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Tag: Elisha

The Lepers and the Famine

This morning I want to continue on in our story of Elisha. We’ve been going through some of the incredible stories of the Bible and last week we looked at how God, through Elisha, caused an iron axehead to float in the Jordan River. The ax had been borrowed to cut down trees for a new building where Elisha could meet with some of his students – a group known as the ‘sons of the prophets’. Their existing building had grown too small and so they set out to build another. But as they were chopping down trees by the Jordan River, the axehead flew off the handle and landed in the water. Of course, iron tools back then would have been terribly expensive to replace – putting the young man who had borrowed the ax in quite a predicament with whoever loaned him the ax!

But mercifully, God bent the laws of nature so that the iron axehead floated to the surface where if could be retrieved! And we were reminded once again that our God is the God of compassion and mercy. As we read in Matthew 10:29, if God cares about even the little insignificant sparrow, we can know that he certainly cares for us.

So that was last week’s incredible story – not overly dramatic, but certainly a great illustration of God’s mercy and kindness.

Now today, our story is on the opposite end of the dramatic spectrum. While last week’s story was primarily about the mundane activities of life – this week’s story includes the siege of a city, assassins, deadly stampedes, human cannibalism, and lepers. It’s pretty much the opposite of mundane! And like last week’s story, today’s story is again, perhaps not the most well-known story in the Bible – in fact, when I was talking to Brian and described to him the story I had in mind, even he wasn’t overly familiar with it – so you know it must be obscure!

But this story is found in 2 Kings chapter 6 – it begins right in the same chapter as the story of the floating axehead. It’s a significantly longer story than last week, so I won’t read through the whole thing at once, I’ll just read a few verses at at time and point out a few things as we go along.

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Elisha and the Floating Axehead

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.

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Naaman & the Barrier of Pride

Which is harder to do? To forgive someone who has hurt you deeply? Or to be the one who has to ask for forgiveness?

That’s a tough one, isn’t it? Both I think, are extremely difficult. Confessing our wrongs and asking for forgiveness does not come naturally to us. Nor does offering forgiveness when someone has wronged us. Both are difficult things to do.

And today, as we continue in our series – the Exploits of Elisha – we’re going to see just how difficult – yet also how rewarding it is to do both.

If you have your Bible or your ipad or your smart phone with you, turn with me to 2 Kings chapter 5.

2 Kings – chapter 5 – starting at verse 1.

The king of Aram had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.
2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”
2 Kings 5:1-3

So we begin our story with a few introductions.

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The God Who Still Does Miracles

This morning we’re getting back into our series that we started about a month ago – the Exploits of Elisha. Just to jog your memory a little bit (since it’s been two weeks since we talked about Elisha), Elisha was a young man, who when we first met him, was out plowing with a team of oxen in his field. He was a farmer. But along came Elijah – the prophet of God – and invited Elisha to become his apprentice – to train under him so that one day, he could replace Elijah as prophet. Elisha accepted the invitation. He BBQed his oxen and fed them to the townspeople and went and followed Elijah.

The next time we saw Elisha was about ten years later, when a poor widow was in desperate financial need. She was over her head in debt and creditors were coming to take away her sons as slaves. Elisha instructed her to gather up a whole pile of empty jars from her friends and neighbors and God miraculously multiplied the little bit of oil she had, so that she could fill every jar with oil – enough to sell and pay off her debts, and live happily ever after.

And today we are going to pick it up right where we left off – still in 2 Kings chapter 4, but this time starting in verse 8.

One day Elisha went to the town of Shunem. A wealthy woman lived there, and she urged him to come to her home for a meal. After that, whenever he passed that way, he would stop there for something to eat.
9 She said to her husband, I am sure this man who stops in from time to time is a holy man of God. 10 Lets build a small room for him on the roof and furnish it with a bed, a table, a chair, and a lamp. Then he will have a place to stay whenever he comes by.
2 Kings 4:8-10

Now this is significant. It’s no small thing to build a room onto your house so that a traveling prophet has a place to stay whenever he comes by! There must have been some special connection between this couple and Elisha. Now that Elijah is no longer around to be Elisha’s mentor, perhaps this couple has taken up that task. As we’ll see as we keep reading, they seem to be a little older than he is, so perhaps the’ve taken on the role of his adopted parents. Probably some of you have a couple like that in your life – some older, wiser folks who have taken a special interest in your life. Someone who prays for you regularly and offers you wise advice and timely encouragement. I wonder if that’s the kind of relationship that Elisha had with this couple from Shunem.

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Elisha & the Widow Woman’s Oil

This morning we continue looking at the Exploits of Elisha. If you remember from last week, we learned that Elisha was just an ordinary guy – a farmer in fact, but he was used by God to do some extraordinary things. And the reason that God was able to use Him in such amazing ways was because Elisha was FAT. He was Faithful, Available, and Teachable. He was FAT. And I trust that over this past week you’ve been practicing being FAT. Because God uses FAT people (people who are faithful, available, and teachable) to do amazing things.

Now, this morning, we are going to fast forward a few years in time. The story that we are going to look at today happens roughly about 10 years after Elisha left the family farm to follow in the steps of Elijah. Since that time, Elisha has been training under Elijah. He has spent about 8 years with Elijah, learning and apprenticing under Him. And by the time of our story this morning, he has also spent about 2 years on his own, since Elijah was earlier taken up to Heaven in a chariot of fire. And that, by the way, is another great story that you should look up sometime. You can find that in 2 Kings chapter 2.

But our story today happens in 2 Kings chapter 4. 

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God’s Looking for F.A.T. People

This morning I am excited to begin a new series. I don’t know if you’re like me, but I always enjoy the stories of some of these fantastic Old Testament Bible characters. Guys like Ehud – the left-handed man who saved his country by driving a dagger deep into the belly of the fat King Eglon. Or guys like Benaiah – one of David’s mighty men – who climbed down into a snowy pit to fight a lion. Or guys like Jehu who was known for driving his chariot like a madman.

These fascinating stories. I love ‘em! And so for the next few weeks we want to spend some time looking at another fascinating character of the Old Testament – We’re going to be looking at the Exploits of Elisha. Now Elisha is one of those guys whose name you probably recognize, but you might have a hard time named exactly what it was that he did. Probably part of the reason for that is that we often confused Elisha with Elijah. These are two different prophets who lived at the same time at the same place – and sometimes they’re in the same story – so it’s easy to get confused. God did some amazing things through both of them.

And while Elijah certainly had his share of amazing stories, (and I don’t know if you know this or not) but God used Elisha to perform more miracles than anyone else in the Bible – except for Jesus. Did you know that? The Bible records that Elisha was involved in 14 different miracles. And they include things like raising people from the dead, healing people from incurable diseases, feeding large groups of people with just a small bit of food… And of course, this is all God doing these things, but He used Elisha carry them out.

And sometimes I wonder, why did God choose Elisha to be used in such an fantastic way? Why not his neighbor Larry? Why does God choose the people He does to do His work?

I mean, think about Billy Graham, for example. Why did God choose to use Him in such a powerful way? He grew up on a dairy farmer in North Carolina. He didn’t come from a long line of evangelists or pastors. He didn’t have a doctorate in evangelism. But God chose Him to bring the Gospel to millions.

Or think about John Newton, the guy who wrote the song “Amazing Grace.” He was slave trader, He was the captain of a ship, buying and selling human cargo in the 1700s. Why on earth would God pick Him to write a song that has impacted the lives of millions of people all over the world. His song is probably the most well-known Christian song ever. What made God choose to use that slave trader in such a powerful way?

How does God choose people like that? And maybe more to the heart of the issue – is it possible that God could choose you or me to be used in fantastic way like that? To impact the lives of millions – or at least hundreds? What kind of people does God choose to use?

Well, that’s the question that I want us to think about as we begin looking at the Exploits of Elisha.

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