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 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 13

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 5:1-10, where we learned about Na’aman who both Needed and Sought the Lord. In this post, we continue with Na’aman as he first Resists and Then Trusts the Lord in 2 Kings 5:11-15.

11 But Na‘aman became angry and left, saying, “Here now! I thought for certain that he would come out personally, that he would stand, call on the name of Adonai his God and wave his hand over the diseased place and thus heal the person with tzara‘at. 12 Aren’t Amanah and Parpar, the rivers of Dammesek, better than all the water in Isra’el? Why can’t I bathe in them and be clean?” So he turned and went off in a rage. 13 But his servants approached him and said, “My father! If the prophet had asked you to do something really difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So, doesn’t it make even more sense to do what he says, when it’s only, ‘Bathe, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Yarden, as the man of God had said to do; and his skin was restored and became like the skin of a child, and he became clean.

15 Then, with his whole retinue, he returned to the man of God, went and stood before him, and said, “Well, I’ve learned that there is no God in all the earth except in Isra’el; therefore, please accept a present from your servant.” ~ 2 Kings 5:11-15 (CJB)

Resisting the Lord

If Na‘aman began his journey at Dammesek, then he had traveled over one hundred miles to get to Samaria, so another thirty miles or so shouldn’t have upset him. However, it did, for the great general became angry. The fundamental cause of his anger was pride. He had already decided in his own mind just how the prophet would heal him, but God did not work that way. Before sinners can receive God’s grace, they must submit to God’s will, as Scripture says: The scornful He scorns,but gives grace to the humble.” ~ Proverbs 3:34 (CJB)

The Lord had already been working on Na‘aman’s pride, and there was more to come. King Yoram was not able to heal him, the prophet did not come to court or even come out to greet him, and he had to dip in the dirty Yarden River, not once, but seven times. Moreover, he a great general and second in command over the nation of Syria! People want to be saved from their sins by participating in a religious ritual, joining a church, giving money to the church, reforming their lives, doing good works, and a host of other substitutes for putting faith in Yeshua. “He delivered us. It was not on the ground of any righteous deeds we had done, but on the ground of his own mercy. He did it by means of the mikveh [1] of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh.” ~ Titus 3:5 (CJB)

Na‘aman had another problem: he preferred the rivers back in Dammesek to the muddy Yarden River. He thought his healing would come from the water, so it was logical that the better the water, the better the healing. He would rather have his way and travel over a hundred miles than obey God’s way and go thirty-two miles! He was so close to salvation and yet so far away!

Trusting the Lord

Once again, the Lord used servants to accomplish His purposes (vv. 2-3). If Na‘aman would not listen to the command of the prophet, perhaps he would heed the counsel of his servants. Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord. ~ Isaiah 1: 18a (ESV). Elisha did not ask him to do something difficult or impossible, because that would only have increased his pride. He asked him to obey a simple command and perform a humbling act, and it was unreasonable not to submit. Faith that doesn’t lead to obedience is not faith at all.

When he came up from the water the seventh time, his leprosy was gone. His flesh was like that of a little child. By his obedience, he demonstrated his faith in God’s promise, and the Lord cleansed him of his leprosy. Na‘aman gave a clear public testimony that the Lord God of Israel was the only true and living God and was the God of all the earth. He renounced the false gods and idols of Syria and identified himself with Adonai. What an indictment this testimony was against the idol-worshiping king and people of Israel!

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we continue with our look at Na’aman in 2 Kings 5:15-19 as he Serves the Lord.

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[1] Bath or pool with a flow of fresh water; used in Orthodox Judaism to this day for ritual purification. CJB.

Sukkot 5779

The Ultimate Sukkah

We interrupt our series on Eliyahu once again to consider the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. This is the third and last of the traditional Fall Holy Days. In 2018, the festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles, begins at sundown on Sunday, September 23rd.

Sukkot is the third of the great annual pilgrimage festivals (Vayikra 23:33-43). Each year, all adult Jewish males were required to go up to Jerusalem to celebrate the feasts of Matzah, Shavuot, and Sukkot. The festival is also called the “feast of ingathering” (Sh’mot 23:16; D’varim 16:13). It is celebrated immediately after the harvest, in the month Tishri, and the celebration lasts for eight days (Vayikra 23:33-43). During this period the people leave their homes and live in a sukkah, a temporary dwelling, formed of the branches of trees as a memorial of the wilderness wanderings when the people dwelt in sukkot (Vayikra 23:43).

Typical Backyard Sukkah

Like Thanksgiving Day in the United States, Sukkot is a time of feasting, rejoicing, and giving thanks to God for His bountiful gifts (D’varim 16:13-15). It is widely believed that the Puritan colonists, who were great students of the Hebrew Scriptures, based on the first American Thanksgiving on Sukkot.

We are to “rejoice before the Lord God” during all the time of this feast (Vayikra 23:40). The tradition of the Jewish people is that they were to express their joy by dancing and singing hymns of praise to God, with musical instruments.

Sukkot (the plural form of sukkah) are temporary dwellings, many with canvas walls. The roof is made of natural materials such as bamboo, corn stalks, or other greenery, usually supported by a few wooden beams. It provides more shade than sun, but you can still see the sky through it and the stars at night.

Today, as in the Second Temple days, we still wave the lulav (palm branch) and etrog (citron) as mandated in the Torah. The lulav is made of a palm branch, arava (willow), and hadas (myrtle). The etrog is a citron. Together the lulav and the etrog are referred to as the Four Species.

Of all the feasts of the Lord, Sukkot best illustrates the fact that God would dwell in the midst of His people through the presence of the Messiah (John 1:14). He may have fulfilled His promise on the very day of Sukkot. We don’t know the exact date of Yeshua’s birth. But we do know; it indeed wasn’t December 25th. For me, there is sufficient evidence to corroborate that Yeshua’s first coming came on Sukkot.

Sukkot pictures the future kingdom God has prepared for Israel when Messiah returns (see Zechariah 12:10-13:1; Isaiah 35; Luke 1:67-80). The Prophet Zechariah described the changes that will take place in the topography of the holy land and how the Gentile nations will celebrate Sukkot along with the Jewish people (see Zechariah 14:16-19).

For Israel, the best is yet to come! The scattered people will be gathered; the sinful people will be cleansed; the sorrowing people will rejoice. And for Messianic Believers, the best is yet to come; for we shall be together with the Lord and His people, every stain washed away, rejoicing in His presence.

Sukkot has always been known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with His people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it entirely comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this appointed time. God himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua resides as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

All the Feasts of the Lord have their particular lessons to teach. Because of its latter-day fulfillment, Sukkot seems to be the apex of all the other appointed times of God. The goal of God’s plan is ultimately the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth. This explains why, of all the appointed times, Sukkot is said to be the premier celebration of the Millennium.

As the Prophet Zechariah has told us in Chapter 14, in the last days all nations will be gathered against Jerusalem. They will take the city and plunder it. (Zechariah 14:1, 2) The Lord will then take charge of His people; He will appear upon the Mount of Olives. By splitting this mountain, He will prepare a safe way for the rescue of those that remain. He will come with all His saints (Zechariah 14:3-5) to complete His kingdom.

The other pilgrimage feasts (Matzah and Shavuot) have been fulfilled, but the Feast of Tabernacles – Sukkot finds its fulfillment during the millennial kingdom of the Messiah (Vayikra 23:33-44; B’midbar 16:13-15; 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Revelation 20:1-6).

The remnant of the nations will turn to the Lord and come yearly to Jerusalem, to keep the feast of Sukkot (Zechariah 14:16-19). Can’t you imagine it? The feast of the Millennium! What a party that will be! This feast will be kept by all who have come to believe in Messiah, to thank the Lord for His grace in that He has brought them out of the wanderings of this life into the blessedness of His kingdom of peace.

In the perfected kingdom of God there will be no more sinners, but only those who are righteous and holy. This is affirmed in the last clause of Zechariah’s prophecy: “there will be no merchants anymore in the house of Adonai.” (v. 21)

Thus, does Zechariah’s prophesy close with a prospect of the completion of the kingdom of God in glory. All believing commentators are agreed that the final fulfillment of Zechariah 14:20-21 lies before us in Revelation 21 and 22.

According to Isaiah, God has promised His people a new heaven and a new earth (see Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). The old creation must make way for the new creation if God is to be glorified.

Indeed, many interesting questions could be asked about our future abode in heaven, but most must go unanswered until we reach our glorious home. John closed his book by reminding us that we have responsibilities today because we are going to heaven.

Sukkot has always known as the appointed time that commemorates God dwelling with his people. How fitting for the Kingdom of God, when it fully comes to the redeemed earth, to be considered the ultimate fulfillment of this holy day. God, Himself will finally dwell with His people in all His fullness. The Sukkah of God will be among men when Messiah Yeshua tabernacles with us as the ruler of the 1000-year Messianic Kingdom!

What a celebration there will be as His people, both Jews and Gentiles, wave the lulav and chant, Ana Adonai Hoshiana! (Lord, do save us!) Amen. Come quickly, Lord Yeshua! Come and dwell in Your Ultimate Sukkah!

In my next post, we will return to our series on Eliyahu.

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Eliyahu ~ Part 5

In my last post, we explored A Miraculous Resurrection in 1 Kings 17:17-24. In this post, we learn of God Ordering Eliyahu Back into Enemy Territory in 1 Kings 18:1-15.

Mission Impossible

Oh, no, Lord, why are you sending me back to King Ach’av? He will undoubtedly have me murdered! Why now? God had an important, but a positive message for Eliyahu to give to King Ach’av ~ the rain is coming.

1 A long time passed. Then, in the third year, the word of Adonai came to Eliyahu: “Go, present yourself to Ach’av, and I will send rain down on the land.” 2 When Eliyahu went to present himself to Ach’av, the famine in Shomron had become severe. 3 Ach’av called ‘Ovadyah, who was in charge of the palace. Now ‘Ovadyah greatly revered Adonai; 4 for example, when Izevel was murdering Adonai’s prophets, ‘Ovadyah took a hundred prophets, hid them in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 5 Ach’av said to ‘Ovadyah, “Go throughout the land, and check all the springs and vadis; maybe we can find grass somewhere so that we can keep the horses and mules alive and not lose all the animals.” 6 So they divided between them the territory to be visited; Ach’av went one way by himself, and ‘Ovadyah went another way by himself.

7 ‘Ovadyah was on the road when suddenly Eliyahu encountered him. ‘Ovadyah recognized him, fell on his face and said, “Is it really you, my lord Eliyahu?” 8 He answered, “Yes, it is I; go, tell your master, ‘Eliyahu is here.’” 9 Ovadyah replied, “How have I sinned, that you would hand your servant over to Ach’av to kill me? 10 As Adonai your God lives, there can’t be a single nation or kingdom where my master hasn’t sent to search you out; and in each kingdom or nation where they said, ‘He isn’t here,’ he made them take an oath that they hadn’t found you. 11 Now you say, ‘Go tell your master, “Eliyahu is here.”’ 12 But as soon as I leave you, the Spirit of Adonai will carry you off to I don’t know where; so that when I come and tell Ach’av, and he can’t find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have revered Adonai from my youth — 13 wasn’t my lord told what I did when Izevel killed Adonai’s prophets, how I hid a hundred of Adonai’s prophets by fifties in caves and supplied their food and water? 14 Now you say, ‘Go tell your master, “Look, Eliyahu is here.”’ Why he’ll kill me!” 15 Eliyahu said, “As Adonai-Tzva’ot [Lord of Heaven’s Armies] lives, before whom I stand, I will present myself to him today.”  ~ 1 Kings 18:1-15 (CJB)

The Holman Christian Study Bible Notes says that:

“Chapter 18 describes one of history’s great power encounters between God and evil; it is comparable to the encounter between the Lord and the gods of Egypt before the Exodus. … The power encounter with Egypt freed the Israelites from physical bondage. One might expect that God’s confrontation with Ba’al freed Israel from spiritual bondage, but it is hard to find evidence for this. Neither Ach’av nor Izebel repented. The moral life of the northern kingdom was not noticeably influenced. But we cannot know how much worse things would have gone for faith in Yahweh without this encounter. … Humanly speaking, without such manifestations of God’s power as these, the Hebrew faith might have perished long before the exile.”

For three years, Eliyahu had hidden at the Vadi K’rit and then with the widow in Tzarfat, but now he was commanded to present himself to wicked King Ach’av. But along with God’s command was God’s promise that He would send rain and end the drought that He had sent to punish the idolatrous nation for over three years. Waiting on God is one of the hardest things we can do. That means virtually doing nothing until He gives us the signal. Part of the genius of Eliyahu is that he did nothing until God gave the word.

‘Ovadyah encountered Eliyahu before Eliyahu ran into King Ach’av. He was a man of great authority, he was the administrator of the royal palace as well as steward and supervisor of whatever estates the king possessed. But was he a courageous servant of God (his name means “servant of Yah”) or a timid compromiser who was afraid to let his witness be known? The text informs us that ‘Ovadyah greatly revered Adonai, and proved it during Izebel’s purge of Israel’s prophets by risking his life to rescue and support one hundred prophets of the Lord. That doesn’t sound like a man who was compromising his testimony! Why should he tell the king and queen what he was doing for the Lord? The Lord had put ‘Ovadyah in the palace to use his God-given authority to support the faithful prophets at a time when openly serving the Lord was a dangerous thing.

Ovadyah was probably one of the seven thousand faithful men of God, of whom Eliyahu was unaware we will read about in 1 Kings. 19:18.

The Lord led Eliyahu to the road that ‘Ovadyah was using and the two men met. ‘Ovadyah had such reverence for Eliyahu and his ministry that he fell on his face on the earth and called him, “My lord, Eliyahu.” But Eliyahu’s aim was to confront wicked King Ahab, and he wasn’t about to go looking for him; so he commissioned ‘Ovadyah to tell the king where he was. We can understand ‘Ovadyah’s concern lest the king come back and not find the prophet. During the three years Ahab had been searching for Eliyahu, no doubt he had followed up many false leads, and Ahab wasn’t interested in wasting time and energy at such a critical point in the nation’s history. Furthermore, Ach’av might punish ‘Ovadyah or even suspect him of being a follower of Eliyahu’s God. But when Eliyahu assured the officer that he would remain there and wait for the king, ‘Ovadyah went off to give Ach’av the message.

Not all of God’s servants are supposed to be in the public eye like Eliyahu and the other prophets. God has His servants in many places, doing the work He’s called them to do. Nakdimon [Nicodemus] and Yosef of Ramatayim [Joseph of Arimathea] didn’t make a big fuss about their faith in Yeshua, yet God used them to give a proper burial to the body of the Messiah (John 19:38-42). Ester kept quiet about her Jewish heritage until it was absolutely necessary to use it to save the life of the nation. Over the centuries, there have been numerous believers who have kept a low profile and yet made great contributions

In my next post, we will continue to explore the Biblical story of Eliyahu in 1 Kings 18:16-19. In this passage, we examine Eliyahu’s encounter with Ach’av setting the stage for Eliyahu’s Finest Hour ~ Let the Fire Fall.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 4

Messianic Jews 12:3-11
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we moved on to a new topic entitled Trust and the Believer covering Messianic Jews 12. We begin with Messianic Jews 12:1-2 – Yeshua ~ Our Example. In this post, continue on our topic of the Trust and the Believer by looking at Messianic Jews 12:3-11 ~ Chastening for Spiritual Developments.

3 Yes, think about Him who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners so that you won’t grow tired or become despondent. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in the contest against sin. 5 Also, you have forgotten the counsel which speaks with you as sons: “My son, don’t despise the discipline of Adonai or become despondent when he corrects you. 6 For Adonai disciplines those he loves and whips everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Regard your endurance as discipline; God is dealing with you as sons. For what son goes undisciplined by his father? 8 All legitimate sons undergo discipline; so if you don’t, you’re a mamzer and not a son! 9 Furthermore, we had physical fathers who disciplined us, and we respected them; how much more should we submit to our spiritual Father and live! 10 For they disciplined us only for a short time and only as best they could, but He disciplines us in a way that provides genuine benefit to us and enables us to share in His holiness. 11 Now, all discipline, while it is happening, does indeed seem painful, not enjoyable; but for those who have been trained by it, it later produces its peaceful fruit, which is righteousness.” ~ Messianic Jews 12:2-11 (CJB)

The author of the Messianic Jews uses two very vivid words when he speaks of being despondent or growing tired. They are words frequently used by an athlete who collapses after the final surged to win the race. So Messianic Jews is in effect saying: “Don’t give up too soon; don’t collapse until the finish line is passed.”

Compare verse 4 with what the author wrote in Messianic Jews 4:15, which says of Yeshua, “In every respect, he was tempted just as we are, the only difference was he did not sin.”

Verses 3-4 stress the essential costliness of Messianic faith. It cost the lives of the martyrs; it cost the life of Him who was the Son of God. Something that requires so much cannot be discarded. A heritage like that is not something that a man can hand down tarnished. These two verses make the demand that comes to every Messianic: “Show yourself worthy of the sacrifice that men and God have made for you.”

The author of the Messianic Jews sets out still another reason why we should cheerfully bear affliction. He has urged them to endure it because the great saints of the past have suffered from it. He has advised them to experience it because anything they may have to face is a little thing compared to what Yeshua had to bear. Now he says that they must take hardship because it is a discipline from God and no life can have any value apart from obedience.

Become despondent in verse 3 anticipates Proverbs 3:11-12 quoted in verses 5-6 of our text.

God is dealing with you as sons. Israel collectively is God’s son (Exodus 4:22, Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15, Romans 9:4); but more than that, each Believer, Jewish or Gentile, is individually God’s son, by virtue of being united with God’s only-begotten Son, Yeshua the Messiah (Romans 8:14-19, 29; Galatians 4:1-7; Revelation 21:7).

In rabbinic Judaism, the Hebrew word mamzer is a technical term referring to the child of a marriage prohibited in Leviticus 18. Popularly it means “illegitimate son,” and like “bastard” it can express strong contempt.

The discipline of God, our spiritual Father, produces holiness (see v. 14) and righteousness (Messianic Jews 5:13; 10:38; 11:4, 7, 33).

A faithful father always disciplines his child. It would not show love to let a son or daughter do what he or she likes. We submit to our earthly father’s discipline which is imposed only for a short time until we reach maturity. The earthly father is whom we owe our bodily life; how much more should we submit to the discipline of God to whom we owe our immortal spirits and who, in His wisdom, seeks for our highest good.

In my next post, we will move on to Exhortation to Endurance in Messianic Jews 12:12-17.

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Faith: The Better Way ~ Part 2a

Messianic Jews 11:1-3
Letter to the Messianic Jews

In my last post, we continue in our mini-series Exhortation to Hold Firm by examining The Future Reward for Those Who Endure in Messianic Jews 10:32-39. In this post, we start a new mini-series on our topic of Faith: The Better Way by exploring the Definition and Illustration of Trusting. Let’s start by defining Trust (Faith) in Messianic Jews 11:1-3.

1 Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see. 2 It was for this that Scripture attested the merit of the people of old. 3 By trusting, we understand that the universe was created through a spoken word of God so that what is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena.” ~ Messianic Jews 11:1-3 (CJB)

To the author of Messianic Jews, trust is the absolute certainty that what is believed is accurate and that what is expected will happen. It is not the hope which looks forward with wistful longing; it is the hope which looks forward with absolute conviction.

As I have frequently noted before, Stern generally translates “faith” as “trust.” Well, here is why: [1]

“Trust: Greek pistis, “belief, trust, firm reliance, firm conviction, faith,” corresponding to Hebrew emunah. The Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, though he honored Yeshua his “elder brother,” tried in his book, Two Types of Faith, to demonstrate that the pistis of the New Testament and the emunah of the Tanakh are different. He claimed that pistis is primarily mental assent to doctrines and facts, while emunah is a heart attitude of trust that expresses itself in righteous acts. In fact, however, the latter is the only kind of faith God honors, in both the Old Testament and the New. True Messianic faith is not different in character from that of the Tanakh; it means acknowledging who God is and what He has done, believing His promises, relying on Him for power to live a holy life, and then living that life.

The Jewish New Testament generally uses the word “trust” instead of “faith” to translate pistis because “trust” more clearly signifies to English-speakers the confident reliance on God that generates holy deeds, as opposed to the mere mental acknowledgment of facts and ideas.”

Being confident, Greek upostasis (literally, “that which stands under”), is what gives present reality to what we hope for.

The importance of trusting is that Scripture(here the word stands for God Himself) regards it as the sole basis for human merit, that is, for righteousness and thus for pleasing God (vv. 5-6). “Avraham put his trust in God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, quoted at Romans 4:3).

In contrast to the rest of the chapter, which analyzes various “heroes of faith” chronicled in the Tanakh, this verse sets forth an essential function of trusting, namely, that by trusting we understand. Those who refuse to take the tiny step necessary to trust in God cannot understand the most fundamental truths: the benevolent consequences of faith are not only emotional but affect the realm of the mind.

What is seen did not come into being out of existing phenomena but was created through a spoken word of God. In Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 14, 20, 26, we read that God said and it was! Space and time keep me from postulating on creationism versus evolution.

In my next post, we will continue in our topic of the Definition and Illustration of Trusting by examining the Trust of the Early Patriarchs in Messianic Jews 11:4-7.

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[1] Jewish New Testament Commentary by David Stern.