Elijah and Elisha 18
Elijah and Elisha 18.
Can we please turn [P] to 2 Kings chapter 4; and we will read a story there – a story, but it really happened. This is the record of an encounter that a woman had with a man of God, Elisha: [2 Kings 4:8–17 Now there came a day when Elisha [P] passed over to Shunem, [P] where there was a great woman, [P] and she persuaded him to eat food. And so it was, as often as he passed by, [P] he turned in there to eat food. She said to her husband, [P] “Behold now, I perceive that this is a holy man of God passing by us continually. “Please, let us make a little walled upper chamber [P] and let us set a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; and it shall be, when he comes to us, that he can turn in there.” One day he came there and turned [P] in to the upper chamber and rested. Then he said to Gehazi his servant, [P] “Call this Shunammite.” And when he had called her, she stood before him. [P] He said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Behold, you have been careful for us with all this care; what can I do for you? Would you be spoken for to the king or to the captain of the army?’” (Elisha was a man who had influence in high places) And she answered, “I live among my own people.” So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” [P] And Gehazi answered, “Truly she has no son and her husband is old.” He said, “Call her.” [P] When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. Then he said, “At this season next year you will embrace a son.” [P] And she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.” The woman conceived and bore a son [P] at that season the next year, as Elisha had said to her.” [P]] The word of יהוה through Elisha came to pass. A miracle, a barren woman gave birth to a son! A miracle that occurred on several occasions in the Bible – barren women giving birth: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Manoah’s wife, Hannah, Elizabeth. This woman welcomed Elisha into her home; and blessing followed. Now you mustn’t stretch things too far and read in significance that isn’t there; but, Jesus Himself said in: [Matthew 11:14 “if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.] So, if you are willing to accept that John is Elijah, then the one after Elijah is Elisha, the one after John is Jesus – so, Elisha corresponds to Jesus. Both their names indicate that God or יהוה saves. He is not the closest type of Jesus in Scripture; but when this woman invited Elisha into her home, I don’t think we are too far off to consider welcoming Jesus. At Christmas we sometimes consider that there was no room for Jesus in Bethlehem; and it says in [John 1:11–12 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. (the Jews, on the whole, did not welcome Jesus) But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,] They became family through faith, through believing. Are we those who hold Jesus at a distance or do we welcome Him, invite Him in, make Jesus at home in our life? This is what Paul prayed: [P] [Ephesians 3:17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;] The Good News Bible renders it: [Ephesians 3:17 and I pray that Christ will make His home in your hearts through faith.] [P] Jesus makes His home in our hearts, He comes in and lives in us! Hallelujah! If we invite Him in, receive Him, welcome Him: [John 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.] Jesus dwelling at your place! Or as Paul put it: [Colossians 1:27 Christ in you, the hope of glory.] How wonderful! This is what God’s desire is and His ultimate purpose that He will bring about: [Revelation 21:3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God (His tent, His dwelling place) is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them!] Isn’t that just totally stupendous?! Amazing! Can I just make a few observations about what this Shunamite woman did? This woman practiced hospitality. [P] Welcomed Elisha into her home. You remember Martha welcomed Jesus into her home, she practiced hospitality. Elisha ate food – it is close communions. A verse that used to be used a lot in evangelism but is actually addressed to a church, to believers: [Revelation 3:20 ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me!]. Jesus coming in and sharing a meal with Him if we welcome Him in. Dining with God! Amazing! It took place when the first covenant was enacted in Exodus 24; an absolutely amazing thing took place. The people were warned not to approach Mount Sinai where God was, but then: [Exodus 24:9–11 Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they saw God, and they ate and drank.] Amazing, twice it states it, because it is so astounding: they saw God! Ate and drank with Him! Close fellowship! That is what we can have with Jesus if we welcome Him in. Jesus wants to dine with us! Remember Jesus said to Zaccheus: [Luke 19:5–6 “Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly.] Zaccheus welcomed Jesus in for a meal and he was a transformed man! Hallelujah! Hebrews 13:2 tells us that We need to welcome Jesus into our heart through faith. Abraham by hospitality entertained angels unawares – hospitality was a big deal in that society in those days; but this was beyond common courtesy or social expectations she “persuaded him” [P] – she was determined to have him in her home; just like Lydia: [Acts 16:14–15 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.] Persuaded him, was insistent. Remember those on the road to Emmaus? Jesus made out that He was travelling further but: [Luke 24:29 But they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” So He went in to stay with them.] It was not a casual invitation; she was intent on having Elisha as a guest. We do not have to persuade Jesus to come in; but on our part, it is not a casual whim, it is a vital necessity. There is that absolute requirement of having Jesus. We want Him indwelling more than anything else. Do you: “Gotta have Jesus!” But, when you think what this woman did, it was fairly ordinary – making a meal, serving someone else. [P] Now it says that she was a “great woman” – it could simply mean big, or it could mean wealthy, or important, that she had high status or standing in society. But she was someone of note, my Bible translates “great” as “prominent”. So, here was this woman of standing and yet she humbled herself and put on a meal for Elisha – a fairly ordinary thing to do. We can welcome Jesus by just using our natural talent, in the everyday ordinary things we do – but using it for God. Sometimes people want some special impartation, to do something super-spiritual – but serve God in the ordinary things. She was an important woman – but she got him dinner. Don’t despise the little things. People want to lead in the church; but I ask, “Are they on the cleaning roster?” – humble service. Elisha came to stay often, it says “as often as he passed by, he turned in there” He was “passing by continually” – it became habitual. She did not only serve, it was serving faithfully. Continually serving in the small things. They key element to service is FAITHFULNESS. [1 Corinthians 4:2 The one thing required of such servants is that they be faithful.] A quality highly esteemed by God because that is His own nature – He is faithful. Where is Jesus at home and welcome? The heart of the humble faithful servant. But it wasn’t mere hospitality – she perceived that He was “a holy man of God” – she was spiritually motivated [P]. She wanted to do something special for him not because he was a pleasant guest, important, good company – but solely because he was from God. She wanted to do something special for Him because: “I perceive that this is a holy man of God” He was from God, he was holy, separate different. He was a spiritual man, and this was the reason that motivated her. It was spiritual hunger. She wanted that which was spiritual. It seems she was a wealthy woman, but there was a hole, a spiritual desire. Elisha had something that she lacked and perceived that she needed. We realise later on she had a real material need; but she wasn’t seeking Elisha to solve her problem, from selfish motives. It was out of a spiritual desire, a hunger for the things of God. That is what should motivate us: spiritual desire. So she wanted to do more, not just a meal – but to go over and above. That is love – it goes beyond obligation, duty. She provided for his comfort – a conducive atmosphere. [P] Some read great significance into what she proposed to provide – but I don’t – it was a room with a bed to rest on and a table and chair with a light – it wasn’t to eat at, he did that with the woman and her husband, it was to write at, read, maybe do correspondence he had to do, or study. It was making sure that all he had all he needed. It was a place where he could rest, relax. We see that is what he used it for (v.11). She provided a placed that he could be at home in with all he needed. If we have Jesus at home in our hearts should we not make it a place with an atmosphere that is conducive to Him dwelling there? Now, let me be clear; I am not suggesting that we try and clean our own life up so that it is fit for Jesus – we cannot do that! Only He can. But since He has come to dwell, surely, we want it to be a place where He is comfortable to dwell. What is it that delights Him, where is it that He wants to dwell? We read it earlier in Eph 3:17 – where there is faith! Faith pleases God [Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him.] We also read in John 14:23 that He makes His abode with those who love Him and keep His word. So, this woman had this idea but she spoke to her husband; she didn’t go off on her own initiative but made sure that it came from her husband, her head. She acted so that Elisha would turn in – preserve his presence, make sure that he was welcome, she wanted the presence of God. It is the presence of God that we need. That is why we seek Jesus, welcome Him in. Not from selfish desire but from spiritual hunger for God. It was when Elisha was resting there that the idea came to him of doing something for the woman. To bless her. [P] When Christ is at home with us, He acts to bless. But the woman’s motive wasn’t to get something from Elisha – she just wanted to do something for him. She was not expecting anything in return. When he asked, she declined. She was satisfied, she was content. But Elisha probed further to her deeper need, one that she dared not even voice. We have those deep things – things we don’t even speak to those closest to us, we do not even dare let them come into our own conscious thoughts. There was a deep emptiness. She was a great woman – wealthy, influential, happily married. She was content among her own people. Everything was fine! That was her outward face. But there was an emptiness and it was plainly evident to Gehazi. A mere servant, but he could see what she lacked. She was barren! There was no fruitfulness – no reproduction. Look we are a fine fellowship that preaches God’s word, that has love for each other, that cares for each other, we meet together, we worship the LORD. Everything is fine! But where are the children?! Where are the baby Christians? Look, I am not pointing the finger – because this strikes very close to home. When I came back to the LORD, at my baptism there was a message in tongues over me. The interpretation was all to do with about how God was going to make me fruitful. Well, I guess I hadn’t thought much about it until then – but my life was utterly sterile! Barren! It was existence, there was no life. How many people have I led to the LORD? I look at my life, and, to be honest, there is no fruit! No reproduction! Where are the baby Christians? It is not something that I can achieve through striving. A tree makes no effort to produce fruit – it just comes naturally from the life from within it. Look, I am sure that this woman and her husband had tried – but there was nothing that they could do! They needed a miracle! It takes a miracle to produce fruit – but the result of Jesus indwelling is fruitfulness. Supernatural! Something only God can produce. LIFE reproduces. We can make machines that move, robots that are clever and do things. But they are dead! They have no life. What is the thing about everything that lives? It reproduces! No robot does that! [John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.] Satan takes life, Jesus produces life! Fruitfulness! I think that the fruitfulness coming from a heart where Jesus is made at home is well described in a verse that was a prayer of Paul’s for the Colossians: [P] [Colossians 1:9–10 we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will (that which pleases Him) in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, (she had a desire for the spiritual) so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, (where He is comfortable) to please Him in all respects, (- a conducive atmosphere. What is the consequence?) bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; ] You know Him because He is at home there in you. Because of that word that came to me from God at my baptism about fruitfulness; this became an important concept to me. I saw that it wasn’t there and that I couldn’t make it happen. The Shunamite welcomed Elisha/Jesus into her home – he perceived her need and by the miracle of God, a son was born. She couldn’t do it. She had been married for a long time, her husband was old, all their efforts had produced nothing. It had to come from God and that is what He said He would do. It was the same with me. God would do it; but I looked at what the Scripture had to say about fruitfulness [P] and I have found four principles from Scripture for fruitfulness – there may be more but these are things that have stuck with me for over 30 years. The first is an absolutely fundamental principle: the prerequisite of death [P] there is no fruitfulness without there first being death. Jesus Himself stated this principle: [John 12:20–26 Now there were some Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; these then came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” (there, like the Shunamite woman was that desire for God) Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came and told Jesus (they weren’t too sure about Gentiles having access to Jesus). And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. “Truly, truly, (He was saying this is really important) I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; (barren, sterile) but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (there is the principle from the natural world, now the application) He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; (what was the path Jesus took? To the cross, laying down His own life so that many sons may come to glory) and where I am, there My servant will be also; (Jesus living with you!) if anyone serves Me, (not living for yourself but living for Jesus, serving Him, the life of a slave whose life is no their own) the Father will honour him.] Jesus said that a seed is not going to produce anything all the time it is preserved. Have you ever dug up spuds that you have planted and there is that potato that you planted, all rotted, gooey, soggy and smelly? It is only when it dies, ceases to be a seed, that it sprouts and produces life. If we hold on to our own life, cling to it; we will never be fruitful. It is only as we lay it down that life comes forth. If we are living our own life, living for ourselves, our own desires, ambitions, and plans; then this will lead to utter sterility! We needs die! So, if we die, where does the life come from? This is the second principle; the life is not ours but from Jesus. Abiding in the Vine: [P] [Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; (dead!) and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.] We abide in Him and His life flows through us – it is Christ who lives, not I. Jesus said: [John 15:1–11 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you (bear fruit) unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. (fruitfulness is a miracle of God! We cannot do it! It is amazing when a baby is born how often the word miracle slips out, even from the mouths of the godless. Life is a miracle from God!) If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; (shrivelled, no life) and they gather them and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (fruitfulness is God’s purpose for us) Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.] Fruitfulness produces joy. Fruitfulness comes not from striving but from abiding. So, the key to fruitfulness is abiding in Jesus, remaining in Him, His life in you rather than you doing it yourself. A verse that I have quoted more than once is: [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.] How does Jesus abide/remain in us? In the person of His Holy Spirit. The “sap” that flows through us, the life from the “Vine”; is the Holy Spirit, Jesus’ life. It is His Spirit in us who gives life. What we do in the flesh, by our own efforts, apart from abiding in Jesus; profits nothing, is futile, sterile, barren. It is His spirit-quickened word abiding in us that produces life. How do we abide in Jesus? How does Jesus dwell in us? By faith! Trusting יהוה [P] is essential for fruitfulness. Remember, Jesus dwells in our heart by FAITH: [Jeremiah 17:5–8 Thus says יהוה, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength, (remember! The flesh (that is self) profits nothing! It brings a curse! And the curse destroys life, prevents life) and whose heart turns away from יהוה. “For he will be like a bush in the desert and will not see when prosperity comes, but will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, a land of salt without inhabitant. (utterly dried up, shrivelled, barren, no fruit. But in stark and utter contrast:) “Blessed is the man who trusts in יהוה and whose trust is יהוה. “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes; (even dry and hard times are not going to affect its life) but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought nor cease to yield fruit.] Fruitfulness comes through trusting Jesus, through faith, through relying totally on Him and not yourself: [Proverbs 3:5–6 Trust in יהוה with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.] But we must be sure that we are trusting in what is reliable, what is true. How do we know the true יהוה in order to trust Him? By meditating on God’s Word [P] [Psalm 1:1–3 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! But his delight is in the law of יהוה, and in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.] It is the Word, the imperishable seed that produces life: [1 Peter 1:23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. ] Jesus told a parable about seed and explained it: [Luke 8:15 “But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.] I plant seeds and look the next day to see if they are up. But for fruitfulness you need perseverance – it doesn’t happen in a flash. Not just reading God’s Word but meditating on it. You know? Like a cow chewing its cud. You take it in then you chew it over and over, to get all the goodness out. Not reading the Bible as a duty that has to be done each day; but rather, delighting in it. You cannot get enough of it; why? Because in it you find your LORD. Whom to know is LIFE eternal. You want to know Him and you find Him in His word. You meditate on His Word and you get to know His ways. It says in [Psalm 103:7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.] Israel saw the miracles that יהוה did – they knew His acts, but they didn’t get to know Him. But to Moses יהוה made known His ways. He saw beyond the deeds to the character, the person of יהוה. When you read the Bible, you may learn of the deeds of יהוה; but by meditating upon it, continually, day and night; then you will get to know יהוה, His ways, His character, His nature, His person, HIM! Hallelujah! When you know Jesus you have life: [John 17:3 “This is eternal LIFE, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.] And the result of LIFE, the characteristic of life is reproduction. When you KNOW the only true God and Jesus the Messiah who He sent, then you will have LIFE. [John 14:23 If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.] God indwelling! No longer me living but Jesus! Abiding in Him! Depending upon His LIFE. And the result as His life is in us will inevitably be fruitfulness. For where there is life there is reproduction, fruitfulness! To the glory of His Name! Because it comes from Him and Him alone!