Lessons From Elisha
by Allan Swift
The object in choosing Elisha as our subject is that he is one of the best examples in the Old Testament of what a New Testament believer ought to be. His call and subsequent enduement with the power of God, and the ministry which followed, show what is possible for one who will keep in touch with heaven as did this unique prophet.
The gentleness of the Spirit was surely manifested when, in 2 Kings 6:21-23, Elisha forbade the killing of the entrapped Syrian soldiers, but rather that they should be treated kindly and fed, and be sent away in peace. The principle laid down in Romans 12:19-21 was carried out to the letter. We would all do well to ponder this as the first of the many practical lessons
the narrative of Elisha has to offer.
On the other hand God’s wrath against sin could move the prophet so suddenly that he would judge with as much severity as did Peter in dealing with Ananias and Sapphira. For an example of this see 2 Kings 2:23-24, where we have the incident of the mocking children being torn by the bears.
The life and ministry of Elisha reminds us of the standard upheld in the New Testament. In private he had a very real walk with God and learned to be quiet in spirit, and adjust himself to every circumstance with victory in his soul, as is taught in Phil. 4:11-13. Paul voices the will of God which every Spirit-filled child of God proves from experience, for the Lord
gives us all the same kind of schooling.
Elisha reminds us of the way God worked in the early church. According to Hebrews 2:4, the ministry of the Word was accompanied by demonstrations of the spirit which made the labors of the preacher effective. We see this in evidence in our prophet. He always had the right word for every occasion, and the power to accomplish that which would fully meet the need. So it should be today, and we would do well to watch Elisha as he carries on for God, and learn some timely lessons from him.
Elisha was called of God. It was a case of “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” The prophet Elijah was having a very severe test. Fire had fallen from heaven in answer to his prayer; the false prophets had been slain; and the people were ready to acknowledge that the LORD was the God. Jezebel the queen, however, was determined that it should be otherwise. She threatened the life of Elijah. He made his escape, but the outlook was very depressing. It looked as though God’s cause was lost. Elijah felt that he was the only one remaining of all God’s people.
To his surprise he learned that God was not disturbed with the turn events had taken; in fact it was not as bad as it appeared. Instead of Elijah being the only saint left, there were seven thousand who had never bowed the knee to Baal. With their prayer backing, it was time to go forward instead of backward. God had more work for Elijah to do. He was to anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; Jehu to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat to be prophet in his room. All of this would take time to consummate. Man is tempted to quit when the way is hard but God knows no defeat, and always has plans for the future. If we will encourage ourselves in Him, our night will eventually turn to day, and we shall be further used until the Lord is ready to receive us unto Himself.
History proves that Elijah’s work was not done. He ministered for eight to ten years more. We do not see him very much before the public eye, but he had the sons of the prophets to train, especially the young man Elisha, whose later ministry shows how much valuable contribution the prophet Elijah added during the closing years of his time on earth.
Elisha was called from the plow. In other words, he was active. God has plenty of work for occupied workers to do, but nothing for those who are waiting for a job. Each Divine appointment for your life offers a larger ministry. Responsibilities increase, bringing more suffering, but the Lord knows you can stand it or He would not have given the call. Let us learn
to work for God where we are and in due time He will open other and larger spheres of service.
When Elijah cast his mantle upon the shoulders of Elisha, the young man ran after the prophet and said, “Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee.” Elijah did not urge him, but, as it were, left the choice entirely with him. In other words, God extends His call, but allows us to say yes or no. The young man made splinters of his plow, slew and boiled his oxen, gave a farewell feast to his friends, and followed his new master. If we will do as Elisha did and burn every bridge behind us, we shall be able to say a lasting “yes” and succeed. We have no record that he kissed his father and mother. He had no intention of ignoring them, but on the other hand, he sensed danger lest they influence him against doing the will of God.
With such a call as Elisha received to succeed the great prophet Elijah, one would imagine that he would soon become quite prominent. God, however, does not work that way. The first job the young prophet got was to be serving man to his master. In 2 Kings 3:11-12 we read that Elisha “poured water on the hands of Elijah.” He waited on him, brought the wash basin, drew the water, and thus a future career of great usefulness began. About eight long years passed before he really filled the room of Elijah, but, judging from later results, Elisha must have been faithful and observant, gradually becoming qualified.
Let us learn the lesson. The call of God is oft times thrilling. We run over with enthusiasm, and feel that the time is short and we must be up and doing. People respond so tardily, but we would like to shout it on the housetop so that someone will be stirred to meet our needs, and send us forth. Instead of that, we have to mark time and accept the chastening of our eager spirits, until we are really ready. Then God will work, and in no time you are on your way.
The Double Portion
When Elisha received his call as the mantle of Elijah touched his shoulders, he knew it contained a promise of the enduement of the power of God. This became a cherished hope in his heart. The day arrived that Elijah should be removed. Elisha made a decision from which he would not be shaken. He was going to stay by his master at all costs. Elijah tried to shake him off, but the only response he got was, “As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee.” Three times he was advised to stay behind, but each time he made the same reply. What a lesson for us. We set our faces to seek God and then are turned aside by some distraction. Then we soon discover that we have let down and are getting nowhere.
It would seem that the record of Elisha’s determination is given as a lesson, that we too should diligently seek until we And. Christ taught the same thing, for in Luke chapters 11 and 18 we are urged to ask, seek, and knock, and be as importunate as the man who wanted three loaves, or as the widow who wanted action by the unjust judge. Each got what he wanted, and so shall we if we pray without quitting.
Elisha wanted the anointing of the Spirit in order to fill the room of his master. As long as Elijah occupied the office, he had the power and leadership. Now he is to be removed, and to fill his place Elisha must have the same power. It reminds us of the promise of the Holy Ghost. John the Baptist foretold it, and as the day approached Jesus said, “It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you.” As long as Christ was here, His presence met their need for life and service. Now He is absent, and as He gave the Spirit to the early disciples, so He still anoints His people with the same power, and in the same way, that we may carry on as Jesus “began both to do and teach.”
Elisha’s last journey with Elijah contains some good lessons. It is a fine illustration of what transpires in the heart when one is tarrying for the baptism with the Spirit.
Starting at Gilgal, which means rolling away, we get rid of the worldly way of leaning on the arm of flesh, and begin a new separated walk in which Christ will prove Himself as “all and in all.” Then we come to Bethel, the house of God. This teaches abiding. The Spirit-filled life can be lived in no other way, and the sooner we learn it the better. Jericho was their next stop. Here we are introduced to the “obedience of faith.” If God is to work, we must believe. There is no other way. We pray and pray and do all we can to get the baptism, but faith and praise will make more headway than anything else. Jordan is the last call. The plan of God is death to self, or, “Not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.”
Jordan is crossed; Elisha is still following Elijah. The moment arrives with the offer: “Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken from thee.” The young man seizes his opportunity and claims what goes with his call: “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” What he wanted was the portion of the eldest son who now is to become the head of the sons of the prophets. The custom of olden times was to give the eldest son a double portion of the inheritance, for he became the head of the house when the father died. Elijah, as father, was to be taken, and Elisha must have what goes with his new position. Later on the sons of the prophets said, “The spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha.” The portion was more than they had but the same as Elijah had. We, too, may have the same power Christ had, that in His absence we may do the same works He did.
When Elisha made his request he was told that he had asked a hard thing, and it would be given only if he saw Elijah when he was taken. The younger man stayed right by, and when the great prophet was caught away, he saw him, and took up the mantle which fell from him. The work was completed. Elisha believed his request was granted. Now he must go forward with faith and exercise his newly acquired power. Subsequent chapters will show how wonderfully he succeeded.
For God’s people of today there is a similar lesson. We may ask for power too. When we pray and tarry before the Lord, we may be tempted to look around, and perhaps be stumbled by what we see. Elisha was told that he had asked a hard thing, but if he wanted to receive he must keep his eyes on Elijah. To obtain the power of God for service through the baptism with the Spirit is not an easy thing. We must seek the Lord alone, and by so doing we will get in the Spirit and speedily be fitted to receive the double portion. Then we shall be made ready for real Holy Ghost ministry. Therefore let us press on, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith,” and in due time we shall be amply rewarded.
Elisha’s Vision of Angelic Hosts
The opinion commonly held by people is that Elijah went to heaven in a chariot of fire. This is not the case. The Word says he went up by a whirlwind. The chariot of fire, and horses of fire parted the two men asunder. From what Elisha said, we would gather that God gave him an important revelation. Listen to his words, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.”
There are three references to the matter. The first is in 2 Kings 2:11-12 which we have quoted above. In serving God one gets into trouble at times. Our great Captain, the Lord of Hosts, has made provision so that when we meet the hosts of darkness we may count on the hosts of light to succour us. To Elisha it was a wonderful revelation which stayed with him in readiness for practical application in time of need.
The second reference proved the correctness of what has been said about the first. According to 2 Kings 6:8-18, Elisha by “the Word of Knowledge,” was able to warn the king of Israel of decisions made by the king of Syria in secret sessions of his War Council. This happened a number of times, until the king of Syria suspected treason by someone of his close advisers.
To his surprise he learned that the prophet Elisha was kept mysteriously informed of words that he would speak in his bedchamber. They felt the only way to overcome the difficulty was to take the prophet captive. He sent a company of soldiers to surround the city of Dothan. In the morning, Elisha’s servant came running to his master with the dreadful news, and said, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?” He was met with the answer, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes, that he may see.” What did he see? The mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. It is evident from this incident that the vision of the chariot of fire and horses of fire given to Elisha at the time of Elijah’s translation was for a definite purpose, that he might know of the presence of the hosts of the LORD.
The prophet must have taught this to others, for in the third reference to the matter in 2 Kings 13:14 we find the king of Israel weeping over Elisha who was then sick, and saying, “O my father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.” But what a defeated spirit he had. It reminds one of some Christians who do everything but believe. They use the words of victory but know very little of the experience. When Elisha saw the king’s perplexity he tried to help him. He placed his hands on the hands of the king as the latter shot an arrow through an open window, and said, “The arrow of the LORD’S deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria: for thou shalt smite them . . . till thou have consumed them.” This was a promise from God. Then Elisha told the king to take his arrows and smite upon the ground. He did it three times only. The prophet chided him for such lack of enthusiasm and said, “Now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.” In other words, if we fail to cooperate in faith we hinder the fulfillment of God’s promises.
Notice what happened at Dothan. In v. 18 it says, “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.” The LORD’S hosts were always present. They awaited the prophet’s orders and carried out whatever he said. After the Syrian soldiers were blinded, Elisha led them right into Samaria. Then he prayed that their eyes be opened, and they found themselves surrounded by the hosts of Israel. The king of Israel wanted to kill them but Elisha ordered otherwise. He showed the grace of God. The men were given a good meal and sent back to their master, and the Word says, “So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.” God ever waits to be gracious. According to Rom. 12:20-21, God’s Word to us is: “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Three Interesting Incidents
After Elisha had received the mantle of Elijah, and with it the double portion, or anointing for service, he found the Jordan before him without bridge or boat. Just previously, the two of them went over on dry land. Elisha remembered how it was done, so he took the same mantle and smote the waters. They divided for him as for his master. The sons of the prophets viewed afar off and saw the miracle. To them it was evident that the spirit of Elijah now rested upon Elisha, and they acknowledged him as their leader. What a lesson for us! If we receive the power of God for service and apply it as the need arises, the public will soon take notice. That will be all the credentials we shall need. Elisha believed, and proved the power of God. Let us do the same that the need of the people shall be met, and God be glorified.
Three incidents will be considered in this chapter. The first we will call, “Reason versus Revelation.” After Elijah was translated the sons of the prophets began to reason about it. They were afraid the Spirit of the LORD had cast him upon some mountain or into some valley, and offered to send out a search party of fifty strong men of their own number. Elisha would not agree to this, but when they continued to urge he yielded to their request.
After searching for three days the men returned and reported that they could not find Elijah’s body. Elisha merely answered, “Did I not say unto you, Go not?” He believed that God had truly taken his master to Himself, but let the men go that it might be also proven to them. Elisha had the revelation in his heart. The sons of the prophets knew that God was going to take their master, but had such a partial knowledge of the LORD’S character, that they allowed themselves to doubt His love and mercy. A wholehearted acceptance of the love of God will help us when the way is hard and reason tries to assert itself contrary to revelation.
The second incident is, “The Truth About the Bears.” In 2 Kings 2:23-24 we are told that a large group of children followed Elisha one day and called after him, “Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.” They were mocking him. Many in Israel were backslidden and their children were not brought up in the fear of God. Very likely much fun had been made in their hearing about the foolishness of thinking that Elijah had been translated.
From all of this one gathers that Satan was using the children to ridicule the power of God. Elisha no doubt, through “discerning of spirits,” understood the situation. Being suddenly moved upon by the Spirit as was Paul in Acts 16:16-18, he cursed the children in the name of the LORD. The result was terrifying. Two she bears came out of the woods and attacked the children, and tare forty-two of them. Some may think this a poor example of the love of God. At one time we were asked why God would allow innocent children to be killed in that way. They were not killed, but badly mauled, and learned a lesson of not mocking a prophet, for that is like mocking God Himself, and punishment will surely be meted out.
Incident number three tells about, “The Spring of Waters Healed.’’ This is one of the miracles performed by Elisha. The place was Jericho. The men of that city came to the prophet one day and said, “The situation of the city is pleasant . . . but the water is nought, and the ground barren.” The man of God is expected to know what to do. By the Word of Wisdom, God gave him the remedy. He said, “Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein.” None but the Lord could have so led him. It reminds us that we, by the Holy Ghost, may have the Word of Wisdom, and when the needy come to us, we shall be able to give them real help, and not so many empty words. When the cruse was brought, the prophet went to the dried up spring and said, “Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.” And the Word says, “So the waters were healed.” What a sweet comment upon the act of Elisha, and also what a revelation of the power of God. It helps us to understand what is still possible. We read in Heb. 13:8, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” Does it not mean that the miracles of Christ are not to be regarded as works of the past only, but also possibilities of the present? It would seem so if John 14:12 is true, “The works that I do shall he do also.” The “he” refers to the one who believes. It is for us to discover how such things happen. The writer believes that the secret is in hearing the word of the Lord. Elisha walked with God and at any moment of need received directions from Him. With this came faith, for we are told that, “Faith cometh by hearing.” Herein, no doubt, lies the secret of Elisha’s power. We, too, may likewise be endowed if we practice more waiting on God, and the lesson is offered that we might be enticed to seek the face of the LORD for real revelations of Himself in service.
A spiritual lesson might be drawn from the incident as follows: The new cruse is a type of regeneration, and the salt of separation. By nature we are “of the earth, earthy.” The original water of life is dried up and our earth is barren. But when we are made a new cruse by regeneration, and allow the salt or purifying process of sanctification to work in us, our barrenness ceases and the sweet water of life flows forth, by which we bear the ninefold fruit of the Spirit. It takes time and real consecration, but if we will follow Divine directions, we shall surely reap the benefits. Remember that Paul says in Gal. 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Water Without Wind or Rain
The lesson in this chapter is drawn from 2 Kings 3:1-20. It tells about the ungodly alliance. We are warned in God’s Word about being unequally yoked with an unbeliever. When Ahab king of Israel died, his son Jehoram was placed on the throne. In the past Moab had been a tributary state of Israel, but Ahab’s death was used as an occasion to throw off the yoke. The new king Jehoram prepared an army to fight Moab, and had as his ally the king of Edom.
Jehoshaphat, the godly king of Judah, had shown some leaning toward the king of Israel. He was asked to join himself with the other two kings. To this he should not have agreed, but he replied, “I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.” It is one thing to mingle with the people of the world in order to be a witness, but when there is danger of being drawn into a wrong alliance, we must draw the line and stay true to God.
After the three kings had decided on their plan of attack, they went forward for seven days and ran short of water. For a large army with all its beasts of burden to be in such a plight was a calamity indeed. The king of Israel said, “Alas! that the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab!” Man usually talks that way.
He plans to suit himself, and then blames God if things go wrong.
Jehoshaphat the godly king asked for a prophet of the LORD, that they might enquire of the LORD by him. A servant of the king of Israel suggested that they get Elisha, the son of Shaphat. In v. 11 we learn something about his lowly life after being called to follow Elijah. He was the great prophet’s private servant. It pays to take the lowly place. The promise is that God will exalt us in due time. If we can stand the humbling, our day of more prominent service will come.
The three kings went down to see Elisha. Through the visit we learn what God thought of the backslidden king of Israel. He was an idolater as were his father and mother before him, but he had the audacity to say that God was responsible for their present predicament. The presence of Jehoshaphat saved the day. or his sake the prophet was willing to consider them. He called for a minstrel, feeling no doubt that when he played and sang the praises of Zion, the Spirit of God would become active. We may learn an important lesson from this. It is when we praise that the
blessing falls, and we would do well to be singing Christians, and offer God much worship from the heart.
As the minstrel played, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha, and then he gave forth the remarkable prediction which is the title of our lesson. “Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts.” Their need was as good as met, but they must supply the obedience of faith. “Faith without works is dead,” and so it was in this instance.
The miracle of supplying the water was God’s responsibility. He said, “without wind or rain,” and just how it was provided is not said. In the morning when the sun rose, there was the water. If they had failed to dig ditches there would have been no way of collecting the precious fluid, but now they had plenty for both man and beast.
A rule by which God governs Himself in answering prayer is found in Eph. 3:20 where it says He “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us.” In providing water, the Lord also met another need and that was to give victory over Moab. He said the first answer was ‘‘but a light thing,” and promised that Moab should be overthrown and their land spoiled.
The water which delivered the Israelites from the menace of thirst became the means of judgment on Moab. As they looked toward the advancing host, the sun’s shining on the water made it look like blood. Moab concluded it was blood and reported among the people that the allied armies had smitten one another.
Completely off their guard, they rushed in to gather up the spoil, and found themselves unprepared to resist attack. The Israelites rose up and smote them and chased them to their cities. Moab suffered a great defeat. Their king was so disheartened that he offered his eldest son for a burnt offering. Just why, it does not tell, but perhaps he thought it necessary to appease his heathen deity.
The fact that the water which aided Israel was the cause of Moab’s overthrow, reminds us of the Gospel which will bring deliverance to some while to others who believe not it becomes the message of judgment. Paul said to some we are the savor of life unto life, and to others of death unto death. In Rev. 20:15 we read: “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” The Gospel would save them, but it becomes a message of judgment instead. Let us take heed to the Word of God in this our day of opportunity, that we may partake of His grace, and be ready for the future which God has prepared for them that love Him.
The Multiplying of the Pot of Oil
In this lesson we have an excellent example of the coordinated action of three manifestations of the Spirit. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 12:11, “But all these worketh that One and the selfsame Spirit; dividing to every man severally as He will.” Elisha was a minute man, ready for every emergency. We cannot but think, however, that like all of God’s servants, he could do nothing of himself. Even Christ was in that position, for He said in John 5:19, “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.”
In 2 Kings 4:1-7 we read that a widow, whose husband had been one of the sons of the prophets, came to Elisha in great distress. Her husband had evidently owed a sum of money to a creditor. His death left the family financially embarrassed. The creditor was threatening to take the woman’s two sons to sell as bondmen, thereby seeking to reimburse himself with what was owing to him. In her trouble she appealed to the prophet.
Elisha had compassion on the woman and sought to do something. God understood the need and was prepared to act. He is always ready, but looks for some man or woman of faith who is willing to be used. By the Word of Wisdom, Faith, and the Working of Miracles the need was met so that the woman had sufficient means to pay her debt, and a good balance for the coming days.
This threefold manifestation of the Spirit is worthy of examination. When someone is seeking help through a servant of God, much depends upon what is said. Through the Holy Spirit we may obtain wise counsel which will not be so many fill-in words, but something to the point, so that when it is carried out, definite results will follow. This God-given counsel is the Word of Wisdom. In order that such a word may bear fruit, there must be the operation of faith, and, dependent upon the need, the Holy Spirit must work in power. In some cases it may be by the Gifts of Healing if the needy one is sick, or perhaps by the Working of Miracles as in the case in question.
The power of God is unlimited. From the ninefold manifestation of the Spirit, there is a variety to draw upon. The Christian worker should be open and ready, and as he senses what God is prepared to do, he must act in His name that the need of others might be met.
A spiritual lesson may be drawn from the miracle performed. Regarding oil as a type of the Holy Spirit, we may say that our every need is met by the fulness of the Divine Spirit. That God has made this provision is quite evident for in Luke 11:13 He likens the response to the importunate man, to His willingness to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.
To really get a full supply of God’s power, however, we follow a simple rule. We must “borrow . . . empty vessels . . . not a few.” When Jesus promised the Spirit in John 7:38 He said, “Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” Some appear disappointed with the results of their baptism. They expected to have a continuous overflowing portion. To get this demands sacrifice of one’s time for the sake of others. We must borrow vessels not a few, and pour into them our loving service for Christ. The results will be surprising.
How often people have been heard to say, “I never knew I had so much of the Word!” All they did was to witness for the Lord and the oil flowed. When the ministry ended, the oil stayed. Others have been helped, but there is no end to the blessed reaction in the heart of the one who ministered. Therefore if you want the oil of the Spirit to meet your own need, live and labor for others and you will not be disappointed.
Another lesson concerns the poverty of the widow who appealed to Elisha. According to the Word of God she did the right thing to go to the man of God. If, in our penury, we would do the same thing, we would learn what great provision has been made for our temporal needs. In 2 Cor. 8:9 we read that Christ became poor for our sakes, that we “through His poverty might be rich.” This must be taken literally.
The Lord Jesus definitely chose the lowly life and declared that “the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.” This circumstance was not accidental but carefully planned, that we might claim redemption from poverty. Again we apply a rule, however, and that is found in Luke 6:38 “Give, and it shall be given unto you . . .” Whether in things spiritual or temporal the same rule holds good, “for with what measure ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.”
The Raising of the Shunammite’s Son From the Dead
In 2 Kings 4:8-37 we have a simple Old Testament narrative of an incident in the life and ministry of Elisha. His path of duty often led him in the direction of Shunam, a place in north central Palestine, belonging to the tribe of Issachar. A certain woman of means, who hereafter will be referred to as the Shunammite, invited the prophet to eat whenever he passed by. Finally she suggested to her husband that they build an extra room on their house for Elisha’s use, and the prophet gratefully made use of it.
One day while resting there, Elisha asked his servant Gohazi to call the Shunammite and inquire of her what should be done to requite her kindness. Would she care to be recommended to the king or to the captain of the host for some special favor? She replied that she kept pretty much to herself and had no desires in that direction. There seemed to be nothing she needed. Gehazi then made a suggestion. She was childless and had an aged husband.
According to the eastern mind it was a calamity for a woman to be without a son. This gave the prophet food for thought. The woman had ministered to one of God’s prophets. Should she not be rewarded by some special working of Divine power? Elisha called her to him and promised that in due time she should embrace a son. To the woman it was news too good to be true. She said, “Nay, my Lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.” It showed the longing heart, and she pleaded that she be not disappointed. God had led the prophet in his statement, and the Shunammite was duly rewarded for her kindly ministration.
When the child had grown to be quite a good-sized boy, he went out to his father one day as he worked with the reapers. After a while he complained of pain in his head, probably sunstroke. A lad was told to carry the boy to his mother. She held him on her knees until noon, and then the child died. Imagine the grief of the poor woman. She did not give way to a noisy demonstration of weeping, however, but determined to go to the prophet for help. After laying the boy’s corpse on the bed of Elisha, she asked her husband to send her a servant with an ass that she might go to the man of God. Riding another ass herself, she told the young man to make all speed possible.
When the woman came to Mt. Carmel, Elisha recognized her as the Shunammite. He sent Gehazi his servant to ask of her welfare, to which she replied it was well with her, well with her husband, and well with the child. This was an evidence of her faith, for she felt that the God Who had given the son would surely not take him away from her. What a lesson for us. We are told to resist Satan “steadfast in the faith,” but instead of that, many Christians let the devil steal the good things God has given, and certainly intends for them to keep.
Now we come to an example of the use of the Word of Knowledge. At times the Lord makes clear to His workers what to do in a certain situation so that they understand the case by Divine illumination. Then again they may have to feel their way until by prayer and supplication they obtain the help of the Holy Spirit. Elisha was much used in the Word of Knowledge, but in this instance he was quite in the dark. He sensed by the woman’s manner that something was wrong. She came and caught him by the feet and poured out words in the heat of her spirit, saying, “Did I desire a son of my Lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?”
Elisha handed his staff to Gehazi and told him to lay it upon the face of the child. The mother, however, would not leave until the prophet consented to go with her. Another lesson for us. God’s servants can help, but the One we all need is the Man Christ Jesus, the Mediator between God and men. As they journeyed together Gehazi came back and said, “the child is not awaked.” When Elisha reached his room, he found the dead body of the boy laid upon his bed. What was he to do? Having shut his door, he knelt before the Lord and prayed. Evidently God directed him.
He laid full length on the corpse, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands, and the child became warm. Then the prophet walked to and fro a few times and repeated the operation. God’s power touched the body; the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. The mother was called and given back her son, fully restored to life.
As we meditate on this lesson, we are brought face to face with the great need of living and laboring in the power of the Holy Ghost. We are in grave danger of having a form of godliness without the powerthereof. Our message is, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever,” but our actions belie our words.
Instead of seeking for Divine aid until we get it, we seem satisfied to pray a little and then turn to the arm of flesh. Satan never will declare an armistice and neither should we. What God gives, He intends for us to keep, and if we seem to be losing out, we should storm the throne of grace until God comes forth again. Then, and then only, can we claim affinity with the Pentecostal Church of the beginning.
Death in the Pot
Before we turn from 2 Kings, chapter four, we would like to refer to two more miracles wrought through the ministry of Elisha. The most outstanding is that of the poison in a pot of pottage being quenched by a few brief instructions from the prophet.“Death in the Pot” were words used by the sons of the prophets after they had tasted of a meal which had been prepared for them.
At that time there was a dearth in the land and vegetables were scarce. To augment the supply, one of the young prophets went out into the field and gathered a lot of wild gourds, of the nature of which he wasignorant. He shred them into the pot of pottage. In due time the food was cooked and served. As the men began to eat, they were evidently attacked with some form of distress, and all realized they had been poisoned. Instantly they appealed to Elisha with the cry, “O thou man of God, there is death in the pot!”
Right here we get a glimpse of the calm faith of their master. No doubt he received instant word from God and acted on it. He said, “Then bring meal.” This he cast into the pot and said, “Pour out for the people, that they may eat,” and the Word says, “there was no harm in the pot.”
This is another instance of how simply Elisha turned to God, in faith applying whatever guidance he learned through the revelation of the Spirit. It shows how one can be used in one or more of the nine manifestations of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Cor. Ch. 12. The prophet made no claims to any special private endowment, but just moved against a wrong condition as God would direct. There was no loud clamoring for aid, but just a simple application in faith along any line of the Divine leading. His faith remained quite undisturbed, but underneath he was ever on the alert, and quick to act.
Back of the order of Elisha to bring meal is a doctrinal truth which shows why God so directed him. In Mark 16:18 Jesus said, “and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them.” It was to be one of the signs which would follow them that believe through the preaching of the Gospel; therefore this sign is based on the atonement. Elisha called for meal. Christ is the corn of wheat which fell into the ground and now brings forth fruit. Since meal comes from crushed wheat we can trace the truth of the broken body of our Lord by which the poison in the pot was quenched. Therefore God was using the incident to indicate His will to heal our bodies because of the stripes borne by His Son.
Three things were needful to obtain results. The first was, bring meal. Secondly, it must be put into the pot, and thirdly, the men must pour out the pottage and eat. It is one thing to believe in the broken body of Christ and another to apply the truth in time of need.
Paul’s teaching in 2 Cor. 4:10 is “always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.” In other words, he carried his remedy with him, the dying of the Lord Jesus. Christ said in Jno. 6:53 and 57, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” and, “he that eateth Me, even he shall live by Me.”
Many misunderstood Him, but to those who wanted to know He said in v. 63, “The flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” The Word says His body was broken for us, and with His stripes we are healed. His bruised and broken body was nailed to the cross that we might live, physically and spiritually. When such a truth is mixed with faith it works with power. This is the meal Elisha dropped into the pot of poisoned pottage, and as they believed and ate in faith, God responded and the poison was quenched.
Another miracle recorded in 2 Kings chapter 4 is the multiplying of a small love-gift of food offered to Elisha so that it was not only sufficient to satisfy an hundred men, but there was some left over, see vv. 42-44. We think of the feeding of the five thousand in the ministry of our Lord. There are those who say that miracles were proof of the deity of Christ. This is not correct for He said, “The works that I do shall ye do also.” Would it not be better to recognize our high calling and earnestly desire that God will use us in some way to prove that Jesus Christ is “The same yesterday and today and for ever?”
The working of miracles is listed among the nine manifestations of the Spirit in 1 Cor. 12, and if the need ever arose, surely we could count on God to repeat Himself today as He did in olden days! It would seem that God has placed on record the deeds of such a man as Elisha, that we might be encouraged to look for His working too, when our way is hemmed in by obstacles that are a challenge to our faith.
In Pentecostal life and ministry, the great need is the directing word of the Spirit. It we profess to believe what our message offers, can we be content to labor in the deadness of the letter when God offers the glorious power of the Spirit? Let us be genuinely alarmed at lack of results, if such is our misfortune, and pray ourselves back to that place of conscious co-working with God, so that the signs may follow which were promised by Christ in the 16th chapter of Mark’s Gospel.
The new life in Christ is the result of the fulfillment of a promise, and according to 2 Peter, chapter one, further progress is brought about through partaking of the Divine nature by the exceeding great and precious promises. God allows difficult situations, not that we should turn to the arm of flesh, but that we might discover “what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us ward who believe.” Those who trust Him wholly will find Him wholly true.
The Healing of Naaman the Leper
The healing of Naaman the leper is one of the well known stories of the Old Testament. To some, the outstanding character is Naaman, the commander in chief of the armies of Syria. A little captive maid, however, deserves honorable mention. If she had spent her time mourning over her misfortune, there would have been no such incident recorded in the Word. Instead of that, the little maid saw the plight of her master, and wished for him the privilege of contacting the prophet in Samaria. Blessed rest, indeed, from a hard circumstance! If God’s people were more at rest in Him, and would testify rather than weep, perhaps they would sense other greater needs than their own, and be instrumental in leading needy ones to Jesus Christ, “a Prophet mighty in deed and word” that their needs might be fully met. Let us learn to be like Paul, who said in 2 Tim. 2:9 that though he was in bonds, the Word of God was not bound.
Our narrative is found in 2 Kings chapter 5. Verse one says, “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honorable … he was also a mighty man in valor, but he was a leper.” In Samaria was a prophet who could recover him from his leprosy. Who was to break the good news? A little captive maid, snatched from her loved ones and home, dropped the word. One went in and told his lord who was, perhaps, in the presence of the king at the time. What hope was kindled in their hearts! Could it be that for Naaman there was healing? Why not try?
Our full Gospel message is like a fairy tale to many people today. For a long time the truth of Divine healing has been hidden. Even when it is made known people do not know how to act. So it was then. Kings have much in common with other kings, but lowly prophets are not so well known. What should they do? The king of Syria said he would write a letter to the king of Israel. This he did, and it read as follows: ‘‘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.” “How shocking,” says someone, and so thought the king of Israel. And yet, if he had been a true Israelite he would have known something of the power of God as manifested through His prophets. Sad to say, from the king down, so backslidden was the nation that there was very little belief among them.
The king of Israel altogether misconstrued the purpose of the letter. He regarded it as an entering wedge for a quarrel and in despair 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?” Someone reported the matter to Elisha, who thereupon 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.”
Naaman went at once with his horses and with his chariot. What an imposing sight! In verse 5 we read that Naaman took with him “ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment.” All told the value in our money would be over $100,000.00. How attractive! Surely the prophet would jump to the occasion, and cater to this great man.
To Naaman’s amazement, Elisha did not even appear. He 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.” The great man was enraged, and went away saying, “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.”
The natural man is ever the same. To see and to feel is more attractive than to believe. More would be healed today if they would cease following healers and find God in His Word. The dear worker whom God uses is not
to blame, but oh that folks would follow the Lord doctrinally rather than psychically.
Naaman’s servants were genuinely concerned. Even though their master admired the great rivers of his homeland better than the lowly Jordan, why not test the value of the prophet’s words and see what would happen? Naaman yielded to their persuasions and went down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, thereby offering to God the obedience of faith. To his amazement and delight his leprosy disappeared, “and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” He was changed in body and soul. The dread disease was gone indeed, but in his heart he also received a revelation that Israel’s God was the only God, and he became a humble believer from that day forward.
Naaman urged Elisha to receive an offering but he would take nothing. In 1 Tim. 6:9-10 Paul warns us against the love of money. Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, hated to see such riches passed by, and by deception sought to store away something for himself. In this he succeeded but at such a cost, for by the Word of Knowledge it was made known to Elisha, and in punishment the leprosy of Naaman was visited upon the servant, and he went from the presence of Elisha a leper, as white as snow. Thus the love of money caused him many sorrows.
The Lost Axe Head
Elisha, as Elijah had been, was the head of a group called the sons of the prophets. They were men who seemed to give their time to a spiritual ministry of rather a simple order. There were evidently bands of them, each having its own location. In Ch. 3 we read in verse three that some were at Bethel, and then in verse five there were others at Jericho. Upon a certain day, one of the groups which had outgrown its living quarters, sought permission of Elisha to move elsewhere, not far from the Jordan river. He answered, “Go ye.” Then they asked him to go with them and he said, “I will go.”
The men evidently had to erect a new building for it says they cut down wood. An accident occurred. In verse seven we read, “But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water.” To make matters worse it was a borrowed axe. What should he do? It would seem that Elisha was the one who could always find some way out of a difficulty. He lived in such close touch with God that if there were no natural remedy, then a supernatural one would be found.
Elisha had the man point out where the axe head fell and show him the place. The prophet cut down a stick and cast it into the water, and the iron did swim. Surely it was by the Word of Wisdom that he was led so to act. The man who lost the axe head took it to him and gratefully resumed his work.
As far as the narrative itself is concerned it comes under the Working of Miracles, and demands recognition by all who are simple enough in their faith to believe that with God all things are possible. Of us it asks that we believe that Jesus is the same today, and no matter what emergency confronts us, we can always get help from Him.
A spiritual lesson may be drawn from the incident of the lost axe head. When the sons of the prophets desired to move, they chose to go nearer Jordan, a type of death to self. Our zeal for God is sometimes the most conspicuous thing about us, but we need to see that our axe head is not loose or in other words, that we are truly laboring in the Spirit. Those who are not, come to grief, and then have to call on God to help them in their distress. Our axe head, or the power of God, is borrowed. We are not a reservoir but merely a channel, and if anything separates us from the source of supply we discover that all our efforts are in vain. The Spirit, like Elisha, is always at hand and He will show how to regain the power that has been lost.
Elisha cut down a stick and cast it into the water. Christ is the stick, or Tree of Life. He was cut down for us. In our need we must go back to the cross, confess where we have failed, and God will forgive, cleanse and refill us. Then we can take the axe head to us and go forth once more in His strength.
Being Dead He Yet Speaketh
We now come to the last days of the prophet Elisha. As an old man with a record of about sixty years of faithful and fruitful ministry, he is very near death. In 2 Kings 13:14-19 he had a final word for the king of Israel concerning what God was prepared to do to help him against his enemy the king of Syria. Through the weak faith of the king of Israel less was exacted of Syria than God intended. See Ch. 3. Let us endeavor not to handicap God by our unbelief.
Verse 20 states briefly that Elisha died and was buried. Some time later the Moabites invaded the land. While a few men were carrying a corpse out for burial, they espied some Moabites in the distance and were afraid. They dropped the dead man into the sepulchre of Elisha and fled.
As soon as the corpse contacted the bones of the prophet, it was touched by the power of God and came back to life. The only explanation which can be given is that the dear man of God had lived in such close communion with the Lord that even his remains were still charged with Divine power.
In the New Testament we have similar mention of such healing power. Christ’s very garments brought deliverance to the sick, and handkerchiefs and aprons were taken from Paul’s body and laid on the sick and they were healed. The presence of the Holy Spirit causes one to be used beyond natural ability, and even after death, words spoken beforehand continue to produce results in the lives of others.
Let us not be satisfied to live on the natural plane and have a cramped ministry, but launch out into a deeper fellowship by which rivers of living water shall flow out of our innermost being, bringing help to the souls and bodies of those around us. Amen!