The Beginning of The End… Elijah pt 28

Then spake Elisha unto the woman, whose son he had restored to life, saying, Arise, and go thou and thine household, and sojourn wheresoever thou canst sojourn: for the Lord hath called for a famine; and it shall also come upon the land seven years. And the woman arose, and did after the saying of the man of God: and she went with her household, and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. And it came to pass at the seven years’ end, that the woman returned out of the land of the Philistines: and she went forth to cry unto the king for her house and for her land. ( 2 Kings 8:1-3)

Elisha, in this story, is telling the faithful woman of the remnant, to go into exile out of the Holy Land. She would have to leave her home, and the little sanctuary apartment that she and her husband had built for the prophet, and go to a foreign country. Why? The LORD had called for a famine to afflict Israel. Both the exile and the famine were portents of Israel’s near future.

The famine lasted seven years, and when it ended, the woman returned to the Holy Land, only to find that her home and land had been occupied in her absence. So she went to the King to plead for Justice and restoration.

At the exact time when she showed up in the King’s court, the disgraced Gehazi had been discussing with the King his experiences with Elisha, including the resurrection of the Widow’s son! He looked up, and there she was, waiting to plead her case.

 And the king talked with Gehazi the servant of the man of God, saying, Tell me, I pray thee, all the great things that Elisha hath done.And it came to pass, as he was telling the king how he had restored a dead body to life, that, behold, the woman, whose son he had restored to life, cried to the king for her house and for her land. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. And when the king asked the woman, she told him. So the king appointed unto her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers, and all the fruits of the field since the day that she left the land, even until now.( 2 Kings 8:4-7)

What would the deeper message be? That for Israel, ere will be famine, exile and other horrors come upon the chosen people, but the Righteous are known and will be alright. Furthermore, there will be a restoration of all things one day, for Israel. Like the miracle son of the woman of Shunnam, Israel will be resurrected by God and restored in a Jubilee.

This story also highlights a very positive story about Jehoram. He actually performs his role in this case a restorer of justice and defender of widows and orphans. Does this mean that there is hope now for Israel?

No it doesn’t. The wheels are already turning by this time, which will bring about the destruction of this sinful nation.

Going all the way back to 1 Kings 19, when Elijah stood in the counsel of God, on Mt Horeb, and where God revealed to Him that Israel would be sent three messengers from God as a judgment; Elisha, Hazael and Jehu.

And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay.( I Kings 19:15-17)

It turned out that the first messenger would be Elisha, and he would come as a messenger of Life and mercy. But the time had come for the second and the third.

And Elisha came to Damascus; and Benhadad the king of Syria was sick; and it was told him, saying, The man of God is come hither.And the king said unto Hazael, Take a present in thine hand, and go, meet the man of God, and enquire of the Lord by him, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, even of every good thing of Damascus, forty camels’ burden, and came and stood before him, and said, Thy son Benhadad king of Syria hath sent me to thee, saying, Shall I recover of this disease? And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover: howbeit the Lord hath shewed me that he shall surely die.( 2 Kings 8:7-10)

First of all the fact that Elisha is sent on a mission outside of the promised land, is a sign of impending judgment upon Israel. The nation itself would soon be sent out of the land.

He goes to Damascus, where Ben Hadad , King of Syria gives him the respect due a Prophet of God, sending his servant Hazael to inquire of Elisha if He would recover of the sickness He was suffering with.

When Hazel found the Prophet and inquired of his master, there is a confusion rendered in the answer, especially in the King James version. Elisha literally said to him ” Say, not living you shall live”, and ‘Yahweh shows me that dying he shall die’. The commentator Jordan says that in Hebrew the negative ‘not’, sounds just like the prepositional phrase ‘to him’ both words are pronounced ‘lo’).

Therefore it would be possible to interpret the answer of Elijah as saying “Don’t say the King will live” or ” To Him, Say the King will live”, which is how Hazael received it.

But next, Elisha began to cry, profusely, just as Jesus would do when he rode into Jerusalem.

And he settled his countenance stedfastly, until he was ashamed: and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel: their strong holds wilt thou set on fire, and their young men wilt thou slay with the sword, and wilt dash their children, and rip up their women with child. And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath shewed me that thou shalt be king over Syria.( 2 Kings 8:11-14)

Hazael went back to His king and reported that the Prophet said “Living you shall live’; but that night, Hazael went into the King’s chamber and smothered him to death with his pillow. Then He took the throne. The second messenger in judgment is in place, Hazael would launch devastation and utter destruction on the cities of Israel as an instrument of Divine judgment, until it finally collapsed as a nation and went into captivity.


Elijah pt 28

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Seige and Deliverance…Elijah pt 27

And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass’s head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove’s dung for five pieces of silver. And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king. And he said, If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress? ( 2 Kings 6:24-27)

Samaria, the capital of the break away Northern Kingdom of Israel, is under siege. The conditions were terrible; an Ass’s head was now highly valued, and Dove’s dung as well. People were so desperate they were forced to eat such thing, and to cook with materials that they once thought but a nuisance. Now they were gathering the dung of birds, so that they might sell it.

As the King of Israel was making a round on the walls of the besieged city, a woman cried out in desperation for help. After an exasperated and sarcastic answer, the King asked to hear her story. ( In better times, those with legal complaints would line up to plead for the mercy and justice meted out by the King as a function of his reign).

The Story is a nightmare…

 And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow. So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son. And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.( 2 Kings 6:28-30)

How horrifying! What does sin reduce a people to? Moses once warned us of how powerful sin is to reduce anyone at all to unimaginable levels of barbarity…The fact that such a request could be made without irony, to the King, shows how deep the level of madness and depravity the besieged city had been sunken into.

The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter,And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates. ( Deuteronomy 28:56-57)

And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me;Then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat.( Leviticus 26:27-29)

The people saw the reaction of the King, He was heartbroken and bore the tokens of repentance and brokenness before God, in his clothing.

But they were just tokens, the King had no “godly sorrow’ at all, rather he had “worldly sorrow”. He was hurt, horrified, brokenhearted, and emotionally moved at the events that had reduced his Kingdom to this level of barbarity. But He didn’t fear God, nor was he sorry for his sins, nor the sins of the nation.

Instead he was furious, at God and at the Prophet of God, Elisha. So he swore by God to kill Elisha!

Somehow he connected Elisha to the sufferings of the nation, either it was his doing, or perhaps his failure to intercede properly, but nonetheless less all of the rage, fury and impotent frustration of the King was now aimed at Elisha.

Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.( 2 Kings 6:31)

Elisha had been sitting with the elders of the city, perhaps they had wanted to be with him for some kind of consolation or a Word from the LORD for better things, or perhaps they were all praying. It could even be that they were repenting, before God and in the city gates. The LORD showed Elisha that someone from the King had been sent to arrest Him.

But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master’s feet behind him? And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?( 2 Kings 6:32-33)

But when things couldn’t get any blacker , a shaft of light penetrates the gloom. Elisha gives a prophecy that food would become abundant again and prices would return to normal by the next day. Our God is the God of the gospel.

Then Elisha said, Hear ye the word of the Lord; Thus saith the Lord, To morrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria.( 2 Kings 7:1)

What is the deeper meaning of this suffering, and then the promise of a sudden reversal by the mercy of God? God had been dealing with the nation. He wanted to give them another chance to repent, and to know that deliverance from their enemies would be a slight thing with Him, that if they would humbly turn to Him and allow him, he would reverse their fortunes in no time at all. Israel, even in the depths of her apostasy, had no excuse, for she had seen time and again, the enactment of the twofold message that “all things are possible with God” and that the “Lord is good, slow to anger and abounding with mercies”.

One of the King’s officers standing there, retorted with unbelief and sarcasm,

Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof. ( 2 Kings 7:2)

Unbelief is a direct attack on the faith of God’s people, therefore it was met immediately with the sternest rebuke.”You will see it, but not taste it!”.

That particular official would be trampled to death the next day, in the rush of the people to access the food left behind in the deserted enemy camp.

God uses the foolish and weak things of the world to confound the powerful and ‘wise’.

Four lepers, sitting outside the gates of the city, between Samaria and the Syrian camp. Normally the Samaritans would have showed some compassion, sending food out to the four lepers, but their own situation in the siege had greatly curtailed such benevolence.

Thus the lepers reasoned among themselves that they had nothing to lose, either they would starve to death outside the city, or they could give the Syrian war camp a shot, perhaps they would be fed there. But to their amazement, when they arrived at the camp of the Syrians, not a man was there. For the Syrians had fled, and left all of their siege supplies, including food, in place in the camp.

For the Lord had made the host of the Syrians to hear a noise of chariots, and a noise of horses, even the noise of a great host: and they said one to another, Lo, the king of Israel hath hired against us the kings of the Hittites, and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us. Wherefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents, and their horses, and their asses, even the camp as it was, and fled for their life. And when these lepers came to the uttermost part of the camp, they went into one tent, and did eat and drink, and carried thence silver, and gold, and raiment, and went and hid it; and came again, and entered into another tent, and carried thence also, and went and hid it. Then they said one to another, We do not well: this day is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace: if we tarry till the morning light, some mischief will come upon us: now therefore ( 2 Kings 7:6-9)

The lepers were the first to hear, see and taste the good news! The last were made first! They gorged, and plundered and buried and hid their plunder until conscience smote them. They shouldn’t keep the gospel to themselves, they needed to share it with the city.

In spite of Elisha’s prophecy the King of Israel is still paralyzed by paranoia and fear. His unbelief makes him unable at first to hear and believe the good news. Eventually he sends out riders and they find that it is true, as the lepers reported.

The markets are set up in the city gates and food prices go right back to normal, all within a day, Just as Elisha predicted. God has shown grace to Israel. But Judgement also broke out on them who refused to believe, also as prophesied by the prophet Elisha,

 And the king appointed the lord on whose hand he leaned to have the charge of the gate: and the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died, as the man of God had said, who spake when the king came down to him.And it came to pass as the man of God had spoken to the king, saying, Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be to morrow about this time in the gate of Samaria: And that lord answered the man of God, and said, Now, behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be? And he said, Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof. And so it fell out unto him: for the people trode upon him in the gate, and he died. ( 2 Kings 7)

Would it be grace or Judgment? The nation had tottered between the two for more than a century, and certainly throughout the amazing ministries of Elijah and Elisha. The time for ultimate choosing was drawing nigh. The choice would be made in the face of such incredible manifestations of Grace, as well as in sight of terrifying demonstrations of Divine judgement as well.

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Lord Open His Eyes….Elijah 26

 Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber. ( 2 Kings 6:8-12)

We turn now to a very public series of miracles in which the King of Israel was given deliverance as long as he hearkened to the Prophet of God, in his dealings with the enemy, Syria.

The Syrians had been launching raids and setting up ambushes against the King of Israel, but were foiled because Elisha could see, and relayed the location of the Syrian, to the point where the King of Syria thought he had a traitor in his midst. “No King, the Israelites don’t have a spy among us, they have something better, a Prophet”, replied one of the King’s advisors.

And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.

 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha ( 2 Kings 6:13-17)

The Syrians set up a siege around Dothan, to trap and imprison Elisha. When his servant looked out over the city walls, He saw a vast military camp with horses, chariots and troops, intent on seizing Elisha. But Elisha stayed cool, calm and collected. The prophet knew that there was an expeditionary force sent to arrest Him, and thus was not at all surprised when he and his servant awoke to the danger.

But Elisha could also see what no one else could see, other than through the eye of faith. “Lord I pray thee, open His eyes, that he may see…” . When the servant’s eyes were opened he saw, that surrounding the mighty Syrian army, was an even greater heavenly army, of fiery chariots, horses and an Angelic army.

The Angel of the LORD encamps around them, who fear him,, and deliverers them...” (Psalm 34)

Do not fear little children, you have already over come them, for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world” ( I John 4)

In Ephesians, Paul prayed that the “eyes of our understanding would be enlightened…”.

All of these realities were there all along, but unseen until Elisha prayed for the servant that his eyes would be opened. God is an ever present deliverer and defender of his people.

 And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.( 2 Kings 6: 18-20)

The first clause of this sentence should read “When they (Elisha and his servant) came down to it (the camp of the Syrians)… Elisha descended from the hill city of Dothan and walked right into the Syrian war camp, in the knowledge of the heavenly help afforded him.

He smote them with blindness…not total blindness, but Blinding… in other words the Syrians could see, but were unable to know who it was that they were seeing . Elisha then offered to lead the Syrian army, to the man whom they sought, and took them ( 4 hours march) to the city of Samaria, the capital city of Israel, and the home of King Joram. When Elisha prayed that the LORD open the Syrian’s eyes, they realized that they were in Samaria and at the mercy of King Joram.

And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel. ( 2 Kings 6:21-23)

How refreshing to see an Israelitish King following a prophet of God, and even calling him “My Father…” . Yet King Joram needs his eyes opened as well as the servant of Elisha, and the Syrians. This is a story about the opening of eyes to see, or the darkening of eyes to not be able too see, all mediated through God’s prophet.

Should Joram now kill the Syrian raiding army? Of course not, would he kill prisoners of war, if he had caught them in battle? Are these Syrian his captives? Can he do with them as He pleases, or are they God’s captives?

How should enemies be treated? How was Naaman the Syrian treated? He was baptized into the Kingdom of God and healed!

What about this invading army, now helpless and like putty in the hands of the Prophet? They were set out to capture him, but instead He captured them, ( in the name of God, of course).

Make them a feast, feed them and send them back to Ben Hadad as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. “If your enemy is hungry, feed Him…” .

Alfred Eidersheim summarizes well the many lessons in this precious gem of a story;

 We do not wonder to read that after this marauding bands of Syrians no longer made incursions into the land. But to us all there are many lessons here: not only of the unseen, but certain presence of our God and of His help; of rebuke to our groundless fears, and encouragement to go forward; but also as concerning the enemies of the people of God and our dealing with them. How often when they have surrounded Dothan, and deemed themselves certain of achieving their purpose, have they seemed blinded, and found themselves in the midst of Samaria. How many times have arguments and measures, which were thought certain of success against the truth or the people of God, ended in quite the opposite result. And lastly, should we not learn to deal with those whom not our own power, but God, has made helpless captives, not as if they were our personal enemies, but generously, while faithfully, although in meekness, instructing those who oppose themselves, if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25)? For, as harsh or self-asserting bearing on the part of those who may defend the truth of God would tend to injure that cause, probably more than anything else, so assuredly would it be palpably and painfully incongruous. And yet – the LORD reigneth, and He will take care of His own work. ( Eidersheim, Alfred Old Testament History)

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Recovering the Unrecoverable… Elijah 25

And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.( 2 Kings 6:1-7)

The revival initiated at Carmel , when Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal, has steadily worked it’s way through the nation. The “Sons of the Prophets” are growing in number and an expansion is needed.

Elisha blesses the plan for the construction of a new dwelling place for the growing community of believers, but they want him to come and be with them throughout the construction. Not to supervise or to fell trees, but just to be there, for the presence of Jahweh is with Him, and he (Elisha) is as a spiritual comfort and inspiration to them, just by being in the midst of them.

But there is trouble. An axe head slipped off of a borrowed axe, and fell into the water. This was the early bronze age and axes were rare, iron was expensive and this would have been costly enough to incur debt and possibly debt slavery. So they resort to the “man of God”.

Elisha is taken to where the axehead went into the water. He cut down a stick of wood, and threw it into the water at that place, and the axe head floated to the surface.

There are multiple meanings to this miracle, for all of the miracles of Elisha were ‘signs’ pointing to some greater truth.

  • Elisha had earlier thrown Salt into a brackish spring, making it drinkable. He had also thrown flour into a poisoned pot of stew, transforming it into edible food. Now he throws wood into a river to recover a lost axe head, in order to save the young prophet from indebtedness. Once again the Prophet plays the role of a kinsman redeemer, restoring life to those who follow Him.
  • The young prophet is told to “take up” the axe head in a similar wording as the women was told to “Take up Her Son” who had been dead, until Elishah prayed for Him. Resurrection is one of the themes of this miracle. That which was lost has re-surfaced.
  • The Prophet threw wood into the river, (As Moses once threw a tree into brackish water) in order to recover the unrecoverable. The Wood is a foretaste of the cross of Jesus, by which we die and are resurrected, unto new life.
  • The theme of submersion, and return is in this miracle. Those who cling to the Prophet (the Word of God) find that though thrown into the turbulent waters of life, always have a way of resurfacing by the power of God.
  • One commentary suggests (rightly) that the future of Israel is in view here, for like Jonah when He was thrown over the side of the boat, Israel would be thrown out of the promised land and cast adrift in the sea (the Gentiles) but that God would cause her to resurface.
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The Reversal… Elijah pt 24

 And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant. But he said, As the Lord liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none. And he urged him to take it; but he refused. And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing. And he said unto him, Go in peace. So he departed from him a little way.(, 2 Kings 5:15-19)

Naaman, the mighty conqueror, has been conquered by Jehovah. He has stepped down from his chariot, and the proud military man has unstrapped his armor, and stepped down barefoot into the Jordan river, to immerse himself.

After seven dips, He has emerged again, a new man, with a new lease on life. His skin was as soft and new as a baby’s and most importantly, He has a new heart. Now Naaman wants to worship and serve the God of Israel.

Before Elisha and all of those who accompanied Him, the newly cleansed and converted Naaman made a good confession of Faith, ‘Now I know, that there is no God in all of the earth, but in Israel”.

His first lesson in new life commenced. Naaman wanted to make his payment, only to be refused by Elisha. The deeper meaning? “We are saved by Grace and not by works, lest anyone should boast…”. No one can pay for God’s blessing of salvation, it is a free gift of Sovereign grace.

Next Naaman wanted to load for himself two mule loads of dirt to bring home with him. In his thinking, He has switched loyalty from the gods of Syria, unto the God of Israel, the LORD. Thus he would set up a little “Holy Land”, a sacred space in Syria, when He went back home, in order that He might worship the God of Israel, in Israel (in a sense). There would be no idols involved, just Holy Land, on which to worship the God of Israel.

One more question had to be cleared up, it involved his job, for which he would need a concession from the Prophet, and from the God of the Prophet, whom He now served.

Naaman had to accompany his King into the temple of the Syrian god, Rimmon, and hold his arm whilst the King bowed low before the idol. This would involve Naaman bowing low as well, but not out of reverence to Rimmon. Would God understand that in spite of this, Naaman was yet a loyal worshipper of Jahweh, from this day on? Could a concession be made in this case?

Elisha bid him to go home in peace.

This Naaman, a man who would never attend a temple service in Jerusalem, nor a Bible study, or synagogue service, has become an example of what God really requires, steadfast and loyal worship, based on gratitude for grace. He became a worshipper of the LORD, and the subject of one of Jesus’; sermons, in Luke 4.

But at the same time Naaman was making his complete reversal, going from being a Syrian, to an Israelite, (if not physically, then spiritually), the servant Gehazi would be reversing in the opposite direction, having been inwardly seduced by his own sinful lusts.

 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, Behold, my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.So Gehazi followed after Naaman. And when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, Is all well? And he said, All is well. My master hath sent me, saying, Behold, even now there be come to me from mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets: give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments. And Naaman said, Be content, take two talents. And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed.( 2 Kings 5:20-24)

Gehazi was bothered that an uncircumcised Syrian, should be “spared” at least a fleecing of his wealth in view of the blessing he had come to receive in Israel. So he pursued the chariot, and took advantage of the good nature of the new convert, lying to him about Elisha needing a little bot of the vast wealth Naaman had intended to use, to pay for the service of healing.

Naaman was in such a benevolent mood, that he gladly doubled the request in Silver, gold and raiments asked for by Elisha’s servant. Gehazi then went and hid the Silver and gold and raiments, exactly as Achan had once done in the days of Joshua. But God saw it all.

 But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.( 2 Kings 5:25-27)

The Prophet asked Gehazi a direct question, and received only a lie in return. HE (God) was giving Gehazi a chance to repent of his betrayal of the gospel, but Gehazi refused.

To Gehazi, all he saw in the recent incident, was a possible transaction between Naaman, and Elisha. Why shouldn’t Naaman give money for the blessing bestowed upon him in Israel’s territory? Why shouldn’t He and Elisha merchandise this power to enrich themselves at the expense of this Gentile?

Gehazi didn’t see in it the higher meaning of it all, that the glory of the God of Israel was in this, and that in love, mercy and free grace .God saves all who humble themselves and call upon him in truth.

Certainly Naaman the Syrian saw it, and became a believer, an Israelite in spirit and heart. But now Gehazi would take his place, for he had sold out his faith, and become a Syrian at heart, grasping, taking, reducing everything sacred to a mere transaction, and seeking what he could get out of the ‘deal’ with no regard for God’s glory.

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The Cure Of an Enemy… Elijah pt 23

Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper. And the Syrians had gone out by companies, and had brought away captive out of the land of Israel a little maid; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. And she said unto her mistress, Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.( 2 Kings 5:1-3)

Israel had an inveterate national enemy, Syria. When she was with God, He kept Syria at bay, and in the days of David and Solomon, Israel even had Damascus as a garrisoned holding (2 Sam 8:3-12). But when Israel went astray in the years following Solomon’s reign , God used Syria to chastise her through frequent wars.

In the days of Elisha, Naaman was one of Syria’s celebrated and victorious generals, highly trusted by his master the King, and made victorious over Israel, ( and those victories are attributed to the God of Israel, in the text).

This man had everything going for him; he was a war hero, influential with the King and considered a man of valor and honor.

There was just one problem… He saw a steadily growing ‘rising’ in his skin which was turning white, In short, he was becoming a leper, and he knew it. He knew he was going to die, and that nothing else he had accomplished would matter, for he was doomed to die a horrible death.

Not only did he know it, but his household did as well. Naaman’s wife had a little maid, (we don’t know her name), who had been captured in a raid upon Israel by the Syrians and ended up in Naaman’s household. This little maid grew to love her captors, and shared in the families concern and sorrow over Naaman’s state.

One day she expressed that concern, by openly wishing that Naaman was with the Prophet (Elisha) who is in Israel, for he would surely recover Him of his leprosy.

This little wish, openly expressed to Naaman’s wife, (her mistress), made it’s way up to the very court of the King of Syria, Israel’s bitter enemy and conquerer. The King of Syria heard the little girls statement, and acted on it.

And one went in, and told his lord, saying, Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the king of Syria said, Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the king of Israel. And he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment. And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman my servant to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.( 2 Kings 5:4-6)

The King of Syria, being a pagan, believed the report of the un named slave girl. (Think about that!) Being a Pagan he had made certain assumptions, one being that the King of Israel was in charge of this prophet, for in paganism, the King is the head of the religion and can command at will of his prophets any magical service possible.

Therefore the Syrian King would command Israel’s King (being his vassal) to recover his servant of his leprosy. Another Pagan assumption he made was that he could buy the healing with silver and gold.

When the King of Israel received the message, he made certain pagan assumptions as well. He assumed that the King of Syria was using Naaman’s illness as a means of provocation, he wanted to pick another fight, and wipe out Israel. He (Possibly Joram) knew that only God could kill or make alive, and that Leprosy was like a death, but Joram had put God aside long before, (if he ever believed in Him, being the Son of Ahab and Jezebel). Therefore he trembled and balked in craven fear.

And it came to pass, when the king of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes, and said, Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me. ( 2 Kings 5:7)

But Israel did have a true Prophet, in spite of the sinfulness of her Kings and most of the people. Elisha made it known that Joram should send Naaman to him, and proclaimed confidently that God would reveal himself to all in this incident.

And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the king, saying, Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.( 2 Kings 5:8)

Naaman did just that. He loaded up his chariot, and (no doubt) his armed accompaniment, and trekked south to the defeated nation of Israel, with the requisite gifts of gold, silver and raiment, to pay for the services of the Prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha. And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.( 2 Kings 5:9-10)

We can imagine the proud conqueror arriving at the humble house of the Prophet, with all of his armor and the train of gifts and accompanying soldiers there, standing upright in his chariot, in the land that He and his armies had defeated in war.

But the Prophet wouldn’t so much as go out to meet him! He sent out his servant, Gehazi, with a very simple instruction, which seemed calculated to deflate the proud spectacle of the mighty conqueror who had come to receive his healing.

There was no greeting, nor did the prophet make much ado of the mighty foreign visitor. There was no mystical ritual, or chanting, or waving of the hands, seeking of portents and omens, which were the standard fare of ‘holy men’ in those days, among the heathen.

Naaman was told simply to “go wash…in the Jordan…seven times…” in order to be cleansed of his leprosy.

This put Naaman into a rage, He was utterly livid!

Where was his fanfare? Where the acknowledgment of his greatness and the superiority of his King and people? How dare this nobody refuse to come out and greet him! Who did He think He is? Did he not know who was standing before him? And to think I am to wash in the muddy, gritty Jordan? I can show you real rivers, mighty rushing Syrian rivers, as opposed to this creek!

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.( 2 Kings 5:11-12)

The proud man very nearly rode away in his pride and rage, and that would have not only sealed his physical fate, but his spiritual one, for all of eternity.

Even in our day, many have come to desire Church to be something grandiose, and fitting to our own perceived dignity, it must be something exciting, entertaining, great and exploding with power. Everything must be ‘first class’, and tailored to meet our felt needs. So men have learned how to build such ‘Churches’, and to despise the tiny, remnant churches which refuse to cater to the spirit of the age.

Once again, some un-named , lowly people enter into the testimony and make all of the difference. Their gentle answer turned back his wrath, and saved his life…

 And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?( 2 Kings 5:13)

The scripture says, ‘then He went down…”. Do we realize what it took for that proud Syrian to go down? He had to unbuckle his armor; his breastplate, his grieves, to unstrap his sword, and remove his battle helmet. Someone no doubt helped him unstrap his boots, and then he had to begin to remove his clothing. In public he exposed his leprous skin, there would be no hiding it.

Then the mighty man had to gingerly step down from his chariot, (he was barefoot now), and make his way out into the Jordan river, feeling along for a deep enough spot in the Jordan, to immerse himself.

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.( 2 Kings 5:14)

When He simply obeyed the Word of the LORD, he was cleansed. There is nothing magic about the Jordan River, nor is there any ‘holy water’ anywhere, it is in simple faith and reaction to the Word of the LORD that we are saved and healed.

He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Psalm 107:20)

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The Death of Ahab… Elijah pt 14b

And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, Did I not tell thee that he would prophesy no good concerning me, but evil? And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And the Lord said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will persuade him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade him, and prevail also: go forth, and do so. Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil concerning thee.( I Kings 22:18-23)

Micaiah goes further, showing an incredible vision of the God, sitting in the midst of His own Divine Council, consisting of the gathering of the Holy and unholy Angels, to discuss the manner of the execution of God’s sentence on King Ahab’s life. How should it be done?

One would think that such a vision, from an admittedly credible prophet would dissuade the Kings from going forth. But Jehoshaphat was bound by his foolish commitment, and Ahab had doubled down in pride, imprisoning Micaiah and promising that he would deal with him, when He returns “In Peace”.

Ahab”s imperious promise to return in peace, after God warned him that he was being led into a rout, amounted to a direct and open challenge to the Word of the LORD.

… Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace. And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, the Lord hath not spoken by me. And he said, Hearken, O people, every one of you.( I Kings 22:28-29)

What we can take away from this mysterious account?

  • That at this time in Israel, there were both true and false prophets operating in the name of Jahweh.
  • That Ahab had surrounded himself with handpicked Prophets of his own choosing.
  • That the flattery and “good words” of the false prophets were themselves an aspect of the Divine Judgment.
  • In some way, Ahab perceived a true prophet, but hated Truth.
  • Furthermore Ahab regarded a valid warning of the LORD thru Micaiah, as personal hostility against himself, and by personalizing it, he ignored it.
  • Ahab would be destroyed, by his own self will and deliberate self blindness.
  • There was another element to this scene of ominous horror, and that was when Zedekiah, the chief of the false prophets, lashed out at Micaiah, when He heard his prophecy. Something in it triggered him.

But Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah went near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee? And Micaiah said, Behold, thou shalt see in that day, when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. ( I Kings 22:24-25)

It could well have been resentment on the part of Zedekiah, that in his heart he too perceived that Micaiah was an actual chosen vessel of God, and not contriving “words” as He and the other 400 were. The rage and resentment which triggered him to lash out, betray a conviction on his part.

When the destruction comes, Zedekiah and all who similarly prophesy falsely are going to be seen as contributing to it, and accountability will be demanded to the extent that the false prophets will be forced to hide themselves, and pretend that they were never prophets at all.

When Jehoshaphat and Ahab did go to war together, Jehoshaphat was taught a severe lesson about ecumenism; Ahab talked him into going to battle in Kingly regalia, but He himself disguised as a common foot soldier, thus allowing the Syrians to believe that Jehoshaphat was the King of Israel, and thus the target.

 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle. But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel. And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel. And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out. And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him.( 1 Kings 22:30-33)

God had mercy on Jehoshaphat, although he had the fright of his life, almost being mistaken for Ahab, his ecumenical “friend”. When Jehoshaphat returned back to Judah, having barely escaped with his life, He was met by a prophet in Judah who gave him a penetrating admonition;

And Jehu the son of Hanani the seer went out to meet him, and said to king Jehoshaphat, Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the LORD. ( 2 Chronicles 19:2)

Ahab didn’t fare so well, for there is no counsel against the LORD,

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria.( I Kings 22:34-37)

Ahab was dying, but had himself propped up, in his chariot, to deceive his own people as He bled out…that He was still leading them. His blood and gore filled the chariot as He died, and this set things up for a horrifying fulfillment of prophecy and a portent of things to come for his wife, Jezebel.

And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the Lord which he spake.( 2 Kings 22:38)

Dogs gathered to lick up his blood as it flowed out of the chariot floor. When the King James tells us that next they washed his armor, it is a mistranslation, which hides a very significant irony,

They washed out the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood (it was there that the prostitutes bathed themselves) in accordance with the word of the LORD which He had spoken.( New American Standard)

Most English translations have this verse as the New American Standard does. They all say something to the effect that dogs licked up the blood at the place where the prostitutes bathed themselves, ie ritual sacred pools, set up for the sacred prostitutes by which Astarte was worshipped, who were ordained by Jezebel in order to re-establish Baal worship in Canaan.

How ironic that the blood of Ahab flowed into the very ritual cleansing baths, of pagan priestesses set up by Ahab and his wife. As for dogs lapping it up, what a portent of the prophesied end of Jezebel, that Dogs would lap her up as a punishment for her part in the murder of Naboth.

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The Man Who Was a Temple… Elijah pt 21

And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.( 2 Kings 4:8-11)

One of the critical differences between the ten tribes (Israel) and the remaining two tribes(Judah) after the nation split apart, was the fact that Judah retained the Temple of Solomon and the priestly ministry of mercy and intercession.

Israel’s Kings kept the ten tribes away from the temple, sinfully inventing their own worship and priesthood. They were afraid that the people’s loyalties would return to God and to a re-united Israel, if they allowed them to go on pilgrimages to the Temple as God commanded. So instead the Kings turned the people to “golden calves” to worship.

Here we are told that there was a married couple of the tiny remnant of God fearing people in Israel, who recognized that Elisha the man of God, was “Holy” and that the presence of God was with him.

So they set up a place on the wall of their own house, consisting of a room with simple furnishings. The room had a bed, a table a lamp stand and a chair, and was a provision for Elisha as a “rest” for him, as he traveled throughout Israel.

Thus it was as though, for a people without a temple, God established a temple… (The high place, the room, the table, candlabra,and chair…corresponding to the holy hill, the sanctuary, The Holy Lamp, the table of shewbread and the Ark ) through the ministry of Elishah.

What is it that people would go to the temple for? Healing, life, The Word, cleansing, access to God himself through Priests. Israel had been cut off from the life giving services of the temple and it’s ministry of mercy.

Elijah and Elisha were God’s provision, He would not abandon his people, even in their worst moments, not even in the darkest times of consequence of their sin, God comes to them, when they cannot come to God.

Notice that Elisha speaks to the woman through Gehazi, ( as though he was a Priest/mediator);

 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.” Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”( 2 Kings 4:12-16)

Again the ministry of Life overcomes the power of death, when Elisha pronounces that the woman would have Son by that time in a year. Sin and idolatry kill, they make barren and strip away all of the possibilities of Life, but Elisha was a representative of the Living God, and out of his ‘temple’ God speaks life.

What Elijah and Elisha were doing in Israel would be categorized as a renewal movement. The damage of more than a hundred ears of idolatrous Kings, false priests, Baal worship and the judgment of God, had wrought havoc and death on the land.

The Southern Kingdom had the well established temple, with it’s God appointed priesthood, services, sacrifices, all of which anyone could point to and look at as an obvious sign of the favor of God.

What did the remnant of the Northern Kingdom have by contrast?

God provided them a prophet who dwelt in a small upper room, sparsely furnished. In the room was a table, chair and lamp ( a substitute ark, mercy seat, and lamp stand). Wherever he went, Elisha carried the presence of God to the Northern Kingdom, for those who no longer had access to the temple.

God’s power is surely known in weakness.

Within the year the woman of Shunem had a child, a boy.

Several years later her faith was put to a severe test when the boy had a heat stroke and died.

The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. 19 He said to his father, “My head! My head!”His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.” “Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”“That’s all right,” she said. She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you.” So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel. (vs 18-24)

The woman lays her dead son in the room/sanctuary of the prophet, committing him to God. She then heads out to beseech the Prophet himself.

Elisha sees her coming and sends Gehazi out to meet with her, and to inquire of her need. But the woman will not open up to Gehazi, she holds out until she comes to Elisha personally. Then she lets out all of her anguish grabbing the prophet by the feet,

 When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” “Did I ask you for a son, my lord?” she said. “Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes’?” Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.” But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her. Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”( 2 Kings 4:27-31)

Gehazi shows his insensitivity to the desperate woman, by trying to push her away from Elisha, when she lit off of the donkey and desperately grabbed the prophet’s feet, as though they were the horns of the altar.

Elisha sought to assuage her fear and desperation by sending Gehazi ahead with the symbol of his prophetic authority, the staff, to touch on the dead boys face. This failed, Elisha himself would have to go to the boy, who lay in the ‘sanctuary’ built for the prophet.

 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.  He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the Lord.  Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm.  Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out. ( 2 Kings 4:33-38)

Elisha shut the door, ie closed himself in with God, in the little sanctuary, just He, God and the dead boy. Then the prophet stretched out on the boy, as though he were dead, like the boy, “eye to eye, hand to hand, and mouth to mouth”. The body turned warm and the little boy revived and was given back to his mother, alive.

The sign, in this case was that death would be reversed once for all by another death, a counter death. A Redeemer will enter our situation, and his death (along side us) will bring us back to life again.

Into the sin cursed land of barrenness, oppression, exploitation and disease, God sends Life, in the person of Elisha, who is a type of the Messiah.

Elisha’s ministry also functioned as a temple, in the absence of a temple, for wherever he went, life countered death. In the chapters ahead, devout worshippers in the North, would bring first fruits offerings to Elishah and his school of prophets and He would cleanse a pot of poisonous stew by way of a meal offering, as a living temple of God.

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Give the People to Eat… Elijah pt 22

Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.”One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. 40 The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot. A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said. “How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked. But Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord. ( 2 Kings 4:37-42)

Remember that the land of Israel, which was supposed to be a land of life, abundance and beauty, had become a land of death, due to the idolatry they had given themselves over to. The Acts of Elisha in these stories are all examples of the various forms of death, which he was sent to conquer through the miracles he performed.

God would not just abandon his wayward people to their fate. He would come to them in their diseases, barrenness and oppression. Their distance from the Temple and all that it stood for, would be countered by a little upper room with its own table, lamp and chair, and a servant of God anointed by God with Life.

He was but a shadow of the ultimate life-giving servant, Jesus of Nazareth, as the Apostle Peter would tell us,

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. ( Acts 10:38)

One of the benefits which Israel was intended to abound with, was beautiful food. It was to be a land flowing with milk and honey. This is what it would be like in blessing.

The LORD taught Israel how to eat, thus separating them from all of the other nations. All of the clean and unclean foods listed in the law of Moses, held both a physical and a spiritual meaning, for food has a spiritual correspondence.

We feed our bodies and our souls. Spiritual teaching, preaching and doctrine are the food that truly feeds us and makes us sound. Man lives by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.

On the other hand, False prophecy and false teaching, or just vanity and empty words are detrimental and even deadly to our souls.

When the school of the prophets put on the pot to make stew, some indiscriminately threw wild cucumbers and poisonous vines into the stew, not realizing what they were doing. They poisoned those who ate of it.

The miracle performed by Elisha involved a very simple principle, the Prophet threw some flour into the poisoned pot.

This miracle is similar, yet different from the time the Prophet threw salt into the poisoned waters at Jericho. The similarity is obvious. But the difference is significant and takes us to the theme of the prophet himself as Temple, for estranged Israel.

Flour differs from salt in that it doesn’t occur naturally. God gives the grain, but men must crush the grain to make flour. The Temple in Jerusalem offered regular grain offerings as a type of the one who would liken himself to a “grain of wheat” that must die alone, that He might bring forth much fruit.

Jesus had to be crushed and sifted and put into the oven of God’s wrath as an offering to God for us. Thus the “grain offering” in the temple. Elisha is teaching us that in this world, which has been poisoned by sin, Jesus can turn the stew of our life, into something edible and wholesome.

Notice that the congregation of prophets, call out to the “Man of God”. Elijah and Elisha were both “men of God”, ie men sent into the situation of decline and defection from faith in Israel, to represent God’s interest and to relay God’s Word and works to a scattered remnant. There is a God in Israel!

But they are only types of the ultimate and final “Man of God” , for God became a man and entered into our world, fully aware of what it means to be tempted, tried, loved, hated, mocked, and despised, that we all might know that there is truly a living God, who knows and understands us.

 …God our Saviour;Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; ( I Timothy 2:3-5)

Another indication that in God’s grace, everything the temple should have been for Israel, would be acted out and embodied in Elisha the man of God, is this next vignette.

And there came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the Lord, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the Lord.( 2 Kings 4:42-44)

This little account is infused with Levitical terminology and imagery for the law of the First fruits. Normally the first fruits of the barley harvest would be presented to the Priest at the temple. Eidersheim again gives insight,

We know that the Lord directed the first-fruits to be given to the Priests and Levites (Numbers 18:13; Deuteronomy 18:4). This ordinance could not any longer be obeyed in the kingdom of Israel, since the Aaronic priesthood, for whose support it was destined, was not in office there. But the pious in Israel, to whom such contributions were not merely matter of obligation nor only of law, but who willingly offered to Jehovah, in acknowledgment of His sovereignty and proprietary over the land, knew to observe the spirit, if they could no longer obey the letter, of the law. Accordingly this unnamed man from Baal-Shalisha brought, as is expressly stated, to the “man of God” “bread of the first-fruits, twenty loaves of barley and bruised ears of corn*   in his sack.”**(Old Testament History, Eidersheim,Alfred)

Elisha had a servant, Gehazi, who complained when Elisha announced that they should share the bread among all of the prophets. Would twenty loaves feed a hundred men? Elisha again pronounced, “Give (the bread) unto the people that they may eat…” , then he prophesied that all would eat and that there would be leftover… , and performed something like Jesus’ miracle of loaves and fishes.

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The Oil that Never failed… Elijah pt 20

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. ( 2 Kings 4:1-6)

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal Life.

Israel was intended to be a nation of life. God granted a land flowing with milk and honey, that His people might be well fed, happy, productive, as a witness to the entire world of the existence and reality of the Living God. He gave them a beautiful Law, in order that people might be protected from exploitation, and guided into the blessed life.

But Israel chose idols. Especially her Kings, chose to be like the world and to worship as the heathen. Such choices bring deadly consequences.

Israel, The place of life and blessing had become a place of death and of the curse. She (Israel) is a widow, a debtor in danger once again of selling herself into slavery, as in the days of the Judges.

The miracles and stories in this chapter are handpicked and were meant to illustrate this, and to go further and show that in mercy God answers to the death imposed upon Israel, in the person of Elisha his servant and representative.

Here we have a widow. Her husband had been a man of God and had served God, but he died. When a nation descends into a civilization of death, everyone is affected, not just the gross sinners.

There was no one as vulnerable as a widow in the ancient world. Her sons would be her only “safety net” humanly speaking. She was in debt, and the creditors were coming to take from her, her two sons, to put them into debt slavery , leaving her without recourse.

In the God centered Torah system, a widow in such trouble had several merciful options through the Law; There was always the Jubilee, also the merciful status afforded an Israelite, to be treated as a bondservant as opposed to a debt slave, not to mention the numerous admonitions by God himself throughout all of scripture to show mercy to widows and orphans.

Another option would be a Gaol, ie a “Kinsman Redeemer” a near relative with means, who would be willing to buy her Sons back, out of debt, (To Redeem them). To her knowledge the widow had no such relative.

The Kings were another option, for God had called Israel’s kings to be protectors of the widow and the orphan in Israel. She could have stood in line, and come before the King and plead her case for mercy, as the Law of God is full of mercy.

Like God himself, the Kings were to be the father to the fatherless and husband to the widow.

But when the Kings forsook the law, to follow after idols, as in Israel, oppression and injustice,(death ) flowed into the courts of law, and that option ( of a merciful King and protector) was shut down. Kings who forsake God, do not reflect God’s mercy.

Those creditors were coming, and technically (by law) no one could stop them. They would have stripped her of any protection and support she still had. What about judges and courts in such an idolatrous situation?

Jesus warned us all in Luke 18 of Judges who do not regard God or man. Israel had become a place of oppression and exploitation because Idols are dead, and cannot regard “God or man”. We currently live in a very similar situation, as our own western world dies.

But in his mercy, God sent Elijah and Elisha to come into this moral and spiritual desert, in order to minister life in the valley of death. The Widow turned to the Man of God, when she couldn’t turn elsewhere.

The Prophet asks her “What do you have in your house?”

The woman was directed to look at what she did have, in her own house, as provided by God. What she did have was a small cruse of anointing oil.

Next she was to borrow as many “empty vessels ” as she could and fill the house with them.

After she had gathered the vessels she was to close the door of the house.

Then she was to pour the anointing oil, into the vessels, and fill all of them, ( a miraculous supply) having enough to sell and to pay off her debts, redeem her children and to live on the remainder!

The deeper meaning that this sign points to is pretty strait-forward; Vessels represent people. In this case these vessels were empty. The anointing oil, represents that which is Holy and of God.

Seemingly in apostate Israel, there was almost no obvious trace of God, save a tiny remnant, of empty and powerless people, whose only ‘power’ was in their openness and receptivity to God, in a time where those around him had forsaken Him.

The closing of the door of her house, was to signify the shutting in ourselves with God, “The Father who sees in secret”, and to know the direct provision of God, and that in all of our deepest need, he comes to those who believe and seek him, shutting out the world and all else.

The Widow was to act on the prophets word, but in prayer and complete dependance upon God.

God can take that “tiny cruse” of sacred oil, and pour it out without interruption, filling whosoever would open up to Him. His oil never runs out, and fills the empty and desperate who open themselves up to him.

The LORD, through Elisha, (the personal representative of the Living God), in a sense had become her “Kinsman Redeemer”, redeeming her sons out of the bondage.

Was this not a sign of the Will of God to all of Israel? Yeah even further to all of wider world? Wherever desperate and needy people are willing to empty themselves, knowing their slavery and the reason for it, shut themselves in with God in worship and humble acknowledgment, He is ever willing to fill the empty vessel with his oil, to redeem, forgive and even to replenish for the asking. This is the deep meaning of this miracle.

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