The Bible teaches that before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave authority to His disciples. Many people have looked at Jesus’ appointment of this authority in such a way so as to think that the early apostles were like super heroes. While these men were able to do some seriously miraculous and extraordinary things, there was specific purpose for God’s work through those particular men. They were able to perform signs and wonders, but Jesus was clear to state that the signs and wonders would simply be to validate the words they spoke in witness of Jesus Christ. The true authority that Jesus gave came by the Holy Spirit to speak the Gospel and the truth of the Word of God concerning Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah. Jesus explained that the apostles would be able to perform these miracles in order to certify that their words were true. As the early apostles were able to do the same things that Jesus did as the Son of God and Messiah, their claims of Jesus being the Son of God and Messiah would be seen as true as people were able to witness the work of Jesus’ Spirit work through them. Who but God could do such a thing?
The point is, God will often do extraordinary things through His people in order to show that the Word His servants speak is true. As God’s servants, we are called to proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. We are to teach that Jesus is the Son of God (that He is God in flesh), and that Jesus is the Messiah (the fulfillment of the Father’s eternally unconditional promises). Since these claims are difficult to grasp and believe (even for believers), the Lord will frequently do things in the lives of His people in order to show others that their words are real and true. God knows that it is hard for people to grasp the truth of His Word. The Bible itself proclaims that the Jews always request a sign, and the Greeks always seek after wisdom, but that the Gospel is foolishness to the world. Hence, God is frequently found proving the “foolish” to be wise by defying wisdom through signs and wonders to prove that His Word and His glory are true.
Proof of this pattern of God’s work can be found in the testimony of Elisha. The scriptures explain that Elisha was the man that replaced Elijah the prophet. Since Elijah was the man in charge of several schools for prophets and was a powerful communicator of God’s Word, God made sure to work through Elisha in such a way that proved to the people that he was a legit prophet of God. In fact, the scriptures show that God did some extra work through the ministry of Elisha on account of the fact that God set out to give Elisha “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit. This means that, while Elijah was a great and powerful man of God, Elisha would be used as a vessel to produce twice the glory for God that Elijah did! To show that He is willing and able to fulfill such promises, God made sure to let the people know that Elisha was legit by doing things that were clearly miracles that proved God’s hand upon Elisha’s work and purpose.
In 2 Kings 4:38-41 the Bible explains that there was a famine in the land where Elisha was living. He had returned to Gilgal, which was just north of Jericho. He was there to work with the students at one of the schools for prophets that was in that area. The testimony explains that, while there was a famine, Elisha was focused on serving the needs of others. Though resources were depleted, and he would have been entitled to the chief portion as the teacher and leader, Elisha wanted to make sure that his students had food to eat first. Elisha commanded his servant to put a large pot on fire and prepare a stew for the sons of the prophets to eat. Since there weren’t ordinary resources available to make such a meal in a traditional way because of the famine, one of the students went out to the fields and just began to pick food that he saw, that he thought would be good for the meal. The scriptures testify that the man went to gather herbs and found a wild vine with “gourds.” These “gourds” are thought to have been wild cucumbers. Likely having the appearances of normal cucumbers, the man picked them off the vine not thinking anything of it. The sons of the prophets prepared the stew with them and began to eat.
The Bible explains that as they were eating, they began to panic. They realized that something was wrong with the stew. Not knowing what the gourds were, they ate the stew, which became poisonous. People began to get sick and there was panic in the midst of the group. The men were certain that death was being served in the pot, though it was totally accidental. The sons of the prophets figured they were all dead men. However, Elisha instructed one of the servants to grab some flour or meal, at which point Elisha added it to the stew. Upon doing so, Elisha instructed his servant to serve the stew, assuring them that it was fine. The men ate and were well. The work of Elisha was sufficient to “heal” the stew.
First, it must be understood that Elisha was not a culinary expert that knew of some technique to remove poisonous substance from soup. It is important to understand that the flour that Elisha added didn’t do anything to the stew. This testimony is parallel to the testimony of the work God did to “heal” the waters as Meribah when the children of Israel complained about the quality of the water in the wilderness. There, the children of Israel were unable to drink the water that was before them because it was polluted. The scriptures described the water as “bitter” water, referring to the fact that it was contaminated with impurities. The Lord instructed Moses to take a rod and put it in the waters, at which point the waters were made “sweet.” In other words, the work that God did through Moses was sufficient to remove the dangerous impurities and make the water useful for drinking. The addition of the rod that Moses put into the water did not purify the water. That outward work was merely a demonstration of faith in God’s instruction. Intellectually, it wouldn’t make any sense to add something like wood to undrinkable water in to order to purify it. God didn’t want Moses to think intellectually. God wanted Moses to respond in faith. Thus, Moses added the tree part to the water, and the water was “healed” as God removed the dangerous substance to make it nourishing to the people.
The testimony of Elisha’s miracle has many of the same qualities as the miracle that God did through Moses. Elisha faced a situation where the only nourishment available was harmful and corrupted with poisonous substances. It was the addition of a foreign substance that enabled the food to change quality and be useful for nourishment. God worked a miracle through His servant to change the condition of that which was corrupt, into a condition useful for food in order to prove Himself faithful to provide. The Lord here proves that He is able to change that which is corrupt into something nourishing and useful. The Lord here proves that He is faithful to provide for the needs of His people, even when things look disastrous and deadly. The Lord proved that He is able to manifest His wisdom when His people do foolish things in ignorance that cause harm. The Lord proved that He is merciful to correct the mistakes that His people make unintentionally. The Lord proved that those He appoints as His servants are indeed equipped with His power, His wisdom, and great purpose to fulfill His will! While God revealed certain qualities of Himself, He also showed that Elisha was an exceptional man of God on account of the purpose that God had for him. Thus, Elisha would be respected and revered in the manner of Elijah in order that people would recognize the truth of God’s work through him.
The Bible teaches that the Lord is God and there is no other. He is in charge of all things and the administrator of all blessings and curses. Since He is the Creator of all things, everything belongs to Him. The scriptures also teach that the Lord is not a respecter of persons. He doesn’t show favoritism in any sense. He brings rain and sun on the just and the unjust. God’s people experience good things and bad, just the same as non-believers and heathens. The Lord is the One that gives, but He is also the One that takes away; and He does so according to His perfect will and wisdom. This means that God’s people need to adjust. We need to understand these truths about God so that whether we find ourselves experiencing a season of increase OR decrease, we know God is in charge doing work that ultimately results in good. This is not easy to do and requires great faith. Thankfully, the Bible shows that God has been doing these types of things since the beginning, and normal people have been able to adjust by faith and received gain even in moments of loss.
In 2 Kings 4:17-37 the Bible reveals that authority that God has to give, and then to take away; but then to give yet again! The scriptures previously spoke of a Shunammite woman that was faithful to serve the Lord by taking care of God’s people. This woman saw the work of Elisha the prophet and desire in her heart to be a supporter of his work, since his work was to teach the Word of God to the next generation. She not only gave of her own increase to feed and nourish Elisha, but also worked with her husband to build a room addition onto her home that she gave to Elisha as a lodging place to rest and regroup when he traveled from school to school teaching the sons of the prophets. The work was welcomed and greatly appreciated by Elisha. Therefore, Elisha asked the woman if there was any way he could repay her. In a tone of wishful thinking, she expressed that she really wanted to have a son, but that her husband was well past the years of that becoming possible. Nevertheless, Elisha assured the woman that she would give birth to a son the following year. The next year, God indeed provided her a son, appearing to be a reward for her faithful service unto the Lord through Elisha.
The testimony of 2 Kings 4:17-37 reveals that the blessing God provided changed. As the woman’s child grew in years, one day he went out to help his father in the fields. He was complaining of a headache and went back home to sit with his mother. The child died later that day. The scriptures describe a tragic event, but the response of those involved don’t reflect people who responded without hope. Though the woman who craved for a son, and was awarded one by the Lord God Almighty had just lost that very son, she did not break down in panic, anger, or depression. The scriptures show that she simply laid the dead body of her son on his bed and called for her servants to bring transportation. She was going to go see Elisha the prophet. The woman understood that the God who brought her son by miracle could also give her that son back by miracle, so she sought the man of God in order to seek God himself.
The Bible explains that she moved with great haste of course. Upon the approach to Elisha, the scriptures explain that Elisha saw her coming and sent Gehazi to meet her. When Gehazi greeted her to know why she was there, her response was interesting as well. Gehazi asked if all was well with herself, her husband, and her son. She responded that all was well. Though her son was dead and that was the purpose for her visit, she considered all to be well, to the extent that Gehazi thought nothing of it. Nevertheless, she was persistent and diligent to seek Elisha, not Gehazi. She worked to get through the greeting of Gehazi to fall at the feel of God’s prophet. As she did so, Gehazi tried to stop her, but she was persistent to present herself in humility to the Lord’s servant. Elisha then realized that the circumstances were tense and permitted her to speak and explain the manner of her approach. She revealed that her son was dead and recalled the promise that Elisha had made concerning the son. When Elisha first promised that God would provide her a son, he assured her that he was not playing with her emotions and that the son would be an heir to her family heritage. When her son died, she reminded Elisha of that promise and demanded a means by which that promise would be fulfilled.
Elisha’s response to the circumstances was interesting as well. Once again, though the child was dead, he did not move with panic or fear. In fact, the Bible shows that Elisha wasn’t even intending to respond himself at all. He at first instructed Gehazi to take his staff and simply touch the boy’s face with it. He didn’t explain that there would be an effect or anything, but just gave the simple command that Gehazi set out to obey. Elisha sought to provide an opportunity for his servant to do the work that the Lord had equipped him to do – a mark of true discipleship. However, the Shunammite woman did not travel to Elisha to receive service from the student. She wanted service from the master. Therefore, she begged Elisha to go himself, at which point he accompanied her back to her home, following behind Gehazi. When the three of them returned to the woman’s house, Gehazi made an attempt to obey the command of his master. He went into the deceased boy’s room and touched his face with Elisha’s rod. Nothing happened.
Elisha recognized an important truth at that moment. The Lord had promised to give him double portion Elijah’s spirit, not Gehazi. Though it was noble to try and engage his servant with opportunities to do as the true prophets of God, it is not for people to decide who gets what gift and how those gifts will be exercised. We cannot take our gifts and just appoint them to someone else as if we have the authority to do so. Gehazi was not able to do anything for the boy because God did not appoint Gehazi to that work. It was not that the Lord didn’t use Gehazi, but that the Lord was not going to use Gehazi in that way. The Lord proclaimed that Elisha would be used in that manner. Elisha realized this truth and so he went into the boy’s room himself and closed the door behind him. The Bible testifies that Elisha operated in an intense demonstration of faith. Though it was improper and unclean for a Jew to touch a dead person (unless appointed to do so as a priest), Elisha went into the room and laid upon the dead body of the boy. The scriptures explain that as Elisha placed himself over the boy, the warmth of his body was supernaturally transferred to the boy and after some time, the boy sneezed seven times, and was alive! The scriptures explain that Elisha came out with the boy fully restored and was returned to his mother.
It is important to consider a few important points in this testimony. First, it is important to see that the Lord is exactly who He says He is, and expects His people to faithfully respond in submission to His work, regardless of how we experience His work. The woman received a reward from the Lord by the birth of a son. Then later, that very son was taken away. The death of the boy was not coincidental. The death of the boy was the work of God as much as his birth was. However, this does not mean that God gives us blessings just to take them away from us like someone playing cruel jokes. Instead, the Lord seeks to test the faith of His people. Do we trust in the Lord and depend on Him or do we place greater affection and hope in the things that He gives? Will we love the Lord through the good times and bad or just in the good? Will we praise God when the seasons on increase comes and then curse Him in the season of drought? Is God not good ALL of the time? If His children truly believe that God is good at all times, then His people will find ways to praise Him at all times. The woman’s resolve was tested greatly. She served the Lord before a son, and her motives were not to receive one. Therefore, when she did, the birth of her son was extra blessing – not God’s obligation. Would she serve the Lord as she had before, simply seeking to promote the distribution of the Word of God because His Word is good?
The response of the woman and Elisha show that they knew the character of God. The absence of panic, fear, depression, and accusation shows that they knew God’s goodness. They knew that God is not one to give something good just to take away without purpose. God is not a jerk and they understood that. While the sting of the loss was very real, they responded with maturity and calmness, seeking the Lord. The woman sought the Lord by seeking the man God had appointed as His chief communicator. Elisha sought the Lord by doing the work he was appointed to do himself instead of trying to place that work upon someone else. While this testimony is a stark reminder that God gives AND takes away, in that God restored the woman’s son shows that God’s purpose in decreasing His people is only to test the faith of His people in such a manner that their resolve glorifies His name through the eventual restoration of what was taken.
The true blessings and goodness of God comes to those who are truly in agreement with His purposes and serve Him according to His will. The Bible explains that the men and women who served the Lord in the New Testament considered themselves to be “dulos” bondservants. This type of bondservant was one that was considered to be lesser than property. They were people that weren’t included in genealogies. In fact, it was said that in the Jewish culture, a “dulos” was a derogatory term that was more offensive that insulting someone’s family member! Yet, the scriptures explain that Paul, Peter, James, John, and Jude all introduced themselves as this type of bondservant unto Jesus Christ. The early church volunteered their lives to this title, not having any affections for the things of this life according to the flesh. They were willing to be called the least of the least in this world in order to be considered servants of the One True Living God unto the glory of Jesus Christ. These men knew who Jesus was and what His life, death, resurrection, and ascension meant according to the fulfillment of the Father’s eternally unconditional promises. For this reason, the men and women of the early church gave of themselves for the Lord’s purposes without reservation.
The Bible also shows that as the church came together, everyone filled a different and unique roll. The Bible explains that the men and women of the early church met in “one accord,” which refers to the fact that they were single-minded to distribute the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. The early church recognized that Jesus appointed certain men to venture about with His message in order that people might repent and be saved. The rest of the church was banded together to support that effort. This doesn’t mean that everyone was a teacher. Instead, the Bible shows that because the people believed that sin was deadly but the Gospel was the power of God unto salvation, they did all that they could to ensure the messengers Jesus selected as witnesses could do their jobs. This means that some people aided the early apostles while on their journeys by keeping track of their possessions. Some of the people helped the distribution of the Gospel by doing the administrative work to organize missions trips. Some people helped the distribution of the Gospel by simply opening up their homes to the apostles so that they could have a place to sleep, be refreshed, and regroup in order to accomplish their purposes. Still others even went to some of these homes and just gave their time to pray and take care of the physical needs of those who carried the Word of life because they believed that the distribution of that message was the most important thing in life. This was the way the body of Christ functioned as individuals gave of themselves with purpose.
It is important to recognize that the varying qualities of service that these men and women provided were not normal human traits. The scriptures identity these things as gifts of the Holy Spirit because the exercising of those gifts resulted in the magnification of Jesus’ testimony. The work of the Holy Spirit is not a New Testament concept. The Bible explains that the Holy Spirit compelled men and women in the Old Testament as well. In fact, the Holy Spirit is the Author of both the Old and New Testament, so His work is clearly evident at all points in history. Though the Holy Spirit worked in a slightly different way in the New Testament because of the completed work of Jesus, this doesn’t mean that the work of the Holy Spirit through gifts is not evident. The Bible shows that people manifested the characteristics of dulos bondservants well before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. This means that there have always been men and women that desired to give of themselves for the purpose of ensuring the distribution and understanding of God’s Word through the teaching of God’s Word. Hence, it is clear to see that God has always blessed those who believe in His Word, the distribution and teaching of it to the degree that they are willing to give of themselves to ensure the Word goes out.
Proof of this claim can be seen through the testimony of Elisha the prophet in 2 Kings 4:8-17. The Bible testifies that Elisha carried on the work of the prophet Elijah. This means that Elisha administrated over the schools of the prophets that Elijah administrated over previously. Elisha was a man that oversaw the teaching of God’s Word, encouraged men of God to learn how to pray and communicate with the Lord, and equipped them for the service of the Lord in the various facets that God used people. The testimony of 2 Kings 4:8-17 shows that there was a Shunammite woman that appreciated Elisha, his work, and the teaching of the Word. Her affection for the work of God through Elisha’s ministry was not only verbally expressed, but like the early church, this woman gave of herself in order to assist the teaching of God’s Word in any way that she could.
The Bible explains that this woman used to see Elisha all of the time. Apparently, this woman’s house was on the way in Elisha’s journey as he went from one school to the next. When this woman would see Elisha go to and fro from school to school teaching the Word of God, she would always stop him and feed him food. This woman was compelled by the Spirit of God to assist a man of God in his ministry work unto the glory of God. This woman wasn’t a teacher of the Word, but desired the Word of God to be taught; and so she did what she could to make sure that God’s teacher could speak well. She provided nourishment to Elisha so that he could be well energized and mentally focused to teach, and teach well. This Shunammite woman cared about the work of God and so she participated in the teaching of the Word by taking care of the man that God appointed as a teacher in the manner of Elijah. Her work may have not been publicly revered, but it was greatly appreciated by both Elisha AND the Lord.
The woman did not stop there however. Upon realizing that she could give more, she sought to do so. This woman truly gave of herself for the purposes of the Lord to enable the teaching of the Word. The Bible explains that one day, this Shunammite woman spoke with her husband to see about the possibility of adding on to their home in order that they could provide a place for Elisha to stay and rest while on his journey. It was not enough that she feed him, but having ample space and the resources to build and give, she desired to use what the Lord gave her in excess to promote the teaching of God’s Word by taking care of Elisha. The woman’s husband agreed, and the building project commenced. Their home remodel was not for the purpose of gratifying their own desires, but instead to take care of the people God was using to teach His righteousness. The Shunammite woman and her husband believed that God’s work was more critical than their comfort, and so gave up their own space for God’s purposes, investing into the promotion and teaching of God’s righteousness according to the Word.
When the woman explained to Elisha what they were doing, Elisha was very appreciative. Elisha embraced the opportunity to be well rested, have a quiet place to refresh and regroup to do His work unto the Lord. Elisha embraced the chance to have space set aside for him and his ministry purposes so that he would be as best equipped as possible for one of the most important jobs to mankind. Seeing the value of the Shunammite woman’s humility and gracious giving, he asked her if there was anything he could do in return. Elisha offered to speak to the king or the commander of the army on her behalf to see if they would be willing to provide any sort of political or cultural favor. This woman was not interested in increase of the material sense. She was not interested in receiving gain from men in the ways that were worldly and selfish. Nevertheless, Elisha sent his servant Gehazi to persistently find out if there was anything he could do to repay her in gratitude for her service unto the Lord, and she finally confessed that she desired a son.
Here it is important to recognize the essence of this woman’s desire. Her desire was not to receive gifts from men for her desire to enable the Lord’s purposes. Instead, she desired a gift from God Himself, and the Bible shows that the Lord was faithful to honor her desire. She didn’t want to be rich in material resources as evidenced by the fact that she used her material resources for the Lord’s purposes anyway. Instead, she wanted to further engage in the Lord’s purposes by having an heir to her household name. The woman wanted a son to raise up to learn about the weighty matters in life by serving the Lord and His purposes. The woman wanted a child that she could instill the godly principles that she lived her life by. The woman wanted to fulfill her duty to be a woman that was fruitful and able to multiply the Lord’s goodness as originally commanded in the Garden of Eden. She had maximized her capacity to multiply God’s goodness by assisting God’s prophet. Still wanting to further engage in God’s purposes, she wanted a son of her own, perhaps to raise up to be like Elisha.
The Bible testifies that Elisha swore that she would have a child within the year. The woman couldn’t believe her ears. The scriptures state that while the woman’s husband was able to help build the room addition for Elisha, she felt he was well past the age of being useful for conceiving a child. Nevertheless, Elisha assured the woman that God would honor her desire for a child, and at that time the following year, the woman gave birth! This testimony shows that the true blessings of God are fulfilled when God’s people chiefly desire to exalt His name unto His glory for His purposes. The Bible shows that when God’s people are totally sold out to exalt the name of the Lord through the various means that He allows, the Lord will honor the desires of our hearts because He sees that we are about His business. The woman did not ask for increase for herself. The Lord honored her desire because her desire was in line with His previously declared will and purposes. Proving to be a good steward with His resources as she used what she had to assist the distribution of God’s Word and the teaching of it, the Lord gave her more. Such is what the Lord promises to do with those servants that are faithful unto His eternal purposes unto His glory.
It is important to understand how committed God is to His New Covenant promises. It is also important to examine the scriptures to see how much God wants His people to understand His promises, the meaning of them, and the work He will complete to fulfill them. God’s promises are not small issues, and He goes through great lengths, not just to fulfill the promises but also teach them. Therefore, it is imperative to view the scriptures in such a way to learn about who the Lord is, what His promises are, and how He aims to get those things done. We have to see how God interrupts human circumstances to perform works in ways that teach His ultimate spiritual purposes. While it is true that the history of the world has been governed by God, we must also see how His administration has taught important lessons about His ultimate plans in eternity. To miss these lessons is to miss God’s point.
The testimony of 2 Kings 4:1-7 is an example of God manipulating human affairs in order to produce a particular result, that is not only miraculous in nature, but also specific to teach important lessons about His promises. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that the prophet Elisha had truly received “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit and power in ministry. The scriptures show that Elisha was able to do a lot of the same things that Elijah did, and for similar purposes. Fundamentally, the testimony of 2 Kings 4:1-7 shows how the prophet Elisha had understanding of God’s power to the degree that he was able to give commands to a poor widow woman so that her actions allowed God to work a miracle. This woman was the wife of a student at one the of schools of the prophets, but her husband had died. Having debt remain, the woman was fearful that her dead husband’s debt collectors would take her children as slaves in order that they could work off the debt of their deceased father. This woman had no money. She had no resources. She had no husband, and was soon about to lose her sons. The scriptures show that God was willing and able to deliver this woman in a powerful away.
When the woman realized the extent of her circumstances, she quickly sought out the prophet Elisha. Fundamentally, Elisha instructed the woman to carry out a series of instructions that ultimately allowed the widow to be delivered from her financial burdens, and her family remained intact. However, it is important to examine and consider the details of Elisha’s commands since they are helpful to show a prophetic picture of how God is not only able to remove financial debt, but more importantly, the debt of sin! By understanding the details to Elisha’s commands, it is possible to see God’s hands move into the lives of these historical people in order to display His power and sovereignty, while also using those circumstances as a teaching tool to show how the world would be saved of sin according to God’s New Covenant promises.
When the woman approached Elisha, he first inquired of her to find out what she had of value. Her issues stemmed from a financial burden, to Elisha wanted to see if there was anything of value that this woman had that could be leveraged for God’s purposes and miracle. She confessed that she had nothing but a jar of oil. Here it is important to recognize that the Bible often uses oil in a symbolic manner. Oil is often a symbol for the presence of the Holy Spirit, which is especially prevalent in the visions of Zechariah the prophet. This woman had one jar that had oil in it. That is all that she had of value to her name, but Elisha would show this woman that God is able to do great and mighty things with the little that we have. Since oil is often representative of the Holy Spirit, it is important to consider the greater lessons, that God is able to do great and marvelous things so long as we have the Holy Spirit, even if we have nothing else!
Elisha commanded the woman to execute a simple series of tasks. First, the widow was supposed to go to her neighbors and ask to borrow various vessels of different kinds. Elisha did not designate a type or size of vessel. The widow was supposed to go door to door to borrow any type of vessel that her neighbors were willing to lend. Elisha was also specific to instruct her not to ask for a few, but instead to gather many vessels. The widow was not to get one or two, but as many as she could. The widow was instructed to gather enough vessels, and then some more. The idea that Elisha implied was that the woman was supposed to gather an excessive amount of jars or vessels, even though she was not told the exact purpose. Since the imagery of oil presents the idea of the Holy Spirit, then the vessels that Elisha instructed the woman to gather becomes an important symbol as well. The Bible often compares God’s people to vessels. The scriptures compare God’s children to jars of clay that God fashions with His own hands for His own purposes according to His righteousness. Understanding this spiritual parallel, it is clear that Elisha was organizing a prophetic picture that deals with God’s people. The woman, though a widow, was to gather various vessels according to the command of God’s Word (here, being communicated through God’s prophet). The vessels were to be of all sorts and sizes. The only requirement was that the vessels were to be volunteered to the use of the widow. This presents a picture of God’s perspective concerning His people. He is not interested in using any particular vessel, only that the vessel is available for use according to the declarations and purposes of God’s Word.
Next, Elisha commanded the woman to take the vessels into her home and shut the door behind her. This is an important detail that seems obvious, but is mentioned twice in the testimony. Here it is important to recognize the dynamics of shutting the door. The woman shutting the door shows that her business with the vessels was to be her business that was to be conducted in private, according to her own works with the vessels, without the involvement of others. The woman closing her door would have separated her and her affairs with the vessels from outside influences. In this way, she would keep herself from the involvement of others in how the vessels would be used. Closing her door behind her and conducting her purposes with the vessels in her own home would ensure that the vessels would be used according to the purpose she was determined to do according to God’s commands. This command shows a powerful parallel to God’s work of sanctification. The Bible teaches that when God calls His people to follow Him, He justifies them of sins, and sanctifies them unto His presence for His purposes. The vessels and servants of God are to be consecrated and separated from the world unto His purposes. The vessels of God are not to be tampered with by outside influences. God desires to close His people off from the world unto Himself, not to hide His people from the world, but to ensure His holy purposes are exercised without corrupted influence or manipulation from outside parties.
Lastly, the widow was commanded to pour the oil she had in her one jar into the vessels that she borrowed. Here, a tremendous act of faith was required from the woman. Why would this woman gather many vessels if she was commanded to pour one jar’s worth of oil into them? How would she fill many vessels with only one jar’s worth of oil? Despite the lack of rationale, the widow did as she was commanded. The Bible testifies that the woman went out with her sons and asked to borrow vessels from her neighbors. She and her sons took the vessels into their home and closed the door behind them. Seemingly without much consideration, they began to fill all of the pots with oil. Though the woman only had one jar’s worth of oil, the scriptures are clear to declare that each of the vessels she borrowed was filled! God worked a miracle! In the same way that Elijah, the widow, and her son were fed from the one jar of flour and oil through the drought, God multiplied few resources to meet the need, and then some! In the same manner that Jesus multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed five thousand men, the Father multiplied the oil of this woman! The scriptures then explain that Elisha told the widow to take the oil that God had multiplied and sell it so that she could pay off her dead husband’s debt. However, the Bible explains that there was so much excess, that she was able to have left over oil after her debt was paid, and was able to live off of those prophets for an extended period of time.
This miracle involves more than just God being willing to help a woman in need. This miracle teaches the bigger picture of God’s eternal purposes. Notice that each vessel that was borrowed for the widow’s purposes was filled with oil and that oil was used to bring a prophet to pay debt in excess of extended provision. This historical narrative is a prophetic picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the widow herself is an example of the Savior. This testimony shows that God’s purpose is to take vessels that are simply volunteered to His Son, separated from the world, unto the purposes of Jesus according to the declarations of the Father. The ordinary vessels that were once used for one particular purpose were vessels of miracles in the possession of the woman. Those vessels were sufficient to hold enough oil to pay debt, keep the woman’s family intact, and then provide for her needs. This pictures how, when God’s people are filled with His Spirit, then and only then are we used for profitable purposes. It is the vessels that are in the possession of Jesus Christ that get the benefits of settled debt through the forgiveness of sins. It is the vessels that are volunteered to the use of Jesus that are able to produce a profit through extended provision. These parallels are not coincidental. These parallels exist in the scriptures because they show the Father’s determination to fulfill His promise to forgive sins by His Son, to add purpose to the lives of His people, and to teach His people how important these matters are to Him. If God is so diligently focused on the Gospel that He interrupted the life of this widowed woman to provide a prophetic picture of the work of His only begotten Son as the humble Servant of all through her life, then God’s people should be equally focused on the Gospel just the same.
The Bible is filled with testimonies that describe who God is. However, it is important to recognize the things that God seeks to reveal of Himself when the Bible documents historical events. Many people recognize the truth of the Bible in the historical narratives that are contained in scripture, but often forget to consider God’s involvement in those historical instances. When looking at the history of God’s people, it is critical to examine how God is engaged with His people. It is important to recognize how God makes things happen. If all of God’s people anticipate the victory of the Lord, it is important to look at how God has historically brought victory into the lives of His people, and under what kinds of circumstances. When we study the Word in this way, we can see the attributes of God in action, and begin to understand why God reveals Himself in certain ways.
One of the most profound demonstrations of God’s power is mentioned in the creation account in the Book of Genesis. The Bible explains that God created the universe out of nothing. All of the physical matter that we can observe around us was created simply by the declaration of God’s will by His Word. When God spoke, things came into existence! This is one of the chief facets of God that makes Him unique and holy. While human beings have creative ideas, all human creativity is dependent on the availability of resources. If an artist has great ideas but few resources, it is difficult to fulfill those ideas. However, if an artist has great ideas with unlimited access to resources, then the artist should be able to produce a good result. In a similar manner, a chef’s meal is only as good as the ingredients that he or she has access to. If the chef only has cheap ingredients, it will show in the quality of meal that is created in the end. God doesn’t have this problem or limitation; and this is a critical part of God’s power that His people should consider at all times in order to rest assured of His ability to fulfill His promises.
God did not stop producing something out of nothing after the sixth day of creation. The Bible shows that the Lord continued to manifest this extent of His power through the history of Israel. For example, in 2 Kings 3:16-27 the Bible explains how God provided victory for the kings that fought against Moab. The Bible states that Jehoram, the king of the northern kingdom of Israel, was personally offended by the king of Moab because the king of Moab stopped sending tribute to Israel after the death of Ahab. Jehoram sought to fight against the king of Moab, but would not do so on his own. He was able to convince Jehoshaphat, the king of the southern kingdom of Israel, as well as the king of Edom to fight with him. The three kings, their armies, and their animals set out through the wilderness of Edom to attack Moab, but found themselves in a difficult situation. Jehoram was an idol worshiper, and so he did not make it a habit to inquire of the Lord. Jehoshaphat was a godly man, but often acted by impulse, ahead of the will of the Lord, so he did not inquire of the Lord to verify God’s will and the manner in which it was to be executed. Thus, the three kings and their armies wandered in the wilderness of Edom for seven days, at which point their resources were depleted and they were in danger of starving to death before even having the chance to fight.
The Bible says that Jehoram felt their unfortunate position was the judgment of God. Jehoram figured that because things were looking grim, that God assembled the three kings together to destroy them in judgment. It was at that time that Jehoshaphat remembered the Lord and sought to speak to a prophet of God. The three kings went to see the prophet Elisha who was living close to the region they were in. When the three kings met with Elisha, the prophet was sure to express his displeasure with Jehoram. Elisha knew that Jehoram was an idolater, and Elisha was candid to express that his behavior and leadership were unacceptable. He informed Jehoram that if Jehoshaphat weren’t with him, Elisha wouldn’t even look at Jehoram, let alone speak the Word of God to him. Nevertheless, Elisha acknowledge the faith of Jehoshaphat and sought the Lord on their behalf. He called for a musician in order to praise the Lord for the opportunity to serve Him, and the Lord was faithful to respond to Elisha’s worship.
The testimony of 2 Kings 3:16-27 explains that the hand of the Lord touched Elisha and he was able to bring forth the Word of God. Elisha commanded Jehoram, Jehoshaphat, and the king of Edom to dig trenches in the valley that they were in. Elisha assured the kings that God would fill the valley with water in order to provide sustenance for the kings, their men, and their animals. However, God explained that He would not bring wind, or rain, but that the water would fill the valley anyway. God would simply make water appear – enough water to fill the trenches of the armies and provide for their needs! This is what God is able to do. He does not need resources to multiply resources. He does not need to start somewhere to produce a final effect. God has no beginning and no end, and so is able to make manifest anything at any time in similar manner. When God created the vegetation on the earth, He did so by creating trees and plants that were already mature and bearing fruit on the day they were created. He didn’t have to plant a seed and wait. When God created all of the living creatures in the earth, He didn’t have to create eggs that needed time to hatch or temporary wombs for people to be born in as infants. God created mature life that immediately had the ability to reproduce and multiply according to His will and purpose. That same power was exercised for Jehoram and Jehoshaphat.
This was not the full extent of God’s power. The Bible testifies that after the Lord filled the valley with water and met the physical needs of Israel and Edom, the people of Moab heard that the kings were seeking to attack. They went out to the valley in preparation to fight, but when they got there, saw the valley with many trenches filled with water. From the angel that they saw things, the water looked as blood to them, and the king of Moab assumed that the three kings had turned against each other, fought one another, and killed each other in the valley. Therefore, he commanded his men to go into the valley to collect spoils from a battle he assumed was already over. The men of Moab went into the valley to pillage, not fight, and so when they got into the valley to find the armies of Israel in ready position for an ambush, they were frightened and immediately fled. The armies of Israel were able to defeat Moab in an instant because of how the Lord provided water.
In addition, the Bible explains that the king of Moab fled first and took seven hundred men with him to try and break through the barrier of soldiers that surrounded them. He tried to go after the weaker of the three kings, the king of Edom, but was unsuccessful. When he and his seven hundred men failed to break loose, the Bible testifies that the king of Moab separated from the men and took his son to the wall in his city. The son that he took was his eldest son, the one that would have been the heir to the throne of Moab. The king of Moab offered this son as a burnt offering on the wall in order for the people to see, hoping to discourage further advance from the children of Israel. The king’s plan was successful as the people watched the king of Moab commit such a horrible act and were disgusted to continue in their attack. They left the king having their stomachs cringe at the idea that this man killed his own son, the heir of his throne, for his own selfish gain.
Here the Bible shows just how powerful God’s strength is. God was not only able to make an abundance of water appear out of nowhere, but also used that water for multiple purposes according to His will. His one response was sufficient to accomplish multiple things that benefited His own cause. The water was good to nourish the kings, the soldiers, and the animals of Israel that went out to fight. The water was also good to confuse the enemy, which caused them to approach God’s people with their guard down unto their demise. The manner in which Israel was able to attack discouraged the enemy from fighting and caused the leader of the enemy to show the true nature of his wicked and depraved heart, thereby justifying the judgment that God brought against them. Moab was further judged while the armies of Israel went through Moab and utterly destroyed everything! While this might have seemed complicated to Israel at the time, when Elisha prophesied that these things would take place, he was sure to mention that this work was easy for the Lord. Nothing is hard for the Lord, even the work of making something out of nothing. So when life’s circumstances look bleak, God’s people would be wise to remember the extent of God’s power to produce something out of nothing in order to bring provision and victory to His people while also judging the wicked according to His promise.
The Bible explains that the Lord desires to reveal Himself to His people. People often say that God works in mysterious ways, and this is true only to a certain extent. The full truth is that while much of God’s work is unknown to the natural person, He really desires to make Himself and His ways known to His people. In fact, when Jesus told the disciples that He no longer considered them servants, but instead as “friends,” the basis for that promotion in relationship was on account of the revelation that the disciples received. Jesus explained this to the disciples about His relationship to them as “friends:”
"No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15
The disciples were friends of Jesus because He made known to them the will of the Father, and they received that revelation. This is God’s desire. However, it must be understood that Jesus only addressed a few men and women at that time. Though the room was filled as Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, the room was not filled with all of Israel. This shows that while Jesus revealed the will of the Father, only a few people that are identified as “disciples” were privileged to receive that revelation and be considered as “friends” of the Lord.
This principle shows that, while God wants to unveil the mysteries of His work and purposes, we must come to Him in a certain manner to receive such revelation. The New Testament scriptures describe this manner as being a disciple. The Old Testament describes the qualities that the disciples later demonstrated with Jesus. For example, the testimony of Elisha explains why the Lord gave “double portion” the spirit of Elijah to him, and what that “double portion” looked like. In 2 Kings 3:13-15 the Bible explains that Elisha was able to receive great wisdom and revelation from the Lord, but also provides details of Elisha’s character to explain how he was able to receive such revelation. This testimony begins by explaining that Jehoram, the evil king of the northern kingdom of Israel had partnered with Jehoshaphat, the king of the southern kingdom of Judah, and also Edom to fight against the king of Moab. Jehoram was personally offended that Moab was rebelling against him after the death of Ahab, and stopped giving tithe and tribute to him. Jehoram sought to fight against Moab to avenge his personal offense, and convinced Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom to fight with him.
None of these men sought the Lord, and presumptuously went out to fight. Jehoshaphat had suggested that the men attack by secret going through the region of Edom in which the three armies got lost and were in despair in their journey. The scriptures testify that the kings, the men, and their animals wandered through Edom for seven days to where their food and water rations were depleted. The three kings, especially Jehoram, began to panic, figuring that the Lord had assembled the men together to destroy them in judgment. No one had considered the Lord until they figured He was angry and judging. At that time, Jehoshaphat suggested they seek a prophet of God to get clarity on the circumstances. Though Jehoshaphat normally sought the Lord, he agreed to help Jehoram by foolish impulse, and didn’t pursue the wisdom of God until the circumstances brought real threats. It was at this time that Jehoram suggested they seek Elisha since he was known to be near by.
The testimony of 2 Kings 3:13-15 explains that when the three kings approached Elisha, he was not warmly receptive to them. He only addressed Jehoram and did so with harsh words. Elisha immediately asked Jehoram what he was doing there, and why he wasn’t seeking out the prophets of false gods and idols as he had normally done in his life. Elisha was not pleased to see the king, and was quick to point out that he did not approve of his normal manner of living. Elisha candidly explained that the idolatry Jehoram was normally accustomed to was unacceptable to the Lord. In fact, Elisha explained that had Jehoshaphat not been with them, Elisha would not have even looked at the face of Jehoram, let alone address him and talk to him. This is an important dynamic to understand concerning the attitude of Elisha and his relationship to the Lord. The Bible teaches that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). Elisha was not willing to compromise the good morals that God placed within him by His own spirit that was previously in Elijah. Elisha did not compromise. Elisha wasn’t flattered by the requests of royalty or authority. Elisha recognized idolatry for what it was, and did not want to engage or partner with those who sought the evil counsel of false gods and worldly practices. Those who desire to receive the revelation of God must honor the holiness of God and seek to separate themselves from evil in order that such wickedness would not pervert or restrict His revelation.
Secondly, Elisha recognized the presence of Jehoshaphat. Though Jehoshaphat put himself in a bad position by making a foolish decision to partner with Jehoram, Elisha showed mercy to Jehoshaphat, recognizing the true heart and intents of the king. It is true that Jehoshaphat would have been wise to do as Elisha and keep from Jehoram, but Elisha didn’t see Jehoshaphat with Jehoram, judge him unto condemnation, and cut him off. Elisha exercised the mercy of God to recognize that a man who truly loved the Lord had made a mistake as all of God’s people do. Elisha recognized the faith of Jehoshaphat and was willing to engage with Jehoram on account of the faith of Jehoshaphat. If not for Jehoshaphat, Jehoram would not have heard anything from the Lord, nor received any benefit from Him. Yet, it was the faith of one man, even while in error, that enabled the revelation of the Lord to come forth on account of His mercy shown through His prophet. Recall that Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” The scriptures show that as Elisha showed mercy to Jehoshaphat, and extended that mercy to Jehoram on account of the faith of Jehoshaphat, Elisha was able to receive the mercy of God unto His revelation, despite the corrupted intentions of Jehoram.
After Elisha rebuked Jehoram for his intentions and wicked idolatry, he requested a musician. This might seem like an odd request when a person seeks the wisdom of God, but the implication is that Elisha wanted music in order to praise the Lord. The scriptures show that when God’s people engage with musicians, it is to sing praises to the One True Living God, recognizing Him for His attributes and purposes. Elisha wanted to praise the Lord. When men sought counsel of the Lord from Elisha, the Bible explains that Elisha wanted to praise the Lord, even though Jehoram sought him with impure motives. The Bible explains that Elisha desired a “double portion” of the spirit of Elijah. This means that Elisha desired to speak the Word of God. Elisha desired to speak the judgments of God. Elisha desired to teach the people of God. Elisha desired to lead the children of God to the Lord. Elisha desired opportunities to exercise the Spirit of God to do the will of God unto the glory of God. He saw the ministry and service of Elijah and had a righteous desire to serve the Lord God Almighty in the same manner, and then some. Therefore, though Jehoram sought Elisha with impure motives, and Jehoshaphat in confusion, Elisha rejoiced and praised the Lord for the fulfillment of His promise and in the opportunity to exercise his desire.
This goes to show that, when desiring the revelation of God, the people of God must come to Him in praise. God expects His people to rejoice in faith, in anticipation of His answers to our inquiries. God expects His people to be thankful for ANY opportunity to exercise His Spirit unto His glory. A true servant of the Lord is grateful to be used in any purpose for the Lord. A true servant of the Lord recognizes the magnitude of privilege associated with being a vessel of the Lord’s righteousness. Regardless of how we are used in the Lord’s hand, the true servant of the Lord understands how amazing it is to be in His hand, rather than cast away for our sin. Elisha praised the Lord because the inquiry of these kings enabled him in an opportunity to serve the Lord. He sought musicians to praise the Lord. Elisha wanted to praise the Lord for being involved in the Lord’s work. Elisha wanted to praise the Lord because he anticipated the Lord’s response to continue towards the fulfillment of His promises to His people in some way, shape, or form. Elisha wanted to praise the Lord because he recognized that God would exalt His name above the fake and false gods Jehoram previously worshiped in some manner, and he was going to be used in that work.
These details show why Elisha received the revelation of the Lord. The Bible explains that when the musician came to Elisha and started playing, that the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha! Here it is CRITICAL to recognize that the song itself did not provoke the Lord to respond. The quality of musicianship isn’t even mentioned, so that can be disqualified as the motives for the Lord’s response. Instead, we must examine the full context of the circumstances to know why God’s hand came upon Elisha to reveal His will. Elisha separated himself from sin and did not compromise by approving of practices of darkness, evil, or worldly habits. Elisha showed mercy and favor to the true people of God and sought to serve their needs unto a helpful condition to equip them in the Lord’s work. Elisha anticipated the work of the Lord to exalt His own name against the false gods of corrupt men. Elisha was thankful for his opportunity to serve the Lord by exalting His name through the proclamation of His Word. Elisha praised the Lord in anticipation for the work the Lord would do to exalt His name and allow Elisha to participate in that work. When God’s people want to receive understanding of God’s will, this is a good pattern to follow: separate from the world and the corrupted practices of it without compromise; seek to enable and equip God’s true servants while expressing the patience and mercy of God; thank God through praise for the privilege and opportunity to be used by the Lord to exalt His name by any means necessary.
The Bible teaches that God’s people will endure suffering. Suffering is a reality of life. When Adam brought sin into the world, and death with it, suffering joined along; and because we all sin unto death (though some unto condemnation and some unto eternal life through faith in God’s grace), we all suffer. The righteous and the unrighteous suffer. Yet, while Jesus taught that His people must endure suffering for His name sake in order to enter the Kingdom of God, it must be understood that some of the suffering Christians endure has nothing to do with the suffering Jesus was referring to. Since God’s people are not made righteous when we come to faith, but instead are “declared” righteous in justification, our sinful nature remains. We are called to walk as those who are dead to sin, in the likeness of Jesus’ resurrection, but there is still issues from within that cause us to make mistakes. While God is confident in His ability to complete and perfect His work in us in eternity, until God’s people enter that realm, we will make mistakes; and the Bible is clear to show that much of our suffering stems from those mistakes.
The testimony of 2 Kings 3:4-12 shows that God’s people often make decisions that create problems that could have been avoided if we were to seek Him first. The scriptures state that when Jehoram became king, he was quickly offended by the way he was treated as king. The Bible testifies that the king of Moab, a man named Mesha, was a sheep-breeder by trade, and was accustomed to giving tribute to Ahab while Ahab was the king of Israel. The Bible doesn’t explain whether or not this payment was forced or voluntary, but does state that it was an exceptional amount of tribute. Mesha would give one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams on a regular basis! However, after Ahab’s death, Mesha stopped giving that tribute. When Jehoram became king in his father’s place, he took offense to the change.
The scriptures explain that when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against Jehoram, including keeping this tribute from him. Feeling entitled to being treated in the same manner as his father, and desiring the same quality of respect and honor, Jehoram responded by impulse and out of emotion and was determined to fight against the king of Moab. Jehoram immediately mustered up the army of the northern kingdom of Israel and had his heart set on taking the nation to fight against the man that had personally offended him. However, Jehoram was not one to fight his own fights on his own. In addition to summoning the army of the northern kingdom, he also called to his Jewish brethren down south and pleaded with Jehoshaphat to lend a hand in the fight. Remembering that Jehoshaphat was kind to help his father, Jehoram reached out to Jehoshaphat again to see if he would be willing to commit the resources of the southern kingdom to his cause against Moab.
Here it is important to remember the last time Jehoshaphat was mentioned in the context of the wars of the northern kingdom. Recall that Ahab reached out to Jehoshaphat to fight against the king of Syria. Before inquiring of the Lord, Jehoshaphat committed himself and his military resources to engage with Ahab. Though Ahab was a wicked man, Jehoshaphat engaged in partnership with him, and ultimately paid the consequences of being unequally yoked. It was not until after Jehoshaphat was committed to helping Ahab that he sought to speak to a prophet of God in order to discern what God’s will was. Jehoshaphat had made up his mind already about what he wanted to do and then committed himself to do that. It was not until after that he sought to know what the Lord wanted, at which point he learned a tough lesson the hard way.
While Jehoshaphat’s life was ultimately preserved in that battle, he did have to suffer the consequence of doing business with shady people that don’t consider the Lord or His people. When Jehoshaphat went out to battle, Ahab was able to convince him to dress up in his own attire so that the Syrians would target Jehoshaphat rather than Ahab. When Jehoshaphat went into battle, the entire Syrian army went after Jehoshaphat thinking that he was Ahab, and chased him away from the battle field. Had Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord first, he would have never put his life at risk. It is good that Jehoshaphat’s life was ultimately kept and he was able to continue his rule in Judah, but his impulsive decision to help Ahab led to difficulty that could have easily been avoided had Jehoshaphat sought the Lord before making up his mind and committing himself to foolish agendas.
This is a challenge that Jehoshaphat had as part of his personality. The testimony of 2 Kings 22:4-12 explains that Jehoshaphat got himself into the same predicament again later with Ahab’s son. When Jehoram approached Jehoshaphat to ask for help in fight against Moab, Jehoshaphat again agreed and committed himself to help. In fact, the Bible shows that Jehoshaphat said the exact same thing that he originally said to Ahab. One would think that the utterance of the same words would cause him to remember the error of his ways previously, but it did not. Perhaps Jehoshaphat’s motives were to be helpful to his countrymen. It is possible that Jehoshaphat had good intentions to help his brothers in the north. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear to show that both Ahab and Jehoram were wicked men in the sight of the Lord. They were bad leaders and shameless worshipers of idols. Those things should have been clear indications to Jehoshaphat to steer clear, and that any partnership or commitment to them would have been another unequally yoked relationship.
Sure enough, when Jehoshaphat when to fight with Jehoram, trouble found him quickly. The Bible testifies that Jehoram also recruited the king of Edom by Jehoshaphat’s recommendation, and the three kinds set out to overtake the Moabites by surprise, taking a route that was difficult to endure. As the men, their armies, and their animals trekked for seven days without food or water, the men began to panic. At the end of the week, Jehoram proclaimed to Jehoshaphat that it was possible they made a mistake. Jehoram was determined in his mind that God brought him, the king of Edom, and Jehoshaphat together in order to destroy them. It was not until Jehoram mentioned the possibility of the Lord’s judgment that Jehoshaphat considered the Lord. It was not until Jehoshaphat realized he was in another bad situation, stuck in the wilderness, perhaps fighting in another war he shouldn’t be in, dealing with more threats of death, that he considered seeking the Lord. Once again, had Jehoshaphat inquired of the Lord beforehand, he likely could have avoided these pitfalls, if not at least been prepared for them.
Thankfully, the Bible shows that God accounts for the foolishness of His people. Though Jehoshaphat had made another decision to partner with wicked men, thereby getting himself in positions of threat once more, God made Himself available. The Bible explains that when Jehoram suggested God was judging them, Jehoshaphat asked if there was a prophet of God they could inquire of rather than make silly guesses. Like when Ahab was presumptuous about the battle with the Syrians and Jehoshaphat asked to see Micaiah, Jehoshaphat again sought for a prophet of God to know the truth of their circumstances. It was at that time that Jehoram informed Jehoshaphat that Elisha, the student of Elijah, was not far away. Therefore, they set out to inquire of him. So, while it was good that Jehoshaphat eventually sought the Lord for wisdom and direction, the Bible shows that he would have been wiser to inquire before he put himself in compromising positions. Though it is good that God patiently, mercifully, and graciously makes Himself available at all times to His people, even when we make mistakes, it is better to consider Him before the mistake is made. How often have we found ourselves in folly because we didn’t fully consider and seek the Lord before we made a decision, that later cost us? Though the Lord is faithful to deliver His people, it would be simpler if we sought the Lord more fully at the beginning of our decisions so that God would not have to deliver us from peril so often. Jehoshaphat knew the God that could help and save, but he would have been wiser to seek the Lord to escape circumstances of threat before volunteering himself to those circumstances. God is not only able to keep us from the ultimate destruction of our foolishness, but prefers to exercise His power to keep us from such foolishness to begin with if we would consider Him before we make up our own minds.
There are plenty of people in the world that seek to change course from the errors of their parents. Unfortunately, many children despise their parents for wrongs that their parents committed. There can then be a thought that if the child can keep from committing the same wrong, the child can be better off that their parents. They can be an improvement of sorts and leave a different legacy as if they are better people by comparison. Unfortunately, this way of thinking is flawed according to the Bible. The Lord doesn’t see things this way and doesn’t grade righteousness on a curve this way. Just because one generation is able to keep from one particular brand of sin, doesn’t mean that those particular people are any better. The scriptures show that a person is only approved by God and seen as “right” when there is faith in the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Messiah, for it is only at this time that His own unique righteousness is attributed to the believer. God will only accept His own righteousness since it is the only genuine brand. Hence, no matter how we feel we might measure up against others, unless we have been cleansed by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice through faith on account of God’s grace, our sin might be different from those who came before us, but there is sin nonetheless.
The scriptures illustrate this concept in the testimony of Jehoram in 2 Kings 3:1-3. The Bible states that Jehoram became king after his brother Ahaziah died from his fall into his lattice. Jehoram was another one of Ahab’s sons. The Bible explains that Jehoram had a better reign than his brother, but did evil in the sigh of the Lord nonetheless. This is important to consider. The Bible explains that, overall, Jehoram was not right in the Lord’s eyes. God saw Jehoram and his life, and was displeased. When the scriptures make this declaration, we are to assume that these individuals were condemned and will face the Lord God Almighty at the Great White Judgment seat in the end. This is not the place any person wants to be! The reason that this is important to consider, is because the Bible also testifies that Jehoram did not commit the same evil as his father and mother: Ahab and Jezebel. The scripture explain that Jehoram actually put away the sacred pillar of Baal that Ahab had erected. However, one person’s separation from one brand of sin does not necessarily show that the person is totally separated from sin.
Even though Jehoram didn’t commit the exact same sins as his parents doesn’t mean that Jehoram was righteous in God’s eyes. Clearly the Bible says differently. The scriptures are clear to explain that he didn’t appear to make the same wicked mistakes as his parents did, but was an idolater nonetheless. Even though Jehoram didn’t worship the same idol as his parents didn’t mean that he abstained from idolatry altogether. The subject of one’s idolatry doesn’t make any difference to God. If He is not the exclusive and supreme subject of worship, He is jealous and will judge according to that jealousy. Whether Jehoram worshiped Baal or Molech makes no difference to God. The point is, the Bible is clear that Jehoram committed the same sins as Jeroboam, which is the same sin that Satan himself committed. Jehoram’s evil looked different than his parents, and maybe less offensive on the outward appearance, but in the eyes of God, it was equally as wicked because Jehoram was never repentant to seek the Lord for a clean and renewed heart.
The Bible states that Jehoram was evil in the sight of the Lord because he lived his life like Jeroboam. They committed the same sin. Here it is important to remember the basis of Jeroboam’s sin. It is true that he was also an idolater, but there were two major issues that keep Jeroboam’s name mentioned in the Bible as an example and standard of evil. Recall that Jeroboam made up idols in order to keep people from worshiping God in the temple that was in Jerusalem. Jeroboam wanted people to serve him and be his subjects. He did not want the people to go to Jerusalem, worship in the temple, be convicted to follow Rehoboam as the king of all of Israel, and then lose his power and influence and authority. Jeroboam loved the idea of being in charge of people and leading people. He wanted God’s job and made up his own religion to ensure the people stuck with him rather than pursued God. He convinced the people that his made-up religion was equal to God’s Law so that as the people served him and submitted to his authority, it was equal to worshiping God. This was the same objective of the devil, and was the same sin that Jehoram committed as well.
Though Jehoram didn’t worship a particular statue or certain god, doesn’t mean that he was clean. Just because Jehoram didn’t do the exact same evil as his father and mother doesn’t make him any better than they were. Ahab, Jezebel, Jeroboam, Jehoram, and Satan all had the same wicked heart because they sought to exalt themselves above others as if they were the Lord God Almighty. This is ALWAYS evil in the sight of the Lord no matter how the outward appearance seems to be. When people desire to lord over God’s people and lead them astray from Him through certain manners of living, He is not pleased. When people lead other astray with sin of ANY kind so that the results of certain relationships disintegrate the oneness that God desires to have with His people, God sees that heart as wicked and evil. Jehoram’s life was considered evil in the sight of the Lord because he abused his authority to separate people from God with sin. Though his sin was different than his parents doesn’t mean anything. Jehoram might have looked better to some people on the outward because his idolatry came in a different package, but God saw that they were leaving the same legacy. Jehoram wasn’t excused because he was less of an idolater or more sophisticated in his sin.
God doesn’t grade on curves. Jesus said it plainly. We are either for Him or against Him, and he who does not gather with Him, scatters. Hence, if we are not repentant from our sin to faithfully turn to the Lord and live according to His righteous standards, we are in fact, against God as His enemies. Jesus explained that God’s enemies do not gather God’s people together unto Him according to His will and desire to be one with them, but instead scatter God’s people from Him. Would God, who is described as a loving Father, be pleased with those who scatter His children from Him? Would God judge people based on how few or how many people someone scattered from Him? Would not God be equally displeased if ANY of His children were led astray to any degree? For this reason, it doesn’t matter if we despise the previous actions of those who came before us if we continue in sin of a different package. The Lord calls His people to repent from all sin and turn to Him faithfully according to His righteousness, living in the manner of Jesus Christ. No matter how much better a person might think they are by comparison to another, sin is sin when compared to the impeccable holiness of the One True standard of righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God!
The Bible teaches that God will not be mocked! The scriptures predict that in the days nearing the return of Jesus Christ, there will be an influx of mockers and scoffers who ridicule and insult the children of God on account of faith. However, one of God’s most important promises in the entire Bible was the 3-fold promise that God made to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12. There the Lord said that He would bless those who bless the descendants and seed of Abraham, but that He would also curse those who curse His people. The Bible explains that not everyone who is genetically related to Abraham is of Abraham and of his “seed.” Instead, it is those who are children of the faith that he demonstrated in the promises of God that are Abraham’s children. This is why he is called the “father of our faith.” Therefore, no matter whether a person is a Jew or a Gentile, those who believe upon the Father’s promises of Messiah as fulfilled by Jesus Christ are Abraham’s children and heirs to the promises made to him. Thus, those who mock the children of his faith will receive the supernatural protection that God promised, whether Jew or Gentile. At the same time, those who mock the children of God, whether Jew or Gentile, are guilty of mocking God Himself, in which case, God promises to deal with such mockery with severe judgment!
This illustration is proven true in the testimony of Elisha the prophet. In 2 Kings 2:23-25 the Bible explains that God not only validated Elisha’s authority as the heir of Elijah’s ministry through blessing, but also in judgment. In this portion of scripture, the Bible explains that Elisha journeyed to a town called Bethel. This town is important to consider. Bethel is mentioned as one of the cities that the wicked king Jeroboam set up as a shrine city where he built altars to his made-up gods and idols. Thus, for the past couple of generations, the city of Bethel was a place of heavy idol worship and wickedness in the eyes of God. The reason that Elisha went into this city was because this was also the location of one of the schools of the prophets. So while the people likely despised the spiritual pure activity that took place at the school of the prophets, the laws in that region did not permit the people to close down the school or kick the followers of the Lord out. Nevertheless, the Bible teaches that those who live according to the ways of darkness, despise the children of the light; and so for this reason, there was high tension between the prophets and the residents of Bethel.
The scriptures explain that when Elisha arrived in the town, he was met at the entrance road by a group of youths. This was not a warm welcome. When the children heard that Elisha was coming, they did not wait for him to come into the town, but instead went out to meet him in order to mock him and make fun of him. The Bible explains that this band of bullies went out and hurled insults at Elisha. They specifically said, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” While this phrase seems like harmless kid jokes, it is important to consider the truth of the words. First, the phrase, “Go up,” likely refers to the word that was being spread about the manner in which Elijah had departed into the heavens. As he “went up,” the children referred to Elisha in a manner that they mocked Elisha as a lesser man, not being able to go up with his teacher. The kids taunted Elisha in this way as if to state his weakness to follow his teacher, and their displeasure of his presence; hoping that he would just go away like Elijah did to leave them to their wicked affairs without conviction. Their mockery to say, “Go up” was another way of telling Elisha to “Get out!”
Secondly, the insult in the name “baldhead” is important to consider as well. The kids were not just calling Elisha silly names, but insulting personal issues that Elisha had. Recall that Elisha was called to follow Elisha at a fairly young age. Thus, a man of Elisha’s age at that time would not have been bald for natural reasons. The insults heaved at Elisha were making fun of a condition that Elisha had that cause him to be bald. It is also important to consider that baldness in the culture at that time was a shameful thing. Those who were bald were usually bald for reasons of infirmity or health conditions, so that their baldness was an embarrassment. The youths that made fun of Elisha were personally targeting the embarrassing issues that Elisha had to deal with in a manner that one might make fun of a handicap person’s issues. This is considered wrong in any culture and at any age. Then when one considers that these youths were insulting the prophet of God in this manner, it is important to imagine how God might respond to such mocking being projected at His own children and servants.
Lastly, we must notice the age of these people that were mocking Elisha. The Bible says that they were “youths.” This means that they were likely children of elementary and junior high school age. Why would kids of this age take it upon themselves to meet a prophet at the entrance to a city in order to say such hurtful things to him? This is why it is important to understand the nature and culture of the city of Bethel. Young children that act out in such a manner are taught to do so, either by a lack of instruction, or by specific instruction. Since the people of Bethel were accustomed to worshiping their false gods and idols and despised the ways of the Lord, they had grown comfortable in despising the people of God that upheld His holiness and righteousness. The kids met the prophet because they were taught to do so. The kids mocked the prophet because they were taught to do so. The kids despised and rejected the prophet of God because their parents did the same. This is important to consider when examining the response of Elisha and the Lord.
The scriptures testify that after journeying into the city and trying to patiently deal with the insults of the kids, Elisha finally had enough. He turned to the kids and pronounced a curse upon them in the name of the Lord. The scriptures then state that two female bears then came into the town and destroyed forty-two kids! This is a rough curse and a harsh response for some simple name calling at first glance. However, here it is critical to consider the true character of God, His promises, and the environment that Elisha was going into. Recall that God will not be mocked and as a loving Father, He will stick up for His children. Secondly, God is faithful to His promises. Had the children of Bethel not cursed the children of God, then the children of Bethel would not have been cursed by God. This is the natural result of what happens when people forget about who God is and His promises in exchange for false gods and idols. When people spend and ample amount of time in the ways of darkness, it is easy to forget the true nature of the Light and that darkness will never overcome the Light!
It is important to remember that God is not a respecter of persons. That truth is clearly illustrated here. A “child” that is old enough to receive instruction and obey the commands to despise God’s people and reject His righteousness is a child that is old enough to pay the full consequence of such. Notice that God did not reprove Elisha for such a harsh curse against the children of Bethel. This shows that, while it might have been easier to correct the children, God knew they would not listen. Why would they have received such correction at that time if multiple generations of their fathers would not need the righteous example from the school of the prophets that was in that same city? If they didn’t follow the example before, God knew that the effects of miseducation over three to four generations would not repent, and so His method is to purge such impurity, teaching the truth that His law and commands stated.
Clearly God sets a candid standard for His righteous judgments. Those who think they can get away with despising God’s authority and righteousness over extended periods of time while mocking God and His people have another thing coming! God clearly shows that He will bring judgment when judgment is appropriate, no matter the age, or even the region. Remember that Bethel was a town within the borders of Israel, so that while those people might have been genetic descendants of Abraham, they were not children of his faith. They were thus dealt with accordingly. Such is the fate for any of those who seek to curse God by cursing His people because God is faithful to ALL of His promises.
The Bible teaches that the Lord alone is Healer. Though healing appears to come in many forms, the scriptures declare definitively that it is the Lord alone that brings healing, and the quality of His healing is unique and lasting. There have been many people who have been “healed” for a moment, only to be afflicted by the same infirmity at a later time. This is not the kind of healing that the Bible speaks of from the Lord. When the Lord does a work, it is powerful to be lasting because God is eternal. The extent of God’s power to heal is eternal in nature. This is why the ultimate healing that God desires to do is to heal the soul. The scriptures explain that all people are conceived in sin (Psalm51:5). As such, all people are born with dead souls, and thus, unable to love the Lord God with all heart, “soul,” and strength. This is why God declares that none are righteous, and sees the righteousness of all people as equal to filthy rags. This is also why God reveals Himself as Healer. The essence of His promises is to correct this spiritual infirmity. God is able to resurrect a dead soul and give it life and equip it for purpose eternally. Hence, while the body may expire, the soul will remain as proven by the resurrection of Jesus Christ Himself! Understanding the root of God’s work, it is important to examine all of the testimonies of God’s healing in the Bible in order to see and understand how those circumstances were simply teaching illustrations of bigger things that God was revealing of Himself.
The Bible reveals that God is “Healer” of more than the human body. When referring to God as “Healer,” it is common to think that the Bible refers to God’s work to deal with physical issues of people. However, the first time God is called Jehovah Rapha, the Lord that heals, God did not heal a person. God healed water! This shows that God’s aim is not simply to bring physical restoration to fully equip the human body. God has bigger things in mind that He first sought to illustrate by “healing” water in Exodus 15:26. This was an illustration that God used often. The testimony of Elisha reveals that God healed waters again for His people in order to prove eternal things about His power AND desire to heal. In 2 Kings 2:19-22 the Bible explains that God healed the waters around Jericho in order to validate the ministry of Elisha and prove His power and the aim of it.
This testimony explains that after the students of the divinity school in Jericho came back from their failed search for Elijah, Elisha went on towards the city of Jericho. While there, the men of the city approached Elisha with their issue. They explained to Elisha that, while the people were generally living peacefully and in contentment in the city, there was a problem that they didn’t know how to address, that was significant to the growth of the people. The men explained that the water in the town was bad and that the ground was barren. These are major issues. Water is a critical element for human sustenance and a basic need. Water should not be considered a luxury, but a basic human requirement. Yet, the supply of water was bad. Like in Exodus 15:26, the children of Israel recognized that the waters of Marah were “bitter,” the people of Jericho had similar issues. The bitterness of the waters at Marah referred to the condition of the water as polluted and unsafe to drink. The waters at Jericho presented similar challenges, even to the point that it was infecting the ground. The men explained that the ground was barren, which means that the people there were having difficulties growing and cultivating food. Though things might have been pleasant at that time according to the men, without the ability to grow food and drink water, things would not be pleasant for long.
Here, it is important to recall the nature of Jericho’s issues. Remember that when Jericho was destroyed by Joshua and the children of Israel, God commanded the city should not be rebuilt, and that the man who sought to rebuild Jericho would be cured in his family. Then, the Bible explained that during the time of Ahab, a man took his sons to rebuild Jericho and according to God’s warning and prophecy, that family was cursed and killed. God clearly didn’t want that city standing, yet He did not command that any person should stay out of there after it was rebuilt. In fact, the Gospel of Luke testifies that Jesus visited Jericho. Nevertheless, a city that God brought to desolation and cursed would obviously maintain certain qualities of infirmity for those who sought to live in the region. While God did not punish the people who lived there, especially those who built up and ran the school of prophets, the land was previously cursed and the people were suffering the consequences of that. They were clearly unable to deal with the issues on their own, and so they sought divine help from Elisha.
The Bible testifies that Elisha immediately sought to bring a solution. Without thinking, Elisha just knew what to do. When Elisha requested a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, the Lord approved such a request so that the instincts and understanding that Elisha had at this moment proved and verified his authority and power under the Lord. Elisha didn’t have to try many things through trial and error in order to come to a solution. That which plagued the town was immediately addressed by Elisha on account of the wisdom that God provided. This miraculous work was validation that God was truly with Elisha to carry on the ministry He had previously conducted through Elijah.
Elisha requested the men bring him a new bowl and for the men to put some salt in it. While many have tried to examine these details to try to rationalize through scientific means how the waters were cured, it is important not to make such a mistake. Consider that all of the waters of the town were infected and the whole of the ground was barren. What good would a little salt do for such a large area? What difference does the quality of the bowl make according to the distribution of the salt? Though there is significance to the salt and the bowl, it does not provide a scientific explanation of the work Elisha did. In fact, the Bible explains that God Himself did the work, not Elisha. Therefore, it is important to examine the spiritual significance of the quality of the bowl and the salt.
The Bible explains that the essence of God’s New Covenant promises to transform God’s people into new creations. God promised to remove the hearts of stone that His people have and replace them with a heart of flesh in order that His own Spirit can inhabit them, sanctifying His people unto Himself. Jesus said that we must be “born again” by the Holy Spirit. Paul explained that God’s children are “new creations” as the “old man” that was a sinner by nature has died in the likeness of Christ’s crucifixion, but spiritually resurrected as the “new man” according to the likeness of Jesus’ resurrection. When Jesus explained this principle, He compared God’s New Covenant promises to a practical matter in how wine was transported. It was commonly understood that you don’t put new wine in old skins. The old skins do not do well to contain the new substance that dwells within. Likewise, God’s New Covenant promises are founded on the fact that when God changes the inward person, it is with the understanding that He will also change the outward to resemble His glory all the way through!
The scriptures declare that God will even create a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem. It is God’s new creation that will remain for all of eternity. The one constant that will never change is His Word. Everything else (with the exception of those who are condemned) will be new. Clearly, the Bible shows that one of God’s chief aims is to make things new. The benefits of God’s work come from the transformation God orchestrates when things are made new. The benefits of God’s work don’t come from the old corrupted nature of His vessels, but when the vessel is made new to resemble His essence. It is for this reason that Elisha requested a new bowl. The bowl in it of itself was just a bowl, but it pictured the eternal principle of God’s work in healing. The benefits of God’s healing come from the newness of His work so that when God makes something new, REAL healing has taken place, such as is unique to God, His power, and His eternal purpose.
Secondly, Elisha asked for the men to put some salt inside of the bowl. The Bible doesn’t describe how much salt was requested, but is detailed to state that it was only “some.” Elisha didn’t ask for the bowl to be filled with salt. The Bible doesn’t say that Elisha asked for a large bowl suggesting that he was going to use a lot of salt. The quantity of the salt was not relevant to the miracle. Instead, it is the symbolic meaning of the salt that was illustrated with just a little that was sufficient to teach God’s spiritual and eternal principle. The Bible often equates salvation to “preservation.” For example, in Psalm 16, the Bible shows that David sought the Lord for His “preservation,” which Peter later explained as Jesus’ forgiveness unto salvation in Acts Chapter 2. Salt was a substance commonly used for preservation of many things. It’s ability to stave off and kill bacteria and protect certain foods and the like made it an effective tool to preserve. When Jesus commanded His people to be “salt of the earth,” He was communicating the same concept; to “preserve” the integrity of His Word and righteousness by walking in His likeness by the Spirit.
The reason that King David and Peter equated preservation to salvation is because it referred to God’s ability to protect the soul from His coming wrath. He is not only able to bring healing to the soul to resurrect it unto life, but when He executes His judgment against the ungodly, He is able to “preserve” His people from His wrath and the effects of it. Jesus commanded His disciples to do the same by distributing the Gospel and living according to His Word. Elisha asked for salt to show that the benefits of God’s healing comes by preservation. One cannot receive the benefits of God’s healing if not for the preservation that God is able to offer. If not for God’s power to protect from the harmful substances of a corrupted world; and if not for God’s power to recognize and separate His people from those who are condemned, the healing that God brings now would be for nothing in eternity. Yet, when God’s preservation is in the mix, God’s healing can be received!
The scriptures testify that Elisha took the salt in the bowl and simply poured it in to the head of the river at which point he declared, “Thus saith the Lord, ‘I have healed the waters.’” The scriptures clearly explain that God is the one that changed the condition of the water from harmful and useless to profitable. This change in condition is considered “healing” because it was brought to a condition that was good for God’s original purpose. The corruption that tainted the water was no longer a deterrent for the water being used. God was able to change the condition of the water as if it were new, at which point the cursed land around it was no longer barren. This is the power of God’s healing! More importantly, the Bible testifies that the waters and land remained in that condition, even until the days that this testimony was documented as scripture. This shows that God’s healing power lasts and is profoundly different and more effective in depth than any other healing. This is why God is worthy of all praise. This is why God should be exclusively worshiped. As Elisha was able to do this miracle, it proved that God was indeed working through him so that the people would have been wise to hear his words and watch his work as of the One True Living God. More importantly however, the Bible shows that God’s aim is bigger than changing the condition of the human body. His aim is spiritual and eternal in nature so that God’s people should seek God for the true essence of His benefits, not only physical ones.