Prophecy and Prophets ~ Part 3

In my last post, we examined that prophecy can be either telling the future aka fore-telling and revealing God’s Word for a particular issue aka forth-telling. In this post, I want to dig into the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and the Office of the Prophet within the Kehilah in our time.

My go-to source for explaining the Spiritual Gifts listed in the Brit Hadashah is C. Peter Wagner. I highly recommend his “Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow.” For purposes of this post, I will limit the listing of Spiritual Gifts to Sha’ul’s proclamation:

“To one, through the Spirit, is given a word of wisdom; to another, a word of knowledge, in accordance with the same Spirit; 9 to another, faith, by the same Spirit; and to another, gifts of healing, by the one Spirit; 10 to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecy; to another, the ability to judge between spirits; to another, the ability to speak in different kinds of tongues; and to yet another, the ability to interpret tongues.” ~ 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 (CJB)

Wagner defines the gift of prophecy as:

“The supernatural gift that God gives to certain members of the Body of Christ to receive and communicate an immediate message of God to His people through a divinely anointed utterance.”

Now, some in the Body (cessationists) maintain that the revelatory gifts such as prophecy and tongues ceased sometime between the deaths of the Apostles and the confirmation of the Brit Hadashah canon. Continuationists believe that all gifts of the Spirit continue according to the sovereign Spirit’s purposes until Yeshua returns. As my Pastor would say, these are disputable matters. I align with the continuationists.

Sha’ul has a lot to say about prophecy and tongues in chapter 14 of 1 Corinthians. When we look carefully at the phenomena he describes and his instructions on their application and evaluation, we find that it aligns more accurately with an understanding of prophecy as Spirit prompted, subordinate revelation that we should expect to be partially or fallibly reported, and therefore intended to be tested against and subject to apostolic and prophetic authoritative revelation contained in the canon of the Tanakh and the Brit Hadashah.[1]

“Pursue love! However, keep on eagerly seeking the things of the Spirit; and especially seek to be able to prophesy.” ~ 1 Corinthians 14:1 (CJB) This is not an option; it’s an instruction. It’s not a suggestion it’s an imperative. We need to trust and obey after we have tested the utterance.

All the spiritual gifts are given to the Body and must be under the supervision of the Body. For us, that usually means under the authority of the Pastor and Elders in the local Kehilah.

While fore-telling may be rare in our day, forth-telling should be an everyday occurrence. The Tanakh is replete with examples of the prophets calling Isra’el to repent and return to God. That was the clear message of Yochanan the Immerser and Yeshua’s first proclamation (Mark 1:15).

When was the last time you shared the Gospel message (forth-telling)?

In my next post, I will begin an in-depth study of one of my favorite prophets ~ Yesha’yahu (Isaiah).

[1] Jon Bloom, desiringgod.org.

Prophecy and Prophets ~ Part 2

In my last post, we began this short mini-series on Prophecy & Prophets be looking at some of the named prophets in the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah. I used the definition of a prophet in the Bible from GotQuestion.org: someone who revealed God’s message through writing or speech. The operative phrase here is God’s message.

Both the Tanakh and Brit Hadashah contain many references to false prophets. Their messages are not from God but HaSatan himself. We are warned to test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~ 1 John 4:1 (CJB)

So, what is prophecy; or is it prophesy? Well, prophecy is the noun form and prophesy the verb form. Taking you back to your English instruction, prophecy is the message; prophesy is the instrument of telling the message.

Prophecy can be either telling the future aka fore-telling and revealing God’s Word for a particular issue aka forth-telling.

One of my favorite passages of fore-telling is:

“He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds, we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” ~ Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV)

Scripture presents fore-telling as a manifestation of God’s power glorifying His Person, exalting His redemptive work in the Messiah, and setting forth the divine character of His revealed Word. We certainly observed God’s power when studying the ministries of Eliyahu and Elisha.

True prophets also have another responsibility to discharge. It was part of their commission to proclaim [prophesy] to my people what rebels they are, to the house of Ya’akov their sins. ~ Isaiah 58:1 (CJB) (see also Ezekiel 22:2; Ezekiel 43:10; Micah 3:8). They were, therefore, pastors and ministerial monitors of the people of God. It was their duty to admonish and reprove, to denounce prevailing sins, to threaten the people with the terrors of divine judgment, and to call them to repentance. Their function differed from that of the priests, the latter approaching God in behalf of humanity using sacrifices, the former coming to the people as ambassadors from God, beseeching them to turn from their evil ways and live. Gee that sounds an awful lot like our modern-day pastors.

The test of a prophet in the Tanakh, whether true or false, was not whether the predictions came true, for even the predictions of false prophets could come true. The test was rather whether the people were led in the ways of God (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Jerimiah 23:21-22,29-32). Nevertheless, if a prophet made a bold assertion that the prediction would come true and it did not, it was a false prophecy (Deuteronomy 18:22). If prophets were truly God’s messengers, their chief concern was not with foretelling events, but with leading people to repentance and obedience (Micah 3:8; 7:18; Zephaniah 2:1-3). Those tests are still true today.

Many of you may have been reading through The Revelation of Yeshua the Messiah to Yochanan recently and read in the final chapter His warning: “I warn everyone hearing the words of the prophecy in this book that if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues written in this book. 19 And if anyone takes anything away from the words in the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the Tree of Life and the holy city, as described in this book.” ~ Revelation 22:18-19 (CJB) Like so many passages of Scripture, that can be a tough one to interpret.

In my next post, I want to dig into the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy and the Office of the Prophet within the Kehilah in our time.

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Prophecy and Prophets ~ Part 1 

In my last post, we concluded our exploration of the life of Elisha as we learned of Elisha’s Death. As I stated then, after studying the lives of Eliyahu and Elisha, I wanted to look at this whole concept of what is a prophet and are prophets still on the scene today. I had been intrigued with Eliyahu and Elisha because they were prominent figures in the Tanakh but had not written one of the canonical prophetic books.

Despite my verse-by-verse exploration of Revelation in the End Times Series during 2017, I don’t consider myself a “prophesy nut or expert.” I am quite satisfied that God is still on the throne and only He knows when He will return to vanquish the wicked and begin His millennial rule.

A reliable source tells me that at least two more years will be needed to reach the last known people groups on planet earth that have not heard the Gospel message, don’t have the Bible in their language and have not formed a local Kehilah. That said, why am I interested in exploring further what is a prophet and are prophets still on the scene today?

I started the research for this series not in my extensive library, but on Google. My query for a list of prophets in the Bible led me to GotQuestions. Their definition for who was a prophet is “someone in the Bible who revealed God’s message to others.” Note the past tense in that definition. Some heard directly from God and passed on the words through writing or speech. Some interpreted dreams or visions of others. The messages could be prophecies of the future, messages for the listener, or warnings for others.

Interestingly, Noach was the first name on the list. I recalled that God talked to him several times as recorded in Genesis 6-9, but I didn’t recall Noach talking to his neighbors about what God had told him. Messianic Jews 11:7 has been interpreted by some to mean that God told Noach to preach against his evil neighbors, but I don’t see that. By trusting, Noach, after receiving divine warning about things as yet unseen, was filled with holy fear and built an ark to save his household. Through this trusting, he put the world under condemnation and received the righteousness that comes from trusting.” ~ Hebrews 11:7 (CJB) OK, so his righteous living in trusting God to build the ark was a witness to his faith.

The list goes on with some notable patriarchs and others, including Avraham, Ya’akov, Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, Miriam and the seventy elders of Israel (see Numbers 11:25). The list goes on to identify twenty others by name and multitude unnamed prophets before Eliyahu and Elisha arrive on the scene.

The last prophet to prophecy in Israel was Mal’akhi until the angel visited Z’kharyah, the father of Yochanan the Immerser. Mal’akhi’s message was a call to obedience and a promise of the coming Messiah. Following his oracle, there was a divine silence for 400 years.  Sometime down the road, I may do another character study on one of the other prophets in the Tanakh.

The list of named prophets in the Brit Hadashah is much shorter. As mentioned above, Z’kharyah is first on their list followed by Miryam, Elisheva, Shim’on, and Hannah all surrounding the birth of Yeshua. So much for the end of divine silence. Yochanan the Immerser spent his life exhorting people to confess their sins, turn to God and follow Yeshua. There is a multitude of others in the Brit Hadashah mentioned in the list which we look at in future posts.

In my next post, I want to dig into the references in my library to see if we can pin down a definition of prophecy and what makes someone a prophet. Not yet sure when I will get to the spiritual gift of prophecy and the office of the prophet within the Kehilah, but we will cover that as well.

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Elisha ~ Part 22

In my last post, we continued our exploration of the life of Elisha. In this last post of this series, we pick up the story in 2 Kings 13:14-21 to learn of Elisha’s Death.

14 Elisha was now ill with the disease from which he would eventually die. Yo’ash, the king of Isra’el, came down to visit him and wept over him; he said, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Isra’el!’ 15 Elisha said to him, ‘Bring a bow and arrows’; and he brought him a bow and arrows. 16 He said to the king of Isra’el, ‘Put your hand on the bow’; and he put his hand on it. Then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands 17 and said, ‘Open the east window.’ He opened it. Elisha said, ‘Shoot’; and he shot. He said, ‘Adonai’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory against Aram! You will defeat Aram completely at Afek!’ 18 He said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and he took them. He told the king of Isra’el, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck three times, then stopped. 19 The man of God became angry with him; he said, ‘You should have struck five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram completely. As it is, you will defeat Aram only three times.’

20 Elisha died, and they placed him in a burial cave. Now the raiding parties of Mo’av used to make yearly incursions into the land at the start of the year. 21 Once it happened that just as they were burying a man, they spotted a raiding party; so, they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s burial cave; and the moment the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” ~ 2 Kings 13:14-21 (CJB)

We haven’t heard from or about Elisha since 2 Kings 9:1 when he sent one of the guild prophets to anoint Yehu to be king of Israel. This means over forty years of silence as far as the record is concerned, yet Elisha was at work in the land, and the Lord was with him. Now he was an old man and about to die, and the king of Israel went to see him. Let’s at least give Yo’ash credit for visiting the prophet and seeking his help. Only Elisha knew God’s plan, and the king was wise enough to visit him.

It is a shame that spiritual leaders aren’t appreciated during their lifetime but are greatly lauded after they die. The P’rushim were better at building tombs for the dead than they were at showing thanks to the living (Matthew 23:29-32). Faithful servants of God never “retire” even though they may leave their lifelong vocation and step back from public ministry. Even from his deathbed, Elisha was serving the Lord and his people. As long as God gives us strength and sanity, we should serve Him the best we can in whatever ways He opens for us. As I have said before, the concept of retirement is not in the Scriptures which is why I continue to serve in the church we attend and write my blog posts.

Elisha knew that Yo’ash was in trouble because of the Aramian’s and graciously used his failing strength to help the king. Yes, Yo’ash was a compromising king who disobeyed God, but Adonai is God, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth” ~ Exodus 34:6 (CJB). He had promised deliverance for His people, and He would keep His promise. However, Elisha gave Yo’ash God’s promise of victory but did it in a way that required the king to exercise intelligent faith.

King Yo’ash was not a man of faith, but he could follow directions. However, he lacked the spiritual discernment and insight that people have who live in the Word and walk by faith. When the prophet put his hands on the king’s hands, it symbolized a conveying of power from God. When Elisha commanded him to shoot an arrow toward the area where the Aramian’s were in control, it spoke of victory over the enemy. This much the king could have understood because Elisha gave him a clear promise of victory.

But when Elisha told him to take the remaining arrows and strike the ground with them, he didn’t have the spiritual understanding he needed to make the most of it. Had he been a faithful worshiper of the living God, he would have seen the truth; but he was blind like the dead idols he worshiped. Shooting one arrow guaranteed victory, but the number of times he smote the ground determined how many victories God would give him. Because Yo’ash had ignorant faith, he limited himself to only three victories over the Aramian’s. If he had known the Word, he would have struck the ground at least seven times, the number of completeness.

When Elisha died, the king may have wondered if his promises died with him. To encourage the king, the Lord graciously performed a miracle after Elisha died. The Jews didn’t embalm corpses as did the Egyptians. They merely washed the body and wrapped it in clean clothes along with spices. One day, when the arrival of Mo’avite raiders interrupted a committal service of a man recently deceased, the mourners quickly put the body into Elisha’s tomb and fled. But God used that occasion to give the man life! Surely this miracle was talked about among the people, and the king may have heard the account from the lips of the men who saw it. This miracle told him that, though the prophet was dead, Adonai was still the living God and the God of power. His promises would not fail.

The Prophet Eliyahu never died but was caught up into heaven, but the Prophet Elisha died and was buried. However, Elisha seems to have performed a miracle even after he was dead. God has different plans for each of His servants, and it’s not our business to compare one with the other or to question what He does.

After studying the lives of Eliyahu and Elisha, in my next post (or series), I want to look at this whole concept of what is a prophet and are prophets still on the scene today.

Elisha ~ Part 21

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 8:1-6 were we learn three aspects of the Greatness of Our God. In this post, we continue the story of Elisha where we explore the Wickedness of the Human Heart in 2 Kings 8:7-15.

7 Elisha went to Dammesek. Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram, was ill; and he was told, ‘The man of God has come here.’ 8 The king said to Haza’el, ‘Take with you a gift, go meet the man of God and consult Adonai through him; ask if I will recover from this illness.’ 9 Haza’el went to meet him, taking with him a gift that included everything good Dammesek had, forty camel-loads. He came, stood before him and said, ‘Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to you; he asks, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’” 10 Elisha answered, ‘Go and say to him, ‘You will surely recover’— even though Adonai has shown me that he will surely die.’ 11 Then the man of God fixed his gaze on him for so long that Haza’el became embarrassed; finally, Elisha began to cry. 12 Haza’el asked, ‘Why is my lord crying?’ He answered, ‘Because I know the disasters you will bring on the people of Isra’el — you will set their fortresses on fire, you will kill their young men with the sword, you will dash their little ones to pieces and rip their pregnant women apart.’ 13 Haza’el said, ‘But what is your servant? Nothing but a dog! How could he do anything of such magnitude?’ Elisha answered, ‘Adonai has shown me that you will be king over Aram.’ 14 Then he left Elisha and returned to his master, who asked him, ‘What did Elisha say to you?’ ‘He told me you would surely recover.’ 15 The next day he took a blanket, dipped it in water and spread it on his face, so that he died; and Haza’el took his place as king.” ~ 2 Kings 8:7-15 (CJB)

When the Lord met with the Prophet Eliyahu on Mount Horev (1 Kings 19:8-18), He gave him a threefold commission: to anoint Haza’el king of Aram (Syria), to anoint Yehu king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha to minister as his successor (1 Kings 19:15-16). Before his ascension to heaven, Eliyahu had fulfilled only one of those commissions, the anointing of Elisha (1 Kings 19:19-21), so we assume that he told Elisha to take care of the other two assignments. Yehu would become God’s appointed scourge to rid the land of Ach’av’s evil descendants as well as Ach’av’s false religion.

The Mission of Elisha

It took faith and courage for Elisha to travel to Dammesek. After all, he had often thwarted Aram’s plans for raiding Israel’s border towns (6:9-12), and he had humiliated the Aramian army by leading them into Shamron and sending them home with full stomachs but empty hands (6:14-23). Because of Elisha, the Aramian army fled from Shamron and the Jewish people were able to loot their camp (7:1ff). But Elisha had also healed Na’aman the Aramian of his leprosy (5:1ff), and when Elisha brought the Aramian raiding party to Shamron, he showed them mercy and saved their lives. The fact that Ben-Hadad the Aramian king was very ill and wanted help from the Lord made Elisha’s arrival more significant.

This was a pagan Gentile king seeking the help of a prophet of Adonai, but perhaps the conversion of Na’aman had something to do with it. Even more, Ben-Hadad sent Haza’el, one of his high officials, to meet Elisha and give him expensive gifts. But like his master, Elisha undoubtedly refused to accept the gifts (5:15-16). By calling the king of Aram “your son,” Haza’el was seeking to add more honor to Elisha. Then he asked the key question: would the king of Aram recover from his sickness?

Elisha’s replied that the King will surely recover – even though Adonai has shown me that he will surely die. In other words, the sickness was not terminal, but the king’s life was about to be terminated. As a high officer of the king, Haza’el wanted to give the king good news, so he didn’t convey to him the second part of the message.

Elisha stared at Haza’el, as though reading his mind and heart, and then the prophet broke into weeping. The Lord had shown him some of the violence and bloodshed that Haza’el would perpetrate, brutal acts that were normal practices in ancient warfare. Haza’el’s reply indicated that he recognized his subordinate status in the government and wondered where he would get the authority to do those things. Haza’el would have all the authority he needed because he would become king of Aram. The text doesn’t tell us, but this may have been the point at which Elisha anointed Haza’el with the sacred oil. If so, then Haza’el was the only king of Israel, the Northern Kingdom, to have the anointing of the Lord. He ruled Aram for forty-one years (841-801 CE).

In my next post, we conclude our exploration of the life of Elisha. In this last post in this series, we pick up the story in 2 Kings 13:14-21 to learn of Elisha’s Death.

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Elisha ~ Part 20

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 7:1-16 where we hear some Good News. In this post, we will pick up the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 8:1-6 were we learn three aspects of the Greatness of Our God

1 Now Elisha had said to the woman whose son he had restored to life, ‘Move away, you and your household, and stay wherever you can; because Adonai has called for a famine; and it will be on the land for seven years.’ 2 The woman acted at once and did as the man of God had said— she went with her household and stayed in the land of the P’lishtim for seven years.3 At the end of seven years, the woman returned from the land of the P’lishtim and sought an audience with the king to claim her house and land. 4 The king was talking with Geichazi, the servant of the man of God. ‘Tell me,’ he said, ‘all the great things Elisha has done.”’5 Just as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead person to life, at that very moment the woman whose son he had restored to life came to the king with her claim for her house and land. Geichazi said, ‘My lord, king, this is the woman; and this is her son, the one Elisha restored to life.’ 6 On being asked by the king, the woman verified it. At this, the king appointed a special officer and charged him, ‘Restore everything that belongs to her, including the income her fields have produced from the day she left them until now.’” ~ 2 Kings 8:1-6 (CJB)

This event must have occurred before the healing of Na’aman (2 Kings 5) since the king wasn’t likely to welcome a leper into the palace, and Geichazi was a leper (5:27). The author of 2 Kings doesn’t claim to follow a strict chronology, and we’re not even sure which king Geichazi was entertaining with stories about his master. Perhaps this event occurred early in the reign of KingYoram.

God Controls Nature

We were introduced to the wealthy Shunemite woman and her family in 2 Kings 4:8-37. God often used famines to chasten His people when they were disobedient and needed to be reminded of their covenant obligations. This famine may have been the one mentioned in 4:38. The prophet warned the woman to escape the famine by going to the land of the P’lishtim and becoming a resident alien there. Knowing in advance that the famine was coming, she was able to secure a temporary home in Philistia ahead of the others who would flee Israel. This famine came because the Lord called for it, and He could command it because He is Lord of all. In these times of discipline and distress, if God’s people would pray and confess their sins, God would have delivered them (2 Chronicles 7:14). When people ignore God’s Word, the Lord may speak through His creation and remind them who is in charge.

God Controls Life and Death

The account of the miracles in the life of the Shunemite woman reveals the awesome power of God. She had no children, and her husband was now old, but as with Avraham and Sarai, the Lord gave them both new life and the woman conceived a son. But the son was struck with an illness and died, yet the Lord raised him from the dead thru Elisha. Famines remind us that God alone can make nature fruitful, and death reminds us that God alone gives life and has the power and authority to take it away.

God Providentially Controls the Events in Life

At the very moment, Geichazi was describing this wonderful resurrection miracle, the mother of the child walked into the throne room! She had returned home only to discover that strangers had taken over her estate and robbed her of seven years’ produce. In those days, it was common for people to bring such problems directly to the king and he would decide how property should be divided. The fact that Geichazi stood there as a witness to her ownership of the land made it easy for the king to pass judgment. Years before, when her son had died, little did the mother realize that one day that bitter experience would play an important part in the preservation of her property.

This happy episode in the king’s palace reveals to us the character of God and prepares us for the tumultuous events that follow. Nevertheless, the Lord was on His throne, judging sin and fulfilling His Word., No matter what occurs in history, God is in control. He knows all things and can do all things. He is present everywhere, working out His will. He is a holy God who is longsuffering with sinners but eventually judges those who disobey Him. Our world may be shaking, but our God can be trusted to do what is right.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we explore the Wickedness of the Human Heart in 2 Kings 8:7-15.

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Elisha ~ Part 19

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 6:24-33 where we learned that God Who Keeps His Covenant. In this post, we continue with 2 Kings 7:1-16 where we hear some Good News.

Recall in my last post, Elisha had instructed his servant to bare the door from King Yoram and his servant. Now, Elisha opens the door.

1 Elisha answered, ‘Listen to the word of Adonai. Here is what Adonai says: ‘Tomorrow, by this time, six quarts of fine flour will sell for only a shekel, and half a bushel of barley for a shekel [in the market] at the gate to Shomron.’’ 2 The servant on whose arm the king was leaning answered the man of God: ‘Why this couldn’t happen even if Adonai made windows in heaven!’ Elisha answered, ‘All right, you yourself will see it with your own eyes; but you won’t eat any of it!’

3 Now there were four men with tzara’at at the entrance to the city gate, and they said to each other, “Why should we sit here till we die? 4 If we say, ‘We’ll enter the city, then the city has been struck by the famine, so we’ll die there. And if we sit still here, we’ll also die. So, let’s go and surrender to the army of Aram; if they spare our lives, we will live; and if they kill us, we’ll only die.” 5 They got up during the twilight to go to the camp of Aram. But when they reached the outskirts of the camp of Aram, they saw no one! 6 For Adonai had caused the army of Aram to hear the sound of chariots and horses; it sounded like a huge army; and they said to each other, “The king of Isra’el must have hired the kings of the Hitti and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us.” 7 So they jumped up and fled in the twilight, leaving their tents, horses, donkeys and the whole camp just as it was, and ran for their lives. 8 When these men with tzara’at reached the outskirts of the camp, they entered one of the tents, ate and drank; then took some silver, gold, and clothing; and went and hid it. Next, they returned and entered another tent, took stuff from there, and went and hid it. 9 But finally, they said to each other, “What we are doing is wrong. At a time of good news like this, we shouldn’t keep it to ourselves. If we wait even till morning, we will earn only punishment; so come on, let’s go and tell the king’s household.” 10 So they came and shouted to the gatekeepers of the city and told them the news: “We went to the camp of Aram, and no one was there, no human voice — just the horses and donkeys tied up, and the tents left in place.” 11 The gatekeepers called and told it to the king’s household inside. 12 Then the king got up in the night; he said to his servants, “I’ll tell you what Aram has done to us. They know that we’re hungry, so they’ve gone outside the camp and hidden in the countryside, saying, ‘When they come out of the city, we’ll take them alive and then get inside the city.’” 13 One of his servants answered, “I suggest letting some men take five of the remaining horses that are left in the city — they’re like everything else in Isra’el that remains, like everything else in Isra’el, practically finished — and we’ll send and see.” 14 So they took two chariots with horses, and the king sent after the army of Aram, saying, “Go, and see.” 15 They went after them all the way to the Yarden and found the entire distance strewn with clothing and other articles Aram had thrown away in their haste. The messengers returned and told the king. 16 Then the people went out and ransacked the camp of Aram — with the result that six quarts of fine flour was sold for only a shekel and half a bushel of barley for a shekel, in keeping with what Adonai had said.” ~ 2 Kings 7:1-16 (CJB)

Good News from the Lord

How fortunate it was for the kingdom of Israel that they had Elisha the prophet living and ministering among them! Throughout Hebrew history, in times of crisis, the prophets had God’s message for God’s people, whether they obeyed it or not. King Yoram could turn to the priests of Ba’al, but they had nothing to say.

Yoram wants something to happen now; he would wait no longer. But Elisha opened his message with “tomorrow, by this time.” Food would once more be available, and the inflationary prices would fall drastically. The fine flour for the people and the barley for the animals would cost about twice as much as in normal times. This was a great relief from the prices the people had paid for unclean food (see my last post).

The king’s servant didn’t believe the words of the prophet and scoffed at what Elisha said. To the humble heart that’s open to God, the Word generates faith; but to the proud, self-centered heart, the Word makes the heart even harder. The same sun that melts the ice will harden the clay. The next morning, all the people in the city except this servant would awaken to life, but he would awaken to death.

Good News from the Enemy Camp

The scene now shifts to outside the locked gates of Shomron where four lepers lived in isolation. Nobody had told them about Elisha’s promise of food. They were discussing their precarious situation when they came to an insightful conclusion: if they stayed at the gate, they would die of hunger, but if they went to the enemy camp, they might receive some pity and some food. Even if the Aramian killed them, it was better to die quickly from a sword’s thrust than to die slowly from hunger. Lest they be observed from the city wall, they waited until twilight before going to the Aramian camp. Most of the camp would be resting, and the lepers would have to deal only with some of the guards.

But nobody was there! The Lord had caused them to hear a sound which they interpreted as the coming of a vast army, and they had left their camp as it was and fled twenty-five miles to the Yarden River, scattering their possessions as they ran. The four lepers did what any hungry men would have done: they ate to the full and then looted the tents for wealth, which they hid.

However, as night came on, they stopped to have another conference and assess the situation. Why should an entire city be starving, and mothers eating their children, while four dying men are selfishly enjoying the resources in the abandoned camp? Furthermore, when morning comes, the whole city will discover that the enemy has fled, and they’ll wonder why the men didn’t say something. When the truth comes out, the four men would be punished for keeping the good news to themselves.

The lepers gave guard at the gate the good news, and one of the officers took the message to the king. Once again revealing his unbelief and pessimism, Yoram said that the whole thing was a trick, that the enemy was hiding and only trying to draw the people out of the city so that they could move in. It wasn’t so much that he doubted the word of the lepers as that he rejected the word of Elisha. Had he believed the Word of the Lord, he would have accepted the good news from the lepers.

One of the officers had the good sense to reason with the king. The spies who were sent out to verify the leper’s story raced back to the city and shared the good news that the Aramian army was gone and their camp was waiting to be looted. It was indeed a day of good news as the people found food to eat and to sell back in the city, not to speak of valuable material goods that could be converted into cash. But the main lesson isn’t that God rescued His people when they didn’t deserve it, but that God fulfilled the promise He gave through His prophet Elisha.

If people don’t believe the Word of the Lord, they won’t be ready for His coming; but if we don’t give them the message, they can’t be ready for His coming. What will we say when we meet the Lord?

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we will pick up the story of Elisha in 2 Kings 8:1-6 were we learn three aspects of the Greatness of Our God.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 8

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:20-29. In this post, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40.

30 Then Eliyahu said to all the people, “Come here to me.” All the people came up to him, as he set about repairing the altar of Adonai that had been broken down. 31 Eliyahu took twelve stones, in keeping with the number of tribes of the sons of Ya‘akov, to whom the word of Adonai had come, saying, “Your name is to be Isra’el.” 32 With the stones, he built an altar in the name of Adonai. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough for half a bushel of grain.
33 He arranged the wood, cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.

34 Then he said, “Fill four pots with water, and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” They did it. “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he said, and they did it a third time. 35 By now the water was flowing around the altar, and it had filled the trench. 36 Then, when it came time for offering the evening offering, Eliyahu the prophet approached and said, “Adonai, God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Isra’el, let it be known today that you are God in Isra’el, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Hear me, Adonai, hear me, so that this people may know that you, Adonai, are God and that you are turning their hearts back to you.”

38 Then the fire of Adonai fell. It consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones and the dust; and it licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “Adonai is God! Adonai is God!” 40 Eliyahu said to them, “Seize the prophets of Ba‘al! Don’t let one of them escape!” They seized them, and Eliyahu brought them down to Vadi Kishon and killed them there.” ~ 1 Kings 18:30-40 (CJB)

Let the Fire Fall

Image courtesy of Google

Eliyahu now turned from the false prophets to the people. They were the ones he was determined to win over from Ba’al. He had already humiliated the prophets of Ba’al with the shenanigans they pulled trying to get Ba’al to burn up their offering. It’s interesting to me that Eliyahu called for a total of twelve large jars of water be poured on the altar, the wood, and the bull until the trench around the altar was filled. During the draught, where did that much water come from? A miracle? Eliyahu took steps to avoid any appearance of trickery or fraud. If his God could get a drenching wet sacrifice to burn, his God was God indeed.

At the time of the evening sacrifice, he lifted his voice in prayer to the God of the covenant, the God of Avraham, Yitz’chak, and Isra’el. He requested that God be glorified as the God of Israel, the true and living God, and make it known that Eliyahu was His servant. But even more, by sending fire from heaven, the Lord would be telling His people that He had forgiven them and would turn their hearts back to the worship of the true God. Eliyahu may have been thinking of God’s promise to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:12-15.

Eliyahu‘s prayer was a powerful statement of the theology of God’s great works. Just as the temple singers declared God’s great works so the world could know God (Psalm 66:3-4), Eliyahu prayed for a miraculous sign, so this people would understand that Adonai is God. The simplicity of Eliyahu‘s procedure is impressive. The prophet prayed, and the sacrifice was miraculously burned.

Suddenly, the fire fell from heaven and entirely devoured the sacrifice, the altar, and the water in the trench around the altar. (I picked the image above specifically because it visualizes this description.) There was nothing left that anybody could turn into a relic or a shrine. The altar to Ba’al still stood as a monument to a lost cause. The prophets of Ba’al were stunned, and the people of Israel fell on their faces and acknowledged, “Adonai is God! Adonai is God!”

But Eliyahu wasn’t finished, for he commanded the people to take the false prophets of Ba’al and slay them. This was in obedience to the Lord’s command in Deuteronomy 13:13-18 and 17:2-5. The test had been a fair one, and the prophets of Ba’al had been exposed as idolaters who deserved to be killed. The law required that idolaters be stoned to death, but Eliyahu had the prophets killed with the sword (1Kings 19:1). This action, of course, angered Jezebel, from whose table these men had been fed (v. 19), and she determined to capture Eliyahu and kill him.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we learn that the Rain Returns to Israel in 1 Kings 18:41- 46.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 7

In my last post, we explored Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av in 1 Kings 18:16-19. In this post, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:20-29.

20 Ach’av sent word to all the people of Isra’el and assembled the prophets together on Mount Karmel. 21 Eliyahu stepped forward before all the people and said, “How long are you going to jump back and forth between two positions? If Adonai is God, follow him; but if it’s Ba‘al, follow him!” The people answered him not a word. 22 Then Eliyahu said to the people, “I, I alone, am the only prophet of Adonai who is left, while Ba‘al’s prophets number 450. 23 Let them give us two young bulls, and they can choose the bull they want for themselves. Then let them cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood but put no fire under it. I will prepare the other bull, lay it on the wood and put no fire under it. 24 Then, you, call on the name of your god; and I will call on the name of Adonai; and the God who answers with fire, let him be God!” All the people answered, “Good idea! Agreed!”

25 Then Eliyahu said to the prophets of Ba‘al, “Choose one bull for yourselves, and prepare it first; because there are many of you. Then call on the name of your god, but put no fire under it.” 26 They took the bull that was given to them, prepared it and called on the name of Ba‘al from morning till noon — “Ba‘al! Answer us!” But no voice was heard; and no one answered, as they jumped around on the altar they had made. 27 Around noon Eliyahu began ridiculing them: “Shout louder! After all, he’s a god, isn’t he? Maybe he’s daydreaming, or he’s on the potty, or he’s away on a trip. Maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and knives, as their custom was until blood gushed out all over them. 29 By now it was afternoon, and they went on ranting and raving until it was time for the evening offering. But no voice came, no one answered, no one paid any attention.” ~ 1 Kings 18:20-29 (CJB)

The Prophets of Ba’al Meet the God of Israel

Representatives were present from all ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom, and it was this group that Eliyahu addressed as the meeting began. His purpose was not only to expose the false god Ba’al but also to bring the compromising people back to the Lord. Because of the evil influence of Ach’av and Izevel, the people were vacillating between two opinions and trying to serve both God and Ba’al. Like Moshe (Exodus 32:26) and Y’hosua (Joshua 24:15) before him, Eliyahu called for a decision on their part, but the people were speechless. Was this because of their guilt (Romans 3:19) or because they first wanted to see what would happen next? They were weak people, without real conviction.

Eliyahu weighted the test in favor of the prophets of Ba’al. They could build their altar first, select their sacrifice and offer it first, and they could take all the time they needed to pray to Ba’al. When Eliyahu said he was the only prophet of the Lord, he didn’t forget the prophets that ‘Ovadyah had hidden and protected. Instead, he was stating that he was the only one openly serving the Lord, and therefore he was outnumbered by the 450 prophets of Ba’al. But one plus God is a majority, so the prophet had no fears. Surely the prayers of 450 zealous prophets would be heard by Ba’al, and he would answer by sending fire from heaven! (See Leviticus 9:24 and 1 Chronicles 21:26.)

By noon, Eliyahu was taunting the prophets of Ba’al because nothing had happened. The prophets of Ba’al were dancing frantically around their altar and cutting themselves with swords and spears, but still, nothing happened. Eliyahu suggested that perhaps Ba’al couldn’t hear them because he was deep in thought, or busy in some task, or even traveling. His words only made them more fanatical, but nothing happened. I loved how Stern stated in verse 27 that Ba’al might have been on the potty. [1] Very visual.

At three o’clock, the time of the evening sacrifice at the temple in Jerusalem, Eliyahu stepped forward and took charge. We are now approaching Eliyahu’s finest hour. It would become the high-water mark of his ministry. Eliyahu was waiting for the holy fire to fall. God would use this frail prophet to show the people of Israel that He is still a consuming fire.

In my next post, we continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu. In this passage, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with the Prophets of Ba’al in Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall in 1 Kings 18:30-40.

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[1] It should be noted that Stern has paraphrased the Jewish Publication Society’s edition of the Tanakh. That said, several modern English translations render the phrase as “relieving himself.”

Eliyahu ~ Part 6

In my last post, we explored A Mission Impossible in 1 Kings 18:1-15. In this post, we learn that Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av in 1 Kings 18:16-19.

Eliyahu Reencounters King Ach’av

16 So ‘Ovadyah went, found Ach’av and told him; and Ach’av went to meet Eliyahu. 17 When Ach’av saw Eliyahu, Ach’av said to him, “Is it really you, you troubler of Isra’el?” 18 He answered, “I haven’t troubled Isra’el, you have, you and your father’s house, by abandoning Adonai’s mitzvot and following the ba‘alim. 19 Now order all Isra’el to assemble before me on Mount Karmel, along with the 450 prophets of Ba‘al and the 400 prophets of the asherah who eat at Izevel’s table.” ~ 1 Kings 18:16-19 (CJB)

Everything that Eliyahu did was according to the Word of the Lord (1 Kings 18:36), including confronting the king and inviting him and the priests of Ba’al to a meeting on Mount Karmel. Ach’av called Eliyahu the troubler of Israel, but it was Ach’av whose sins had caused the problems in the land. Surely Ach’av knew the terms of the covenant and understood that the blessings of the Lord depended on the obedience of the king and his people. Both Yeshua and Sha’ul would be called “troublemakers” (Luke 23:5; Acts 16:20; 17:6), so Eliyahu was in good company.

Mount Karmel was located near the border of Isra’el and Phoenicia, so it was a good place for the Phoenician god Ba’al to meet the God of Israel. Eliyahu told Ach’av to bring not only the 450 prophets of Ba’al but also the 400 prophets of the Asherah, the idols that represented Ba’al’s “wife.” It seems that only the prophets of Ba’al showed up for the contest (1 Kings 18:22, 26, 40).

One unanswered question remains for me from this passage. Why didn’t King Ach’av just run Eliyahu through with his sword; especially after Eliyahu accused the King of being the real troubler of Israel? Of course, if he had, we wouldn’t have the story of Eliyahu’s Finest Hour.

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:20-29. In this passage, we continue to examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall.

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