northern kingdom of Israel, where Ba‘al-Shalishah was located, there was no official temple dedicated to Adonai, and many of the faithful priests and Levites had left apostate Israel and moved to Judah (1 Kings 12:26-33; 2 Chron. 11:13-17). Since there was no sanctuary to which the people could bring their tithes and offerings, they brought them to the nearest school of the prophets where people faithful to the Mosaic Law would share them.

The firstfruit offerings of grain could be roasted heads of grain, fine flour baked into cakes, or even loaves of bread. All of this would be most welcome to the guild prophets, and indeed the Lord honored the people who refused to bow down to the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. Typically, the firstfruits were reserved for God (Leviticus 23:20) and the Levitical priests (Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4, 5). Though the religion in the northern kingdom was apostate, the man who brought the loaves to Elisha was a representative of the Godly religion in Israel. As a man of God, Elisha qualified as a recipient of these gifts.

There were one hundred hungry men in the group, and though the Lord honored the gifts the man brought, they could not feed all of the men adequately. The situation parallels that of Yeshua and the talmidim. Geichazi question ‘How am I to serve this to a hundred men?’ sounds like Andrew’s question about the five loaves and two fish, “But how far will they go among so many?” ~ John 6:9 (CJB)

However, Elisha knew that the Lord had this difficult situation well under His control. He commanded his servant to set out the bread and grain, and when Geichazi obeyed, there was not only plenty of food for everybody, but there was food left over. The Word of the Lord had announced and accomplished the impossible.

Elisha provides for his prophets, just as he had for the widow. Each of these events establishes the authority of Elisha with the prophets as well as his ability to care for them.

Elisha did not preach a sermon, but the miracle assures us that God knows our needs and meets them as we trust Him. Today we have freezers and supermarkets to supply us with food, and there are food banks to help those who are poor. However, in Elisha’s time, people prepared and consumed their food a day at a time. That is why Yeshua taught us to pray, give us the food we need today ~ Matthew 6:11 (CJB). Out of the riches of His grace, the Lord meets our every need.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we meet Na’aman who both Needed and Sought the Lord in 2 Kings 5:1-10.

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Elisha ~ Part 10

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:29-37 where we learned about a Second Great Miracle in 2 Kings 4:29-37. In this post, we learn about Grace Removes A Curse in 2 Kings 4:38-41.

Grace Removes A Curse

38 Elisha went back to Gilgal. At the time, there was a famine in the land. The guild prophets were sitting before him, and he said to his servant, ‘Put the big pot on the fire, and boil some soup for the prophets.’ 39 One of them went out to the field to gather vegetables and came upon a wild vine, from which he filled the front of his cloak with wild squash. On returning, he cut them up and put them into the stew; they didn’t know what they were. 40 Then they poured it out for the men to eat; but on tasting it, they cried, ‘Man of God! There’s death in that pot!’ And they couldn’t eat it. 41 But he said, ‘Bring some flour. He threw it in the pot, then said, ‘Pour it out for the people to eat.’ This time there was nothing harmful in the pot.” ~ 2 Kings 4:38-41 (CJB)

This story, along with one we will look at next, gives a glimpse into the life of the bands of guild prophets (students) and how God provides for them in times of need. The prophets’ way of life, at least on some occasions, demanded that they forage for their food. They partly supported themselves by such foraging and partly by gifts from pious Israelites.

Elisha is the leader of the band of students at Gilgal near Jericho, where they gather before him for instruction, encouragement, and direction. The famine probably refers to the seven-year famine described in a later encounter with the Shunammite woman (8:1-6). Elisha assumes responsibility for the preparation of the meal, asking Geichazi his servant to make a stew for the men.

Vegetables were scarce, so some of the students went looking in the fields for herbs they could add to the stew. The student who came with a cloak filled with gourds was not knowledgeable about such matters but just brought whatever looked edible. Nobody knew what these gourds were!

The toxic ingredient is generally considered the yellow gourds are known as colocynths, popularly referred to today as apples of Sodom. They can be fatal. [1]

What were the shreds of evidence that there was poison in the pot? The bitter taste of the stew was perhaps the first clue, and the men probably suffered stomach pains and nausea. There had been death in the water at Jericho (2:19-22), and now there was death in the pot at Gilgal. Remember, this was a time of famine and food was scarce. Elisha dropped some flour into the pot, and the Lord removed the poison from the stew.

The flour itself did not make the noxious stew edible, but a miraculous cure was accomplished through the flour. Like Eliyahu, Elisha used flour to demonstrate the concern of God for man. Flour was believed to possess magical power able to remove evil magic. It is often used in magical incantations and rituals in the ancient Near East, but not quite in this way. Sometimes a flour paste is used to make a figurine that is then used in a magical ritual. Other times the flour is sprinkled in a circle around something that the ritual is to be performed on. As is often the case, Elisha is using procedures that would have some familiarity with the world of magic, but never quite in a typical way or with the ritualistic elements. [2]

Elisha neutralized the poison with another miraculous deed. The lesson was that God’s power could protect His people from careless dangers even in a severe famine.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn that Grace Satisfies the Hungry in 2 Kings 4:42-44.

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[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

[2] Ibid.

Elisha ~ Part 9

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:18-27 where we learned about the Great Women’s Sorrow. In this post, we learn about a Second Great Miracle in the life of this Great Woman in 2 Kings 4:29-37.

A Second Great Miracle

29 Then Elisha said to Geichazi, ‘Get dressed for action, take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, don’t greet him; if anyone greets you, don’t answer; and lay my staff on the child’s face.’ 30 The mother of the child said, ‘As Adonai lives, and as you live, I will not leave you.’ He got up and followed her. 31 Geichazi went on ahead of them and laid the staff on the child’s face, but there was no sound or sign of life. So, he went back to Elisha and told him, ‘The child didn’t wake up.’ 32 When Elisha reached the house, there the child was, dead and laid on the bed. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to Adonai. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay on top of the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands. As he stretched himself out on the child, its flesh began to grow warm. 35 Then he went down, walked around in the house awhile, went back up and stretched himself out on the child again. The child sneezed seven times, then opened his eyes. 36 Elisha called Geichazi and said, ‘Call this Shunamit.’ So, he called her; and when she came in to him, he said, ‘Pick up your son. 37 She entered, fell at his feet and prostrated herself on the floor. Then she picked up her son and went out.” ~ 2 Kings 4:29-37 (CJB)

The woman and the servant must have ridden very fast to get to Mount Karmel in time for Elisha and Geichazi to return home with her the same day, and the animal must have been exhausted from such a strenuous trip in the harvest sun.

Why did Elisha send Geichazi ahead? He was probably the younger of the two men and could run faster and get to the house much more quickly. It was important that somebody get back to guard the corpse so that the father would not discover it and have it buried. Geichazi laid his staff on the boy’s body, but nothing happened. (Was this because of what was hidden in his heart?) The woman rode the donkey and Elisha followed after her, but we are not told that he received special power as Eliyahu did when he ran before Ach’av’s chariot (1 Kings 18:46).

Once again, the door was shut on a miracle (4:4; and see Luke 8:51). First, the prophet prayed, and then, following the example of Eliyahu (1 Kings 17:17-24), he stretched himself out over the corpse. He got up and walked in the room, no doubt praying and seeking God’s power, and then he lay on the boy a second time. This time the boy came back to life, sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. The text does not explain the significance of the sneezes unless it was God’s way of expelling something toxic from his lungs. You would think that Elisha would have been overjoyed to take the boy downstairs to his mother, but instead, he called Geichazi, who in turn called the mother.

Image Courtesy of Google Images

However, the story does not end there. We will meet this Great Woman again in 2 Kings 8:1-6 when Elisha announced the coming of a seven-year famine, he also advised the woman to relocate, so she went to dwell with the Philistines. When she returned to claim her property, Geichazi was speaking with the king and telling him about the resurrection of the boy, and his mother showed up in the palace! The king authorized the officials to return her property to her along with whatever income she had lost because of her absence. The death of the boy turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

Only God’s grace can impart life, whether to a barren womb or a dead boy, and only God’s grace can impart spiritual life to the dead sinner (John 5:24; 17:1-3; Ephesians 2:1-10). It was God who gave the boy life, but He used Elisha as the means to do it. So, it is with raising sinners from the dead: God needs witnesses, prayer warriors, and concerned saints to bring that life to them.

“The Holy Ghost works by those who feel they would lay down their own lives for the good of others and would impart to them not only their goods and their instructions but themselves also if by any means they might save some. O for more Elisha’s, for then we should see more sinners raised from their death in sin.”  ~ Charles Spurgeon [1]

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn that Grace Removes A Curse in 2 Kings 4:38-41.

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[1] Quoted in Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament by Warren Wiersbe

Elisha ~ Part 8

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 4:11-17 where we learned that a Great Women bore a son. In this post, we learn about this Great Woman’s Sorrow in 2 Kings 4:18-28.

 18 When the child was old enough, he went out one day to be with his father, who was with the reapers. 19 Suddenly he cried out to his father, ‘My head! My head hurts!’ He said to his servant, ‘Carry him back to his mother.’ 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he lay on her lap until noon; and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door on him and went out. 22 She called to her husband and said, ‘Please send me one of the servants with a donkey. I must get to the man of God as fast as I can; I’ll come straight back.’ 23 He asked, ‘Why are you going to him today? It isn’t Rosh-Hodesh [New Moon] and it isn’t Shabbat.’ She said, ‘It’s all right.’ 24 Then she saddled the donkey and ordered her servant, ‘Drive as fast as you can; don’t slow down for me unless I say so.’ 25 She set out and came to the man of God on Mount Karmel. When the man of God saw her in the distance, he said to Geichazi his servant, ‘Look, here comes that Shunamit.26  Run now to meet her, and ask her, ‘Is everything all right with you? with your husband? with the child?’ She answered, ‘Everything is all right.’ 27 But when she reached the man of God on the hill, she grabbed his feet. Geichazi came up to push her away, but the man of God said, ‘Leave her alone. She is in great distress, but Adonai has hidden from me what it is, he hasn’t told me.’ 28 Then she said, ‘Did I ask my lord for a son? Didn’t I say not to deceive me?” ~ 2 Kings 4:18-28 (CJB)

The Great Woman’s Sorrow

The son was still a young boy when these events occurred, for his mother was able to hold him on her lap and carry his limp body up to Elisha’s room on the roof. The cause of the lad’s illness is not specified, but perhaps the heat of the harvest season affected him. Despite the miraculous birth, she is depicted as resolute in her plight. When the child dies in her arms, she immediately lays the body on the bed of the man of God and prepares to confront Elisha.

Her husband, concerned about bringing in the harvest, is presented as uncompassionate and skeptical. Her request for release of a farm worker in the middle of the harvest is met with the protest of inopportune timing; Shabbat or feast days were the normal time to travel to Mount Karmel when worked ceased and matters of faith were given priority. The fact that she was leaving suggested that the boy was safe, probably taking a nap. No doubt she feared her husband would order an immediate burial, for nobody wants a corpse in the house during the hot harvest season. Her husband wondered why she wanted to see Elisha when it was not a special holy day.

Geichazi’s attitude toward the woman’s coming reveals a dark side in his character that shows up even more in the next chapter (see also Matthew 15:23; 19:13-150. Perhaps the woman and her servant intruded on their afternoon siesta. However, Elisha discerned that something was wrong that Adonai had not revealed to him. Even Yeshua occasionally asked for information (see Mark 5:9; 9:21; John 11:34). Of course, the woman was bitter and heartbroken, and it sounds like she was blaming Elisha for the tragedy. She had not asked for a son, and if Elisha and Geichazi had not interfered, her joy would not have been snatched from her.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we learn that a second Great Miracle in the life of the Great Women in 2 Kings 4:29-37.

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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?