Thursday, April 7, 2016
Prophets And Kings, Day 60. Two Acts Of Elisha
Prophets And Kings
Two Acts Of Elisha
INTRODUCTION BY BELINDA
Yesserday Elijah weres taken to heaven in a whirlwind and now Elisha has inherited the Spirit Elijah hads. Today we study two of the things Elisha dids at the beginnin of hims ministry.
2 KINGS 2:19-25
"The people of the city said to Elisha, 'Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.'" (2 Kings 19:19) This statement is actually a request, similar to the way Mary the mother of Jesus made a request to Him at the wedding in Cana. She came to him and said, "They have no more wine." (John 2:2b) Even though these things are phrased as statements, they are requests from men who have the power to do something about the need.
Sometimes we talk to the Lord this way. We might say, "Lord, I'm so discouraged about what's happened." Or, "Lord, I wish my mother would get well." Or, "Lord, I wish I could find a better job so I won't keep getting behind on my bills." The Lord knows these are requests even though we phrase them as statements. We are telling Him these things because He has the power to do something about them.
In today's passage, the people of the city are asking Elisha to do something when they tell him how bad the water is. The city is in a great location and there is plenty of land for crops but the water is too bad for irrigation. It's causing a hardship on the people. They are having to carry water from long distances. It would be so nice if the water source in the city was pure. In telling Elisha this, they are letting him know they realize he is a man of God who has power from the Lord. Elisha is happy to help them. "'Bring me a bowl,' he said, and put salt in it.' So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, 'This is what the Lord says: 'I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.' And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken." (2 Kings 2:21-22) When the Lord heals something, it stays healed. When the Lord makes something pure, it stays pure.
In the Bible, salt is a purifying ingredient. Incense offered to God was blended with salt. The grain offerings were blended with salt. Sacrifices were presented with salt. The Lord Jesus says of His followers that we are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) Because we are purified by Him, we are a purifying presence wherever we go. Our lives in Christ should be an example at all times, wherever we are and whatever we're doing. Who knows how the salt of our lives will affect those around us? Our co-workers might come to Christ. Our family members might come to Christ. Our friends and neighbors and acquaintances might come to Christ because we have lived before them in such a way that they saw Jesus in us. They saw something in us they wanted for themselves: the peace and joy that comes only from a relationship with our Lord.
Elisha leaves the city after purifying the water and makes his way to Bethel. And at Bethel he is in danger of being set upon by a group of young fellows who don't want him in their town. "From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. 'Get out of here, baldy!' they said. 'Get out of here, baldy!'" (2 Kings 2:23) The word that is translated "boys" here is translated in other passages as "young men". I think these guys were probably in their teens, not small children. I picture them as a group of tough young men hanging out on the street corner, accosting passersby, respecting no persons, having no fear of God or His prophets. Some Bible scholars speculate that these young men were accustomed to treating prophets arriving at Bethel this way. Idolatry was rampant at Bethel and these young rebels have no use for the word of God.
My background study indicates that a literal translation of what these guys are saying is, "Go up! Go up!', maybe a mockery of the news they've heard about Elijah being taken up to heaven. Maybe they don't believe it. Maybe they think it's a hoax Elijah and Elisha have pulled off. Maybe they are telling Elisha they wish he'd just go on up to heaven too and get out of their way. These youths are about to meet with an unusual and frightening form of punishment and I think the severity of their punishment gives us a clue about the severity of the wickedness in their hearts. Something in them has no desire for God, no regard for Him, no respect for Him. They are publicly rejecting God. Everything in their hearts is pushing Him away as hard as they can. Their attitude may have been something like the attitude the Lord condemns in Psalm 50, "You hate My instruction and cast My words behind you...You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue for deceit." We don't know how long they've been doing this, but for all of us there comes a last chance. The Lord speaks to our hearts again and again in various ways and when we reject His words and His love, we aren't assured another chance. We don't know if we have a tomorrow. That's why the Lord says that today is the day of salvation. (Hebrews 3:15) Today is all we have. Nobody has promised us tomorrow.
"He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria." (2 Kings 2:24-25) When the author says forty-two of the boys were mauled, this indicates there were more than forty-two boys gathered there. This was no small gathering of young children playing on the sidewalk and making fun of a bald man. This was a gang of young teen hooligans, more than able to beat and rob Elisha or even kill him. Imagine you are a middle-aged or older man entering Bethel by yourself, knowing it's an idolatrous town that esteems prophets very little. And as you round the corner, fifty or more young men are standing there mocking you, calling you names, screaming for you to get out. This would be a frightening confrontation. Elisha is outnumbered and unarmed and so he uses the only weapon he has: the word of the Lord.
I once heard today's passage of Scripture criticized, claiming that Elisha called for bears to come and eat some small children, but as we see this is not anywhere close to the truth. The Bible doesn't say that the young men were killed, just that they were mauled. Forty-two of them received injuries but I suspect they all survived. This startling event may have served as a wake-up call for them. If so, we see the mercy and grace of God at work. He gave them another opportunity to repent and be healed. He let them live another day on this earth in which to turn to Him and be made pure. Because, as we learned when Elisha threw the salt in the water, when God heals someone they stay healed. When God makes someone pure they stay pure.