Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CXLIV - II Kings 4:1-6:7 - Eight Miracles

I don't think the prophet Elisha has gotten his due.  I don't remember a lot of Bible studies revolving around Elisha.  He is hardly ever listed among the great prophets or men of God, such as Isaiah, Samual, or Moses.  But I believe you might have a different opinion about this man after we have completed our study of II Kings.

Elisha was a servant and understudy to the great prophet Elijah.  Before Elijah was taken to Heaven, he asked Elisha what he wanted.  Elisha responded that he wanted a double portion of Elijah's spirit.  That meant twice the power, twice the authority, and twice the influence on God's people, all in the service to the Lord and to His glory.  As we saw in the last post, Elisha has already been influencial in his prophesy against Moab.  He has already been a part of several miracles.  In this post we will see Elisha be a part of eight more miracles, many of which are similar to those which Christ Himself performed in His ministry here on earth more than 800 years later.  As we study the circumstances surrounding these miracles, we'll see that Elisha caused these miracles to take place because of his compassion for people.  There is no doubt in my mind that Elisha had a Christ-like attitude toward mankind.  I'm anxious to see if you agree.

The Widow's Olive Oil  -  4:1-7

We have seen mentioned several times "a band of prophets", which meant a group of Godly men who sought God's will and counciled the people of Israel and Judah accordingly.  Apparently one of the prophets lost his life.  As all men who died at a young age, he was in debt.  His widow had no source of income to satisfy her late husband's debt.  By law, her only recourse was to sell her two sons into slavery.  She approached Elisha for some kind of help.  She sure got it.  He asked her what, if any, possessions she had.  All she had to her name was a small jar of olive oil.  Elisha instructed her to gather from her neighbors, friends, and relatives all the empty containers they could spare for her.  They were generous in helping her, as empty containers were somewhat plentiful.  {It was the full ones that were rare.}  She poured olive oil from her small jar into all the empty containers until they were all full.  She could then sell the olive oil to not only pay her husband's debts, but have enough money left for her and her sons to live on.

The Barren Womb Made Whole  -  4:8-17

This passage tells of a Shunammite woman who showed kindness to Elisha.  She was a well-to-do woman who lived in a large house and was married to an older gentleman.  They had not been blessed with children, but had accepted it as God's will and did not seem to harbor resentment.  {As mentioned before, a barren womb signified God's judgment on a man and/or his wife.  There have been many women in our study thus far who's womb God had opened, beginning as far back as Abraham's wife Sarah in Gen. 21.}  This Shunammite lady made certain that Elisha always had provisions when his work took him to Shunam.  After a while she even had living quarters built for him on the roof top of her home.  So appreciative of this was Elisha that he sent his servant Gehazi to find out what he could do for her to repay her for her kindness.  He even offered to talk to the king's officers in her behalf (perhaps related to taxes).  She continued to refuse to acknowledge a need or desire for anything, but Gehazi found out that she had no children.  In verse 16, Elisha called for her and told her that next year she would be holding her son in her arms.  The lady pleaded with him not to give her false hopes about so serious a matter.  In verse 17, she gave birth to a son.

Boy Brought Back to Life  -  4:18-37

This same child grew up old enough to be in the fields with his father, but was still a very young boy.  When he was in the field helping his father, he suddenly had a severe headache.  As the father was helpless do anything for is son, he sent the boy to his mother. She comforted him as much as she could, but he died sitting on her lap that same day.  This lady then took the boy up to Elisha's living quarters and laid him on Elisha's bed.  {I don't think she told her husband about the boy dying because when she said she was going Mount Carmel, her husband said, "why are you going today?  It is not the New Moon or the Sabbath."}  So she went in haste to find Elisha, who recognized her from far off, and could tell she was distressed.  Note verse 28:  She said to Elisha, "Did I ask you for a son, my lord?  Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?"  {She was righteously indignant, but maintained a respectful tone with the man of God.  Elisha acted immediately.  He gave Gehazi his staff and told him to go as fast as he could to Shunam and place the staff on the dead boy's face.  The woman all but demanded that Elisha himself go to the boy.  In verse 32, Elisha arrived shortly after Gehazi had gotten there, and although Gehazi had placed Elisha's staff on the boy's face as instructed, he was still dead.  Elisha's first action was to pray.  The word "pray" translated here is from the Hebrew word "intervene".  Then Elisha did as his mentor Elijah did in First Kings 17:21.  He literally laid on the boy, mouth-to-mouth, eye-to-eye, palm-to-palm.  Elisha wore himself out with such intense prayer that he had to take a break.  He did the same thing a second time.  This time, the boy's body warmed, he sneezed seven times, and then opened his eyes.  Elisha then called for the boy's mother and told her to take her son.  Imagine what went through this woman's mind when she saw her son was alive.  The Scripture doesn't bless us with describing what happened in that house during the rest of that day and into the evening.

The Poisoned Pot Cleansed  -  4:38-41

When Elisha had gone to Gilgal he discovered there had been a drought and famine in that region.  He was with a company of prophets and instructed one to gather some ingredients for stew.  {They did as Elisha instructed because he was the chief prophet in all of Israel and Judah.  He had proven himself to have the power of God at his disposal.  These prophets of Gilgal were desparate for Elisha's attention to their plight.}  In his haste to gather herbs for the stew, one of the prophets picked as many wild gourds as he could carry.  Little did he know that they were of the poisonous variety.  When the men started eating the stew, they knew it was poisonous as they cried to Elisha, "there is death in the pot".  Elisha  threw some flour into the pot and it miraculously made the pot non-poisonous.

The Feeding of the Hundred  -  4:42-44

This is another miracle similar to one which our Lord performed more than eight hundred years later.  You should read this short account.  Elisha took twenty loves of barley and some heads of new grain and fed a hundred men.  They ate their fill and had some left over.

Naaman Healed of Leprosy  -  5:1-14

Naaman was a commander in the army of the king of Aram.  An important man and valiant soldier.  But Naaman was afflicted with leprosy.  {Leprosy was from the Hebrew word that was used for any disease or suspected desease involving the skin.  There was no known cure for these skin deseases, and those afflicted were forbidden to associate closely with other people, as most of these skin deseases were highly contagious.}  One of Naaman's servants was a little Hebrew girl.  She must have been fond of Naaman because she mentioned that if he would go to Samaria and find the prophet Elisha, his leprosy could be healed.  Naaman was convinced and asked for permission from his king to go to Samaria.  His king not only granted him permission, but also sent a letter to the king of Israel to announce Naaman's arrival along with his best wishes.  Of course idiotic king Joram totaly misunderstood the letter (vss 6-7) and accused the king of Aram of picking a fight with him.  Anyway, Naaman took with him 750 pounds of silver, 150 pounds of gold and 10 sets of clothing.  He wanted to be in the position of expressing his appreciation to the prophet in tangible terms.  When Naaman was able to get audience with Elisha and asked for his help, Elisha gave him instructions to (vs 10) wash in the Jordan River seven times.  Upon hearing these instructions, Naaman went away angry and insulted.  {Remember, Naaman was a powerful man from what was then a powerful country.  He considered the rivers of Damascus (Abana and Pharpar) to be far superior and cleaner than any river in Israel.  He also just wanted Elisha to simply say the word and Naaman would be healed without going through any difficult or strange procedures.}  But after Naaman settled down, his servants were able to persuade him to at least try Elisha's way, which he did.  And after he washed himself in the Jordan seven times, his skin was like that of a young boy (verse 14).

Leprosy Cast on a Greedy Man  -  5:15-27

Naaman wanted to pay Elisha for performing this miraculous feat, but Elisha would accept nothing.  So Naaman went on his way.  But after Naaman travelled some distance, Elisha's servant Gehazi decided he would like to have some of that silver.  So Gehazi secretly rode after Naaman.  When Naaman saw who it was he of course welcomed Gehazi as a servant to the prophet who had just healed him of Leprosy.  In verse 21 Gehazi lied to Naaman and told him that two of the prophets who served under Elisha were in need of some money and clothing.  He asked Naaman for 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes.  Of course Naaman was anxious to pay such a small amount for such a life-changing blessing.  As Ghehazi returned with his ill-gotten gains, he detoured to his house to hide the silver and clothing.  But eventually, Gehazi met face to face with Elisha (vs 25) and Elisha confronted him with his crime, stating that the Spirit of God witnessed his entire act.  Elisha punished Gehazi by sending him away with leprousy worse than that with which Naaman was afflicted.

An Axhead Floats  -  6:1-7

This miracle is the one many people most closely relate to Elisha.  Again Elisha was in the company of a rather large group of prophets.  So large was the group that a more spacious meeting place must be built.  They began cutting trees from which to make the lumber for the building.  As one of the prophets was cutting down a tree, the head of his ax fell into the Jordan River.  He was very upset because the ax was borrowed.  Having compassion on his fellow prophet, Elisha threw a stick into the water and the axhead floated up to the surface so the man could retrieve it and return it to its owner.

As you can see, Elisha was powerful man of God.  The eight miracles we just looked at are among many acts performed by him.  In the next post we will continue to study the impact this man made on the Israelites during this difficult period in Israel's History.

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