2 Kings 3 ends with Elisha’s prophecy of water coming into the valley being fulfilled. You may recall that Elisha had the armies dig trenches to collect water as they were very thirsty and had run out of H2O. The followed his direction and waited. “In the morning….the water arrived….a flash flood filling the valley with water”. Just like Elisha had said. The enemy – the Moabites – had lined up to “take a stand at the border” – every person who was old enough to handle a sword. As the “sun rose over the water…..the water reflecting the sun looked red like blood”. The people of Moab thought that the three armies had broken into fighting between themselves so they charge ahead to join the ruckus only to find out that was not at all what happened. God had set them up to be slaughtered. They rushed into the Israelite camp and get massacred. The result was that the army of Israel:
- leveled the towns
- littered the cultivated fields with rocks
- clogged the springs
- clear cut the orchards
Only the capital of Moab was left and not for long. The King of Moab finally sacrifices his first born son whom would succeed him “on the city wall” in front of everyone and then the Israelites stopped the destruction and returned home. Can you imagine being there that day. Elisha had told the armies who were overcome with thirst to dig trenches in the parched ground. I can only imagine the whining that would have been going on. Sure Elisha, I am really tired and thirsty and now you want me to do a bunch of work digging a hole in the dirt. It hasn’t rained here for a long time. Somewhat like Noah building an ark before they had ever experienced rain. The real secret sauce here – obedience to God’s Word. Over and over we see it happen. If we are obedient to God’s Word, be it written or spoken, it comes to fruition. God’s truth always prevails. It is dependable as clockwork. If we only learn to be obedient to the things God tells us to do, we will ALWAYS get the results God tells us we will get. It isn’t a sometimes thing. He is faithful……
Three kings set out to do war with the people of Moab who had stopped paying their tax to the king of Israel. Joram was now their king, and he was a “bad king” who “wasn’t about to give them up” – the bad habits of his lineage from days gone past. The army and animals were on the way to battle and have completely run out of water. Jehoshaphat tells the other two kings they need to call for a prophet and Elisha is the guy. Elisha doesn’t have much good to say about the trio except for Jehoshaphat, but he does tell them what to do. Remember, they are in the middle of the “badlands of Edom” and are plain out of water. Elisha tells them to “dig ditches all over this valley….this valley is going to fill with water…..your army and your animals will drink their fill”. So we have a couple kings who were not following God along with Jehoshaphat and their armies digging ditches in Edom because of Elisha’s prophecy that they will be filled up. They listen and obey. They dig and dig. Elisha also tells them they will defeat the people of Moab. God’s truth, even when obeyed by evil people, still comes true. Two of these kings were rotten to the core, yet when they followed God’s direction – they will be blessed. His Word never fails.
Chapter 2 of 2 Kings ends with a couple stories about Elisha. The first a miracle….. “men of the city said….the water is polluted and nothing grows”. Big problem for sure. We all know how important water is to life. This city has a big issue. Their supply of life sustaining water has become unusable. It is no longer giving life but death. Elisha asks for “a brand new bowl and put some salt in it”. Not exactly the miracle formula I might have expected but ok, he is the prophet. He “went to the spring, sprinkled salt into it, and proclaimed…I’ve healed this water”. And that is exactly what happened. The water was corrected and “remains so to this day”. God’s power in action through the obedience and faith of Elisha. Obviously his request from Elijah to become like him was honored by God.
The second story that ends the chapter is a who lot different. “Some little kids came out from the town and taunted him”. Elisha is on his way up to Bethel and these punk kids come out and make fun of him. Here is what they said: “What’s up, old baldhead! Out of our way, skinhead”. Gives us a little indication that Elisha didn’t have a lot of hair and was probably somewhat older. His response sort of caught me off guard here. Maybe he needs a little anger management? “Elisha turned, took one look at them, and cursed them…..two bears charged out….knocked them about…..ripping them limb from limb”. Pretty severe response to a bunch of kids – scripture tells us 42 in all – that were calling him names. Then he goes on his way. I really am struggling to understand the meaning of this little interaction other than to know that it again shows the power of God that was alive in Elisha. I can only imagine the fear and reverence it would have created in the people, and the impact it would have on the parents and families of these kids. We do need to be in control of our children. More and more I see kids out of control and parents who seem to be oblivious to that happening right in front of their eyes. God does hold us accountable to train them up right and that means to teach them to respect and honor their elders. Elisha has been given God’s power and he also has received His word. He is plugged in. There is a reason this happened even though it is not apparent to me.
Elijah asks Elisha “what can I do for you before I am taken”? That is a pretty good gift isn’t it. What would you ask for if the opportunity came to you? Would it be fame or fortune? Health or long life? Power or influence? Elisha makes a request that really gives us the central truth of discipleship. He says: “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you”. Whoa there. Elisha asks to be just like his teacher. Does anyone want to be just like you? Would you let them if they wanted to? Would it be good if your “life….repeated”? I have thought about that and there are certainly parts of my life I don’t want repeated. Mistakes I have made, selfish attitudes and living that are not godly. Plenty of things that would be better left behind. Yet Elijah offers up anything to Elisha and he asks to be just like him. Reminds me of the “be like Mike” commercials that used to run on TV. Who wants to “be like Jeff, or Zach, or Jim, or Gundar, or……………”. You get the idea guys. I could stick anyone’s name in that question. God desires us to reproduce and “bear fruit” that is just like us. Have you ever noticed what kind of fruit an apple tree produces? Dumb question? Sort of but the answer is that apple trees produce apples. Orange trees produce oranges. Erick produces……..? Mitch produces…….? Ken produces…….? We are all to bear fruit, to “go and make disciples” and that means we do exactly what Elijah did here with Elisha. We produce someone like us. Puts life in a very different context doesn’t it. I know for my life that Micah will do many things I do someday. Already he mimics some of my behavior. Nancy has let me know that some of my cute statements or actions have to stop now because he is already doing them with me. And she is right. I have to teach this young child “the way he should go so he does not depart from it”. That is done by example – by the life I live. Who are you leading and where are you taking them? Think about the responsibility you have…..life matters!
In the second chapter of 2 Kings, we see the dedication of the disciple to his discipler. Elisha is just about to take over for Elijah. In fact, this is the last part of the story before Elijah is taken to “heaven in a whirlwind”. They were on a walk and three times Elijah asks Elisha to stay while he “goes on an errand” for God. The key learning to me today was how Elisha responds. Same words all three times: “Not on your life! I’m not letting you out of my sight”. Do you see the dedication and the anticipation of Elisha to his mentor and leader here? He is not going to miss out on what God is up to here at the close of Elijah’s life. He is committed and dedicated to following his master and teacher. I love this picture. It shows the way that we need to build into other men and disciple them. We need an Elisha in our lives – one whom we invest in, pour our lives into, build up and mentor, and who learns the meaning of life from us. Do you have an Elisha in your life? I need to work on this in my life. We see it over and over in scripture. David has Jonathan, Paul has Timothy and the list goes on and on. God wants us to make investment into the lives of others guys. We have been given that calling as a brother in the Lord. The payoff – Elijah hits the water with his rolled up cloak and “the river divided” so they could walk across on dry land. Can you imagine how Elisha would have felt had he remained behind while Elijah ran his errands? But his dedication and determination paid off big time on this one. He gets to experience God’s power in some unbelievable ways. He is able to see God at work through his leader and mentor. He is blessed by his faithfulness to Elijah. Elisha sets an example for how we should follow those who teach us. Completely and wholeheartedly – serving all along the way. We need to fill both roles – to lead and to follow. Are you doing both????
Ahaziah is now king and falls off a balcony and is hurt. He sends some of his men off to consult a false god and Elijah happens to intercept them, telling them to return and tell the king that he will never be healed and able to get out of bed again. Ahaziah gets the message and sends 50 men to bring Elijah to him to explain why. They order Elijah to come down and he tells them “If it’s true that I’m a “holy man,’ lightning strike you and your fifty men!” And guess what – bam – lightning bolt and 50 dead guys. The king sends another group and the same results – 50 guys struck by lightning and dead. A third group is dispatched but this time the captain of the guard approaches in humility and understanding the power of Elijah. He pleads for Elijah to come with him back to the king. God instructs Elijah to go and he does with God’s protection. Elijah approaches the king and tells him that he will die just as he had earlier prophesied. So what happens: “And he died, exactly as GOD’s word spoken by Elijah had said.” Elijah is tuned in to what God says guys. He knows God’s heart and also knows the power available to him because of the relationship he has with the Father. Are you plugged in like Elijah? Are you confident of the Father you serve? We serve the exact same God as Elijah. We have access to the same information and power that he did. The difference? We need to figure that out. Elijah served God fearlessly and selflessly. He did what God asked every time. God in turn used him to deliver some tough messages and to really proclaim truth. Are you a truth teller? Are you really focused on telling God’s message? Let’s get after it and become a vessel that God uses to make a difference.
Zedekiah, one of the other prophets, comes up to Micaiah and punches him in the nose. A little rumble going on here. These 400 guys weren’t too cool with being called a bunch of liars. Ahab is ticked at M’s message too and says “lock him up….bread and water”. M proclaims loud and clear that the king will never return in one piece and here is the clincher – M tells the people to “remember where you heard it”. M knows that the king is going down. He also knows that the other 400 prophets are wrong. As we continue in the story Ahab goes to battle under cover. He gives Jehoshaphat his kingly robe and goes in dressed as one of the troops. J is quickly captured but the enemy realizes that he is not the king they are after so they let him go. Ahab was successfully staying under the radar until God’s truth takes effect. Check this out: “Just then someone, without aiming, shot an arrow randomly into the crowd and hit the king of Israel in the chink of his armor”. God again proves that you can run but you can’t hide. Ahab did everything he could to prove M wrong, but God prevails. Ahab dies that day and the rest of M’s prophecy comes true as well – “dogs lapped up the blood”. Ahab was a powerful king. He had control of many men and a relationship with J who was king of another powerful army. He tried to beat God and defy the truth M proclaimed. But it doesn’t work out so well for him. God is not to be mocked guys. His truth will prevail. We need to listen and remember where we heard it. God speaks to us through people most of the time. What godly messengers are you listening to? Who are your truth bearers?
Ahab has enjoyed a few peaceful years and decides it is time to stir things up a bit. He goes to Jehosphaphat and asks if he will join him in attacking and regaining Ramoth Gilead. Jehosphaphat (wouldn’t you love a name like that – I am calling him J for the rest of today) says ok with this caveat: “before you do anything, ask GOD for guidance”. Now that is a change of pace for Ahab. He normally just barrels off and does whatever he wants to but J puts on the brakes and wants God’s input. Pretty good advice guys. We need to learn a lesson here. Before we do anything – we need to stop and ask. Sounds very much like another great leader – Nehemiah. And many others were in that same mode of operation. Stop, ask, LISTEN, obey. That third step is the one I struggle with. I can sometimes get around to asking, but when it comes to listening, I have a hard time. That may mean waiting a bit, or getting away from the noise of the day or moment. Anyway, Ahab agrees and brings together 400 prophets who tell him what he wants to hear – go attack. J is still not convinced and asks if there is not another prophet they are missing a word from. Ahab fesses up that there is one more – Micaiah – and he finally sends for him. Abad doesn’t like Micaiah because he always has bad news for Ahab and this time is no exception. He at first tries to blow off the request for info but when pushed, M (as we will call him today) tells them that these other 400 prophets are wrong and that God has set them up for failure when they attack the enemy. Of course Ahab didn’t want to hear from him in the first place but M stood strong in telling God’s truth. He stands alone – 400 prophets on one side – and him. Another key lesson – in order to be a man of God who walks in truth we must be willing to stand alone. We have to be able to do the right thing and speak truth even when it is not popular or easy. God expects and demands that from us. Are you listening to God’s still quiet voice of direction? Are you standing alone if necessary once you have His word? Two critical things if we want to be men of God!
Elijah comes to Ahab with the bad news. He calls him out on the murder and theft of Naboth and his vineyard. Elijah says three things will happen:
- Bring doom
- Make mincemeat of your decendents
- Kill off every sorry male….remotely connected with the name of Ahab
God is really quite ticked off. Not only had Ahab disobeyed his direction in the victory by letting Ben-Hadad live, now he is a murderer and thief. The king just doesn’t get it. Elijah has equally bad news for Jezebel. They lived in “open defiance of God” and really were out of line. But wait – catch this. “When Ahab heard what Elijah had to say…ripped his clothes….dressed in burlap….tiptoed around quiet as a mouse”. Ahab actually become “penitently submissive” – that is how God spoke to Elijah about him. He turned from his evil ways. Pay attention here to what God says: “Because of his repentance I’ll not bring the doom during his lifetime. Ahab’s son, though, will get it”. Ahab appears like he will avoid God’s displeasure because he repented. Sort of makes Elijah out to be a bit of a liar here doesn’t He. Yet the truth is that God’s character is one that allows us to come to Him in repentance. He always wants to bring us to Himself. Ahab has really screwed up but God is willing to let him live because of a changed attitude and heart. Did you also catch that the ultimate punishment for sin – the consequences of bad living – don’t go away. They are pushed to the next generation because the impact and results will manifest themselves there. So while Ahab may live and appear to get away with murder, theft and disobedience, there is a price to pay for that sin. It will happen in the future as part of his legacy. Life matters – live it carefully!
Ahab continues to be stupid. Isn’t amazing how we can be so self centered at times we miss everything right that God expects. Ahab wants the vineyard that Naboth owns next to his palace. He wants to turn it into his private garden. But Naboth says not when approached about it. Ahab offers to buy it, or trade for it, but Naboth says these words: “I’d never sell the family farm to you!” I love this guy. He is attached to the land of his ancestors and is not willing to sell it for money. Ahab does what all good men do when they don’t get their way – he “went home in a black mood…and sulked”. Not only that, Ahab doesn’t eat, went to bed and stuffed his face in a pillow. Guys – be honest – how do you react when you don’t get your way? I admit that sometimes I act like Ahab in some ways. For crying out loud, he was the king. That is no way for a leader to act. So he does the next best thing – he dumps on his wife. Unfortunately for him, Jezebel is a bad woman and she sets things up so Naboth is falsely accused and then stoned to death. She took the bad mood of Ahab to an entirely different level. And Ahab, being oblivious to the details of the situation, finds out that Naboth is dead and “claimed it for his own”. He just takes the vineyard and never even asks how this can be. Did he bury his head in the sand? He was so intent on getting his own way that it didn’t matter the details of how it happened – just that it happened. Ahab was all about himself and what he wanted. I imagine you know what is coming. Next time we will find out how God felt about the king who acted like a child and then let his wife do the dirty work so he got his own way.