This past Sunday, we looked at our second lesson on the life and ministry of the prophet Elisha. We saw how Elijah took Elisha under his wing and trained him for the ministry. In the beginning of his ministry, Elisha was not quick to extend mercy and grace to his enemies. Instead, he called down fire from heaven on two different occasions to consume his enemies. But, as he continued to minister, we see him change to a person who extends mercy and grace to those around him, even to his enemies.
The passage that we studied in class comes from II Kings 6. But, I want to give some context by quickly recapping what took place in II Kings 4-5. Elisha the prophet has several encounter with several different people in these chapters and there are some common character traits among these people.
- Elisha and the prophet’s widow – she is the widow of another man of God. There is a famine in the land and she has fallen on hard times. She does not have a way to make ends meet and as a result, she and her child are starving. The first character trait that we see about her is that she humbles herself to ask for help. She cries out to the man of God for help. In essence, she cries out to God for help. Elisha tells her to prepare for a blessing by getting many pots to hold oil. She believes the Word of God and does exactly what Elisha tells her to do. God provides enough oil that she is able to sell that oil and pay off her debts.
- Elisha and the Shunemmite woman – she is of a family of means. They have their earthly possessions yet, they do not have children. This woman and her family offer up their home to Elisha as he travels around doing ministry. After staying with them a few times, they decide to add an additional room to their home just for Elisha. While there, Elisha tells them that they will have a son by this time next year. The Word of the Lord is fulfilled and they have a son. One day the son is out working with the father and he passes out. He ends up dying and they place him on Elisha’s bed. The Shunemmite woman quickly runs to Elisha and cries out for help. Elisha comes and revives the child. In this lady, we see her character as a person who has a servant’s heart and she believes the Word of the Lord. She cries out to God in her distress and the Lord answers.
- Elisha feeds the prophets – because of the famine in the land, many are starving. The prophets call out to Elisha for help. They humble themselves. Elisha has a Word from the Lord and he shares it with them. They believe the Word of the Lord and God provides food for them and they do not starve.
- Elisha and Naaman – this proud, pagan warrior was suffering from leprosy. While conquering Israel, Naaman took a young Jewish girl to be the servant of his wife back home. This young Jewish girl had a personal relationship with God. Because of this personal relationship, she loved people. Her heart broke for Naaman. She finally reveals that there is a God in Israel who can heal Naaman if he could just go to Israel. Naaman receives permission from his king to go to the king of Israel and seek healing. The king of Israel thinks that it is a trap and tries to send Naaman away. Elisha walks in and tells Naaman that he must trust God to be healed and in order to prove his trust, he must dip in the Jordan river seven times. Naaman is furious and turns around to walk away. His men convince him to give it a try. Naaman humbles himself, believes the Word of God, and does what Elisha told him to do. As a result, he is healed. He cannot wait to go back to his people and tell them about the God of Israel.
Now we get to II kings 6.
I. Elisha counsels the king of Israel
Unlike the previous kings of Israel, this king actually takes advice from the man of God.
8 Now the king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, “In such and such a place shall be my camp.”
9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.”
10 The king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God had told him; thus he warned him, so that he guarded himself there, more than once or twice.
11 Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?” (II Kings 6)
As a result of listening to the man of God, the king of Israel is victorious on multiple occasions. Of course, this drove the enemy camp crazy. The king of Aram just cannot figure out how the king of Israel always seems one step ahead of him. The king of Aram actually believes that he has a spy in his own camp. He does not realize that the Lord is against him and that is why he continues to lose.
II. Elisha has a hit put out on him
The king of Aram finally discovers who keeps informing the king of Israel.
One of his servants said, “No, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom” (II Kings 6:12)
It is the prophet Elisha. The council members are amazed. They wonder how Elisha could possibly know of the king’s plans unless he were hiding in the king’s bedroom. Once the king of Aram discovers that Elisha is the one informing the king of Israel about his plans, he puts a hit out on Elisha.
13 So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.” And it was told him, saying, “Behold, he is in Dothan.”
14 He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. (II Kings 6)
The king of Aram sends out horses and chariots to take Elisha out. When Elisha’s attendant sees the enemy, he is terrified.
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (II Kings 6:15)
Elisha, on the other hand, is cool, calm, and collected. The attendant cannot understand why. Elisha shows him.
16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (II Kings 6)
Elisha was not afraid because he trusted the Lord. He knew the power of God. The attendant’s eyes were opened and he was no longer afraid.
III. Elisha shows mercy and grace to his enemies
The enemy attacks and Elisha prays that the Lord will strike the entire army with blindness. The Lord answers Elisha’s prayer and the enemy is at a disadvantage. Elisha leads the blinded army to the king of Israel.
Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” (II Kings 6:21)
The king of Israel is not interested in showing mercy and grace. He wants to put the enemy to death because that is what they deserve. Elisha, on the other hand, knowing that they deserve death, chooses to extend mercy to them. Mercy means not getting what you deserve.
22 He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”
23 So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel. (II Kings 6)
Not only did Elisha show mercy to his enemies, he also showed grace to them. Grace means getting what you do not deserve. They did not deserve hospitality yet, that is exactly what was shown to them.
These are the characteristics of a person who has connected with God and has a personal relationship with God.
- servant’s heart
- extend mercy and teach mercy
- extend grace and teach grace
What about you, my dear friend, do you exude humility in your daily life? Do you trust the Word of God enough to lay your life on the line? Do you have a servant’s heart? How are you extending mercy to others? How are you extending grace to others? May the Lord help us learn to be like Elisha in our attitude, actions, and words.