2 Kings MARCH 19
THE MINISTRY OF ELISHA 2 Kings 1–5“This is what the Lord says: ’I have this water’ “ (2 Kings 2:21).Where Elijah confronted kings and announced divine judgments, Elisha comforted God’s people with healing. Both ministries are important in every age.
Elisha’s request for a “double portion” of Elijah’s spirit reflects the custom in Israel of the oldest son and principle heir receiving double the amount set aside for other sons. God granted Elisha’s request to become Elijah’s “heir” and God’s principle prophet in the Northern Kingdom. Elisha’s ministry was one of encouragement. Elijah had confronted Ahab and Jezebel and thwarted their attempts to make Baal dominant in Israel. Elisha’s ministries of mercy, and ministries dedicated to the protection of the nation, demonstrated the wisdom of serving God. Where Elijah emphasized God’s holiness and justice, Elisha emphasized God’s love.
Elijah announced God’s judgment on Ahaziah, Ahab’s son (1:1–18). He was then caught up into heaven, and Elisha took up his prophetic ministry (2:1–18). The tone of Elisha’s ministry was set in the healing of poison waters (vv. 19–22), his prediction of victory over Moab (3:1–27), his provision of oil for a widow (4:1–7), restoration of the Shunammite’s son (vv. 8–37), and two incidents of feeding the hungry (vv. 38–44). Elisha’s international reputation brought a Syrian general, Naaman, to Israel where he was healed of leprosy and converted (5:1–27).
Understanding the Text
“Is it because there is no God in Israel?” 2 Kings 1:1–18 Elijah’s ministry had been one of confrontation, demonstrating in decisive judgments the power and holiness of Israel’s God. This demonstration was vital at a time when Ahab and Jezebel actively promoted Baal worship in Israel (see 1 Kings 17–22). The final miracle of Elijah, calling down fire on soldiers of Ahab’s wicked son Ahaziah (cf. 2 Kings 1:10), was also intended to demonstrate to Israel that they must hold God in awe. Yet the God who is terrible in judgment is also merciful. When the captain of a third “fifty” begged for his life, he and his soldiers were spared. Judgment is certain when leaders and people lose respect for God. “When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left” 2 Kings 2:1–18. After long and harrowing service, in which Elijah almost single-handedly beat back the challenge mounted by the devotees of Baal, that prophet was taken up into heaven alive. His greatness is seen in Old Testament prophecy, which predicts Elijah’s return before the final coming of the Messiah (cf. Mal. 4:5–6). After Elijah was taken up, Elisha picked up the fallen cloak of his mentor. Returning to the Jordan he struck the waters as Elijah had. The fact that it parted for him also showed Elisha that his prayer was answered, and he was to take Elijah’s place as Israel’s premier prophet. It’s difficult when a significant leader dies. Yet God raises up leaders from the next generation to continue His work. The roster of human leaders constantly changes, but God remains the same. He is the One on whom we must always depend. “In the name of the Lord” 2 Kings 2:19–25. Two miracles symbolize Elisha’s ministry. Its comforting and compassionate nature are shown in the purifying of Jericho’s waters. The act symbolized the blessing that could be Israel’s through relationship with God the Healer. The death of the youths (not children, as the KJV implies) who jeered Elisha symbolized that prophet’s role as representative of the holy God. God yearns to bless His people. But God must be respected as Lord. “How can I help you?” 2 Kings 4:1–44 Elisha’s question to a widow whose sons were about to be sold as slaves to pay a debt, sums up the mission of this minister to Israel’s common people. Elijah confronted kings. Elisha moved quietly among the people of the land. His ministry revealed what God would do for Israel if His people returned fully to Him. Elisha’s multiplication of the widow’s oil showed God’s ability to free His people from servitude (vv. 1–7). Elisha’s promise of a child to the Shunammite, and his subsequent restoration of the child to life, showed God’s ability to preserve the lives of His people (vv. 8–37). Elisha’s purification of poisonous stew and his feeding of a hundred men with 20 small barley buns, showed God’s ability to provide all that His people needed, and more (vv. 38–44). Thus Elisha’s ministry was primarily one of revealing the love of God. The last three foreshadow miracles performed by Jesus with the same intent. God walks among us to heal and sustain, not to harm or condemn. Through Elisha, as through Jesus, men and women discovered the overwhelming love of God. “Gehazi hurried after Naaman” 2 Kings 5:19–27. Elisha refused any reward for healing the Syrian general, Naaman, of leprosy. His servant Gehazi, however, chased after Naaman, and accepted some 75 pounds of silver and other expensive gifts. In judgment Gehazi was cursed with Naaman’s leprosy, and expelled from Elisha’s presence. Elisha had refused wealth, for he wanted Naaman to view his healing as a gift from God, not something he had purchased. Ministry freely offered and freely received is the purest, for it reflects the unique quality of grace that marks God’s relationship with humankind.
General Principles (2 Kings 5)
Preachers throughout the ages have seen it. The story of Naaman, a general in the Syrian army, mirrors many truths about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Is it easy to see these truths? Why not see if you can draw some general principles about the Gospel and communicating the Gospel from the experience of General Naaman? Here are several elements found in this Bible story. * Leprosy in Scripture is often a symbol of sin. Naaman was stricken with leprosy, and unable to help or heal himself. * Naaman learned from a young Israelite girl that there was hope. * Naaman was upset by what the prophet told him to do for healing. The prophet’s instructions did not fit his preconceived notions. * Naaman, after being urged by his servants, decided to try Elisha’s prescription anyway. * Naaman was completely cleansed, and realized that “there is no God in all the world” except the Lord. * Naaman promised to worship the Lord only, and committed himself completely to Him. And, oh, yes. After you translate these elements of the story into general principles, you might enjoy reading the story again to see if you can find even more.
Which of the “general principles” you found in this story are most helpful as you think of sharing Christ with others?