Waiting on the Lord is a tough task! The people of God have always been called to walk by faith and not by sight. This means that God’s people have always been required to trust in the faithfulness of God and His ability to fulfill His promises more than the circumstances that can be seen. Though circumstances may appear to be risky, threatening, or dangerous, God’s people have always been called to endure those circumstances with hope and assurance that God will continue to do as He has done, and will fulfill His promises. When God’s people are put at the crossroads of a major decision, the people of God have always been called to wait upon the Lord for the appropriate wisdom from Him in order to make a righteous decision that fits in line with God’s’ will. History shows that the Lord’s wisdom and direction doesn’t always lead to simplicity and comfort according to the flesh. History shows that the Lord’s wisdom doesn’t always come immediately. Sometimes waiting on the Lord actually requires God’s people to wait. Nevertheless, God has been fair to treat all of His people the same way, requiring all of His people to wait upon Him. Hence, the Bible teaches that God’s true people are those who indeed wait upon the Lord, while those who are not God’s people seek to go their own route and wait upon themselves.
An example of this contrast is clearly seen in the testimony of Elisha the prophet. In 2 Kings 6:30-33 the Bible explains that Elisha was put in a difficult position on account of a decision he previously made in obedience to the Lord. The Bible explains that Syria had besieged the northern kingdom of Israel and had successfully starved out their resources. The siege of Syria had caused a great famine to come upon the people of Samaria. The Bible testifies that the famine had gotten so bad that some of the people had resorted to cannibalism in order to stay alive. The Book of Deuteronomy warned the children of Israel that idolatry would lead to tragic curses coming upon the people. Deuteronomy Chapter 28 specifically spoke of the fact that God would dry up the land through Israel’s enemies so that families would have to eat each other to stay alive. The famine that Syria caused in Samaria served to be a partial fulfillment of God’s prophecy in Deuteronomy Chapter 28 since the testimony of 2 Kings states that two mothers had killed and boiled one of their sons to eat in order to survive.
This shows that the circumstances in Samaria were horrific. The people had spent many generations following the leadership of evil kings that led the people to live as idolaters. As God promised, their lives would grow dark and terrible things would happen. The testimony of 2 Kings Chapter 6 proves that God’s Word was true. His promises of judgment are just as solid as His promises of blessings. However, the king’s response to these circumstances created difficulty for the prophet Elisha. Though God was judging the people of the northern kingdom of Israel on account of idolatry, the king of the north blamed Elisha the prophet. Recall that previously the Syrians sought to capture and kill Elisha because the revelations God gave to Elisha spoiled the Syrian attack strategies. However, when the Syrians arrived, Elisha prayed to God to blind them, at which point God honored Elisha’s prayer and then led the Syrians into Samaria before the king. The king asked Elisha for permission to slaughter the blinded Syrian army, but the Lord gave a different command to Elisha. Instead, Elisha commanded the king to feed the Syrian army and send them back home. The king complied and the Syrians left unharmed.
This was why king Jehoram wanted to blame Elisha for the famine. The king felt that if they had killed the Syrians when they were blinded, the famine would not have taken place, and he wouldn’t have been in the pitiful position of helplessness that he was in. The Bible explains that when Jehoram heard about the cannibalism that was taking place, he tore his clothes, which was a traditional sign of great mourning. As he tore his clothes, the people realized that Jehoram was wearing sackcloth underneath his normal clothing. This was also a traditional way to express intense grief. Clearly Jehoram felt helpless and pitiful. He dressed in a manner to express the intensity of his grief, and while his expression was dramatic before the people, it was not helpful to the cause. Therefore, he swore to kill Elisha, casting blame upon him or the tragedy that was taking place. Notice how the intensity of his mourning caused him to be blinded to his own fault. It is common for people to look at the circumstances of suffering and play the role of victim rather than take responsibility for fault. Human habit seldom causes one to examine difficulties to see where one might have contributed to the cause. Instead, the flesh often compels people to lash out at someone else when we feel that our discomfort has reached a threshold. This is not representative of one that waits upon the Lord.
The scriptures explain that the king made efforts to go after Elisha. He called one of his servant messengers and swore that he would remove Elisha’s head for the grief he felt Elisha caused in Israel. The messenger and the king made their way towards Elisha’s home. There the Bible testifies that Elisha already knew what was going to take place. Once again, the Lord revealed upcoming events to Elisha in order that Elisha would be prepared to deal with the events in a godly manner. The Bible explains that the elders of the northern kingdom were with Elisha at the time. This is an important detail to consider because they served as witnesses to Elisha’s conduct. While the king and his messenger were on their way to do evil, Elisha prophesied to the elders and predicted that they were coming to do harm. Elisha instructed the elders about how to respond. Elisha commanded the elders to take hold of the messenger that went ahead of the king and pin him to the door to inquire of him and confirm Elisha’s prediction. As Elisha gave the plan, the messenger came into the house. Elisha’s prophecy was confirmed showing that God was still doing mighty works in his life.
Here it is important to recognize what Elisha did with the information he received. The Lord revealed to Elisha that he was being targeted. Elisha knew that the king of Israel was seeking to do harm and was on his way with fierce motives. Though Elisha had the elders of Israel there with him, Elisha didn’t formulate a plan to fight. Elisha didn’t form a plan to run. Elisha simply stayed put and trusted the Lord to take care of the circumstances. Though danger was quickly approaching Elisha’s home, Elisha didn’t panic and respond according to his flesh. Elisha showed patience and faith to let the Lord resolve the circumstances according to His will. Recall that when the Syrians went after Elisha with a whole army, Elisha trusted in the Lord, knowing that God was protecting him. Elisha knew about the angelic army that surrounded his home and was prepared to execute judgment against anyone that opposed God’s will. In a similar manner, Elisha didn’t have to bail because he knew that God was still in charge of everything. Whether God had a legion of angels in the midst or not didn’t seem important at the time. Regardless of what could or could not be seen, Elisha remained faithful.
The actions of Elisha closely parallel the actions of Christ Himself. Consider the night of Jesus’ arrest. As the Son of God, Jesus was God in flesh and shared the omniscience of God. Jesus knew what was coming His way that night. He had predicted His arrest and death several times prior to that night, and then explained the coming events of His death at the Last Supper. Yet the Gospel accounts explain that when Jesus went to pray before His arrest, He went to a place that He knew He could be found in. Though Jesus knew He was going to be arrested, tortured, and eventually murdered, He did not flee. He prayed to the Father for the strength to endure, and went to a place where He knew the enemy could find Him. Jesus did not run from His purpose. He trusted in the will of the Father and fully submitted Himself to that purpose regardless of the threats that closed in on Him. Jesus’ willingness to do so is what enabled forgiveness of sins unto eternal life. Since Jesus took the understanding of the Father and waited on Him instead of fleeing to comfort the flesh, the grace of God was poured upon the world so that those who believe upon Jesus could be saved from death and restored unto the Father’s eternal purpose.
Elisha’s testimony is similar in the sense that he too received God’s wisdom and revelation of His will, yet remained and waited for the Father to do as He desired. Elisha didn’t flee his post in order to pursue comfort for his flesh, but put himself at risk with the hope and assurance that God would somehow provide salvation and restoration. Like Jesus, Elisha did not let the threats of circumstances motivate his decisions. Rather, like Jesus, Elisha waited upon the Father so that His will could be done and let the will of the Father motivate his decisions. In direct contrast, the king came into Elisha’s home and verbally announced that he absolutely did not care about God’s will. The scriptures explain that when the king went into Elisha’s home, he said, “Surely this calamity is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?” The king’s motives were clear. He recognized that God was bringing calamity in the form of judgment. He would not accept responsibility in repentance, but still felt that Elisha was to blame. The king clearly stated that he did not want to wait upon the Lord. The king felt that the famine was God’s way of killing Israel slowly. The king’s proposition was to speed up the process and take matters into his own hands. The king did not want to wait on the Lord for wisdom, for direction, for salvation, or restoration. The king wanted to do what was right in his own eyes, even though his eyes were equally as blinded as the Syrians.
This testimony shows that God’s people are those who wait upon the Lord. They receive His wisdom and then exercise patience to ensure the wisdom is expressed according to God’s purposes. Those who wait upon the Lord do not fear the threats of circumstances since the receipt of God’s wisdom and revelation is proof that God is in charge and means to do well. God’s people stand in the face of opposition to wait on the Lord and don’t panic. They trust God to do what God has always done, understanding the eternal nature of His promises and extent of His power. On the contrary, those who do not wait on the Lord are those who respond according to impulse. They are those who cast blame rather than accept responsibility in repentance. They are those who seek to cause harm in order to receive comfort for self. They may acknowledge God’s sovereignty but lack the patience to see it through, hating the discomfort that God’s work causes to the flesh. While both types of people are under the sovereign control of the Lord, only one receives the favor of the Lord.
The Bible has a ton of good things to say about God. However, one of the attributes of God that is often confused deals with God’s faithfulness. Many of God’s people look forward to the fulfillment of God’s eternally unconditional promises that deal with the return of Jesus Christ to set up His kingdom to rule and reign on this earth for 1,000 years. Many of God’s people look forward to the time when God makes all things new. These are amazing promises that God has assured, and current events compared to Bible prophecy show that the fulfillment of these promises is on the horizon! God’s people trust in the faithfulness of God to do these things. We trust and look forward to God’s Word being fulfilled because He said it. In this way, many people cherish the Word of God, His promises, and His faithfulness to do as He said. However, many times, people forget about the other work that has to take place in order for God to fulfill His promise to make all things new. We can’t have Jesus’ 1,000-year reign without the 7-year tribulation. We can’t have all things made new unless Jesus first lets Satan loose again for a “short time” to tempt the world, and then execute final judgment against sin. God will not bring the good stuff while the bad stuff remains; and so His faithfulness must extend to His promise to judge just as much as His promise to restore. It is true that God is faithful, but this means that He is faithful to execute His judgment and punishment just as much as He is faithful to bless those who believe.
Knowing this, it is important to consider the revelations of God’s justice. Since it is God’s justice that enables the fulfillment of God’s blessings, it is helpful to examine the scriptures to see how the execution of God’s judgment works. God’s judgment is hard to deal with. The consequences of sin are not a joke. They are painful and real! Nevertheless, God assured His people that joy would come in the morning. For this reason, God’s people should learn to embrace and appreciate God’s justice just as much as His blessings, for it is the manifestation of God’s judgments that proves that God’s blessings are near. Additionally, it is important to understand why God judges the way that He does. If God is not faithful to judge sin, then His promises cannot be fulfilled. How pure can God’s promises be if corruption remains? There are facets in this life that resemble good things from God, but it is sin, darkness, and evil that keep God’s people from enjoying the FULL benefits of God’s goodness. Therefore, as the scriptures describe God’s faithfulness to judge, it shows that God is faithful to remove the harmful and corrupting things that keep His people from experiencing the full magnitude of His glorious essence.
These truths help make sense of difficult portions of scripture that document Israel’s history. For example, the testimony of 2 Kings 6:24-29 explains that Israel experienced a very severe famine. The famine was not accidental. The famine was a form of judgment against Israel, and was inflicted by the Syrians. This is a difficult situation to grasp because the testimony that comes immediately before 2 Kings 6:24-29 explains that God handed the Syrian army over to the children of Israel on a platter, but they let the Syrians go. Recall that God had blinded the Syrian army. Elisha led those blinded Syrians to Jehoram the king of Israel in Samaria. Jehoram was shocked at what he was seeing and asked Elisha if they should destroy the Syrians. Elisha told Jehoram that the Syrians should not be harmed, since they were as prisoners of war. The Bible explains that Elisha commanded the king to give the Syrians food and water. Jehoram obeyed, and gave a feast to the Syrians at which point they ate, and then peacefully left.
The Bible explains that the northern kingdom of Israel and Syria did have a season of peace. They were well afraid of God’s power to blind the people and put them in deadly positions so easily. However, as is the case with many people, after enough time elapsed, the Syrians forgot about and dismissed the power and authority of God. The testimony of 2 Kings 6:24-29 explains that the Syrians launched a massive siege against Samaria and cut off their resources so that there was no food or water in the land. This went on for quite some time. The Syrians effectively starved out the children of Israel so that the Bible explains that a donkey’s head and bird dung costed a fortune. The scriptures also testify that that prophecy was fulfilled during this season of famine. While Jehoram was walking on one of the walls in Samaria, he saw a woman crying out to him pleading for help. Jehoram made a sarcastic, but true remark to the woman. He plainly stated that if God were not willing to help, how much help could he be to the woman? It is true that no person can assist circumstances that God had deemed as a curse. No one can reverse the judgments of God. If God can cause the entire Syrian army to go blind in a moment, and then restore their vision at His will, He can certainly inflict judgment in a way that exceeds the power and will of humanity.
The king then inquired more of the woman that cried out to him. He asked her what she wanted from him. The woman wanted justice. She testified that she made an agreement with her neighbor that they would sacrifice each other’s children to eat them in order to stay alive. The deal was simple. One woman would kill and boil her child to eat one day, and then the next day the other woman would kill and boil her child to eat. The women were to share the children in this manner. The one woman that cried out to the king explained that she went through with her side of the deal. She killed her son, boiled him, and then the two women ate him that day. However, when it was time for the other woman to offer her son, she hid her son. The woman that offered her son was in distress because she killed her son and ate him with the other woman in desperation for her own life, and expecting the other woman to participate, she would not. The woman wanted the king to make things fair by forcing the other woman to give up her son.
There are many people that find offense in this testimony of Israel’s history. The question that is easy to ask is: Why would God allow such a thing to take place? Here it is important to recognize the candid truth of scripture. God did not “allow” these circumstances to take place. God was actually the cause of these circumstances. In Deuteronomy Chapter 28, the Lord was very clear to express that there would be severe consequences for idolatry and the worship of false gods. The Lord God Almighty was candid to inform His people that sin separates Him from His people, and that the consequences for such separation are horrible. God warned the children of Israel that if they were to live as the pagans and adopt their false gods and idols, they would be comfortable in sin and God would inflict curses upon the people as a result. Those curses included famine, and God even spoke about how such famines would be so severe that the people would have to eat one another. Therefore, the testimony of 2 Kings 6:24-29 shows that God is faithful to execute His curses just as much as His blessings.
It is truly tragic that Israel had to experience the difficulties that they did. There is nothing good about a woman having to kill and boil her own son in order to eat him to stay alive. Yet this testimony is put into the candid truth of the Bible to reveal that nothing good happens when people decide they don’t need or want God in their lives. Those who desire to worship self through false gods and idols will inevitably experience famines of various kinds and degrees so that various tragedies of equal magnitude will ultimately take place. God warned His people. Life didn’t have to be this way for them. God did not cause this famine because He was bored or because He enjoys seeing His people suffer. God caused this famine because He is faithful. He promised there would be consequences for idolatry, and His Word was true. His judgments are just as true as His blessings, and God clearly does not show favoritism.
Notice that while the famine took place, no one sought after God. When the woman cried out to the king, the king did not intercede on her behalf in repentance and humility to find the Lord’s favor. Instead, the king just acknowledged that God was judging and there was nothing he could do. Repentance never crossed his mind. Seeking the Lord’s forgiveness is never mentioned. The people just dealt with the problems that God inflicted and grew cold to the mercy and forgiveness that God had repeatedly offered. Consider that the Lord had expressed great mercy towards the Syrians previously. How much more willing would God have been to express mercy to His own people if they would have humbly sought Him? Yet the king stuck with his idols. The king continued to lead the people in the worship of false gods. The people wanted to indulge in the flesh so the Lord gave the people their own flesh to eat and indulge in to learn about the reality of the flesh and its “goodness.”
This is important to know about God. He will bring judgment. He will stand by His Word – all of it. If God promised curses, then it is critical to understand that curses will come when the circumstances match up. God cannot be just and fair if He simply excuses sin. If God does not judge sin and work to purge it from His people, then the goodness of His grace is cheap and valueless. This is why God’s judgments are just as good as His blessings. It is not good that the people were forced to suffer curses in this manner. It is good however that God followed through with the curses when His people rebelled against Him. It is good to see that God doesn’t show favoritism. It is good to see that God is true and doesn’t lie. It is true to see that all of God’s Word and promises are fulfilled; so that if God is willing to follow through with the curses, how much more is He willing to follow through with the blessings? Therefore, God’s people should see the history of Israel in this testimony and have faith, not just in the blessings of God, but also the curses of God that are just as true. We would be wise to learn and value the mercy God has given to His people all the more!
The Bible goes great lengths to explain the identity of the Lord as the Lord God Almighty, the Most High God, the Lord of hosts, and other titles that identify the extent of control and power that God has over all things. Therefore, it is important that God’s people recognize these attributes and characteristics in order to know who God is. The Bible explains that God’s people should meditate on these things and teach these things to the younger generations. The Bible explains that God’s people should love the Lord God with all of our essence on account of who He is. If we don’t know and consider who He is, how then can we express the quality of love that He is worthy of and obey the greatest command ever given? It is also important to consider God’s attributes, not only for the sake of connection to Him and for obedience, but also to take joy in His presence and essence. If we don’t understand the power, authority, and control of God, how then can we find comfort in Him as our refuge and rock of salvation? The truth of the matter is, we cannot see God now, but the challenges of this life are very visible and tangible. The Bible clearly teaches that God is greater than our problems and His power transcends difficulties, but we can never receive the benefits of that if we don’t walk according to our faith in those truths. It is the constant Biblical reminders that God provides that enable His people to walk by faith, taking great comfort and joy in Him as He continually provides truth in scripture to remind us of who He is.
The testimony of 2 Kings 6:18-23 provides a great illustration of the extent of God’s control and mercy through historical narrative. When some people hear about the extent of God’s sovereignty, they sometimes panic. Sometimes the true extent of God’s control can be startling to those who thought they had control to a certain degree. The extent of God’s sovereignty is really startling to those who live as control freaks. The power of God is sufficient to humble every person in varieties of ways. The Bible promises that in the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Christ is Lord. The testimony of 2 Kings 6:18-23 shows the extent of God’s power to qualify this statement and assure the hearts of those that believe that God is able to bring such a promise to fruition. However, history has shown that human beings cannot be trusted with this kind of power and influence. Too many people throughout history have abused what little power and authority God has allowed to do wicked and corrupted things. The testimony of 2 Kings 6:18-23 shows that God is not like mankind in this way. While God is sovereign, He does not abuse His authority to cause injustice and evil. Rather, God exercises His control to lead people to be benefits of His mercy, forgiveness and grace.
The Bible explains that after Elisha called upon the Lord to open the eyes of his servant in order to show him the supernatural protection God was providing against the Syrians, Elisha continued to pray. The king of Syria sent a large band of raiders to Dothan in order to seek out Elisha and destroy him. The king of Syria did not like how God was using Elisha to inform the king of Israel of all of the Syrian attempts to attack and raid Israel. Elisha didn’t panic when a whole band of soldiers formed against just him and his servant. Instead, Elisha prayed. Elisha trusted the Lord to exercise His control and power to protect him until his purpose in this life was completed. Elisha was not confident in the resources of men. Elisha trusted in the faithfulness and power of God. When Elisha called upon the Lord to open the eyes of his servant, God did so and showed the servant a much larger army of angels mounted on heavenly horses and fiery chariots. While the Syrians surrounded Elisha and his servant, heaven’s army surrounded the Syrians!
Elisha then prayed some more. He prayed that the Lord would blind the eyes of the Syrian army. Elisha did not pray for the destruction of the Syrians. Elisha did not pray for the angelic army to scatter the Syrians. Elisha did not pray for the power to destroy his enemies. Instead, Elisha called upon the Lord to blind each and every Syrian soldier that was forged against him. The Bible explains that the Lord heard Elisha and immediately responded to his prayer. The Lord God Almighty blinded each and every Syrian soldier that was sent against Elisha. In a moment’s time, the mighty men of Syria were rendered useless and ineffective. Though they were many in number, they were suddenly stumbling over one another. Though they possessed many weapons, their weapons were suddenly hazardous to use, not being able to see and risking the destruction of one another. The power and strength of mankind was suddenly crippled and belittled to nothing. The force and power that the Syrians had was immediately put into the hand of Elisha as God caused darkness to overcome the eyes of the soldiers so that they were unable to see.
As God brought this blindness on the Syrians, Elisha confidently approached the army and spoke with their leader. As if using a Jedi mind trick, Elisha told the Syrian leader that the man they were looking for was not in Dothan, but promised to lead them to their target. Elisha was the target, but the control and powerful work of God allowed Elisha to approach his enemy to their face, speak calmly and confidently to them, and then plainly lead them away from being a threat. The scriptures testify that Elisha led the Syrians into Samaria – the capitol of the northern kingdom of Israel. This was where the king of Israel lived. This was where the armies of the northern kingdom of Israel were stationed. This was not where the Syrian army was originally sent, and not where they expected to be. Elisha essentially led the Syrians into an ambush, and the power of God made it so that the enemy foolishly followed without question because of the handicap that God caused.
When the Syrians arrived in Samaria, the Bible testifies that the eyes of the men were opened. They realized where they were and they began to panic. They wondered how they got there. They seemingly didn’t even know that they were blinded, being led by the man they were sent to kill, into the heart of the enemy headquarters. The circumstances were very troubling and confusing to the Syrians and they understood that they were dealing with a quality of power that was greater than a sword in hand. The scriptures explain that even the king of Israel was stunned! He didn’t know what to do with the opportunity. He asked Elisha if he should attack and slaughter these Syrian men in order to send a message to their king, but Elisha did not lead the men into Samaria in order to destroy them. Consider that God can destroy at any time. If He wanted the Syrians to be destroyed, He could have used the angelic army that was sent to protect Elisha. God does not rejoice at the destruction of His creation. Rather, He desires that all people repent and live. For this reason, Elisha leveraged the power and control of God to extend mercy in the manner that God does.
Elisha commanded the king of Israel to spare the Syrians. He put it plainly: the children of Israel would not have sought to slaughter people captured as prisoners of war. Therefore, the Syrians were to be considered as prisoners of war. The war took place without the children of Israel being involved. No Israeli soldier was required to brandish a sword, and yet many Syrians were captured as prisoners. God fought the battle for his people and brought the people as their spoil. Nevertheless, God sought to prove a profound message through His power and sovereign control. When the Syrians were given their sight back, they were afraid for good reason. They knew that something greater than a man was able to get them to willfully walk into a position of tremendous threat. The Syrians recognized that something stronger than an army had caused them to walk into the seat of their own execution voluntarily! How does something like that happen? A force like that is not to be messed with. The message was sent and well received.
As this message was received, Elisha commanded the king of Israel to take care of the Syrians by feeding them and giving them water. The Bible explains that the king prepared a great feast for the Syrians so that they ate and drank until they were full and satisfied. The Syrians experienced the power and influence of God in a startling and unsettling way, but only to see that God did so in order to sober them up. God exercised His power to merely blind them in order to teach them a lesson about His power and the special position of His people. Since the Syrian army did not desire to oppose this unique power, they submitted to Israel, and by extension, received the favor of the Lord. God promised that those who bless Israel would be blessed, while those who curse Israel would be cursed. This band of Syrian soldiers wanted no part of cursing Israel because of the power of God. They relented in their mission to destroy Elisha, and didn’t seek to raid Israel any more. It is true that God’s power brought fear into the hearts of those men, but it was God’s mercy and grace that brought change into those hearts.
Those who opposed God’s power were frightened by seeing the extent of God’s control, but were compelled to befriend the people of God after receiving His favor. Hence, it is the goodness of God that leads to repentance. It is the recognition of God’s power that causes fear, but the realization that God offers mercy before exercising His right to destroy that compels change. This is our God. This is the extent of control He has. This is how He desires to use it unto His glory!
The Bible explains that God is the Lord God Almighty. He is “El Shaddai.” He is the source of all power, strength, and functionality. As such, God must also be sovereign. Since God is supremely powerful, He is also able to exercise His power to control all facets of creation in order to accomplish and fulfill His purposes. The Bible explains this concept concerning God by frequently referring to Him as “the Lord of hosts.” This means that the Lord is the master of all armies. There are numerous places in scripture where the Bible documents how God exercises His power and control to sway entire nations and armies this way or that way. Many prophecy buffs today are looking for the fulfillment of the prophecy written in Ezekiel Chapter 38; a prophecy that speaks of several nations forming a confederation against Israel to plunder her resources while she is unsuspecting. That prophecy explains that the nations that conspire against Israel will not do so under their own influence, but actually by God’s own influence. The Bible explains that God will put “jaw hooks” into the mouth of the leading nation and cause them to fight against Israel, at which point the Lord will destroy those enemies of Israel once and for all. No one is able to influence and control people, leaders, and armies like the Lord of armies.
There is even better news for those that believe. The scriptures repeatedly show that God’s charge and authority is not limited to those who dwell in the material and physical plane of reality. The Lord’s sovereign control also extends into the spiritual realm where the Lord has charge over the armies of heaven! An important concept to consider when dealing with this truth is that, while Satan took one third of the angels of heaven with him to rebel against God, there are still two thirds that remain – and ALL of them are still subject to the Lord God Almighty, the Lord of heavens hosts. The Bible goes great lengths to explain these truths in order to encourage God’s people. While it is true that we face opposition of various kinds, the Lord’s victory is still assured; and it is His identity as the Lord of hosts that guarantees it. It is true that Jesus Christ has died in order that the world can be saved from the wrath of the Father when He judges sin, but still those who are saved struggle with temptations of various kinds, and frequently fall. Yet still, the Lord of hosts is in charge of EVERY facet of creation – physical and spiritual – so that those forces that seek to oppose, discourage, and defeat God’s children cannot succeed. God’s army is stronger, and greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world!
A powerful illustration of this truth is found in the testimony of Elisha the prophet. In 2 Kings 6:13-17 the Bible explains that the king of Syria was tired of Elisha. The king of Syria had made multiple attempts to attack Israel from the north, but the Lord had revealed the king’s plans to Elisha on repeated accounts. Elisha then went to the king of Israel to share the Lord’s revelations and wisdom, at which point the king of Israel made preparations to protect Israel from Syria’s attacks. Since the king of Syria felt that he was making his plans in secret, he was baffled as to how Israel kept finding out his plans. The king figured he had a spy among his own people that was sharing secret information, but one of the king’s servants told the king that the God of Israel knows all things and was informing Elisha so that the children of Israel could be protected and prepared for their attacks. The king of Syria then decided that Elisha needed to be dealt with directly. He figured that if Elisha was not accessible to the king, God’s wisdom would not be either, and he would be able to attack with ease. Thus, the king of Syria sent a huge army to find Elisha and deal with him.
The Bible explains that the Syrian army found out that Elisha was residing in Dothan at the time. They prepared to advance. As they made their preparations, the servant of Elisha noticed the army coming, and realizing that there was no one else but them in the area, he panicked, figuring that he and Elisha were the targets of their mission. It is at this point that the Bible gives another example of the intense spiritual maturity that Elisha had. Elisha had previously asked for “double portion” of the spirit that Elijah had. God honored that desire and made Elisha one of the most powerful prophets ever. However, the Bible explains that the essence of Elisha’s power was based on the knowledge, understanding, and faith that he had in the Lord. When Elisha’s servant went into a panic after seeing the army coming against them, Elisha was calm and told his servant, “Those that are for us are greater in number than those who are for them.” This was likely confusing to the servant. The servant was in great fear because he realized that it was only the two of them in the house they were staying. The servant just saw a large number of Syrian invaders. He likely wondered, “Where are these other people that seem to be for us that Elisha knows about? I don’t see them.”
Sensing the fear of his servant, Elisha prayed. He did not pray for the destruction of his enemy. In fact, he did not even pray for his own protection from the enemy. He was confidently assured that protection was already in the midst. Instead, Elisha prayed that his servant would be able to see and understand God’s protection that was already there. Elisha prayed for his servant to see what Elisha apparently saw. God honored and answered that prayer. The Bible states that Elisha’s servant was immediately able to see a MASSIVE army of angels surrounding the house of Elisha. There was a multitude of angels in chariots of fire led by heavens horses. Elisha knew they were there and after he prayed, the eyes of his servant were opened so that he was able to confirm Elisha’s faith. Clearly there was no reason to fear after the truth of the activity of the spiritual world was revealed for that moment.
The Apostle Paul taught a simple point concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The atoning death of Jesus clearly shows that God is for us. Jesus Himself proclaimed that He came into the world, not to condemn it, but that the world through Him might be saved. Then, after Jesus’ death, He rose Himself from the dead showing that death has no authority over God. When the Apostle John saw Jesus in the revelation God gave to Him of Jesus, he saw Jesus holding the keys to death and Hades, showing that Jesus is Lord not only of physical and spiritual matters, but is also Lord over death itself. Thus, Paul said, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” This is a principle that Elisha understood well before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God had proclaimed and confirmed that He would use Elisha for certain purposes in service. Elisha trusted the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promise, and trusted in the power of God to see His faithfulness to fulfillment no matter the circumstances. Elisha knew what God did through the life of Elijah, and there was no reason why God could not continue to do the same. Neither Elisha nor Elijah were selected by God on account of their resumes of works or deeds of righteousness. They were men who failed and fell into temptations and mistakes. Yet they believed in the power, sovereignty, authority, and faithfulness of God; understanding that He is also merciful, gracious, and nurturing to His people.
Elisha understood his own weaknesses that He trusted that God would make up the difference in order to enable him to do the job God ordained. If God wanted Elisha to do a certain thing but the whole Syrian army was in his way, Elisha trusted God’s power to take care of that which he was unable to. Clearly Elisha’s faith was validated when God opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant to confirm that which Elisha trusted in. Whether Elisha could actually see the heavenly army that was protecting him before or not is really not important. He knew the protection was there anyway and desired for his servant to rest assured in God as well. The revelation that God gave is a CLEAR illustration that God is in charge of everything. No weapon formed against God’s people and purposes shall prosper. God proved this very important truth through His revelation to Elisha’s servant. We have God’s heavenly treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not us.
“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-- always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So then death is working in us, but life in you.”
The authority that God manifested to Elisha and his servant proves God’s ability to fulfill this promise. Though the armies of the world be formed against us to press in, we are not crushed because the Lord of hosts will not allow it to be so. Though the demons of hell seek to tempt us into destruction and we sometimes live in confusion, we are not in despair. Nothing can separate God’s children from the grip of His love. Though our own flesh betrays us and entice us to commit evil so that we are struck down in defeat, we are not destroyed. It is the power and authority of the Lord God Almighty that ensures the fulfillment of His merciful and gracious promises of salvation, not the works of men and women. It is the power and authority of the Lord of hosts that ensures the preservation and integrity of God’s children, not the strength and might of men and women. This is why God’s people can say, “If God be for us, who can be against us!” Thus, we should all desire the knowledge, understanding, and faith unto humility that Elisha had, that we may walk in the manner that he walked, and God be glorified as a result.
There is a disturbing trend that is taking place in the midst of many churches in the world today. Many churches that are looking for leadership are beginning to rely on scholastic aptitude to decide who will lead their ministries. Today, there are many Bible colleges and seminaries that have sought to enable students to pursue “careers” in the ministry field. The thought process behind this is that if more people are well trained and educated in the Word of God, then the church will be stronger. This is partially true. The problem is that the Bible shows that God selected and appointed His leaders using a different process; and the reality is, the process is not the important part to consider. This is where people get into trouble. While God does have patterns to His work, the Bible explains that His work is His work, and His ways, thoughts, and works are not like human ways, thoughts, and works. Therefore, to try and mimic the work of God by forming processes and procedures to formulate “ministry” job descriptions based on human effort and merits is a bad thing that won’t produce godly results.
So then, what is the basis for how a person should be selected and engaged in the ministry? First, it is important to consider what “ministry” is in the Bible. The Bible describes ministry simply as “service.” This service is unto the Lord, done by men and women that considered themselves bondservants to the Lord, specifically to Jesus Christ. This means that these were men and women that gave up all rights, freedoms, and liberties in order to do the things that God commanded. These were men and women that served the Lord according to His eternally unconditional promises concerning salvation. These were men and women that acknowledged the gift that the Lord gave them by His Spirit, and walked according to that gifting, and only that gifting, in order to fit within the total movement of the body of Christ. These were men and women that walked by faith and not by sight; trusting in the pattern of work that Jesus exemplified to be sufficient to please God. The pattern of work that the servants of the Lord trusted in was simple: die to self, pick up cross, follow Jesus. The true servants of the Lord were used by God in ways that were well beyond normal human capacity and human desire. The true servants of the Lord were used supernaturally to do God’s work unto His glory, not to leverage a spiritual or religious context to possess a worldly or fleshly passion.
An example of this reality and how God’s selection, appointment, and equipping process is better than mankind’s is found in the testimony of Elisha. This is important to consider because Elisha was in charge of several schools for prophets. This goes to show that the Lord is not against His people being educated in His ways. This does show however that the things the people learned in the school of the prophets then was learned with different expectations and purposes as today. In 2 Kings 6:8-12 the Bible explains that the Syrians were seeking to harass the children of Israel again. The king of Syria was planning attacks against the children of Israel and was strategizing diligently. Here, it is important to remember the promises that God made to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12. God plainly said that He would bless those who bless the descendants of Abraham, but would also curse those who curse the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, the efforts of the king of Syria were a slight to God. The Lord would respond. The Bible does not state that God was using the Syrians to discipline Israel for a specific evil as is mentioned in other portions of scripture. The motives of the king of Syria were simply selfish motives to inflict pain upon the people of God so that he could receive selfish gain. God is faithful to His promises and would not allow this to take place.
The testimony of 2 Kings 6:8-12 explains that the Syrians became very discouraged in their planning. Though they strategized their attack schemes against Israel, the scriptures reveal that God prepared the children of Israel by speaking secret things to Elisha. The Bible explains that God revealed the secret plans of Syria to Elisha, who then in turn, went to the king of Israel to inform him. Though the king of Israel was an idolater, he was a man that respected the authority and wisdom of Elisha. The king of Israel did not take Elisha’s warning lightly. He sent guards out to the places that Syria planned to attack. Those men watched diligently and intently to confirm the words of Elisha and heed the warning of God. This portion of the testimony shows that, while God is faithful to provide adequate warning of coming danger, it is up to His people to receive the communication and respond. God will also provide adequate protection, but His people must demonstrate faith to receive the warning and the protection that He provides. For example, God was faithful to warn Noah of the coming flood, and also provide a way of escape. However, Noah had to be faithful and diligent in His faith to take God’s warning serious and then build the ark of salvation that God provided. Similarly, God has warned about the destruction against sin that He will bring upon the second coming of Jesus Christ. He has provided a way of escape from His wrath through faith in the identity, work, and promises of Jesus Christ. In order to escape God’s wrath, we must heed His warning serious and then receive the means of salvation that He provides.
The Bible explains that the king of Israel was serious about Elisha’s warning. Though he lived in the ways of idolatry, he knew the power and wisdom of God. He didn’t just receive the warning and then go about his normal manner of living. The king set men out in the exact places that Elisha testified of, and had those men diligently watching for the Syrians. Their diligence was so intense that it actually was sufficient to discourage the Syrians. When the Syrians prepared their advances in those secretly strategic places, they saw that Israel was already in position. Thus, they were scared, wondering how in the world Israel knew where to be. One of the servants of the king of Syria plainly stated that Elisha was responsible. This servant proclaimed that the God of Israel was telling Elisha secret things that the king was even speaking alone in his bedroom! In this way, it was the wisdom that God provided in supernatural ways that was sufficient to protect God’s people from danger and equip them for victory without even having to fight!
Though Elisha was a teacher and leader in the school of prophets, his manner of instruction doesn’t appear to match the teaching style and curriculum as seen in modern institutions today. His purpose and motives seemed to be simpler in nature. Elisha was not trying to train up men to equip them for employment. Based on God’s utilization of Elisha, this prophet was seeking to equip as many of God’s people as possible to walk according to the eternally unconditional promises of God. Elisha lived his life so that many facets of his life were prophetic pictures of the coming salvation of God through Jesus Christ. His works were not works that reflected great training and discipline. Elisha’s works and wisdom was reflective of the supernatural power of the Lord God Almighty! Elisha simply worked to engage others in a relationship with that same God so that they could receive the benefits that God promised. The Lord promised that Israel would dwell safely in the land as a great nation so that “the Blessing” would come through Israel to bless all of the families of the earth through Israel. Elisha said the things that needed to be said to the people that needed to be addressed in order that those promises could be fulfilled.
The testimony of Elisha shows that he was a man called by God to do the work of God. His resume matches the supernatural work of God according to the production of fruit as cultivated by the Lord Himself. Though Elisha did many great miracles, the full context of his life shows that he was simply a man that was connected to God in a powerful way, and had the hand of God over his life in such a way that it showed. He was not revered for his great speaking ability. He was respected because the things he said were from God Himself. He was not sought after because of his charisma or track record to increase numbers. Elisha was sought after because the people who sought him, were actually seeking the Lord God Almighty, and knew that God was with Elisha. Elisha was committed to exalting the name of God and the faithfulness of God in Israel, not exalting his own position and increase. For these reasons, Israel was blessed to have such a prophet. Israel was able to receive the supernatural protection of God because Elisha led the people according to the Word of God. Israel was able to discourage the enemy and remain intact as a nation because of the work God did through Elisha according to the knowledge and wisdom that He provided as the One True Living Omniscient God. If the modern church was led by more men like this, men that are “called” instead of men that are “qualified,” it would likely look much different. Elisha was a man that was “called” and was qualified based on that calling – nothing more, nothing less.
When the Lord desires to get something done, all of the forces in the universe amassed together against God cannot stop Him! The Bible begins by documenting the creation account of the universe to let people know who God is as the Creator, the extent of His power, His sovereign control, and His providence. God has a determined will and is able to make anything out of nothing. All things, whether spiritual or material in nature are subject to God. The Bible teaches that in Him, all things consist, meaning that all things are continually held together by Him. Since God has this supreme authority, control, power, and wisdom, He is able to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. While people may see things as obstacles from their perspective, God doesn’t sweat over anything. Therefore, the people of God can be encouraged! When God’s people are in line with His will and purposes, and entrenched in the service of the Lord unto His glory, God will make things happen! If we are involved in serving the Lord unto His glory and desire to magnify His name, God will remove any and all of the obstacles that might prevent His people from doing so to the extent that He has previously ordained since before He formed the worlds.
A beautiful and amazing example of this encouraging truth is found in the testimony of 2 Kings 6:1-7. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that some of the students from Elisha’s school of prophets approached Elisha with an issue they saw as a problem. They felt that their dwelling place was too small. The school had grown, as well as the students, and so the students felt that they were in need of more space. The Bible does not suggest that the motives of these students were carnal in nature. Their desire for larger space was not on account of a desire to live plush. The students simply wanted adequate space to enable their ministry. They simply sought to live in a manner that was helpful to their livelihoods, which for them, was learning the Word of God and learning to be communicators of God’s Word. Their desire was in line with God’s desire. The Bible proclaims that the will of God is the sanctification of His people. This means that God desires His people to be separated from the world and the flesh and the ways of those wicked and corrupted things in order to be one with Him. While being one with Him in this life, God desires to use His sanctified people as servants unto His eternal purposes, to be instruments of righteousness, functioning together as a body where Christ is the head, working towards the distribution of the Gospel and the teaching of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Messiah in discipleship.
While the Gospel message of Jesus Christ was still being gradually revealed at the time of Elisha, the men that attended the schools of prophets were men that were committed to the Word that Jesus would ultimately fulfill. These were men that were committed to learning the identity and will of God and proclaiming His truths. As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” the students of the schools of the prophets dedicated their lives to the same pursuit. Though the students that desired a larger dwelling place lived long before the declaration of Jesus’ “Great Commission,” they dedicated their lives to similar endeavors and had success. Their desire for a larger dwelling place was reflective of the fact that their commitment to the Word of God was bearing fruit, and the students desires a larger storehouse and field to cultivate a greater harvest for the glory of God.
When the students approached Elisha with this issue, they were met with agreement. The men asked permission to seek out a new place and to build it out to suit their needs. Elisha gave them his support and endorsement. The scriptures explain that the students would not go without Elisha. This supports the fact that the men were not motivated to grow for fleshly reasons. They wanted to stay with their master. They desired to continue on with their teacher. They did not desire to gratify desires of the flesh to indulge in lavish living like Gehazi, hoping that ministry would pave the way to success, riches, family comforts and safety, and so forth. The men were determined to bring Elisha with them because they desired to continue in their instruction. They desired to continue in their growth, their mission, and in bearing the fruit the Lord had produced. Though the students were growing, their growth did not lead to pride so that they felt they could manage themselves with the added responsibilities of larger space. Though they grew and had permission to expand, they continued to express dependency on their master and teacher.
The Bible explains that the students found adequate building space along the Jordan River. The men began to cut down trees and start their building project when one of the students encountered a problem. While cutting down a tree, the man’s ax head fell off and flew into the river. This was a problem because the man confessed that he had borrowed the ax from someone. As a good student studying to become a prophet in the likeness of Elijah, Elisha, and other men of God that came before him, the man wanted to be a good steward with a good reputation, blameless with high integrity. He was deeply concerned about the damage to the equipment he had borrowed, and was discouraged about the lack of progress he would make with a broken ax. This man told Elisha his circumstances, and Elisha used this problem as an opportunity to show that, when the Lord gets behind something and approves of a desire that His servants have, it will come to pass, no matter the challenges that come up. Elisha found where the ax head had fallen into the river, took a piece of a stick, threw it at the ax head, and the Bible testifies that the ax head made of iron, floated to the top of the river so that the man was able to pick it up and restore the ax to its previous condition!
Elisha worked yet another miracle. Once more however, it is important to examine the means by which the miracle was worked to understand, not just God’s power, but the purpose that He exercises His power. There are plenty of people who have position, power, authority, and influence, and use those things for evil and selfish purposes. God does not do this. Looking at the means by which God enabled the building project to continue, we can see that God was showing that He will do whatever miracle it takes to restore His vessels to complete the building of His church! It is not by coincidence that Elisha took a piece of a tree to make iron float in a river. Elisha could have taken a rock, a leaf, or just called upon the Lord to make the iron float. Since the scriptures detail the use of the stick, it is important to recognize why. Here, it is clear that the tree was a symbol of the cross, since Jesus was hung on a tree in the crucifixion (Deuteronomy 21:22, Acts 5:30). This shows that, while the weakness of the tools used to build the Lord’s structure was seen to be a heavy weight at the bottom of a river, the substance that resembled the cross was sufficient to make the weak, dysfunctional, and weighted object come up from the bottom and float.
Iron doesn’t float under natural circumstances. Sticks don’t make iron float in any normal circumstances. Yet here, the Lord enabled the iron ax head to float to the top of the river when the stick was thrown into the river. The ax head becomes symbolic of God’s people and His desire for them. While we are vessels used for His purposes, we are weak and easily broken. Without the miraculous work of God, we would all be left for dead, drowning at the bottom of the waters. The weight of our sin keeps us buried below so that we are not able to do that which we were created for, being separated from the hand that applied purpose. However, when the cross of Jesus Christ comes into play, everything changes! The atoning death of Jesus Christ is sufficient to forgive sins because the blood of Jesus as God in flesh is eternally valuable to pay the debt of all sin, bringing spiritual cleansing to the souls of those who believe. When God’s people have faith to receive His grace through Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, the weight of sin becomes a non-factor, and like the ax head, we are able to rise up from dysfunction and death. The flotation of the ax head then becomes a picture of the resurrection. It is true that the death of Jesus Christ was sufficient to pay for sin’s debt, but Jesus also rose Himself from the dead, showing that His promise for eternal life is real. When God’s people are forgiven of sins, it is because we are conformed into the likeness of Jesus’ death; but then as we continue to live in this life, we are conformed into the likeness of His resurrection! The work of Jesus thereby enables those who are dead to sin to “rise up” and be reconnected to purpose, placed in the hand of God to build His church!
The testimony of Elisha shows that God is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. He made iron float in a river. Who but God could control the natural effects of gravity to do so? Clearly the Author of the elements still has control over that which He created! The student that broke his borrowed ax was discouraged because he desired to contribute to the building project and be a good steward. A simple accident kept him from doing the noble thing that he desired. Nevertheless, the miracle that God performed through Elisha enabled him to get back to work, contributing to the things God desired. God will remove the obstacles that stand in the way of His people, keeping them from accomplishing that which He desires them to do. Therefore, as God’s people, we have nothing to fear or be discouraged about. Though it might seem impossible, God has made Himself known by doing the impossible; and we can look to our salvation and the means by which it came to be confident in that truth. It was not possible for mankind to commune with God and receive His approval, yet still, Jesus’ life, atoning death, resurrection, and ascension has made the impossible real and true! If God is able to raise up those who were spiritually dead and make them one with Him, how much more is He able to remove the obstacles and issues that keep us from accomplishing the things He ordained us to do, and from accomplishing the desires of our hearts to exalt His name?
The Bible teaches that in the last days, there will be many people that infiltrate the church as false prophets and wicked teachers that seek to exploit the traditions, processes, and people of the church in order to receive selfish gain. The Bible is candid to explain the characteristics of these people so that the true church of Jesus Christ can recognize these cancerous individuals and deal with them according to the prescription of scripture. God explains that these people will be judged, and when seeing how the Lord Jesus described these men and women, and examining the tone of writings such as found in the Book of Jude, it is clear to see the extent of displeasure God has for those who seek to profit from His glory. The Bible clearly teaches that God alone is worthy of glory. The Bible teaches that God will not share His glory with any false thing – idol, god, philosophy, trend, or fad. God alone is responsible for any and all genuinely good things, and so the work that He does through His people is intended to glorify Him, not the person being used. This is why the Bible makes it clear that God’s people are not to seek the Lord and positions among His people in order to indulge in the desires of the flesh.
There are many people today that abuse titles, processes, and traditions associated with “church” in order to gratify their own selfish ambitions. Many people leverage the work of “ministry” simply to engage in things that they want to do that have absolutely no spiritual basis whatsoever. Though the world is filled with wicked people of this sort today, this is not a new problem. Many people have been overcome by the desires of the flesh to leverage the work of God to fulfill greed and selfish ambition. The issue of people taking church resources as salaried employees, leveraging “the call of God” to live according to fleshly motives is an issue that’s gone on for a long time. And just like Jesus promised in the New Testament, the Old Testament shows that God has ALWAYS been on top of this issue and is just to deal with these things according to His righteousness.
One of these unfortunate circumstances is documented in the testimony of Gehazi. Gehazi was one of the lead servants of Elisha the prophet. In 2 Kings 5:20-27 the Bible explains that Gehazi was overcome by his selfish and fleshly desires and paid dearly for it. The scriptures explain that after Elisha commanded Naaman to wash in the Jordan River and he was healed, that Naaman sought to lavishly reward Elisha for his help. The Bible testifies that Naaman had already prepared ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes. A talent of silver was roughly equal to $384,000. A shekel of gold was roughly worth $1,920. Ten changes of clothes would have been a wardrobe of that of a high official, dignitary, or even some kings. This was an exceptional amount of resources that Naaman offered to Elisha for the work that God used him to do. However, when Naaman offered the gift to Elisha, the Bible states that Elisha emphatically refused it. Elisha’s motives were pure. He would not gain personal riches on account of the work that the Lord did through him. Though Elisha was relatively poor and was wise to know how to handle such funding, he did not receive it so that he could remain blameless before the Lord. Elisha made it impossible for others to overserve his life and say that he was made rich by the hands of a man. Elisha knew that God did a glorious thing to heal Naaman, a Syrian man, and didn’t want anything to transpire that would have competed with the glory God had received in the healing. Elisha’s aim was for the children of Israel and Syria to know that God is faithful to His promises and is still working with them patiently. This work did not require payment of any kind, and so Elisha did the right thing, chose to live humbly and modestly, and denied the gift of Naaman.
The scriptures show that Elisha was an exceptional man, but not everyone possessed the quality of faith and integrity as he did. When Gehazi saw that his master Elisha sent Naaman away without receiving his gift, Gehazi pursued Naaman. Naaman saw Gehazi chasing after him and so he stopped to see what the situation was all about. When Naaman inquired of Gehazi, the Bible explains that Gehazi said that his master sent him. Though Elisha was adamant about refusing Naaman’s gift, Gehazi lied to Naaman saying that Elisha had a change of heart and sent Gehazi to receive some of the gift. Gehazi made up a story saying that two needy students from one of the schools of the prophets came by just as Naaman was leaving, and so they were in need of some of the money and clothing. Gehazi requested one talent of silver and two changes of clothes. Though Gehazi was wicked in his pursuit of riches, he did exercise restraint to a certain degree, requesting only a portion of the total pot that Naaman had in order that the money would be easier to conceal in his mind. Nevertheless, it is clear to see that the wicked hearts of people have always found it easy to leverage charity as a means for selfish gain.
The “church” has often been criticized for the means by which money is spent. Much money goes into the church, yet legitimate needs remain all over. How does this make sense? Many men and women have made up causes to stir the hearts of people, making it seem as if their charitable gift is a legitimate need. Yet, like Gehazi, many of these “causes” are made up or embellished to meet other “needs” of selfish people. It might have been true that a few of the students were in need, but it was not true that Elisha sent Gehazi to use Naaman’s resources to meet those needs. If the need was legitimate, Gehazi embellished the need so that he could take for himself. He lied about the command and took the money for his own account. Since Naaman was prepared to give much more, he was quick to give the amount that Gehazi requested. In fact, the Bible explains that Naaman encouraged Gehazi to take two talents of silver instead of one. Gehazi received his “funding” and went his way back home with his servants carrying his new increase before him.
When Gehazi returned home, he went to hide the resources that he took from Naaman. However, Elisha heard Gehazi return and immediately inquired of him. He asked Gehazi where he went. Gehazi lied again, saying that he didn’t go anywhere. Here it is important to recognize a fundamental truth that has existed since the time God created the heavens and the earth. God made it so that everything reproduces of its own kind. When Gehazi lied once, that lie produced another lie. When men and women seek to walk down the road of darkness to indulge in the desires of the flesh, only more darkness and flesh will be produced. It is impossible for another outcome. We cannot expect to go down the road of selfish gain and expect righteousness to be a bi-product. Righteousness cannot be a bi-product until the Lord purges the sin that was committed in darkness through judgment of some kind. This is not good for those who walk this road.
Though Gehazi tried to deny that he had gone anywhere, the Lord revealed to Elisha the truth. Thus, true men and women of God will receive the wisdom of God when necessary in order to deal with the dishonest and wicked ways of darkness in the congregation of His people. The Lord has always given the appropriate person the information they needed to deal with sin in the camp. Here, Elisha was that man. He knew where Gehazi went. The Bible proclaims that Elisha bluntly confronted Gehazi by saying, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?” Elisha knew exactly what had happened because the all-knowing God had revealed the truth to him. Elisha’s rhetorical question to Gehazi proclaims the will of God concerning His servants. Why to people serve the Lord? Is it to receive selfish gain in order to live according to the desires of the flesh? Why do people serve in the ministry? It is to take advantage of church resources through a salary without accountability? It is to take from the ignorant in order to indulge one’s self? Is it to improve one’s own life and bring excessive comforts to one’s family? Is it to increase one’s personal possessions? Is it to lord over God’s people? Is it to leverage “perks” to cut costs or living or improve the conveniences of life? Consider how many “missions trips,” retreats, or events that the church has put on that might have served simply as a means for someone to gratify a selfish desire to travel, do something fun, get away from a problem, and so forth, using God’s resources to do so. How many “outreaches” or “worship nights” have taken place because groups of people wanted to play music in front of others, using God’s resources to gratify self? The issues of Gehazi are all over…
These are the issues that Elisha mentioned, which shows that God sees the hearts of everyone that proclaims to do work in His name. He knows what the true motive is and will expose those wicked desires in time. God will not permit this sort of evil to linger long in the midst of his people. While it might seem like many people living this way are getting away with the abuse of God’s resources, the Bible makes it clear that their time will come. God is just and fair, and the testimony of Gehazi proves this true. After Elisha exposed Gehazi in his sin, the Bible explains that Elisha proclaimed the Lord’s judgment upon him. The leprosy that was taken from Naaman would be placed upon Gehazi and his descendants forever! This issue was not a small matter to the Lord. God would make a strong example out of Gehazi. Since Gehazi wanted to get rich off of the healing work that God did to exalt Himself in Israel, Gehazi would experience the illness that God cured. God would take the illness and trials of one person who became a believer and place them upon those who were already believers but figured they were entitled to be more than God called them to be, and lived in deception to achieve those goals. As soon as Elisha made this proclamation, the Bible testifies that Gehazi’s skin immediately turned white, and he walked from the presence of Elisha as a leper.
When a person comes to the Lord new, it is important to recognize the manner in which the Bible shows how maturing believers and people of God deal with those new converts. The Bible often uses the process of plant growth to explain the growth of a believer. The Lord Jesus compared the Father to the vinedresser that plants seeds intended for fruitful growth. The Lord compared the Word of God to the seed that sprouts the crops and fruit that the Father desires to see. Later, Jesus described that He is the vine that immediately sprouts from the Word, enabling the growth of branches. We are the branches, and the expectation is that we grow fruit. The Lord implants the Word of God into the hearts of men and women in order that they would be much fruit, and it is the connection to Jesus Christ that enables this growth. However, when branches first form, they do not all grow immediately large and strong with much fruit coming forth. Many branches start out flimsy and weak. They certainly don’t have fruit coming forth and aren’t even in a condition to support the weight of the fruit that will eventually grow. Therefore, when dealing with new branches that are still taking form and shape, it is important to see how the Lord deals with them in order to eventually enable the growth of fruit.
The testimony of Naaman in 2 Kings 5:15-19 provides a great example of what immediately takes place in the life of a new believer. It is important to consider this testimony carefully since the command of Jesus Christ was not to make new converts, but instead to make disciples, teaching them to walk in His own ways. This means that God’s maturing children are not called to just evangelize people and leave them to grow on their own. If the Spirit of God dwells in the hearts of His people, then the Lord has equipped His people to walk in the manner of His identity as the Vinedresser, taking care of young branches so that they grow into fruit-bearing organisms unto the glory of the Father. If God’s children do not mature, then the fruit He desires lacks. If the body of Christ does not learn how to nurture “new branches,” then how will those men and women grow into fruit-bearing Christians functioning as healthy members of the body of Christ? The scriptures show that the goal is not just to “plant seeds” as many say, but instead to encourage and facilitate growth of the seeds that God plants; especially since Jesus said that the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another.
The scriptures explain that Naaman was a well-respected commander of the Syrian army. He received permission from his master, the king of Syria, to seek out healing for the leprosy he had. While he was a war hero in a sense, he was also a leper, and live a life in isolation and shame. Having a Jewish woman from Samaria serving his household as a prisoner of war, the Jewish woman suggested that Naaman seek out Elisha the prophet, figuring that his connection to the Lord would suffice to bring him the healing he desired. The king of Syria made proper arrangements, and Naaman was able to meet with Elisha. The Bible explains that Elisha sent his servant to converse with Naaman, relaying the command to wash in the Jordan River seven times, and that would assure his healing. Naaman was offended at first. He considered the over-simplicity of the commands and figured them foolish. He confessed that the quality of the water in Syria was better than that of the Jordan River, figuring that the water would bring healing, not the Lord. However, a wise servant of Naaman’s encouraged Naaman to obey Elisha’s command, stating that if Elisha had given a great command requiring much fanfare and ritual drama, he would have obeyed – how much more should he obey a simple command?
Naaman agreed with the rationale of his servant and went to wash in the Jordan River. The Bible testifies that Naaman was healed immediately and the quality of his skin was restored to that of a young child! The testimony of 2 Kings 5:15-19 explains that Naaman was stunned and immediately convinced of the Lord’s power. Elisha agreed to see Naaman and help him in order to prove that he was indeed a prophet of the Lord God Almighty, proving God to be faithful to His children in Israel. The healing that Naaman received was sufficient to convince him that the God of Israel was not only faithful to His people, but was uniquely God. Naaman publicly proclaimed that the God of Israel was the only true God in all of the world. Naaman quickly learned that the gods he previously prayed to, and likely sought for healing in the past, were useless and fake. Yet the God of Israel was the only true God in all of the world.
The Bible then goes on to show what is common among true converts of the Lord. Naaman valued his healing and valued the God who gave it. For this reason, Naaman sought to pay Elisha for being the vessel that God used to heal. Naaman had departed from his land with a massive tribe to give to Elisha just in case. The scriptures state that he originally brought ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothing. The amount of silver alone was worth over $3 million dollars in modern currency! This was the extent of Naaman’s thanks unto God. This was the way Naaman valued God’s restorative power. Naaman appreciated God and His healing to the extent that he was anxiously intent on giving such great quantity and quality of resources. However, in the manner of Abraham, who confessed that he would not be made rich by man, but by God alone, Elisha denied the gift. It was not as if Elisha couldn’t have used the money since he was poor. It was not as if Elisha didn’t know what to do with the money, since he had the schools of the prophets to consider. Elisha simply didn’t want the work of the Lord to be clouded by the increase of his own personal estate. To God alone be the glory. Elisha set out to help Naaman, not for funds, but to prove the faithfulness of God.
While Naaman’s offer of his gift was noble and a great testimony to the excitement and gratitude of the transformation he received from God, his excitement was ill-tempered and still ignorant. Since Elisha would not accept his gift, Naaman desired to have some of the dirt from Elisha’s lot. Here, Naaman was reflecting ignorance about the true manner of God’s work. Recall that Naaman at first despised the waters of the Jordan River, considering them to be insufficient to accomplish God’s work. Yet, after being healed, he suddenly values the dirt of Israel as if it has some mystical quality to it. The thinking goes like this: Since God is powerful and uses the children of Israel, especially Elisha, if I take some of Elisha’s household with me, I can also take the favor of God with me to a land that God does not dwell. Naaman clearly didn’t understand that the dirt in Israel was no better than the dirt in any other part of the world. The particular location of a work God might do does not make the place any more holy or powerful than any other place on earth. God is omnipresent and His glory fills the heavens and the earth. Everything is His and is under His domain. We don’t need to attribute added value to any substance because of a work God did there. We need to attribute all value and worth to God who is able to exist and work everywhere!
After Naaman made his request for Elisha’s dirt, he immediately asked Elisha to plead on his behalf to the Lord for forgiveness. There was no doubt in Naaman’s mind that the God of Israel – Yahweh Elohim – was the One True Living God. The things he had learned growing up about the idols and gods that he worshiped in Syria were suddenly the lamest form of vanity in his mind. However, he was not yet prepared to totally depart from the traditions of his youth, especially as it related to his obligations to the king of Syria. Naaman swore that he would no longer offer sacrifices to the idols of Syria and would only serve the Lord God of Israel, but he was still apprehensive about his job situation. Being a servant of the king of Syria, his duties required him to accompany the king to the temple of Rimmon and there, bow the knee to the idols of Syria. Knowing that it was wrong and feeling convicted about those traditions and job obligations, Naaman pleaded with Elisha to seek the Lord’s forgiveness on his behalf. Naaman didn’t want the worship of Rimmon to be held against him. Naaman essentially was saying that he would be forced to go out of honor to the king of Syria, and would bow the knee to Rimmon to submit to his master and employer, but would not truly worship the god in his heart. Nevertheless, Naaman felt convicted that such compromise was wrong, yet lacked the faith and fortitude in it to completely sever himself from the idolatry of his people.
This is a common challenge for many new believers and converts. It is one thing to know what is true in one’s heart. It is another thing to fully commit to that truth and walk in it when the traditions of our heritage and upbringing start to compete with the Lord’s holiness and righteousness. This is NOT to say that this behavior is acceptable. Naaman was a new believer and was weak in his faith as an infant – as a tender branch just taking form from the vine. When he inquired of Elisha in this manner, Elisha was tender with him by telling him to “go in peace.” Elisha sought to ensure and encourage Naaman’s new faith, not over-burden him with expectations and statutes as if “works” are the means by which one’s healing is made functional. If the work and power of God was sufficient to heal Naaman in the beginning, it would be sufficient to nurture health after the healing. Elisha understood that it was wrong for Naaman to bow before Rimmon and God since most of his ministry was predicated on communicating that truth to Israel. However, Elisha also understood that it is not reasonable for young branch to support the weight of mature fruit in its infancy.
The Bible is clear concerning our faith. God expects it to mature and grow so that our connection go Christ as the vine produces a healthy relationship that strengthens branches to bear much fruit, being able to support the weight and organization of that fruit. This takes time. It is true that the Bible shows people immediately transform and do miraculous things, but those instances are few compared to the rest of the testimonies of the Bible such as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob themselves. Their faith took time, and God was patiently to reveal Himself gradually to them. Nevertheless, God’s aim was the same. He is God and there is no other. While God’s revelation to Abraham for instance was gradual, the manner of Abraham’s first engagement with God called for him to leave his father’s house and the land of his upbringing – the land of the idols and false gods of the world. If Abraham was going to be God’s child, he had to fully commit himself to God, denying all other gods and idols, regardless of what they meant to his personal desires, his employment or any other facet of life. Naaman would have to learn that lesson to at some point; and while Elisha was patient with Naaman at the time in order to encourage Naaman’s infant conviction, it is critical to understand that the mandate of all maturing believers should be to encourage and assist ALL of God’s children to separate from the old ways of our lives before salvation, regardless of the cost. Jesus did not say, “Follow Me” with a bunch of conditions that enable one to do so on the premise of various compromises. Jesus said “Follow Me” and expected people to leave everything to do so because He alone is God and there is no other! This is what the church must aim to teach and encourage through discipleship in a tender way as Elisha, purposing for fruitful growth as the outcome.
When Jesus walked this earth, He frequently spoke of faith because He knew that faith is the means by which His people would be saved from the wrath of God against sin. The scriptures plainly teach that God’s people that get to inherit the kingdom of God will NOT be there on account of their “good deeds.” Rather, the scriptures plainly explain that the just shall live by faith. This means that God’s people are expected to examine the claims of scripture and trust them to be true – especially concerning the simplicity of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Those who inherit the kingdom of God will be those who entrust their lives into the claim that sin is an issue no person can resolve on their own in order to gain the approval of the Father, but that Jesus is the sole means by which anyone can be at peace with the Father on account of His identity and work – and His alone. True saving faith is trusting the claims of the Bible that Jesus is the eternal God in flesh and that He is the sole means by which the eternally unconditional promises of the Father are fulfilled. Hence, no one can approach God on account of sin, so because of who Jesus is and the prophetic work He fulfilled and continues to fulfill, mankind can be forgiven of sins and be reconciled to God. This is faith.
The Apostle Paul wrote that salvation according to God’s will is foolishness to the world. The claims of the Bible don’t make sense to those who perceive themselves as intellectual according to the knowledge of the world. The rewards of faith seem out of proportion to what they feel faith is. They cannot wrap their minds around the fact that God would provide such great eternal blessings simply on account of “faith.” They don’t understand the merciful and gracious nature of God. However, this is not to the fault of God. The Lord God Almighty has always been operating under this premise. Though salvation was not fulfilled until Jesus’ atoning sacrifice, resurrection, and ascension, the Lord has been teaching about the mechanism of “salvation-by –faith” for a long time. The plan to offer salvation solely by faith is not an amended plan of God’s. It has always been the Plan-A for the Lord that was executed to perfection so that when God’s people study the scriptures to see what God does with faith, the teachings of Jesus Christ should seem obvious according to the heritage of teaching God had provided through history before.
An example of this truth can be seen in the testimony of a Syrian man named Naaman. The testimony of 2 Kings 5:1-14 explains that the Lord had been using this man as a disciplinary tool against the children of Israel for their wickedness. Naaman was a well-respected man in Syria and was faithful to his king. The Lord had enabled Naaman to lead the Syrians on several successful battles against the children of Israel in the north because the Lord was using these defeats against Israel to teach them lessons about their idolatry. The Lord’s utilization of this Syrian man shows that the Lord is not a respecter of persons. Since the Lord is sovereign over all as the Lord of hosts (Jehovah Sabaoth), He is able to use anyone at any time to accomplish His will; and He will even use those considered as “the enemy” to do so.
The scriptures explain that Naaman was a mighty man of valor, but was also a leper. This was an issue even for the Syrians. So, while Naaman was successful as a soldier, he was still an outcast to his people on account of his skin disease. In one of his raids against the northern kingdom of Israel, Naaman captured a Jewish woman that ended up becoming a servant of Naaman’s wife. This Jewish woman became a servant of Naaman’s household and proved to be very helpful in God’s revelation. Knowing of Naaman’s condition, the Jewish woman mentioned that it would be good if Naaman could approach Jehoram, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel, to inquire about Elisha. The Jewish woman knew that Elisha was a powerful man of God as a prophet and could probably help Naaman overcome his condition and be healed. She spoke so confidently of Elisha that Naaman went to his king in Syria to see what could be done. Having a great relationship and great respect with his king, the king of Syria made efforts to connect Naaman with the king of Israel to see if he could pursue healing of his condition.
The Bible explains that the king of Syria sent messengers to Jehoram (Ahab’s second son who took office as king). The king of Syria explained the situation of Naaman and expressed that Naaman was seeking healing for his leprosy. The king of Israel did not respond favorably at first. Not understanding the real meaning of the Syrian king’s request, Jehoram tore his clothes in frustration and fear of the request, stating, “Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a ma to me to heal him of his leprosy?” This is an important statement to notice. The scriptures explain that Jehoram was an evil king, yet he clearly understood the nature of leprosy and the extent of power that would have been required to heal it. Jehoram equated the power required to heal leprosy to the power one must have to resurrect the dead. Though Jehoram was an idolatrous king, he clearly understood that only He who has authority give and take life also had the ability and authority to heal Naaman’s condition. Jehoram had no problem in confessing that he did not have that power.
Jehoram’s response was so irate, that word eventually got to Elisha that Naaman was seeking healing, and was ultimately seeking him. Elisha then sent for Naaman, and when he heard that Naaman was approaching, sent one of his servants to meet Naaman with instructions for his healing. The Bible testifies that Elisha gave his servant simple instructions to relay to Naaman. Naaman was commanded to go to the Jordan River and wash seven times. Elisha assured Naaman through his servant that, upon doing so, his skin would be healed. Here it is important to see that Elisha did not speak to Naaman or his servants himself. This is to show that, while Elisha gave the instruction, he would not be the author of the healing. Elisha spoke with the authority of God in such a way that Naaman would have to express faith in the identity and power of God in order to be healed. Though Elisha was a powerful man of God as a prophet, it is important to remember that God’s prophets were merely communicators that God used to express His will and purposes. They were no more than speakers connected to the voice of God Himself. Yet, God often produced miracles through these men in order to validate their words as His own.
When Naaman received the commands of Elisha, the Bible explains that he was outraged. He didn’t understand the command that Elisha gave. He tried to break down the logic of Elisha’s commands and could not make sense of it. He reasoned with his servants by comparing the waters of the Jordan River to some of the rivers that existed in Damascus in his own country. He figured that the waters in Damascus were cleaner and more suitable for washing than the Jordan River. He figured that the quality of the water would bring healing, not God. He figured the commands of Elisha to be too simple in nature to produce such a profound effect. The Bible explains that Naaman expected Elisha to come down to him, waive his hands around and perform some elaborate and dramatic ceremony. In Naaman’s mind, the extent of drama and procedure to bring healing should match the intensity of his condition. All Elisha did was tell Naaman to take seven baths, as if Naaman had not taken baths before. Naaman couldn’t comprehend Elisha’s point and so went away angry.
It is important to recognize why Elisha purposefully gave commands that seemed so foolish. Elisha obviously knew that the commands he gave were not profound in nature. However, before Elisha sent his servant to give those commands, he expressed his chief desire. He gave the commands that he gave and agreed to help Naaman in the first place in order to prove that, indeed there was a prophet in Israel. Elisha wanted to show the king of Israel and the people in it that, though Israel was wicked, God was faithful to leave a remnant of His presence in the land in order to bring restoration and healing at the appropriate time. Elisha wanted to prove that God was faithful and true to His eternally unconditional promises to Israel by proving himself as a prophet of God. Since God had a prophet in Israel, it would show that God was still working with them, despite the idolatrous ways of the people. The validation of Elisha as a prophet of God would prove the mercy, grace, and longsuffering of God Himself. Hence, Elisha commanded Naaman to perform tasks that would produce a miraculous result, contrary to human rationale, proving God to be the One True Living God of Israel.
When Naaman went away angry, one of his servants spoke to him to settle him down. The servant inquired of Naaman saying, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash and be clean?’” The servant’s point was profound! Naaman knew that if Elisha would have given him some “great command” of complexity and showmanship, he would have obeyed, figuring the elaborate ritual to be the means by which he would be healed. The servant’s point was, if he was willing to go through the complexities of a great command, why wouldn’t he be willing to faithfully perform simple commands? Naaman realized that he was trusting in the process rather than the God that Elisha spoke for. The servant was able to convince Naaman that the power of God might still be seen if he was willing to do the simple things before the complex things. Hence, Naaman did as Elisha commanded and Naaman’s skin was immediately healed and restored to a condition that was similar to the skin of a baby!
Here, it is clear to see that God demands faith to receive the benefits of His power. Yet, the object of faith must be in the Lord Himself, not the elaborate rituals and works of men that distract from the mercy and grace of God’s character. Naaman had to trust, not in the ceremony of healing, but the God who authors it. In the same manner that Joshua had to follow odd commands to march around Jericho, trusting victory to come from the Lord, not the process, Naaman had to exercise his faith in the God who heals by performing seemingly silly, foolish, and simple tasks in obedience to the Word of God, trusting in the power of God rather than works of men. Naaman’s faith was weak, but was honored. He was healed, and not because of the extent of his faith. Naaman was healed on account of the work God desired to do through the healing. When Naaman was healed, he confessed, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel.” Elisha’s desire to prove God as faith and true was honored, and God was glorified through faith, not by works.
The scriptures teach that the Lord is Provider. He promises to take care of the needs of His people. This is a principle that is well documented through both the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, many people fail to understand God’s identity as Provider and sometimes lose hope in His promises because they forget two fundamental facets of His provision. The first deals with God’s aseity. Aseity refers to God’s eternally self-existing AND self-sustaining nature. God has no beginning and no end. He is the Alpha and the Omega, which means that He is every letter in between. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith, and every other facet of life as well. God has no creator. God has no superior that He submits to. God identifies Himself in scripture simply as, “I AM” to explain that He is God and there is no other; and that as God, He simply “is.” He creates out of nothing because He can, and is able to administrate over His creation because He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These are fundamental attributes of God, but are critical to remember when it comes to the identity of God as Provider.
The second principle of God’s identity as Provider deals with His providence and sovereignty. Since God is the Creator and Administrator of all things, He is in charge. He has a plan that is well documented and confirmed through the scriptures and history. God is supremely in charge of ALL facets of creation in both the spiritual and physical world so that He uses everything to work towards the completion of His plans and eternal purposes. This means that God has specific intentions and uses for every facet of creation. While the creature may not fully understand how the Lord will use them, the Bible explains that one of the elementary elements of faith is that we trust God will accomplish His purpose in us, whether we fully understand that purpose or not. We just have to trust that His purpose is good. Understanding this truth, God’s people must recognize that God has obligated Himself to equip His creation to accomplish the things that He desires according to His eternal plans. This means that as God’s creation, we are not called to develop our own sense of wisdom, ability, or creative planning. Instead, we are called to know God, seek Him for wisdom to understand His ways, and depend on Him to exercise His ability to accomplish His purposes. This means that we need to understand the general essence of God’s plans and consider the historical means by which He accomplished them. These are also important characteristics to consider when looking at God’s identity as Provider.
The testimony of Elisha shows God provides in ways that amplify these fundamental attributes that He uniquely possesses. There are moments in history where the Lord sought to reveal His attributes in ways that were miraculous in order to remind His people about His ability to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises. The idea is that, if God can do this one way, He can exercise the same ability to fulfill other promises too. In 2 Kings 4:42-44 the Bible explains that God used the prophet Elisha to multiply food during a famine. God met the needs of His people in a miraculous way to prove that He is faithful to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises, and will do whatever it takes to get the job done. Since His power is unique and supernatural, God’s people are expected to examine the miracles of God as proof that He is able to do that which He promised concerning the soul and eternal life.
The testimony of 2 Kings 4:42-44 appears to be parallel with the testimony of John 6:1-14 where Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed well over five thousand people. There is important reason that the two testimonies are so parallel and similar in nature. The consistency in the testimonies shows that God’s power does not diminish over time, He does not change His motives, and the patterns of His work identify Him as the source of the effects. The scriptures explain that the famine in Elisha’s region was lasting. The Bible previously testified that Elisha was able to provide soup and then supernaturally protect them from the innocent mistake that nearly killed many people. However, the students in the prophecy school that Elisha oversaw needed to eat more than just that one day. The Bible explains that a man came to Elisha and brought a bag of twenty barley loaves. Elisha gave the loaves to his servant Gehazi and commanded him to distribute the loaves to the students. According to the testimony of Gehazi, there were well over one hundred students there. The twenty loaves were clearly not enough, so Gehazi objected to Elisha’s command. Nevertheless, Elisha assured Gehazi that God promised that He would meet the needs of the men through the twenty loaves, and even be able to provide leftovers from the donation. The scriptures testify that Gehazi did as he was instructed and all of the men were able to eat and had leftovers according to the Word of the Lord.
This historical example mirrors the testimony of the five loaves and two fish that Jesus multiplied, showing that Elisha was a sort of “Christ figure.” This is important to recognize! It is not just that God met the physical needs of His people, but since Elisha’s life served to be a prophetic picture of Jesus, the Bible explains that God met the spiritual needs of the people as well. Recall that the kings of Israel were evil and prone to lead the people into idolatry. The kings of Judah were becoming very influenced by the kings of the northern kingdom so that idolatry was beginning to make its way into the southern kingdom as well. While Israel was slowly separating from God through their sin, the scriptures show that God was faithful to plant His people in the midst of darkness in order to provide a remnant of His light. Though Israel was drifting from the Lord, He used Elisha to preserve the spiritual integrity of the nation as a whole so that the righteousness of the Messiah was distributed through him to a certain degree. The children of Israel didn’t ask for Elisha to be the preserving agent that he was, but God provided him as salt in the land to preserve the spiritual integrity of the people, even teaching others to do the same through the schools of the prophets.
The scriptures show that Elisha fit the mold of Jesus in this miracle as he was the one that administrated the multiplication of food, even though the Father was responsible for the actual multiplication. Like Jesus, Elisha called for his servant to distribute the food on his behalf by faith. When Jesus multiplied the five loaves and two fishes, the scriptures are specific to explain that Jesus distributed the food to the masses through the hands of His disciples. Likewise, Elisha distributed the bread through the hands of his servant Gehazi. Like the testimony found in the Gospel of John, the amount of resources possessed was far less than the required need. Nevertheless, like Jesus, Elisha trusted in the provision of the Father to meet the needs, and trusted the Lord to multiply the food as needed, regardless of how things appeared.
Here, it is important to recognize the manner of God’s multiplication. First, the scriptures testify that God met the basic needs of the people. Elisha was used to multiply barely loaves of bread. Jesus multiplied bread and fishes. The scriptures do not state that God multiplied steak or poke bowls. The scriptures show that God, knowing the purpose for His people, gave them what they needed to serve their purpose. He did not multiply their resources for purposes of vanity and gluttony. While there were leftovers, the excess was not to lavish the people with luxurious provision. The people had basic nourishment and were to be content with that, understanding that without the Lord’s provision, there would have been nothing. Hence, the parallels of God’s work in both the Old and New Testament show that when God multiplies, He multiplies according to need so that His people are able to continue in His purpose for them in humility, not as fattened kings that indulge in worldly luxuries by self-entitlement.
Secondly, it is important to see that each time God multiplied food, there were always leftovers. It is true that God is able to meet the need, but His will has always been to multiply and abundance. When God created the world and the living creatures in it, He created them in a matured state, already having the ability to multiply. The first command that God gave to His people was to multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. God wanted His people to be fruitful, and multiply that which He determined was “good.” He gave Adam and Eve the whole world to fill with His goodness; and while they failed in that command, the purpose of God remains the same. God wants an excessive amount of His goodness and shows that He is willing to provide the means to meet the need, and then some.
When we apply this understanding to spiritual terms, we can see that God wants to save a lot of people. He doesn’t just want to equip His servants to get by, but instead to increase in abundance of spiritual gifts, joy, and fruit. God wants His kingdom overflowing with people that have been transformed according to the multiplication of His goodness within the hearts of those who believe. God will certainly provide for our physical needs, and as Creator, He doesn’t need to rely on previously existing resources to get the job done. So, God’s people would be wise to stop looking at material circumstances to guess how God might fulfill His promises. Additionally, God’s aim is to provide excess so that His people can leverage that excess to glory in the Lord and share the excessive amount of God’s good provision with others in order that they would be able to share in the glory of the Lord. When the church was born on Pentecost, thousands were quickly saved because God provided an excessive amount of His Spirit so that the people were overflowing with His power. They shared that power by sharing the testimony of Jesus Christ. They took the overflowing leftovers of God’s Spirit and gave it to those who were lacking.
The character and attributes of God don’t change. The motives of God don’t change. The purposes of God don’t change. The patterns of God’s work don’t change. Therefore, we should see that as God duplicated His work from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we should recognize that God desires to preserve the spiritual integrity of His people by multiplying His goodness to a degree that overflows. Our job is to receive that nourishment and share the abundance that God provides with those who are malnourished, recognizing God as Provider and praising Him for His goodness and glory.