A Perfectly Practical Prophet.
“And sure enough, there was plenty for all and some left over, just as the LORD had promised.” – 2 Kings 4:44 NLT
The prophets of the Bible get a bad rap. They’re typically seen as socially awkward, hyper-spiritualists who never have anything good to say, but were always spouting doom and gloom and warning about the coming wrath of God. They weren’t exactly the kind of guys you would invite to a dinner party. They were loners who had the unenviable job of acting as God’s spokesmen to a generation of people who were refusing to live for God. We usually know little about them other than the few times they appear on the scene to dispense bad news. But in the story of Elisha we’re given a different perspective. Sure, we get to see Elisha prophesying the will of God to three powerful kings concerning a pending battle. They found themselves on the verge of battle without water for their men or horses and Elisha predicts that God will provide water for them – without rain. Not only that, God will provide them with victory over their enemies. And it all takes place just as Elisha says.
But then in chapter four we see a different side of Elisha. We see his humanity expressed in simple, practical, everyday ways. Elisha encounters a recently widowed woman who is faced with the loss of all that she has, including her two sons, because of debts she can’t pay. Her sons are about to be sold into slavery and she has no resources to keep it from happening. So she calls out to the prophet of God. And he responds by providing her with a miraculous answer to her problem. From one small vial of oil, she fills every container she can find in the house with oil – enough to sell and pay off all her debts. God used His prophet to minister to one of His own. He met a very real need in a very practical way. The prophet represented the word of the Lord. He spoke for God. As the woman faithfully obeyed the word of the Lord, spoken by the prophet, her needs were met. She was provided for.
The next story is about a prominent woman and her husband who show Elisha hospitality, providing him with a room in which to rest from his travels. As a way of repaying this couple for their kindness, Elisha asks her what he can do for her. She responds that she has all that she needs. But Elisha sees that there is one thing missing. She and her husband have no heir. There is no son to carry on his father’s name. So Elisha tells her that in one year she will bear a son – which she does. But not long after that, the son becomes ill and dies. In faith, she sends for the prophet. When she tells her husband she is going to seek the prophet and he asks her why (not knowing his son is dead), she simply replies, “It’s all right.” She had faith to believe that the prophet of God, as the representative of God, would know what to do and would have a solution to her problem. And he did. Elisha raises the son from the dead. He miraculously brings him back to life and gives him back to his mother. God worked through His prophet to restore life and return joy to this woman and her husband during their greatest time of need.
The next story involves a simple meal eaten during a time of famine. Elisha instructs his servant to prepare a stew for a group of his fellow prophets. Inadvertently, one of the men adds an ingredient to the stew that happens to be poisonous. As the men eat, they realize what has happened and become concerned that they are all going to die because they have eaten the poisonous stew. But Elisha calmly instructs them to throw some meal into the pot and informs them that it is now safe to eat. The word of God through the prophet of God averted a disaster and provided a solution to their problem.
Finally, we read of Elisha miraculously feeding 100 men with nothing more than 20 loaves of bread and some grain. In a scene reminiscent of the feeding of the 5,000 the men eat to their fill and there are leftovers when they are done. The story concludes with the words, “and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord” (2 Kings 4:44 NASB). According to the word of the Lord. That is a theme throughout these two chapters. This is not really about Elisha, but it is about God. He was merely God’s mouthpiece. He represented the word of God. He spoke for God. Today, you and I have the written Word of God. We no longer have prophets revealing new words from God. We have the completed Word of God readily available at all times. It is the revelation of God providing us with instruction, insight, wisdom, direction, and a glimpse into the character of God Himself. When we read it and obey it, God provides through it. God meets our needs through His Word. He does all things “according to” His Word. God still meets us at our point of need. He provides solutions to our problems. He feeds us, clothes us, protects us, provides for us, and goes into battle on behalf of us. His Word is practical for everyday life. It is NOT just doom and gloom, rules and regulations. It is the living, breathing, Word of God that can speak into our lives and circumstances. But like the widow in need who called out to the prophet of God, we must turn to the Word of God in our times of need. Like the woman who lost her son, we must seek the Word for a solution to our problems, AND expect God to answer. Like the men who thought they were poisoned, we must turn to God’s Word for healing from our infirmities – both physical and spiritual.
Father, Your Word is a powerful resource that we tend to overlook and sometimes ignore. Too often we treat it like the prophets were treated. We see it as negative, hard to understand, full of bad news, and not exactly fun to have around. But like Elisha, Your Word is highly practical, useful, and powerful. It is a resource with having and using. Keep me in it. Help me listen to it and live out what it says – every day of my life. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men