Elijah and Elisha 17
Elijah and Elisha 17.
Proceeding with our looking at the prophets Elijah and Elisha; can we please turn to 2 Kings 4? [P] Recall that Jesus said that John the Baptist was Elijah; that makes Elisha, who follows after him, a picture of Jesus: “Elisha” = God saves; “Jesus” = יהוה saves. I was talking to Robin after the last message and I pointed out that the passage before us today, has been recently dealt with in this fellowship, by both Haydn and Joe Goatley. Robin maintained that there was no harm in repetition; that it is an essential part of teaching. So, with that endorsement from an elder, I thought that I would repeat the message I gave last time I spoke from 2 Kings 3, but this time to do so from chapter 4. So, let’s review that last message from 2 Kings 3: [P] you recall that the armies of three nations combined to attack Moab; they went via the barren country south of the Dead Sea and ran out of water they were dying of thirst [P] – they had a vital need, they were desperate! So, in their crisis they came to Elisha [P] – they sought God; often, it is in a crisis, that we turn to God. God told them to dig trenches [P] – preparation for God’s supernatural supply; there was something that they had to do before God would act. Faith requires us to act. And act יהוה did! Supernaturally, without rain, יהוה filled the trenches with water [P] – God’s abundant supply of the Holy Spirit. We saw from Scripture that water is a picture of the Holy Spirit poured out. [P] And, of course, the result was: life. The Spirit gives life! Now let’s read 2 Kings 4:1-7 – notice, it is exactly the same! [2 Kings 4:1–7 Now a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, (she came to Elisha – sought God) [P] (although I don’t think she had that smile on her face) “Your servant, my husband, is dead, and you know that your servant feared יהוה; and the creditor has come to take my two children to be his slaves.” (it was a crisis situation) Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, [P] “Your maidservant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” (like the feeding of the 5,000 God uses what we have and make available to Him) Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels at large for yourself from all your neighbours, even empty vessels; do not get a few. [P] (there was something she had to do in preparation) “And you shall go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour out into all these vessels, and you shall set aside what is full.” [P] So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons; they were bringing the vessels to her and she poured. (God supernaturally supplied – the oil just kept flowing – an abundant supply) When the vessels were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not one vessel more.” And the oil stopped. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, [P] and you and your sons can live on the rest.”] Do you see how it is exactly the same? [P] The widow was in a desperate situation. Her husband feared יהוה yet was destitute, he couldn’t even provide for his family – it can happen, devoted to the LORD, fear and serve him, yet life doesn’t go well. Serving יהוה is no guarantee of an easy prosperous life. He died, leaving his wife in debt (as are we all, we have a debt of sin that we cannot pay). She had no husband to earn, no social security, all she had was her two sons. They were her only security for the future and they were going to be taken from her to cover her debt [P]. It was a crisis situation. Just as our intolerable burden of sin places us in. So, what did she do (v.1): “she cried out to Elisha” [P]. In our crisis, our desperate need, we come to God, seek Him. Elisha was going to use what she had; he gave her instructions to collect “many vessels” (v.3): “empty vessels, do not get a few” – you cannot fill ones that already have something in them. [P] She had to do something, to prepare for what God was supernaturally going to do, provide. They were in a desperate situation – only God could supply their need. But, they needed to do their part, an act of faith before God acted and did His part. He provided oil. [P] She poured out the oil that she had, and it just kept coming! A miracle! God acted! Hallelujah! An abundant supply. It only stopped when the vessels stopped being presented. What did Elisha say in (v.7)?: “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.” The debt was paid, the result was life! [P] The outpouring of the Spirit gave life! Do you see that it is exactly the same message as in the previous chapter?! Last time, I showed from Scripture that “water” spoke of the Holy Spirit. Oil is more commonly associated as a symbol of the Holy Spirit; [P] but, it is a little harder to demonstrate that from Scripture. The association comes through using oil to anoint. Kings, prophets and priests were all anointed with oil. This was the Divine commissioning for the office to which He called them. And יהוה equipped them for the task He had for them by imbuing them with His Spirit. We see this in the first king of Israel, whom Samuel anointed: [1 Samuel 10:1 Then Samuel took the flask of oil, poured it on his head, kissed him and said, “Has not יהוה anointed you a ruler over His inheritance?] He then gave him various instructions and down in verse: [1 Samuel 10:6 “Then the Spirit of יהוה will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man.] That is what the Holy Spirit does: he changes you into another man. I am weak, timid, shy, fleshly, selfish – but the Spirit gives: boldness, power, love, self-control. [Acts 4:31 they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.] [2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.] It was the same with the subsequent king, David, the head of the Messianic line: [1 Samuel 16:13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of יהוה came mightily upon David from that day forward.] Speaking prophetically of Jesus, who was the Anointed, the Messiah: [Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Lord יהוה is upon me, because יהוה has anointed Me ....]. So, oil pictures the anointing with the Holy Spirit to carry out the task that יהוה has ordained for us. Are we all O.K. with that? Oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit? Good, because that was the tricky part. The rest is straight-forward from Scripture; although, I am afraid that I may tread on some doctrinal corns! Elisha instructed the widow to get vessels – let’s talk a little about vessels, containers. The widow was told to get “empty vessels” (v.3) [P]. Now, I want you to follow a bit of advanced logic. See this jar? I can bring it, but no oil can be put into it; why? Because it is full of pickles! You can only put oil in a container that is empty! Sometimes we bring our jar full of pickles to God and ask Him to bless our pickles! Not that He does not care about our problems and deliver us from them – but we must come to Him empty, not full of our own schemes and ideas. Now, I want to be very clear here: I am not talking about emptying your mind, as you do in Eastern meditation – that is to open yourself up to the demonic realm. But, we come to Jesus empty – the hymn put it: “Nothing in myself I bring, but simply to the cross I cling” Not full of self, proud in what we have done and are – we needs die! [John 12:24–25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. “He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal.] Not clinging to what we have and are; but come empty. The empty are submitted – they just present themselves to God for Him to do with them as He chooses, not for Him to be the force to carry out their own agenda. Then there is the question: [P] how many vessels was she to bring? It doesn’t give a number but she was told to “not bring a few” (v.3). Now, another piece of logic: if you don’t bring a jar, [P] you won’t get any oil. Tragic though it is, there are those who want nothing of the Spirit of God. You recall the parable of the sower, some seed fell on the path and the birds ate it – that was those who were spiritually out-to-it. Some people want nothing of God. They want to live their own life, their own way, pursue their own dreams, ambitions and plans. They never present an empty vessel and so they never receive the Holy Spirit. [P] How about one jar? There are one pot Christians; their reasoning goes like this: I received the Holy Spirit when I believed, I am filled with the Holy Spirit already, He doesn’t leave, I don’t need to be filled again. So only one pot gets filled. Their logic sounds reasonable; but the Scripture never says that you get filled with the Holy Spirit only once – it is human reasoning, not what the Bible says. Then there are those who receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved, then speak of an experience of being baptised in the Spirit, a second experience [P] – two pot Christians. This is what the Pentecostals and Charismatics hold to. The Pentecostals arrogantly used to say “we have it all!” because they been filled with the Holy Spirit in a second experience. How many pots are we to bring? The widow was told to bring MANY pots. [P] How many times are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Once? Twice? What does the Bible say? Let’s look at the disciples: Jesus was with His disciples after He had risen from the dead: [John 20:22 He breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.] Do you think they received the Holy Spirit? Of course, they did. But it was some 50 days later after Jesus had gone back to heaven in [Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.] They received the Holy Spirit again! Had they lost Him in the mean time? Of course, not! They were filled again! But two chapters on: [Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.] That is the third time it says that they were filled with the Holy Spirit; well, may be more because back in [Acts 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,] – so is that the fourth time? How many times are you filled with the Holy Spirit? Take Stephen, it says in [Acts 6:5 they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,] – he was full of the Holy Spirit; yet, in [Acts 7:55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God;] He was filled again and had a vision of heaven and of God in His glory! What about Paul? We read of his conversion in [Acts 9:17 So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”] He was filled with the Holy Spirit at His conversion but some years later, on his first missionary journey it says: [Acts 13:9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him,] He was filled again on this occasion in Cyprus. Was that the only occasion? We read later on in that chapter about the believers in Iconium; in [Acts 13:52 And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.] They were continually filled. Well, that is what my Bible says, I am using the NASB. Yours probably doesn’t say “continually” because that word isn’t there. Am I using an inaccurate translation? On the contrary! It is accurately portraying the force of the verb – they were filled, something that happened in the past – but that filling wasn’t a once off, it kept on happening. It was continuous filling. You have the same idea in a verse that is a command: [P] [Ephesians 5:18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit] Do you get irritated by these preachers that carry on about “aorist indicative participles” and the like? It reminds me of English grammar at school! – I thought it was a waste of time, I didn’t want to know what part of speech something was – I knew that if “I ate icecream” it happened yesterday, or last week, in the past; that if “I eat icecream” that is something I make a practice of doing; or if “I will eat icecream” it is something that is going to happen in the future. What I care about is “I am eating icecream” – it is a happening thing! I am doing it right now, I am in the process of doing it! That is what is the force of Ephesisans 5:18 (present participle) – it is happening now, and it is a continuous process – it is [P] “be being filled with the Holy Spirit” Not once, not twice but a continual thing! I remember in Chemical processing technology at Uni; you could have a process that was either a batch process – reactants would be added to a vessel and the reaction would take place to make what you wanted, then you would empty it out and start again – like making a cake. Or it could be continuous flow, the reactants would be continually fed in one end and the product would continually flow out the other end – non-stop! Does anyone recognize this palatial castle? [P] It is John and Beth’s new house – and right outside the front door are two olive trees. It reminded me of a nice picture of continuous flow in a vision given to Zechariah: [ Zechariah 4:2–3 He said to me, “What do you see?” And I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.”] The lamp gave light by burning oil. Revelation comes by the Holy Spirit. But lamps used up oil and had to be refilled. But here was a great system, the lamps didn’t run out because there was a reservoir continually feeding them. But even that bowl on top could run out, but it wouldn’t because it was fed by two olive trees – a living continual supply! What was the vision about, read down in: [Zechariah 4:6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of יהוה to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says יהוה ofarmies. ] A continual supply of the Spirit. That is what we have here – the oil flowed, kept coming! Continually filled! It only stopped when jars stopped being presented. And that is the only thing that will stop the flow of the Holy Spirit – us ceasing to present ourselves empty to God. Look I need the Holy Spirit every moment of the day; because whatever I do in the flesh is useless – it profits nothing! [P] [John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.] As soon as I walk in the flesh, it’s a disaster. I need to be continually filled. Not once, when I was saved; not twice when I was filled with the Holy Spirit when I was baptized; but continually! People claim that they have the Holy Spirit already. Paul prays for believers that they may [Ephesians 3:19 know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.] Are you filled with all the fullness of God?! Do you have it all?! We are going to spend all eternity with God and never come to the end of the greatness of His being! Yes, there is more of God to be had. Yes, I have the Holy Spirit; but there is more of Him. I am not like Him yet. [Colossians 1:27 Christ in you, the hope of glory.] In us in the person of His Holy Spirit. But I am like Christ? There is yet more! More of that glory to be revealed in us – it is an ongoing process: [2 Corinthians 3:18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, (more and more like Jesus!) just as from the Lord, the Spirit.] This ongoing transformation into the glorious image of Christ is from the Spirit – more of Him, more of Jesus, continually filled. I need more of Jesus, more of His Holy Spirit. You know what your kids say when you take a trip in the car: “Are we there yet?” I think the answer is obvious: no! But the flow of the oil stops when the empty vessels stop being presented! Once you consider yourself filled, you will stop receiving. Once you think you know, you stop learning. I fear that we fail to continue to be filled with the Holy Spirit because we think that we are filled already! The problem is not with God! There is an abundant supply! [P] [John 3:34 “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.] God is not stingy. He is a God of abundance. I remember when we lived in Glencoe street we had a nectarine tree; and boy did it produce fruit! We ate it till it was coming out our ears! I’d bottle some, but still it came coming. I stewed it and filled the freezer, I gave fruit away, still there was more. That is God! Hallelujah! Abundant supply! He gives the Spirit without measure! After church sometimes, the kids come up to Heather and ask for a biscuit; she says “Have you had one already?” God doesn’t allocate His Spirit by measure: “you have had Him already, let’s wait to see if there is enough to go around, wait till everyone has had a turn. You have had your dose. There is this much for you and this much for you.” No, no, no! He gives without measure, continuous flow, continual supply, abundant, generous! We had the same picture last time in [John 7:38–39 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” (they just keep flowing) But this He spoke of the Spirit,] If we are lacking the fullness of God of which Paul spoke in Ephesians 3:19, the problem is not with God. He is an abundant God, generous: [Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?] No, the problem is not with God. You have as much of God as you are prepared to offer to Him to fill – when the jars stopped being presented, the oil stopped flowing. If we lack then the problem is with us! [James 1:5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, (James is talking about wisdom but it could just as well be the Spirit of wisdom or anything else) let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.] God is generous, gives to all, you are not going to be in his bad books for asking – without reproach. He delights in His children asking, He delights to give. But just as the army had to dig trenches to receive the water, and the widow had to get pots to receive the oil; there is a part that we must do. God does the giving but we must prepare to receive. [P] What is it that we are to do? ASK!! Now, some say that we don’t have to ask, don’t have to seek the Holy Spirit; He is given to us when we believe. But what does Jesus say? [Luke 11:5–13 Then He said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and from inside he answers and says, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ “I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? (now, Jesus isn’t talking about asking for food: bread and fish; what is He talking about asking for?) “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father (who James tells us is the Giver of every good gift) give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”] Jesus was teaching on prayer – but what was it that they were to continually be seeking God for in prayer? The Holy Spirit! Jesus said that He would ask the Father and He would send a Helper, but He also says that the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those that ask. If we do not ask we will not receive. James said: [James 4:2. You do not have because you do not ask!] But there is the promise: [Matthew 21:22 “And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”] There is another thing about preparing to receive: Elisha told the widow to “go in and shut the door” (v.4) – in private, that is where the filling takes place – alone with God. We like to do it in a meeting, public, laying on hands. And the New Testament records times when the Holy Spirit came when people were gathered together. But I tend to find, for myself, that it is when I am alone with God, that I do honest business with Him. In front of other people, we like to put on a pious show, appear to be fine Christians; but when I close the door – there I am with God who knows exactly what I am like – there is no more pretending or show. It is there that I come in my emptiness, my utter need and desperation. I need God! Only God Himself, in the person of His own Spirit, can suffice. We are approaching the time of the end; Jesus’ return is near! What is our imperative need in these days? Oil! [Matthew 25:1–13 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. “Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. “For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. “Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. “But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ (that is Jesus coming!) “Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. “The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ “But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ “And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, (they were too late!) and those who were ready (prepared) went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. “Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ “But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ “Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.] There is an abundant supply of oil, so there is no excuse for being found lacking; there is a continual supply. Of course, the result for the widow is seen in (v.7): “You and your sons can live!” [P] [John 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.] The result is life. Without the Holy Spirit we have no life. So, let’s wrap this up: our utter need is for the Holy Spirit, He give life! [P] If you don’t realise the desperateness of your situation, I’m afraid I have no message for you. If you think you have it all together, that you have all you need, your vessel is full; then you will not be filled. There will be no flow of oil to you. But if you realise the imperative, the solution is simple: [P] come to Jesus! But you must come empty, [P] not with your own agenda, coming to get God to bless your enterprise. Not just come once, [P] but be continually filled. Because there is an abundant supply [P] He gives the Spirit without measure! But to receive, you must ask! [P] Don’t stop, [P] keep presenting yourself to be filled – there is not a day or a moment that you do not need Him. The result of being continually filled is LIFE! [P] Abundant life! It is the Spirit who give LIFE, the flesh profits nothing!