One More Look at Elijah

Last week, when I shared thoughts from Forgotten God by Francis Chan. I left out one of the most powerful quotes in the book, particularly appropriate for those of you who read last year’s essays about the miracles of Elijah and Elisha.

“My favorite verse is quite possibly James 5:17, which reads, ‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently.’ Don’t keep yourself from praying desperately and courageously for the Spirit to work in your life simply because you are not the prophet Elijah. As this verse says, Elijah was a human being with a nature like ours. He was just like us. The key thing about him? He prayed fervently.”

Have you ever said, “There’s nothing I can do but pray?” That only feels like a helpless position when we forget that prayer is powerful, that everything else we do to help in any situation is actually secondary to our prayers.

Of course, powerful prayers don’t promise us a yes from God every time. As Francis Chan said, “There is a huge difference between believing what God has promised and praying for things you’d like to be true…Do you trust God that when He says no or “not in this way” to you, you still believe He is good and doing what is best?”

Now in my grandparenting years, I’m often put in the position of having to say no—to climbing on the furniture or eating too much ice cream or going out in the cold without a sweater. I marvel at how toddlers can insist that they know better—until I realize that sometimes I do that to God.

The possibility of a “no” answer should never keep us from praying big prayers. Why wouldn’t we ask? My grandchildren will ask me for anything they want, even though they know by now that I won’t always grant their request. We can trust God to give us the right answer every time. Friends, let’s make this the year of asking and accepting, of looking for miraculous answers and praising God in everything he does. Elijah had nothing on us. Rather, just like us, he had God.

Six More Miracles

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Food for One Hundred

A man came bringing twenty loaves of barley bread, along with some heads of new grain. “Give it to the people to eat,” Elisha said.

“How can I set this before a hundred men?” his servant asked.

Elisha answered, “Give it to the people to eat. ‘They will eat and have some left over.’” They ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.

A Skin Disease

Now Naaman was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. So Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.”

Although he balked at such a humiliating act, finally Naaman went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored.

A Floating Axe

As one of the prophets was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. “Oh no, my lord!” he cried out. “It was borrowed!”

The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.

Supernatural Spy

Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel.

The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.”  Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.

This enraged the king of Aram. “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”

“None of us,” said his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”

Angel Armies

When the servant of the man of God went out, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Blinded by the Lord

As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness.

Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria instead, right into the gates of their enemy.

After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you be reminded every day that God is awesome. And how should we respond to that wonderful fact?

“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever…Then all the people said ‘Amen’ and ‘Praise the Lord’” (1 Chronicles 16:34, 36).

photo credit: Justin @justinphoto via Unsplash.com

Remembering

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Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done” (1 Chronicles 16:11-12).

Those two bits of instruction go together, don’t they? It’s so much easier to rely on the Lord’s strength when we remember all he has done. So, here’s more to remember, condensed from 1 and 2 Kings.

Flowing Water

Elisha said, “You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink.” The next morning, there it was—water flowing.

More Olive Oil

A widow told Elisha, “My husband is dead, and now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves. I have nothing at all, except a small jar of olive oil.”

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Pour oil into all the jars.” They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, the oil stopped flowing.

The man of God said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”

More Resurrection

Gehazi said (regarding a woman who had shown hospitality to Elisha), “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

Then Elisha said, “About this time next year, you will hold a son in your arms.” The next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

The child grew, and one day he said to his father, “My head! My head!”After the servant carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out.

When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.  He went in and prayed to the Lord. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.

Deadly Stew

Elisha said to his servant, “Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these prophets.” One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine and picked as many of its gourds as his garment could hold, unaware that they were poisonous. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew.

As they began to eat it, they cried out, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.

Elisha said, “Get some flour.” He put it into the pot and said, “Serve it to the people to eat.” And there was nothing harmful in the pot.

photo by Roberta Sorge via Unsplas.com

Amazing Acts

close view of bonfire

I’m still recounting, in abbreviated terms, the miracles of 1 and 2 Kings. Remember, all the italicized words are straight from the Bible. Let’s dig in!

Spectacular Sacrifice (Elijah on Mount Carmel)

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” They called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Elijah built an altar in the name of the Lord, and cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them (3 times), “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.” Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.

Faster than a Speeding Chariot

Elijah said, “Go and tell Ahab, ‘Hitch up your chariot and go down before the rain stops you.’” Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of the Lord came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Superfood

The angel of the Lord touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.”So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 

Passing of the Gavel (Dry Ground and a Chariot of Fire)

Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 

Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

Clean Water

The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, the water is bad and the land is unproductive.”

“Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.”

Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’” And the water has remained pure to this day.

Photo by Nathan Lindahl via Unsplash.com

Our God Is an Awesome God

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Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts” (1 Chronicles 16: 8-9).

This month, I’m going to “proclaim his name” by giving you a condensed version of the miracles God performed through Elijah and Elisha. All the italicized words you’ll read are straight from the New International Version of 1 Kings 17 through 2 Kings 6. You may be thinking, “Oh, I’ve heard all this before.” Bear with me. Let these true stories settle into your mind and your spirit. Remember, and be encouraged!

Prophecy and provision (Drought, Ravens, and Endless Oil)

Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” Then Elijah did what the Lord had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed there. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

Elijah came upon a widow who was almost out of food and told her, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.  For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Resurrection

The son of a woman became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Why review all this?

God asks us to Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice” (1 Chronicles 16:10). I hope you will rejoice with me this week over the strength and loving power of the One we serve. And “tune in” next week for more!

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Back to Balaam

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I’m reading the book of Numbers again, struck afresh by the humor, oddity, and warning found in the story of Balaam. Here’s what was going on way back when…

The Moabites were afraid of the Israelites. Balak the King summoned Balaam the Prophet, saying, “Come and curse these dangerous folks. They’re numerous and far too powerful for me. I’ll pay handsomely!”

Wisely, Balaam asked God about this deal and heard, “Oh, no you don’t. These are my blessed people, and you must not put a curse on them!”

When Balaam conveyed his response to the Moabites, they begged him anyway, promising more money. Balaam, wise once again, answered, “Your king could give me his whole palace filled with silver and gold, and I still couldn’t do anything that went against my Lord’s command.”

Eventually God told Balak to go ahead and go with those begging Moabites, but to be careful to do only what he, the Lord, commanded. Balak headed out the next morning, traveling by donkey. An angel, armed with a sword and visible only to the donkey, blocked the way. What follows is the best part of the story.

  • The donkey stopped walking.
  • Balaam beat the donkey.
  • The scene repeated two more times.
  • Then the donkey talked!

The beast of burden said, “What have I ever done to you? Why would you beat me three times?”

  • Did Balaam gasp in utter amazement? No.
  • Did he get on his knees and ask the Lord what in the world was going on? No.
  • Did he argue with the donkey? (Surely not!) Yes, that’s exactly what he did.

At that poing God finally let Balaam see the armed angel, gave Balaam instructions and allowed him to proceed. When the time came to pronounce a curse, Balaam blessed Israel instead (three times, in fact). Balak the King was plenty angry, but all the obedient prophet had to say to him was, “Must I not speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”

Look for the lessons in this crazy chapter:

  • Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
  • Obey God’s instructions, no matter how hard the pressure to do otherwise might be.
  • The Bible is not boring!

Do you have a favorite Old Testament passage? If so, I hope you’ll share it with me!