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 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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Elisha ~ Part 18

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 6:15-23 where we learned that God Who Shows Mercy. In this post, we continue with 2 Kings 6:24-33 where we see the God Who Keeps His Covenant.

Warning: What follows is one of the gut-wrenching passages in Scripture given the subject matter.

24 But some time afterwards, Ben-Hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, went up and laid siege to Shomron. 25 At the time, there was a severe famine in Shomron; and they maintained their siege until a donkey’s head sold for eighty pieces of silver and half a pint of doves’ dung for five pieces of silver. 26 As the king of Isra’el was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, ‘Help, my lord, king!’ 27 He said, ‘If Adonai isn’t helping you, how do you expect me to help you? There isn’t any grain, and there isn’t any wine.’ 28 Then the king asked her, ‘What’s troubling you?’ She answered, ‘This woman said to me, ‘Give me your son, so that we can eat him today; and we’ll eat my son tomorrow.’ 29 So we boiled my son and ate him. The next day I said to her, ‘Give your son, so that we can eat him,’ but she has hidden her son.’ 30 When the king heard what the woman said, he tore his clothes. At the time, he was passing by on the wall; and when the people looked, they saw him there with sackcloth against his skin. 31 Then he said, ‘May God do terrible things to me, and worse ones too, if the head of Elisha the son of Shafat remains on his body by day’s end.’ 32 Elisha was sitting in his house, and the leaders were sitting there with him. The king sent a messenger ahead, but before he arrived, Elisha said to the leaders, ‘Do you see how this son of a murderer has sent someone to remove my head? Look, when the messenger comes, close the door and keep it shut against him. You can hear his master’s footsteps following right behind him!’ ‘33 While he was still speaking, the messenger arrived with this message from the king: ‘Here, this evil is from Adonai. Why should I wait for Adonai any longer?’” ~ 2 Kings 6:24-33 (CJB)

The border raids had stopped, but Ben-Hadad decided it was time again for war. Rulers have to prove themselves to their people and defeating and looting a neighbor is one of the best ways to reveal your strength and wisdom. This time he sent the full army, and he seems to have caught Yoram unprepared. Perhaps the peace along the borders lulled Yoram into thinking that Aram was no longer a threat.

The siege of Shomron lasted so long that the people in the city were starving. It seems that Elisha had counseled the king to wait (v. 33), promising that the Lord would do something, but the longer they waited, the worse the circumstances became. But it must be remembered that God warned that He would punish His people if they failed to live up to the terms of His covenant. In the past, among His punishments were military defeat and famine, and Israel was now experiencing both. Had King Yoram called his people to repentance and prayer, the situation would have changed (see 2 Chronicles 7:14). People were reduced to eating unclean food, such as a donkey’s head and dove’s droppings, and for these, they paid exorbitant prices.

But even worse, people were eating their children! This, too, was a predicted punishment for breaking God’s covenant (Leviticus 26:29; Deuteronomy 28:53-57). King Yoram met two such women as he walked on the wall and surveyed the city. One woman called to the king for help, and he thought she wanted food and drink. Yoram’s reply blamed the Lord and not on the sins of the nation. God alone could fill the threshing floor and the winepress and provide food and drink. But the woman didn’t want food and drink; she wanted justice. Her friend hadn’t kept her part of the bargain but had hidden her son!

Yoram was appalled that the nation had fallen so low, and he publicly tore his robe, not as a sign of sorrow and repentance but as evidence of his anger at God and Elisha. When he did, he exposed the fact that he was wearing a rough sackcloth garment beneath the royal robe, but what good is sackcloth if there’s no humility and repentance in the heart? His next words make it clear that he took no responsibility for the siege and the famine and that he wanted to murder Elisha. He even used the oath that he learned from his evil mother, Izevel. Yoram’s father, Ach’av, called Elijah“the troubler of Israel” (1 Kings 18:17), and Yoram blamed Elisha for the plight Shomron was in at that time. The king sent a messenger to arrest Elisha and take him out for execution.

The prophet wasn’t upset or worried, for the Lord always told Elisha everything he needed to know. As the prophet sat in his house with the elders of the land, leaders who had come to him for counsel and help, he knew that the arresting officer was on his way. He also knew that the king would follow him to make sure the execution was a success. Elisha had already made it clear that he didn’t accept the authority of the king of Israel because Yoram was not of the line of David (3:14).

Elisha commanded the elders to hold the door shut until both men were outside. Being kept waiting at the door didn’t help the king’s temper one bit, and he called to Elisha, ‘Here, this evil is from Adonai. Why should I wait for Adonai any longer?’”. He should have said, “I am the cause of this great tragedy, and I repent of my sins! Pray for me!” There was a provision in the covenant for confession and forgiveness if only King Yoram and his people had taken advantage of it.

The Lord always keeps His covenant, whether to bless if His people obey or to discipline if they disobey.

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 7:1-17 where we hear some Good News.

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Elisha ~ Part 17

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 6:1-7 where we learned that Elisha Restores a Student Ministry. In this post, we continue with 2 Kings 6:15-23 where we learn about the God Who Shows Mercy.

15 The servant of the man of God got up early in the morning; on going outside, he saw an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city. His servant said to him, ‘Oh, my master, this is terrible! What are we going to do?’ 16 He answered, ‘Don’t be afraid — those who are with us outnumber those who are with them!’17 Elisha prayed, ‘Adonai, I ask you to open his eyes so that he can see.’ Then Adonai opened the young man’s eyes, and he saw: there before him, all around Elisha, the mountain was covered with horses and fiery chariots. 18 When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to Adonai, ‘Please strike these people blind’; and he struck them blind, as Elisha had asked. 19 Next, Elisha told them, ‘You’ve lost your way, and this isn’t even the right city. Follow me, and I’ll take you to the man you’re looking for.’ Then he led them to Shomron. 20 On their arrival in Shomron, Elisha said, ‘Adonai, open the eyes of these men so that they can see.’ Adonai opened their eyes, and they saw: there they were, in the middle of Shomron. 21 When the king of Isra’el saw them, he asked Elisha, ‘My father, should I attack them? Should I attack them?’ 22 He answered, ‘Don’t attack them! You wouldn’t even attack prisoners you had captured with your own sword and bow, would you? So, give them food to eat and water to drink, and let them return to their master.’ 23 So he provided well for them; and after they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away; and they returned to their master. After that, no more raiding parties entered the land of Isra’el from Aram.” ~ 2 Kings 6:15-23 (CJB)

Elisha didn’t trouble himself about the army; his first concern was for his frightened servant. If he were going to walk with Elisha and serve God, the young man would face many difficult and dangerous situations, and he had to learn to trust the Lord. We probably would have prayed that the Lord would give peace to the lad’s heart or calmness to his mind, but Elisha prayed for God to open his eyes. The servant was living by sight and not by faith and couldn’t see the vast angelic army of the Lord surrounding the city.

Faith enables us to see God’s invisible army and trust Him to give us the victory. “The angel of Adonai, who encamps around those who fear him, delivers them.” ~ Psalm 34:7 (CJB) The angels are servants to God’s people, and until we get to heaven, we will never fully know how much they have helped us.

The God Who Shows Mercy

Elisha didn’t ask the Lord to command the angelic army to destroy the king of Aram’s feeble troops. As with nations today, defeat only promotes retaliation, and the king would have sent another company of soldiers. God gave Elisha a much better plan. He had just prayed that the Lord would open his servant’s eyes, but now he prayed that God would cloud the eyes of the king’s soldiers. The soldiers weren’t made completely blind; otherwise, they couldn’t have followed Elisha, but their sight was clouded in such a way that they were able to see but not comprehend. They were under the delusion that they were being led to the house of Elisha, but Elisha was leading them to the city of Shamron!

When Elisha went out to meet the king’s troops, did he lie to them in verse 19? No, because he was no longer in the city of Dotan and was going to Shamron. The prophet was saving their lives, for if King Yoram had been in charge, he would have killed them (v. 21). Elisha did bring the troops to the man they wanted. When the army arrived at Shamron, the guards must have been shocked to see the prophet leading the troops, but they obediently opened the gates, and then God opened their eyes. Imagine their surprise when they found themselves at the heart of the capital city and the mercy of the Israelites.

The king graciously called Elisha“my father,” a term used by servants for their master, but later, we learn he wanted to take off Elisha’s head (vv. 32)! Like his wicked father, Achav, he could murder the innocent one day and then “walk softly” before the Lord the next day (1 Kings 21). As James declares, double-minded people are unstable (James 1:8).

Elisha’s reply took the matter entirely out of the king’s hands. KingYoram wanted to kill the Syrians, but Elisha “killed them with kindness.” By eating together, they made a covenant of peace, and the Syrian bands would no longer raid the borders of Israel.

Would this approach avert conflicts today? We must remember that Israel is a covenant nation and that the Lord fought their battles. No other nation can claim these privileges. But if kindness replaced long-standing and deeply rooted ethnic and religious differences among peoples, as well as national pride and international greed, there would no doubt be fewer wars and bombings, the same principle applies to ending divorce and abuse in families, riots and lootings in neighborhoods, uproars on campuses, and division and conflict in our communities. As Yeshua instructs us:

“How blessed are those who show mercy! for they will be shown mercy.”
~ Matthew 5:7 (CJB)

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 6:24-33 where we see The God Who Keeps His Covenant.

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Elisha ~ Part 16

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 5:19b-27 where we learned that Geichazi Lies to Himself, Na’aman and Elisha. In this post, we continue with 2 Kings 6:1-7 were we learn that Elisha Restores a Student Ministry.

1 The guild prophets said to Elisha, “As you can see, the place where we are living in order to be with you is too small for us. 2 Please allow us to go to the Yarden; each of us will collect a log there, and we’ll build a place there for us to live.” He answered, “Go ahead.” 3 But one of them said, “Please, won’t you come with your servants?” He answered, “All right, I will”; 4 so he went with them. When they arrived at the Yarden, they cut down trees; 5 but as one was felling a tree trunk, the head of his ax fell in the water. “Oh, no!” he cried. “My master, it was a borrowed one!” 6 The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” He showed him the place. Then Elisha cut a stick, threw it in there, and the iron ax-head floated to the surface. 7 “Lift it out,” he said. So, he put out his hand and took it.” ~ 2 Kings 6:1-7 (CJB)

Elisha Saves the Day and 
Restores a Student Ministry

Elisha wasn’t only a traveling preacher and a miracle-working prophet, but he was also the overseer of several schools of guild prophets where young men called to ministry were trained and encouraged. We know there were schools in Gilgal, Beit-el, and Yericho (2 Kings 2:1-5) and in Samuel’s hometown of Ramah (1 Samuel 19:22-24). Both Eliyahu and Elisha were concerned that the next generation knows the Lord and understand His Word, and this is our commission today (2 Timothy 2:2).

Our passage today picks up the story from 2 Kings 4:44. God had blessed the school at Yericho, and it was necessary to enlarge their quarters. The students studied together when the prophet visited them and ate together (2 Kings 4:38-44). Likewise, we need to ensure that when God is raising a new generation of servants, we as veteran ministers of God take time to teach them.

But new growth brings new obligations, and the facilities at Jordan had to be enlarged. Schools today would do fund-raising and hire architects and contractors, but in Elisha’s day, the students did the work. Not only that, but the leader of the school went with them and encouraged the work. Elisha had a shepherd’s heart and was willing to go with his flock and share their burdens.

Iron tools were precious and scarce, which explains why the student had to borrow an ax so he could help prepare the timber. Not only were tools scarce, but they weren’t constructed with the strength and durability of our tools today. Moshe gave a special law relating to damage that might result when an ax head flew off the handle (Deuteronomy 19:4-5), so it must have happened frequently. If the law of borrowed animals also applied to borrowed tools (Exodus 22:14-15), then that poor student would have to reimburse the lender for the lost ax head, and that would probably upset the budget for weeks to come. Without the ax head, the student couldn’t work and that would add to somebody else’s burdens. All in all, the sunken ax head caused a great deal of trouble.

The student was quick enough to see where it fell and honest enough to report the accident to Elisha. The Yarden isn’t the cleanest river in the Holy Land (5:12), and it would be very difficult for anybody to see the ax head lying at the bottom. The prophet didn’t “fish out” the ax head with a pole. He threw a stick into the water at the place where the ax head sank, and the Lord raised the iron ax head so that it floated on the surface of the river and could be picked up. It was a quiet miracle from a powerful God through a compassionate servant.

There are some spiritual applications that we can learn from this incident, and perhaps the first is that whatever we have has been “borrowed.” Paul asked, “And what do you have that you did not receive as a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). Whatever gifts, abilities, possessions, and opportunities we have are from God, and we will have to give an account of them when we see the Lord.

This student lost his valuable tool while he was serving the Lord. Faithful service is important, but it can also be threatening, for we might lose something valuable even as we do our work. Moshe lost his patience and meekness while providing water for the people (Numbers 20:1-13), and David lost his self-control while being kind to his neighbor (1 Samuel 25:13). God’s servants must walk carefully before the Lord and take inventory of their “tools” lest they lose something they desperately need.

The good news is that the Lord can recover what we have lost and put us back to work. He can restore us and make us efficient in His service. The important thing is to know that you have lost it, and when and where you have lost it, and honestly confess it to Him. Then get back to work again!

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 6:15-23 where we learn about the God Who Shows Mercy.

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Elisha ~ Part 15

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 5:15-19a where we learned about Na’aman as he Serves the Lord. In this post, we continue with 2 Kings 5:19b-27 were we learn that Geichazi Lies to Himself, Na’aman and Elisha.

19b Na’aman had gone only a short distance from him, 20 when Geichazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said to himself, ‘Here, my master has made it easy on this Arami Na’aman by not accepting from him what he brought. As Adonai lives, I’ll run after him and get at least something from him.’ 21 So Geichazi hurried off after Na’aman. When Na’aman saw someone running after him, he got down from his chariot to meet him and asked, ‘Is everything all right?’ 22 ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘My master sent me with this message: ‘Two young men have just now come to me, guild prophets from the hills of Efrayim. Would you be kind enough to give them a talent of silver [sixty-six pounds] and two changes of clothes?” 23 ‘By all means, take two talents!’ said Na’aman, pressing him. He tied up the two talents of silver in two bags and gave them, with the two changes of clothes, to two of his servants, who carried them ahead of Geichazi. 24 On reaching the hill, he took the bags from them and put them away in the house. Then he let the men go, and they left. 25 He went in and stood before his master. Elisha asked, ‘Where have you been, Geichazi?’ ‘Your servant hasn’t gone anywhere,’ he said. 26 Elisha said to him, ‘Wasn’t my heart there with you when the man left his chariot to meet you? Is this a time to receive silver and clothing — and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female slaves? 27 Therefore Na’aman’s tzara’at will cling to you and your descendants forever.’ He left Elisha’s presence with tzara’at as white as snow.” ~ 2 Kings 5:19b-27 (CJB)

While Na’aman was seeking to live the truth and please the Lord, Elisha’s servant was wallowing in deception and unholy desires. “Do not covet” is the last of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:17), but when you break this one commandment, you tempt yourself to break the other nine. Geichazi had been decaying in his spiritual life, and this was the climax. Now his covetousness took control, it led to lying, and it finally resulted in Geichazi becoming a leper. The disease on the outside typified the decay on the inside.

Geichazi Lied to Himself

When he refused the gifts, Elisha hadn’t been “easy” on Na’aman but had taught the young believer a difficult lesson. Geichazi measured his master’s conduct the way the world would measure it, not the way God measured it. He believed he would be a better and a happier man if he took some gifts from Na’aman and that he had the right to do it. “Be careful to guard against all forms of greed, because even if someone is rich, his life does not consist in what he owns.” Luke 12:15 (CJB)

Surely Geichazi knew that Na’aman’s salvation and healing were wholly by the grace of God and that taking gifts might give the Syrian general the impression that he could do something to save himself. When he returned to Syria, Na’aman would have to account for the missing treasures, and this could only weaken his testimony.

Geichazi took the Adonai’s name in vain when he said as Adonai lives, for he had sin in his heart and was planning to sin even more. We get the impression that Geichazi had no fear of God in his heart and privately used God’s name carelessly. Had he revered the name of God as commanded in Exodus 20:7, he would not have been controlled by greed.

Geichazi Lied to Na’aman

Na’aman’s caravan wasn’t too far away, and Geichazi was able to run and catch up with it. Na’aman did a noble thing when he stopped his chariot and stepped down to meet Elisha’s servant. Perhaps Elisha had another message for him, or perhaps there was a need to be met. For a Syrian general to show such deference to a Jewish servant was certainly an indication that God had wrought a change in his heart. Na’aman greeted him with “Is everything all right?” (literally ~ shalom) and Geichazi replied “Yes.” But all wasn’t well! When a man’s heart is filled with greed, and his lips are filled with lies, he is far from enjoying shalom, which means “peace, well-being, fulfillment, prosperity, safety.”

In carrying out his evil plan, Geichazi not only used God’s name in vain but by using Elisha’s name, he lied to Na’aman when he asked for gifts for two guild prophets from the hills of Efrayim. We must not criticize Na’aman for believing Geichazi‘s lies, for, after all, he was a young believer and lacked the discernment that comes with a maturing spiritual experience. My master sent me was a deliberate falsehood, although unknown to Geichazi, his master knew what he had done. Na’aman not only gave Geichazi more than he requested and wrapped it neatly, but he also assigned two of his servants to carry the gifts for him. When the three men arrived at the hill, Geichazi took the bundle and sent the men back, lest somebody recognize them and starts asking questions. Geichazi was near his master’s house, and he had to be careful not to let him know what he had done.

Geichazi Lied to Elisha

Acting very innocent, Geichazi went and stood before his master, awaiting orders; but he found himself on trial! God knew what Geichazi had done, and He communicated it to His servant. The scene reminds us of how Y’hoshua interrogated ‘Akhan (Joshua 7) and Kefa interrogated Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), all of whom had coveted wealth and lied about it.

Elisha not only saw what his servant had done, but he saw into his servant’s heart and knew why he did it. Geichazi longed to be a wealthy man with land, flocks and herds, expensive clothing, and servants to obey his orders. He wasn’t content to labor by the side of Elisha the prophet; he wanted to have security and comfort. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being wealthy, if that’s God’s will for your life, for Avraham and Yitz’chak were wealthy, and so was David. But it is wrong to get that wealth through deceit and to make that wealth your god. Geichazi used the ministry God gave him as a means of deceiving Na’aman, and that is contrary to God’s will. God judged Geichazi by giving him leprosy and promising that at least one of his descendants in each generation would be a leper.

Geichazi had hoped to leave great wealth to his descendants, but instead, he left great shame and sorrow for years to come. Geichazi could no longer be Elisha’s servant; he had lost his ministry. That is a lesson we all need to bear in mind.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we continue to examine 2 Kings 6:1-7 were we learn that Elisha Restores a Student Ministry.

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