Elisha proclaimed deliverance, but the captain responded with a cynical, unbelieving heart. Elisha told the captain that he would see God’s provision and the people would eat, but he would not eat any of it, for he would die. Enter the four unnamed lepers.
Shockingly, when the four lepers got to see the Syrians’ camp, they found no Syrians. The Lord made the Syrians hear the sound of a great army, so they fled. The lepers eventually went and told the king’s household the news. But the king didn’t believe it. Then one of the king’s servants proposed a reasonable solution: send some men to check it out, and these men found the lepers’ story to be true.
Elisha’s words then came to pass, including what he said about the captain. The rushing mob “trampled him in the gate” and he died (vv. 17,20). God takes unbelief seriously and puts it to shame as He brings to pass His plans and purposes in the world.
Are you hesitant to believe the promises of God? Why or why not?
The context of this story involves war and famine, which probably was the result of Israel’s unfaithfulness. Syria executed a full invasion on Israel. Because their siege on Israel lasted for an extended period of time, the conditions were terrible in Israel. Some were selling donkey’s heads and dove’s dung for ridiculously high prices (v. 25).
The poor were so driven to desperation that some were eating human beings (v. 28). This particular story isn’t only pitiful physically; it’s also pitiful morally. Notice that the issue wasn’t with eating a child but in the failure to keep a mutual agreement.
In response, the king was distressed. In anguish, he tore his clothes, a symbol of repentance (v. 30). Because this was a story of divine judgment, it would have been right for the king to repent. However, Joram (or Jehoram) didn’t have a real heart for repentance. As we read next, he didn’t patiently trust in and wait on God for deliverance. He acted like his mother, Jezebel, seeking to kill the prophet. He may have had sackcloth on the outside, but that didn’t make up for his unrepentant heart.
Have you ever practiced false repentance? What hinders your true repentance at times?
This remarkable story highlights the kindness of the prophet, who reflected the kindness of our God. Instead of having the king of Israel kill the raiders of Syria, the prophet told the king to feed them. A feast was prepared for the raiders before they were sent home. Following this dramatic turn of events, you would expect to see the heart of the king of Syria melt before the God of grace. But that didn’t happen (v. 24). He hardened his heart against God.
Sadly, despite being blessed by Yahweh, many refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior. Every gift and success that a person has comes from the hand of God, Maker of heaven and earth. In response to God’s revealing grace, Paul says that people sinfully exchange the glory of the Creator for created things. Because they suppress the truth revealed to them, they’re without excuse and therefore condemned (Rom. 1:18-25). When it comes to proclaiming the gospel, since we’re dealing with hardened human hearts, we must pray for God to open eyes and transform hearts if anyone is to repent and believe and thus go from being condemned to being saved by divine grace.
How does God display His kindness and grace to the unbelieving world today?
One of the most basic prayers we can offer is that God would open up the eyes of people to see the truth of the gospel. Elisha prayed for his servant to see, and God answered this prayer, enabling the servant to see horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (v. 17). Then, once in Samaria, Elisha prayed for the Lord to open up the eyes of the Syrians (v. 20). God also answered this prayer, enabling them to see that they were in the middle of Samaria.
When Jesus was on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24, we read that Jesus gave two disciples a Bible study about the Old Testament, explaining how all of Scripture points to Him. Luke adds that in this process, Jesus “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45). We too need to give ourselves to the careful study of Scripture, and we too need the Lord to open our eyes that we may behold wonderful things from His Word (Ps. 119:18).
What family members and friends can you pray for by name that their eyes would see the beauty of the gospel?
At first glance, the opening story in chapter 6 seems unnecessary. Who cares about a floating ax head? Well, someone cared about it! We aren’t given his name, but one particular prophet would never forget this story about God’s miraculous provision.
God cares about world events, and He cares about giving us daily bread—or even a lost ax head. Be encouraged by this fact. This was a simple need, but it was a real need. Indeed, this is the type of care and provision Jesus ascribed to God in the Sermon on the Mount:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matt. 6:31-34)
We can take every care to God as we seek to fulfill His will for our lives. He is a God you can call out to in your emergencies and trust that He provides for His children. He may provide in “mundane” ways or “miraculous” ways, but either way, it comes from our good and gracious Father (Jas. 1:17). Trust Him. Seek Him. Believe He responds to our cries. God’s servants can rely on God to supply their needs.
What needs do you have today? Bring your petition to the Father.
Here we find one of the most fascinating and exciting portions of 2 Kings. We finished the story of Elijah in 2 Kings 2. Elijah was gone, but his ministry wasn’t. It continued, particularly through the life of his successor, Elisha.
But Elisha reminds us of more than just his mentor. As the privileged readers of the Old and New Testaments, we also see that Elisha foreshadowed the ministry of Jesus. Elisha’s ministry was a Messiah-like ministry. In fact, Elisha’s ministry was closer to the ministry of Jesus than Elijah’s in some ways, especially in the degree of compassion that he demonstrated. Like Jesus, Elisha had compassion on those in need: a widow, a barren woman, a dead son, a hungry multitude, a leper, and those in difficulty (4:1–6:7).
How do the people of God need to balance tender pastoral care with strong prophetic traits today?
The passing of the mantle to Elisha was validated in three signs. One, Elisha, the new Joshua, parted the Jordan River and headed toward Jericho, reversing Elijah’s steps. The company of prophets realized that Elijah had passed his prophetic work on to Elisha, so they revered him as the new representative of God for Israel.
Two, the men of Jericho said something lethal was in the water causing humans and animals to miscarry and die. Historically, Joshua had cursed anyone who would try to rebuild Jericho (Josh. 6:26), and during Ahab’s reign, someone did pay the price of that curse (1 Kings 16:34). Through Elisha’s miracle, the city that was under a curse now received a blessing from Yahweh—fresh, healthy water.
Three, as Elisha traveled to Bethel, some boys came out of the city to ridicule this new Joshua who had come to pagan Bethel to root out Canaanite worship. In saying, “Go up, you baldhead!” they essentially meant “Get out of here; we don’t want anything to do with you.” In their mockery these guys are showing contempt and hostility toward Yahweh and His representative. So Elisha brought on God’s judgment against these mockers, and she-bears attack the boys (see Lev. 26:21-22). God will not be mocked; He will have the last word (Gal. 6:7).
What are some ways you can stand for the honor of God when He is mocked in this world?
Elisha would not let Elijah shake him. Most scholars believe the point of his not leaving Elijah’s side was to test whether Elisha would count the cost of discipleship, probably a final test to see if he would persist. We see something of our own call here—to forsake all for the glory of the Name. The question for us, like Elisha, is will we persist and persevere? This is the sign of the true disciple: delighting in God above all else and persevering in the faith and the mission. Elisha was a true disciple, for he had forsaken all, burning the plows, to follow Elijah. And this wouldn’t be the last time disciples would forsake all to follow a great prophet!
Elijah went on to his eternal reward without tasting death because God is in control of death and can overrule it. Elisha saw his mentor taken away, just as he hoped, but he also was sad and showed signs of sorrow over his loss (v. 12). Yet he would get up and persist in the mission to which he was called.
This text leaves us with some questions: Will we count the cost? Will we persist? Will we seek the glory of God over our own? Will we rely on God’s power to speak God’s Word faithfully in places of darkness?
What tests of your perseverance in the faith are you currently facing?
Ahaziah continued in the evil ways of his wicked father, Ahab (see 1 Kings 22:51-53). He had seen the gracious and harsh acts of God toward Ahab, and yet, he followed in the evil path of his father anyway. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as this passage highlights.
When parents detest God or minimize Him, they shouldn’t be surprised when their children do the same. When we passively and implicitly teach our children that God isn’t important, our children will live that story out. Parents who inadvertently teach their children that the world revolves around them by regularly skipping corporate worship for other things shouldn’t be surprised when, later in life, their kids don’t see the local church as a big deal. Children will be influenced by what they have been taught, whether it was explicit or implicit.
What are some simple but important ways parents can disciple their children?
Never forget the cost of discipleship and the importance of having godly relationships in your life. Both of these essentials are expressed in this passage.
We see Elisha’s total abandonment of all things to follow this prophetic calling. The call to follow Jesus will also involve sacrificing certain things. It’s a privilege to follow Jesus, yet it’s also costly. But every true saint who has followed Jesus for years can testify that the reward reveals the sacrifice is actually quite small because Jesus is better than everything.
Then we also read in verse 21 how Elisha arose, followed Elijah, and assisted him—a picture of intimacy and companionship. In 2 Kings 2:12, Elisha called Elijah “father,” indicating the intimacy the two shared. Remember, Elijah had previously been isolated and discouraged. But now he received the blessing of being with Elisha and preparing him for the work ahead.
Who are the people in your life who bring you spiritual refreshment? Thank God for them.