The Parable of the Vineyard ~ Yesha’yahu 5:1-7

In my last post, we examined The Branch of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 4:2-6. In this post, we look at The Parable (or Song) of the Vineyard in Yesha’yahu 5:1-7.

Grapes were among the basic staple products of the ancient Near East, and therefore the care necessary for a vineyard was well known. In the rocky and hilly terrain of Isra’el special care had to be taken to preserve the soil and the moisture necessary to produce good fruit. As the rocks were cleared from the hillside, the stones were used to create terraces to level the ground. This would prevent water drainage and soil erosion. More stones were used to build huts and watchtowers that would be used to protect the crop when it neared harvest time. Constant weeding between the rows of the vine was necessary to prevent weeds from springing up and sapping off the water supply in the soil. Various irrigation techniques were used to assure enough groundwater. If the ground did not have adequate moisture or if the vines were not pruned back, the resulting crop would be small and sour. Finally, some of the stones were also used for winepresses and cisterns on the site so that the grapes could be processed without risking damage during transportation.

Perhaps one of the most impacting teachings of Yeshua dealt with a vineyard. In John 15, Yeshua told His talmidim that He was the vine, they were the branches, and that they must abide in Him and cling to Him if they were to be fruitful in their lives. Where did Yeshua get this illustration? I believe He got it from His Father for here in Yesha’yahu 5, God the Father, through the prophet Yesha’yahu, also talks of the parable of the vineyard.

This song has been identified as a parable, an allegory, and a love poem. Whatever its precise genre, its message is clear and compelling. It uses imagery to make the point that the people of God deserve the punishment coming their way. While previous oracles have hinted at hope beyond the judgment, this poem does not.

1 I want to sing a song for someone I love, a song about my loved one and His vineyard. My loved one had a vineyard on a very fertile hill. 2 He dug up its stones and cleared them away, planted it with the choicest vines, built a watchtower in the middle of it, and carved out in its rock a winepress. He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only sour, wild grapes. ~ Yesha’yahu 5:1-2 (CJB)

The loved one in the song turns out to be none other than God Himself, and His vineyard stands for His people (v. 7). The singer continues by describing the labor that went into preparing the vineyard. To create a vineyard was no easy matter. There was a period of a few years that passed from clearing the area of stones, planting expensive vines, and building a tower and a winepress. Similarly, God expended great effort in creating the right conditions for Isra’el to flourish as a godly nation. But despite all the work, the vineyard produced worthless grapes. This signified that the people of God did not live up to their promise of being an obedient and blessed people who would also bless the nations around them.

3 “Now, citizens of Yerushalayim and people of Y’hudah, judge between Me and My vineyard. 4 What more could I have done for My vineyard that I haven’t already done in it? So why, when I expected good grapes, did it produce sour, wild grapes? 5 “Now come, I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge, and [its grapes] will be eaten up; I will break through its fence, and [its vines] will be trampled down. 6 I will let it go to waste: it will be neither pruned nor hoed but overgrown with briars and thorns. I will also order the clouds not to let rain fall on it.” 7 Now the vineyard of Adonai-Tzva’ot is the house of Isra’el, and the men of Y’hudah are the plant He delighted in. So, He expected justice, but look – bloodshed! – and righteousness, but listen – cries of distress! ~ Yesha’yahu 5:3-7 (CJB)

This passage is an awesome indictment against the nation of Isra’el, for, in it, the Lord essentially says, “I have blessed you. I have worked with you. I have given so much to you. You are My vineyard, but as I look for fruit in your nation, I find nothing but wild, bitter grapes.” God had indeed blessed the people of Isra’el. He had brought them into a land that was flowing with milk and honey. He had blessed them exceedingly abundantly. But, although they enjoyed the gifts of God, they forgot all about God Himself.

I see a very real parallel between the people of ancient Isra’el and our own country. God has blessed us greatly as a nation. He has blessed us with great freedom and incredible prosperity. And yet we have forgotten Him. We think it is our Constitution, our democratic government, or the free enterprise system that has made us great. We think we have done this by our ingenuity, creativity, or hard work. We congratulate ourselves, all the while forgetting God.

What were the wild grapes that the nation produced instead of the good grapes that God sought for? In the six woes that follow, Yesha’yahu named the sins that brought judgment on the land.

Are we no different than those ancient Israelites?

In my next blog, we will begin to explore the Woes and Judgments of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 5:8ff.

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The Branch of the Lord ~ Yesha’yahu 4:2-6

In my last post, we concluded our examination of God’s Judgment on Y’hudah and Yerushalayim in Part 3 covering Yesha’yahu 3:16-4:1. In this post, we look at The Branch of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 4:2-6.

After saying the times are going to be dark and difficult, brutal and bloody in the previous passage we explored, here in verses 2 through 6, Yesha’yahu says there’s hope – for Isra’el will experience a tremendous awakening. Thus, for the people of Isra’el, the day of the Lord begins as a dark day indeed.

But this is not surprising, for the Hebrew reckoning of any day begins with the setting of the sun. For many of us, our day begins with the rising of the sun, but I like the Hebrew way of thinking better because it begins in darkness and works toward the light. The day of the Lord begins in darkness – judgment, wrath, trouble, plague, problems, war, worry, disease, destruction. But then the Son comes. Yeshua HaMashiach comes back. That’s why Yeshua says, whoever holds out till the end will be delivered. Matthew 24:13 (CJB)

2 On that day, Adonai’s plant will be beautiful and glorious; and the fruit of the land will be the pride and splendor of Isra’el’s survivors. Most modern English translations of on that day, Adonai’s plant translate it as in that day the branch of the Lord.

The history of the interpretation has followed two distinct paths. One views this phrase as a Messianic title of the promised Davidic ruler, the other interprets it as a sign of God’s blessing on nature and considers the branch to be parallel to the fruit of the land. But the two interpretations may not be mutually exclusive since in Hebrew parallelism the second idea is often not strictly synonymous but expands the thought of the first idea. That day is a future day, a time that comes after the judgment described in 2:5-4:1.

3 Those left in Tziyon and remaining in Yerushalayim will be called holy, and everyone in Yerushalayim written down for life. 4 When Adonai washes away the filth of the women of Tziyon and cleanses Yerushalayim from the bloodshed in it with a blast of searing judgment,

The remnant will be holy. Holiness means set apart or consecrated for service to the Lord. Such a relationship implies an obedient lifestyle. Verse 5 explicitly states that Tziyon’s blessed future condition will be accomplished through judgment. It is an act of the grace of God. God’s people must wash themselves (see 1:16), but it is God who makes them clean.

5 Adonai will create over the whole site of Mount Tziyon and over those who assemble there a smoking cloud by day and a shining, flaming fire by night; for the Glory will be over everything like a hupah [wedding canopy]. 6 A sukkah [1]will give shade by day from the heat; it will also provide refuge and cover from storm and rain. ~ Yesha’yahu 4:2-6 (CJB)

After the Exodus from Egypt, God guided Isra’el through the desert by a cloud and flame (see Exodus 40:38), which represented God’s mysterious and powerful presence with His people. Yesha’yahu used this language to teach that the future remnant will again enjoy an intimate and assuring relationship with God after the judgment.

Yeshua is coming back. He’s going to purge the people of Isra’el of their unbelief. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!

In my next blog, we will move on the explore The Parable of the Vineyard in Yesha’yahu 5:1-7.

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[1] A sukkah is a temporary dwelling associated with the Feast of Tabernacles to remind us of the tents that the Israelites lived in during their Exodus from Egypt.

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.

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 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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Elisha ~ Part 14

In my last post, we continued to explore the ministry of Elisha by looking at 2 Kings 5:11-15, where we learned about Na’aman as he first Resists and Then Trusts the Lord. In this post, we continue with Na’aman as he Serves the Lord in 2 Kings 5:15-19a.

15 Then, with his [Na’aman]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.’ 16 But Elisha answered, ‘As Adonai lives, before whom I stand, I will not accept it.’ And despite his urging him to take it, he refused. 17 So Na‘aman said, ‘If you won’t take it, then please let your servant be given as much earth as two mules can carry; because from now on, your servant will offer neither burnt offerings nor sacrifices to other gods, but only to Adonai. 18 Except this, and may Adonai forgive your servant for it: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon — when I bow down, may Adonai forgive your servant for this.” 19 Elisha said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” ~ 2 Kings 5:15-19a (CJB)

Na’aman Serves the Lord

Like every new Believer, Na’aman still had a lot to learn. He had been saved and healed by trusting in God’s grace, and now he had to grow in grace and faith and learn how to live to please the God who healed him. Instead of hurrying home to share the good news, Na’aman returned to the house of Elisha to thank the Lord and His servant. That meant traveling another thirty miles back from the Yarden River, but he must have rejoiced during the entire trip. It was natural for him to want to reward Elisha, but had the prophet accepted the gift; he would have taken the credit to himself and robbed God of His glory. He also would have given Na’aman, a new convert, the impression that his gifts had something to do with his salvation ~ NOT!

Na’aman was starting to grow in his understanding of the Lord, but he still had a long way to go. Elisha refused his gifts, but Na’aman asked if he could take some native soil with him to Syria to use in his worship of Adonai. In those days, people had the idea that the gods of a nation resided in that land, and if you left the land, you left the god behind. However, Na’aman had just testified that Adonai was God in all the earth! However, taking that soil was a courageous act, because his master and his friends would surely ask Na’aman what it meant, and he would have to tell them of his faith in the God of Israel.

In his second request, Na’aman showed unusual insight, for he realized that the king would expect him to continue his official acts as the commander of the army. This included accompanying the king into the temple of Rimmon, the Syrian equivalent of Ba’al. Na’aman was willing to perform this ritual outwardly, but he wanted Elisha to know that his heart would not be in it. Na’aman anticipated that his healing and his changed life would have an impact on the royal court and eventually lead to the king’s conversion. I know from personal experience that instead of criticizing Believers who serve in public offices, we need to pray for them because they face tough decisions.

It is interesting that Elisha did not lecture him or admonish him but just said, Go in peace. This was the usual covenant blessing the Jews invoked when people were starting on a journey. The prophet would pray for him and trust God to use him in his new ministry in Syria. Na’aman’s tzara’at was gone, he still had the treasures, he carried soil from Israel, and he knew the true and living God.

In my next post, we continue to explore the life of Elisha. In this post, we continue to examine 2 Kings 5:19b-27 were we learn that Geichazi Lies to Himself, Na’aman, and Elisha.

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Elisha ~ Part 12

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

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

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

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

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

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

Na’aman Needed the Lord

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

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

Na’aman Sought the Lord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Elisha ~ Part 10

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

Grace Removes A Curse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[2] Ibid.

Elisha ~ Part 9

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

A Second Great Miracle

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

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

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

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


Image Courtesy of Google Images

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

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

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

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

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

Elisha ~ Part 8

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

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

The Great Woman’s Sorrow

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

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

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

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

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