Elisha: June 2011

Table of Contents

1. Elisha
2. The Ministry of Elisha
3. Elisha, the Prophet
4. Responses of Grace
5. Bring Me a Minstrel
6. Judgment From the Man of Grace
7. Information Overload
8. The Fifty Prophets
9. The Prophet’s Widow and Her Sons
10. Looking Unto Jesus


“This is the true grace of God wherein ye stand” (1 Peter 5:12).
“How little man realizes and believes what he knows [about grace], if in spirit he is not identified with it. The sons of the prophets knew that Elijah [law] was to be taken away. Nevertheless they propose to search for him” (J. N. Darby).
“Elisha is the chosen vessel to carry this new ministry of grace to a ruined world. As one has said, Elisha ‘completes, by a ministry of grace in the power of life, what Elijah had begun in righteousness against idolatry.’ Elisha returns to the land that Elijah had left. The curse is there; widows are in need; hunger and famine are in the land; enemies oppose and death is over all. Into this scene of sin and ruin Elisha comes with power from on high, to display, in the midst of a dark world, the grace of heaven that can meet the need of man. Thus it comes to pass, as Elisha passes on his way, the curse is removed; the needs of the widow are met; the barren woman becomes fruitful; the dead are raised; evil is averted; the hungry are fed; the leper is healed; enemies are baffled and defeated; earth’s famine yields before heaven’s plenty; out of death there comes forth life.”
H. Smith

The Ministry of Elisha

Elisha’s ministry in Israel (the ten tribes) was full of blessing for that guilty people. The responsibility for their low moral tone rested mainly with their kings, although God did not hold the people guiltless. But the sin of “Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin,” was their ruin and their snare to the close of their national history. Their first king was far too shrewd to attempt to govern the people without religion of some kind, but he so perverted the whole economy that God’s authority was lost, and the king became supreme in religious matters as in everything else.
God’s purpose in raising up Elisha was to bring blessing to His poor, sinful people. The false religion might satisfy the king and apparently strengthen his authority, but no real blessing could be ministered to the people by such means. God would have them consider their ways and return unto Himself, the source of all true blessing.
The Two Ministries
Let us then consider these two remarkable men in their respective ministries as types of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Elijah, we see the executor of judgment as Jehovah’s righteous witness, yet rejected by the nation, but claimed by the glory to which he belonged. Elisha was the witness of this translation of his master, and in the power of a double portion of Elijah’s spirit he appears among God’s erring people with a ministry, not of judgment, but of grace. In this we see a type of the risen Christ, rejected on earth, but received up in glory, and who has received gifts for man. These two prophets, so differing in spirit, experience and testimony, were nevertheless connected in many ways. If we would rightly understand the one, we must also have a knowledge of the other.
We find the first reference to Elisha in that wondrous scene upon Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19). Elijah had come to Horeb, the mount of law and responsibility, to accuse the people and invoke the curse of a broken covenant. Rarely do we find one of God’s servants equally affected by grace and truth, or able to give to each its proper place in testimony. So we find that when Elijah could see nothing but judgment, no resource of grace for Israel, God’s command was, “Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room” (1 Kings 19:15-17).
Elijah was to be superseded by another, and in the service and ministry of this successor we have the beautiful expression of that wondrous grace which God entertained for His people. It was therefore necessary that the two ministries should be closely connected. The Lord’s ministry upon earth was characterized by grace and truth, and now that redemption has been accomplished, there is the triumph of grace through righteousness, as we read in Romans 5:21, “As sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord.”
A Man Translated to Heaven
This connection between the two prophets was established in a two-fold way. First, God Himself withdrew Elijah from the place of testimony in Israel when he declared himself (as he thought) Jehovah’s solitary witness for truth and righteousness. Second, it pleased Jehovah to prepare Elisha for the work that was before him by a course of instruction in the truth of God and Israel’s departure from it at the feet of Elijah and in company with him whom God had used in such a remarkable way to arrest the apostasy of the nation. The translation of Elijah was a witness to God’s estimate of him, and he who was the object of unreasoning malice, who was feared and hated by the king of Israel, threatened by the wicked Jezebel, and sought for in every known kingdom and nation that he might be delivered up to death is now outside the limits of Israel’s land by a convoy from heaven that shall carry him to realms of glory. But Israel’s only hope of blessing and deliverance lay in that glorious escort! Elisha’s faith laid hold of this fact and built upon it. The “chariot of fire, and horses of fire” might indeed part these witnesses asunder, but it was “the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof,” and they would be in attendance upon Elisha until the close of his life (2 Kings 2:12; 6:17; 13:14).
The Double Portion
Elisha had the opportunity, only accorded to one other man in Scripture, of giving expression to that which his heart valued. “It came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said to Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:9-10). He desired to inherit the zeal for God and righteousness which had filled and characterized his master, but with a spirit of grace in which perhaps Elijah had been lacking. The “double portion” rested upon Elisha.
In this remarkable way the scene closed upon Elijah’s testimony, vindicating him whose life work had seemed singularly barren of results, yet provocative of man’s hatred. Israel had rejected him but heaven received him. Now his successor appears before us; upon Elisha is conferred the mantle and, with it, also the double portion of Elijah’s spirit which he had coveted. Earlier, when he had received the call to the prophetic office, he had shown hesitation as though the honor were too great for him, but the training had accomplished its work, and the moment had arrived in which to appropriate what he valued. It is thus we are exhorted to “covet earnestly the best gifts” (1 Cor. 12:31). That which is really valued shall be possessed and attached to us in our service here, receiving its proper reward hereafter.
No Collective Restoration
In these last days of Christendom’s history, some have proved the reality of Christ’s love to the church, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, and the sufficiency of Christ’s name as a gathering center, until He comes. Restoration collectively there cannot be, but the rejection of what is false. The ministry of Elisha did not aim at the moral recovery of the nation, as was the case with Elijah, although, no doubt, it was so used to many individuals in it. But God would have His poor, sinful people to understand that He changes not, and they who in their misery cast themselves upon Him would prove it.
Elisha set no superstitious value upon the mantle of Elijah, nor did he set himself to act in a similar way to his late beloved master. Rather would he invoke the “Jehovah God of Elijah.” Faith manifested in him its own proper character and value and, in reality, recalled the glorious days of Israel’s first entrance into and occupation of the land of Canaan. In both cases the river Jordan interposed a natural barrier to the progress of God’s people and to the accomplishment of His purposes. Nevertheless, faith counts upon the unchanging power and grace of God, and difficulties are overcome. Even the “sons of the prophets,” with all their officialism, formality and unbelief, had to acknowledge that “the spirit of Elijah doth rest upon Elisha.” And the Jehovah God of Elijah was with him too.
Adapted from G. S. B.,
Bible Treasury

Elisha, the Prophet

In the order of things established by Jehovah for Israel, there was no place for a prophet when normal conditions prevailed. At the close of the ministry of Moses, the high priest was the link between Jehovah and His people, and the civil leader was directed to walk under his guidance (Num. 27:18-23). When the priesthood failed, the king became the link, and the high priest fell into the second place (1 Sam. 2:35); then, when royalty failed, prophets were raised up, for our God will have some means whereby He can reach His people for their instruction and blessing. But prophets were brought forward intermittently as God saw the need; there was no line of them, as of priests and kings. Each prophet stood in his own responsibility; he fulfilled his mission, and then he passed away.
A Successor
But there was an exception to this in the case of Elijah; he had a successor. “Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room.” Elisha was thus supplementary to Elijah. The contrast between the two was remarkable. The one terrible in his bearing, the other gracious; the one an ascetic, the other homely and accessible to all. Elijah’s miracles were characterized by judgment; those of Elisha, with one exception, were marked by mercy. The very manner in which each is introduced shows the contrast: The Tishbite bursts upon the scene abruptly, like a bolt from the blue (1 Kings 17:1); the son of Shaphat is seen peacefully plowing a field (1 Kings 19:19).
Elijah and Elisha remind us of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. The stern ministry of Elijah was akin to that of the forerunner (Luke 1:17); the gracious ministry of Elisha is suggestive of that of the Saviour Himself (Luke 7:33-34). The name, too, is eloquent in its meaning — “God is salvation.”
The Right Spirit
Elijah’s intercession to God against Israel (Rom. 11:2) led to the anointing of Elisha to be prophet in his room. His deeply tried spirit burst forth into sore complaint against God’s people, recounting their sins before Jehovah. Let us take warning from Elijah’s failure. Our own times are deplorably evil, and the apostasy hastens on. God appreciates those who, like Elijah, take a firm stand against the evil, at whatever cost to themselves in the way of ease and honor here. But let none of these entertain a thought of their own faithfulness in contrast to others. Humility becomes us, as does extreme tenderness of spirit towards those who, however strange their associations, in their hearts really value Christ. All such are very precious to God, and however gravely He may Himself rebuke in them what is not well-pleasing in His sight, He will never tolerate in us a censorious spirit towards them. To fall into this is to sacrifice our own usefulness at this critical moment in the history of the church of God. If so excellent a witness as Elijah failed in this particular, the danger for ourselves is also very great. The spirit and character of Elisha becomes us.
W. W. Fereday, adapted

Responses of Grace

The undeserved favor of God comes to us at great expense; the Lord Jesus paid the price by giving His life. God was so pleased with Him that He exalted Him to heaven with the option to take whomever He wanted with Him there. The Lord Jesus responded in John 17:24 by asking to have the church as His bride in heaven. Such grace obliges us to respond in a way pleasing to Him. The examples of grace that Elisha performed reveal a variety of reactions from the benefactors of his grace. May we learn to respond so as to please God.
The Shunammite Woman
No response is recorded from the first miracles Elisha performed — from those at Jericho, Bethel, or the three kings. But the great woman of Shunem responded when Elisha promised to give her a son as a reward for the hospitality shown him. Her response was, “Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid” (2 Kings 4:16). Was this said because it was too wonderful to expect? Was it in consideration of her own inabilities? Or from disbelief in the prophet? For whatever reason, we may leave them with the Lord, for, regardless of all, He gave her a son. It was by grace alone, though she was to be tested whether she accepted it on this basis. It is a great thing to learn this.
The promised son was born, but then suddenly he died. This made her consider on what grounds she had received the son. She laid the child on Elisha’s bed and went to see him at Mount Carmel; she went to the source of the gift and would not leave the Lord’s prophet. It is interesting to consider at this point how Elisha also would not leave Elijah, when he suggested three times that he return from following him. As a result, God rewarded him with the double portion. Thus, Elisha knew of God’s faithfulness and felt constrained to give the Shunammite her request. Her words refer back to what she said the first time, “Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me?” (vs. 28). First of all, she reminded Elisha that is was not her request that prompted the promise of her having the son. Second, if she accepted the son as a gift on the basis of grace, then she could give him back to the Lord, while saying, “All is well.” She refused to claim the son on any other basis than grace. Therefore, she waited only on Elisha’s answer.
Elisha was constrained under these circumstances to go and intercede for the life of the son. The Lord raised him from the dead, and Elisha presented him alive to his mother. This is where her speechless action shines so brightly. “Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out” (vs. 37). Bowing to the ground was her display of humility and worship. She did it before taking up her son. She counted on grace and now had her son forever on resurrection ground; he was born again.
Naaman is another one that responded in a positive way to the grace shown to him, though he had a problem humbling himself to do what Elisha told him. How often grace is refused because of our pride! Grace is shown because of the goodness of the giver, not the receiver. Naaman eventually did go down and wash in the Jordan seven times, after his servants pleaded with him, and he was made clean. He still did not realize the blessing was all of grace, and he went back to repay the prophet. “He returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came, and stood before him: and he said, Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant” (2 Kings 5:15).
Elisha refused the gifts; to accept them would take away the credit from the Lord who had given the blessing. God’s grace gives more than we could ever deserve. But then the question is, What should be done in response for the giver? Naaman seems to realize his obligation, for he requests, “Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules’ burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord” (vs. 17). The mules’ burden of earth was for him to worship Jehovah on Jewish ground. The best response to grace is to worship the Lord. The Lord Jesus revealed His feeling about this when one cleansed leper returned and “with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks” (Luke 17:15-16). The following words from the Lord are searching: “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?” Can it be that only one in ten fulfills that wonderful role of giving God glory for His grace?
The King’s Lord
During the famine of Samaria caused by the siege of Ben-hadad king of Syria, food became so scarce that mothers were eating their children. News of this extremity prompted the king to go to Elisha with the intent of taking his head off. The king of Israel blamed the Lord for the evil. Elisha stopped them at the door and told them, “Hear ye the word of the Lord; thus saith the Lord, Tomorrow about this time shall a measure of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a shekel, in the gate of Samaria” (2 Kings 7:1). Elisha responded in grace, saying the famine would be ended. “Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” (vs. 2). This expression of disdain for heaven and unbelief in the word of the Lord precluded him from participating in the blessing. It appears to be a prophetic picture of what will happen to those who have rejected grace at the close of the present dispensation when the Lord comes. Elisha answers him, “Behold, thou shalt see it with thine eyes, but shalt not eat thereof” (vs. 2). The next day when the food was discovered, this lord tried to control the flow of people at the gate but was trodden down by the people and died. It is a solemn thing to impede the flow of God’s grace.
The last case took place while Elisha was in Syria, and it was to fulfill what God had told Elijah many years previously. It would end the time of grace and introduce judgment. The case before us is that King Ben-hadad sent Hazael to inquire from the Lord if he would recover from his sickness. “Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, Thou mayest certainly recover; howbeit the Lord hath showed me that he shall surely die. And he settled his countenance steadfastly, until he was ashamed; and the man of God wept. And Hazael said, Why weepeth my lord? And he answered, Because I know the evil that thou wilt do unto the children of Israel.  ...  And Hazael said, But what, is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, The Lord hath showed me that thou shalt be king over Syria. So he departed from Elisha, and came to his master; who said to him, What said Elisha to thee? And he answered, He told me that thou shouldest surely recover. And it came to pass on the morrow, that he took a thick cloth, and dipped it in water, and spread it on his face, so that he died; and Hazael reigned in his stead” (2 Kings 8:10-15).
It is sad to see how Hazael used the information shown him in grace to turn against his master to obtain the position. What selfishness! What a contrast to the conduct of David after he was anointed to be king. Hazael took things into his own hands to cause the king to die so he could be king. Then, to do such “great things,” as he calls them, against Israel — killing women and children — is heartlessness beyond description. This was the kind of man that God chose to judge Israel; certainly their evil must have been great before God to use such a man. We easily see why Elisha would weep. The judgments that fall after grace is rejected are the most severe.
Knowing the vastness of God’s grace ought to make us humble, thankful and worshippers. And, on the other hand, the terrible consequences of rejecting grace are most solemn. May the Lord give us to respond to His grace in ways that please Him in the little time that remains before His judgment comes.
D. C. Buchanan

Bring Me a Minstrel

Ever since sin came in, the children of faith have found the present scene uncongenial to the spiritual life that divine grace has implanted in them. The moral atmosphere of this world is not conducive to heavenly-mindedness or communion with God. Hence the soul wishing to enjoy those unseen things must put itself outside of its existing environment.
In 2 Kings 3, the Spirit of God gives us an instructive lesson as to this. The king of Israel — Jehoram, son of the wicked Ahab — was setting forth on an expedition to subdue the king of Moab, who had revolted against him. He sought the cooperation of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, who, accompanied by his vassal, the king of Edom, consented to go with him to the war. Alas for Jehoshaphat! True servant of God though he was, it was the third time he had allowed himself to be ensnared into fellowship with the ungodly (1 Kings 22:10; 2 Chron. 20:35-37). As on a former occasion, he now again had qualms of conscience about what he had undertaken, and so he proposed to seek the mind of Jehovah at the hand of one of His prophets. Accordingly, the three kings waited on Elisha in Samaria. To the king of Israel the prophet said severely, “What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother,” adding, “As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee.” The prophet of Jehovah thus drew a sharp distinction between Jehoram and Jehoshaphat, even though the latter was pursuing a path of disobedience at that time.
The Minstrel
“But now bring me a minstrel.” Why was this? “It came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of Jehovah came upon him.” The presence of Israel’s ungodly king was an offence to Elisha’s spirit. He felt restrained and hindered by reason of it. The holy atmosphere of communion with God which the prophet was accustomed to breathe was, as it were, polluted by the very fact that Jehoram was before him. The “still small voice,” which was the express symbol of Elisha’s ministry of grace, could not be heard amid the clamor of the wicked. Hence he felt it necessary to get in spirit outside of his surroundings before he could ascertain the mind of Jehovah, in order to give it forth to the only really godly man who would value it. When the minstrel played, then “the hand of the Lord came upon him. And he said, Thus saith the Lord.”
Balaam never knew such an experience as this. Though he gave expression to some of the most divine thoughts contained in Scripture, he did it merely as the instrument of a power superior to his own. His own affections and sympathies were by no means engaged in the service; indeed, he would most willingly have said the opposite of what he did say about the people of God, if God had permitted him to do so. Hence the presence of the ungodly was no affliction to him; he felt no need to separate himself from the influence of evil surroundings in order to get into the mind of God.
Communion With God
Our sympathies are with Elisha. We all prove experimentally day by day the many hindrances to communion with God. “The cares of this life” affect some, and “the deceitfulness of riches” affects others, even among the true saints of God. They clog our steps, dim our eyes, weigh down our spirits, and keep us on a low spiritual plane, if we allow them to do so. But faith does well to spread its wings and soar above all surrounding influences, that its delight in the things of the unseen Christ may be full and complete. Second Corinthians 12 presents us with a wonderful experience once granted to the honored apostle of the Gentiles. He does not name himself, but he tells us of “a man in Christ” who was caught up to the third heaven, there to listen to words which could not possibly be communicated to men in a merely earthly condition. So completely separated was he that he affirms twice that he could not tell whether he was in the body or out of the body at the time. While recognizing fully the miraculous element in the Apostle’s happy experience, is there not a voice to our souls in it? Is it not among the things that are written for our learning?
Heavenly Things
The life that is ours in Christ is an essentially heavenly thing. Full enjoyment of it cannot be until God’s full thought concerning us is realized and we find ourselves in the Father’s house. But eternal life is really ours now; many a divine statement assures us of it. Yet it is an exotic thing in this world, and we need to live in spirit outside of this world if we would enjoy in any measure the rich spiritual portion that God has given to us in His Son.
The Apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:35 are penetrating: “That ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction.” The language supposes the soul living by faith within the heavenly sanctuary, holding communion with the Lord without a burden and without a care. This is the Spirit’s desire for us all. He is the ever-present divine link between our souls here and Christ there, and it is His deepest delight to make good to faith now those things which will be entered upon fully only when the Lord returns. It is in occupation with the unseen that our souls gather strength for all the circumstances of the way; it is this alone which renders our hearts buoyant in the midst of all that comes upon us in an evil world and a failing Christian testimony.
W. W. Fereday, adapted

Judgment From the Man of Grace

The ministry of Elisha was characterized by grace, in contradistinction to that of Elijah, which was characterized by law. However, in considering the history of Elisha, we cannot help but be arrested by a most notable exception to this, in the case of the little children (or “little boys”) who mocked him as he went up from Jericho to Bethel. The incident is most solemn, for when these children mocked Elisha with the words, “Go up, thou bald head,” his cursing them in the name of the Lord caused two she bears to come out of the wood and tear forty-two of them. When we consider what angry she bears can do, we can only imagine the terrible carnage that occurred at this time and the grief of the families whose children were taken from them in this awful way.
The Uncharacteristic Judgment
At first glance, the whole incident seems totally out of character for Elisha. Is this the same man who could heal the waters of Jericho — a city that had been rebuilt in direct defiance of God’s command — or heal a Naaman, a man whose armies had previously devastated Israel? We might well ask why no grace was shown to these children, or perhaps a stern rebuke given, instead of this appalling judgment.
While not attempting entirely to explain the reasons for this terrible judgment, I would suggest several considerations and several important lessons which God seeks to teach us in all this.
We must remember that Elijah and his ministry had been well-known, not only in Israel, but also in the surrounding nations. In particular, his signal vindication of the true God on Mount Carmel was before all Israel and had taken place some years before Elijah was taken up and Elisha became prophet instead. Evidently, too, the miraculous ascension of Elijah had become known in a relatively short time, even to little children. Had all this had the proper effect on Israel? Rather it seems that, just as Elijah was disliked, so also was his successor. They would gladly have seen Elisha go away too, so that their idolatry and sin could continue without any interference.
The God of Judgment
First of all, then, this awful judgment reminded the people that, while God might act in grace, He was still a God of judgment. He might show mercy, as He is doing today in this world, but this did not negate His holy character. During Elisha’s life and ministry, there were other evidences of God’s judgment, such as the dearth in the land (2 Kings 4:38), the famine in Samaria (2 Kings 6:24-33), and his anointing of Jehu (2 Kings 9:1-6). He was also commissioned to tell Hazael that he would be king over Syria (2 Kings 8:13), although Elisha wept when he considered the evil that Hazael would do to Israel. In connection with the healing of Naaman, Gehazi was judged very severely for his covetousness and lying, but perhaps most of all for misrepresenting the character of the God of Israel. So God may be gracious, and we can be most thankful that He is, but He cannot pass over evil. Elisha had acted in grace toward Jericho and had healed the water and the land. But grace despised brings judgment, for what more can God give?
The Spirit of Grace
Second, it was a most serious thing that these children said. There is no doubt that Elijah had failed in some ways, but he had been a most faithful man, and Elisha had learned much from him. As a result, God had taken Elijah home in a very honorable way, and Elisha’s last request had been for a double portion of his spirit, for he saw in Elijah something to be desired. For children to mock that spirit and the way he had been taken up into heaven was a solemn thing, even from little children, for it showed contempt for the testimony of the Lord.
The Rejection of Elisha
However, even these considerations would scarcely bring down such an awful judgment on little children. But there is a third perspective on the incident which I suggest is perhaps the most important. It is highly questionable whether these children had made up the mocking words themselves, since the Spirit of God takes care to identify them as “little children.” Children are well-known to repeat what they have heard from adults, especially those whom they admire and respect. It is most likely that these little children were only repeating what they had heard at home or in conversation among their parents and other adults. Their mockery thus reflected the common feeling among many who, while respecting the power that Elijah had wielded on behalf of the Lord, nevertheless heartily wished that he would go away and leave them to their sin and idolatry. When Ahab had said to Elijah, “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17), his comment doubtless reflected not only his own feelings, but the general attitude in his kingdom. When the chariot of fire took Elijah away, they were dismayed to find another taking his place and would gladly have seen him go away too. God makes them feel the seriousness of despising His grace and rejecting His servants, by a judgment likely to be felt the most — the death of their little children.
We have other examples of this in Scripture. When “all Jerusalem” was troubled at the birth of the Lord Jesus, God allowed Herod to destroy all the children in and around Bethlehem, from two years old and under, as a voice to those who did not recognize their Messiah. (See Matthew 2:3,16.) Likewise, God allowed the child of David and Bath-sheba to die, as part of His government on them. In both of these cases, the children were entirely innocent, yet they were taken away as God’s voice to their parents. Other cases, such as the death of the young son of king Jeroboam, could also be mentioned.
Grace and Judgment
No doubt all these children, taken away in their tender years, fell under the provision of God given to us in Matthew 18:10-11: “In heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven. For the Son of Man is come to save that which was lost.” However, the grief and agony suffered by their parents and others who witnessed their death was a solemn reminder that “God is not mocked” and that the One who is a God of grace is also a God of judgment.
In the prophetic sense, we see a picture here of apostate Israel in a coming day. Having broken God’s law, rejected their Messiah, and despised the grace of God offered to them through the Lord Jesus, they will fall under the most awful judgment. The two she bears may well represent the beast and the antichrist, who will torment apostate Israel for forty-two months — the number of the children who were killed. But after judgment there is grace once more, and Elisha subsequently goes to Mount Carmel, not only the place of God’s judgment on Baal, but also the place of fruitfulness and blessing.
W. J. Prost

Information Overload

Information and more information! Not only is it readily available, but we are bombarded with it, via billboards, newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and, in the last fifteen or twenty years, the widespread use of the Internet and cell phones. More recently, the Internet has spawned Facebook, a forum whereby we can stay in touch with countless people, viewing almost infinite amounts of both written and pictorial information. There are now university courses where students study “IT” — information technology, which is the science of collecting and disseminating information.
The Merits
All of this can be a real “plus.” The Internet has made it easy to communicate very quickly, especially with remote parts of the world, where postal mail is at least very slow, and sometimes almost impossible. Cell phone technology has likewise made good telephone service available to many areas of the world at a very reasonable price, as the expense of installing landlines is removed. Anyone with Internet service can retrieve information on almost any subject within seconds, instead of their having to conduct prolonged research at a library. What a tremendous advantage to anyone writing papers or doing research!
Such technology has had its merits in spiritual things, too. It has enabled unbelievers to look at the truth of the gospel in the privacy of their own homes, in countries where having Christian literature or attending a Christian meeting might bring severe reprisals. Also, it has enabled believers to access ministry that might otherwise be out of their reach, through Christian websites that can make it available to anyone with a computer. As with many other entities that man has invented, God can and does use information technology for blessing.
The Downside
However, there is a downside to this mountain of information. As someone has said, data is like food. It is best served up in reasonable, useful portions, rather than our ingesting so much at one time that we choke on it. Today, many of us process as much information in a week as the average nineteenth-century person did in a lifetime. It has been clearly recognized that too much information takes its toll on us, physically and mentally, and a researcher with the International Stress Management Association has coined the term “Information Fatigue Syndrome.” This syndrome is characterized by higher blood pressure, weakened vision, poor memory, a shortened attention span and diminished efficiency. Also, and perhaps equally important, victims of “information overload” often find themselves confused, anxious and unable to make rational decisions. So much information, often with conflicting viewpoints, results in “paralysis by analysis.” It seems that the human brain, when clogged with too much information, simply shuts down. The result is often stupid mistakes and bad decisions, because of mental exhaustion.
The Impact
For the believer, this impacts not only his health and ability to carry out his secular work, but also his spiritual life. If our minds are congested with all kinds of information that clamors for our attention, it will be difficult for us to focus on reading the Word of God, prayer, and even Christian fellowship. The constant barrage of information that besets our minds will impair our concentration, our memory and our ability to do what is really important. Evidently the Lord foresaw this danger, for even back in Daniel’s time the Spirit of God prophesied that, at the time of the end, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 12:4). Likewise, the Lord Jesus warned His disciples, and ultimately us too, about “the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in” which would tend to choke the word, so that it would be unfruitful (Mark 4:19).
The Answer
What is the answer? It seems that, as with food and other things in our life, so also with information: We must decide what is important. We must filter things that come to us, discarding what is of questionable value, while allowing that which is of benefit. While opting for an anachronistic lifestyle that refuses modern inventions is not the answer, yet we may have to “de-complicate” our lives in order to have what will endure for eternity. As another secular writer has observed, in order to do anything well in life, we will have to forego many other things that we might otherwise have done. In his epistles, Paul often refers to “that day” or “the day of Christ,” and everything in his life was governed by how it would appear then. When Christ places His estimate on how we have used our time, energy and resources, will our work stand the test and be rewarded, or will it be burned up? (See 1 Corinthians 3:11-17.)
It is necessary for us to work and live in this world, to support ourselves and those dependent on us, and to have the resources to help others, as opportunity arises. Whatever we do, we are to “do it heartily, as to the Lord,” for we “serve the Lord Christ” (Col. 3:23-24). God promises a reward for this. However, there is much that we can let go as having no eternal benefit and often little or no benefit even in this life. Even worldly authorities are recognizing the miniscule value of most television programs (to say nothing of the defilement for the believer!), the very limited importance of much of the material in magazines, and the colossal waste of time involved in “surfing the net.” Even telephone calls may degenerate into relatively useless and time-wasting conversations.
Knowing Christ
On the other hand, “He that doeth the will of God abideth forever” (1 John 2:17). There is much to be learned in this world and much to be done that will abide for all eternity. If we asked ourselves, whenever we are tempted to do something, “How will this look at the judgment seat of Christ?” we would use our time much more effectively as believers. More than this, unlike information in the natural realm, learning more of Christ will never put our minds on overload. It is true that simply acquiring information about the Word of God and memorizing facts for their own sake will not feed our souls. But read properly, the Word of God connects us with the person of Christ and draws out our affections to Him. In this way our hearts are expanded, and instead of our minds being choked with information, we come to know more of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. It is true that we acquire information that can be passed on to others, but because we have new life in Christ and are indwelt with the Holy Spirit, we have the enjoyment of Christ in our hearts, and not simply a body of information. The Spirit of God makes the truth good to our souls and enables us to put it into practice. Thus we not only become less anxious and make better decisions, but we become more like Christ.
A brother, recently taken home to be with the Lord, once compared the Word of God to a forest. If we find that we get lost in the forest, we should frequent it more and thus become more familiar with it. So it is with Scripture; the more we get into it, the more it will be made good to us. Learning more of Christ will never make our minds “shut down,” for our affections are involved.
Prioritizing Time
We must make one final comment, however. We do not want to suggest that an active mind or curiosity about natural things or even about man’s inventions is wrong. Some of the world’s greatest inventions have been made by believers. Often, it is those believers who are interested in many different things who also have the most interest in the Word of God. But they filter what they explore and prioritize their time in order to use information wisely. Likewise, the capacity to process information varies. What one person can easily use to advantage might well overwhelm another. Christians need wisdom from the Lord in these last days, in order to “use the world, as not disposing of it as their own; for the fashion of this world passes” (1 Cor. 7:31 JND). In summary, the answer to the problem of information overload is to live in view of eternity and to be guided by the Spirit of God as to what and how much information we allow into our minds.
W. J. Prost

The Fifty Prophets

After Elisha had smitten the waters of Jordan with Elijah’s mantle in demonstration of power, immediately he was met with the unbelief of the sons of the prophets, who questioned whether Elijah had indeed been taken to heaven. They suggest he might be cast down in the wilderness. There were fifty of them, the same number of those who had told Elisha about this event beforehand. Fifty is the number of the present dispensation — Pentecost. We learn from their behavior that knowledge of truth is not enough; we must believe it and walk accordingly. Elisha needed no search party to convince him where Elijah had gone. We see a parallel to this in the Book of Acts; Stephen, the first Christian martyr, believed the record of God and saw Jesus in heaven.
The fifty (strong) prophets did not believe the report of Elisha and insisted in sending out a search for Elijah. They said, “Lest peradventure the Spirit of the Lord hath taken him up, and cast him upon some mountain, or into some valley” (2 Kings 2:16). They are like those today who see Jesus only as a Man on earth. Christianity is about a Man in heaven. “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor” (Heb. 2:9).
Elisha tarried at Jericho, the city that had been rebuilt in spite of being cursed. He began ministering where men were found under the curse. Jericho represents this world, which man would rebuild under a curse rather than look for a heavenly city, as Abraham did. The healing of the waters at Jericho is an example of the result of new birth; it enables the believer to maintain a sanctified life in this world in spite of the curse of sin. The remedy was to put salt into a new cruse and cast it into the water. The new cruse is a picture of the new nature. Salt is what preserves and gives savor. These thoughts combined remind us that salt is the moral “separative power of holiness.” The new life in the believer gives the ability to drink from the wells of nature, in holiness, without being degraded into the barrenness of mere self-gratification. Men reverse this order, seeking for life from the things of nature, but without distinguishing the fallen character of the creation and its inability to satisfy the vast need in man’s heart.
D. C. Buchanan

The Prophet’s Widow and Her Sons

The grace of God is so great, yet often it takes the government of God in our lives to bring us to call on the Lord for help. Such was the case of the widow who was so indebted that her two sons were in danger of being sold as slaves. The widow was brought to the point of having nothing to solve her problem. Two things were used to deliver her: the pot of oil and the borrowed vessels. The oil is a picture of the Holy Spirit, which is the power of Christian life. The borrowed vessels represent our bodies and the temporary things of this life that are given for us to use until the Lord comes. As the widow poured the oil into the borrowed vessels, it was multiplied until they were all full. This is an example of the power of the Spirit of God to provide for all our needs along the way. She was able to pay all the creditors, deliver her sons from bondage and then live off the rest. When there were no more vessels, the oil stayed. The supply perfectly matched the need.
D. C. Buchanan

Looking Unto Jesus

Hebrews 12:2
“As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And they two went on” (2 Kings 2:6).
I don’t look back; God knows the fruitless efforts,
The wasted hours, the sinning, the regrets;
I leave them all with Him who holds the records;
In mercy He forgives and then remits.
I don’t look forward; God sees all the future;
The road that short or long will lead me home;
And He will face with me its every trial,
And bear with me the burdens that may come.
I don’t look round me, thus would fears assail me,
So wild the tumult of earth’s restless seas,
So dark the world, so filled with woe and evil,
So vain the hope of comfort or of care.
I don’t look in, for there I am most wretched;
Myself has naught on which to stay my trust;
Nothing I see but failures and shortcomings,
And weak endeavors crumbling into dust.
But I look up into the face of Jesus,
For there my heart can rest; my fears are stilled;
And there is hope and joy and light for darkness,
And perfect peace, and every hope fulfilled.