Tuesday, July 04, 2017
Daily reading assignment – 2 Kings 1-5
Today’s scripture reading contains stories that have enriched the hearts, lives and imagination of children in Sunday School for centuries. The book of 2 Kings picks up where 1 Kings finished with no introduction. The old prophet Elijah is in the last days of his earthly ministry and his protégé Elisha is prepared to take up the “mantle” of Elijah, literally and figuratively (2 Kings 2:13).
Due to the length of today’s reading, I will content myself with a few highlights. Ahaziah, king of Israel, became deathly ill after falling through the lattice-work of his upper chamber. Wondering if he would recover from his fall, the wicked king sent servants to enquire of the pagan god Baalzebub (2 Kings 1:2). God, however, intervened and sent Elijah to send word to the king that his decision to enquire of Baalzebub would result in his death (1:3-4). The king’s messengers described Elijah as the bearer of the news concerning the king’s death (1:5-8).
Three occasions the king sent a captain and fifty soldiers demanding Elijah come to the king. The first two times the captain and the soldiers arrogantly demanded the prophet come to the king, and each time the captain and soldiers were slain (1:9-12). The third captain and his soldiers humbled themselves before God’s prophet and requested their lives be spared (1:13-14).
2 Kings 2 records the momentous occasion God sent a fiery chariot to take Elijah to heaven. Elijah promised Elisha he would receive a double portion of the old prophets spirit if he saw him taken up (2:9-11). A “double portion” was that amount of inheritance that would be allotted to a firstborn son. In that sense, it was Elisha’s longing that he would be the inheritor of Elijah’s ministry, and indeed he was!
God promotes the ministry of Elisha as God’s prophet before three kings in 2 Kings 3. The king of Israel, Judah, and Edom all learned God had a prophet in the land and that prophet was Elisha.
Elisha performed four miracles in 2 Kings 4. The first, multiplying a widow’s oil to pay her debts and save her sons from becoming bond slaves (4:1-7). The second miracle, blessing a childless, elderly woman and her husband with a son as a reward for serving as Elisha’s benefactors (4:8-17). The third miracle was raising that same elderly couples’ son from the dead (4:18-37). The fourth miracle was turning a poison pottage into one that nourished the “sons of the prophets” (4:38-44).
I close with Elisha directing the healing of a leper named “Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria” (2 Kings 5:1). The description of Naaman’s character aids us in understanding why his welfare was so important to his king. We read, he “was a great man [noble; but perhaps great is size as well] with his master, and honourable [exalted; respected]…a mighty [heroic; valiant; champion] man in valour [virtuous; strong], but he was a leper” (5:1).
Every man has his flaws and challenges; however, for Naaman his was an illness…leprosy. There was no cure for leprosy and a leper would eventually face exclusion from the living as the disease slowly took hold on the face, limbs and extremities of the body.
Providentially for Naaman, a slave girl from Israel waited upon his wife and shared with her there was a great prophet in Samaria who could heal her husband (5:2-3). When the king of Syria heard there was hope for Naaman’s healing in Israel, he sent a letter with Naaman and gifts requesting his captain would be healed of leprosy (5:4-6). Knowing the request was impossible for him to fulfill, the king of Israel “rent his clothes” fearing the king of Syria was provoking a conflict with Israel (5:7). At his request, the king sent Naaman to Elisha (5:8).
Naaman, feeling slighted by Elisha’s refusal to greet him and perhaps expecting some great, ceremonial act of healing, was instead directed by Elisha’s servant to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times (5:9-10). The thought of the great warrior of Syria humbling himself to wash in Israel’s small river infuriated Naaman who at first refused (5:11-12). Fortunately, his servants prevailed upon him and persuaded him to obey the prophet. When Naaman came forth from the Jordan “his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (5:13-14).
Following his healing, Naaman offered to reward Elisha for his service; however, the prophet refused his gifts (5:15-16). Naaman responded to the prophet and his miraculous healing with a moving statement of his faith that his sacrifices would forever be only unto the LORD, Jehovah, the Self-existent, Eternal God of Israel (5:17-18).
Reminding us a spirit of covetous (Exodus 20:17) might take root in the hearts of those who serve the LORD, “Gehazi, the servant of Elisah” set his heart on a portion of the reward Naaman offered to Elisha (5:20-22).
With a greeting of shalom, “Is all well?” (5:21) and Gehazi responding with shalom, “All is well” (5:22), Gehazi lied suggesting Elisha had sent him for a portion of the reward. When Naaman granted his request, Gehazi hid the gifts (5:23-24) and took his place before Elisha (5:25).
When Elisha asked Gehazi where he had gone, he lied (5:25); whereupon, Elisha cursed his covetous heart and his unfaithful servant was smitten with the leprosy that had plagued Naaman (5:26-27). Leprosy marked the end of his ministry to Elisha and became Gehazi’s lifelong reminder God hates covetousness and lying lips.
Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith