This morning I want to continue on our theme of incredible stories! One of my favourite characters from the Old Testament is Elisha – and He certainly has his fair share of incredible stories! God did more miracles through Elisha than any other character in the Bible other than Jesus himself – so there are a lot of fantastic stories to choose from.
Over the years I’ve preached on several of Elisha’s miracles – in fact, I did a series back in 2016 called “The Exploits of Elisha” – some of you might remember. But there are still a few unique stories from Elisha’s life that I’ve never preached on and I’d like to share two of those with you over the next couple weeks.
Now before we get into the story itself, we should probably take some time to figure out where exactly we are in the larger story of the Bible and see how this particular story fits in everything else.
So first of all, who exactly is Elisha? Well, Elisha was a farmer turned prophet…. Not a farmer who turned a profit (there’s not many of those) – but a farmer who became a prophet.
Now for those who might not be familiar with the term ‘prophet’ – a prophet by most simple definitions is someone who proclaims the Word of the Lord.
In the Old Testament times, most of the Bible had not yet be written, and so when God wanted to communicate with people, He would use prophets. These prophets would receive a revelation of some sort from the Lord through the Holy Spirit – and then they would proclaim these things to their intended audience. 1 Peter 1:20 tells us…
20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
2 Peter 1:20-21
So Elisha was a farmer that God choose to be his prophet to speak for him to the kings and the people of Israel.
When we first read about Elisha, he is out in his field, plowing with a team of oxen. He’s apparently getting his fields ready for seeding when Elijah (not to be confused with Elisha) meets Elisha out in his field. Now Elijah was the current prophet of God at that time – he had just finished his big confrontation with King Ahab on Mount Carmel – if you remember that story.
You see, King Ahab had led the Israelites to worship the false god, Baal, and so on Mount Carmel, they had contest to see which God was the true God. The prophets of Baal would pray to Baal and Elijah would pray to God – and they would see which god answered. And of course, Baal did nothing and God answered by sending fire from heaven! It wasn’t much of a contest! You can read about that in 1 Kings chapter 18.
So Elijah had been a very significant and influential prophet during his lifetime as He proclaimed the Word of the Lord to the kings and the people of Israel.
But now, God had just informed him that Elisha was to become his replacement. And so Elijah goes to meet Elisha as he’s out working on his farm. And to make a long story short, Elisha slaughters his oxen, sacrifices them on a fire build with the wood from his plow, leaves his family, and goes to become Elijah’s apprentice.
After some time of working with and learning from Elijah, there came a day when Elisha watched as God took Elijah to heaven in a whirlwind – leaving Elisha to take on the role of God’s prophet to Israel. This happens in 2 Kings chapter 2.
Over the next several chapters, we read several stories from the life of Elisha that clearly illustrate that God had truly chosen him as Elijah’s replacement. Just how God answered with fire when Elijah prayed, we see God answering the prayers of Elisha in some equally dramatic ways! We even see one story where Elisha prays and God raises a young boy who had died back to life!
And so the story that we are going to look at today is in this collection of stories – intended to illustrate how the Spirit of God that once worked through Elijah is now working through Elisha.