Last week we saw David at quite possibly one of his finest moments! King Saul was once again on the hunt for David, but one…
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.
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.
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.
This morning we’re going to take a look at one of Israel’s most notorious kings. Just like King David was known for his goodness – King Ahab was known for his badness. In fact, let me just read for you how the Bible introduces him. This is 1 Kings 16:29-33.
“Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. 31 And as though it were not enough to follow the example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. 32 First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. 33 Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him.” 1 Kings 16:29-33
So basically, what the Bible is telling us, is that Ahab was the most evil king Israel had ever seen. He was the Adolf Hitler, the Joseph Stalin, the Osama Bin Laden of his time.
So what lessons could we possible learn from this guy? Well, I think the answer might surprise you.
Today we are going to conclude our Great Battles of the Bible series. You might remember that we started this series with the Sunday School Classic – Joshua & the Walls of Jericho. From there we went to the not-so-familiar story of Jonathan & his armor-bearer. Then we talked about our most memorable character of this series – King Snack-of-ribs (that is, King Sennacherib) and his attack on King Hezekiah in Jerusalem. Then finally last week, we talked about Elisha and his practical joke on the Arameans. And through all that, we’ve learned (or at least have been reminded of) many different things about the character of God. We’ve learned that God is sovereign and that He is the one who directs all the affairs of man. We’ve learned that God cares about individuals as well as nations and He intervenes on our behalf. We’ve even learned that God has a sense of humor and He does things that are totally unexpected.
Well, today we’ve got one more story to look at and I trust that we can learn one more thing from this Great Battle of the Bible.
Now before we get started this morning, I have to make a clarification.