Real but unseen

Real but Unseen

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:16-17)

The king of Syria was at war against Israel, and angry with Elisha, Israel’s prophet. God spoke to Elisha about the plans of the Syrian army, and for a time Israel knew every move the Syrians made. Furious, the king of Syria sent soldiers with many horses and chariots. They surrounded Elisha’s city and demanded his surrender.

Real but unseen

Elisha had perfect peace, but his servant was naturally afraid, knowing there was little chance of escaping or surviving an attack from so many. Elisha told him to not be afraid – those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Elisha saw what his servant could not, and he prayed for the servant’s eyes to be opened to the spiritual reality of the situation.

Elisha did not pray that God would change anything in the situation. His only request was that his servant could actually see the reality of the situation. Yet, Elisha also did not try to persuade the servant of the reality of those who are with us. The servant could not have this explained to him nor could he be persuaded into it. He had to see it.

God answered Elisha’s prayer. When a person is blind to spiritual reality, only God can open his eyes. God may do it through the words someone speaks, but the work of spiritually opening eyes is spiritual work and belongs to God alone.

When his eyes were opened, the servant saw the reality that he could not see before. He saw that there really were more with him and Elisha than those assembled against them. Elisha didn’t pray that he would “see” something that wasn’t there. God’s protection of chariots of fire was real, even if it was invisible. God was not only present; He had more firepower than the enemies of God’s people!

If a thousand people claim they see nothing of God’s grace, power, and love at work in the world today, it doesn’t cancel what we see. This is our Father’s world, and even in the dark times we see around us, He is busy at work and present in power.

Ask God to open your eyes to the spiritual reality around you. We don’t need to imagine things; we need to perceive what is real but unseen.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 6

cursed riches

Cursed Riches

Now he went in and stood before his master. Elisha said to him, “Where did you go, Gehazi?” And he said, “Your servant did not go anywhere.” Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow. (2 Kings 5:25-27)

God healed Naaman from a fatal disease, and they Syrian general was so grateful that he wanted to give Elisha a big reward. Elisha refused, but his servant Gehazi secretly followed Naaman and lied, saying Elisha now wanted to receive the large reward. Gehazi took what Naaman gave, intending to keep it for himself.

cursed riches

When Gehazi returned to Elisha, the prophet knew just what had happened. Elisha said, “Did not my heart go with you?” We don’t know if this was supernatural knowledge or simply gained from observation and knowing Gehazi’s character. One way or another, Elisha knew. All Gehazi’s attempts to cover his sin failed.

Elisha also knew that it was not time to receive money. It seems the prophet had no absolute law against receiving support from those who were touched by his ministry. Yet it was spiritually clear to Elisha, and should have been clear to Gehazi, that it was not appropriate at this time and circumstance.

Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, paid a great price for his greed and deception: Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever. This was a severe judgment, but as a man in ministry Gehazi was under a stricter judgment. When he allowed himself to covet what Naaman had, he thought only in terms of the moneyNaaman possessed. God allowed him to keep the riches, but also gave him the otherthing Naaman had – deadly leprosy.

I like what Adam Clarke wrote about this: “Gehazi is not the last who has got money in an unlawful way, and has got God’s curse with it.”

I suppose that all of us would rather have more than less. But how you gain things is important. If we gain through lies, deception, disobedience to God, or dishonor, we will probably find that what we can with our riches is worse than the wealth itself.

Remember Proverbs 10:22: The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. Gehazi became rich, but with great sorrow. Don’t put yourself in the same place.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 5

Muddy Jordan River

The Wise Servants

And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”  (2 Kings 5:13)

Naaman was a successful man, the kind of person that others look up to. He was a leader of men, a general in the army of the King of Syria. In most ways he had what others long for, except for one giant exception: he was a leper. The disease was not only disgusting, it was also a death sentence.

Muddy Jordan River

General Naaman came to the prophet Elisha for healing, but Elisha wouldn’t even see him. Through a messenger the prophet told him to go to the humble, muddy Jordan River and wash himself seven times. Naaman was furious that he wasn’t treated better as was given such a humble – almost ridiculous – path to healing.

He was so offended that Naaman would have walked away in anger if not for the wise advice of his unnamed servants. The servants of Naaman used a brilliantly logical approach. If Elisha had asked Naaman to sacrifice 100 or 1,000 animals to the God of Israel, Naaman would have done it immediately. Yet because his request was so easy to do and humbling, Naaman refused in anger.

Naaman was willing to do something great or something difficult so that he could gain some of the credit for his healing. It would be his accomplishment and achievement. To do something so simple, so humbling, meant that the great general would get no credit for what happened. It would be God’s gift alone.

It’s the same way with the rescue we receive from Jesus Christ. He asks us to do something so simple – to trust in Him, to rely on Him, to believe upon Him – that even a child could do it. This doesn’t take great strength, wisdom, willpower, or moral character. We believe and receive.

If you told people, “real life on earth and eternal life in heaven is yours if you crawl up this mountain over sharp rocks,” there would be a long line of people willing to do it. The message, “Jesus paid it all – believe on Him and receive” – isn’t as popular. But it is true, and it works. Naaman was healed, and not by anything he did. We can all receive real life on earth and eternal life in heaven as a gift received from Jesus – but not by anything we do. It is true, and it works.

And, thank God for His unnamed but wise servants!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 5

humble door

Humble Enough to Receive

And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.” But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, “Indeed, I said to myself, ‘He will surely come out to me,and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.’ Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. (2 Kings 5:10-12)

When the great Syrian general Naaman came to Elisha to be healed of his leprosy, he expected to be treated like a great man. He came with all the emblems of influence and power, and a lot of money.

humble door

When he knocked at Elisha’s door, the prophet didn’t bother to answer. He sent a messenger to him instead. Naaman took the trouble to come to the home of Elisha, but Elisha refused to meet him personally. He simply sent a messenger. This was humbling to Naaman, who was usually honored.

Elisha’s message was simple. For healing, he told Naaman to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times. As rivers go, the Jordan was a pretty humble river. And, dunking yourself seven times is something so simple a child could do it.

Naaman’s reaction shows how Elisha offended the general’s pride. Naaman was offended that Elisha himself didn’t see him and because they had much nicer rivers in Syria.

Naaman then turned and went away in a rage. Naaman had a certain expectation about how God should work, and when God didn’t work that way, he was angry. Naaman didn’t like how Elisha expected a humble response from the respected and honored general.

What Elisha offended was Naaman’s pride. In one way or another, our pride will always be offended with God’s work. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is found in three places (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, and Proverbs 3:34): God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

As long as Naaman stayed in his pride, he would not and could not receive what God wanted to give him. God required that Naaman humble himself in order to receive, so God guided Elisha to give humbling conditions to the great general.

Is pride preventing you from receiving something from God? Put your focus on the humble Jesus (Philippians 2:5-8) and let Him guide you into true humility. Who knows what God has to give you that you haven’t received yet?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 5

What Money Can't Buy

What Money Can’t Buy

Then the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he departed and took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. (2 Kings 5:5)

This verse concerns a general in the army of Syria named Naaman. Naaman was a great and honorable man, and a man of great courage and strength (2 Kings 5:1). He was a success by almost any measure, but he was a leper. His leprosy was not only a disgusting disease, but it was also a death sentence. Eventually he would die from this normally incurable disease.

What Money Can't Buy

Through a servant girl, Naaman heard that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal him. Elisha was a true prophet of the living God, and though the he could not do miracles simply as he pleased to do them, God used him many times to do miraculous things.

Naaman asked his boss – the king of Syria – if he could go to enemy territory (Israel) to ask a prophet among Syria’s enemies for healing from this disgusting, deadly disease. The king gave permission, and Naaman went.

Our verse tells us that Naaman brought the following things to pay the prophet who could heal him: ten talents of silver, six thousand shekelsof gold, and ten changes of clothing. Here’s the point: this was a lot of money. A talent was generally thought to be about 33 kilograms (75 pounds). At today’s prices, ten talents of silver were worth $158,934. A shekel can be estimated to be 12 grams (.42 ounces). At today’s prices, six thousand shekels of gold were worth $2,978,640. We can give a low estimate of ten changes of clothing in today’s prices to be $5,000.

In total, Naaman brought $3,142,574 (€2,779,242 at today’s exchange rate).

More than $3 million is a lot of money, but all that money couldn’t bring Naaman life or happiness. Naaman was willing to spend that much to get something that God would give him freely. If they could, what would people pay to get to heaven? To be made right with God? To have true, meaningful purpose in life? To have their guilt erased? Their sins forgiven?

Naaman needed something that only God could bring to him, and God would bring it through a prophet – a man of God’s word.

God and His word have treasure for you that money can’t buy. In a prayer to God, Psalm 119:72 says, the law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver. Naaman was about to receive something that money could not buy.

Have you received the greatest things from God? The things that money can’t buy?

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 5

Girl with a Bible

Something Wonderful from Something Bad

And the Syrians had gone out on raids, and had brought back captive a young girl from the land of Israel. She waited on Naaman’s wife. Then she said to her mistress, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.” (2 Kings 5:2-3)

A young girl grew up in ancient Israel. Her family taught her well. She believed in the God of Israel, and she knew that Elisha was God’s prophet. She also knew that God could use Elisha to heal the incurable.

Girl with a Bible

 

A young Israeli girl was kidnapped from her family and taken as a slave to Syria. It was, no doubt, the worst day of her life. She was soon made to serve in the household of a Syrian general named Naaman, and she waited on Naaman’s wife. But God was greater than all the girl’s tragedy and misery, and was about to use her in a remarkable way.

Taking the courage to speak, she told Naaman’s wife that God’s prophet did more than speak words; he was God’s messenger. God used the girl’s courage and faith, and it wasn’t the last time God used the faith of a little girl.

In the late 1800’s in Wooster, South Africa, a group of young people in a Reformed Church gatheredon a Pentecost Sunday. In that meeting a black girl asked if she might give her testimony. She gave such a sweet testimony that it brought a hush of the sense of the presence of God over the meeting. The leader of the meeting said that he heard what he described as the sound of an approaching tornado, and he thought he felt the whole prayer hall shaking. Then all the young people sprang to their feet and started praying – and revival came to South Africa, sparked by the prayer of a young girl.

A young girl was an important spark for the amazing Welsh Revival. In February of 1904 at New Quay, there was a morning prayer meeting for young people. The pastor asked for testimonies of spiritual experience. After several insincere responses, a young girl spoke. Florrie Evans just became a Christian a few days before. Florrie rose and spoke with a tremor in her voice, saying, ‘I love Jesus Christ with all my heart.’ This sincere word made a deep impression on the Young People’s Society, sparking something significant. That on-fire youth group, ignited by the young girl’s moving word, in a few months became a revival fire over all Wales, spreading all over the world.

Some people think it’s unlikely that God could use young girls to spark such important works. But God loves to use unlikely people – people like me and you.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 5

Leper

But a Leper

Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper. (2 Kings 5:1)

2 Kings 5:1 introduces us to an important, powerful man – a general named Naaman. We read that he was a great and an honorable man, and that God had blessed him with victory for the Syrian army. We also learn that he was a mighty man of valor, just like Gideon (Judges 6:12), Jephthah (Judges 11:1), David (1 Samuel 16:18), Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:28), and several others. In fact, it seems that Naaman was the only Gentile the Bible says was a mighty man of valor.

Leper

General Naaman had a lot going for him, but the last three words of 2 Kings 5:1 change his story completely. With his power, status, and influence, Naaman was a great man – but a leper.

Leprosy often began with the loss of sensation in some part of the body. Because of the nerve damage, the muscles started to waste away. The hands and feet became disfigured, and often deteriorated so much that fingers and toes were lost. Over the span of 20 or 30 years a leper might lose hands and feet; it was, as William Barclay wrote, “a kind of terrible progressive death in which a man dies by inches.”

The leprosy described in the Bible was a contagious, debilitating disease that corrupted its victim and makes him essentially dead while alive. Most people thought that lepers were under the special judgment of God, deserving no pity or mercy. For all these reasons, the condition of leprosy is a picture of sin and its effects.

Remember the tragic words about Naaman: but a leper. Those words speak to us today. The effects of leprosy run deep, but by appearance, the leper is “skin-sick.” All humanity is “sin-sick.” Spiritually speaking, we are all lepers until Jesus heals us.

– No matter what we accomplish in life, we still have to deal with sin.
– Our sin-sickness makes us dead while still alive.
– We can’t heal our own sin-sickness.
– Our sin-sickness often follows a slow progression.
– Left to itself, our sin-sickness will grow worse and worse.
– Our sin-sickness will lead to death without what only God can do.

The story of General Naaman has a happy ending. That isn’t true of every sin-sick person. But Jesus knows how to heal both the leper (Matthew 8:1-3) and the sinner. Jesus rescues both the skin-sick and the sin-sick.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 5

Death in the Pot

Death in the Pot

So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it. So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.(2 Kings 4:39-41)

Like his mentor Elijah, the life of Elisha was filled with miracles. This was one of the more unusual wonders God worked through the prophet.

Death in the Pot

In this case, in a time of famine (2 Kings 4:38), an unnamed man found a wild vine and brought it back to a group of young prophets. They sliced up the vine and threw it into a pot of stew. The vine or gourd was probably something known in that area as a wild cucumber. It can be bitter to the taste and cause severe digestive problems if enough is eaten, sometimes leading to death.

Under God’s guidance, Elisha put some good flour into the pot of stew and something wonderful happened: what was once so bad that it brought death was now made good. We aren’t exactly told, but it seems they enjoyed the rest of the stew.

Let’s take two applications from this. First, we often do what the unnamed young prophet did. We sometimes go out into the world for things we think will help and satisfy us, and instead they bring us death. If you belong to God, you will never again find the same satisfaction or nourishment in the things of the world. You can’t really go back to a life where the most important things are entertainment, or pleasure, or comfort, or fame, or wealth. These things in the “stew” of our life will eventually leave us shouting, “There is death in the pot!

Second, notice what Elisha did. Instead of trying to get all the poisonous stuff out of the stew, instead he added something good: flour, the stuff you use to make bread. When wholesome food came into the pot, it changed everything.

Surely there is a time to try and remove poisonous doctrines among believers; but more often the proper course is to add as much good spiritual food as possible. Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). Put the focus on Jesus and His life-giving Word – and watch how God gets the “death” out of a once-poisoned stew.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 4

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