God’s Grace as Shown in the Life of Elisha by Don DeGraaf

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Please read 1 Kings 19:16-21, and 2 Kings 1-8 and 2 Kings 13:14-21 for background on Elisha’s life.

The story of Elisha is one of grace, obedience, divine compassion, and personal miracles showing the tender care of a sovereign God.  Elisha is the prophet who followed Elijah, who appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses, as recorded in Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9.  When Elijah’s time as the prophet of God to Israel was complete, the Lord chose his successor as Elisha.  God saw in the life of his servant Elisha the qualities suited to the role, and Elisha was busy working when he was chosen.  When we labor diligently at what God has given us, we are useful to God.  Our Lord Jesus sees all, knows all, and acts with full knowledge of our lives. 

“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)

There was a cost to Elisha to obey God, but the blessing flowed continually as Elisha learned from Elijah, and took the mantle from Elijah in 2nd Kings chapter 2.  Elisha was given an “out” but he persisted in obeying God’s call on his life.  And Elisha was richly rewarded with God’s grace on him and those who he met in 2nd Kings chapters 1-8, and in his death in 2 Kings 13.

Reading Isaiah 61:1-7 is also good background for God’s purposes as seen in the life of Elisha, prefiguring the grace of our Lord Jesus in his life and ministry, as recorded in the gospels.

  • Good tidings to the poor
  • Healing the brokenhearted
  • Liberty to the captives, opening prison doors
  • Declaring the acceptable year of the Lord
  • Comfort and consolation
  • Beauty for ashes
  • Oil of joy
  • Garment of praise
  • Trees of righteousness
  • Planting of the Lord

There were many miracles and special events in the life of Elisha.

An outline is shown below:

  • Crossing the water (2 Kings 2:14)
  • Purifying the water (2 Kings 2:19-22)
  • Pouring the water (2 Kings 3:11)
  • Water filled the land (2 Kings 3:20)
  • Enemy defeated (2 Kings 3:21-27)
  • Jar of oil multiplied (2 Kings 4:1-7)
  • Shunammite son (2 Kings 4:8-37)
  1. Upper room
  2. Bed
  3. Table
  4. Chair
  5. Lampstand
  • Purifying the pot of stew (2 Kings 4:38-41)
  • Feeding the one hundred (2 Kings 4:42-44)
  • Naaman’s leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-19)
  • Gehazi’s greed and punishment (2 Kings 5:20-27)
  • Floating ax head (2 Kings 6:1-7)
  • Blinding of the Syrians (2 Kings 6:8-23)
  • Calamity from God (2 Kings 6:8 – 7:2)
  • Courageous lepers (2 Kings 7:3-20)
  • Shunammite’s land (2 Kings 8:1-6)
  • Ben-Hadad’s death (2 Kings 8:7-15)
  • God’s judgment on the kings (2 Kings 9-10)
  • Joash restored as king (2 Kings 11)
  • Repairing the temple (2 Kings 12)
  • Death of Elisha (2 Kings 13:14-21)

In each of the distinctive stories and miracles in the Biblical record of Elisha’s life, we can see the grace of God in the lives of individuals, and how God works for blessing, no matter how dire the apparent trouble.  Even death itself can be overcome, and the laws of nature reversed if it is the will of God.

Please note the beginning of Elisha’s life, and the miracles we read about.  Elisha 1) crossed the water, 2) purified the water, 3) poured the water, and 4) water filled the land.  (Please read Joshua chapter 3 & 4 for background on when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River from the wilderness into the border of the Promised Land.)  Crossing the Jordan is a Bible type of our death and identification with Christ Jesus, and Elisha was going “all in” with following the Lord in the presence of the 50 prophets (2 Kings 2:7).  Once the crossing of the Jordan River had been accomplished, soon after God brought in the lesson of the adding salt to the water (2:21-22), purifying the water so that it could be used.  Then the Scripture notes that Elisha poured out water for Elijah (3:11).  Shortly afterward, notice in the text, “that valley shall be filled with water” (3:17).  Our identification fully with Christ in salvation and in water baptism allows God to use our lives for His glory, and we should seek that the “refreshment” choices in our lives be purified for there to be the fullest blessing in our relationships and efforts to walk with the Lord.  When our lives are “poured out” for the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, there is the power of God at work in our lives, to avoid sins and to glorify God (Romans 15:6).  Each of these “water” miracles touched the lives of those around Elisha, and when we fill our souls with the water of God’s Word, and pour it out in our daily lives, there will be refreshment for those we encounter if they drink what God has provided.

Victory in our lives includes pure water (God’s Word) and holy oil (the Holy Spirit), and when we have those genuinely active, our spiritual debts will be canceled.  We have forgiveness of sins through the cross of Christ, but many believers are not “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16).  The widow woman had very little, only a “jar of oil” (2 Kings 4:2).  But she kept finding vessels in her community and pouring out the oil.  We too, need to find friends and neighbors and co-workers and “pour out the oil” as we “pour out the water”.  Blessing will flow, in the salvation of souls, growth in faith, and progress in holiness, for the glory of God.  But we need to obey the Lord.

The Shunammite woman provided an upper room, a bed, a chair, a table, and a lampstand.  We too need to have a place of communion with God apart from the wickedness in the world, and find our rest in Christ Jesus our Savior, and time in God’s Word, and in service for our Lord, and in allowing the Holy Spirit to illuminate our lives, and lead us to show others Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12).  God provided the woman something she did not expect and then allowed it to be taken away.  In our lives, sometimes God will test us, and prove us (see Deuteronomy 8:2).   God wants our complete devotion, and all of our earthly blessings a but for a moment (2 Corinthians 4:18-19).  The woman responded, “it is well” (2 Kings 4:26).  And whatever be our lot in this world, if we know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we can say “it is well” with our soul.  Our eternity is assured, we are the children of God, and we have been blessed with all blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1), and we have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1).

The shredding of the wild gourd (2 Kings 4:39) in the pot of stew was meant to add flavor, but it added “death in the pot”.  The solution was to add flour into the stew, and the stew could be served and eaten by those present.  In our own lives and the life of a Christian fellowship, there are occasions where we want to add what is not consistent with God’s instructions in His holy Word, and not the “doctrine according to godliness”.  Those eating the stew with any discernment recognized the danger.  We too need to be alert to the dangers of the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2), and be careful that our own ideas do not function as “wild gourds”.  Christ is the “fine flour” of Leviticus chapter 2:1-10, and when we preach about our Lord Jesus Christ, there will be blessing and spiritual nourishment.

It was AFTER this experience that one hundred were fed with 20 loaves of barley bread (2 Kings 4:42).  Before we deal with large crowds, it is better that God has His way with us to purify us, to refine us, so that what is presented to the multitudes is good for godly nourishment and growth.

Naaman was used to having solutions to every problem, but when the young girl mentioned Elisha the prophet, Naaman at first sought the assistance of the King of Israel (2 Kings 5:5-8).  How often we look for secular solutions, before taking our issues to the Lord in prayer!  God responds to seeking faith, and even though Naaman was a Syrian, he made the journey to Israel, and with the wise counsel of his servants (2 Kings 5:13) agreed to obey.  The river Jordan speaks of death and Christ has gone into death for us (Hebrews 2:14-15) so that we can say,

“O death where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Gehazi wanted to profit materially from the blessing given by God through his master, the prophet Elisha.  In 2 Kings 5:20-22 we read the sad record of greed on open display.  How often this has found its way into the Christian church during the past half century.  Whether through pastors, church treasurers, or “prosperity theology”, or more subtle forms of greed, the testimony of the Christian church has been harmed at times by those who sought personal gain when OUR treasures are in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21), and we are blessed with ALL spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3, 17-19), and we have been given ALL things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4).

The sons of the prophets wanted to build (2 Kings 6:2) and Elisha gave his approval but the axe head fell into the water.  The iron axe head was made to float and they were able to continue their work.  Any time the work of God expands, we can expect that the enemy of our souls will seek to hinder the work of God, as in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  They were cutting down trees at the river Jordan, and the axe head fell off.  When we seek to walk in the Spirit and to reckon ourselves dead unto sin, and alive unto our Lord Jesus Christ, as discussed in Romans 6 to 8. We can expect opposition, even if from within ourselves.  Only the power of God can cause iron to float, and only the power of God will help us.

The Syrians came against the Israelites, and God caused them to be struck with blindness (2 Kings 6:18).  But what happened before that ?  In verses 16 and 17 we see that Elisha asked for the young man’s eyes to be opened and he was able to see that “those that be with us are more than those that be with them”.  After the tragedy in the life of Gehazi, the new helper to Elisha is not even named.  I believe there is a lesson for us in this.  When we cause our lives to be all about our Lord Jesus Christ, and not about us and our own personal gain and recognition, we can expect the blessing of God on our lives. 

“The blessing of the Lord, it makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” Proverbs 10:22 

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord” (James 4:10) 

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5-6)  

Humility and generosity can be very effective! Despite calls for revenge, Elisha prayed that the Syrian armies eyes were opened (2 Kings 6:20-23), and they were fed and sent home.

We do not often attempt to “kill our enemies with kindness”.  That approach is not always possible, but as much as we can, we should live at peace with all men (Romans 12:18), even our enemies.  God can show us exactly what to do, even in the most difficult of circumstances.  One facet of this story is that there is a spiritual world which transcends any human sight or understanding.  When we walk with the Lord, we are able to see what God shows us in order to honor God and to obey His Word.  But God may hide some facts or information from us because “God is a God of knowledge and by Him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:3) Thomas wanted to touch the prints in the hands of the Lord Jesus, but “blessed are they that have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).  We can be thankful for what God does show us, but all will be revealed in a coming day of glory, and we can completely trust Him.

Troubles do come, and they did when the Syrians invaded again, and there was little food.  But God made special provision, and Elisha could see God’s plan (2 Kings 6:12, 7:1), even when the King of Israel did NOT.  Believers can look to the Lord, and not expect the government to solve the problems that face us.  The lepers had “nothing to lose”, and found out that God had (2 Kings 7:6-7) scared away the enemy.  When we don’t trust in our own cleverness and power but rely on God, we will see more solutions to our problems.  They found what they needed, and in abundance.  “This is a day of good tidings, and we hold our peace” (2 Kings 7:9).  The man who did not believe God was trampled in the gate.  Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness (Romans 4:3).  We need to believe ALL of the promises of God, to rejoice in them, and to trust God for what we cannot see now (Isaiah 26:4).

In 2 Kings 9 and 10, God inflicted judgment on the families of King Ahab and King Ahaziah, but then the Lord did bring young King Joash to power in chapter 11.  National judgment from the Lord is tempered with mercy, and when we see “bad things happen”, there is ALWAYS a reason, even if the “Why” does not appear NOW.  But God can use even the darkest moments to show us His grace (2 Cor. 8:9), and the moments of triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14) to display abundant grace towards His beloved people.  We are the continual recipients of the goodness of God (read Psalm 103 once or twice), and we need to recognize that every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of lights” (James 1:17)

Once Joash was restored as the King of Judah, he (with the help of Jehoiada) went about to restore the temple.  There was a significant delay due to apathy, a “disease” very common even today! With some strong prodding, the people contributed, and the work was completed.   God’s work needs ALL of our participation, although some may be able to help much more than others.  Our dedication and contribution matters, and God will bless our service and investment in His eternal Kingdom.

Shortly before Elisha’s passing, he was encouraging the King Jehoahaz to strike the enemy (the Syrians), and he did, although not often enough.  The picture (2 Kings 13:15-18) is seeking for complete devotion as the apostle Paul who said, “I have fought a good fight and finished my course” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).   Nearly all of the godly kings of the books of Kings and Chronicles made some blunder near the end of their lives.  We all should want to “finish well”, and to defeat the “besetting sins” and overcome the character flaws we have observed.  We need to read Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me O God, and know my heart today”.  We need to walk close to God, to obey His Word, and to depend on the Holy Spirit for guidance and preservation. 

“Unto Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy… “ (Jude 24).

And even after Elisha’s death, when the raiding bands invaded, there was a man who died and was placed in the tomb of Elisha.  The man then came back to life! (see 2 Kings 13:21)  (Compare this with Matthew 27:51-54.)  Life can indeed spring out of death !

As we reflect on the life and miracles of Elisha, we should ponder how many diverse types of people were touched by the great prophet.   Was he completely devoted? Yes!  Did he have to sacrifice? Yes!  Were there troubles? Yes!  Was there unexpected tragedy?  Yes!  Was God faithful?  Yes! 

What will be the fruit of our lives, and will there be a legacy that we leave to those close to us, and to those with whom with have shared from God’s precious Word ?

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go, and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my Name He may give you” (John 15:16)

 

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Don DeGraafDon DeGraaf is an Ohio native, a computer programmer by trade, with much family time as the 2nd of 48 grandchildren, and father of six. He reads widely and exhaustively, and enjoys meditating on the Holy Scriptures, and His primary desire is to encourage and to disciple others to walk closely to our precious Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Holly SandsGod’s Grace as Shown in the Life of Elisha by Don DeGraaf