Boy Jumping

Receiving New Life

When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed. He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the LORD. (2 Kings 4:32-33)

It’s amazing to see how the ministry of Elisha the prophet was, in many ways, similar to the ministry of his mentor, the prophet Elijah. For example, God used Elijah to bring miraculous provision to an unlikely woman and her son, and then God used Elijah to raise that son from the dead. A similar thing happened for the prophet Elisha.

Boy Jumping

The woman who had received the miraculous provision of oil had a son, and tragically her son died. Elisha first sent his servant, but nothing happened. When Elisha himself came, he prayed for the widow’s son. As he prayed, he did something unusual, as if he could transfer his life to the boy. Strictly speaking, the ceremonial law commanded that no one could touch a dead body without becoming unclean. But the boy’s death did not transfer to Elisha; God brought life to the previously-dead boy.

As Elisha prayed to the LORD, he did so with the confidence that God did a similar work through the prophet who was his mentor. When we see God do a work in one situation, it gives us faith to know He could do it again.

When life came to the one who was dead, we see both a similarity and a contrast with the work of Jesus. The contrast is seen in the stretched-out supplication of Elijah and Elisha, comparing it to the authoritative command of Jesus in raising the dead (as in John 11:43). Elijah and Elisha rightly begged God to raise the dead. Jesus commanded the dead to be raised – because Jesus was more than a man.

The similarity is seen in what happened when Elisha (and Elijah before him) came into contact with the dead. Death did not transfer to the prophet; life came to the dead. In the same way when we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13), Jesus came and touched our life. Our sin and death did not “infect” Jesus; instead, His life came into us.

The boy given new life wasn’t supposed to continue laying there, motionless, as if he were still dead. He had been given new life; now he was supposed to live it.

What are you doing with the new life Jesus gave you?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 4

empty vessels

Filling Empty Vessels

Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” (2 Kings 4:3-4)

This was the word from the prophet Elisha to a widow who was so poor and in debt that she and her son were about to be sold into slavery for the money they owed.

In the kind of faith that desperation brings, she asked all her neighbors for whatever container she could borrow from them. Gathering the containers together in her home, she took the last small remaining bottle of oil and began to pour it into the assembled vessels. The prophet would not do this for her; she had to step out in faith herself.

empty vessels

I’m sure her heart beat fast as she began to pour. The oil flowed out of the small battle and into one of the borrowed containers, and it kept on flowing. By a miracle, through the promise of God, the laws of physics were temporarily suspended and a small bottle of oil filled many larger containers.

The widow gathered the vessels in faith, and the measure of the miracle was determined by the measure of her faith in gathering. In this case, the only limit was the limit of what she made available to God. When one container was filled she set it aside and went on to the next empty vessel, until they were all filled.

The oil miraculously flowed as long as the vessels were gathered, assembled, and ready. When the people of God are gathered in faith, assembled in order, and ready to receive, they will see God work among them.

One more thing to consider: all those borrowed vessels also had to be emptybefore they could be filled with oil. We can be too full of ourselves, too strong in ourselves, for God to really do His work in. Charles Spurgeon said, “A full Christ is for empty sinners, and for empty sinners only… It is not our emptiness, but our fullness which can hinder the outgoings of free grace.”

God can work miracles through our emptiness – as long as faith is ready to receive His filling. His strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 4

Digging Ditches

And he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’” (2 Kings 3:16)

This was an unusual word from God in an unusual situation. The armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom were stuck in the hot desert and dying of thirst. The three kings went to the prophet Elisha and asked for a word from God. This was the start of God’s answer: “Go dig many ditches in the desert.”

That was strange advice to soldiers dying of thirst in the desert. It seemed that all the hot, hard, seemingly useless work of digging in the desert would make the problem worse. But God gave more than this command. God also promised they would conquer their enemy (2 Kings 3:17-19).

It happened just as God said it would. They dug ditches, a flash flood wept across the desert, the water was saved in the ditches, and they were saved from thirst. Then their enemies saw the light reflected off the water and for some reason they thought it was blood of the three armies fighting each other. Thinking the battle was over, the Moabites walked right into the camp of the three kings and the Moabites were destroyed.

The armies of the three kings were delivered from death in the desert. They won a miraculous victory over their enemy. All because they obeyed the strange command to dig ditches in the desert.

Serving God and His people is sometimes a lot like digging ditches.

Like digging ditches, Christian service is often hard work.
Like digging ditches, Christian service must be guided by God’s revelation.
Like digging ditches, Christian service might seem crazy to some people.
Like digging ditches, Christian service is done in faith.
Like digging ditches, Christian service is blessed beyond expectation.
Like digging ditches, Christian service needs God’s miracle to do any good.
Like digging ditches, Christian service often feels like work without reward.

If living for God and serving His people seems as dry and meaningless as digging a ditch, don’t despair. Keep aligned with God’s word, and see what great things God will do.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 3

Power of Music

The Power of Music

And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you. But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him. (2 Kings 3:14-15)

Three kings came to the prophet Elisha asking for God’s help and guidance. Their armies were stuck in the dry desert, facing a thirsty death before they ever got to battle. Elisha had no respect for the kings of Israel or Edom, but because of the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, he agreed to seek God for their need.

When Elisha sought God for a prophetic word to speak to the three kings he said, now bring me a musician. It was a remarkable thing to say. When Elisha wanted to become more sensitive to the leading and speaking of the Holy Spirit, he asked for the service of a musician.

Power of Music

We know that Elisha was annoyed when the king of Israel first approached him on this matter (2 Kings 3:13). Perhaps this troubled his mind and spirit, and he needed some calm and God-honoring focus that music has the potential to bring. He sought to spiritually build up himself through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16).

We don’t know the name of the musician, but when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon Elisha and he prophesied, bringing a promise of deliverance to the three kings. As the musician played the instrument, he probably never thought that God would use the notes and melody to bring a great spiritual and military victory. Yet, the musician did what he could do and God used it, and in at least a small way it helped to change history.

Our God is a singing God who loves music (Zephaniah 3:17, Mark 14:26). We are made in God’s image, so we have a natural attraction to music. We can do ourselves much spiritual good by listening to God-honoring music and by worshiping Him in song.

– This speaks of the great spiritual power in music.
– This speaks of the great power of giving our gifts to God.
– This speaks of the great strength of what seem to be small or unexpected things.
– This speaks of the great importance of worshipping God in song.

Make use of this great, wonderful, God-given, and God-blessed spiritual resource.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 3

Washing Hands

A Great Title

But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?” So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat ishere, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” (2 Kings 3:11)

Three kings gathered in war against the Moabites. As the rulers of Israel, Judah, and Edom crossed the barren desert for a surprise attack upon Moab, they became trapped in the desert with no water for their soldiers or their animals.

Two of three kings had no use for Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel. The Moabite and Israelite kings did not honor the LORD. Yet, Jehoshaphat king of Judah gave some honor to the LORD. With death in the desert near, Jehoshaphat suggested to the other kings that they find a prophet of the LORD. He was wise enough to know that they needed help from the true God, the living God, the LORD.

Washing Hands

The answer to Jehoshaphat came from one of the servants of the king of Israel. His answer was something like this: “Yes, there is a prophet of the LORD near here. His name is Elisha the son of Shaphat, and he is the one who poured water on the hands of Elijah.”

I’m fascinated by that phrase: who poured water on the hands of Elijah. The idea is that long before he was recognized as a great and mighty prophet, Elisha served Elijah in simple and humble ways.

I suppose there were times when Elisha literally helped Elijah wash his hands. Perhaps it was time to eat, and Elijah needed to clean his hands. The younger prophet Elisha held the pitcher of water and poured it out over the hands of his mentor. This probably literally happened, but we also understand that this was a phrase used to describe the humble and simple way Elisha served his spiritual father.

In this case, Elisha was not known by the great words he spoke or the mighty deeds God did through him. He was known by his humble service. Zechariah 4:10 asks, “Who has despised the day of small things?” Elisha certainly did not. Before Jesus ever spoke the words, Elisha knew something of the truth that the greatest in God’s kingdom are the servants of all (Mark 9:35).

I have a feeling that when we meet Elisha in heaven, he may introduce himself by saying with a smile, “I’m the one who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” If we will be known for anything, it’s wonderful to be known for our humble, simple service in the name of Jesus.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 3

Where Is God

Where Is God?

Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:14)

Elijah was the older prophet, the mentor to Elisha. When Elijah was about to finish his work and leave this earth, the younger prophet asked to continue on the ministry of his mentor. Elijah said that would happen, if Elisha would stick with him until then end.

Where Is God

Elisha did, and when Elijah was carried up to heaven he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 2:12) This meant that Elisha understood that the real strength of Israel was not found in its literal chariots and horsemen. The real strength of Israel was found in God, and in the prophets and men who proclaimed God’s word and demonstrated God’s works.

As Elijah was carried to heaven, his mantle (something like a big, long, scarf) fell to the ground. The younger prophet Elisha took the mantle of Elijah and asked a question: Where is the LORD God of Elijah?

Elisha wisely knew that the power in prophetic ministry did not rest in mantles or fiery chariots. It rested in the presence and work of the Living God. If the LORD God of Elijah was also with Elisha, then he would inherit the same power and direction of ministry.

This was a great question to ask. If God expected Elisha to continue on the ministry of Elijah, then He must be present for the junior prophet as He was for the senior prophet. It was as if Elisha could have asked the question more specifically:

Where is the God who kept Elijah faithful when the whole nation turned from God?
Where is the God who mightily answered prayer from Elijah?
Where is the God who provided miraculously for Elijah?
Where is the God who raised the dead through Elijah?
Where is the God who answers prayer by sending fire from heaven?
Where is the God who encouraged the discouraged prophet?
Where is the God who carried Elijah away into heaven?

The same God who did all that in the life of Elijah was ready to do great works in the life of the prophet who came after Elijah. Some of those great works would be similar to what God did through Elijah, and some would be different.

The same God is ready and willing to work in your life.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 2

Two men

Double Portion

And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” (2 Kings 2:9)

At this point in 2 Kings, the time soon approached when the older prophet Elijah would be taken to heaven and leave the younger prophet Elisha behind. Before he left, Elijah tested Elisha in a few different ways and then asked this amazing question: Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?

Two men

This was an open invitation for Elisha to ask for whatever he wanted. It was like the invitation that God gave to Solomon (1 Kings 3:5), and the invitation Jesus gave to all who seek Him (Matthew 7:7). This great invitation was given after Elisha had demonstrated his loyalty and commitment by refusing to leave his mentor. That dedicated, seeking-God’s-best attitude of Elisha was rewarded.

What did Elisha ask for? Elisha said, please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me. Elisha asked for a big thing – a double portion of the mighty spirit of Elijah. Elisha saw how greatly the Spirit of God worked through Elijah, and he wanted the same for himself.

The idea of a double portion was not to ask for twice as much as Elijah had, but to ask for the portion that went to the firstborn son, as in Deuteronomy 21:17. Elisha asked for the right to be regarded as the successor of Elijah, as his firstborn son in regard to ministry. Yet Elisha had already been designated as Elijah’s successor (1 Kings 19:19). This was a request for the spiritual power to fulfill the calling he already received.

It is worthwhile to consider if this was generally a good or a bad thing. Normally we don’t think of one person inheriting the ministry of another. The relation between Elijah and Elisha – and God’s apparent blessing on their ministries – shows that at least sometimes God intends one person to inherit the ministry of another.

More than anything, consider this: Elisha could have asked for anything, but he asked for this. When offered everything, he didn’t seek wealth, worldly power, or status. He wanted all he might need to fulfill God’s purpose and call on his life.

What do you think is missing in your life? What would you ask God for if He offered you anything? Asking God for all you need to fulfill His highest purpose for your life is a great thing to ask for. Get a double portion of that.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 2

lattice broken

When Trouble Comes

Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria, and was injured; so he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.” (2 Kings 1:1-2)

The book of 2 Kings begins in the reign of Ahaziah, king of Israel. In those days the 12 tribes of Israel were split into two kingdoms. The 10 northern tribes were a kingdom called Israel (with Samaria as capital). The 2 southern tribes were a kingdom called Judah (with Jerusalem as capital).

All the kings of the northern kingdom were bad. This included Ahaziah, who inherited the spiritual disaster of King Ahab. Israel was in decline and God’s judgment would soon be upon the northern kingdom.

lattice broken

One day, Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria. Ahaziah probably leaned against the wooden screen over a window in his palace. The lattice broke and he fell from the second floor to the ground. Most people don’t plan for such things, but accidents happen to both kings and peasants.

Accidents happen, but how we respond to the tragedy reveals where our trust is. King Ahaziah said this: “Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.” He didn’t turn to God or inquire of the LORD, the covenant God of Israel. Instead, he turned to the pagan god of Ekron who was named Baal-Zebub.

It’s a fairly reliable measure: in a time of trouble, you will turn to your god. If you worship material things, you will look to them in crisis. If you worship drugs or alcohol, that is where you will turn. If your god is pleasure or entertainment, you will try to run to them when your world feels seems to fall apart. Here, Ahaziah showed he was a true worshipper of the pagan god Baal-Zebub because he turned to him in his trouble.

What a worthless god he sought! The name Baal-Zebub literally means, “Lord of the Flies.” Maybe they thought this god had the power to drive flies away or send them, but this “Lord of the Flies” seemed to have become a god who was commonly worshipped, even by kings.

It’s been said that when we reject God, it’s not that we believe in nothing – but that we will believe in anything. King Ahaziah was too proud to call on the Creator, the loving and gracious covenant God of Israel, but he was not too proud to grovel before a god of disgusting flies.

Brothers and sisters: in good times and bad, seek the LORD. He is perfectly revealed to us in Jesus Christ and is full of beauty and truth. He will come to the one who seeks Him (Matthew 7:7), and He will draw close to the one who draws close to Him (James 4:8).

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 1

Salt

Seasoned With Salt

And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13)

Under the Old Covenant, not every sacrifice was of an animal and with blood. God also accepted the grain offering. Like every one of the offerings made by ancient Israel, the grain offering had to be made with salt. Why did God command this?

Salt

Salt Speaks of Purity
As a chemical compound, salt can’t change. It has an inherent purity. God wanted every sacrifice brought before Him to come from a pure heart. Some of what we do for God is from impure motives. We should ask God to give us the purest of motives: to show our gratitude and to honor His glory. I’ve also heard that salt itself cannot change, but it can be corrupted by what it added to it. When our motives are impure, it is often because we add concern about our own glory and prestige. Ask God to build in you the purity of salt.

Salt Speaks of Preservation
As a preservative, salt stops the normal operations of flesh. It is the nature of flesh to spoil, but salt-cured meat will stay good. Long before we used refrigeration and freezing to keep things, people preserved meats by salting them. When we come before God, we don’t come in our own “spoiled flesh.” We come in the name of Jesus, on the basis of His merits, not ours. We can only be “preserved” by the constant work of God in us.

Salt Speaks of Preciousness
Salt was an expensive, valued commodity in the ancient world. Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt. Adding salt to every sacrifice was a way to make each offering to God a little more costly, a little more precious. We need to put our best into everything, and give everything unto God.

If you go to the market you can see some foods that are “salt free” or “reduced salt.” That might be just what someone needs in their diet, but when we think of what salt symbolized for ancient Israel, we understand that we should never life a “salt free” or “reduced salt” life.

Every day is a gift we can and should give to God. It’s proper that we “season” or “sprinkle” our day with the understanding of:

– The purity God wants us to live out: Jesus is our purity
– The preserving work God wants to do in us: Jesus preserves us to the end
– The precious nature of each moment we give to God: Everything given to Jesus is precious

Even a small sacrifice can be precious before God if it is seasoned with salt!

 

Click here for David’s commentary on Leviticus 2

Fighting God

How to Fight God and Win

He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and in his strength he struggled with God. Yes, he struggled with the Angel and prevailed; he wept, and sought favor from Him. He found Him in Bethel, and there He spoke to us. (Hosea 12:3-4)

Through the Prophet Hosea, God spoke to Israel by an ancient name – Jacob. Jacob was famous because at his birth, he took his brother by the heel in the womb. He literally came out of the womb with his hand on his brother’s heel (Genesis 25:26).

As God looked back at the patriarch Jacob, He saw that Israel in Hosea’s time was just like their forefather Jacob in the days of Genesis. In ancient Israel, a “heel-catcher” was a double-dealer, someone who achieved their goals through crafty and dishonest ways. Through Hosea, God said, “That was Jacob then and it is Israel now.”

Fighting God

Then, the prophet did a fast-forward and looked at another event in the life of Jacob, when in his strength he struggled with God. The prophet recalled the struggle between Jacob and the Man of Genesis 32:24-30. Jacob refused to submit to God, so God demanded submission from him in a literal wrestling match.

In Genesis 32, Jacob had one of the most fantastic athletic contests of all time – a wrestling match with God. We may speak spiritually of wrestling with God in prayer, or wrestling in spiritual warfare, but Jacob’s wrestling was physical and spiritual. He was locked in competition with God in human form.

Hosea’s words he struggled with God reinforce a point already made clear in Genesis 32:24-30: Jacob wrestled with God in human form. Since this was a unique messenger from heaven, He is also appropriately described as an Angel of the Lord.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Hosea emphasized two more details from the Genesis 32:24-30 account: Jacob prevailed, and he wept. Jacob prevailed in the only way anyone can when they struggle against God: he lost, he accepted it, and he surrendered to God.

How do you wrestle with God? There are many ways we can resist Him. Our resistance may not be physical, but it is still real. When you struggle against God, the only way to win is by losing.

Notice also that Jacob wept. This was how desperate and broken he was as he hung on to God, begging for a blessing. Jacob lost the athletic contest, but he won spiritually. He clung to God until blessing was promised.

Losing when you struggle against God is a good thing. It is good to remember that He is the Creator and I am the creature. He is the King and I am a subject. He is God and I am not. He has won me over. You can win when you fight God by letting Him win you over.

Click here for David’s commentary on Hosea 12