Tuesday, 13 May 2014

(134) May 14: 2 Kings 6-8 & John 4:31-54

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider how God is using Elisha.

To ponder:
Elisha’s miracle with the axe-head is rather private, but significant in showing God worked through him in a way he didn’t through the other prophets.
            In what follows Aram have moved from peace with Israel to war. God protects Israel by enabling Elisha to tell her king “the very words” the enemy king speaks in his bedroom! This king therefore sends men to capture Elisha. His faith contrasts his servant’s fear. Then in answer to Elisha’s prayer, God opens his servant’s eyes to see “the horses and chariots of fire” that were “all round,” and so gaurding, Elisha. We should not doubt God’s ability to protect his people.
            In answer to Elisha’s second prayer, God strikes the soldiers with “blindness.” This seems a figurative lack of clarity as to their surroundings. So they follow Elisha into the Israelite city of Samaria, where in response to Elisha’s advice, they are given a feast leading to Aram ceasing its hostilities. There is wisdom here on how grace rather than retaliation quells conflict (Rom 12v17-21).
            Later hostilities resume (6v24). The famine due to the siege was so severe that there was barely anything to eat, and what there was cost a fortune (6v25). As before, when a woman asks Israel’s king for help, he looks to himself rather than to the LORD (6v26-27, see 5v7). But on hearing the woman’s terrible story of cannibalism he mourns. Here we should not miss the many parallels to Deuteronomy 28v51-57. Israel was experiencing God’s covenant curse because of her sin, just as he had warned. In the light of this Israel’s king should have remembered Deuteronomy 30 and called the nation back to the LORD, trusting his promise to have compassion. Instead he promises before God to decapitate his prophet! But God warns Elisha who bars the door against the king, and then (perhaps shouting through the door) predicts the restoration of food the next day at a reasonable price. This was obviously enough for the king not to murder Elisha. However, his officer was incredulous (6v2).
            The desperation of the situation is highlighted by the conversation between the four lepers (7v3-4). On reaching the Aramean camp they realise the LORD had miraculously caused the enemy to flee – it seems by enabling them to hear his heavenly army (7v6, see 6v17). Their response rebukes any who would keep the good news of Christ’s deliverance to themselves (7v8-9). However, despite their report corresponding with Elisha’s prediction, the king continues in his lack of faith (7v12). But on sending men, the truth is discovered, the Aramean camp is plundered, and it is repeatedly stressed that God’s word is “exactly” fulfilled (7v16-20, see 6v2). So God keeps his word about both punishment and deliverance, highlighting the importance of repentance.
            The re-focus on the Shunammite woman reveals God’s continual care as Elisha warns her so she can escape the famine, and she returns to beg help from the king “just as” Gehazi was recounting her story. So God providentially arranged the events to ensure the king would look favourably on her request (8v6).
            Elisha’s interaction with Hazael reveals how utterly God is behind Israel’s fortunes. Elisha tells him to appease Ben-Hadad by lying that he will recover from his illness, but predicting that he will actually die, and that Hazael will become king and bring great harm to Israel. As the prophecy prompts Hazael to kill and succeed the king, it seems we are to see his position and subsequent acts against Israel as God’s means of judgement.
But Judah is at fault too. Her next two kings do even greater evil than Israel’s current king (8v18, 26-27, compare 3v2, 1 Kgs 21v25-26) because of marital ties with Ahab’s house – perhaps also leading to war as God’s judgement (8v20-22, 28-29, see Deut 28v25-26). There’s warning here about the potentially detrimental influence of family members. However, the key point is that because of his promise to David, God doesn’t declare an end to these kings’ descendents as he did Ahab (8v19).

Praying it home:
Praise God for that because he governs all he is able to protect his people. Pray that you would be wise and discerning, and not be influenced badly by those close to you.

Thinking further:
None today.

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