Bible Focus: 2 Kings 2-13
One of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant, my husband, has died. You know that your servant feared the LORD. Now the creditor is coming to take my two children as his slaves.” Elisha asked her, “What can I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” She said, “Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go out and borrow empty containers from all your neighbors. Do not get just a few. Then go in and shut the door behind you and your sons, and pour oil into all these containers. Set the full ones to one side.”
So she left. After she had shut the door behind her and her sons, they kept bringing her containers, and she kept pouring. When they were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another container.” But he replied, “There aren’t any more.” Then the oil stopped. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go sell the oil and pay your debt; you and your sons can live on the rest.”1 Kings 4:1-7 CSB
Parents tend to get a bad rap from their kids, especially early on. That’s because all parents, including good ones, have to regularly say no to their kids. Kids don’t like being told no, and it takes years for them to understand why their parents said no to so many of their desires.
Kids also tend to overlook all the ways that their parents automatically say yes to their most important needs. That’s how kids with plenty of food, medical care, education, comfortable rooms, and closets full of clothes can still hold the opinion that their parents are stingy misers.
Kids who have good parents usually come to realize that their parents are good, but this realization often happens by degrees. Maybe they hear about the rough home life of other kids. Maybe they notice that some parents aren’t so involved with their kids. Or maybe they catch one of their own parents making some sort of sacrifice to give them something they really want. Their eyes are opened–maybe for just a few moments–to the reality that their parent truly cares about them and enjoys giving to them. In the same way, our eyes are opened when we remember that God truly cares about us and enjoys blessing us.
After the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms, the larger northern kingdom retained the name of Israel and had its capital in Samaria. Unfortunately, Israel’s kings led their people to worship other gods. So God told the prophet Elijah to speak against their idolatry and proclaim God’s judgment on Israel and its kings. God also told Elijah to anoint Elisha as prophet so that he could eventually take Elijah’s place. When God took Elijah to heaven one day, Elisha picked up where Elijah left off.
But Elisha’s ministry was somewhat different from Elijah’s. In the Bible, Elijah is usually shown confronting the rulers of Israel. In contrast, Elisha is usually shown in settings with other prophets or everyday people. Elisha would typically encounter a need and then would then perform a miracle to meet that need. He made a bad spring of water good. He made a jar of oil pour out more than it held. He made an old barren couple conceive a child, and raised that same child back to life after the child died. He made a poisonous stew wholesome. He fed a hundred men with only twenty loaves of bread. And he made an iron ax-head float that had been accidentally dropped in the river.
One of the most striking of these miracles involved a foreign commander named Naaman. Naaman was afflicted with leprosy. Naaman had been told about Elisha, and he traveled to Elisha’s house seeking a cure for his skin disease. Naaman thought that Elisha would come out of his house and cure him on the spot. Instead, Elisha merely sent him a message to wash seven times in the Jordan River to be cleansed. Naaman was enraged, but at the urging of his servants, he followed Elisha’s instructions. After dipping himself in the Jordan seven times, his leprosy vanished and his skin became like new.
What was the point of these miracles? They didn’t eliminate all hardship in Israel. Other water sources remained polluted. Other people were crushed with debt. Other barren couples remained childless. Other hungry stomachs went unfilled. Other iron tools dropped in the river refused to float. And other lepers still suffered with their painful and embarrassing disease.
But these miracles did demonstrate that God was real, powerful, and cared about people. By doing these miracles, Elisha was pointing people to pay attention to the only God who really loved them and had the power to bless them. By implication, he was also urging them to abandon their idols and idolatrous practices, which had no power to bless them. Naaman understood this. His response to being healed was to return to Elisha and declare his exclusive faith in the one true God.
Then Naaman and his whole company went back to the man of God, stood before him, and declared, “I know there’s no God in the whole world except in Israel. Therefore, please accept a gift from your servant.” But Elisha said, “As the LORD lives, in whose presence I stand, I will not accept it.” Naaman urged him to accept it, but he refused. Naaman responded, “If not, please let your servant be given as much soil as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will no longer offer a burnt offering or a sacrifice to any other god but the LORD.”2 Kings 5:15-17 CSB
Whether we realize it or not, our greatest need today is to turn to the one God who truly cares about us and has the power to save us. We can pursue all kinds of modern-day idols that cannot ultimately bring us fulfillment, healing, or peace. But Jesus came to completely save those of us who believe in him. We can trust him when he tells us no. We can also know that he cares about us deeply, and that he enjoys giving us every good blessing.
Featured image from Hendrik Cornelissen on Unsplash.
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