Faith in Action

Posted: May 27, 2010 in 2 Kings

2 Kings 3-4, “Faith in Action”
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How’s your faith? It’s easy for us to sit back from a comfortable place & predict how we think we might trust God in any particular situation – but what about the time your back is really up against the wall? At those times, will we trust God or will we despair? As we continue to follow the ministry of Elisha, we’re going to see several examples of that in the next few chapters. Those whose faith ought to have been monumental is really miniature; but those who would have seemed to be excluded from faith have more faith than ever expected…

Obviously, ‘faith’ is not some sort of theoretical construct…it’s not some sort of imagined feeling. Faith in God shows itself when it is demonstrated through obedience – which is an principle we’ll see demonstrated again & again in Ch 3-4.

2 Kings 3 (NKJV)
1 Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. 2 And he did evil in the sight of the LORD, but not like his father and mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal that his father had made. 3 Nevertheless he persisted in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin; he did not depart from them.

A. Context: Ahab had died… Ahaziah had died, without an heir. His brother Jehoram inherited the kingdom…

B. Jehoram wasn’t AS bad as Ahab (and presumably Jezebel), but he was still bad. Kept up with the “sins of Jeroboam” = false worship under pseudo-Hebrew laws, and probably kept the Baal worship in place, even though the pillar was taken down.
__a. We don’t judge the sinfulness of sin by comparing ourselves with one another; we judge it by comparing ourselves with Almighty God. …
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4 Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheepbreeder, and he regularly paid the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams. 5 But it happened, when Ahab died, that the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.

A. Fills in the picture from 2 Kings 1:1…apparently Moab stopped paying tribute to Israel in livestock… (Testing the mettle of the new king??)
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6 So King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel. 7 Then he went and sent to Jehoshaphat king of Judah, saying, “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?” And he said, “I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

A. Alliance with Judah…
B. Did Jehoshaphat have any business being there? Probably not. He had been chastised by the Lord for making an earlier alliance with Israel under Ahaziah (2 Chr 20:35). What brought him back, we don’t know.
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8 Then he said, “Which way shall we go up?” And he answered, “By way of the Wilderness of Edom.” 9 So the king of Israel went with the king of Judah and the king of Edom, and they marched on that roundabout route seven days; and there was no water for the army, nor for the animals that followed them.

A. Alliance with Edom was natural, as Edom was a tributary nation to Judah at the time.
B. Big problem! No water…
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10 And the king of Israel said, “Alas! For the LORD has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” 11 But Jehoshaphat said, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?” So one of the servants of the king of Israel answered and said, “Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who poured water on the hands of Elijah.” 12 And Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the LORD is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.

A. Huge difference between the king of Israel & the king of Judah! Jehoram blamed God for their problems; Jehoshaphat looked to God for an answer to their problems…
__a. Which do you do? Run FROM God, or run TO God? …

B. Jehoshaphat recognized the anointing of God upon the man of God – either Elisha’s reputation had spread, or Jehoshaphat had that much respect for Elijah that he figured his prodigy would certainly have the Spirit of the Lord upon him.
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13 Then Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” But the king of Israel said to him, “No, for the LORD has called these three kings together to deliver them into the hand of Moab.” 14 And Elisha said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, surely were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not look at you, nor see you.

A. Whether or not it was wise on the part of King Jehoshaphat to be allied with Israel, it turned out to be a good thing for Israel. Elisha wouldn’t have spoken to them, otherwise…

B. Why didn’t Elisha want to speak to Jehoram? Because Jehoram normally wanted nothing to do with the Lord. Even in this instance, Jehoram was trying to run from God rather than seek the Lord’s guidance. [God speaking to Samuel regarding Eli] 1 Samuel 2:30 Therefore the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I said indeed that your house and the house of your father would walk before Me forever.’ But now the Lord says: ‘Far be it from Me; for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed. [] No better example of this than in eternal salvation. To those who reject Christ their entire lives, they will find themselves rejected by Christ for eternity. For those who humble themselves before Jesus now & honor Him as Lord, God will honor with grace, forgiveness, eternal life, and inheritance!
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15 But now bring me a musician.” Then it happened, when the musician played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him.

A. Very unique! We haven’t seen much music in the prophets since David… Some think that Elisha was angry due to having to deal with the idolatrous King Jehoram, and needed music to calm down & to get into a better attitude in which to pray. It’s certainly possible [], but the Bible simply doesn’t tell us why Elisha asked for a musician – it only tells us that he did. And once the musician played, God used it to put “the hand of the Lord” upon Elisha for prophecy.

B. Can God use music in prophecy & other spiritual gifts? Of course – Paul acknowledge this with the Corinthians (1 Cor 14:15)… [] Is God forced to do so? Obviously not. God works in myriads of ways; outside of what the Bible explicitly says God “always” does, God is never forced into any sort of predictable patterns at all. God used music for prophecy here; He used prophecy without music elsewhere. Jesus healed one blind man with mud; He healed another one with touch… The key isn’t in the method; it’s in going to the God who uses whatever method He so chooses. …
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16 And he said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ 17 For thus says the LORD: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’ 18 And this is a simple matter in the sight of the LORD; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand. 19 Also you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall cut down every good tree, and stop up every spring of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones.”

A. Gotta love the prophecy! There won’t be any rain – there won’t be any storms, but God tells the army to go ahead & dig ditches because they will be filled with water soon. … And if that weren’t enough, God tells them this isn’t even difficult. 🙂
__a. Miracles are astounding from a human point of view – they take the impossible and show it to be possible right before our eyes. But from God’s point of view, miracles are nothing…a miracle is simply simple to God. Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me? []

B. Notice the 2nd part of the prophecy. The 1st part is what God would do after the ditches were made; the 2nd part is what Israel (and the others) was to do after God delivered the victory. They were to stop up Moab’s water & make the land unusable. Sounds rather harsh, but it would stop Moab from any further rebellion in the future.
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20 Now it happened in the morning, when the grain offering was offered, that suddenly water came by way of Edom, and the land was filled with water. 21 And when all the Moabites heard that the kings had come up to fight against them, all who were able to bear arms and older were gathered; and they stood at the border. 22 Then they rose up early in the morning, and the sun was shining on the water; and the Moabites saw the water on the other side as red as blood. 23 And they said, “This is blood; the kings have surely struck swords and have killed one another; now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!”

A. God did it! Miracle…
B. Moabites were deluded into thinking the water was the remains of a massive bloodbath & they ran into the fields unprepared for battle.
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24 So when they came to the camp of Israel, Israel rose up and attacked the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they entered their land, killing the Moabites. 25 Then they destroyed the cities, and each man threw a stone on every good piece of land and filled it; and they stopped up all the springs of water and cut down all the good trees. But they left the stones of Kir Haraseth intact. However the slingers surrounded and attacked it.

A. Total victory for Israel. …
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26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him seven hundred men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son who would have reigned in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering upon the wall; and there was great indignation against Israel. So they departed from him and returned to their own land.

A. Last effort for Moab, which failed. Offered his son up as a human sacrifice – likely an attempt to satisfy his false god (who would have ‘let’ Moab be defeated). …

B. Why did this bring “great indignation against Israel”? Scholars differ. Quite possibly, people blamed Israel for the battle that ultimately led to human sacrifice.
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2 Kings 4 (NKJV)
1 A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” 2 So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” 3 Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors—empty vessels; do not gather just a few. 4 And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.”

A. Of all the things the widow could have done, it’s interesting she went to Elisha. … She didn’t have many options, but she knew the one thing that needed to be done was to take her problems to the Lord. …

B. Elisha’s response is just as interesting. Two-fold. 1st he asks the widow what SHE has in the house. Instead of saying what he could provide for her, he looks to see what she already has. She didn’t have much – just a single jar of oil (like us having a jug of milk left in the fridge). Yet that’s exactly what God was going to use to provide for her need. …
__a. Bring to God whatever you’ve got!

C. 2nd, Elisha has the woman act. “Go, borrow vessels…” Elisha could have told her to just go look under the next rock to find the money she needed – but instead she had to act upon what the Lord was telling her to do. She had to put her faith in action.
__a. We pray, but we DO something. …
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5 So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured it out. 6 Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. 7 Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons live on the rest.”

A. Obedient to the word of God. … The oil stopped when she ran out of jars; God provided just enough…

B. The Bible doesn’t tell us, but we can’t help wondering how many pots did the woman gather together? That’s a good indication of how much faith she had. …
__a. How much do you trust God for?
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8 Now it happened one day that Elisha went to Shunem, where there was a notable woman, and she persuaded him to eat some food. So it was, as often as he passed by, he would turn in there to eat some food. 9 And she said to her husband, “Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God, who passes by us regularly. 10 Please, let us make a small upper room on the wall; and let us put a bed for him there, and a table and a chair and a lampstand; so it will be, whenever he comes to us, he can turn in there.”

A. Interesting contrast with the previous story. 1st Elisha had encountered a poor widow who had virtually nothing. Next, Elisha meets a wealthy Shunammite woman who displays wonderful hospitality. She not only provides Elisha meals from time to time, but she goes so far as to build a furnished guest room on top of their house expressly for the prophet! … No name given for the woman; just her town (located near Jezreel).

B. Hospitality is a virtue that Christians ought to be known for. (Heb 13:2, “entertained angels”) That’s not to say we need to invite any John Doe to sleep in our house – but we should be able to show love & kindness to whomever we come across.
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11 And it happened one day that he came there, and he turned in to the upper room and lay down there. 12 Then he said to Gehazi his servant, “Call this Shunammite woman.” When he had called her, she stood before him. 13 And he said to him, “Say now to her, ‘Look, you have been concerned for us with all this care. What can I do for you? Do you want me to speak on your behalf to the king or to the commander of the army?’ ” She answered, “I dwell among my own people.” 14 So he said, “What then is to be done for her?” And Gehazi answered, “Actually, she has no son, and her husband is old.” 15 So he said, “Call her.” When he had called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 Then he said, “About this time next year you shall embrace a son.” And she said, “No, my lord. Man of God, do not lie to your maidservant!” 17 But the woman conceived, and bore a son when the appointed time had come, of which Elisha had told her.

A. Elisha wants to show his appreciation, but the woman was being kind simply to be kind (rather rare these days!)… He finds out her needs, and then promises a miraculous conception along the lines of Isaac or John the Baptist…

B. Did the Shunammite women have a lack of faith? Maybe, maybe not. At this point, it’s unclear if she even had any true faith in God or if she just wanted to be nice to a guy she thought was spiritually “profound.” Most likely, she didn’t want to get her hopes up regarding something she considered impossible.
__a. Here’s the thing: it WAS impossible! This was eons before in-vitro fertilization or any of the incredible science that exists today. But what is impossible for man is possible with God. This was no harder for God than to bring water out from nowhere…
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18 And the child grew. Now it happened one day that he went out to his father, to the reapers. 19 And he said to his father, “My head, my head!” So he said to a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 21 And she went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door upon him, and went out. 22 Then she called to her husband, and said, “Please send me one of the young men and one of the donkeys, that I may run to the man of God and come back.” 23 So he said, “Why are you going to him today? It is neither the New Moon nor the Sabbath.” And she said, “It is well.”

A. Tragedy strikes. … Did the father even understand his son had died? Not likely – the woman seemingly doesn’t want any delays; she just wants to get to Elisha as soon as possible.

B. (Guzik) “This shows the faith of the woman. She prepared for the resurrection of the boy, not his burial.”
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24 Then she saddled a donkey, and said to her servant, “Drive, and go forward; do not slacken the pace for me unless I tell you.” 25 And so she departed, and went to the man of God at Mount Carmel. So it was, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to his servant Gehazi, “Look, the Shunammite woman! 26 Please run now to meet her, and say to her, ‘Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child?’ ” And she answered, “It is well.” 27 Now when she came to the man of God at the hill, she caught him by the feet, but Gehazi came near to push her away. But the man of God said, “Let her alone; for her soul is in deep distress, and the LORD has hidden it from me, and has not told me.”

A. Interesting that the Shunammite woman didn’t tell anyone what was going on – neither her husband nor Gehazi. It wasn’t that they would have been uncaring, it’s simply that they couldn’t help. The Shunammite woman needed a miracle, and there was only one person to which she could go – so she didn’t delay.
__a. Do we go straight to God in our times of distress? Or do we hit the internet or bookstore or TV in search of an answer. PRAY! Never neglect the value of prayer. Pray yourself – get others to pray – but get on your knees & go to the throne room of God…go directly to the source!

B. Even more interesting that God hadn’t informed Elisha. It’s tough to say which is more astounding: the fact that God didn’t tell Elisha anything regarding this woman God had already told him so much about? Or that Elisha’s relationship with God was so intimate that he expected God to tell him what was on the woman’s heart?

C. What do you do when something’s obviously wrong, but you don’t know what? Sometimes the best thing to do is to remain silent (like Elisha). We get the idea sometimes that we always need to have some quick response or snappy verse to give to someone in need…but that’s not the case. Sometimes the best thing we can do is simply BE with someone in their distress & pray to the Lord on their behalf. …
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28 So she said, “Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me’?” 29 Then he said to Gehazi, “Get yourself ready, and take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, do not greet him; and if anyone greets you, do not answer him; but lay my staff on the face of the child.” 30 And the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” So he arose and followed her.

A. She had one desire & one desire only: for Elisha to personally come. Nothing else would suffice… (Ministry is hands-on)

B. Notice by this point, if she hadn’t fully believed God beforehand, the Shunammite HAD come to faith! “As the LORD lives…” Her faith was founded upon the Living God. [] So is ours! …
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31 Now Gehazi went on ahead of them, and laid the staff on the face of the child; but there was neither voice nor hearing. Therefore he went back to meet him, and told him, saying, “The child has not awakened.” 32 When Elisha came into the house, there was the child, lying dead on his bed.

A. Keep in mind this was Elisha’s 1st plan. Gehazi simply did what Elisha had already told him to do in Elisha’s absence…but it didn’t work.

B. How do you respond when God doesn’t do what you expect Him to do? … Keep trusting – keep seeking – keep faith in the Lord & in His perfect will. See vs. 33…
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33 He went in therefore, shut the door behind the two of them, and prayed to the LORD. 34 And he went up and lay on the child, and put his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands; and he stretched himself out on the child, and the flesh of the child became warm. 35 He returned and walked back and forth in the house, and again went up and stretched himself out on him; then the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 36 And he called Gehazi and said, “Call this Shunammite woman.” So he called her. And when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” 37 So she went in, fell at his feet, and bowed to the ground; then she picked up her son and went out.

A. Elisha didn’t give up! He “prayed to the LORD…” We don’t have a transcript, but can you imagine what was said?

B. After he prayed, Elisha acted on that faith. The Bible doesn’t tell us that God explicitly told Elisha to lay on the child. Perhaps he had remembered Elijah telling a similar story (1 Kings 17) – perhaps God told him directly to do it… Whatever the case, Elisha followed the same principle as the widow & the Shunammite woman: he sought the Lord in faithful prayer, and then showed his faith by his actions…

C. The boy lived!
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38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. 40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

A. Apparently Elisha was a powerful prophet but a lousy cook. 🙂 Seems that there were poisonous gourds in the stew.
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41 So he said, “Then bring some flour.” And he put it into the pot, and said, “Serve it to the people, that they may eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

A. Using the flour… Question: is there something special about the flour? No. The flour was merely the means for the miracle…

B. (Constable, Walvoord & Zuck) “In Elisha’s day a spiritual famine had resulted from the people’s turning from God and His Law. The people were hungry spiritually. In an effort to satisfy their need they had imbibed a false religion called Baalism. It looked harmless enough but proved disgusting and deadly. God’s prophets helped counteract the deadly effects of Baalism in Israel.”
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42 Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And he said, “Give it to the people, that they may eat.” 43 But his servant said, “What? Shall I set this before one hundred men?” He said again, “Give it to the people, that they may eat; for thus says the LORD: ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ ” 44 So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.

A. Very similar to the loaves & fishes Jesus would later multiply… Elisha simply set up a preview of what was still yet to come.

Conclusion:
Huge miracles in these two chapters! Water coming from nowhere – military victory – abundant oil – provision of a child – raising the dead – purifying poison – multiplying bread. (And this is only the beginning of Elisha’s ministry!) Massive supernatural works of God in all these cases… Yet in almost all of them, there’s also a response expected. It wasn’t merely a matter of people being a spectator in watching God worked, God was working in response to their faith.

A. For the kings, it was to build ditches in the middle of nowhere…
B. For the widow, it was to both gather the pots, and actually pour the oil…
C. For the Shunammite, it was to serve the prophet & go seek him immediately in time of need…
D. For Elisha, it was to seek the Lord despite the 1st circumstances…
E. For the man from Baal Shalisha, it was to provide the beginning loaves of bread…

What is it for you & me? Don’t get the wrong idea here: it’s not that the people were the ones doing the miracles – God alone did the miraculous. And God could have done the miraculous with or without the people. But in all these cases, God desired to use the people – God chose to act in response to the faith that they demonstrated. Jesus did this throughout His earthly ministry: the woman with the flow of blood was healed due to her faith (Matt 9:22) – the two blind men were healed according to their faith (Matt 9:29).

How many times do we miss out on seeing what God desires to do simply because we do not have the faith to ask? Or because we don’t have the faith to act upon what we know God has said? It’s not that we restrict the hand of God, nor is it that we can somehow arrogantly command God through our faith – but when we don’t seek God in faith nor act upon that faith, WE’RE the ones who miss out on the blessing of being used by God! WE’RE the ones that miss out on seeing what God was going to do.

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