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 17:2424Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (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 17:15-1615And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. (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