He Will Make the Iron Float

I have often wondered why the writer of Kings sandwiched this story of the floating iron between the accounts of the curse of Gehazi and the chariots of fire. It is a short story in the middle of two long stories. It is so short and simple, leaving readers wondering why it is there.

There seems to be a contrast between the stories of Gehazi and the lost iron. One is concerning Elisha’s servant, Gehazi and the other, Elisha’s students. The first is about money, and the second, ministry. In one is faithlessness, and in the other, faithfulness. One is for personal gain, and the other, for everyone’s benefit. The first is action without approval, and the other, with permission. In one, something is gained by lying, and in the other, by borrowing.1

But the story stresses the writer’s recurring theme of Yahweh’s protection of His servants. Two threads tie this story with the stories of the widow’s “bottomless” oil, life in the pot, and the feeding of one hundred (cf. 2 Ki. 4:1-7, 38-44). Each of the stories involves prophets. Each portrays Elisha protecting them from financial trouble (the widow and axe head) and physical need (the stew and 100 hungry prophets).2

Yet the writer seems to stress a larger theme with this story. That theme is Yahweh’s preservation of His prophets, and hence, the preservation of the worship of Yahweh. At this time, Israel has fallen in apostasy (cf. 2 Ki. 3:1-3). Yahwist spirituality was at an all time low. Idolatry in the form of calf and Baalist worship was widespread in the land. We find Elisha busy devoting his time to training a new breed of prophets. These prophets will keep alive the worship of Yahweh. Thus, Yahweh is more than merely demonstrating His care for His servants. He is really preserving His prophets and thus, maintaining a Yahwist testimony in apostate Israel.

We note four key elements in this brief but fascinating account. . . more

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There is a Prophet in Israel – 2

Chapter 5 of 2 Kings is peculiar, in that the writer links both stories of the blessing of Naaman and the curse of Gehazi. Yet this feature is consistent with the Deuteronomic purpose of Kings. One is blessed for obedience, while the other is cursed for disobedience.

This time, however, there is a role reversal. Yahweh blesses the foreigner (Naaman) for his obedience, but curses the Israelite (Gehazi) for his disobedience.

What does that mean? The blessing of the foreigner fulfills Yahweh’s desire to proclaim His name to all the peoples of the earth (cf. 1 Ki. 8:41-43). The stories of Naaman and Gehazi may be seen then as a microcosm of the bigger picture of Israel. The bigger picture is that Israel has turned away from Yahweh. The result of this apostasy is exile.

The implication is that the first exilic Israelite readers should know that there was indeed a prophet in Israel. Through His prophet, Yahweh’s presence and power was really in Israel. In the second part of the two stories, only three characters are involved—Naaman, Elisha, and Gehazi. . . . more

There is a Prophet in Israel – 1

The two major stories of Naaman and Gehazi are complicated stories. They involve no less than ten characters, multiple themes, and many plots. My primary question concerns the reason for its inclusion in the book. Why did the writer include the blessing of Naaman and the curse of Gehazi?

The purpose of the writer of the book of Kings will help answer our question. He wants to show the failure of Israel’s kings to trust God and obey Him. Such disobedience is the cause of Israel’s current exile in Babylon. He also wants to demonstrate the role of the prophets in calling the kings and the nation of Israel back to the terms of the covenant.

There is another aim—to reiterate the Mosaic stipulation to love the stranger and welcome the foreigner (cf. Deut. 10:19; 1 Ki. 8:41-43). Naaman is an enemy of Israel. But he is a foreigner in need—somebody that the Mosaic law expects the kings of Israel to accommodate. Yet I think the ultimate aim of the healing of Naaman is “evangelistic.” A key verse is v. 8, “that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” That pagan Naaman later declares that the only true God is in Israel, shows that this aim was achieved. We see these aims achieved in the unfolding of the stories.

Today, we shall study the first major story—the miraculous healing of Naaman. The following outline reflects the plot and subplots of the story. . . . more

A Faith Journey — 2

 

Last Sunday, we studied the faith journey of the Shunnamite woman, which reflects the faith journey of Israel and our faith journey as well. We learned that the purpose of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha is to show Israel that Yahweh remains gracious to her, despite the godlessness of her kings.

We also learned that the first three marks of the faith of the Shunnamite woman. It is a giving faith. The faith that receives is the faith that gives.

It is a contented faith. The faith that is rests content in Christ resists the craving for more.

It is a rewarded faith. God rewards a giving faith, stretching it to believe the impossible.

Today, we shall learn five more marks of the faith of the Shunnamite woman. . . . more

A Faith Journey — 1

The writer of 2 Kings presents a series of miracles of Elisha for the sake of Israel. The cluster of miracles of Elijah and Elisha serve several purposes. One is to show Israel that Yahweh remains faithful to Israel even after the division of the kingdom of Solomon. The other purpose is to bless Israel for her obedience and curse her for her disobedience. The miracles also show Israel that despite the godlessness of her kings, Yahweh remains gracious and merciful in difficult times. The bottom line therefore is the glory of Yahweh in Israel.

At this point, the writer introduces us to the Shunnamite woman. She is called a Shunnamite because she lives in Shunem, a village about 15 to 25 miles southeast of Mt. Carmel where Elisha lived. The narrative is about the faith of the Shunnamite woman. It is a faith that describes the faith journey of Israel and of ours as well.

Warren W. Wiersbe has rightly said that when you trusted Christ as your personal Savior, you were automatically enrolled in a school. That school is the school of faith. In the school of faith, the Bible is your textbook. The troubles in life are the exams. In school, we study the subject and still fail the exam! But in the school of faith, after we fail the exam, we know the subject!

That’s what happened to the Shunnamite woman. Her faith was rewarded by the gift of a son, but her son died. She went through a difficult time of anguish. But in her anguish, she expected the mercy of God.

That is how Israel should trust Yahweh, her covenant God. That is also how you and I should also trust the same God today.

I’d like to share with you eight marks of the faith of Shunnamite woman. . . . more

A Tale of Three Hearts — 2

Last Sunday, we learned an important lesson—the quality of our lives depends on the quality of our heart relationship with God. God looks at our hearts and deals with each of us accordingly.

Yet there is the element of divine grace. Even though our heart relationship with God oftentimes fall short of His standard, He deals with us graciously.

We learned how God deals with three kinds of hearts. The first heart is a divided heart—the heart of Jehoram. A divided heart earns the condemnation of God. The second heart is a sensitive heart—the heart of Jehoshaphat. A sensitive heart gets the attention of God.

There is the third heart, the consecrated heart—the heart of Elisha. To consecrate your heart is to offer and set apart your heart to God. A consecrated heart is a heart that is wholeheartedly, totally, and unreservedly consecrated for God. This kind of heart gains the cooperation of God. . . . more

A Tale of Three Hearts – 1

I preached this sermon, the sixth in our sermon series, “God, Israel, and Elisha,” at GGCF, Maxwell Hotel, Escario St., Cebu City, last Sunday, March 13, 2011.

As we study 2 Kings, keep in mind the purpose of the book of Kings. It is to teach Israel the blessing of honoring Yahweh and the curse of dishonoring him.  One lesson we learn is that when you honor God, God in turn honors you. God gives you His full attention and care. God works with you and for you. But if you dishonor God, God condemns you.

That’s what we have here in chapter three, in a “Tale of Three Hearts”—a story of the hearts of two Kings and one prophet of God. The writer introduces Jehoram as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. His father was the wicked Ahab, who ruled with his more wicked wife, Jezebel, for twenty-two years. When Ahab died in battle, his son, Ahaziah, took his place. But Ahaziah ruled for only two years, having died in a fall from the palace balcony in Samaria (cf. 2 Ki. 1:2-18). So Jehoram took over power upon his brother’s death (cf. 2 Ki. 3:1).

We learn three spiritual lessons about one’s relationship with God—about our thoughts and actions that draw divine decisions—in the lives of King Jehoram, King Jehoshaphat, and the prophet Elisha. We shall look into the first two kinds of hearts today; and then the third kind of heart next Sunday. . . . more

Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?

This sermon, the fifth of our sermon series, “God, Israel, and Elisha,” was preached at GGCF Escario, Sunday, March 6, 2011.

The writer of 2 Kings brings us to the time when Elisha, Elijah’s long time servant, is about to take over prophetic leadership from Elijah. God has called Elijah to his heavenly retirement. God has called Elisha to take his place. This is a time of transition for Elisha, who will step into the shoes of the most celebrated star in the Hall of Fame of Yahweh’s prophets. It is a time of transition for the sons of prophets, the student prophets, who will now follow a new leader, mentor, and head prophet. It is also a time of transition for the northern kingdom of Israel, as they see God’s ways and learn to obey God’s Word through the prophet Elisha.

Today, I’m going to expound from the text, Elisha’s question, “Where’s the LORD, God of Elijah?” According to the context of the story, it is a test question, really—a question of confirmation, whether the God of Elijah is now truly with Elisha. When Elisha asked, “Where is the LORD, God of Elisha?,” he is asking whether the spirit and power of God upon Elijah is now truly with Elisha. When Elisha asked, “Where is the LORD, God of Elisha?,” he is asking whether the blessing and authorization of Yahweh is now truly with
Elisha.

That is a good question for us today. When we ask, “Where is the LORD, God of Elisha?,” we are really asking whether the Spirit and power of God is upon our lives, our church, our work, and our ministry. When Elisha asked, “Where is the LORD, God of Elisha?,” we are asking whether the blessing of God is upon us. . . . more

Why Should I Wait for the Lord? – 2

I preached this sermon, the fourth in our sermon series on God, Israel, and Elisha, at GGCF-Escario last Feb. 6, 2011.

Last Sunday, we learned three negative reasons why we should wait for the Lord in hard times. One reason is that if we don’t wait on the Lord, we resort to doing desperate things that we’ll regret later on. The second reason is that if we don’t wait for the Lord, we’ll resort to deceitful finger-pointing, blame somebody else, including God. The third reason is that if we don’t wait for the Lord, there will be divine judgment against our unbelief.

We now come to the three positive reasons why we should wait for the Lord.

God’s Test of Faith
The fourth reason why we should wait for the Lord in hard times is because God’s Test is Always a Test of Faith (6:31). Charles Swindoll says: “The wonderful thing about God’s schoolroom . . . is that we get to grade our own papers. You see, He doesn’t test us so He can learn how well we’re doing. He tests us so we can discover how well we’re doing.” In the ministry of Elisha in Israel, God gave Israel a severe test, which is  actually a spiritual test of faith.1 That test included the siege of Samaria and a famine. God did not test Israel so that He can know how they would perform in the test. God tested Israel so the people of Israel can know how they would perform in the test. . . . more

Why Should I Wait for the Lord? – 1

This sermon, the third of our series on God, Elisha, and Israel, was preached last Jan. 30, 2011 at GGCF, Escario St., Cebu City.

When you study 2 Kings, remember the reason why the author of Kings wrote it. His purpose is to teach Israel important lessons of how to trust God in good times and bad and what will happen if they do so. The lessons are what theologians call, “Deuteronomic,” based on Deut. 11:26-28. If Israel obeys Yahweh, Yahweh will bless them. If she does not obey Yahweh, Yahweh will curse them. 2 Kings is a narrative of how the nation of Israel obeys and disobeys God; and how God blesses and curses them.

At this point of the miraculous ministry of the prophet Elisha, Samaria, a key city in the northern kingdom of Israel, is besieged by Syria (READ v. 24). Nobody can get in to bring food; and nobody can get out to get food. The result is a terrible famine in the city (READ v. 25). The famine is so bad that people are now forced to eat a donkey’s head, which they did not normally eat (Lev. 11:3) and dove’s dung.

Can you imagine eating dove’s dung? According to the law of supply and demand, low supply with high demand means high prices. So a donkey’s head now costs eighty shekels of silver. A shekel is about 11 grams. Eighty shekels is 880 grams of silver. Now that’s very expensive for just a donkey’s head. One-fourth of a kab of dove’s dung is now sold for five shekels of silver. A kab is about 1 liter; so one-fourth of a kab is one-fourth liter. One-fourth liter of dove’s dung now cost 55 grams of silver. That is very expensive indeed for dove’s dung. . . . more