Elijah and Elisha 1.
We have been in the book of Malachi for over a year. Today we are moving on to something new! A few months back I was down at “the Palms” and I happened to meet up with Murray and Heather. We got to talking and Heather suggested that it would be good to have a series on Elijah and Elisha. I have actually done a series on Elijah before – but it must have been quite a while back now. But I considered it and thought it might be quite a good idea; one, because I could make use of my previous notes; but also, because it follows on from where we were at the end of Malachi. Last time I spoke, we read: [P] [Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of יהוה.] and I did wee thumb-nail sketch of Elijah the prophet. Here we are approaching the last days, the great and terrible day of יהוה is coming; what could be more relevant than to look at the one who precedes that day, so that we may recognise and be prepared for the one who will come before? We are looking for the coming of Jesus – but this one is coming before Him. Before Jesus returns, Elijah comes. Malachi calls him: “Elijah the prophet” [P]. A prophet is simply a man who hears יהוה [P] and then speaks to the people what he has heard. He is a messenger boy. His task is to simply pass on what he has heard. To be faithful – to faithfully convey the word of יהוה – no ad-libbing, interpreting, giving your own opinion – just pass on the message true to what he has heard. A prophet is a man who hears יהוה’s voice! [P] One to whom יהוה speaks! Now that is an awesome thing! You sometimes hear Christians say “God told me this”, or “the Lord told me that”. But to hear from God is no trivial thing! It is an awesome thing to hear from the eternal One! The One who is from everlasting to everlasting! The One who created all things, called all things into being, who is sustaining them continually by the word of His power! The One from whom are all things, through whom are all things, and to whom are all things! The sovereign LORD of the universe! The One who has all power! All dominion! Absolute sovereignty! Who controls all things! Who knows all things! – past, present, future. Not just events but thoughts and intentions of the heart of every creature that He has made. This One speaks to a mere man?! His voice is heard! This is no trivial matter! Not: “Yep I got that, now what’s for lunch?” The prophet has heard יהוה’s voice speaking to him – but he is more than a tape recorder, transmitting the words. He conveys the Spirit in which they are spoken. That is why the message is an oracle, a burden. It weighs heavy on the prophet. Prophets are eminently men of the Spirit. They are anointed of God – have the anointing of the Holy Spirit. They have stood in the presence of יהוה Himself. Their commission is to convey what is on His heart to the people. [Jeremiah 23:9 As for the prophets: my heart is broken within me, all my bones tremble; I have become like a drunken man, even like a man overcome with wine, because of יהוה and because of His holy words.] The message from יהוה overcame Him, had a physical impact on him, such was its power. But in Jeremiah’s day the word of יהוה was treated lightly, trivially. All sorts were getting up and saying “Thus says the LORD …” when יהוה had not spoken at all. They were prophesying falsely. Prophesying what the people wanted to hear: peace, prosperity, plenty, trouble won’t come – just as it is today. But the genuine hearing from יהוה was utterly other: [Jeremiah 23:18-22 “But who has stood in the council of יהוה, that he should see and hear His word!? Who has given heed to His word and listened? Behold, the storm of יהוה has gone forth in wrath, even a whirling tempest; it will swirl down on the head of the wicked. The anger of יהוה will not turn back until He has performed and carried out the purposes of His heart; in the last days you will clearly understand it. I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied. But if they had stood in My council, then they would have announced My words to My people, (that is the true prophet) and would have turned them back from their evil way (that is repentance) and from the evil of their deeds.] The false prophets were saying: “I have had a dream” – boasting of their revelation; יהוה said [Jeremiah 23:28-29 “The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. (that is the true, the genuine prophet). What does straw have in common with grain?” (false prophecy compared to true prophecy) declares יהוה. “Is not My word like fire?” declares יהוה, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”] The true prophet has stood in the council of יהוה Himself! He has seen and heard יהוה’s word! That word is powerful and effective: a fire that consumes evil, and hammer that breaks the hardest heart of stone. The message burns within the prophet – he must speak it out! [P] [Jeremiah 20:9 But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His Name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.] – he has to speak it out. That is the voice of the prophet – straight from יהוה, delivered with fire because he has been in the very presence of the Living God and seen His heart. It is יהוה’s word delivered in the power of His Holy Spirit with the very heart and passion in which it came forth from the mouth of God! And that, beloved, is our crying need in these last days! For the voice of the prophet! Cry out to God that He will send His prophet in the spirit and power of Elijah! Out great need is to hear יהוה’s voice [P] [Amos 8:11-12 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord יהוה, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of יהוה. People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of יהוה, but they will not find it.] There has never been a time when we have had such access to God’s word. The Scriptures are translated into many languages and we have multiple translations in English. We have commentaries, devotionals, reading helps, Bible colleges, on-line sermons, videos. But for all that – where is the voice of יהוה?! Not that passage that is studied and analyzed but the fire that consumes and the hammer that breaks the rock?! As it was in the days of young Samuel [1 Samuel 3:1 Now the boy Samuel was ministering to יהוה before Eli. And word from יהוה was rare in those days, visions were infrequent.] You know the story, then יהוה spoke to Samuel – he thought that it was Eli calling him, until the old priest finally realized. There was God speaking and it took 3 times before Eli twigged! God can be speaking and we don’t even get it! Then Eli told Samuel to go back and told him how to respond: [1 Samuel 3:10 Then יהוה came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.”] We need to hear יהוה speaking – the voice of the prophet. In Paul’s day the people in the church in Corinth were getting very excited about the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. And today people still get excited by the thrilling, the supernatural. Paul was not against such manifestations but he corrected their wrong priorities. He said: [1 Corinthians 12:31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts. And I show you a still more excellent way.] And he showed them the prime importance of love in that glorious chapter 13. Then Paul went on to say: [1 Corinthians 14:1 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy.] In contrast to speaking in tongues: [1 Corinthians 14:3–5 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues.] He returns to this again at the end of the chapter, summarizing what he had been saying: [1 Corinthians 14:39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. ] THE great need was to be hearing from God, to have the gift of prophecy operating in the church. Our great need is to hear יהוה’s voice! We need the prophetic voice! It used to be a real burden of mine. Sad to say, it has faded somewhat; but the need, as we approach the end times, is greater than ever. Will you join me in praying for this? That יהוה will send, as He promised, the prophet to prepare the way for His return. Now there are some with a great interest in prophecy – they want to know the future, some have studied in great detail and are sure that they know exactly what is going to take place and have the chronology all sewn up. But although prophecy in some instances includes the foretelling of what will take place in the future – primarily it is a forth-telling – as I have been saying: a proclaiming of the word of יהוה. Prophecy is not about telling about what will happen in the future. Do you know what prophecy is all about? [Revelation 19:10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. (that is the angel who revealed what would take place) But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”] There it is twice in that verse: “the testimony of Jesus”. [P] This is a good guide to the genuineness of prophecy: is it bearing witness to Jesus? Jesus is the subject of prophecy. The whole spirit of prophecy it to bear witness to Him! [John 5:39 “You search the Scriptures (the majority of which is books of prophecy) because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me!] What were the prophets seeking to find out in their revelations in the presence of God? [1 Peter 1:10-11 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. ] Here were these prophets searching for the great spiritual mystery that was yet to be revealed. They sought revelation – who was giving them that revelation? – the Spirit of Christ! What was that Spirit testifying to? – to Christ, His suffering and glorification. Prophecy was testifying to Jesus. What were the prophets searching for? – for the Messiah, for Jesus. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy! Malachi had prophesied: [P] [Malachi 4:5 “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of יהוה.] – that the prophet Elijah [P] would come. Now there had been those who prophesied before Elijah – I mentioned Samuel and his call; but his occupation was at first serving in the tabernacle and later as judge of Israel. Genesis tells us that Abraham was a prophet: to Abimelech יהוה said: [Genesis 20:7 “Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live.”] – but he was primarily a patriarch, a keeper of livestock. Even earlier was Enoch; Jude tells us: [Jude 14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones,] – so he was a prophet also. Moses prophesied, as did David; there had been many who had spoken יהוה’s message. But Elijah was a prophet, period. That was his profession; he was nothing else, just a prophet. Elisha was the same. They both maintained schools of prophets where they trained men to prophesy: to hear from יהוה and speak His message. [Hebrews 1:1-2 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.] There were many prophets, but Jesus is the perfect Prophet – He spoke יהוה’s message. It says repeatedly in the Gospel of John that He only spoke what His Father gave Him to speak; [John 8:28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. John 8:38 “I speak the things which I have seen with My Father.” John 12:49 “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. John 14:10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.] What He heard He passed on. Even Jesus did not speak His own words, but those that He heard in the presence of His Father – a true prophet! Malachi names the prophet as Elijah. The name was important, not just “My messenger” as in chapter 3 but “Elijah”. So what’s the big deal about the name? The great bard himself said: [P] “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” But Shakespeare is wrong! I never did have much time for Shakespeare. He was saying that the name doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you call it a “rose” or “stinkwort” it would still be the same. Juliet was saying it didn’t matter whether Romeo had the name “Capulat” or “Montague” – it made no difference, he would still smell the same. Titles and designations don’t make any difference. We used to proclaim it in the playground: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!” Shakespeare said that the name made no difference – and he may have something to say about our prejudices and preconceptions that we associate with different labels; but in the Bible name does matter. Various people had their names changed: like Abram to Abraham, Simon to Peter, Jacob to Israel. The name meant something! And יהוה doesn’t just say that He is going to send a prophet, He specifies him by name: Elijah [P]. What does Elijah mean? In Hebrew the generic term for “god” was “אֵל” – when referring to the One true God, יהוה; they used a plural form: “אֱלֹהִים” – because although “יהוה our God, יהוה is one” – He is plural: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So the “El” in Elijah is “God”, “Eli” is “my God”. The “jah” bit is a contraction of “יהוה”. So “Elijah” means “my God is יהוה”. What a statement in the idolatrous days of Ahab when multitudes were saying Baal was god, or Asherah was god! “Elijah” could also be translated: “יהוה is God” [P]. This was the issue in Elijah’s day! Who is God?! On Mount Carmel when there was the contest with the 450 prophets of Baal [1 Kings 18:20-22 So Ahab sent a message among all the sons of Israel and brought the prophets together at Mount Carmel. Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If יהוה is God, follow Him; (there is the issue spelled out – who is God? יהוה or Baal?) but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word. (They were not prepared to make a decision, commit themselves. Just like many today.) Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of יהוה, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.] The issue was who is God? It still is! Elijah proposed a contest and said: [1 Kings 18:24 “Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of יהוה, and the God who answers by fire, He is God.” And all the people said, “That is a good idea.”] It was a contest to prove who was God! Of course their idols could do nothing and יהוה was shown to be all powerful; the fire fell from heaven. This is what Elijah prayed: [1 Kings 18:36-37 At the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O יהוה, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, today let it be known that You are God (there is the issue again) in Israel and that I am Your servant and I have done all these things at Your word. (there is the prophet: hearing from יהוה and doing what He said) “Answer me, O יהוה, answer me, that this people may know that You, O יהוה, are God, and that You have turned their heart back again.”] Again, the whole purpose of this encounter was to show that יהוה is God! Then יהוה responded to Elijah’s prayer: [1 Kings 18:38-39 Then the fire of יהוה fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “יהוה, He is God; יהוה, He is God!”] The people knew the issue. They could not deny the truth before their very eyes! They said it twice: “יהוה הוּא הָאֱלֹהִים” What does Elijah mean? יהוה is God! What did the contest on Mount Carmel prove? יהוה is God! What did the people say: יהוה is God! What is the issue that needs to be decided upon by every person even to this day? That יהוה is God! Many, like those in Elijah’s day prefer to sit on the fence, to defer on the issue, to not make an issue of it – there are other concerns to be taken up with. But you cannot have a bob each way on this one. I have told the story before of my last day at school. I went to a Christian school but it has to be admitted that my conduct was not that of an exemplary Christian. I was a rebel and had no respect for the school or what it stood for, and least of all for the principal of the school. I spent 7 years at that school and was not once challenged about my stance and concerning Christian things until my very last day. To finish up you had to return all your books and get various forms signed; last of all you had to see the principal to get your leaving form signed. So in I went to see the principal. I thought let’s get in and out of there as quickly as possible. So I handed over my form but it was not signed and handed back as I had anticipated. Eric asked me where I stood regarding the LORD. Look, I didn’t need this – the plan was get out and leave the place forever. So I gave what I thought was a gracious diplomatic answer. I said, “I think Christianity has an important part to play in life.” There, I hadn’t offended or insulted anybody, I’d been respectful – now just sign the form. But the principal said to me, “Paul, you cannot sit on the fence.” Well, he signed the form and I scarpered. What a pathetic aphorism. It was not particularly profound or original or challenging – water off a duck’s back. I never took any notice of anything the principal said anyway. But that stupid saying stuck with me for 8 years. Not that I was thinking about it all the time, but it came back. He was right! You cannot sit on the fence: [P] “If יהוה be God follow Him!” Many try to avoid the choice – but ultimately you cannot. And the choice has implications! Following Him! What did Jesus do? He called disciples to follow Him! You need to decide if יהוה is God, if Jesus is God as He claims. Many hold to the lie that all came into being by chance, by some cosmic accident, that there is no God, none to whom we are accountable. Elijah comes as a stark denial of that! יהוה is God! And that has implications on the way you are going to live! Elijah came “before” the coming of the day of the LORD, to prepare the way, to turn people back to יהוה; but going “before” implies there is one who comes after. Who came after Elijah? Elisha! [P] And what does the name “Elisha” mean? We saw that the “El” bit meant “God”; so what does the “sha” bit mean? “Salvation”! Elisha means “my God is salvation” “God is my salvation” “God is Saviour” [P]. Jesus said [Matthew 11:14 “And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.] Who came after John? Jesus! What does the name Jesus mean: “יהוה is salvation”; “יהוה, my salvation”. Elijah’s message was: “You’ve had it! Gone the wrong way! Away from God! Return because wrath is coming!” Elijah shows you the mess you are in; Elisha’s message is that there is a way out of the predicament! You need to be rescued! Be saved! You have to turn but you cannot make it yourself. You need to rely on another to get you out of your mess. [P] You need a Saviour! Not only is יהוה the true God, but that God is also a Saviour! Hallelujah! Jesus referred to the ministry of Elisha – [Luke 4:27 “And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”] He prophetically prefigured the salvation of the Gentiles: Naaman was a Syrian, not a Jew, not one of יהוה’s people. Great though he was in position and power, he had a problem that he couldn’t deal with – and each of us is the same! He came to Elisha covered in leprosy, covered in sin, unclean, outcast. He expected Elisha to do something great and impressive; but no, Elisha didn’t even come down to him, he was humbled, had to wash in the dirty Jordan River. He was incensed! But a wise servant said to him: [2 Kings 5:13 “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”] There was nothing he could do, it was not by his works and efforts, nor by payment – simply wash and be clean. Humbly come and submit to the provision of cleansing in the blood of Jesus. [2 Kings 5:14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.] He was made a new creation – skin like a child’s. So what is the message of these two men? First we need to face up to the question of who is God. That יהוה is God! That we must turn from going our own way, the wrong way, and follow Him, go His way – REPENT! [P] The second is that having gone the wrong way we need to be saved – saved from the wrath of God that is coming as a consequence of our rebellion against Him, the only true God. But we cannot save ourselves, we need to rely on God’s provision of salvation – we need to BELIEVE! [P] As Paul said to the Philippian jailor: [Acts 16:30-31 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”] [P] [Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”] This is what I preach out at the prison – some do 4 spiritual laws – but that is too many for me, I am a bear of simple brain – only two, 1/ repent and 2/ believe; the messages of Elijah and Elisha. The message is still the only message for today. We need to face the issue that יהוה is God – that we are accountable to Him, yet we have gone our own way, rebelled against Him and so there is going to come judgement. But, praise His Name!, that God is also Saviour – He has made a way out, a way to be rescued from our terrible predicament. There is a way to be cleansed; the way is in His Son for those who will turn from their own way and put their trust in Him. The basic Gospel message – you may think that it is “old hat”, don’t teach us to suck eggs, basic stuff that we have moved on from. There is no other message. That is it! We need to be saved. We need to face the reality of who יהוה is; that He is God. We desperately need Him, for Him to save us; and He is the only One who can.