The Prophet Series: Elisha, part 12
The Prophet Series: Elisha part 12.
2KI 4:38-41 When Elisha returned to Gilgal, there was a famine in the land. As the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant, "Put on the large pot and boil stew for the sons of the prophets." Then one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, for they did not know what they were. So they poured it out for the men to eat. And it came about as they were eating of the stew, that they cried out and said, "O man of God, there is death in the pot." And they were unable to eat. But he said, "Now bring meal." And he threw it into the pot, and he said, "Pour it out for the people that they may eat." Then there was no harm in the pot.
This seems at first glance to be a rather insignificant event. We may wonder why the sacred scriptures include it. However, as those who know that not the smallest letter or stroke of the word of God will pass away, we are sure that this contains a significant lesson, and I assure you it has several.
A famine was a significant danger in that time. We live in a day when food and water are transported across the world in a matter of hours. Only in the most corrupt and ungoverned nations does famine become a matter of life and death. In the days of our narrative, many lives are at stake.
In the famine God's servant is sent to His people.
Elisha, a type of the person of Christ, is sent from Mt. Carmel to the school of the prophets at Gilgal in the Jordan Valley. God takes special charge of His servants and God remembers His own when calamity is all around. All things are subsequent to God's touch. Death may be turned aside at His bidding and His people may be delivered when famine is all around.
No matter what may come, death or life, the word of God continues to be supplied to His own. We find the sons of the prophets sitting before Elisha, who does what he loves best, teach the principles and doctrines of God's sacred revelation. How could it be that they will all end up dead when the lesson and the dinner are over? There is a reason that they will not die, but it is not only because of their status as saints.
Certainly, there is nothing to stop their death other than God, but there is no guarantee that He will. We know that God's children die in all the same manners as everyone else. Saints die tragically, of sickness, of disease, war, old age, and of famine. The prophets are not immune to the famine. We find them putting unknown gourds into the pot to increase its calories. God's people are not preserved from the common evils of this world. They are sustained and helped in them.
The reason the prophets will not die this day is that they are with Elisha, but it is not only because Elisha is a prophet, although that is significant, but that Elisha is a type of Christ, perhaps more than any other prophet. The sons of the prophets (a title for the attendants of the prophetic school) are, in typology, gathered around Christ and after hearing Him teach, they are about to dine with Him. Would we think that they would be poisoned at such a dinner?
In application to us, it would not be physical death that we would be concerning ourselves with. If we are with the Lord, walking in fellowship with Him, beholding His face in the Holy of Holies in heaven, abiding in Him, then we walk in life, which is light, and not death, i.e. out of fellowship. Fellowship is communication. He speaks with us and we with Him. He speaks to us through His word and Spirit and we speak to Him by walking in the Spirit, applying His word, thanking Him, being in awe of Him, praising Him, and praying through Him.
Walking death is not physical death but a mind set on the flesh. The mind set on the thing of the Spirit is life.
ROM 8:5-6 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.
The sons of the prophets sitting around Elisha are walking in life and peace. "There is no harm in the pot." They are no more in harm's way then when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus.
There is another comfort in times of affliction such as this famine. Affliction brings God's people together and unites them. In the first ages of Christianity, when it was illegal to be Christian and when persecution cropped up in various places in the Roman Empire, there was but one church. It would take about 300 years for Christianity to become the official religion of Rome and for almost all persecution to cease. Christians no longer had to meet in secret, in catacombs or cemeteries. They could now meet openly, and the very first church buildings began to be erected. The church grew in prosperity and worldly greatness; and as worldly ideas infiltrated her ranks, the church became divided and it has remained that way ever since.
Some hold on very tightly to their secondary points of theology, which is right for them to do, but they hold them in the wrong manner. They are used as points of repulsion or as doctrinal weapons to push other Christians, who agree wholeheartedly on the primary points, to the outside. Could they not simply discuss and debate the secondary points in light of the sacred scripture since both parties agree in its inerrancy and complete plenary inspiration by God? If they fully agree on the gospel, the dual nature of Christ, dispensations, grace, revelation, etc. could they not discuss all things and could they not both grow in wisdom as they study together in the church? Could they not debate secondary points in gentleness and love and patience? Unfortunately, such unity has been rare, and it only increases in times of trial and persecution. Too often it has been heralded, "I am of Paul, I of Apollos, I of Cephas, I of Christ."
Elisha understands their spiritual and physical needs.
While Elisha was ministering to the souls of his hearers, he was not forgetful of their temporal needs. However, he was not a Martha type overburdened with them. He knows that the Lord will provide, Yavah Jareh. He simply stated that it was time to nourish themselves. The group seems to know how to get along with humble means. And that is the key, not just getting along with humble means or prosperity, but "how" to. We submit to both of them as we would to any aspect of God's will, and in the midst of them, we follow the instructions of our Lord. Our graciousness, love, giving, service, etc. do not decline because we find ourselves under humble means.
In prosperity we are righteously thankful and joyful and under adversity and trail we are righteously meek and also thankful. Both situations come from the same Lord who sends the sun and the rain on both the righteous and the wicked. However, among the righteous, all things work together for good to those that love Him. If it is coming from Him, we prefer the lowliest diet over the richest banquet from the world.
Poison in the pot.
Elisha instructs his servant to prepare the stew. This is Gehazi, a man who is very good at congenial work, but not a spiritual man. It is hard to discern why Elisha employs him. Perhaps it is to win his soul or perhaps it is a direct mandate from God. Gehazi as a servant of Elisha and the sons of the prophets in the daily meal is a great contrast to the first deacons of the church who were called for this purpose.
ACT 6:3 "But select from among you, brethren, seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task."
A person selected for such a position should not be a novice believer, but he should also not be an experienced believer who has the wrong experience of doing service in the power of the flesh, who as a result has become hardened and secularized. Gehazi makes a poisoned stew. Of course, he didn't know it at the time, but it is the allegory that we are looking at. A man like Gehazi will only make a poisoned pot of stew, though he himself may be convinced that it is clean and nourishing.
The poison on the pot is analogous to false doctrine, secular means, and/or superstitious rituals mixed into the church that poison the meal. The minister or leader may think he is doing God's will in incorporating such things, perhaps thinking that the ends justify the means, but that is never the case. No procedure, technique, or method will inactivate the poison. It must be removed!
One may ask, why does God allow poison in His church at all? Though the sincere Christian may ask this question from time to time, he eventually remembers that he must suffer for Christ's sake. If we think God should remove all poisons from the church then it is just a small step to determine that he should remove all problems from the church and all trials from the lives of Christians. All these are on earth until the end of time, but none of them will be in heaven. So we conclude that it must be the case that they are either all present or none present. The believer needs to know that it was good that he was afflicted. It caused him to draw closer to Christ, the only Deliverer.
The flour - the Bread of Life - the word of God
Elisha tosses meal or flour into the pot, but there is no power in the flour. The power is in the Lord who would have revealed the method to Elisha. The flour represents the truth, including the gospel. As the flour removes the poison from that meal, so the truth, alive and powerful, will remove the poison from whatever it is that we are facing, false doctrines, trial, persecution, etc. However, the poison gourds, false doctrines and the false teachers who peddle them, are all over this world. They will show up again and again. We need not fear. There is plenty of flour, the bread of life, to throw upon them.
We must always be careful not to alter the word of God with any humanistic or secular ideas. If we do, it is not the flour needed for the poison, but it will only increase the potency of the poison. The unadulterated word of God is more than sufficient, and as it is pure from heaven, we must not modify it in any way. The word of God belongs to God. It is not our to recreate in order to pander it to others. When the simplicity and purity of the word of God is consumed, there is "no harm in the pot."
The Lord bless you and keep you,