Thursday, Apr 27th

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2 Kings 4

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God did many miracles through Elijah and even more through Elisha – though it is likely there were far more than we read about in scripture. News of these quickly spread throughout Israel and surrounding nations, proving not only God, but the man He used to bring the miracles to effect. Note that there was no guesswork by Elisha, and no hesitation, for God spoke directly to him, and immediately brought about what was prophesied, even the raising of the dead.

Today, we desperately need to see God intervening in the world, as a sign of His presence and help in such evil days. On the other hand, though desperate for His answers, we tend to dilute our faith and heed fear and doubt in our hearts; we seek His face and yet ignore it when He gazes at us. The world is dark, and wicked men are running amok, bringing chaos and sin to the people, who, regardless of the sheer poison they are imbibing, eat and drink on. These are the last days, yet Christians do not recognise it. They say they do, but they continue as they always have, thereby displaying lack of faith and lack of proper respect toward the Lord. So, even if God acts miraculously, they will not see it.

Verses 1-7

  1. Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the LORD: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

  2. And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

  3. Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.

  4. And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

  5. So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.

  6. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

  7. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

The widow of an Israelite prophet came to Elisha for his help. Her husband owed money to someone and because she could not repay the debt, the creditor wanted to take both her sons to be bondmen, servants. Elisha asked her if she had any assets in the house. She replied that all she had left was a pot of olive oil.

Elisha told her to visit all her neigbours, to borrow as many pots as they would let her have. When she had them in her house, she was to secretly pour out the oil she already had, into the borrowed pots. To her amazement the single pot she had kept on filling the borrowed pots. When every pot was full, Elisha told her to take the oil and to sell it in the market until the amount owed was reached. The remainder of the oil she could keep for her own use.

Yet another miracle! It began with a single pot she already had, but God used it to multiply her assets. Can you see a modern-day application in this text? If not, keep thinking until you do, for there are lessons to learn here.

Verses 8-11

  1. And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread.

  2. And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually.

  3. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.

  4. And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there.

One day, Elisha was out travelling and passed through the city of Shunem, five miles south of mount Tabor, where an important woman lived. As he passed her house the first time, she stopped him and offered food and drink. She recognised him to be a prophet by his cloak. She spoke to her husband, saying that they ought to host this man of God who passed by frequently. She asked him to build a small shelter on the top wall of their roof, and to place a bed, table, chair, and candlestick inside; Elisha could stop there whenever he visited the area. And so he stayed in the shelter to sleep. Do you help men of God? Do you give to their needs?

Just a brief side-note: people in real need rarely tell others. I have heard many Christians say “If only they had asked...”. Do you know how demeaning and humiliating it is to ask someone for help? Or even to tell them of a need? I do. See how this woman went out of her way to help, though she was not asked for it. She saw a need and did something about it. This is how it ought to be. Of course, many Christians do not help because they are not asked for it... but it is a way not to help – remain silent and do not ask if someone needs help, and maybe the need will go away! In my own dire need I never once asked anyone for help. And though I know many knew of my plight, they never offered any.

Verses 12-17

  1. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him.

  2. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people.

  3. And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old.

  4. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door.

  5. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid.

  6. And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.

Elisha again visited Shunem and stayed in the little shelter. On his travels he was usually accompanied by a servant, Gehazi/Geychaziy. Elisha asked Gehazi to call the kind woman, who came straight away.

It seems (possibly) that Elisha did not speak her language, but Gehazi did. Elisha thanked the woman for her kind concern, and asked if she wanted anything in return – perhaps a word to the king? Or, to the general of his army? But, she sought for nothing, saying she was alright in her own city. It seems Elisha then spoke to Gehazi out of her hearing – ‘What do you think we can do for her?’

Gehazi told him that her husband was old and she wanted children. Elisha then asked Gehazi to call the woman again. As she stood in the doorway he told her that in nine months’ time she would have a son. The woman did not believe him and asked why he, a man of God, would tell her a lie? Even so, she conceived and had a son nine months later, thus proving Elisha to be truthful and a man of God.

Many years ago I applied for a job and was asked how I would handle a lot of money. I told the owner that I was a Christian, so would be honest. To which he said “So?” His point was that even Christians have been known to defraud and steal! What an awful testimony! The woman was suspicious of Elisha, and only the next nine months proved him to be truthful! This is why Christians must always be truthful and honest. To be otherwise is to bring down the Name of God and the Church.

Verses 18-21

  1. And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers.

  2. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother.

  3. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died.

  4. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.

A while after the child’s birth – we are not told how long after, but it seems he may have been just older than a toddler – he went out to the fields to see his father during reaping time. The boy suddenly complained of pain in his head, so his father told a young man to carry him to his mother. She nursed him on her lap, but he died at mid-day. The distraught mother took the dead child up to the shelter she had made for Elisha, put him on the bed, and shut the door.

Verses 22-24

  1. And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again.

  2. And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well.

  3. Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee.

Not accepting the death, the mother called to her husband to send a servant to saddle an ass for her, so she could find Elisha. How many Christians accept an earthly situation without calling again to God, even when the situation appears to be insurmountable?

The husband tried to stop her, asking where she would go, as it was neither a new moon nor a sabbath? But, the determined mother said that all would be well, then got on the ass, instructing the servant to go with her and not to slow down the animal... she believed Elisha would bring the child back to life again.

Why the reference to the new moon and a sabbath? The new moon was usually the new lunar month, by which all Hebrews lived, and the sabbath could have been any holy holiday (holy-day). The commentary by Matthew Henry differs from my own in this text. I perceive that Elisha would not be found in a place of worship on a non-festival day... so where would the mother go to find him? He could have been travelling anywhere, which he did frequently. But, the mother was resolute – she wanted him to return to her home to raise the child.

How resolute are you when trouble comes? Do you just give in and be depressed? Or, do you rely on the promises of the Lord and call upon Him to rectify the situation? Of course, He acts as He wishes, but we must still call upon Him in faith.

Verses 25-27

  1. So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite:

  2. Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well.

  3. And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the LORD hath hid it from me, and hath not told me.

The mother finally found Elisha on top of mount Carmel (on the Mediterranean coast just below Haifa). Elisha recognised her and told his servant, Gehazi, to run to her to ask if all was well (another way of asking if there was a problem). The woman replied “All is well”. Her faith surpassed the apparent tragedy of the child’s death, and she still believed in God’s power through His prophet! Always remember that God’s power does not diminish, even if He does not give us what we seek.

The woman, her servant, and Gehazi, continued to the hill to meet Elisha. As soon as she came to him, she bent down low and grasped his feet, a common act of adjurement when seeking a favour from someone. At other times a person was grasped below the knee. Gehazi thought this was inappropriate and wanted to push her away (as did the disciples when children wanted to hug Jesus). But, Elisha told him to leave her alone. He saw that she was much troubled in soul. He needed her to tell him what was needed, for at that time God had not told Elisha what was wrong.

In my capacity as pastor I have sometimes been puzzled by this or that problem, because I have not been given spiritual assistance by the Holy Spirit. At those times I have to use my previous experience and queries to help me arrive at a solution, or at least understanding. On many occasions, the one seeking help does not give me full details, or even hides the facts, so I have to make ‘educated guesses’ until I happen to strike the right cause. This is enabled by long experience at ‘reading’ body language, look in the eyes, movement of the mouth, and so on. Though it might seem proud (I am not) I have never been wrong in my assessment of others. Here, though, the problem was easily identified, by the mother’s mouth.

Verses 28-32

  1. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?

  2. Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child.

  3. And the mother of the child said, As the LORD liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her.

  4. And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked.

  5. And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed.

The mother chided Elisha – she desired a son, but she asked Elisha not to deceive her. In other words, why prophesy a son, which was granted, and then take him away from her? Elisha then told Gehazi to get ready, take Elisha’s staff (long walking stick) and to go to the mother’s home. If he met anyone on the way he was to carry on and not stop. When he reached the house, he was to go upstairs to the shelter used by Elisha, and put the staff on the dead child’s face. The mother vowed to stay close to the servant.

Gehazi got to the house quicker than the mother, and laid the staff on the child’s face. Nothing happened, and Gehazi went to report to Elisha. Elisha was already on his way and met his servant, who said the child was still dead. Elisha walked up the stairs to his room and laid on the bed. He was confident God would respond. Christians must understand that even when there is apparent silence from God, He always responds in some way or another. Sadly, because His response is not what we seek, we often mistake the answer for silence, thus missing vital lessons.

Verses 33-37

  1. He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the LORD.

  2. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

  3. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes.

  4. And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son.

  5. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out.

Elisha, in his room, shut the door to be alone, and prayed to the Lord. He then laid on the child, face touching face, hands touching hands. This was God’s answer. As he stretched himself upon the child, the body of the young one began to warm. Elisha got up and paced the room, no doubt still praying, and again lay upon the child. Suddenly, the child sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

Elisha called out to Gehazi who was the other side of the door, telling him to bring the mother. She quickly arrived and Elisha told her to take her son. When she saw her child alive, she fell at Elisha’s feet, bowing down in reverence, took her son, and went downstairs joyfully, no doubt showing everyone nearby o the miracle.

Verses 38-41

  1. And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.

  2. And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not.

  3. So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof.

  4. But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.

At a later time, Elisha went to Gilgal (northern Israel) again, where there was a famine (dearth). He reached the place where prophets lived and told one to get hold of a large pot, in which he was to place foods to boil (soup). As it was a famine there was little to use, but a man went into the fields to gather light-coloured (?) herbs. He also came across “a wild vine (with) wild gourdes”. That is, wild cucumber, enough to fill his outer garment. The man was not familiar with the plants he had gathered, and cut them up before placing them into the pot.

Unfortunately, the plants must have been either poisonous or decayed, for the prophets complained that if they ate, they would die. Elisha told them to bring him some meal (flour), which he then threw into the pot. This immediately cured the problem and everyone ate. A miracle? Perhaps – I am not sure if flour would make poisonous food edible. But, note that Elisha always seemed to be positive, not giving up because of difficulties; an admirable attribute for any man of God!

Verses 42-44

  1. And there came a man from  Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.

  2. And his servitor said, What, should I set this before an hundred men? He said again, Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof.

  3. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.

The text then moves on to another episode, when a man from Baalshalisha visited Elisha, bringing him gifts of firstfruits (first products of the season): twenty loaves of barley (bread corn) and whole sheaves of corn complete with husks...delicious on their own, or made into bread, etc.

The man lived not far from Gilgal, and his gift was an approved way to approach a man of God, who was usually unable to farm and produce his own food. The presentation was at the time of Pentecost. “In the husk” can also mean that the corn was placed into a large sack, called a ‘husk’. Elisha thanked the man but asked him to give the food to the ‘people’, possibly referring to the prophets, whose presence in the country was invaluable. Is this how you see your pastor? His presence is far greater than any other in your life (if he is genuine and called by God), though many today do not see it this way.

There was obviously a large number of men, up to about 100. The gift-bearer wondered how such a large number would all be fed from a limited amount of food. Elisha told him that God counselled that the men should be given the food, and there would be plenty left over. How close is this to the times Jesus fed a huge crowd and had food left over? The man gave out the food, the men ate, and, as prophesied, there was plenty left over. Yet another miracle and a proof of God’s greatness.

Why did God provide so many miracles through Elijah and Elisha? Probably because the people needed to know God was still with them and was still their true God, with power and might, if they repented. Even if the people refused to obey when they saw miracles, the miracles stood as a rebuke against them, a sign of their disobedience, heaping coals of wrath upon their heads.

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Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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