By Pastor Hal Mayer
Welcome to Keep the Faith Ministry. Thank you for joining me once again as we look at how to be a medical missionary in these last days directly from the example of the best and most prolific self-supporting medical missionary of the Old Testament.
Before we begin our study today, please bow your heads with me in prayer. Father in heaven, it is a wonderful thing to be a medical missionary. We need the experience of working for souls and helping them with health problems or difficulties in their lives. As we collaborate with Christ, as Elisha did, we will see His marked power in a wonderful way to reach them. We pray that you will help us understand something about this important end-time work. Like Elisha, who is an example to us in medical missionary work, we also have the prophetic role, in a way, as well. So, please open our hearts and minds as we open the scriptures today, please teach us by your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Open your Bibles with me, if you can, to 2 Kings 2:15 and onward. We are going back in time just a little to the beginning of Elisha’s ministry. I want to explain the work that Elisha was to do. You see, Elisha had a milder temperament than Elijah. God had prepared him for just this time and place in history, and also just so that he would be the right type of personality to take of the work that Elijah had started. His role would be different, and God needed a man who could now tenderly build up the work of reform that had started with such confrontation.
Friends, God has been preparing you to fulfill just the place where he needs you today, don’t you think? He has an appointed place just for each of us and he needs just the physical, emotional and intellectual tools He has given you.
Reform does not come easy. People have addictions and appetites that Satan uses to keep them bound to harmful practices. They have cherished prejudices that prevent them from breaking away from the patterns of thinking that bind them to the enemy. True reform must come willingly by conviction, not by force. It must be nurtured. So, though Elijah had checked the evil that Jezebel had cultivated so diligently in Israel on Mount Carmel, there was still work to do. That was only the beginning. The people had to be aroused to their senses, and made to understand that God cannot be mocked. But the work of building up the true worship of God had to run in deeper channels. God needed just the right man to get this work done.
Elijah killed the prophets of Baal. But that was not reform. That was only getting a key obstacle out of the way of reform. These prophets were unrepentant, unconvinced and had been used by the enemy of souls to lead Israel into great apostasy under Ahab and Jezebel. Jezebel had killed the prophets of the Lord. So, Elijah killed her prophets. There on Mount Carmel Elijah made a vivid and frightening distinction between the worship of God and the worship of Baal both by the lightening from heaven that burned the sacrifice and the alter and the water in the trench, and also by the slaying of the prophets of Baal. But that would only go so deep. Unless the work of reform was carried on, Jezebel’s agents would be back, once again leading Israel astray.
Here is an important lesson. If we are to reform our lives we must remove all obstacles to it. If we are to reform our lives, we must do something. We cannot just passively sit and wait, as if we expect God to do everything. We must slay the prophets of Baal in our own lives. We must remove every tool, every avenue that the enemy has used to lead us to sin. Whatever the addiction, we must get the foundation of it out of our houses and out of our lives if we expect to be an overcomer. God will work, when He sees that we are willing to do anything to overcome. He will give us the victory. But we must act, and we must act in faith.
No reform happens without faith. Faith brings conversion of the soul, but faith is also the agency of sanctification or reform. Holy living is reformed living, for the influences around us in society and in the church often tend to drag us down. If we are truly going to live with Christ in the earth made new, we must live with Him now. To say that we have nothing to do for our salvation is preposterous. According to scripture, we must cooperate with God. We must lay our lifestyle at His feet, and plead with Him to transform our lives into His image. We cannot continue in willful sin if we truly know Christ. Satan is constantly at work, so we cannot stop with just conversion of soul. When that happens, then the work of sanctification begins, by the grace of God.
After Elijah started the work of reform, God appointed Elisha to carry it forward. Elisha would work with the schools of the prophets to train the students to be reformers, and to help encourage God’s people in the way of righteousness. He would prepare them to succeed him as God’s appointed agency to bring healing and reformation among the people.
Do we need reform today, my friends? When you think about it, most of us are so far from God’s ideal that it may seem hopeless, but God will use those who are willing to become His agents. He needs men and women who will be stern and strong like Elijah who will confront evil and apostasy in the church as well as in society. But He also needs men and women who have a healing personality and who are men of peace. Church people tend to despise the former, and exalt the later. But both are needed in the work that God must accomplish in the last generation before Jesus comes again. Often church members and leaders reject the one appointed to confront. They assume that this is not what is needed today. They want to be left alone in their sins and addictions. They would prefer to think that they are all right with God. They do not want to hear the voice of reproof, especially if it doesn’t come in the way they approve, or by the right channel. If for instance, it doesn’t come through someone in the organized system, but comes through a self-supporting worker, they need not heed it. But both Elijah and Elisha were self-supporting prophets. And God used them mightily. Do you think He will do the same today?
Elisha was also a man of faith. He had learned from Elijah to trust God completely in all things. He was also a man of prayer. And his mission was to help the sons of the prophets become men of God, to become godly advisors to the people and through various ways and means teach all of Israel these same principles.
Let us read these verses: “And when the sons of the prophets which were to view at Jericho saw him, they said, The spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha. And they came to meet him, and bowed themselves to the ground before him. And they said unto him, Behold now, there be with thy servants fifty strong men; let them go, we pray thee, and seek thy master: lest peradventure the spirit of the LORD hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley. And he said, Ye shall not send. And when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, Send. They sent therefore fifty men; and they sought three days, but found him not. And when they came again to him, (for he tarried at Jericho,) he said unto them, Did I not say unto you, Go not?
When Elisha came back across the river Jordan he met with the sons of the prophets who had come out of the school near Jericho and had seen Elijah taken up in the chariot of angels from the other side of the Jordan River. Remember, Elijah had re-established these schools of the prophets after Jezebel had made it impossible for them to continue prior to the confrontation on Mount Carmel. And Elisha was tasked by God to build them up and re-establish the faith of the people in these appointed messengers of the Lord. But he also had to build up the faith of the messengers too. It’s interesting that there were many youth who wanted the education in these schools. In one of them, the one at Gilgal, there were at least 100 men studying under Elisha the prophet. There may have been that many in other places, but we are not told. And in the school near Jericho, there were at least 50, probably more, perhaps closer to 100.
These sons of the prophets asked Elisha if they could send 50 strong men to go into the wilderness and see if they could find Elijah. They intended to climb the mountains and descend into the valleys in their search, so they needed to be strong and fit. So, perhaps not all of the students in the school at Jericho were fitted for such a daunting task. They worried that the Lord had dropped Elijah on a mountain somewhere or in some valley. Is God that way, my friends? Does God play games with us? I think not. God never leaves you hanging. He never turns His back on you. Why would He turn His back on Elijah and “drop” him somewhere on a mountain or in a valley and disappoint him so deeply. That’s not the God I serve! He had translated Elijah as a type of those who shall be translated to heaven without seeing death when Jesus comes the second time. Elijah’s body had been transformed into an immortal body in a split second, just as the living redeemed will be transformed who are translated to heaven without seeing death, as the Bible says, “in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump,” when “the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” His corruptible body put on incorruption, and his mortal body had put on immortality, 1 Corinthians 15:52, 53. That’s what translation means. He was no longer bound to this earth by gravity. He was taken to heaven to live with immortal beings, with the angels, with the elders, and with the most glorious beings God has created.
Oh, friends I hope you are looking forward to that day. There will be those who will be living on the face of the earth when Jesus returns the second time to take His people home. They too, will exchange their mortal bodies for immortal ones. They will ascend through the heights of the clouds, through outer space, through the Orion nebula into heaven itself to reign with Christ 1000 years.
Elisha was confident that this is where Elijah was. Elisha knew that God would not mistreat His faithful servant. Elijah’s work was finished, and Christ wanted His faithful servant close to Himself. God had not turned His back on Elijah because of His discouragement. But he reproved and restored him, and then took him. Moses was laid in the grave by Christ himself, but then he resurrected him and he represents the dead in Christ who shall arise first when the trump calls them back to life, 1 Thessalonians 4:16
So, now in heaven are both Moses and Elijah. These men represent two classes of the redeemed, the dead in Christ, and the living faithful at the second coming will join with them in praising God, and giving glory to the Lamb that was slain for the salvation of man. Oh, my friends don’t miss it! Don’t miss the opportunity to fellowship with Elijah and Moses and the other redeemed host. God is calling you now. Don’t wait to yield to the power of His Spirit in your life. [Cast] down every wicked imagination, “and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” 2 Corinthians 10:5.
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.” That’s Romans 6:12, 13. What sacred admonition, my friends. That’s the way to be among the redeemed. That’s the price you must pay to live eternally. Crucify self, so that with the apostle, you can say, “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” Galatians 2:20.
Now let us return to Elisha and the schools of the prophets. These students of the prophets argued with Elisha and urged him to let them send a search party. They somehow must have thought that God was a little capricious like the heathen gods of Baal with which they had been familiar. Elisha refused to allow them to send a search party, even though they pressed him very much on the matter. They would not stop asking about it, and they pressed him so much that he finally felt “ashamed,” the Bible says, to oppose it any longer for fear they might think he did not respect his old master or did not want to give up his mantle of authority. They were so determined, that he finally relented and agree to let them send a search party. When they came back empty handed after three days of searching, he basically said, “I told you so.”
These sons of the prophets, needed to build their confidence in God. They had lost Elijah, whom they loved, but they had not lost Elijah’s God, whom they needed to know for themselves. Instead of asking, “Where is Elijah?” They should have been asking, “Where is Elijah’s God?” Instead of tiring of themselves with all the effort searching for the missing man, they should have been still, and known that God was with them through Elisha, as he had been with them in Elijah. Their faith was faulty. Elisha saw that they still needed a lot of training in the experience of faith. Perhaps God permitted this to happen so that Elisha could see how much training they still needed. He taught them after they had wandered in the wilderness three days seeking Elijah, to look to God and trust Him. “Did I not say unto you, go not?”
Friends, our first duty is to enquire after God, not after a human mentor. We must live by faith, not by sight. These young men were not acting by faith at all. And many of them saw Elijah taken up in the chariot of angels. Mentors have their place. But we must each seek God with all our hearts and with all our minds, and with all our souls, and with all our might. Human beings come and go. Every one of us, even the most godly, will die eventually, if time lasts that long. They needed to know that the God of their fathers was “nigh unto all them that call upon Him,” Ps 145:18. They should have been more interested in imitating his holy zeal and faith instead of going out in search of him.
Traversing the hills and valleys would never bring them to Elijah but rather the imitation of his faith and zeal would have made them like him in character and bring them to the point where they would qualify to work in his footsteps. I want to follow Elijah’s example of holy faith and zeal, don’t you? I want to walk in his footsteps in these last days, so that God can use me powerfully too, under the power of his Holy Spirit, don’t you?
But Elisha was tender with these young men and taught them to pay attention to the principles of faith in God. He did not go with the search party as he would go with the armies of Israel to fight with Moab and thereby deliver them. If he had gone with the search party, he would have demonstrated a lack of faith on his own part. But when he went behind the armies of Israel and Judah as a cattle servant, he was there to demonstrate the power of God, and instruct the foolish kings in the way of the Lord. This was a completely different mission.
Elisha trusted God. He had Elijah’s mantle, a token of the Spirit of the living God resting upon his shoulders. If we don’t have the spirit of God, and their character, my friends, it will do us no good to have the places, the books or the equipment or anything else of our faithful forefathers in ministry.
These sons of the prophets had seen Elisha separate the waters of Jordon with Elijah’s mantle and they were convinced that he was ordained of God to take Elijah’s place and they “bowed themselves to the ground before him,” the Bible says, in submission to him as their head and father in God. But they still, after seeing all that, wanted to prove to their own satisfaction that Elijah had truly gone to heaven. This experience would make these sons of the prophets more willing to trust God and his prophet’s judgment in the future.
Elisha does a miracle for the city of Jericho. One day, the self-supporting school at Jericho had a delegation of visitors. These were the leading men of the city, the city fathers, as we would call them today. They came because they were desperate to solve a problem. Let us read 2 Kings 2:19. “And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is nought, and the ground barren.”
God had cursed the ancient heathen city of Jericho. It had been the seat of the worship of Ashtoreth, the vilest and most degrading of all the Canaanitish idolatry. The story of how God used Israel to overthrow that city is nothing short of amazing. But it lay desolate for five centuries until the time of Jezebel who had the city rebuilt and the worship of Ashtoreth reignited.
But the water was not good there in Jericho. And the men of the city came to Elisha and told him the problem. The life-giving spring that had supplied the city and the surrounding countryside with water was bitter and unfit for use. It was poisoned.
Verses 20-22, “And [Elisha] said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.”
There are many spiritual lessons in this story, my friends. First in casting salt into the bitter spring Elisha illustrated that the salt of the gospel would purify the springs of the heart. And instead of being a blight and death, our spring should bring life and blessing to those around us. Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth,” Matthew 5:13. By becoming subjects of His kingdom, God wants to make us agents in saving others. We are not chosen just to become special friends of God, but we are chosen to become the channel through which God will bestow His grace and salvation to others.
Secondly, the poison of sin is at work at the heart of the society around us. The world is full of sickness, suffering and iniquity. Souls are weighed down with a sense of guilt and perishing for lack of a saving influence. They die because those who have been given the truth are not a savor of life, but a savor of death. Their souls drink in bitterness because the springs that should help them are poisoned, when instead they should be like a pure well of water springing up unto everlasting life.
Here’s another one. Salt must influence the substance around it to be a blessing. It must be infused. Personal influence, my friends, is power. You can do your bit to stay the progress of corruption by your influence if it is godly. Sweeten the lives of those around you with a pure example united with earnest faith and love. Friends, please do not neglect to be a pure witness to the truth. You cannot be a pure witness unless you have the grace of Christ in your life. Is your soul polluted or is it clean and fresh and pure?
Let me read to you from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 233. “The polluted stream represents the soul that is separate from God… Through sin, the whole human organism is deranged, the mind perverted, the imagination corrupted; the faculties of the soul are degraded…
“To the heart that has become purified, all is changed. Transformation of character is the testimony to the world of an indwelling Christ. The Spirit of God produces a new life in the soul, bringing the thoughts and desires into obedience to the will of God. Weak erring men and women show to the world that the redeeming power of grace can cause the faulty character to develop into symmetry and abundant fruitfulness.”
Now listen to this next phrase. It is so picturesque. “The heart that receives the word of God is not as a pool that evaporates, not like a broken cistern that loses its treasure. It is like the mountain stream, fed by unfailing springs, whose cool, sparkling waters leap from rock to rock, refreshing the weary, the thirsty, the heavy-laden. It is like a river constantly flowing and, as it advances, becoming deeper and wider, until it’s life-giving waters are spread over all the earth. The stream that goes singing on its way leaves behind its gift of verdure and fruitfulness. The grass on its banks is a fresher green, the trees have a richer verdure, the flowers are more abundant.”
Oh friends, don’t you want to be like the stream that blesses all the surrounding land? I do. Let us pray that God will transform our hearts so that they can be wells of water springing up into everlasting life. Let the lessons of Elisha’s miracle teach us how to let the Spirit of God purify the springs of our soul with the power of Christ and His word.
Here’s another lesson. Elisha’s call for a new cruse, one that had never been used, represents Christ who was never defiled by sin. The only way to purify the spring of your life is to receive from one who has never sinned, the salt of the gospel.
Elijah had been given the message of judgment and condemnation for the sins of God’s people. I mentioned that Elisha had a different message in some respects. He was milder in temperament and had a more peaceful ministry. He was to come close to the people surrounded by the sons of the prophets. But Elisha could also be stern when necessary.
Elisha went from Jericho to Bethel. On the way however, there was a group of disrespectful little children that came out of the city and mocked him. “Go up, thou bald head;” they chanted, “Go up, thou bald head.” That’s verse 23 of chapter 2.
Verse 24 says “And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.”
One wonders where these children, or at least some of them, got their disrespect for the prophet. Often children get their attitudes from their parents or from the culture surrounding them. Parents have a duty, my friends, to teach their children to respect the Lord and His prophets. Even today this is vital to the work of reform in God’s church. If we respect the prophet, our children are more likely to respect the prophet as well. But it is more than mere example. We must teach respect and compliance to the prophet both by precept and by our own example, and by the way we treat the writings of the prophet in our lives.
Many parents ignore the message of the prophet, or they excuse themselves for disregarding the counsel, or they outright reject the message of the prophet of God. This is dangerous to their children because their children see, and pick up on things in surprising ways. They are quick to absorb unsanctified hints about God’s messengers. And children will often reflect their parent’s views more openly and frankly than they do. Often parents will be discretionate in pubic, but not in private. Their children hear what they really think, and see what they do. So, sometimes children expose their parent’s own attitudes quite plainly, and quite unwittingly. Parents have a responsibility to reflect their own respect for the prophets of the Lord. They cannot live a double life, on one hand manifesting platitudes of respect for the prophets, while at the same time making excuses, or denigrating those who do uphold the prophet, or by simply ignoring their counsel in their own lives. Unsanctified parents are the worst influence on their children.
But all too often society also reflects itself in our children. They hear things from other unsanctified youth and children, or from adults in conversations they overhear. They may form opinions and attitudes that are contrary to their parent’s wishes, and which are difficult to eradicate. It is the duty of parents to check these influences in their children lest they become rebellious and say or do things that bring the cause of God into ridicule and mockery.
If parents read the writings of the prophet and treat them with reverence and respect, the children will get the idea that these writings are important and need to be understood and respected. If the writings are just left on the shelf, and have no real impact on family life, the children will get the idea that they are not so important and that they can do what they want. The baleful results of this kind of home training is now seen everywhere as generation after generation has neglected the counsel of the Lord. Wickedness prevails even among professed Christians.
Friends this is a huge tragedy today in God’s church. The prophets were sent to us to draw us closer to the Lord and to represent Him in character and in our spirit, to be a shining light to the world. But families among God’s people aren’t reading and respecting the writings of the prophet. Of course there are families that mistreat the prophet using the prophet’s writings as a hammer to moralize their children. But when used properly, these writings are precious and will do their children much good in the way of the Lord.
Had Elisha permitted the mocking to pass by unnoticed, he would have continued to be ridiculed and reviled by the unsanctified rabble, and it probably would have spread. But the she bears incident sent a strong message to anyone that felt inclined to jeer at him or his ministry. You never again read of anyone mocking the prophet openly.
That is a very important lesson for us today, isn’t it? Tragically, there are those who do everything they can to tear down the work of the prophet on the Internet, in the pulpit (which is much more sophisticated and subtle), and in their personal conversation and lives. What price will parents and their children pay for their rebellion and neglect of the prophet’s counsel both in this life and the life to come? What price will church leaders have to pay for their neglect of the prophet’s counsel and for their determination to unravel the faith God has given to His last generation?
Authority is a very politically incorrect word these days. Nobody wants anybody to tell them what to do or what not do to. But while there is room for freedom in general, authority must be maintained. This is not the prevailing counsel today from governments, schools, medical professionals and even some churches. The prevailing view is that every child needs to be able to realize his or her own potential without moral guidance especially from parental or religious authorities. In fact, there are social elements that want to force children to become perverted in their behavior and lifestyles so that they have little or no chance of becoming children of the Heavenly King. It is vitally important that parents raise their children away from these influences. Get them out of the perverted cities, and where possible teach them at home. God needs godly young people to grow up in the fear of the Lord. They won’t get that in public education.
But too often well-meaning parents think that by sending their children to a Christian school they will come out all right. So they send their children to Christian schools where they are grouped together with other unsanctified and ungodly children, and Satan takes over. Somehow these parents expect that their children will graduate with their own values and attitudes, when in reality they will pick up the perversion and filthy habits of other youth that attend the school. These youth bring their recollections of the Hollywood movies they have seen, the silly and perverted cartoons they have available to them, and their Internet diet of worldliness and even porn into the school. And this places an evil influence on the children of godly parents who have entrusted their children to the care of the school. Many dormitories these days are full of corruption and perversity. The education they receive in the classroom may be in subjects intended to help them develop skills for life, but the real education they get in the dorms and from their friends is anything but godly.
Here is a statement from Prophets and Kings, page 236, “In every family, firmness, decision, positive requirements are essential.” We have to work diligently, my friends, to check the tide of moral evil that wants to overwhelm our children. Teach them to love and cherish the word of God by your precept and example. Take them into nature and teach them the things of God in His second book. Remove them from competitive sports and games. Please teach them the dangers of the Internet and Hollywood. Remind your children of God’s ideal and vision for their young lives. Show them that God wants to use their pure minds in His service. What a day in which we are living? These are dangerous times, my friends. And if you don’t take proactive measures with your children, the devil will take over their minds and their imaginations will be turned against the God of heaven.
Let us come back now to the story of Elisha. Listen to this very interesting statement from Prophets and Kings, page 240. “Like the Savior of mankind, of whom he was a type, Elisha in his ministry among men combined the work of healing and that of teaching.”
Did you hear that? Elisha was a type of Christ. He showed what Christ would do in healing and teaching. Elisha faithfully labored to advance the work of the schools of the prophets. And he ministered to the people with miracles that would reveal the love and power of God, and help them draw close to God to love Him in return with all their heart. That’s the purpose of miracles. They are to bond the heart to the God of heaven so that His people are able to trust God and live faithfully in support of the right principles in their homes and in the churches.
After Elisha raised the Shunammite woman’s son back to life, the Bible says in 2 Kings 4:38 that he came again to Gilgal. “And there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets. And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds, his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not. So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. But he said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot.”
Elisha, the self-supporting medical missionary and teacher is in his element among the sons of the prophets, teaching them as they sat before him, and as a father, providing for their needs. The dearth, or famine, was to be in the land for seven years. This was punishment for the sins of the people. This was yet another famine, but instead of three years as in the time of Elijah, this was seven years.
As Elisha broke for these sons of the prophets the bread of life, he also ordered his servant to provide food for their bodies. The ingredients in this pottage were simple, making a lovely vegetarian pot of stew (typically lentils) mixed with herbs seethed or boiled. This simple food was an example to all who follow Christ. They do not need the dainties or fleshpots of Egypt, but they eat simple food with temperance unto the Lord.
How many people today, live and eat for themselves? And their attitudes and behavior shows that they do not know Christ. Their appetite controls them. And they fall into all manner of sin. They think that if they at least attend church each week, they will be ok. They think they will be saved in the end, even though they have not lived their lives unto the Lord. What makes them think that way? Friends, when we indulge appetite we become insensitive to the warnings and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We lose our sense of sacred reverence for God and His law, and soon we set the stage for deeper and deeper spiritual slumber. A simple, natural plant-based diet is the best way to live. That was the diet chosen for us by our Creator in the Garden of Eden. It is the best diet now, even though God gave permission for man to eat flesh food (with some serious restrictions). He did not mandate that man eat flesh. So, it isn’t necessary. In fact, we are told in Genesis 9:5 that God would shorten our lives if we eat flesh.
Here it is: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it…” In other words, if you kill and eat the beast, I will also shorten your life. Yet, many of God’s people today, mostly, don’t know their Bibles, and have little or no interest in learning what the Bible says. They eat their flesh foods as if they are really living. They eat chicken and fish as well as red meats, deli meats and other harmful things that will give them diseases and shorten their lives. They load themselves up on sweeteners, which makes their bodies prone to sickness. Friends, all those who live godly in Christ Jesus must learn to live simply and avoid things that will harm them.
In this case, one of the servants (we’re not sure if it was Gehazi) or perhaps one of the sons of the prophets went out to find some herbs to put in the pot. He had been obviously more engaged in the study of the Bible than the study of herbal books. He found some poisonous wild gourds and by mistake loaded up on them and shred them into the pot. And now there was a noxious poison in the food. Perhaps it made the sons of the prophet nauseous. But, whatever the case, they quickly discovered by tasting it that there was something deadly in the pottage.
They complained to Elisha who asked that they bring meal, or flour. He then caste the flour into the pot and the pot no longer made them sick. It had been healed.
Now think about this for a minute, my friends. Was the meal the healing agent? Not likely. Perhaps there was already some meal in the pot. So what was it that healed the pot? It was clearly the power of God. And when we do medical missionary work, sometimes we are called upon to give some hydrotherapy treatment or some herbal remedy. The healing that comes to the patient is not so much by the therapy or the remedy, but by the power of God. The patient may not see it clearly, but that is what causes the healing. And the medical missionary must remember that he or she is working for God, and that it is God that provides the healing power. Remedies are important agents, and many of them are designed by heaven to have their own effect on the body of the sick. But ultimately the healing comes from the God of heaven, from Christ actually. And it is supernatural.
Like in so many other things, the natural treatment hides God’s power from the uninterested and sacrilegious multitude. That’s the way God is. He never takes away all opportunities to distrust Him, though He gives us plenty of evidence. The wicked and worldly cannot see it. They think that there is nothing that can be gained by simple treatments. They think doctor’s pills are better than God’s eight natural remedies. They trust their doctor like they should be trusting in God. They would rather continue living the way they do, and when they get sick the first thing they do is take medicine from some pharmacy or chemist. They think that they don’t have to change their lifestyle if they can go to the doctor and get a prescription. They keep right on living in their selfish and self-indulgent way.
They come for simple treatments only when they are desperate and when they have nowhere else to turn. The doctors have all given up on them, and they are so sick that it is almost impossible to heal them other than by the supernatural intervention of God. Then they come to a natural healing place, and expect that somehow the treatments they receive or the diet or whatever else will take all the years of self-indulgence away.
Nevertheless, God does give them hope. As the medical missionary works with them as God’s servant, often God blesses them and they are miraculously healed, or at least put on the path to recovery. God often brings people into connection with his servants so that He can use them to heal, thereby turning the patient’s confidence away from the doctors to God. This is one of the ways in which God reveals Himself to the sick.
The treatment provides an opportunity for the medical missionary to come close to the patient and through his kindness the patient opens his heart so the medical missionary can talk to him about the power of God.
Here is another lesson from the pot of pottage. “It is the grace of God on the small portion that makes it all-sufficient,” Patriarchs and Prophets 241. The meal symbolically represents the bread of life, or the word of God, that overthrows the dearth in the mind and soul and revives the spiritual sensibilities. The meal is a symbol of the grace of Christ. Elisha not only threw in meal, but with it he threw in, by faith, the power of Christ. That is what brought the healing to the pot. What little he had available, through faith became much because God’s blessing was on the little.
It is lack of faith that often prevents God from providing for our needs. It is often the lack of experience with God, putting our spiritual nerves to the stretch that makes God’s power impotent to us.
Here is the best lesson of all. Think about the sequence. First there was good pottage. Then the poison was put in the pot by some unwitting hand that was ignorant of the poison gourd. Then the prophet healed the pot through the power of God. What does this all signify. Well, there are some people who start out right. They love God, they enjoy His word. They are living a godly life. But then someone, or something comes along and poisons them with evil ideas. They fall into temptation by good people that are ignorant of the word of God or the truth to lead them astray. This poisons their life. Then along comes someone who understands the problem and shows them the word of God, and they return to the Lord and repent and are once again converted into a blessing. Friends, do you have children or family members who have been led astray by even well-meaning people? Perhaps so. You can become the “prophet” to them to bring them the word of the Lord, to help them find their way back to God. Don’t turn your back on anyone that is struggling spiritually. Satan is trying to poison them. He is trying to lead them to destruction. So, give of your self to help them.
Later as Elisha was teaching at the school of the prophets in Gilgal, the sons of the prophets, the students in the school, were sitting before him as they learned from him the wisdom of God so that they could teach others the way of the Lord. There were about 100 of them, and they were hungry and had no food because there was still a famine in the land. But God provided for them. The Bible says, “There came a man from Baalshalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley, and full ears of corn in the husk thereof. And he said, Give unto the people, that they may eat.” That’s 2 Kings 4:42.
The man from Baalshalisha brought the firstfruits, or the Lord’s portion of his increase to the prophet to support him. This was an important gift. Self-supporting work is part of God’s church and needs to be supported. Not only was this a gift of survival food for Elisha, but the man from Baalshalisha had been impressed by the Lord to return his firstfruits in this rather irregular way to the Lord, through the prophet.
There were no priests or Levites in Israel at this time. They had all been fired by Jeroboam many years before and had left Israel and gone to Judah to work in Jerusalem. There was no system in place in Israel to support the prophet or the work of the Lord. Jezebel had taken over the church organization for a period of time, and it was still somewhat under her influence. The Lord impressed this man to return the firstfruits to Elisha since he was clearly a man of God doing God’s work, even though he was a self-supporting teacher. Like Christ, Elisha went around healing and teaching, which qualified him to receive this particular gift. Unusual circumstances often require unusual methods, and so it was with the man from Baalshalisha and Elisha. God often impresses some to sustain His workers in this way. He makes it clear in this story that He approves of this.
Having freely received the gift, Elisha freely gave it to the students of the school. He did not set any aside for himself. He directed that his servant feed it to the hungry sons of the prophets. Elisha did not set aside any for the following day either. He let the morrow take “thought for the things of itself,” Matthew 6:34. He must set an example of faith in God so that the sons of the prophets would learn the lesson of how to trust God for their livelihood. They too would be recipients of firstfruits at some point and they needed to know that God approved of them receiving them.
God also meant it to fulfill a promise he had made many years before, that “they should not be ashamed in the evil time: and in the days of famine they shall be satisfied,” Psalm 37:19. God tenderly looks after His own. He makes certain that their “bread shall be given [them], [their] waters shall be sure,” Isaiah 33:16.
Now, the twenty barley loaves were probably small loaves, only enough for one person. Elisha’s servant Gehazi was worried. His faith was weak. He asked, incredulously, “What, shall I set this before and hundred men?” verse 43. Andrew, the disciple of Christ, asked the Lord “What are they among so many?” concerning the five loaves and two small fishes that were to feed 5,000 men, plus women and children. Yet, Andrew had asked so as to suggest that Christ could do a miracle.
But Gehazi’s question, “How on earth is this twenty loaves of barley and a few ears of corn going to feed all these people?” Gehazi needed to understand the Lord’s bountiful goodness and how to live by faith.
Elisha simply responded “Give the people, that they may eat: for thus saith the LORD, They shall eat, and shall leave thereof. So he set it before them, and they did eat, and left thereof, according to the word of the LORD.” The food multiplied in their hands so much so, that there was leftovers. Again, Elisha prefigures Christ in type by this miracle, who would do the same thing for thousands.
Gehazi thought that to put so little food in front of so many men was only going to tantalize them and then disappoint them and put shame on his master for offering them a meal, but actually providing them so little. But Elisha had faith that God would provide for them.
Here is a lesson for God’s people in every age. “When the Lord gives a work to be done, let not men stop to inquire into the reasonableness of the command or the probable result of their efforts to obey. The supply in their hands may seem to fall short of the need to be filled; but in the hands of the Lord it will prove more than sufficient.” That’s Patriarchs and Prophets, page 243.
Friends, this is God’s way. When we learn to walk and work with God, He shows us how He can supply all our needs so that we learn to trust completely in Him. You’re going to need this in the time of trouble. It doesn’t happen all at once. It takes time. You’ll never be capable of handling the time of trouble, unless you develop that capability between now and then. God knows how to do that if you let Him. You must cooperate with heaven and God will mature your faith.
And He often organizes your training through many different means, sometimes though gifts, and other times through miraculously multiplying the food He provides for us. Sometimes He does both in the same miracle. He impresses people to come up to the help of the Lord and bless His work. They might come to your door and offer you food from their garden. They might hand you some funds or they may provide transportation or some other gift that will accomplish the need you have. I have seen this so many times in my life, I can’t count them any more. He surprises us sometimes when He sends help from a totally unexpected place or person. And he promises that He will do this when we determine in our hearts to obey His counsel.
We do not need to moan and groan about the scantiness of our visible resources. We have enormous invisible resources that God controls. He can supply our need from them continually. He knows our need. We need to take our genuine needs to God in prayer and plead for His blessing. He will certainly answer the sincere prayers of His people.
Here is another pithy one-liner from Patriarchs and Prophets, page 243. “The outward appearance may be unpromising, but energy and trust in God will develop resources.” Did you hear that? Energy combined with faith in Christ develops resources. When God sees your energy, He supplies your needs. He moves on hearts. He moves on minds and souls to rise up and get involved. If you bring your gifts to God with thanksgiving and prayer for His blessing, He will multiply as He multiplied the food given to the sons of the prophets and to the weary multitude by the seaside. He has a thousand ways of which we know nothing. God promises His church in Psalm 132:15 that “I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread.”
Friends, if you are poor in this world’s goods, take heart. You can be rich in heavenly goods. Invest in your soul, not in banks. Invest in the virtues of God’s grace and power in your life. That is far better than riches and wealth. When you do that, and God sees your sincerity, He will open the windows of heaven and as your need is, so shall your provision be. If you are faithful to Christ, you can rest assured that all your needs will be met.
In two instances Elisha took care to secure their food, just as in two instances Christ would feed the multitudes during his ministry. Both this miracle and the miracles of Christ in feeding the multitudes teach us that those who “wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,” Isaiah 40:31. God will provide and protect through the particular care of divine Providence for those who trust in God.
God often works to supply human need. It cannot usually be seen, but He is always there, ministering to the righteous and the wicked. He gives His bread in due season, but those who are most benefited by it are those who are spiritually discerning. God’s hand can multiply the meal a hundredfold. From His resources, He can provide a table in the wilderness. When there is famine in the land, God’s people who exercise faith in Christ will have plenty to eat. In the time of trouble, your bread and water will be certain. While it may not fill your stomach, you will have enough to stretch you energies in God’s cause.
Here is a wonderful statement about our Lord from Patriarchs and Prophets page 243. “What condescension it was on the part of Christ, through His messenger, to work this miracle to satisfy hunger! Again and again since that time, though not always in so marked and perceptible a manner, the Lord Jesus worked to supply human need. If we had clear spiritual discernment we would recognize more readily than we do God’s compassionate dealing with the children of men.”
Oh friends, I need to learn to trust the Lord more fully. I need the grace of Jesus Christ to keep me from panicking when a crisis looms. I need the presence of God in my life at all times. I know you do too. Let us continually ask the Lord for His presence to be in us every moment.
God bless you. Let us pray.
Our Father in heaven, thank You for revealing the principles of righteousness by faith in Your word, and through the story of the experience of the prophet Elisha. His work gives us courage and hope. He shows us how to trust in God for everything. We pray that Your presence will go with us, and warn us when we are tempted to distrust our heavenly father. As we near the end of time, may we learn to trust Christ completely for everything. May our lives become His witnesses and reflect His glory. In Jesus name, amen.