Elisha and the Floating Ax
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me to day as we consider how to understand our times and how to navigate the last days before Jesus comes. Medical missionary work is so critical to God’s work, but also to your survival. So, we need to understand how to work and how to provide for our families and others. Troublous times are here, but they are going to get worse, and we need Jesus to help us become free and yet be productive in the worst of times. So many of God’s people are unprepared for what is coming upon them. My prayer is that my message today will strengthen you and encourage you in the good fight of faith, with practical life-saving principles to guide you.
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As we begin, please bow your heads with me. Our Father in heaven, in the name of Your precious son Jesus, we ask for Your presence through the agency of the Holy Spirit, to enlighten us as we study the great principles found in Your word. We need to know how to live in these last days and at the same time be a blessing to others. Please speak to us today, we pray, in Jesus name, amen.
I found something very interesting that I didn’t know until recently. One of our subscribers sent me something about Elisha that struck me as worth sharing with you. Do you remember the widow whose sons were going to have to be bondmen for her creditor?
Here is the verse from 2 Kings 4:1 “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.”
Elisha instructed her to send her sons to gather as many pots as she could from friends and acquaintances and then she was to fill them with oil. While that story is amazing as it is, what I’m about to share with you is quite compelling.
Who was this woman? The Bible doesn’t exactly tell us, but there are clues. First, the scripture tells us who it was that feared the Lord in the time of Elijah, Elisha’s immediate predecessor.
1 Kings 18:3 tells us that “Obadiah feared the LORD greatly.” This was the governor of Ahab and Jezebel’s palace. Obadiah also reiterates his fear of the Lord in verse 12 when he said, “but I thy servant fear the LORD from my youth.”
These verses suggest that the widow was in fact the wife of Obadiah. The great Jewish historian Flavius Josephus confirms this in his book Antiquities of the Jews. Listen to what he says.
“For they say that the widow of Obadiah, Ahab’s steward, came to [Elisha], and said, that he was not ignorant how her husband had preserved the prophets that were to be slain by Jezebel, the wife of Ahab. For she said that he hid a hundred of them, and had borrowed money for their maintenance, and that, after her husband’s death, she and her children were carried away to be made slaves by the creditors. She desired of him to have mercy upon her on account of what her husband did, and afford her some assistance.
“And when he asked her what she had in the house, she said, ‘Nothing but a very small quantity of oil in a cruse.’ So the prophet bid her go away, and borrow a great many empty vessels of her neighbours, and when she had shut her chamber-door, to pour the oil into them all; [because] God would fill them full.
“And when the woman had done what she was commanded to do, and bade her children bring every one of the vessels, and all were filled, and not one left empty, she came to the prophet, and told him that they were all full; upon which he advised her to go away, and sell the oil, and pay the creditors what was owing to them, for that there would be some surplus of the price of the oil, which she might make use of for the maintenance of her children. Thus did Elisha discharge the woman’s debts, and free her from the vexation of her creditors.” The Complete Works of Josephus, Book IX, Chapter IV, Section 2.
There is a note on this by the editor of Josephus. “That this woman was no other than the widow of Obadiah, is confirmed by the Chaldee paraphrast, and by the Rabbins and others. Nor is it unlikely that these debts were contracted by her husband for the support of those ‘hundred of the Lord’s prophets, whom he maintained by fifty in a cave,’ in the days of Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 18:4), which circumstance rendered it highly fit that the prophet Elisha should provide her a remedy, and enable her to redeem herself and her sons from the fear of that slavery which insolvent debtors were liable to by the law of Moses.”
This information places a whole new light on that wonderful story. One can only imagine how much it might have cost for Obadiah to feed a hundred men for three years or more through that famine. Food was scarce, which probably drove up the price much higher than normal. Even though Obadiah was probably well paid for his work with Ahab, the cost of food may well have exceeded his own ability to pay for it all. And being an honest man, he would not have just taken the food from Jezebel’s pantry, without paying for it in some way or another. Or perhaps, he ordered extra from his suppliers, which he paid for himself.
But to see how God remembered the kindness Obadiah showed to his prophets by taking care of Obadiah’s widow and his sons, is very encouraging. God does not forget the kindness of His people toward those in need who are of the “household of faith.”
Now, let us turn to our study for today. Please turn with me in your Bibles to 2 Kings 6. We are going to study the schools of the prophets in Elisha’s time. You may remember that the schools of the prophets were established by Samuel the prophet long before for a number of important purposes.
The schools of the prophets were to train men to think and act as leaders of God’s people. Not all of them were endowed with direct prophetic inspiration like Elijah or Elisha, but they were nevertheless called to teach the people the way of righteousness, and instruct them in the ways of God.
The schools of the prophets were intended to be a barrier against apostasy and the “wide-spreading corruption” that was taking hold of the church. And by the time of Elijah, these schools became, in a special sense the objects of hatred and persecution by Jezebel and her worthless husband Ahab.
These schools were also intended to promote the prosperity of the nation and the church by providing spiritual training to young people that they could not get in the established schools. They were to prepare men to have strength of mind and a backbone of steel, which would withstand the pressure of apostate rulers who would try to undermine their influence and perhaps even attempt to kill them. These men were trained to act in the fear of God as leaders and counselors to the people as well as to rulers who would listen.
These schools took in students who were pious, intelligent and studious. They were called the sons of the prophets. As they studied the word and works of God, they received wisdom from heaven. The instructors were experienced in communion with God and understood divine truth. They had received a special endowment of the Holy Spirit. And the people respected them for their piety and learning, which probably didn’t impress the kings, nobles and other elites who were self-centered and often cruel, and who would have seen them as competition for influence with the people.
Students in the schools of the prophets sustained themselves by their own labor. So did the teachers. Manual labor was a principle that was taught to rich and poor alike. So, even those called to the holy office were trained in manual skills.
The students studied the Hebrew writings of the Old Testament. Their primary studies involved the law of God, the instructions and practical counsel given to Moses, sacred history, sacred music and poetry. They studied the types in the sanctuary service and from it they learned the great truths of salvation through the future Messiah. It is through sacred history that we can see the footsteps of Jehovah and understand a bit more clearly His purpose for our lives.
The students were also taught how to pray and how to exercise faith in God and how to understand and obey the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
During the time of Jezebel and her determined persecutions of these servants of the Lord, these precious schools were closed. But the influence of the faithful men who had graduated from them prevented the complete overthrow of all witnesses of truth. God needed them to itinerate throughout Israel secretly encouraging the people to stay loyal to God and reject the religion of Jezebel. Many refused to follow the Baals, and God Himself told Elijah that he had 7,000 that had not bowed the knee to Baal. This was most likely the result of the work of the schools of the prophets. No wonder Jezebel hated them so much that she was willing to hunt down the sons of the prophets and the graduates of these schools and kill them if she could.
But they just disappeared. Little did she realize at first that by closing down the schools of the prophets she was just pushing their work underground where she could not easily keep track of it. But when she realized what had happened, that’s when she resorted to surveillance, torture and execution.
After the confrontation on Mt. Carmel, Elijah re-established the schools of the prophets, and set them operating again. Elisha continued this good work and often taught in the schools of the prophets as he helped to build them up.
Keep in mind that for a time after Mt. Carmel, Ahab and Jezebel still ruled the land, and they continued for quite some time. So the influences for good and evil were striving for the ascendancy. Satan was doing all in his power to complete the ruin he had begun under the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. The struggle was great, just as it is today!
But though the schools of the prophets were self-supporting schools, they provided a spiritual stability that Israel needed. They strengthened the forces of faith in God, while on every hand Satan was trying to bring them down. Faithful Elisha continued to bear his testimony as so many self-supporting men have done over the years. And the students of the schools of the prophets learned from him how to be faithful and how to work in a self-supporting way. He mentored them both by his teachings and his ministry.
Think about it. The vast majority of the people of Israel were still in apostasy, even though they had admitted on Mt. Carmel that “the Lord he is God.” You see, my friends, when sin gets a hold on you, it is difficult to get rid of it. Even when you recognize it as sin, it still has great power.
While ever Elisha, the great Old Testament medical missionary, could travel from place to place throughout the kingdom of Israel, he continued to actively build up the schools of the prophets. He combined his medical missionary work with the education of youth. He continually tried to help them see the importance of faith in God and in God’s means of healing. His miracles inspired many of the students, or the sons of the prophets, with lessons they would use throughout the rest of their lives.
Wherever Elisha was, God was with him, giving him words to speak and power to work miracles. You see my friends, if we had the same closeness to God we would have the same confidence in God. If we had the same obedience to God’s laws and heaven’s principles we would have the same power as Elisha had. We lack power because we lack faith and obedience. When in faith we take hold of His strength, He will wonderfully change the most hopeless, discouraging outlook into success and joy through powerful miracles. He will do this for the glory of His name. God still knows how to work miracles today! Have you experienced them? I have. And because of this, I know God will not let me down. God will do the same for you.
Let us look at these verses in Chapter 6 of 2 Kings. I will read the first seven verses. These are very significant in meaning. Apparently, this has to do with the school at Jericho because it was near the river Jordan. This is also the place where Elisha had healed the pot of wild gourds that were poisonous, among other things. This self-supporting school in Jericho was a special little school. It was getting rather famous, and now had quite a reputation. Young people from all over Israel came to the school to learn from the prophet. And by this time they no longer had enough space for everyone.
“And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.”
Did you notice that they said, “for the place where we dwell with thee…” This was apparently where Elisha was temporarily living for the time being. These words literally mean “the place where we sit before thee.” This is where they assembled under the supervision of the prophet to hear his teaching. Elisha did not regularly make his home at the school in Jericho, but often visited to teach and instruct the young men in the ways of God.
What does it mean that it is “too strait for us?” It means that their living quarters were too small. They needed to expand them. But why were they too small? Whenever Elisha was teaching, students would flock to him. They wanted the advantages of learning directly from the prophet of Jehovah. They coveted his counsels and his prayers. They all wanted to dwell with him and be near him. If they were going to teach Israel the truths of God, they wanted as much as they could get.
Keep in mind that it took time for students to feel comfortable attending the schools of the prophets after the severe persecutions of Jezebel ceased. That was a difficult period for the schools of the prophets because they had little money and resources to do their work. That’s why Elisha did those miracles for the students at the school in healing the pot of poison and multiplying the food that came from the tithe of the man from Baalshalisha. Every bit was valuable and there was little or no waste.
Also we could add that the reputation of Elisha’s miracles, no doubt, drew many students into the school. After all, here was a man who could heal leprosy, raise the dead, neutralize poison, multiply food and provide intelligence concerning enemy movements as it later turned out to be.
Remember too, Gehazi had lost his position as Elisha’s servant and, no doubt, a more honest man was put in his place to take care of their food and lodgings. After all, Gehazi’s greed concerning Naaman was not the only time when he had grudged Elisha’s generosity. Do you remember when the man from Baalshalisha brought his tithe of the first fruits? What did Gehazi say? “What, should I set this before an hundred men?” 2 Kings 4:43. Why did Gehazi say that? He wanted to keep this food for himself and Elisha. But Elisha did not consider his own interests when this gift came to him. He first concerned himself with the needs of others. He decided to spread it around to all the sons of the prophets. Gehazi was shocked that so little would be spread among so many. He was not a man of faith. He thought that perhaps the food would be for the prophet and his servant (himself in particular). But Elisha insisted and after they had all eaten their fill, there were still leftovers.
Today, there are hungry people waiting for spiritual bread and spiritual water. Christ who told his disciples to “give ye them to eat” also says the same to us. In this miracle, Elisha was a type of Christ. No matter how little you have, you can feed a multitude if you are under the power of the Holy Spirit. He knows how to multiply the spiritual bread and water in your own soul so that it gives life to many others. In collaboration with Christ, we become His agents to spread His love and power to all around us.
Now, after the dismissal of Gehazi, trust had been restored and students flocked to the schools of the prophets. There were around 100 men studying in Gilgal and perhaps there was a similar number at Bethel and Jericho at the time.
Elisha was apparently a very good teacher and they learned a lot from his instruction. So many students had enrolled in the school that now they were out of space. And it wasn’t just sleeping space it was also classroom space, dining room space and many other aspects of the school.
Let us read verse two. “Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell.”
Notice that these men did not request that cedars be sent for them from Lebanon to build their dorm, or marble and gold leaf for their dwelling as the self-proclaimed servants of Christ, the popes have done. They did not ask for the best accommodations. They humbly asked that they might be able to work, to take every man a beam from the trees around the Jordan River with which to build. It is very important for those who are looking for great things in the world to come, to be content with simple things here in this world.
They might have applied to the government for funds to build. But there was no chance of that. After all, the government was still hostile to these schools of the prophets. So, they could not engage the government to give them funding because there are always strings attached that would restrict their work. They would not be free. And that is the case today. Fundamentally, the government uses its forceful means to restrict the work of God’s schools.
These were mostly poor men. They did not have funds to hire workmen. Nor did they have funds to buy tools. They had to borrow them from others. But they were industrious and were used to working hard with their own hands. They were also humble and willing to put their own effort into the work. Besides, it was part of their education.
My friends, this is a great principle. How much camaraderie, how much unity and confidence gets put into such men when they engage in a joint project to solve a problem with manual labor? The project becomes theirs and they take ownership of it. They often see the hand of God helping them accomplish their tasks, and they strengthen themselves in their ambitions for the Lord.
These men did not want to live like idle drones (or monks), upon the labors of others or to live off government welfare. They only wanted Elisha’s approval of their mission, to build a new place to ease their overcrowded conditions.
Sons of the prophets in every age have no business doing so much contemplation that they render themselves unfit for action. They must not indulge themselves and take their ease and avoid labor, for the workman is the only one worthy of his hire. Honest labor is neither a burden nor does it belittle a man. It makes him great and respectable.
Verse 3. “And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them.”
These men greatly respected the prophet Elisha and wanted his presence among them as they worked. Elisha was getting old, and they wanted to keep him close for counsel, and also to keep an eye on him, perhaps, so that they could look after him if he needed them.
They paid deference to Elisha, much deference. First, they would not go out and build without his permission. You don’t build a building on campus without the permission of the preceptor or President. Elisha was a man of authority. He was in charge of the three schools of the prophets. But they also wanted his advice even in building their new home. They knew that they needed supervision to keep them orderly and also to behave as they should one toward another. Good disciples always desire to be under good discipline.
Elisha also went with the young men. He wanted to serve them and help them where he could. Elisha was equally at home with kings and generals and with the workers at their daily toil. He was one with them and united his efforts and labors with them. Elisha was a great man and a great leader. The greater the leader, the greater the willingness to serve those he leads.
Now listen to the next two verses. “And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was felling a beam, the ax head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.”
Somehow the ax head got loose from its handle and flew off and fell into the water. And like all natural ax heads all over the world, they are subject to gravity. This one disappeared and went right down into the mud at the bottom of the river. Have you ever had an ax head fly off a handle while you were chopping wood? I have. It’s quite a surprise. You are working, sweating even, and suddenly zing, there it goes. You have no control over where it lands, and consequently there better not be anyone in its path.
That’s the way it probably was with this young man. He swung the ax at the tree trunk and instead of hitting with a heavy thump, only the stick hit the trunk with a clack as he saw the ax head fly into the river a ways out from where he was on the shore.
This student was distressed that his borrowed ax was now in two pieces and there wasn’t much chance of getting the iron out of the water. Elisha was obviously nearby, but apparently did not see the ax head fly into the water. The young man cried aloud to Elisha, “Alas, master! for it was borrowed.” Perhaps he thought Elisha would strike his mantle near the place where the ax had disappeared and the river would be dry so he could collect his ax head. But God intended to do something different.
Notice that the young man did not say, “Oh, It doesn’t matter, it was an accident. It couldn’t be helped.” Or worse, “it was the fault of the ax, and therefore the owner would have to stand the cost of replacing it.” Not at all. Had the ax been his own, it would only have troubled him that he could not be of further service to his brethren in helping them build their school home.
But this young man was honest and felt the deep responsibility that comes with maturity. He knew he would be held responsible to return the ax in as good a condition as he received it. He was probably poor like most of the other sons of the prophets and did not have the funds to replace the ax. This, no doubt, made his distress even greater. He owed his benefactor his gratitude as well as an ax in working order. His distress cry reflects his sense of duty. “Alas, master!, for it was borrowed.”
Don’t you think we should be as careful with borrowed things as we are with our own? We are told that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. That means that we will repair or replace that which is damaged by us. And we should do unto others as we would want others to do to us, right?
From this story we learn that there is no room for ignoring damage you have done to someone else. An honest person is one that looks after the things that belong to others that have been entrusted to their care. And they concern themselves and care for it as if it were their own. Perhaps you can think of situations in your life when you were faced with these sorts of questions. I certainly can.
Elisha, the man who, by the power of God, had raised the dead, and who had read the heart of Gehazi did not know where the ax had fallen. God did not reveal it to him. Unless given a divine message, prophets get their information the same way the rest of us do. It is God who determines the need and the appropriate occasion for supplemental enlightenment. God performed no miracle to inform Elisha where the ax head had fallen. That was something for which no miracle was needed, and no miracle performed. So, Elisha came to the lad and asked, “Where fell it? And he showed him the place.” Elisha would have prayed for God to reveal His power to this young man so that he could trust Him even more, especially with more difficult matters.
“And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither;” and the iron did what it does not normally do. It did what no other ax on the whole planet can do, except by supernatural power. The Bible says “the iron did swim.”
Imagine that, my friends, by faith Elisha cut off a stick from a bush or a tree and cast it into the water and the iron floated to the surface.
Right before his eyes, Elisha did a miracle so that he would not be embarrassed before the generous one who loaned him the ax. He saved him from having to pay money that wasn’t necessary and which he did not have.
There are many lessons in this little miracle. Often miracles attributed to great men are not practical. They are fictional and capture only the fancy of the listener. But in the case of Elisha, his miracles had a practical purpose and solved serious problems.
Elisha was a man of great compassion and condescension. He went with the sons of the prophets into the woods when they desired his company. Friends, we should never think we are too important or so great as to stoop to do good for someone else. But be helpful to anyone, whenever you can. A Christian’s life calling is to do good as much and as often as you can.
Here’s another lesson. The God of nature is not bound by His own laws. He can make iron float. He can bring the dead back to life. He can cure incurable diseases. He’s wonderful! So, why would anyone not want to follow Christ? He created nature and understands its ways. Why would we reject His guidance and live our own lives in opposition to heaven’s principles.
Elisha did something simple. He cut a new stick and threw it into the water. He did not throw the handle after the ax iron. Notice that I said he cut a new stick, as if God was going to do a new thing. And think about this as well. We can never do that which is opposed to our sinful nature unless we have a new heart, a new stick, so to speak. Christ cannot work with the old carnal nature and make it do that which is against its nature. There must be a new heart, if you are going to have victory over your carnal nature.
This ax had to float for the young man to retrieve it. Likewise, we must have something to change us from what we are so that Christ can make us what we need to be. Like that ax, we must have a new thing happen to us.
God answered his prayer that the iron would float. It was not the stick that sunk into the water, down to the bottom to bring up that ax head. The stick floated on the water like all normal sticks. This was a symbol of Elisha’s call upon divine power to raise the iron from the bottom. Through that stick he summoned Christ to extend His power for this poor student.
Likewise, a sincere prayer of faith can be like the stick to summon the grace of God to raise up the iron heart which has sunk into the mud of this world. His grace can change the affections, which are naturally earthy and place them on things above. And that is truly amazing.
Some people think that miracles are only for great things and that a miracle that makes iron float was trivial. But often man is narrow-minded and doesn’t understand God. God is interested in little things and in blessing little people. Think about it. There is not a grief or a heartache that the heart of the Father goes out in sympathy to the one in need. His heart still responds to His children in need. Heaven still acts on their behalf. Not a day passes but the Lord intervenes in the interest of those who call upon him, supplying their needs. The day of miracles is not yet over. We can see them if we open our spiritual eyes. Elisha may not be here today, but in His own way God works in behalf of His children who have faith in Him.
“Therefore said he [Elisha], Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.”
If the young man wanted his ax head back, he would have a part to play. God could have caused the ax not only to swim, but to return to its original position on the wood. But the Lord generally does not perform miracles for men in things they can do for themselves. The young man was perfectly able to reach out into the water and recover the floating ax head. When God asks us to take, we must reach out to receive if we would have His gifts. Often our disobedience and unbelief keep us from reaching and following God’s instructions and receiving of His rich blessings.
Now a Syrian storm was brewing. Even though Elisha had healed Naaman from his leprosy, King Benhadad of Syria still determined to war against Israel. And though it was not time for Israel to be delivered from the oppression of the Syrians, the Syrians were to be taught a few lessons about the living God.
Verse 8 begins the amazing story of God’s deliverance. “Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God [Elisha] sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place, which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.”
Do you see what was happening here? Elisha was the one with the military intelligence through the spirit of prophecy. Imagine what it would be like if we did not have the spirit of prophecy. We would not have intelligence concerning the tactics of the enemy. We would not understand the enemy’s movements, or his underlying principles. But the spirit of prophecy provides all that through the inspired writings given to us in these last days.
The spirit of prophecy is given to everyone so that they may profit by it and be saved from a thousand perils. The word of God through the spirit of prophecy, plus the modern writings of God’s prophetic messenger for these last days, is perfectly designed for our survival. By them, we can navigate the unique and difficult circumstances of our times. Oh friends, I need the spirit of prophecy, don’t you?
When you think about what happened in this story, it is quite amazing. The king of Israel was informed by Elisha about the designs and motions of the enemy, the king of Syria, more effectively than had he employed the very best and most vigilant and loyal spies. The secret information was passed on to the king of Israel virtually in real time.
If the king of Syria, in a secret council of war, determined in which place to make an inroad upon the borders of Israel, where he thought it would be the greatest surprise and they would be least able to make resistance, before his forces could receive his orders the king of Israel already had notice of them because of Elisha through the spirit of prophecy. The king of Israel had opportunity to prevent the mischief many times.
The enemy of God’s people today is just as restless as Benhadad, the king of Syria was in the days of Elisha. He has his designs and he intends to do all he can to cause mischief on God’s church. He says, “they shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst among them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.” Nehemiah 4:11. Often the enemy tries to sneak in quietly and do his damage before God’s people know about it. But through the spirit of prophecy, his secret plans and devices are known to the Lord of hosts, even those that are the deepest laid. And He has delivered them to us through His prophets, especially for these last days. Oh friends, we need the spirit of prophecy, don’t you think? Without it we would be unaware of the enemy’s secret plans. It is a great advantage for us to be warned of our danger and that we may stand upon our guard against it.
The work of God’s holy prophets is to give us warning. If we do not save ourselves by it, it is our own fault and our blood will be upon our own head. No wonder the enemy wants to get God’s people to disregard the spirit of prophecy.
Why do some of God’s own people think that they do not need the spirit of prophecy? Why do they ridicule and criticize its counsel and advice? Why do they turn their backs on the council of the Lord? They think they know better than God how to defend themselves against the enemy. They think they know better than God what they need to do. In the end, they get it all wrong and lay a snare for themselves. Instead, they should earnestly study His counsel and pray for enlightenment?
It is interesting that the king of Israel regarded the warnings of his danger by the prophet Elisha, but he failed to regard the warnings of his danger by his sins. Often God’s people will save themselves from the first death, but not the second.
Benhadad resented the revelations made to the king of Israel. He felt betrayed. He suspected that one of his senators was a traitor, but had no clue which one.
Verse 11. “Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?”
One of his men who had been informed by Naaman and others of the wonderful works of Elisha concluded it must be Elisha who is telling the king of Israel the secrets of Benhadad. After all, what could Elisha, who knew the thoughts of Gehazi not know about the thoughts and objectives of Benhadad.
Verse 12. “And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.”
Previously, Naaman, the Syrian general had proclaimed the boundless power of God by his own mouth. Now here was confession of the boundless knowledge of God from the mouth of another Syrian. God revealed Himself to the Syrians in a way they could not cast aside without consequences. Nothing done, nothing said, nothing even thought by any person in any place on the planet is out of the reach of God’s awareness. He knows it all, and there is no point in trying to hide it from Him or work against Him. After all Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:8 “For we can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.”
Losing his secrets to the king of Israel should have been sufficient reproof to Benhadad to cease his foolish project. God had worked to enlighten the king of Syria as to the truth of God’s principles. Even though he was using the Syrians to punish Israel for their apostasy and bring them back to a position of uprightness before Him. At the same time, He was trying to reach the Syrians with the truths of heaven. He had even used medical missionary work as the entering wedge into the heart of the king through Naaman’s experience. Now He appealed to him again, by revealing his plans to Elisha.
Benhadad would not give up. He was determined. Verse 13 and 14. “And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.”
Why did Benhadad send such a great force to take one man by night that did not have body guards, no military escort, and was not in a stronghold or fortified city? Elisha was in Dothan, a place not well protected by anything. Certainly, Naaman could have told him these things. Why then such a force?
Perhaps Benhadad had heard about the time when fire consumed only one captain and his 50 men when they came to take Elisha, and then another captain and his 50 men were also consumed by fire from heaven. But he sent a whole army against a single man as if he thought that the same fire from heaven would not consume 50,000 men. He hoped by doing so that he would make sure to get Elisha, especially by surprise.
Apparently, Benhadad did not believe the story about Elisha telling the king of Israel all he had said in his bedchamber. He thought he could sneak up on Elisha anyway. Foolish man! Could he not imagine that Elisha would discover his secret plans laid against himself? Could he not think through whether Elisha would be able to foil his best-laid strategies? Those that fight against God and his prophet know not what they do.
God was ready for Benhadad’s army. Elisha had peaceful sleep. He did not worry about his security. He left that with the Lord of hosts.
Verse 15. “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?”
It seems that Elisha had accustomed his servant to get up early in the morning. After all, the best time of the day to commune with God and to accomplish the good work for the day is early. That is the time to start the work so that it can be completed while it is day.
Elisha’s unnamed servant was astonished and greatly frightened at what he saw. He saw the Syrians surrounding the city and he sensed they were coming for Elisha. After all, why would they otherwise come to Dothan with such a huge army? Benhadad’s army was, no doubt, certain of success that they would have this troublesome prophet in their hands very soon. But Elisha was soon to have them in his hands instead.
Notice how Elisha’s servant is in a great consternation. He runs straight to the prophet to bring him an account of this dangerous situation. “Alas, my master! How shall we do? We are undone. We cannot fight. We cannot flee. We will inevitably fall into their hands!
Friends have you ever been frightened by something so serious that you think you cannot escape with your life? Have you ever felt surrounded by foes that are bent on your destruction? I have. I know what that is like. Instead of fear, we must trust in God. It is God who delivers.
Think about the end times, my friends. The enemy is building a coalition that will unite solidly against God’s people. He is marshalling all his forces. He is spending a huge amount of money and other resources to put you into a corner so that you cannot serve God with your whole heart. The whole world is being arrayed quietly, gradually, on the excuse of fighting extremism, but in reality it is preparing the way for God’s people to be ensnared and destroyed by the enemy. The enemy wants to corner you so you have nowhere to go. Do you remember this verse from Nehemiah? “And our adversaries said, They shall not know, neither see, till we come in the midst of them, and slay them, and cause the work to cease.” Nehemiah 4:11.
Does God want His work to cease? Absolutely not. So, no matter how much the enemy builds up his might and strength, no matter how many forces are arrayed on his side, no matter how formidable the new world order becomes, remember, God is still in control.
It is all happening right now in plain sight, but most people cannot see nor understand what they are being conditioned to do. But the Bible tells us precisely what will happen. All the forces of society, economics, government and even the justice system and the police will all be arrayed against God’s chosen people. They will have no chance of escape unless they are protected by divine power. They will even face the death penalty for their commandment keeping. Only Christ can save them. And they must rely on Him completely.
Had he but read David’s psalms, he would have understood not to fear. Psalm 3:6 says, “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about.” Psalm 27:3 says, “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear…” Psalm 91:10, 11 say, “There shall no evil befall thee… For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Notice Elisha’s response in verse 16. “And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
Friends, if there is something you fear, just remember this famous principle. If you are with Christ, they that be with us are more than they that be with them. They that be with us have more power than they that be with them. They that be with us have more wisdom than they that be with them. They that be with us have more strength than they that be with them. Why then should we fear?
Friends, when we are magnifying the cause of our fear we ought to possess ourselves with clear and great and high thoughts of God and the invisible world. Romans 8:31 says, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”
Did Elisha’s servant think that the God who had done great works through faithful Elisha would now abandon him to fall into the hands of these uncircumcised Syrians? He should have said “what shall I do?” Why drag Elisha into his own fears by saying, “What shall we do?”
Elisha’s servant was astonished at his answer, and he must have had a quizzical look on his face as he listened to Elisha’s statement. But Elisha does not leave his servant without true knowledge. In verse 17 we are told that “Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”
Elisha wanted his servant to understand that the omnipotence that employed him would also defend him. He wanted his inexperienced servant to realize that God has everything under His control and that all things will work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.
Did you catch what was protecting Elisha? Chariots of fire and horses of fire. Friends, this is the same convoy that took his master Elijah to the gates of heaven. Now they have become Elisha protectors against the gates of hell; horses and chariots of fire. These can both terrify and consume Elisha’s assailants. Angels are both God’s messengers and his soldiers. They are His hosts, His battalions, His regiments. Genesis 32:2 calls the angels His hosts, and in Matthew 26:53 Jesus says that if He wanted Him to, His Father would send 12 legions of angels. These are heaven’s warriors.
And don’t you think this is a fitting symbol of what will happen in the last days as God’s people are waiting deliverance during the little time of Jacob’s trouble. Listen to this from Great Controversy, page 630, 631. “Could men see with heavenly vision, they would behold companies of angels that excel in strength stationed about those who have kept the word of Christ’s patience. With sympathizing tenderness, angels have witnessed their distress and have heard their prayers. They are waiting the word of their Commander to snatch them from their peril. But they must wait yet a little longer. The people of God must drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism. The very delay, so painful to them, is the best answer to their petitions. As they endeavor to wait trustingly for the Lord to work they are led to exercise faith, hope, and patience, which have been too little exercised during their religious experience. Yet for the elect’s sake the time of trouble will be shortened. ‘Shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him?… I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.’ Luke 18:7, 8. The end will come more quickly than men expect. The wheat will be gathered and bound in sheaves for the garner of God; the tares will be bound as fagots for the fires of destruction.
“The heavenly sentinels, faithful to their trust, continue their watch. Though a general decree has fixed the time when commandment keepers may be put to death, their enemies will in some cases anticipate the decree, and before the time specified, will endeavor to take their lives. But none can pass the mighty guardians stationed about every faithful soul. Some are assailed in their flight from the cities and villages; but the swords raised against them break and fall powerless as a straw. Others are defended by angels in the form of men of war.”
Think about that my friends. Can you imagine seeing men of war surrounding you as the chariots and horses of fire surrounded Elisha?
Friends, the experience of Elisha’s servant will be our experience in the time of trouble. We must exercise faith in God, and trust in His prophets. The eyes of Elisha’s servant’s body were opened to see the danger he was under, but when Elisha prayed, God opened his spiritual eyes and he could see the protection he was under. Friends, we too must have the eyes of faith opened so that we can see the horses and chariots of fire. The clearer sight we have of the glories and power of heaven, the less we shall fear the calamities of this earth.
Verse 18. “And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”
These men came to make a prey of Elisha, but God made fools of them. It is interesting that Elisha asked God to smite them with blindness, which is a symbol of their spiritual blindness. It was as if the blindness that had been lifted from the eyes of his servant had now fallen upon the whole host if the Syrians. They stumbled in the noonday as in the night. Isaiah 59:10.
This too was a symbol of Christ who said, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.”
Verse 19. Elisha came out of Dothan to them and “said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.”
Elisha did not lie to them. He would show them the man whom they sought, but in circumstances that would limit their power to do anything about it.
Verse 20. “And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.”
They were caught in a place where there was a sufficient force to dispatch them all or make them all prisoners of war. Elisha intended to show them mercy. He did not bring the hosts of Syria into Samaria to kill them all. He brought them there to show them that he could have killed them in order to humble and disarm them.
Listen to verses 21 and 22. “And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them? And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.”
Elisha was magnanimous. He knew that God loved the Syrians. He also knew that God needed the Syrians to correct Israel. And he also knew that there would need be given no occasion for Benhadad to become angry at Israel. The Syrian king was to cooperate with God. So, Elisha was kind to his men, and set them free after a good feed.
In fact the scriptures says in verse 23, that “he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.”
What Benhadads are in your life and causing you trouble? How easily does the enemy take advantage of you? Do you fall into sin by his sneaky temptations? The way to overcome him is by obedience to God’s word, and to heed the warnings of the spirit of prophecy. Oh Friends, Elisha, the great prophet and medical missionary of the Old Testament stands as an example to all of us today. We must have faith that God will deliver us from those things that beset us. He will deliver us from the enemy if we yield ourselves to Christ. And if we do, no matter what secret plans the enemy has to overcome you, you will find answers among the prophets of old and in the spirit of prophecy.
Don’t neglect them. Don’t turn your back on them. They are God’s agents to protect you. When you live in harmony with the spirit of prophecy and do all that you are told, you will have the horses and chariots of fire protecting you day and night. Do not fear. If you have Christ, you need not tremble at the massive machinery of government or hostility of the apostate church arrayed against you?
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank you for Elisha, the wonderful prophet of the Old Testament. We see in his example many lessons we must learn as well. We also see the end times prophesied through his life. Father, please send Your Holy Spirit. And in the name of Christ let us surrender to His power in our lives. And we’ll thank You and praise You throughout all eternity. In Jesus’ name, amen.