By Pastor Hal Mayer
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Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me as we explore a very important message for these last days. May you find strength and courage in the word of God to live your life the way Jesus would if He were in your shoes. Did you pray this morning when you woke up? Did you ask Jesus to take your life today and make it all His? What a privilege it is to pray and give yourself to God. We need Jesus so much in these last days. I am amazed that so few really take advantage of His power. I’m amazed that so few drink from the eternal fountain of living water. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” I want that light of life in my experience more than anything else. As we study today, let us allow the love and power of Christ to come into our hearts that we may live for Christ. And thank you for your prayers and support for Keep the Faith Ministry. They really help our work.
Over the last couple of years we have studied the life of Elijah. We studied how God transferred his powerful ministry to Elisha. Today, I will begin a series of sermons on the life of Elisha. It is a very important study actually, for Elisha was perhaps the greatest medical missionary in the Old Testament as well as a powerful prophet of the Lord.
Before we begin, let us pray. Our Father in heaven, please teach us today as we study Your holy word. Give us insights and show us how to minister to others in the last days. As we study the life of one of the most powerful examples of medical missionary work, we ask that You impress us with what we can do for the Master. Send Your Holy Spirit to us today as we study. Give us victory over our sins, and help us to find the way of salvation, we pray, in Jesus name, amen.
Turn with me in your Bible to Second Kings chapter three. Elisha is in Samaria when the son of Ahab, Jehoram began his 12-year reign. Jehoram is the ninth king from Jeroboam. His father was Ahab and his mother was Jezebel. His evil older brother Ahaziah, who died after two years of reign, left the kingdom to him. What would he do? Would he bring reform? Or would he continue in the way of his father and mother. Tragically, Jehoram did not have much moral character.
The Bible says in verses 2 and 3 that “he wrought evil in the sight of the Lord; but not like his father, and like his mother: for he put away the image of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin; he departed not therefrom.”
In other words, Jehoram saw the judgments of God on his father and brother for worshipping Baal, so he wisely put away the image of Baal. Yet he still did not purify the worship of Israel. They still worshipped Baal to a considerable extent. They continued to follow in the ways of the mystical practices of the nations around them. Jehoram himself worshipped the calves, which was the special sin of Jeroboam, with which he “made Israel to sin.” You may remember from our first sermon on Elijah, that Jeroboam’s special sin was leading Israel into idolatry and the worship of nature gods. The Bible says that Jehoram “departed not therefrom.” The worship of nature gods was the political reason the division between Israel and Judah. Jehoram decided to only correct one small aspect of Israel’s disloyalty to God. And he only put the image away for the present. He did not break it in pieces, as he ought to have done. Perhaps he thought he would have need of it later.
So, Jehoram’s supposed reformation was actually next to nothing. He did only that which he had to do in order to stay the judgment of God on him, and for other political reasons. Perhaps he mainly put away the image of Baal so that Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, would join him in his struggle against the Moabites. Jehoshaphat, who was far more loyal to God than Jehoram, would not likely have been willing to join the confederacy against Moab if the image of Baal was still in his palace.
Though he was the best of the family there was, Jehoram could not prevent the destruction of the rest of Ahab’s family, and eventually, 12 years later, the judgment of God came upon him too. It is easy to let go of the sins that are exposed or the sins that you can’t get away with. But it is much more difficult to deal with the sins that are not confronted, or which are unknown to others.
Do you think there are evils today that go on unaddressed? What about the fanaticism of sports, which we are told is a species of idolatry like the idols of the nations? What about the idolatry of dress or materialism? Or the idolatry of music and entertainment? Do not these things need to be addressed too? Can we be as guilty as Jehoram of doing evil in the sight of the Lord, while not overthrowing everything of our faith completely? Will God’s judgments fall if we do not remove these evils from among us?
Obviously, Elisha still had a good bit of reform work to do in Israel to get the nation back to full loyalty to the true God. Up until the reign of Ahaziah the king of Moab had been paying tribute to the king of Israel, which included 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams with the wool still on them. But when Ahab was dead, Mesha, who was the king of Moab at the time, rebelled against the king of Israel. Ahaziah did nothing about this rebellion, on which the crown’s finances were established. He did not try to recover the lost revenues, and made no attempt to chastise or overcome them. He slothfully let go of his interest in them. He just thought he’d live it up while he could and not go to the trouble of calling up soldiers, arming them, and then undergo the hazards of war, etc. It was all too much trouble.
Jehoram however, would not let the matter rest. He had a different mind than his brother. The revolt of the king of Moab was a great loss to Israel. He needed the tribute. No sooner had he gotten the scepter in his hand, then he took up the sword as well, to destroy Moab and bring them under tribute again. Jehoram respected Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. And being in an alliance already with him by marriage to his sister, he requested the king of Judah to join him in battle against the king of Moab. 2 Kings 3:7 says, “And he went and sent to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, The king of Moab hath rebelled against me: wilt thou go with me against Moab to battle? And he said, I will go up: I am as thou art, my people as thy people, and my horses as thy horses.”
But Jehoshaphat did not inquire of the Lord if it was His will that he go up. He just agreed to go with Jehoram. He should have demanded that Israel give up its idolatry before he would join Jehoram, but he did not. He should have demanded that they return their loyalty to the house of David. He just treated Israel as a sister kingdom and agreed to join him. Jehoram asked Jehoshaphat “Which way shall we go up?,” verse 8. And Jehoshaphat answered, “The way through the wilderness of Edom.” The king of Edom was a tributary to Israel, and Jehoshaphat wanted to go up that way to drag king of Edom into their military expedition. The shortest way to get to Moab was over the river Jordan, but these men decided that it was better to go around the long way through the wilderness of Edom.
“So the king of Israel went, and the king of Judah, and the king of Edom: and they fetched a compass of seven days’ journey: and there was no water for the host, and for the cattle that followed them.” That’s verse 9.
Have you ever thought about why kings brought large amounts of animals to a battle? That really seems strange, doesn’t it? But there was a good reason for it. They needed them in order to provide food for their warriors and for their staff.
As they went up to Moab they ran out of water for the soldiers and the cattle that followed them out there in the wilderness. Before they ever saw the Moabitish enemy, they faced a more formidable foe. They ran out of water. You may not realize it, but the control of water has always been at the center of any struggle whether recognized or not. Babylon was overthrown by the diversion of water. The city would not have survived long without that river running through it. Today the Islamic state has concentrated on controlling water resources, as well as oil. Militaries have to think about water when they go into battle. Huge resources of water are needed for military regiments, especially in the dry and heat of the Middle East. Water is essential to sustaining life. Without it, no one can survive very long.
And now the hosts of Israel and Judah were without water. No army can fight when they are faint with thirst. They are easily overcome. Water is a cheap common commodity, but without it survival is threatened. The lack of water can ruin kings and armies. So, battles often were engaged around water. These kings should have thought about this before they decided to go by way of the wilderness. The Lord allowed this to happen so that His wisdom, power and goodness could be seen among them. Incidentally, they probably passed nearby the spot where their ancestors thirsted for water and God, through Moses, brought it out of a rock.
“And the king of Israel said, Alas! that the Lord hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab!” That’s verse 10.
Think about what Jehoram said. He had called these kings and armies together, but now he blames God for the problem and suggests that God is unkind. He charges God with bringing a supposed destruction upon the nation of Israel. This is not the spirit of God. This is the spirit of Satan that blames God for the mischievous work of his own mind. Proverbs 19:3 says, “The foolishness of man perverteth his way: and his heart fretteth against the Lord.” How many times have we done this, my friends? We go our own way and then fret against God when things don’t turn out as we would have them. Or if there are obstacles and difficulties along the way, we blame God for them.
In response, Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may inquire of the Lord by him?” That’s verse 11. Perhaps he would like to have a prophet like Moses who could bring water out of a rock. He was concerned. After all, he had been the one to choose the way through the wilderness. Friends, good people often make bad decisions. That doesn’t make them evil. But they should have first asked the Lord if it was ok for them to do this or that. If they had waited on the Lord, they would have saved themselves and their companions much trouble. I don’t know about your experience, but mine has sometimes been like that.
“Is there not here a prophet of the Lord, that we may enquire of the Lord by him?” What a question, my friends!? Jehoram does not have the orientation that Jehoshaphat has. He does not have faith in God. He does not see God as the solution to his problems. He concentrates on the problem. He thinks their situation is hopeless. Jehoshaphat on the other hand, looks for a solution. He wants the word of the Lord. Perhaps he was a bit late. But at least he wanted to know the will of the Lord.
“And one of the king of Israel’s servants answered and said, Here is Elisha the son of Shaphat, which poured water on the hands of Elijah.”
Now think about this. Here is Israel, seven days journey out in the wilderness. And Elisha is with them. I wonder why Elisha was there. What’s going on here? How is it that Elisha is out there in the wilderness with these three kings and their armies? Isn’t Elisha in Samaria or Carmel or at one of the schools of the prophets?
It turns out that Elisha followed the armies of Israel and Judah out into the wilderness on their tedious march. He comes along with them uninvited, unobserved, and in no special post of honor such as the office of “priest or chaplain of the armies.” He is there incognito, so to speak.
Elisha has such a tender regard for Israel, that even when they are out on a fool’s errand, the prophet goes with them. Perhaps he has a premonition that they are going to need a “word from the Lord,” out there. Perhaps he was prompted by Providence and realized that they had not consulted the “word from the Lord” in the beginning, and would likely need it in the end. In any case, he decided he would go with them so as not to abandon them to disaster. Little did these three kings realize they had such a treasure in their camp. Nor did they realize that among their retinue was a special friend, the “man of God,” as the Bible often refers to Elisha. How he got out there without being noticed, the Bible does not say. But there he was, attending the war as “the chariot of the Lord and the horseman thereof.”
God anticipates the needs of his people, and is prepared with a “word from the Lord,” just at the moment when needed. God is so merciful, so kind, and so good, that even when we do not consult Him, and we get ourselves into difficulty by our own foolishness, He is still tender in his care for us. He sends His prophet to give us “a word from the Lord,” to provide guidance in a weary land. How much trouble would we get ourselves into if God did not do that? How much difficulty we are delivered from by the tender mercies of a God of love? God sometimes overrules our foolishness by His wisdom and power and might.
These principles are practical, but they are also spiritual. We must learn to trust the God of heaven, and first seek for “a word from the Lord,” before embarking on any venture.
A humble servant of the king somehow knew that Elisha was there, when the king himself did not know it. It was probably a servant much like Obadiah who feared the Lord. Perhaps Elisha was at the very back with the cattle. After all, he had been a farmer and was very familiar with animals. He could come along behind and not be noticed if he was helping to tend to the animals with the servants. Perhaps the servant recognized him, or perhaps Elisha sensed this god-fearing man could be trusted. To that servant Elisha is made known in one way or another, but not to the kings. And now this servant speaks up on behalf of another.
Elisha started out with humble tasks as Elijah’s servant. He poured water on Elijah’s hands. He did the menial labour before he could become the prophet. But now he is the recognized prophet of Jehovah hiding among the servants in the military camp of Israel. He is represented as a humble man, a man not afraid to do humble tasks. He is not presented to them as a matter of state interest, but as a humble servant. He that would rise high must begin low. He that would be great, let him learn to minister first.
Verse 12, “And Jehoshaphat said, The word of the Lord is with him. So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.”
Jehoshaphat had such esteem for the prophet of the Lord that he wanted to see him in person. The other two kings were so distressed by their problem, that they decided to go with Jehoshaphat and take their court to the prophet. So, all three kings got up and went down to see Elisha the prophet. They did not summon Elisha up to them. They went down to him in humility for they knew that he held the reigns of God’s power. They had better pay attention to the “word from the Lord.”
Now when Elisha saw Jehoram, he did not mince words with him. Verse 13, “And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother.” Go to the prophets that you think have sustained you in prosperity, and see if they will also sustain you in your distress. Let them help you now, who are no help at all. Even though Jehoram had put away the image of Baal, the prophets of Baal were still in the land. These were the ones that had replaced the prophets slain by Elijah at the brook Kishon. Perhaps even some of them were in the camp in Edom with them. “Go,” said Elisha, “get you to the gods whom you have served,” Judges 10:14. The world and the flesh have ruled you, let them help you now, for why should Jehovah God help you? Ezekiel 14:3. You have set up idols in your heart that are far from the God of heaven. What right have you to seek the God of Israel in a time of great need when you have been seeking after Ashtoreth and following in the sins of Jeroboam?
While Jehoram is to be respected as a prince, as a wicked man he is to be condemned, Psalm 15:4. Elisha, as a subject, will honor him and even pour water on his hands, but as a prophet he will cause him to understand his iniquity. He has to reprove Jehoram with clarity, and all the better in front of these other two kings. For his sins are public and open. Therefore, an open rebuke was in order.
So, often today, my friends, we think that we must always follow Matthew 18 when dealing with all sins whether public or private. But that is not the Bible teaching. Open sin is to be openly reproved. When leaders sin in public, or lead God’s people away from His truth and the principles of His word, they must be openly and publically reproved. It may be politically incorrect to do so, but it is not incorrect in the eyes of God. It may be difficult to do, and there may be consequences that they will apply, but it is still necessary.
Jehoram does not care to hear from the prophets of Baal now that he is in distress. He cannot trust them. He humbly says, in verse 13, “Nay: for the LORD hath called these three kings together, to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” Jehoram presents the case as deplorable and hopes that the prophet will be compassionate. He knows he is unworthy, but does not want the other kings to suffer on account of him. Yet he again blames God for their distress. Did you notice that? It is amazing that the wicked always shift blame to someone else. They do not want to take responsibility for their wickedness or for their sins.
Verse 14, “And Elisha said, As the LORD of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.”
Elisha had no respect for Jehoram or the king of Edom. Had it not been for Jehoshaphat, Elisha would have refused to see Jehoram. But because of his respect for Jehoshaphat, he met with all three of them and called upon the Lord on behalf of them all. It is good to be with those that have God’s favor. Wicked people often fare better when they are in the society of the godly than when they are not.
Elisha asked for a musician. “But now bring me a minstrel,” he said in verse 15. His mind is so disturbed by seeing Jehoram, the wicked king, that he is not in a frame of mind to hear what God will say to him. His mind is ruffled and upset and he cannot speak to God. This is not sin. It is not that he has been imprudent and overly passionate in his words. It is just the circumstances. His zeal for the Lord, left him indisposed for prayer and the operations of the Spirit of God. He needed to hear God’s praises sweetly sung to minister to his mind, and calm him and make him receptive to the Holy Spirit.
Reading on with verses 15-18, “And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye, and your cattle, and your beasts. And this is but a light thing in the sight of the LORD: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.”
The prophet told the three kings to make ditches in the valley for the water. They were not to make a few, but they were to make a lot of them. Even though they were in difficulty, God got them to cooperate with Him and show their faith in his promises, and their obedience, by digging lots of ditches.
Friends, if we wish to receive a blessing from God, we must cooperate with God and make room for them. We must dig the pools for the rain to fill. If we wish to receive the Holy Spirit in latter rain power, we must prepare our heart by making it ready to receive and retain the rain. Dig ditches in your soul. Let the Lord fill them with the refreshing of the Holy Spirit to water your thirsty soul.
Notice that Elisha tells these men that there will be neither wind nor rain, yet the water will fill the ditches. No one knew from where Elisha would get the water. It was a secret. And friends, when we receive the Holy Spirit, no one knows where it comes from. It too is a secret. But as you surrender to the principles of heaven in your life, there is a change that happens. How it happens is imperceptible, but it is noticed on the surface. It is clear to those around you that the Holy Spirit has visited you and blessed you.
Perhaps the fountains of the deep were broken up that night. Perhaps a spring arose higher up in Edom, and the water ran down in great abundance upon the valley and filled the ditches. We don’t know and the Bible doesn’t tell us, but God wrought a miracle to bring water in the desert and filled the ditches.
Isn’t that a fitting symbol of the miracle in the life of someone given to worldliness and wickedness, when he is turned back to God? It is as if his whole being is now filled with water and his testimony is a wonderful and encouraging blessing.
Verse 18 says, “And this is but a light thing in the sight of the Lord: he will deliver the Moabites also into your hand.”
Bringing water into a very dry place is easy for God. It is the change of heart that is not so easy. The control of nature and of nature’s forces is impossible for us, but simple for God. But to change the stony, dry heart takes a lot more effort of divine providence. But those who sincerely seek for the dew of God’s grace with all their hearts will certainly have it. He will outdo their requests and they shall be as a watered garden bringing refreshment and spiritual encouragement to all. They shall be made more than conquerors. They shall overthrow their enemies. They will overcome their sins.
The visit of the Holy Spirit upon the mind of Elisha did him more honor than the visit of the three kings. He prophesied that these three kings will “smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones. And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.” That’s verses 19 and 20.
Notice that it was at the time of the morning meat offering that water came. The time of the meat offering was well known. God honored His appointed communion with His people at the daily sacrifice by bringing the water at the time of the morning offering. Israel had despised the morning sacrifice, and God was trying to draw attention to it. God wanted them to know that it was His own institution.
And the water did them double service. It refreshed their bodies and it also gave them victory. Isn’t that the way God works with us? When we have the water of the Holy Spirit come into us, it refreshes us spiritually, but it also gives us victory over Satan.
Verses 21-23, “And when all the Moabites heard that the kings were come up to fight against them, they gathered all that were able to put on armour, and upward, and stood in the border. And they rose up early in the morning, and the sun shone upon the water, and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood: And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.”
So, what happened? The water came from Edom and filled all the ditches in the valley. This water did not come from rain. It came out of the ground like a fast flowing artesian spring or it was created out of nothing… The Bible doesn’t explain how it happened. But, in the morning when the sun was just coming up, the Moabites went out to the border of their territories ready for battle. They came with every man armored up ready to give the Israelites a warm reception.
As they looked upon the valleys and the ditches, they thought they saw blood. At least that is what they believed they saw. The sun was still very low in the sky. It cast a red tint upon the water, so that it looked like blood. The Moabites thought that the valley was dry and could not imagine that there was water there. They believed their own fancies. They were ready to believe what they had wanted to believe. They assumed that water was blood and that the kings of Israel, Judah and Edom had a falling out and had smitten so many of each other’s armies that there was a lot of blood in the valley.
Verse 23, “And they said, This is blood: the kings are surely slain, and they have smitten one another: now therefore, Moab, to the spoil.”
“If the armies have slain one another, we have nothing to do but divide the spoil. Now therefore, Moab to the spoil.” And as they charged down into the camp, now unprepared for battle, the Israelites were ready for them. They rose up and smote the Moabites. Friends, it is often the case that those who are going to be destroyed are first deceived. And none are so effectively deceived than those that deceive themselves. Oh friends, please humble your heart before the Lord that you will not be deceived. These Moabites carelessly ran into the camp of Israel to their own destruction thinking that they were going to the spoil.
Listen to verse 24. “And when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites rose up and smote the Moabites, so that they fled before them: but they went forward smiting the Moabites, even in their country.” They attacked the Moabites with great fury and routed them. Then they pursued them into their own country, which they laid waste.
The Bible says that “they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kirharaseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it. And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not.” That’s verses 25 and 26.
At the last, the king of the Moabites got up his special forces, 700 chosen men of war, and tried to escape by attacking the king of Edom in order to break through. But he could not. Then to show the desperate lengths he would go to in order to avoid losing the war, the Bible says, “Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall. And there was great indignation against Israel: and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.” That’s verse 27.
The king of Moab was seeking the favor of Chemosh his god, a devil that delighted in bloodshed and murder. And he did it up on his own wall where all the Israelites and the Edomites would see it as well as his own people. He wanted to stir up his own people against Israel even more by showing them how hard the Israelites had pushed him. And the Bible says there was great indignation against Israel. And I might add, there still is to this day.
This powerful miracle of the water, galvanized Elisha as a prophet of the Lord in the minds of the Israelites. There is a lesson here too. God wanted to encourage Jehoshaphat to continue in the way of right, the path on which he had started. So, he honored him, even though he was not perfect, and even though he had made an alliance with the king of Israel by marriage to Ahab’s daughter, and even though he had associated with kings that were in apostasy. God also saw potential in Jehoshaphat, so he gave him every advantage.
The lesson for us is also clear. When we come into a difficult place, even by our own doing, “Is there a word from the Lord?” is the most important question to ask. God loves to hear our prayers and incline His ear to our supplications. He is merciful, even when we make mistakes. And He is kind even to those who struggle with their loyalty. His aim is to mature us to live righteously in His sight. He will guide. He has given us the fullness of inspiration, so that we can study the word from the Lord and live by it. Even when we have backslidden, He still longs to hear our prayers and to influence our minds through the study of His word.
Elisha had done a great service for the three kings. They owed him their lives and their victory because of his prayers and his prophecies. One would expect that he would have been honored and placed in some dignified position in court. Perhaps they should have made him prime minister of state. Jehoshaphat should have taken him home and advanced him in his kingdom. But there is a Bible verse we should read. Ecclesiastes 9:15 says, “Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.” And isn’t that the way it goes? Those who are benefited by him do not honor him. He may have declined preferment, but like Ahab who failed to offer Elijah a ride down Mount Carmel in his chariot, these kings failed to honor Elisha.
But Elisha isn’t looking for earthly reward. He is content that God had honored him by the miracle he performed through him. He knew God’s voice. And that was enough honor for him.
But God wasn’t done honoring Elisha by working miracles through him. He was only just getting started. Elisha’s ministry is full of very meaningful miracles. He was a wonderful medical missionary. He was the most personable of all the prophets. In this he was a type of Christ who went about doing good. His miracles were for practical and useful purposes, not for show. And that’s important, because they were not only great wonders, but also they were great favors for those who were blessed by them.
Second Kings Chapter four tells a story of how Elisha helped a poor widow who had been the wife of one of the sons of the prophets. Elisha had tender regard for the families of the sons of the prophets. He was like a father to them. These sons of the prophets were the graduates of the schools of the prophets that Samuel had established many, many years before. These schools had been cut down by Jezebel, but re-established by Elijah after the confrontation on Mt. Carmel. Now Elisha was the overseer of these schools. There were three of them, one near Gilgal, one near Bethel and one near Jericho, and he would travel from one to the other and instruct the young prophets in the way of the Lord. But Elisha also offered guidance and counsel to the graduates of these schools who were out in ministry for the Lord.
The schools of the prophets had a very important purpose. Let us think about them for a few minutes. Do you know why God had Samuel establish the schools of the prophets? It was to oppose the prevailing apostasy and spiritual decline in the church. Now that’s something we need today, isn’t it?
Israel had a problem. It was a problem of unbelief. They did not follow the instructions of God, and this left them vulnerable to temptations that few were able to resist. They fell away and backslid. Their sin was idolatry in which they bowed down to nature gods. Our sin is another form of idolatry. We have bowed down to materialism and prosperity and few now have the presence of the Holy Spirit, nor the power to resist the temptations of the evil one.
Fathers and mothers in Israel became indifferent to their obligation to God, and indifferent to their obligation to their own children. And today, we have the same problem. We allow our children exposure to exciting computer war games, cartoons, television, dancy music, and the semi-secularized education with its sports, drama, theater and who knows what else. Bible classes have been dumbed down and many graduates of Christian schools today have no more love of Christ than the secular people in public school.
Many parents today watch the most horrific things on the television or in the movies themselves. How can they prevent their children from sinful indulgences when they themselves indulge in them? Even worse, they often provide their children with war-like toys to play with, worldly music to listen to, and the witchcraft of Harry Potter films to watch. They feed them stimulating foods that make them sensual and lustful. They fill their minds with everything but the “word from the Lord.” Have we forgotten that by beholding we become changed? How can parents expect their children to turn out right, when they themselves are wrong.
The young people in Israel got an education quite different than what God had planned for them. He had planned for them to study His word and understand and know God. But they refused to do this, and it left them without defense against the most deadly foe. Satan educated them. And by the time of Christ there was a most determined resistance to His teachings.
Do you want your children educated by Satan? If so, then just put them in the so-called Christian schools of today. He will certainly gain control of them that way. We badly need the schools of the prophets today, don’t we?
The schools of the prophets were designed to teach the youth about Christ and the God of love. They were to prepare them to receive the Holy Spirit. In fact, the primary object was for the students to receive the Holy Spirit. That meant that not every child in Israel was welcome in the schools of the prophets. The book education says that Samuel gathered young men who were “pious, intelligent and studious.” Today, there are many students who are studious and intelligent, but who are not pious. The primary qualification for the schools of the prophets was piety. If they weren’t interested in knowing God and doing His will, they could not be accepted.
Only the ones who had a deep desire to know God and do His will were permitted in the schools of the prophets. Today that would mean students who have not been fed a diet of television and worldly music, because that would make them impious. It means students who do not love sports or have a fascination with the Internet games. That makes them impious and self-centered. The students that are needed today in the schools of the prophets are pious and love to study the Bible. How many students do you know like that? My friends, that is very few.
Today, most Christian people do not understand the value of the schools of the prophets. They think that if they send their children to any Christian school they will get a good education and will turn out all right. But those schools accept students of all types. Many of them come from homes that are destroyed by worldliness and frivolity. Sensuality prevails and the youth have no self-control over their passions and no personal discipline. Today, we need the schools of the prophets more than ever, but we also need pious, intelligent and studious students to fill them.
Elisha recognized the precious value in the schools of the prophets to the people of Israel. And he did all he could to nurture them and strengthen them for their task of building up the spirituality of God’s people. Keep in mind that the prophets were recognized as having direct inspiration from God for their work. They were divinely appointed, and the people recognized this. Elisha was one of those, as had been Elijah. But the schools of the prophets were given their name, not because the students were divinely inspired like Elijah or Elisha, but because they were under the guidance of these prophets, and because they were training teachers to teach the people in the ways and will of God. Often the Holy Spirit would move among the students, and they would proclaim the word of the Lord. Often when they graduated these “sons of the prophets” as they were called, would go out and work among the people, teaching them, urging and encouraging them to live rightly and abandon their idols and sharpen their spiritual discernment and contemplation of God’s dealings with His people.
Here is what the book Education says about it. “These schools were intended to serve as a barrier against the wide-spreading corruption, to provide for the mental and spiritual welfare of the youth, and to promote the prosperity of the nation by furnishing it with men qualified to act in the fear of God as leaders and counselors.”
All true knowledge comes from the Bible. Therefore the students in the schools of the prophets studied the Bible. “The Holy Scriptures were the essential study in the schools of the prophets, and they should hold the first place in every educational system, for the foundation of all right education is a knowledge of God. Used as a textbook in our schools, the Bible will do for mind and morals what cannot be done by books of science and philosophy. As a book to discipline and strengthen the intellect, to ennoble, purify, and refine the character, it is without a rival.” Isn’t that amazing? The Bible is without rival to refine the character. That’s Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, page 422.
The schools of the prophets were self-supporting schools. They were not the schools that were run by the church. Those schools had become corrupted and were full of students that were not interested in knowing and doing God’s will. Today, we have much the same situation. God is hardly thought of and if He is, the thoughts of God are often stolen away by other competing worldly entertainments and ambitions. I hope you understand what I am saying. In our day, a similar situation is developing right before our eyes much like it was in the days of Samuel and of Elijah and Elisha. While I do not wish to criticize, it is nevertheless the truth, and it must be said kindly and with a burden for the souls of our youth. How will they ever be prepared for heaven, let alone to receive the Holy Spirit in latter rain power on this earth, when they are bombarded with everything unspiritual and everything calculated to bring them under the control of Satan? The few good things that happen are outweighed and out run by the steady flow of liberalism and the low common cheap things of the world in which we live. I would not be faithful to the Lord if I did not mention these things. The church lacks essential piety today because we have not followed in the council of the Lord in self-discipline of ourselves, and in educating our children.
While Elisha worked hard to make the schools of the prophets strong again, one day, one of the graduates of the schools of the prophets, “one of the sons of the prophets,” died. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to him that he died. But Elisha knew him and probably knew him well. He knew that he had been faithful to the Lord all his life and had done his best to build up the truth of God. He had been one of the 7000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal. He had held his integrity during a time of general apostasy and even persecution under Jezebel. He had been a good minister with a burden for souls.
But now her husband was dead and this widow was destitute. Just because he was one of the sons of the prophets, does not mean that he was immune from death. God is the one who decides how long a man or woman should live unless their lifestyle undermines it and it is cut short prematurely by their own choices. But all things being equal, it is generally not up to us. Not even those that are clothed with the mantle of the spirit of prophecy are armed against the stroke of death. Perhaps God permitted this tragedy in order to save the man, and also reveal His love to his wife and children, so that the scripture record would show God’s tender love more clearly right down through all the ages to the end times that we may understand it also. God is powerful, my friends, and He is just as concerned for His children today as he was in Bible times. We must grasp this, especially when things are hard and we pass through difficult stages in our lives. Look to God. He will sustain you in every difficulty.
In those days there was no retirement fund. There was no pension so to speak. No superannuation from which to draw. So this widow and her two sons were left with nothing, and with no resources to pay his debts, which were beyond what he was worth financially. Incidentally, the miracle performed for this woman reveals that her husband was worth much to God. Note that his debts were not the result of luxurious, profligate, or riotous living. He feared the Lord, and those that fear the Lord do nothing along those lines. When Christ is in the heart, a man is obliged to not live above what he has, nor to spend more than what God gives him.
But bear in mind that there could be many reasons why this son of the prophets was in debt, including affliction ordained by providence, bad debts that were uncollectible, or his own imprudence, because not everyone that fears the Lord is always wise toward money and the things that make for an equitable end. The children of light are not always as wise as the children of this world when it comes to finances. Perhaps this man had been impoverished by the persecution of Jezebel and her minions. Perhaps his home was confiscated. Perhaps his properties were reassigned to someone else. He had passed through some wicked times when it was hard for these sons of the prophets to make a living for themselves, let alone support their families.
The Bible doesn’t say how old these sons were or how old the woman was, but we can assume that they were not too young to help her. They were apparently unmarried and still living with her. So, they weren’t very old either. The sadness of this home was made worse by her husband’s debt. The debt was apparently unsecured, and now his creditor was about to take her sons and make them bondmen for seven years according to the law in Exodus 21:2, to work off the debt. Even if these sons could hold jobs, the creditors would not have the assurance that the debt would be paid because these sons were the ones who would have to support their mother. How would she survive if they were bondmen to pay the debt to the creditor? This was a serious dilemma. She did not know what to do and needed wise counsel and a miracle.
Who else was the woman to go to for advice, than Elisha? He had been like a father to her husband, and was concerned about the welfare of their family. They were friends, and she knew that Elisha would have wise counsel for her, just as he had previously for her husband.
So, 2 Kings 4:1 says, “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’s heart must have gone out to this poor woman in her plight. “And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.” That’s verse 2.
There was nothing to sell, nothing to make money with, except a pot of oil. Now God could have just created money out of nothing. But since she had one pot of oil, Providence determined to use it to develop her cooperation with Him. God wants us to be industrious, to think and to strategize how to make a living. It is the great heavenly principle of collaboration. We need this because when we cooperate with heaven, we strengthen our faith and our experience becomes vastly more personal. It is incredibly bonding between heaven and us, for we are in a project with God. We love God more when He has answered our prayers through our cooperation than if He just did an outright miracle without our help. We also value the miracle more when we have invested ourselves emotionally and with our personal labours.
So, Elijah gave her a project to do with her sons. Verse 3 says, “Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbors, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.”
I think that it is interesting that Elisha told her to borrow not a few vessels. First, she probably didn’t have any vessels of her own. She would have sold them to partially pay her creditor. Second, we don’t know how big they were, but there were many. He also told her to go to all her neighbors and borrow. The neighbors were to be involved in a certain way. They knew her problem. They knew her sorrow after her husband died. She had credibility with them. They apparently liked her, so she could go to them and borrow empty vessels. In this way, they could see the result of how God can save those who have been faithful to Him.
After all, maybe some of these neighbors thought that the death of her husband was somehow a ministration of the displeasure of God upon the family. The sons of the prophets were generally poor as it was. And the neighbors may have thought that all those years of service in God’s cause as a son of the prophets yielded only indebtedness to his widow and his posterity. So, why serve God if that is the end result? God’s credibility was on trial. In borrowing the pots from her neighbors, they would naturally wonder what she was going to do with them. This kept their interest as they watched God supply all her need.
One pot of oil was not much. Selling it would only buy her a few more days of living. But Elisha proposed something far better, something to keep her busy so that she doesn’t have to think about her loss so much. And God was going to multiply her asset beyond her imagination so that she could then be industrious and live on her own resources.
Then Elisha said in verse 4, “And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.”
In other words, the prophet told this widow that her efforts and her faith in the prophet’s word would be repaid. And there was work for her two sons as well. One would bring the empty pots; the other would set aside the ones that are full. They were to help her in this business. Imagine if after hearing the instruction of the prophet, she did not go to all her neighbors, or borrow only a few vessels. Do you think God would have been able to do as much for her as He did? When we need a miracle, we must do all that God says, not some of it, or part of it, or even most of it. We must do all of it. Friends, this is the problem today. So many people only do some of what God says. They only do what they have to in order to be viewed as a good Christian. They don’t aim to do all that God says, and they are spiritually weak and they don’t have the full blessing of God. They don’t see the miracles of God in their lives.
Notice that the prophet hinted at the result of her obedience. He basically said that there would be a lot of oil in her pot that would be poured out into the empty vessels. This was inspiring and exciting. What was God going to do?
Elisha told her to shut the door. The reason for this is so that her creditors won’t interrupt her, and also so that she would not boast in the miracle among her neighbors. She was to humbly start her business and not tell anyone how it had happened. And lastly, she was to pray and thank God for His mercy and providence to her. Shutting the door would keep her project between herself, her sons and God.
The widow was not to depend on Elisha to pour out the oil, or on the sons of the prophets. It was to be by her own diligent and industrious efforts that she was to gain more oil. Yes, it was a miracle, but when the vessels were full, the oil stopped. Then she was to use it to start her business trading in the things God had provided to her.
The woman obeyed Elisha. She sent her sons to all her neighbors and they brought back a lot of vessels. They probably had to make several trips to the neighbors to collect as many vessels as they could. Verses 5 & 6 say, “So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out. And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.”
God was working a miracle right before her eyes. She gave all that she had, and God multiplied it dramatically. She gave the best that she had and God increased her asset so that she would be able to live by it. Her oil continued to flow as long as there were vessels to fill. But once they were full there was no more need for additional oil and the boys had no further vessels from the neighbors.
Now think of the lessons here my friends. When we give all we have, God will multiply our talents and our resources according to His grace. He will improve our talents so that we have something on which to earn a living. Isn’t God wonderful?
Here’s another lesson. When we dedicate ourselves to Christ, and cooperate with His prophet, he opens the treasures of heaven and pours out his Holy Spirit, of which oil is a type, and fills our empty vessels so that we have something worthwhile in us. We can then impart to others. Oh friends, we cannot survive without the Holy Spirit.
If the widow’s sons had brought vessels that were full of something, she could not have filled them with the oil. The lesson is clear. If we have filled our hearts with worldliness, and have not emptied them, we will not be able to receive the very gift that God wants to give us. We will have no room for the Holy Spirit. We must be empty vessels so we can be filled. God was giving the widow an example of what He wanted to do in her life. This woman was at her wits end. She was completely empty of all resources. She had nowhere to turn, so she turned to God’s prophet. That in itself is a lesson. When you are in difficulty, turn to the prophet of the Lord. They are there for you, to give you courage and to offer advice and counsel for you to follow.
The way to increase your resources is to spend them rightly. The other widow in Elijah’s day, made him a cake first, and her oil and meal multiplied and kept on multiplying until the famine was over. And now this woman in her distress saw her oil multiply too. She must have been in awe of what God had done.
Listen to this from Signs of the Times, January 14, 1886. “God’s gifts increase as they are imparted. We see this illustrated in the case of the poor widow whom the prophet Elisha, by a miracle, relieved from debt. She had only one jar of oil; but the prophet told her to borrow vessels of her neighbors, and the oil poured from that one jar continued to flow till all the vessels were filled. The supply ceased only when no more vessels were brought to receive it. So it will be now. So long as we let the gifts of God flow into channels of good, the Lord will supply the flow.”
Have you experienced this, my friends? God promises that as long as we let His gifts flow into channels of good, He will keep the flow going. By the way, I think it is important also to mention that not everything has to be given away. The best gifts of God are more valued and appreciated by the recipient if they have to invest something in them. The widow woman was hard up. She had nothing, and God gave to her so that she could sell. Sometimes people think that they are only doing God’s work when they do it for free. But even the minister must live somehow. God supplies him through the tithe. But everyone must have some skill or some asset that can be used to generate income. Even the skills to do that are a gift from God. God gives each of us a different skill and a different way of working. But all the gifts are from God including our earnings. That’s why we return a tithe to God to show Him that we acknowledge His lordship over our lives. All that we have is His, and it all came from Him. So, how can we withhold from Him our tithes and also our offerings of thankfulness?
But there is yet another principle rooted in this instruction. Elisha’s instruction puts her in a way to pay her debt and to continue on living. He makes her an oil trader. The money she gets from the sale of oil will pay off the debt, and will set her up with enough money to buy more oil and sell it at a profit. In other words, God, through Elisha put her in business. The kindest way to help the poor is to show them how to use their meager resources, and with their own industry and ingenuity they can recover themselves. There is no place in scripture for the welfare state that just doles out money to the poor, and in which the poor become dependent on the state. If we understood God’s purposes, we would help the poor develop resources that they can use to live on. There is an old saying that goes like this. Give a man a fish and you feed him for one day. Show him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. This is the principle that we learn from this story.
And here is another lesson. While ever there are souls that want to be filled with the holy oil of heaven, there is plenty to fill them. Then they can trade in the spiritual blessings God gives to them, and they will multiply and grow.
Also, we are never poor in God. It is our faith that fails, not God’s promise. He gives above what we ask or think. All of our straightness is in ourselves. Never doubt that God is sustaining you. All that you gain by worldly trading is God’s. All that you possess is God’s. We are never to hoard His resources, whether temporal or spiritual. We are to use them in His cause.
Here is yet another spiritual lesson. Jesus is the good olive. He supplies the oil to make us a light to the gentiles. Should we fear that the golden oil, which flows from the very root and fatness of the Good Olive should fail, as long as there are lamps to be supplied from it? Christ will not stop supplying His rich oil, so long as there are souls that need oil for their lamps that they may shine brightly for the Master.
The widow woman was thrilled. But now what was she going to do with all the oil. In her enthusiasm, she came and told Elisha what had happened. Verse 7, “Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.”
She was not to keep the oil for her own use. Since the oil was provided by a miracle, we can assume that it was of the best quality, extra virgin, perhaps, with the best flavor and qualities that could be had, like the wine in Jesus’ first miracle. This would give it a good market, and a good price. Perhaps the merchants bought it to export. After all, oil was one of the products in which Israel traded. See Ezekiel 27:17.
So the woman sold the oil and there was enough money from it to pay her husband’s debt. That was her first work now that she had the wherewithal to liquidate it, even before she makes any provision for herself and her children. Those who possess an honest mind cannot with pleasure and peace eat their daily bread, unless it be their own bread. And nothing is really our own, unless we are out of debt. And this is the problem with many today. They leverage everything by debt for a high lifestyle. They live beyond their means and incur more and more debt. This just gets them into trouble when there is an economic down turn. They have spent their money on frivolous living and have been careless about saving money. When they get into trouble, the bank repossesses their homes, their cars, their boats, and whatever else they have to recover their losses. And creditors can be ruthless and uncaring. They can be huge corporations that care little about the consequences to families. So, friends, do your best to stay out of all unreasonable or unnecessary debt.
The widow was to live off of the remainder of the money she got for the oil. That means that she was to set up her business with those funds so that her living can be continually made. And through Elisha, God became the widow’s husband and her children’s father.
Elisha is a medical missionary, perhaps the greatest medical missionary in the Old Testament, and this miracle is of the highest order. He had learned from Elijah as his mentor how to work with God. His faith was strong. And God honored his chosen instrument. His medical missionary work in this case was to save this widow’s life and the freedom of her sons. To the woman the miracle was precious, so precious that she never forgot the mercy of kindness of God through His prophet Elisha.
Medical missionary work is more than giving a natural treatment or instructing someone how to eat. Medical missionary work has a very broad scope. It is especially designed to show men and women how to trust God completely in all areas of their lives. This is the great work. Oh my friends, I hope you are a medical missionary. Every church member should be a medical missionary. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if every church member understood this important role. Sadly today, church members are not being taught how to be medical missionaries. But when you work for others, you see the reward yourself, in souls saved for the kingdom of heaven.
Friends, isn’t Elisha’s ministry encouraging? That’s what it was designed to be. It was designed to encourage the people of God who struggle. Elijah addressed the apostasy by confronting it head on. But God needed a man to follow up who was especially tender and kind, one who would build up the work of the self-supporting schools, and strengthen the hands of the weak. He was to nurture and encourage. He was to restore and build. He was to heal and empower. In this he was a type of Christ.
Don’t you think we need that kind of man today? We need Elijahs but we also need Elishas. May God help us to be men and women of principle so that our neighbors will see our love for God and our love for humanity.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank you for Elisha. You did such wonderful things through him. You made his ministry so meaningful to us. Help us to live by those same principles. Help us to learn to take the lessons in these stories of God’s tender mercies and apply them to our own lives, especially in these last days. May Christ rule in our hearts, in Jesus name I pray, amen.