Elisha, the Prophet of Miracles
Elijah had lived a good life, and had rendered a faithful ministry. The time had come, however, for him to go to be with his Lord. As the time drew near for Elijah to go, Elisha stepped onto the scene. Elisha, no doubt, had been under Elijah's instruction for a time, and had proved himself worthy of trust.
1. Elisha's following with Elijah. As Elijah passed from Gilgal on his way over Jordan, Elisha went with him. At Bethel Elijah urged Elisha to tarry behind, but Elisha said, "As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee." So they went both of them on together. The young men among the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, "Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy Master from thy head to day?" And Elisha said, "I know it." At Jericho, Elijah urged Elisha again to tarry behind, but Elisha still insisted that he would pass on with Elijah.
Beloved, we need to learn the glory of perseverance. No good thing will God withhold from those who know the spirit of endurance. He who is discouraged at the first obstacle in the way, will never go through to the place of power with God. Jacob said to the Angel of the Lord, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me." Gideon was faint, yet pursuing.
2. The fifty sons of the Prophets stood afar off to see what would happen. As Elijah came to the Jordan the sons of the Prophets stood at a distance to see the glorious finale of Elijah. The Prophet came to the Jordan, Elisha went with him, determined to be with him to the end. Here is a striking contrast the sons of the Prophets stood afar off, as mere sight-seers; while Elisha aligned himself intimately with Elijah. Are we onlookers, and well-wishers; or, are we walking with our Lord, outside the camp.
3. Elijah's request. As they went on their way, Elijah said to Elisha, "Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee." All along the way as we see it, Elijah had been putting the young man, Elisha, to the test. He did not really want him to tarry behind, but he did want to discover the metal of Elisha's character.
Satisfied that the young Prophet was trustworthy, Elijah sought to discover the inner yearnings of Elisha's heart. Elisha's response sufficed for he said, "I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me."
Elijah said, "Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so."
4. The uptaking. As they still went on, and talked, a chariot of fire and horses appeared and parted them asunder, and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into Heaven "And Elisha saw it."
Then cried Elisha, "My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof." With God's call plainly upon him, Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah, that had fallen from him, and went back on his way. As he came to the Jordan he took the mantle of Elijah and smote the waters of the Jordan, and they parted before him, and Elisha went through.
Young men and women, you, too, are called of God to service. However, before God gives you the mantle of His power, you must go with Him outside the camp, you must demonstrate your willingness to follow Him fully, and obey Him implicitly.
I. SEEKING THE BODY OF ELIJAH (2 Kings 2:16-18)
1. The skepticism of young prophets. The fifty young men before us, were sons of the Prophets. They were under training for the priesthood. How sad, then, to see the unbelief that beclouded their mind! They insisted that Elijah had, no doubt, fallen upon some mount, or into some valley, and they wanted to go and fetch his body for burial they wanted also to satisfy their curiosity as to what had happened unto their master.
2. Elisha forbad the request of the young prophets. He said, "Ye shall not send." Nevertheless the young men pled, and Elisha permitted them to pursue their foolish way. The fifty went and spent three days seeking, but they found not Elijah.
Are there not many who still seek to solve the miraculous, by discovering some natural phenomena; or else they discount the power of God to work a miracle.
3. The final seal to Elisha's Divine call. The men of the city said to Elisha, something like this: "We have a delightful city, with pleasant vista, but our water supply is poor, and the land is barren and waste." Elisha went forth to the spring of waters; he put salt therein, and the waters were healed unto this day. Thus did the city discover, not alone Elisha's anointing of God, but that God will supply all our needs according to His riches in Glory by Christ Jesus.
4. The jeer of the children. As Elisha went his way, the children of the city mocked him, saying, "Go up, thou bald head." The children were making light of Elijah's ascension, and deriding Elisha's call from God. As Elisha pronounced his curse, two she bears came forth from the woods and slew forty-two of the children. Let the little folk learn the folly of mocking God, and His servants. These children from Bethel were, doubtless, voicing the unbelief of their parents. Thus was the sin of the parents visited upon their children.
II. FROM SERVANT TO PROPHET (2 Kings 3:11)
1. The dilemma of three kings. The kings of Israel and of Judah, with their ally the king of Edom, had gone down with their armies to harrass the king of Moab who had rebelled against Israel. They had gone down by the way of the wilderness, and they had no water. Then it was that they began to inquire if there was a Prophet in their midst.
2. A revealing statement. As they sought for a Prophet, some said, "Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, Which poured water on the hands of Elijah." Now we discover something of Elisha which is full of meaning. The man who had been a menial, a servant of Elijah, had been called of God as the great Prophet's successor.
He, who faithfully fulfils the lowly task may be called up higher. Faithfulness on one line, proves ability on another. Let us do well the small and insignificant service, God may then greatly enlarge our usefulness.
3. Elisha demonstrates that he is sent of God. To the king of Israel, Elisha said, "What have I to do with thee?" Jehoram, king of Israel, did not serve the Lord, therefore Elisha said, "Get thee to the prophets of thy father." He who seeks not to the Lord in the hour of his affluence and prosperity, cannot rightly call upon God in the hour of his adversity.
Elisha, however, said, "Were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee." How often do the wicked and the unworthy fall heir to the blessings which God gives to the righteous! The whole world, today, is being kept back from the curse of God because the righteous do continually pray and lift up holy hands toward the Lord.
III. THE BIG-HEARTEDNESS OF ELISHA (2 Kings 4:5-6)
1. Elisha helps the impoverished. A woman came to Elisha pleading her penury. Her husband was dead, and her creditor was about to take her two sons as bondmen till her debt was paid. Only a pot of oil remained in her house as a basis on which God might work. Thus, Elisha told her to borrow vessels not a few, and to pour in her oil till all were filled; then to sell the oil, pay her debts and live on the rest of the proceeds.
It is interesting to observe that God's goodness moved in the realm of the miraculous, and yet along the lines of what she had. The Lord could have created bread and fishes to feed the five thousand, but He preferred to take the scant supply which was at hand, and multiply them. The Lord could have created oil for the widow, but He chose to use the oil she had, and to increase it. Thus God still delights in adding His almightiness to our nothingness, and in clothing our weakness with His power.
2. Our benefactions are curtailed by our own actions. As long as the woman had vessels into which she could pour out her oil, the oil ran on, When all vessels were filled, the oil stayed. The woman doubtless regretted that she did not have a larger supply of vessels, when it was too late to remedy the lack.
Carey said, "Attempt great things for God, and expect great things from God." He who asks little, receives but little; but large faith brings large benefactions.
IV. ELISHA AND THE SHUNAMITE (2 Kings 4:37)
1. A woman who was great in the sight of God. Here is a woman who was great with God. She was great because of her hospitality she opened her home to the Prophet, and gave Elisha both bread, and a bed on which to rest. She had spiritual vision, for she quickly discerned that Elisha was a man of God.
2. A great woman in deep distress. Elisha had turned in, one day, at Shunem, and had gone to his room in the woman's home. He sent his servant, Gehazi, to say to the woman, "Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee?" The desire of the woman's heart was for a son. This request was granted her by the word of Elisha.
When the child was grown, while he was out with his father, among the reapers, he took sick and died. His mother laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and hastened away to see the man of God.
When she came to him at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her approaching and sent Gehazi to meet her, and to ask her if it was well with her husband, and with her child. She answered, "It is well."
Afterwards she reached Elisha, and she told him that the child was dead. The Prophet hastened away with her, and lay upon the child, putting his mouth to the child's mouth, his eyes upon the child's eyes, his hands upon the hands of the child. Then the flesh of the child waxed warm. After a while he called his mother and delivered the child to her. How marvelous to have some one upon whom we can cast our care!
V. ELISHA AND NAAMAN (2 Kings 5:8)
1. A man who was a leper. Naaman was a mighty man, a great man, an honorable man, a valiant man, but he was a leper. What good was all of his greatness, with death working its way upon him? Even so all the glory of the world fades when death comes into view.
2. The little maid. When a band of Syrians had taken captive a little maid out of the land of Israel, and had presented her unto Naaman's wife, there was great commotion among her people. God, however, was sending a missionary to one of Syria's greatest men.
As the little maid waited on Naaman's wife, she said, "Would God my lord were with the Prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy." Thus it happened that Naaman, with letters of authority and gifts from the king of Syria, came unto the king of Israel.
3. Seeking a good thing in the wrong place. When the king of Israel heard that Naaman had come, he rent his clothes, saying, "Am I God, that I can cure a man of his leprosy?" It was at this point that Elisha appeared on the scene. He sent word to the king to send Naaman unto hint, that he might cure him of his leprosy, and that he might know that there was a Prophet in Israel.
4. Seeking a good thing in the wrong way. Naaman came to Elisha, but he came imagining that the Prophet would do him obeisance, pass his hand over the leprosy and recover him. Naaman said, "Behold, I thought." How often do we allow our "Think-so's" to get in the way of God's ministry toward us!
5. Elisha's orders. Without even appearing, Elisha sent word to Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan seven times, and his flesh would be clean. The captain of Syria's hosts went away in a rage, saying, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" He thought that if dipping could cure him he had been a fool to come to the muddy waters of the Jordan.
6. The obedience of faith. Under the constraint of his soldiers, the great man from Syria finally humbled himself, and, with faith enough to undertake and to put God to the test, he went down and dipped himself. Each time must have been a sore testing to his faith, as no improvement was apparent. When at last the obedience of faith was fulfilled, and he had dipped himself seven times, according to the word of the man of God, his flesh came upon him again as the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
VI. ELISHA AND THE IRON THAT SWAM (2 Kings 6:5-7)
1. Circumscribed quarters. The sons of the Prophets felt themselves cramped in their dwelling place. They wanted to go and bring wood from the Jordan to enlarge their home. Elisha bade them to do as they desired.
2. An urgent request. The young Prophets then said to Elisha, "Go with thy servants." It seems as though they felt that they could not undertake alone.
3. As the wood cutting went on. While one of the sons of the Prophets was felling a beam, the axe head flew off from the handle, and fell into the water. The youth said, "Alas, Master! for it was borrowed." Do we not also serve with borrowed material? Our gifts have been freely given us of God. It is not by our own might or power that we work out God's ministry. All that we have comes from Him, 4. The important question. Elisha said to the young man, "Where fell it? And he shewed him the place." It is very vital for us to know where we have lost power with God? where our axe head fell? God will want us to go back to that place if we seek to be restored unto His grace and service.
5. The iron did swim. Elisha was indeed a man of God. He cut down a stick and cast it into the water; and the iron did swim. There are some who would argue that iron is heavier than water. God, however, can make even the iron to swim. It is wonderful to enter into the Word and work of the Lord knowing that, with God, nothing is impossible.
We read that the young man put out his hand and took it. God give us grace to take His blessings. Faith is the eye that looks, the foot that walks, the hand that takes.
Elisha was the product of personal contact with Elijah as his servant and observer.
"' Courtiers are more polite in their manners than ordinary subjects, because they are more in their prince's eye and company. The oftener we are in God's court the more holy shall we become.' The company of the Lord's holy servants raises the tone of our thought and makes us aspire after a sanctity beyond what we possess, and therefore we may be sure that communion with their Lord will be still more beneficial to us. If we learn good manners from the man, what may we expect from being with the Master! From Jesus we shall learn gentleness and love, purity and self-sacrifice, and so acquire the courtly manners of the Prince of Peace, shaking off at the same time the boorish ways which cling to us from having dwelt in Mesech and tabernacled in the tents of Kedar. There is no preparation for Heaven like abiding with Heaven's Lord.
"Come, my heart, art thou now walking with God? How long since thou hast spoken with thy Sovereign? Arise and get thee to His royal courts, and, once there, go no more out for ever. Thy Heaven and thy preparation for Heaven both lie in thy Lord.