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.
What an introduction! There is no mention of Elijah prior to this point, we don’t know anything about him, his upbringing, his faith journey up to this point. In that sense, he is not like David who is introduced as a shepherd boy learning God’s ways and in preparation for the moment he stands before Goliath. Elijah just arrives on the scene but does so with remarkable courage and faith.
I am intrigued. What lead to this man’s remarkable faith and courage in the gift God had given him? What multiple little steps of faith had he climbed to get to this place of faith?
He goes to the despicable king of the northern tribes, Ahab and declares;
“As the LORD, the God is Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)
Don’t you love that God-inspired boldness! To go before a wicked king who could kill you in a flash but to be so much more aware of God than him that you pronounce what God tells you to with conviction. This is not arrogance but godly obedience. This is God’s man declaring to this wicked king where the authority really lies – in God alone.
Baal-Hadad (or just ‘Baal’ for short) was the god of storms and rain and so people at the time were tempted to worship Baal, falsely hoping that Baal would provide the much needed rain to make the land fertile. This prophetic announcement is a direct attack on the falsehood and futility of Baal worship which is what Ahab had allowed to proliferate in Israel.
Having spoken God’s word to Ahab about the coming drought, God leads Elijah to an inhospitable ravine in the mountains with a little brook in it presumably to wait for the drought he had prophesied to begin having its effect.
But think about it. God said through Elijah that there would be no rain, and yet God sends Elijah not a city with water reserves but to a ravine in the mountains with a little stream – that then dries up! Elijah must have felt both relieved and concerned by the brook. Relieved that God had withheld the rain (1 Kings 17:7) in a display of his power over Baal – just as Elijah prophesied and yet concerned in that his life-support was drying up too.
God spoke again! ‘At last’, he might have a thought – ‘…time for a big meal and comfy room.’ However, this time God leads him to a town on the coast in the midst of Baal-worship territory (Zaraphath) where he meets his host – a widow with no food in her house who is about to eat her last meal and then die (1 Kings 17:8-12). ‘Great!’ I can almost hear him saying under his breath.
Elijah had followed God to the brook (1 Kings 17:5), Elijah followed God to a widow in Zarapheth with no food at all (because of his pronouncement of no rain). Sometimes following God leads you right into hardship or scarcity in the natural realm. We make a mistake when we assess whether we’ve been lead by God on the basis of circumstances being good/easy assuming hard/lack = not the will of God….
Why did God send Him here?
Did God send him to a foreign land to show him the extent of God’s power over not just Israel but all nations? Did God send him here to experience the stress and strain of another person and to bring relief to her as maybe she had prayed to God? We don’t know…
Elijah tells her to make a cake for him first and then for her a her son and then promises to her that God says that her little flour and her jug of oil will not run out until the drought is over because God ends it (1 Kings 17:13-14)! And so a miracle of provision is recorded because she believed the word of God through Elijah.
Faith is believing God when we can’t see, when there is no evidence but miracles reside on the ‘other-side’ of faith and obedience.
Is there something God is telling you to do, to trust him in? Do you, will you?
There is a plethora of advice out there for us at any given stage in our lives – we need to choose wisely who we listen to!
As God promised, Israel is torn in two after Solomon’s death as judgement for his many sins and his compromised heart towards God. 1 Kings 12 is one of those places in Scripture where we see the will and actions of men and women and those actions have ‘natural’ consequences and yet simultaneously those actions and consequences are attributed by Scripture to God’s sovereign workings.
After Solomon’s death his son Rehoboam is approached by his people who ask that consider easing the heavy burden of conscripted labour and taxes that his father had placed on them (for all his building works). Rehoboam calls the old men who used to advise his father – they advise him to heed the call to lighten the burden. Rehoboam abandons (1 Kings 12:8) their counsel and goes to his young contemporaries who advise him unwisely to speak harshly to the people about making their lives even harder under his rule! This is bad advise and he takes it. And as a result the people of Israel all rebel under the leadership of Jeroboam and all the tribes except Judah succeed from Judah and become the northern tribes with their own king. Israel is divided and is never re-united.
And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, 14 he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (1 Kings 12:13-15)
Rehoboam acted unwisely, was selfish, arrogant, did not listen to and was harsh with his people – it was his doing. And yet Scripture attributes this moment to God’s sovereign plan – ‘it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that He might fulfill His word…’ (vs15).
So who did this? Rehoboam or God? Well both. Rehoboam was unwise and sinful and therefore the kingdom was torn in two and yet God was at work to fulfil the judgement He had made on Solomon and the prophesy He had spoken through Ahijah to Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 11:28-40).
Now, Jeroboam (now the king of the Northern tribes of Israel – called Israel from now onwards in the book) had heard God speak to him. He had God promise to bless him and establish him as a king “IF” (there is that word again);
“If you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:38)
Jeroboam had heard God speak to him, God gave him counsel…
And yet Scripture records that Jeroboam didn’t listen to the counsel of God but rather listened to his own thoughts; ‘Jeroboam said in his heart…’ (1 Kings 12:26) & ‘He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart.’ (1 Kings 12:33)
Jeroboam did not believe what God had promised but doubted and thought to himself – I can’t have people continually going back to Judah to worship at the temple in Jerusalem so I will build temples here in the North (in Dan and Bethel which was contrary to what God had commanded) and I will appoint my own priests for these temples (men not appointed by God) and I will make statues of golden calves for these temples (just like Aaron had done in the Exodus)! More than this Jeroboam found counsellors who agreed with his ungodly plan (1 Kings 12:28). This plan became sin for the whole nation of the north (1 Kings 12:30).
Jeroboam had God’s wisdom and advise and promise – and yet he chose to ‘follow his heart’ and found counsellors to confirm his folly! And so he set the Northern tribes on a disastrous course of idol worship which they never recovered from.
In 1 Kings 13 we read about a prophet sent by God from Judah to denounce Jeroboam’s self-styled worship. This prophet is told by God to prophesy and then go home and not eat or remain in the Northern territory – but he too doesn’t listen to God and ends up being killed by a lion sent by God.
What can we learn from this all?
I am freshly invigorated to listen for God’s counsel, to read God’s counsel in Scripture and to not depart from it come what may. I don’t want to be like Rehoboam, or Jeroboam or the prophet who had heard God and knew what God had said to him and yet departed from it to his own detriment. May I, may we be those who listen to God and obey all He tells us to do.
We are exhorted in Ephesians 5:10 to ‘find out what pleases God’! Much of Scripture helps us with that pursuit and yet some passages, some whole sections or even books are less about an example but more like a mirror. There are many passages, many characters in the pages of Scripture that are not an example of the life God desires for us or from us but are a mirror into which we can look to see how not to live.
As we read the books of 1&2 Kings we will come across a great number of kings who are the exact opposite of what God desires for our lives or from our lives. And when we do come across them, we are to consider Scripture as a mirror.
Is there anything in their bad example that reflects our lives, our hearts or our thinking in some way?
The context for 1&2 Kings is 1 Samuel 8 that moment in Israel’s history when the people clamoured for Samuel the prophet to give them a king so that they could be like all the nations around them. They weren’t satisfied with God as their King, they wanted an earthly king….
God warned them through Samuel, that this was not a good request, that it was not good to reject God and to put their faith in man in God’s place, God warned them of all the hardship and evil a human king would bring to them…but they would not relent and so God gave them king Saul. And from this very first king hardship and pain came to God’s people, followed by David who made many errors and the nation suffered rebellion and wars and death as a result. As we come to 1&2 Kings we will encounter a total of 40 kings (over Judah & Israel) and the BIG IDEA is that on the whole the kings despite some exceptions were a huge disappointment.
In 1 Kings, king David is dying and even before he is dead his son Adonijah is jostling for position trying to become the next king Israel by scheming and posturing, positioning himself. And yet, God had told David that his son Solomon was to be the next king and was to have the honour of building God’s temple (see 1 Chronicles 22:6-10).
So David acts to quell the rebellion of Adonijah and appoints Solomon as king and charges Solomon to ‘walk in God’s ways’ to keep God’s commands so as to see God’s blessing on his life and on God’s people , to see God establish his kingdom (see 1 Kings 2:1-4)…
But the very next thing they do together is to plot revenge for things people did during David’s reign (1 Kings 2:5-9) and then spurred on by this bad example Solomon spends the remainder of 1 Kings 2:10-46 having people murdered to establish his kingdom!
Solomon doesn’t do what he was charged to do – to obey God and then trust that God would establish his kingdom, NO, he decides to do it his own murderous way. And so, 1&2 Kings is off to a rollicking bad start.
What relevance does this have for you and me in 2018?
How are you living? Are you living with the exhortation of Ephesians 5:10 pulsating through your life? Is it your desire to live in such a way that your life pleases God? (which was the charge David gave Solomon) Is that a motivation that’s central to your life?
If it is – then you know that you love God (1 John 3:10). And you can be assured that God will keep you safe to the very end (1 Corinthians 1:8-9).
Or is there something God has promised you that has not happened yet (like Solomon) and you feel tempted to ‘make it happen’ in your own strength? Something you feel tempted to do something God’s not told you to do – to ensure it happens…?
Don’t make the mistake Solomon made.
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.
David begins this psalm with a declaration of faith (God is his God) and an expression of his feelings toward God whom he calls, “my rock”.
“My Rock” – God is personal immovable and immutable. Because of this God can be trusted, God is worth calling out to in prayer. If God were not God and if God were not personal or immovable or immutable it would not be worth calling out to Him in prayer! Because God is all these things and we can confidently call out to God in prayer.
And yet David’s prayer is also a complaint. Sometimes it feels like God is not hearing, like God is not speaking, as if God is unmoved by our situation or unaware from our perspective.
(vs3-5) In these verses David’s complaint is outlined, it feels like God is treating him no differently to his enemies, he is looking for God to act on his behalf and seemingly hasn’t seen God’s answering his prayers.
What’s happening in your life that feels like God is not hearing, not seeing, not aware, not speaking or answering?
I urge you to lift your eyes again to your God.
Why not declare as David did that God is your ROCK, your FORTRESS (another way of translating the underlying Hebrew word). God can be trusted because He cannot change, will not shift under your feet, God is worthy of our trust even when we can’t see what He is doing or why He is allowing something to happen. So, call out to Him again, put your faith in God again.
The psalm changes in vs6-9 becoming a psalm of praise. David is convinced now that God has heard his cries, his prayers, his lament.
David has been strengthened in his faith, knows God is his strength and his shield (protection), God is the One whom his heart can trust and so He finds help in his moment of need.
And so his heart exults, it jumps for joy (literal translation) and bursts into song! What a transformation when we see God for who he is, when we enter again feeling his presence and the warmth of his love. David had been feeling like God was no where now David’s heart is bursting with praise and thanks and love for God.
Worship is warfare! When we feel like God is distant or disinterested, we should take drastic action, reminding ourselves of the truth about our God our immovable immutable rock who is worthy of our trust and we should begin to worship as warfare against those feelings of doubt choosing to warfare not wallow in those feelings of doubt.
In worship we declare what we believe (God is our ROCK vs1, our SHIELD vs7, the ONE who HELPS us vs7, our STRENGTH vs7 & the SAVING REFUGE OF HIS ANOINTED vs8).
We worship with faith and in worship faith is renewed. And on that foundation of renewed faith we can ASK God for the future (vs9). Amen.
‘I love you, oh Lord my strength’ vs1
‘This God—his way is perfect’ vs30
‘…he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him’ vs30
David wrote this Psalm reflecting on God’s having delivered both himself and Israel from many foes (you’ll find this Psalm as a song recorded in 2 Samuel 22 if you want to read the context in which it was written).
There are three lines that summarize this whole Psalm, they summarize king David’s feelings towards God because of his personal experience of God’s faithfulness and protection in many challenging life situations.
‘I love you, oh Lord my strength’ (vs1)
In all David has experienced of God’s intervention and deliverance, what has resulted in David was a heart full of love for God. God’s loving care produced a love for God in David who proclaims this love and declares at the outset of this Psalm his dependence on God – God is his strength .
‘This God — his way is perfect’(vs30)
Don’t you love David’s summary statement of his experience of God’s faithfulness to him over many years of challenges and threats? This is a wonderful personal testimony from personal experience. Perfect, there is nothing wrong with God’s dealings with Him. There must have been many times David felt God wasn’t answering prayers, or that God’s ways were hard to understand… But when reflecting on his life David could say; God’s ways are perfect.
‘…he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him’ vs30
Through out this Psalm David shares testimony of how God answered his prayers, coming to his rescue and delivering him when he cried out! God is a shield for those who tuck into His protection and care. God rips open heaven as it were and comes down to rescue us when we pray and cry out to Him (see the wonderful testimony of vs6-19).
- What is there in your life right now, or in the life of those you love that causes you to feel like God is distant, not listening, doesn’t care?
- Take time to reflect on times God has ripped open heaven to deliver you from situations in your own life, times when God has answered prayers you cried out to Him
- Thank God for those times and then pray giving to God those thoughts and questions and replace them with prayers of faith from the testimony of this mighty Psalm.