Elisha is the one true God’s representative. In a nation divided and filled with the worship of false gods, the call on Elisha is not just to bring messages for God but to reveal who God is through his everyday life, actions and interactions.
In this chapter we see God revealed in numerous ways through a collection of short stories which all put on display God’s nature as the one who sees, a personal God, involved in the intricate details of people’s lives, who is not indifferent to the cries and the pain that individual people endure. These stories reveal God as the one who is able to miraculously suspend or overturn the normal with His supernatural inbreakings of power at any time on people’s behalf.
Short story 1: Debt (2 Kings 4:1-7)
A poor widow in crisis is struggling with mounting debts and the ongoing challenge of providing for her two children as a single woman has the debt collectors at her door threatening to take away her children as slaves as payment for her debt! Crisis. She asks God by asking Elisha and God provides miraculously an abundance of olive oil which she sells and pays off all her debt and as able to live off the rest. God is the miracle working, prayer answering, need-seeing God who intervenes in remarkable ways for poor or rich people.
Short story 2: Deep Longings & Despair (2 Kings 4:8-39)
A wealthy woman is hospitable and honouring of God’s servant, she was rich but used her wealth to bless Elisha & Gehazi not to gain anything (vs13-14). Elisha discerns the true longing in her heart, one she is not even willing to express for fear of her longing being dashed again, and so promises her a child. She is so shocked she can’t receive this good news (vs16) but she does conceive and a son is given to her. Many years later the child falls suddenly ill and dies will in the fields with his father. She rushes straight to Elisha in deep despair, she would have rather not had a son than have one and then loose one like this! Elisha goes with her, and raises the son from the dead and gives him back to her alive. God knows the deepest longings in our hearts, even the ones we dare not speak of for fear of being hurt or disappointed again or opening up the wound… God is able to bring back to life people, marriages, finances – God is good and is so whether you are rich or poor.
Short story 3: Deadly Stew & Multiplication (2 Kings 4:38-44)
There is a famine in the land, Elisha is hosting around 100 of the prophets. He wants to cook for them, but Gehazi is a bad cook or one of the prophets is injudicious in his produce selection and the stew being cooked is bad, so bad it is like death warmed up. They complain. Elisha miraculously cures the pot with a little flour and the food becomes edible to them all. While they are all there, a man brings to Elisha some of his first fruits offering to supply food for Elisha. Elisha tells Gehazi to set it before the men to eat (but there is not enough – vs43). Elisha tells him to proceed and they all ate and yet there was excess and they had food to spare. God is hospitable, able to throw feasts of abundance in the midst of a famine, able to supply all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).
Our God heals, answers long-lost longings, provides financially and materially. This all makes me think of the song we sung on Sunday;
You’re my author, my maker
My ransom, my Saviour
My refuge, my hiding place
You’re my helper, my healer
My blessed redeemer
My answer, my saving grace
You’re my hope, in the shadows
My strength, in the battle
My anchor, for all my days
And You stand, by my side
And You stood, in my place
Jesus, no other name
No, only Jesus, no other name…
So, cry out to him now! Tell your Father in Heaven your deepest longings, know that He is good and when you can’t join all the dots of your confusing life, He can and He does and so having asked Him trust Him.
Consider this for a moment. Apart from a mother in the throws of child-birth or the patient receiving some excruciatingly painful physiotherapy – people do not normally need to be encouraged to keep breathing.
That’s because Breathing is essential to life. Any kid who has tried to hold out on their parents request or instruction by holding their breath – goes red fairly promptly and then gasps again for as they resume breathing again. We breathe continually because it is essential for physical life.
And yet our connection with God our Father in prayer, or with the Holy Spirit for His enabling power in some situation is really as essential as breathing. So;
- We pray because we know we can call out to our Father & because we know He loves to answer (see Psalm 18)
- We pray because we know that we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who is ever-present & ready to respond.
- We pray because we know Jesus ever lives to pray with us and on our behalf, making intercession to the Father for us
- We pray because we know that we don’t have the resources, wisdom or capacity we need in any given scenario and we know that God does
- We pray because, when we pray, we are humbled & helped and God is exalted as the all-sufficient, loving God.
“Prayer is weakness leaning on omnipotence.” W. S. Bowd
Colossians 4:2-5 urges us strongly to be consistently diligent in prayer. We are urged to saturate our prayers with thankfulness, to be watchful in prayer, to be alert and to keep awake, to be vigilant in our prayers and vigilant enough to pray. So, be vigilant (to pray) remembering that you have an enemy who wants to stop you from praying wants to disconnect you from God. Be also vigilant in your prayers, be consistent, don’t be caught off your guard having been prayer less, and lastly be alert regarding HOW you pray or even WHAT you pray for.
I urge you to take this opportunity to reflect on your life rhythms and patterns and ask yourself whether your prayer life can be described in this sort of way. If so, then the encouragement of Scripture is to keep being consistent in this diligence. And if not, then I urge you to make some changes in order to make constant communication with God your life-pattern.
Consider: what does ‘being watchful’ in prayer mean?
Lastly, note how prayer unlocks mission! Prayer unlocks Gospel advance and kingdom breakthrough. That is where this appeal from the apostle Paul comes from. Make it a life-habit to not only pray about personal needs or those of close loved ones, but pray in ways that release mission and cause Gospel and Kingdom advance. Your prayers unlock situations for churches and ministries, open doors and release things. So pray, and keep being diligent in prayer.
In Reconciliation Road Church we have the following prayer meetings you could commit yourself to (apart from your own personal prayers times):
- Men’s Prayer Meeting (Tues 5:45am-6:30am)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 10am-11am)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Thurs 5:30pm-6:30pm)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 8:20am-8:40am)
- RRC Prayer Meeting (Sun 4:45pm-17h10pm)
This Psalm is just absolutely jam-packed with gems about God and how God interacts with us his people. It is a psalm full of personal and experiential knowledge of God’s nature and character.
It’s almost like David is explaining in the rest of the Psalm why he says in verse 1; “I will bless the LORD at all times, His praise shall continually be in my mouth.”
David wants you and I to join him in magnifying the LORD with him, wants us to join in and exalt God’s name (God’s character and attributes) together.
My God answers prayer! (vs4-6,15,17)
David can testify that he called out for God, he enquired after God in threatening life situation after threatening life situation (David was a fugitive fearing for his life for 15yrs!) and he can testify that God answered when he called. More than that God delivered him from all the threats that put fear into his heart. ‘This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles’ (vs6)! And because of this testimony David can declare that the face of those who look to God for their help – their faces are radiant (vs5).
What are you facing today? Call out to your God who answers, who delivers, who saves. Put your trust in the trustworthy ONE, so that your face may radiate on the day that God delivers you.
Angelic Help (vs7)
Angels are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve and protect God’s children (Hebrews 1:14). David can testify to angelic protection, a heavenly body-guard for those who fear God. This reminds me of the moment in Israel’s history when Elisha’s servant feared because of the formidable Syrian army amassed around the city and the servant was afraid and Elisha prayed that God would show him the mighty heavenly host that was arrayed around them to protect them and declared to his servant; “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us (angels) are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:15-17).
Know this. God the Holy Spirit is with you (Hebrews 13:5) and God has sent an angelic body-guard to encamp around you! So, do not fear.
Taste and See (vs8)
We learn in lots of ways, from what we read or hear from others, through modelling etc but experiential learning is one of the most powerful sources of learning. David urges you and I to do as he has done – do ‘taste and see’ that God is a faithful deliverer. This is an invitation an exhortation to find out for ourselves to experience that God is good!
Such knowledge of God hewn out of the experience of everyday life is unshakable and precious! There are no short cuts but this is the exhortation of Scripture for you and I to discover for ourselves what David has discovered – God is good.
(vs1) Whole hearted thanks, gratitude expressed is the bone and marrow of the Christian life! David declares that he will give thanks to God with his whole heart. Gratitude expressed is a heart matter and a head matter in that it requires a decision of the will to express what one is grateful for.
(vs2) Gratitude is founded on remembering, recounting what has happened, recounting what God has done for you and for His people. Again, David declares that he will recount, he decides to remember and as he does, recounting leads to feeling grateful and expressing it to God in prayer and in songs of thanks!
(vs3-9) David recounts God’s interventions for His people.
(vs10) When God is thanked, God is honoured, we get perspective and our faith for the future is fortified. In this verse David declares that those who know God put their trust in Him (because He is worthy of trust) and those who have put their trust in Him can testify that God does not forsake those who trust in Him.
(vs11) So it’s appropriate to praise Him with singing, for He alone is King of kings, it’s appropriate to ‘tell among the peoples His deeds’.
(vs13-20) Emboldened by his recounting and his praise, reminded of God’s faithfulness to him and to Israel, David transitions into confidently asking God for some things which is totally appropriate since his thanksgiving has reminded Him that God is worth praying to and bring your requests to.
- Decide to recount what God has done for you, for us as a church. I challenge you to write down no less than 25 things right now that you can thank and praise God for & then take some time to do just that.
- (vs11) Why not decide to tell 1 person at least 1 of those 25 things you’ve just recounted in a way that honours God today, encourages you and them
- Having recounted and thanked God, confidently bring your requests to your Father in Heaven.
Nehemiah is a cupbearer for king Artaxerxes of Persia. His job is to taste food and wine set before the king to ensure that he dies in the kings place if there is any attempt to assassinate him by poisoning. As a foreigner in the court of the king he would not have had any position of power or influence, and would not have chatted to the king unless the king addressed him.
His job was to be happy, least they mistook sadness for poison-induced illness and quiet unless addressed.
But Nehemiah can’t hide what’s going on in his heart and in his mind, he is battling to keep up the facade of pleasantries all because his heart has been sensitised by God to the news of the ruinous state of Jerusalem.
The king can see something is wrong and so addresses Nehemiah his cupbearer; “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick?” (vs2)
Nehemiah is terrified, what should he say? This is the king of the marauding captors of Israel wants to know why Nehemiah is sad, but what he is sad about is the very fact that Babylon invaded and destroyed and took Israel captive! Awkward!
Nehemiah courageously or foolishly tells king Artaxerxes the truth about what’s bugging him – probably fearing for his life as he does so. Pause, nothing happens…
Then the king says; “What are you requesting?” (vs4)
Scripture records that Nehemiah multi-tasked at this point, way before Windows & iPhones and Android.
“So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king…” (vs4-5)
Nehemiah knows how he responds now in this moment is crucial, he is still alive after being honest, maybe in this moment he might be granted some favour? Sensing the moment he cries out to God under his breath, in his mind. It might have just been; “HELP!” but Scripture indicates that this is happening as he is simultaneously replying to the kings question.
Nehemiah proceeds to converse with the king and make his bold requests known, he asks for time, for permission and for resources and for protection & favour. And importantly vs8 reports;
“And the king granted me what I asked, for the good hand of my God was upon me.” (vs8)
Scripture acknowledges the source of the favour extended to Nehemiah as being directly linked to Nehemiah’s multi-tasked prayer!
What I have found is that it is not the length or the might of your prayer or even the faith of your prayer that matters! What really matters is the fact that you prayed, and who you prayed to!
What can you learn from this moment in Nehemiah’s life and Nehemiah’s prayer?
Do you know the feeling? There is a moment when you know what you need to do is pray, there is some form of great need that exceeds your resources or decision that outstrips your wisdom…and yet as you get down to pray you feel at a loss for words.
I love considering the great prayers of Scripture, learning from them by observing how these men and women engaged God in moments of great significance. Nehemiah hears a report of the state of Jerusalem, is reminded of the dire situation God’s people are in, under God’s judgement in a foreign nation, with the temple and the capital city in ruins. Nehemiah has no real power or position to affect any change to the situation…
But Nehemiah is in a personal relationship with the ONE who sits enthroned above the circle of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), and so he can call out to God. As he prays we can listen in and learn from one of the greatest prayers of Scripture.
So what can we learn from this great prayer:
- Heart: great prayers come from the heart that has been moved! (vs4)
- Clarity: prayer that starts with a clear understanding of whom you’re praying to fills that prayer with faith and meaning. After all there is no point praying to someone who can’t do anything about the thing you’re praying about! (vs4)
- Character: great prayers petition God on the basis of His unchanging character and the promises He has made (vs5)
- Repentance: in prayer we allow God to reveal what’s wrong in us and we turn to Him by turning from such sin. (vs6-7)
- Scripture: great prayers quote Scripture, the infallible word of God (vs8-9)
- Requests: to pray is to make your requests known to God (vs11)
- Perspective: true prayer helps us to keep things in perspective (vs11) so that even powerful kings become just ‘this man’.
- Action: prayer is not passive, when we pray invariably God reveals next steps which we must take with faith & obedience (Nehemiah 2:1)
Meditate on this prayer of Nehemiah’s and then incorporate elements of his prayer into yours.