Elijah and Elisha
Background information on Elijah is sketchy but Elijah explodes unto the scene about 100 years after David and 50 years after the split of the Northern (Israel) and Southern (Judah) kingdoms. Both Elijah and Elisha became prophets of God to the people of the Northern kingdom.
Elijah was an ordinary man but he was used powerfully for God. His name means, “The Lord is my God”. The Hebrew word for Elijah is, “Eliyahu”. “El” is the abbreviate version of the general name for God, Elohim, and “Yah” or “Jah” is the covenant name “Jehovah” by which God revealed Himself to His people. The letter “I” which is in the middle of the name Elijah has the reference to the personal pronoun “my” or “mine” in Hebrew.
Elijah was from Tishbeh, which was in Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River. Gilead was a place of solitude and outdoor life. People there would have been rugged, muscular and suntanned. You were not very sophisticated if you were from Gilead. Elijah could have been rough and not very gentle, maybe crude at times and dealing with conflict was second nature to him. So he had no issues telling King Ahab exactly what God said.
From the start of the split of the kingdoms, the northern king of Israel worshipped anything other than God as Jerusalem was in the South. Shrines on high places and the worship of pagans became the source of worship. From Kings Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri and Ahah, these heathen practices got worse and worse. The spiritual climate of Israel at the time Elijah went public as God’s prophet was terrible. The people of Israel no longer acknowledged the existence of God. God was provoked to anger by their worthless worshipping of idols (1 Kings 16:26). King Ahab was king when Elijah came along and he did more to provoke and anger God than all the kings of Israel before him (1 Kings 16:33).
Notice that Elijah was alone. God did not raise up an army to take on Ahab and Jezebel. He had to do it alone. Where he was from and his personality helped prepare him for this opportunity God set before him.
Our first exposure to Elijah, Elijah makes it clear to King Ahab that his allegiance was to the God of Israel. Also due to the evil Ahab had been committing there would be a severe famine because no dew nor rain would fall upon Israel for several years until Elijah would speak the word to end the drought, “there will be no dew or rain during the next few years until I give the word.”. The drought would cause God to be in direct conflict with Baal who was the god of fertility, controlling the rain clouds and storms and providing food for people and animals. If it did not rain, this would be great conflict for Baal worshippers. God was bringing on one terrible drought and famine.
God provided for His spokesperson with clear instructions to head east of the Jordan River, where he would be by himself and God would provide for his needs and protect him from King Ahab. Ahab would be in pursuit of Elijah for he had the “word” that would end the drought.
The place God sent Elijah was called “Kerith” or “Cherith” which meant to cut off or cut down. Elijah was cut down to total dependence, having to trust God for his daily needs. He was sent into isolation for protection, provision and preparation for a greater mission. In order to be a spiritual leader and useful vessel for God’s Kingdom, a person must be humbled and forced to trust, to have that faith God requires in order to please Him. Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
A.W. Tozer once said, “It is doubtful that God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” We want God to use and bless us without being broken. Being broken can mean getting rid of our pride, placing our will, desires ahead of God’s. It takes being “hidden”, being set aside perhaps physically and/or spiritually for God to work in and through us. In the beginning of chapter 17, Elijah is known as Elijah the Tishbite, a spokesman for God. At the end of that chapter, he is regarded as a man of God.
Being” hidden” can occur several different ways and it can occur by your choosing but most times, God initiates a wilderness time for each one of His leaders. A person can deal with an illness or injury that will put that person away from the public eye. Also a personal or family issue can place a person in a “hidden” state. Shortly after Paul was converted, he spent about three years in isolation in Arabia and Damascus (Galatians 1:15-18), being instructed by God. Moses spent forty years in the desert, never expecting God to ever speak or use him again. This “hidden” time humbles you and so often is the training ground for your next mission opportunity, if you so choose to take on that responsibility.
Solitude often slows us down so we can connect with God much more clearly and be totally focused on Him. Being silent before God allows us to be sensitive to the inner voice in our lives, the direction we so desperately desire from Him but do not take the time to listen for.
As for Elijah, God provided water from the brook and food sent from ravens to nourish him. He was hidden and God was working on in his life. Yet that was not the way Elijah would live the rest of his life. In his prayer that we received an understanding of in James 5:17, he had earnestly prayed that there be no rain. There was none for three and ½ years. Due to that prayer, the brook that he was drinking from eventually dried up. Now what? His own prayer led to the dried up brook. Yet God was in control.
We want God to teach and mold us into the godly men and women we desire, but we really do not want to suffer along the way to become that godly person. Trials and tribulations mold and shape us plus if we allow it, teach us to hear and listen to God better. Regardless of the circumstances, we need to be willing to be set aside to be trained, developed and prepared for what and how God will use us next. Elijah would learn again in his next faith step, God’s direction includes His provisions. The dried up brook was a sign of God’s pleasure. Elijah was being obedient. God was not disappointed in him. Too often we look at negative situations as bad or we have been disobedient. Though that could be the truth in a situation, it should not be an automatic conclusion in God’s work and will.
Once the brook dried up, Elijah was instructed to go to Zarephath in the territory of Sidon and live there with a Gentile widow. Zarephath meant to melt or smelt. Used as a noun, it meant to be a crucible, something that molds and shapes something (usually metal) under extreme heat. Being under pressure, a crucible, God can mold and shape us in ways that He would not otherwise. God sent Elijah to Sidon, where Jezebel was born. The western walk to Zarephath was about 100 miles or 170 kilometers and over arid land. The city was located near the Meditererian Sea. Elijah was a wanted man. Ahab had a bounty on his head. Yet God knew what He was doing. He always knows what is best for us.
God had prepared a place for Elijah to stay, a bit unusual in that it was with a Gentile widow who was essentially had nothing to offer Elijah. She had just enough for her son’s and her last meal. In faith Elijah simply told the woman use what she had and God would supply from there. Perhaps it is a bit amazing that this non-believing Gentle obeyed the stranger’s commands, yet she did and God supplied her daily needs.
God does work in mysterious ways. It would be fruitless to analyze why He does what He does. He does take the foolish and confounds the wise. Our response is to be obedient. His promises often hinge our how we obey Him. Food for Elijah and the widow and her son was available on a daily basis. It took a lot of faith to trust Him on that first day to supply enough flour and oil. Then it got a bit easier each day God supplied. Stick with God and be obedient. Each day your faith will grow.
Just when things were going okay, the widow’s son died. Naturally in the widow’s grief, she pointed her frustration and pain toward Elijah, who had nothing to do with what happened. He represented the true God and by now the woman had to see that Baal was false and her worship of the idol was worthless. Often as men and women of God, we are the focal point of frustration, anger and pain when tragedy strikes because those who have no hope in what they believe do not know who else to blame. We represent Truth and Hope.
Elijah does not defend himself or give excuses for God to the woman. He is silent other than to request taking her son. Sometimes when people are grieving, the best thing believers can do is to say nothing and simply be there, be available to grieve with the griever. Silence can be a healing ointment to the emotional wound.
Yet when Elijah was by himself (with the dead boy), he raised the tough questions of why did God allow this tragedy to occur. Then with all the faith he had in him, Elijah asked God to raise this boy from the dead. There was no precedence for this. Elijah was asking for the impossible. As a man of God, he defiled himself by touching a dead body as he stretched himself over the boy’s body, not once, but three times. Why he did this, no one knows but he had the faith to trust God to do something, just like when Abraham confronted God regarding the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the number of righteous people in those cities (Genesis 18:20-33).
God responded by returning the boy’s life to him and he was returned to his mother. Her response was now she knew that Elijah was a man of God and who and what God said through Elijah is truth. Elijah’s faith had matured and he was ready for his next assignment.
Part 1 (vs 1-2)
There had been a drought for nearly three and a half years in the land of Israel. Devastation was seen everywhere and the stench of death filled your nostrils each step you took as you walked over dead carcasses and bones. People were starving to death and no hope was offered from anywhere. Disease had broken out and epidemics were seen and felt everywhere you went. It was at this point God instructed Elijah to approach King Ahab.
Part 2 (vs 3-16)
During this drought, Ahab got ahold of Obadiah, a devout believer in God, to help Ahab find grazing areas for the King’s animals. Obadiah had prior to this point hidden 100 of the Lord’s prophets and fed them at the same time. He had put his faith in action. Ahab sent Obadiah in a certain direction to find grass when he ran into Elijah who was coming to present himself to Ahab. Elijah instructed Obadiah to go tell Ahab that Elijah was coming to meet him. Obadiah was terrified at that instruction as Ahab had sent men all over to find Elijah and could not. So if Obadiah went to tell Ahab Elijah was coming and did not show up, Obadiah was as good as dead! Elijah promised he would show up.
Part 3 (vs 17-40)
Immediately Ahab tore into Elijah. After looking for someone for over three and one half years and he walks right up to you, you would be emotionally charged. For Ahab, Elijah was the problem for the drought and everything that resulted, calling Elijah a “troubler”. That meant he brought great calamity to Israel. That word was also used to mean a viper or snake, so Ahab could have been alluding to Elijah being a snake in the grass. Elijah was a traitor to Israel. Not fazed, Elijah fired right back and told Ahab that he was the reason for the drought. He had broken the first commandment of not worshipping any gods or idols other than worshipping God.
In verse 19 Elijah offers a challenge to be held on Mount Carmel. This mountain was located near the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Sidon. It was regarded as the sacred dwelling place of Baal. Elijah told Ahab to summon the 850 prophets of Baal and Asherah who were eating meals with Jezebel in the King’s court and all the people of Israel Ahab could get and meet on Mount Carmel. When the people gathered, Elijah strongly challenged the Israelites to take a stand for God. No longer be indecisive or stagger/dance between two opinions of either serving God or Baal. Elijah was calling the people to stop vacillating between God and Baal. Yet the people did not declare their allegiance as they remained silent. In Revelation 3:15-16, God challenges the Laodicean church to either be hot or cold for Him, not lukewarm, wavering or staggering between serving or not serving God. That attitude makes God want to spit the people out of His mouth. Divided allegiance to God is as wrong as worshipping idols when you know the true God.
According to verses 22 – 29, the challenge was to have Baal send down fire and burn up the sacrifice of the bull that was placed on the altar. Baal was the god of the sun, fire of the universe so sending down a little fire or lightning should be no problem for the massive number of prophets that were there. So the prophets of Baal and Asherah began praying to Baal in the morning. Nothing had transpired by noon so Elijah added a little humor in the mix as he commented to the prophets that maybe Baal was sleeping or deep in thought or busy doing something, so they better get louder and do something more. This was where the prophets went into a frenzy, cutting themselves and getting crazier. This could easily be a graphic display of a demonic ceremony.
Finally Elijah had them stop and he took over as the altar of the Lord was repaired that was destroyed by the idolatry (verses 30 – 35). He used twelve stones representing the tribes of Israel to rebuild the altar. Plus to prove no trickery, Elijah had people gather water from the Sea and pour it on the altar. This was done three times. There was so much water that it filled the trench that circled the altar with the bull sacrifice on it.
Verses 36 -37 is one of the greatest faith prayers recorded in the Bible. Here was one prophet of God against 850 false prophets. With God on his side, it did not matter how many opposed him. Elijah used the only tool he had in his arsenal – the prayer of faith. When you combine the prayer of faith and God’s will, there is nothing that will stop you. The prayer was focused on who God is and for His glory. God had miraculously provided for Elijah for three and a half years and Elijah knew he had faithfully served God and that God was able to take care of that sacrifice. The response from God total disintegration and all the people could do was proclaim that the Lord was truly God! When Elijah commanded the people to kill the false prophets, there was complete obedience in carrying that out. In the Mosaic Law (Deuteronomy 13:13-18), wickedness and worshipping false gods and idols resulted in death and totally destroy anything associated with the wicked people. Elijah was carrying out the Law – get rid of the cancer!
After God took Elijah through some difficult situations, he was totally committed to God. He was an impactor for the Kingdom of God. A former chaplain of the United States Congress, Peter Marshall, once said, “The measure of life is not its duration, but its donation.” God is able to do great things with someone who is sold out for the cause of Christ, whose one allegiance is to totally obey Christ. We need such impactors throughout the world today.
Part 4 (vs 41-46)
The land was now without Baal worshippers and the people had turned back to God. Immediately Elijah told Ahab to prepare for rain. It would be coming. God had promised Elijah that rain would come (from verse one). He also heard the sound of a heavy rain. The word sound is translate “voice” or sound of a voice. He most likely was claiming the promise that was specific to his situation from verse one. The conditions were met and Elijah was claiming God’s promise even though there was not a cloud in the sky.
While Ahab went to eat, Elijah went off by himself to the top of Mount Carmel and persistently, expectedly and humbly prayed. Eventually a very small cloud appeared over the Mediterranean Sea. That was all Elijah needed. He got Ahab to get back to the palace but actually beat Ahab back. Sprinting, he outraced Ahab in a chariot. The hand of the Lord was with Elijah as God gave him extra strength and stamina to sprint the thirteen miles or twenty kilometers.
Elijah was spiritually high at the moment with the victory over Baal. Yet he kept his focus on God by remembering God’s promise of rain and when he went to pray on Mount Carmel, he humbled himself before God. Then he was persistent and expectant as he prayed. It was probably very important for him to be by himself after this victory. The Israelites thought he was pretty special after defeating all the Baal prophets and just being with the people, brought great excitement. He could have rode around on everyone’s shoulders but he knew who had promised victory and the rain. Work was still unfinished.
As spiritual leaders, one of the most important aspects of being such is to be a person of prayer. Your prayer life will define your walk with God more than almost any other area of your spiritual life. Remember Elijah. He found a place of quiet to communicate with God. He humbled himself when it would have been very easy to keep receiving praise from the people. His praying was persistent and expecting God to work. That is how we need to pray.
Elijah was not superhuman or someone who walked on water. From James 5:16-18, James indicates that he was a person just like us. He was normal, an ordinary person who believed God and made his pursuit of God his number one priority. He strove for holiness, to become more Christ like each day. He aggressively worked to have a repentant heart, so that no sin separated his relationship with God. All of us have those abilities or desires available to us. It is just a matter of making this type of a relationship a priority to us.
Great victory! We have accomplished our goal. Teams that have won championships have so often indicated that repeating and winning a second consecutive championship is much harder than the first because you do not have the same motivation or drive. It is easy to think that because you are the champion, people will simply lie down and get out of your way so you can repeat. Plus you worked hard getting to the top; maintaining that level will be easier because you know what you have to do to stay there. In reality, it is harder to maintain that level!
Elijah had just scored a great victory over spiritual darkness, witnessed God doing miraculous feats and physically endured three and one half years of survival plus ran a sprint of epic portions and used up a great deal of adrenaline. Could he have been just a slight bit emotionally drained? It is important reminder that like us, he was a normal person and you can include Moses, Jonah and Paul (2 Corinthians 1:8) who all dealt with in the very least, discouragement.
After Ahab told Jezebel what had happened on Mount Carmel, she went ballistic. Her threat was Elijah would be dead within the next 24 hours. Knowing how evil she was, that could rattle anyone. It certainly rattled Elijah. He was not thinking clearly because he was physically, mentally and spiritually drained. Elijah could not recall how God faithfully protected him the previous years. So he ran, and ran, and ran, about 300 miles (over 500 kilometers) worth of running. He was very susceptible to depression. Separating himself from others did not help the situation at all and he simply wanted to die.
God met him right where he was (verses 5-8). First Elijah slept for a while and then was fed a couple of times. God compassionately spoke to him, not condemning him but did not let him wallow in his discouragement and pity. It is so important to intentionally place times of rest or relaxing, refocus and renew into our schedules. If you are a spiritual leader, you will face times of utter joy and victory and other times of huge discouragement and even depression. Spiritual leaders have targets on their backs and those aiming at the targets include Christians, non-Christians and Satan with some of the most discouraging and damaging words hurled are by Christians.
Stress of being involved in ministry, in the lives of others can produce abnormal fears, incorrect thinking, isolation, self-pity and wrong spiritual decisions because of a lack of prayer, not focusing on the Word of God or we feel we are untouchable. Exhaustion in any area of our lives can quickly distorts good thinking. Elijah essentially took himself out of doing God’s will and ended up in a literal wilderness experience. He was done doing God’s work. Being physically and emotionally healthy is important to being healthy spiritually.
God led Elijah to Mount Horeb or also named, Mount Sinai. Just as God met Moses and the Israelites there, so God would meet him there and help Elijah get his head straightened out. Elijah had hit an emotional and spiritual wall and needed time alone with God.
God was very gracious and gentle with Elijah on Mount Horeb (vs 9-21). He worked to have Elijah get Elijah’s focus back on Himself. People do not need to be bashed over the head to get them to refocus when going through discouragement or depression.
So God had Elijah stand out on the mountain in order for God to pass by (just like Moses). A great wind arose that shattered rocks but God was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake or fire that followed. Three of the most fear natural phenomena on earth happened. There Elijah stood, not needing to fear for God led him there and was in control. Next came a gentle breeze and there the presence of God was on Elijah. God uses the ordinary more so than the sensational to meet and lead us. When asked why he was there, Elijah said once again that he had been so zealous for God, doing what was directed to him and he was the only one left.
God’s response was that Elijah’s work was not finished yet and that he was certainly not alone as there were 7000 who remained faithful to God. Elijah was to anoint Hazael king of Syria along with Jehu the king of Israel. These two men would totally wipe out the Baal influence. Lastly, Elijah was to have a mentoree and close, personal friend in Elisha whom Elijah would anoint as the next prophet of God.
Elisha was not an experienced farmer as he was plowing behind eleven other workers as Elisha was using the twelfth yoke of oxen when Elijah met up with him. Immediately Elijah placed his mantle (cloak) over Elisha indicting that he was being invited to join the company of prophets. Elisha knew what that represented and in the process, slaughtered his oxen and burned the equipment indicating that he was going to wholeheartedly follow Elijah and serve God that way. He became Elijah’s assistant, ministering and encouraging his mentor over the next ten years.
About six years after Elijah’s experiences in 1 Kings 19, King Ahab had the urge to have the property of Naboth. Ahab wanted that land Naboth owned in the worst way. First he tried to negotiate with Naboth by buying it but Naboth could not sell the land because of the Jewish law that forbid anyone from selling the property that was his father’s inheritance (Leviticus 25:23-28, Numbers 36:7). So Ahab went back to the palace and pouted. Jezebel inquired to what his problem was and she took care of getting rid of Naboth simply by using Jewish law to her favor. She had the nobles and elders meet in the village Naboth lived. Naboth was among them. When you had such an assembly, it meant someone had done something against God. Two scoundrels who were recruited by Jezebel falsely accused Naboth of cursing God, which was punishable by death, which occurred to Naboth.
Though other prophets were raised up by God during the six years due to Elijah’s running from Jezebel, Elijah who was still a good prophet was summoned by God to go tell Ahab’s fate to him after securing the land (v 17-19). No matter what the message was, Elijah was faithful to proclaim it. That took guts and a trust in God because there was no guarantee what the recipient of God’s message would do.
Ahab was told that dogs would lick up his blood in the same place where they licked up Naboth’s blood (1 Kings 22:34-38). Such treatment of a dead king’s body was very disrespectful because kings were to be buried with great respect. This king has sold himself to evil (v 20). The meaning of sold oneself included the meaning of being married, which in reality, Ahab had married Jezebel who was a woman of evil and she was too powerful for Ahab, as he always cowered to her and she got her evil ways. Judgment was coming to the house of Ahab and not one descendant of Ahab’s would survive. God had given him chances to change his ways but never did (v 21-25).
The response Ahab had was he tore his garments showing self-humbling, expressing great, sincere remorse (v26-29). God relented in that this disaster that would occur to Ahab’s family would not occur in his life time but in the days of his son King Ahaziah. God’s mercy is again seen as He had every right to carry out immediate judgment on Ahab but due to Ahab’s sincere remorse over what his life had become, God showed grace. God is a great God who has a vast amount of mercy and grace. There is a limit to those gifts. When someone stubbornly refuses to obey Him, severe discipline can result. Hebrews 12:7-11 reveals God does discipline His own children in order to bring us back to Him. He allows us to experience the consequences of our disobedience because He is a loving Father. Being the loving Father, He also gave us an escape of the worst consequence of sin which is Hell. That love was so great that He sentenced His own Son to die for our penalty and gave us freedom from Hell.
After Ahab died, his son, Ahaziah became king. Soon after, Ahaziah fell some distance to the ground and was severely hurt. He instructed a servant to inquire Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, what his fate would be. Baalzebub meant lord of the fly and in Matthew 12:22-24, Jesus linked this god to Satan so it is very conceivable that worship to Baalzebub was occultic as those who worshipped Baalzebub, said this god could tell the future.
God had Elijah intercept the servant sent by Ahaziah and send the message back to the king that he would die from his injuries because he did not consult God about his future, but rather false gods. Ahaziah’s response was to send consecutively three garrisons of 50 men to capture Elijah. With the first two garrisons, God honored Elijah when he said that if he was a man of God, fire would be sent down from heaven and killed the soldiers. The commander of the third garrison went very humbly to Elijah requesting Elijah to go to Ahaziah. This group was not destroyed.
So Elijah spoke right to Ahaziah’s face and told him that because he did not consult with God but rather false gods regarding his future, he would never leave his bed and die. In addition, when Ahaziah died, there were no sons to continue Ahab’s name and the prophecy about Ahab was fulfilled. This illustrates God’s hatred toward sin and when you mess with His holiness, you are getting yourself into great trouble. Believers need to stay away from the occult. What we need to know about the future is to be found in the Scriptures, not with a medium, Ouija boards or anything else.
Elijah was a very hated man in the Ahab family. He had great courage and boldness to always be willing to be the messenger of horrendous news to Ahab’s family. For many years, Ahab and Jezebel hunted for Elijah to destroy him. That hatred continued into Ahaziah’s life. He was a marked man. Yes, he did emotionally and spiritually struggle for a while but when God wanted him to deliver a message that would enrage the hearer, Elijah never backed down. J. Oswald Sanders in his book, Spiritual Leadership, said, “No one need aspire to leadership in the work of God who is not prepared to pay a price greater than his contemporaries and colleagues are willing to pay. True leadership always extracts a heavy toll on the whole man, and the more effective the leadership is, the higher the price to be paid.”
Elijah traveled to several locations before leaving earth. There were what you would call “early seminaries” at Gilgad, Bethel and Jericho. It is probable that Elijah wanted to spend some last remaining moments with the young seminarians and encourage them. Each location was significant not only for the seminaries but for spriritual historical reasons.
Gilgad was where the Israelites camped for the very first time in the Promised Land after crossing the Jordan with Joshua. It was the beginning of their new venture. Bethel was the place of prayer. Prayer is essential in our spiritual development with God. Jericho represented the place of battle. God had Joshua lead an amazing attack that only God could have orchestrated. Like Elijah, all believers have spiritual battles to go through in one’s lifetime. Jordan was the place of death.
Two observations about Elisha while he followed Elijah. First he exhorted the young seminarians to be quiet, to not disturb Elijah as he spoke because he was in a thinking and reflective mood as he was facing the end of his life. With Elijah showing up at the schools, there would have been many questions posed by the students and just the buzz of excitement would have caused a lot of noise.
At each location Elijah told Elisha to stay but each time Elisha insisted that he would not leave Elijah. No matter what, Elijah was not going to get rid of Elisha. They had been together for many years. Elisha was committed to Elijah all the way to the end. It was perhaps a test to see if Elisha would finish with Elijah, that he would not be content in his spiritual journey until he too someday would physically leave the earth. We should never be completely satisfied with our spiritual journey until the day we complete it on earth. It is so easy to become complacent and the result is spiritual regression. We need to stay in the Word, keep developing our prayer life, be obedient to what the Word says and as the Holy Spirit prompts us to carry out a responsibility. Keep serving others, showing compassion and working to meet the needs of the people we meet.
Elijah and Elisha crossed over the Jordan (v8-18) and it was at that place that they would be separate on earth, just like Moses and Joshua. Elisha was asked if there was anything else Elijah could do for him and the request was Elisha wanted a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Recall that in the Old Testament, when the head of the house died, the eldest son would receive a double portion of the father’s property and the rest was equally divided among the remaining children. This represented the transfer of authority in the home to the next generation.
The condition to receive the double portion was for Elisha to stay alert to the unexpected change in their situation. Elijah had not been spiritually alert after the great victory at Mount Carmel and was not prepared for the death threats of Jezebel. As a result he forfeited his role in God’s plan for Israel. A spiritual lesson for all is we need to stay vigilant, spiritually aware of our surroundings and circumstances at all times, because Satan is prowling around as a roaring lion, seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8). Temptations can easily blindside us and cause damage in our lives.
Whoosh! Elijah was suddenly gone, carried away on a chariot of fire. Now what? Elisha noticed Elijah’s cloak lying on the ground, a symbol of the authority Elijah had and now that could be Ellisha’s authority symbol. He struck the waters of the Jordan with the cloak and the waters parted. He walked across the dry land just like the two of them had done earlier. Elijah’s God was Elisha’s God! God utilized Elisha as His prophet for about fifty years.
Elisha was in Jericho when the people told him that the water was bad and causing health and land issues. This is a result of the curse by Joshua (Joshua 6:26) when he said that whoever rebuilt the city of Jericho after God destroyed it, would have his first born and his youngest die, which happened (1 Kings 16:34).
Elisha threw salt into the water spring and healed the water. Never again would it cause death and the curse of Joshua was removed. The miracle proved Elisha was the new prophet of God and that God was again far superior to Baal, the god of fertility, as He healed the water.
Then as Elisha was walking back to Bethel, some young men began to mock Elisha, saying he was bald. This was unusual as that culture stressed respecting elders. It was very disrespectful behavior. A bald or shaven head was the mark of a leper and denoted disgrace. They considered him as an outcast like a leper. These young men could have been Baal worshippers or the ones that organized that group were such worshippers. Elisha called a curse on the forty-two youth and two bear came out of the woods and killed them all.
After Ahab died the king of Moab rebelled against Israel. Joram (or Jehoram), son of Ahab and now king of Israel asked Jehoshaphat, King of Judah and one king who worshipped God and the king of Edom to fight with him to defeat Moab. They were out marching together for seven days and realized there was no water available for their animals or themselves. Thinking that they might die without water, Jehosaphat asked Joram if there was a prophet of God available to inquire God to what to do.
Elisha was living in that land so the kings went to inquire of him. The prophet’s comment to Joram was why he did not go to the prophets of his mother and father. Because of Jehosaphat being one of the three kings, Elisha said he would inquire of God. Through God, Elisha told them to make ditches in the valley and soon water would be available from rain water in the hills. Plus Moab would be handed over to the kings. They were to overthrow and destroy every city and town in Moab.
Moabites heard that the the kings and their troops fought each other and as they looked into the valley, they thought they saw blood flowing in the ditches. When Moab ran to the Israel camp which could have been empty to fool the Moabites even more, they were ambushed and destroyed by the Israelites and everything was destroyed. Even the king of Moab was killed trying to escape. God proved Himself again but it did not change the religious culture in both Israel and Judah.
A widow with two small boys was at the end of her financial means. Her husband, a former prophet had been dead for some time and in order to live, the widow sold everything in the house just to survive. The creditor was coming to take the two boys away. Desperate, she went to Elisha. Instead of giving an instant miracle, he asked if there was anything left in the house. There was only a very small amount of oil left.
The widow was then instructed to gather as many jars they could find in the neighborhood and begin filling the jars with the oil she had remaining. Her faith was put to the test as she was to obediently follow the directions of Elisha and gather as many jars as possible. The oil flowed until there were no empty jars available. With the jars of oil, the widow was able to sell the oil to pay her debts and live on what they had left.
There are a number of observations here worth mentioning. First of all, just like the widow, we need to make an accurate assessment of the resources we have available to us. It is easy to overlook small or simple resources but in God’s hands, small amounts can become great when He is able to work with it. What is insignificant to us may become totally significant with God’s hands. Take an inventory of all of the gifts, talents, abilities and resources you have.
Faith and obedience work together. Elisha gave some unusual instructions with an insignificant amount of oil available at the time. Yet the woman was desperate and when we are desperate, we are willing to do the foolish and illogical. She obeyed and that was the proof of her faith. We are responsible to obey God’s directions even when they seem foolish, illogical and impossible but that is where God often steps in. When we have no where else to take our faith, God is right there. As spiritual leaders we probably will be asked to stretch our faith in God, to follow through on something that seems impossible or crazy. The choice is whether or not to obey. It is easy to talk about faith when things are easy or going well. The true evidences of faith are revealed when God is the only entity we can hold on to and all we can do is trust and obey Him.
If the woman had collected more jars, the oil would have kept flowing. We limit the amount of blessings from God by our faith. God will accomplish His will regardless of our level of faith. How obedient are we to His leading? Are you and I totally sold out to serving Him? What does seem illogical or impossible in our minds often is what God uses to reveal Himself through us. Am I willing to let Him work through me in that way?
As Elisha went around the country, he befriended a husband and wife in Shumen. The wife made up an upper (cooler) room for Elisha that was always available to him as he traveled through the area. Elisha wanted to do something very special for this Shunamite woman. Gehazi, Elisha’s servant pointed out that this woman had no son and probably would not have one since her husband was very old. With no heir the family name would cease and upon the death of the husband, his possessions would pass on to people outside the family and the widow would not have property nor a provider or protector. She just did not have the faith and confidence in Elisha to ask for a child.
She was granted the longing of her heart even though she never made that request, for she even was shocked when Elisha said she would be pregnant and have a son in about a year. After the boy grew some, he got sick and died. Her faith had developed to the point where she knew Elisha could do something about the death. She quietly laid her dead son in Elisha’s room, concealing the death from the rest of the family and reassuring everyone that things were okay, set off for where Elisha was, at Mount Carmel, about 15 miles or 25 kilometers away (5-6 duration).
Her son had died and she had not asked for this son but her hope now was taken away and it was a greater pain than a hope that never existed. Elisha sent Gehazi ahead to lay Elisha’s staff on the dead boy. The staff was a sign of prophetic presence and divine power. Laying the staff on the boy was to no avail. Thankfully the Shunamite woman had insisted that Elisha return with her; her faith was in Elisha, not the staff. When Elisha arrived he went to the room, shut the door and prayed!
The boy was only resuscitated after Elisha prayed and completely focused on the Lord. God alone is the source of all miracles and must be the focus of our faith. Symbols of faith are just that, symbols. Focusing our faith on those symbols causes the symbol to become an idol. Even Abraham had all his hopes and expectations focused on Isaac. Abraham had to show himself that God was more important than his son.
It is very easy to put our faith and trust in people, objects, money, methods or even ourselves. We must first learn to trust God and then work to keep trusting and depending on Him. God wants us to get our eyes off the material and tangible aspects of life. He will lead us through a faith journey of challenges and stretching our faith to help to develop that dependency on Him.
The first miracle occurred during another famine. People still had not turned away from Baal worshipping and everyone, the godly and the ungodly were suffering. A group of the prophets were going to have a meal with Elisha and he told the cooks to make a big meal which meant the cooks had to gather herbs and gourds out in the wild. The gourds had one problem; they were poisonous. Elisha’s response was to have them put some flour into the stew. Now the flour did not make the stew nonpoisonous. God took care of that. Yet these prophets had to trust God and Elisha because to eat any more of the stew, they had to trust that God “healed” the stew. Depending on God to take care of them no matter the circumstance was what the prophets had to learn.
The second miracle resulted when a person brought bread to Elisha. His gift was baked from the first ripe grain which was an offering according to Moses’ Law, as he was bringing his first fruits and presenting it to God. Elisha told the man to share it with the one hundred people who were around them. The man told him there was no way that what he brought would feed that many people, but Elisha told him that there would be leftovers, which there was.
Too often our expectations are measured by our own sense of reality, what we can do, rather than what God can do. We need to develop confidence in who God is and what His resource table offers. It is a spiritual principle to take what God gives us and then trust Him in His power and will to use what He has given us and see it multiplied. He will supply abundantly above what we can ever imagine as we trust in Him.
It is very easy to limit God. He is sovereign and somehow works with His sovereignty and our limitedness and accomplishes His will, in spite of us. A person’s faith and trust in God is the limiting factor in how much that person will be used by God. The ministries and opportunities that we are involved in are a part of the whole in accomplishing God’s will. God can and will use other people and their ministries if the ministry you are involved in or even, you, restricts the flow of God in and through you.
We use the arguments that God has never done it that way before and let’s see all the money before we step out in faith. We fit God into our theology and expect Him to work in only certain ways. Keeping God in the box that we have assembled to understand Him, limits Him to work outside our experiential box, even though He does and with other people. That is scary because we are then unable to control Him.
A Gentile, Naaman, who was a commander of the Syrian army, had leprosy. Syria and Israel were not on friendly terms but through an Israelite girl, Naaman found out that Elisha could heal him. So Naaman went to his king and had the king send a letter and gifts to the king of Israel requesting Naaman be healed.
The customs during that time prompted the send of gifts to kings as they were presumed to have authority over all people of their kingdom, including the prophets and thus could heal. The king of Israel misunderstood that he was being requested to heal Naaman and thought this all was a trap. Elisha heard what happened and had the king send Naaman to him. The king was so far removed from spiritual things that he did not even think nor consider Elisha or any other prophet in Israel as possibly being a solution to Naaman’s request.
Funny thing was when Naaman came to Elisha’s house, Elisha did not come out to meet him and simply told Naaman through a messenger, to go dip himself in the Jordan River seven times. This ticked Naaman off. First of all, why would Elisha not personally greet someone of such stature, rather than sending out a messenger. Secondly, how ridiculous to have to go to a muddy river (Naaman thought he had better rivers back in his hometown of Damascus) and dunk yourself seven times to be healed. Obviously, this Elisha was making a mockery out of Naaman’s situation. There was no ceremony nor respect in this stupid suggestion.
Naaman left in a rage but one of his servants brought some sense back to him as it was suggested that it would not hurt anything to go try this simple suggestion. So Naaman did and was healed. The suggestion seemed illogical and stupid but what we think is illogical and stupid are not what God thinks. Often we are asked to obey in these types of situations. Our attitude needs to change in order to obey.
We want what we want on our logical and wise terms because obedience to God would be minimal on our part. We want the blessings and gifts from God without the need to be obedient to His ways and His methods. God often gives unusual or crazy instructions to show He is the One who is providing. Otherwise, we would figure we made it happen. You show how much faith you have in God by your level of obedience to His leading. People often take their cues from their leaders and if we show that we are willing to be obedient to God no matter how illogical or crazy it seems, they will have the encouragement to be obedient to Him when they are faced with crazy instructions.
Naaman’s response was that there is no other God than Him which came at a time when too many people in Israel, including the king, did not recognize God. And this was coming from a Gentile. He wanted to give Elisha a gift but Elisha refused. Elisha did not want to receive monetary gain for proclaiming the Lord’s word because the false prophets were notorious for accepting money for their work and Elisha also wanted Naaman to totally realize that he was healed because of God’s divine work and nothing at all that came from Elisha.
Something else Naaman realized is he would have a problem being faithful to God in his home country as God was not worshipped there but idolatry (verses 15-19). It is the same issue Christians face today living in country where it is illegal to be a Christian or practice their faith. In order to remain faithful to God, Naaman too Israelite soil back to his home. This was based on Middle Eastern cultural practices where the gods were territorial and could only be worshipped on the soil of the nation from where the deity was identified.
Naaman also would be commanded to accompany his king when the king worshipped his false god. He wanted to make it known that he was being loyal to his king and not the god. Elisha understood and commended Naaman to the protection and guidance of God. We must never deny the Lord but need to work out practical daily situations we face and decide what compromises are acceptable. This soldier was healed spiritually in addition to physically when he obeyed the directions to dip in the Jordan River seven times.
Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was more into material things and felt that it was okay to have some fringe benefits (verses 19-27). So he sneaked away and helped himself to what Naaman had offered Elisha. His sin found him out and Elisha placed the leprosy of Naaman upon Gehazi and his descendants. It was a sad ending for Gehazi compared to a pretty exciting episode in the legacy of Elisha work as the prophet of God. Be so careful to how you deal and handle the material possessions of this earth. They can squelch what you do for the Lord.
The number of prophets was increasing and needed more room. So they built a larger facility. During the course of chopping down trees, one of the axes fell into the Jordan River. It would have been lost but Elisha threw a stick into the water and made the iron float in order to retrieve it. The significance of this episode is Elisha lived during a period of time when there were very few metal tools available. Smelting and forging of iron was not yet common technology. This ax was a very expensive costing tool. Anyone who borrowed such a tool and lost it, would have to probably work off the value of it as a slave to the owner.
God proved faithful even with material items. In a supernatural way God allowed the ax to be found and showed He was interested in all aspects of a believer’s life. Be faithful to Him for He is faithful to us. We can confidently trust God and put our lives under His control because He oversees all areas of our lives. His work done His way will always have His protection and provision. We can be completely confident of that. He is in control of everything.
The king of Aram (or Syria) was plotting raids against Israel as a form of punishment God used on Israel. Yet God would speak to Elisha about where the raids would occur and Elisha let the king of Israel know about them and the result was unsuccessful raids. This frustrated the Aramean king and he thought that there was a traitor among his army. When he realized he had no traitor but was informed that Elisha the prophet was the one who alert the king, he gave the orders to have Elisha captured. It was as if Elisha was listening to the most private conversations of the enemy.
The troops of the king of Aram surrounded the city where Elisha lived (vs 13-ff). Elisha’s servant was greatly frightened when he realized the enemy was surrounding Elisha. He was told not to be afraid because there were more on their side than against them. To prove that point, Elisha prayed that the servant’s eyes would see all the angels with their horses and chariots of fire surrounding the enemy.
Then Elisha prayed that the enemy’s eyes would be blinded. Elisha then went out to the enemy and told them that they were at the wrong city and that he would lead them to the man they were looking for. They were led about twelve miles (twenty kilometers) to the capitol city of Israel, right to the front door of the king of Israel. Arriving there, Elisha asked the Lord to open their eyes. They had been captured in a most unusual strategy. The Israelite king was told not to kill them but to give them a great feast and send them back to the king of Aram. The raids no longer were carried out against the Israelites.
God proved to be the God of all the nations. The king of Israel was understanding that God was in control and then through the events involving Elisha, the king of Aram also began to understand the power and control of the true God of Israel and that He is a merciful and gracious God as none of his troops were harmed, when they easily could have been all killed. God was in control of all circumstances.
Once again we read that Elisha prayed, and in this episode, several times. First he prayed to have the servant see the spiritual battle that was going on at the same time the physical battle or presence of the enemy surrounded him. As spiritual leaders, it is imperative that we be aware of the spiritual battles going on in what we are dealing with. We need to ask God to give us spiritual eyes to see what is going on in the hearts of people and even over physical, tangible land and events. There is a pretty good estimation that most of us would be very surprised at the level of spiritual battles that are going on and just how involved the angels of the Lord are.
Secondly Elisha prayed for the enemy’s eyes to be physically blinded and then later once, Elisha took them to where he wanted them, to reopen their eyes. His intimacy with God was extremely close. God used Elisha to be His guide not only of the Israelites but surrounding nations. Israel was suppose to be the group of people that showed the rest of the world who God was and that following God was the most important thing people were to do in their lives.
Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram sieged the capital city of Israel. The siege was so severe that acts of cannibalism occurred and the people were willing to eat anything (6:24-33). The Israelite king got so upset with Elisha because he told Israel that disobedience would lead to judgments on the nation. The king was not willing to repent and encourage the people to change from their evil ways. God would have then showed mercy to the nation. Rather the king vowed to kill Elisha and take matters into his own hands. He had no power to change the situation other than humbling himself before God, which was not even a remote possibility.
Beginning in chapter 7, Elisha indicated that things would change. An officer who was assisting the king balked at this statement from Elisha. Elisha prophesized that he would see this miraculous event occur but would not receive any of the benefits, and it came to pass.
It so happened that four lepers living outside the capital city gates decided that they would take a chance of either living in captivity or dying quickly (compared to dying a slow death of starvation) by entering the Aramean camp. When they arrived, the Aramean army was gone. God had caused the Arameans to hear the sounds of chariots, horses and a great army advancing on them and the Arameans literally ran from the camp and the twenty five miles (forty kilometers) to the Jordan River. Everything was left. The lepers decided that they could not keep this to themselves, so they went to tell the Israelite king.
The king, not trusting God, thought it was a trap but after sending out a small detachment of soldiers found out it was not and the people in the capital city rushed out to get food, clothing, booty and whatever else, thus trampling and killing the king’s officer who disputed what God would do.
Conditions like what was just described show the great amount of glory God has and how merciful He is as the people had not turned from their wicked ways but still blessed them. He miraculously intervened for people who did not deserve any blessing of any kind. God used the ones who came to destroy Israel as the provisions to take care of the nation. God’s love was so great for His people that His mercy was so vast and deep.
A spiritual leader needs to be obedient to the Lord and be a living example of the love, mercy and grace of God, thus showing people the glory of God. The world needs to see uncompromising allegiance by those who call themselves spiritual leaders of God so the glory and the love of God will impact the world. God places leaders in key situations and positions to be the light of Christ to the dying world. Elisha continuously was that light and unnervingly spoke on behalf of God no matter what the message was. God is looking for servants to be the messengers of His Good News and mercy, love, grace and judgment today and in all facets of life.
Elisha sent off the Shunammite woman whose son Elisha restored to life to Philistine land during the seven year famine to protect her from the famine. During the time she was gone, her land and house was taken. When she went to ask the king to get her land back, it so happened that Gehazi, Elisha’s servant was talking to the king and informed the king what Elisha had done for the family and what she had done for Elisha. Without hesitating, the king issued the decree that she should have her land back.
In verses 7-15, Elisha traveled to Damascus, home of the Aram (Syrian) king, Ben-hadad, the king was very ill. The king had Hazael, who was prophesied by God to Elijah that he would become king of Aram (1 Kings19:15) go ask Elisha what would happen to him. Elisha let Hazael know that Ben-hadad would die, he would become king and do great harm to the Israelites. When Hazael returned to the king, he told the king everything will be okay but the very next day, Hazael murdered the king and took over the throne. In essence Elisha proclaimed the prophecy that was given to Elijah years before.
Elisha sent one of the pupils of the prophet school to Jehu, an army officer to anoint him as the next king of Israel. (It is interesting that he is the son of Jehoshaphat, who was king of Judah.) Elijah had been told by God in 1 Kings 19:16-17 that Jehu would become king to wipe out any one of the household of Ahab that Hazael missed and Elisha would finish the job on the family, so Ahab’s family line would be wiped out forever. God told Elijah that this would come to pass and it was actually Elisha who spoke the words to Hazael and Jehu for them to become kings.
Jehu was anointed king, told the other army officers who were there what Elisha’s spokesman said and did to him by anointing him with oil and was then proclaimed king. He went on to kill members of Ahab’s family line including Jezebel (2 Kings 9 & 10)
At least forty-three years had passed since Elisha was last mentioned (9:1) when he anointed Jehu king (841 B.C.). Elisha was very old by then and would die shortly. King Jehoash came and honored Elisha with the title, “the chariots and charioteers of Israel.” This is the same title Elisha had given to Elijah. Jehoash was fearing Elisha’s death because he attributed the country’s well-being to Elisha rather than to God, showing his lack of spiritual understanding and maturity.
Israel would defeat the Arameans, Jehoash was told but when he was instructed to strike the ground with arrows, he did it halfheartedly. Elisha informed the king that the victory over the Arameans would not be complete for if Jehoash would have struck the ground several more times, complete annihilation would have resulted. Obedience requires full participation on our behalf to receive what God fully plans to give us.
Elisha died but his influence remained in a number of ways. God’s power was shown when a dead man’s body was tossed into the grave of Elisha and came in contact with Elisha’s bones. The dead man was revived and jumped to his feet. The miracle showed Israel once more that if they would have not rejected the words Elisha spoke on behalf of God, God would have been extremely gracious and merciful to His people.
Elisha was a very compassionate, caring person. Most of the encounters we read about Elisha dealt with needs people had. This showed God’s powerful caring nature to the people. People came in contact with the all-powerful God through the miracles performed and the person of Elisha.
What God began with Elijah, ended with Elisha as during their prophet tenure, the Baal worshipping household of Ahab was completely wiped out. When you mess with sin and deny who God is, especially when you place other idols of worship before God, there is a great price to pay. God gave many opportunities to repent but to no avail. Ahab was a leader of God’s people and led them totally astray. There is a great accountability on a leader and how he or she leads others. If Ahab would have turned to God and gotten rid of the idol worshipping, God would have been gracious and merciful to Ahab and his household, in addition to the nation.
Leaders of nations have a great responsibility before God. They carry an enormous amount of leverage in how a nation will view God. Look at the policies of the leaders in our world over the past fifty to one hundred years. A president or prime minister can quickly point the country in a direction of defying God and undermining Biblical principles of how to revere God and the value of life. God is sovereign and He so often gives the people of a nation the kind of leader they emphatically want. This is where the Church has to rise up and influence the political, educational, economical, medical and business sectors of their countries to implement change for the Kingdom of God. God will accomplish His will and purpose on earth regardless of who is in power but we can enjoy what He is doing much better when our countries are pursuing Him at the same time.