2 Kings 4:18-5:27
As we read of the miracles of Elisha, the intention is not to glorify the man, it’s to point to the LORD who worked through this vessel. Through Elisha a child was raised from the dead. Through Elisha the poisoned stew was cleansed. Through Elisha the bread for the prophets was multiplied. Through Elisha Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army was healed of his leprosy…a leprosy that was tragically transferred to Gehazi, Elisha’s right-hand man. It was through Elisha, but it all done by the power of the LORD alone.
In this section we learn many things about God and the power of prayer. We pray for our children, and we ask others to pray for them. We learn that nothing is too hard for God – too big, or too small. Most of us pray over our food three times a day, and God cleanses it, nourishes it to our bodies, and provides so faithfully.
We learn that the LORD is not just the God of Israel, He’s the one true God of the whole wide world, working even in Syria. Through the providence of God Naaman learns that there is a prophet of God in Israel who can heal him of his leprosy. He’s sent to Israel, whose king sees it as a move of aggression against him, when in all reality it was a move of God. Here’s where we learn another important lesson. As Elisha calls for Naaman to come to him, he sends a servant to tell Syria’s commander to go and wash in the Jordan seven times. Initially Naaman refused to do so, he was offended at Elisha; why didn’t the prophet come to him and pray over him? He could have gone home the same way he came – a leper. Thankfully he listened to the counsel of his servant, and he became part of the answer to his prayer. You see, praying is part of the way God moves – but it’s our steps of faith, obedient steps that are sometimes instrumental in prompting God to move.
We read of Elisha stretching his body over the child – eye to eye and mouth to mouth – twice. We read of the prophets putting flower in the poisoned pot, by faith, to cleanse it. We read of the distribution of the bread, they didn’t calculate to see if they had enough they just gave it out…and they had leftovers. Then now we read of Naaman washing in the Jordan seven times, and he was cleansed. If there’s anything we need to do in order to see God move in response to our prayers, He will show us. If we pray for rain we need to prepare for rain.
When Naaman was healed he wanted to compensate Elisha for the miracle, but Elisha refused. Perhaps he felt it would taint the witness he had given to the Syrian. We ministers need to be so very careful in areas of materialism! But Gehazi was tired of the simple things in life – he was ready for a financial upgrade and did the unthinkable. He chased down Naaman and lied to him, in order to get from him. Did he actually think he could hide it from God? What a fool!
We read the tragic conclusion, Elisha’s words to Gehazi. It plants a healthy fear within me.
2 Kings 5:26–27 (NKJV) “Then he said to him, ‘Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants? 27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.’ And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.
He did not know, it would cost his life. It would destroy his descendants. It would end his call, and ruin it all.
Galatians 6:7 (NKJV) “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.”
A couple of conflicts are the challenge of Acts 15 – the conflict over circumcision and the conflict over Mark. Today we cover the conflict over circumcision.
Certain men had crept into the church at Antioch saying that in order to be saved one had to be circumcised. They were essentially saying that in order to be a Christian, they first, had to be a Jew – this was a perversion of the Gospel. Thankfully Paul and Barnabas fought these false teachers vigorously. This debate was taken all the way to Jerusalem, where it was settled by the consensus of church leaders, under the authority of the Scriptures – who decreed that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone – not by works.
Peter testified of how the Holy Spirit made the salvation of the Gentiles evident, when they simply believed. His words are powerful:
Acts 15:9 (NKJV) “and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.”
Acts 15:11 (NKJV) “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they.”
We are not saved by circumcision, or baptism, good works or religious ceremony. We are saved by true faith in Christ, it’s by the grace of God (see also Acts 16:31; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Paul and Barnabas testified of the miracles God had done among the Gentiles, placing His approval upon this ministry, without the Gentiles being circumcised.
And then James (the half-brother of Jesus), who was probably the pastor there in Jerusalem, seemed to have the last word, listening to the evidence, standing on and quoting the Scriptures (Amos 9:11-12) concluded that salvation is not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles. Men didn’t need to get circumcised (become a Jew) in order to be saved – Gentiles could be saved!
Acts 15:17 (NKJV) “‘So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, ‘says the LORD who does all these things.”
They wrote a letter and sent it with Paul, Barnabas, and leading men to be delivered to the churches. I thought it was interesting how James described the effect of these false teachers with the words, “unsettling your souls” (Acts 15:24). That’s what happens to those who “listen” to false teachers, teachers who don’t preach a pure gospel.
The church from Jerusalem sends the letter to all the other churches clarifying the teaching on salvation and circumcision, as well as other issues that weighed heavy on their hearts.
The church at Antioch rejoiced over the “Good News,” and God continued His beautiful work of building up His church through the truth spoken in love – many were preaching and teaching the Word (Acts 15:35).
In church history, this church council would become a model for ages to come – but ultimately, the church itself must yield to Scripture as we saw James do in Acts 15:15.
Another Psalm (prayer, song) of David.
Our prayers rise as incense before the Lord, may they be a sweet smelling aroma to Him. Prayer is one of the weapons we have for the war we’re in (Ephesians 6:18) and here we see David once again “fighting on his knees.”
He not only prays that God would defeat his enemies, he even prays that God would help him with the words that he speaks (it’s one of my favorite prayers).
Psalm 141:3 (NKJV) “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips.”
We often mess everything up by careless words spoken to others. How wonderful it would be if we only spoke those words approved by God – if we prayed this prayer and He answered…as the guard over our gab, the doorkeeper of every dialogue.
David also prays something we might consider to be rather outlandish:
Psalm 141:5 (NKJV) “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it. For still my prayer is against the deeds of the wicked.”
David is asking for it! He’s asking to be rebuked, even “struck” by the righteous. If there’s any area of his life that’s not right, he wants to know about it and he figures the godly caring people in his life should have the freedom to point things out. It’s all part of winning the war against the wicked.
David (and Israel at that time) was going through it – he counsels us to stay focused. He shows us the power of prayer.
Psalm 141:8 (NKJV) “But my eyes are upon You, O GOD the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute.”
Are my eyes truly on the LORD?
Keep in mind this is Psalm is a song as well. May we pray and even sing these types of songs that bring victory!
Bribes, lobbying, money, and the things that money can buy – so many fall prey to it all. God help us. Let there be no price, no amount of money that can make us sin in any way.
A recent survey said 1 in 5 Americans would sell their soul for a million dollars, and many have sold out for much less.
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.