There’s an awful ring to the story recorded in 2 Kings 6:24-7:20. Not only is the prophet Elisha in danger – this time from the king of Israel! – the whole nation has hot rock-bottom due to the siege laid by the surrounding armies of Syria. Inside the captial, Samaria, things are a mess. Awful. There’s famine, desperation, hopelessness and unbelief. But then God did something. Having tried His people to an extremity, He then acted to save them and drive the enemy away, leaving it very clear that none else but He was the Saviour of His people, and reminding us that the grace of God is far greater than we can imagine.
To be able to see is such a wonderful gift. Sight is such an important aspect to everyday life. But to be able to see what is invisible…now that’s something else. In the text of 2 Kings 6:8-23, it’s very clear that Elisha and his servant were in trouble – surrounded by the Syrian army. Elisha and his servant could both see what was right before them. But Elisha could see what his servant could not – that surrounding them Syrian army was an even bigger army of angels sent by God for the protection of His servants. It’s a great text and one that forces us to ‘see’ that what is viisble is not always the whole story!
In this next instalment in the life and ministry of the prophet Elisha, the incident he is called to address in 2 Kings 6:1-7 seems almost insignificant. A borrowed axehead falls to the bottom of the river and needs to be retrieved. Rather than sending in divers or having a dam built to stop the flow of water, Elisha miraculously arranges for the axehead to float! Because God has unlimited power, this miracle was no difficulty for the God who made everything from nothing, but what does this seemingly insignificant event teach us today?
Of all the stories that the Old Testament tells us that concern the ministry of the prophet Elisha, it is perhaps this one, recorded in 2 Kings 5:1-27, the healing of Naaman, that we remember the most. The reason for that is probably the fact that Naaman was an outisder. he was a Syrian. Even a soldier. Even a commander of soldiers. And yet, for such a man of power, he was helpless to do anything about the disease with which he was afflicted. Enter Elisha into the picture and his direcive that Naaman wash himself in the Jordan River. Enter Naamn’s pride into the picture and you have the scenario where this ‘outisder’ almost remained an ‘outsider’ forever. See, pride has to go, if ever we are to receive what God wants to give us. And in this story, we see ourselves. Outsiders, but also those who are brought in throught the dor marked ‘humble yourselves before the Lord’.
In the text of 2 Kings 4:38-44, we find two miracles linked by the same topic – food. In the first, where the food was poisoned, Elisha’s miracle cure was found in the addition that he made to the food. In the second, where the food was insufficent, Elisha’s miracle was found in the multiplication of what was available. These two stories highlight the fact that Elisha was confirmed as the Lord’;s prophet before all Israel, but they also speak about the wayward relationship of Israel to God in 9th century BC. In chasing after idols such as Baal, the people were adding ‘death to the pot’ and coming up ‘unsatisfied’. This modern world calls us to keep on compromising the truth of God’s Word. To do so leads to danger. Not to do so will bring much blessing.
The miracle in the story recorded for us in 2 Kings 4:8-37 is probably one of the greatest ever done through the prophet Elisha. After establishing a strong friendship with this couple from Shunem, the prophet was confronted with the unexpected death of their young son – a son that he had prophesied would be born to them. When the news reached him of the boy’s death and after his staff in the hands of Gehazi had failed to revive him, Elisha stretched himself out on the boy – hands to hands, face to face – and the boy lived again. The story is complete with many lessons – perhaps the greatest of all the pointer once again to Jesus and the fundamental nature of faith – clinging to the feet of the One who alone can raise the dead!
One again the circumstances for Elisha have changed. From being with and ministering to the Kings of Edom, Israel and Judah in matters that affected the whole nation, we next find Elisha with a poor widow in an unknown location. The widow’s trials were manifold. Not only had she lost her husband, she had also incurred a debt on his passing and her creditor was threatening to take away her sons as slaves (as the law permitted). How the woman came to know of Elisha is not told, but we are told that Elisha not only gave her advice (to collect jars) but also the plan for her to exit her trial (through the multiplication of her sparse oil into greater amounts). Elisha again points us to Jesus who paid our debt by His own blood!
After Elisha’s initial encounter with the people of Jericho and then some youths of Bethel, the scene changes somewhat in 2 Kings 3:1-27 where we meet Elisha in the company of the Kings of Israel, Judah and Edom. The situation facing these kings and their armies was nothing short of desparate. Having taking the desert route to attack the kingdom of Moab, they soon ran out of water and were facing the prospect of death. How Elisha came to be among these kings and their armies is not told to us, but he was, and when approached, the miracle he performed not only guaranteed the survival of the kings and their armies, but also the defeat of Moab and brought glory to God who can do ‘more than we ask or think’ (Ephesians 3:20).
Critics of the Bible might use the text of 2 Kings 2:23-25 to point out how evil the God of the Old Testament is or how uncaring his servants (in this case, Elisha) really are. At first glance of this text, it might appear that they have a point. But with some extra examination and information and perspective, there might be more to this incident than first meets the eye – and it might just turn out to be the exact opposite – something that critics of the Bible (and all of us, for that matter) should take notice of and be warned by! God’s judgement is not something that anyone can take lightly!
There’s no doubt that there are many, many lovely places to live. Whether it’s in the miountains or by a river or near to the ocean, there are some beautiful places to be. But while all may look good on the outside of these places, not all is always well within. While at Jericho in 2 Kings 2:19-22, the prophet Elisha was told that it was a pleasant place to live, but there was a problem with the water supply. The problem was that it caused death. Elisha’s miracle cure for Jericho was simple and it points us to something worth noting. Man’s greatest problem is not outside on him, but on the inside. Sin (which also causes death) lives within and the gospel of Jesus (like Elisha’s bowl of salt) is the only cure.