Last week ended with the transition from Elijah to Elisha as the most prominent prophet in the Northern Kingdom. In today’s reading a series of signs continue to affirm that Elijah’s spirit is indeed on Elisha.
Keep in mind that these signs carry multiple layers of significance. There is the first, on-the-ground layer of importance to the characters: a widow’s home is saved; a boy is raised to life; a man is healed of disease; a borrowed axe head is retrieved. These were real people, under real threat, who received real deliverance through Elisha.
Another layer of importance is that these signs are, quite simply, an opportunity for the LORD to reveal His power. And greatest result of these revelations is when the witnesses turn their awe into worship – a purpose God often makes explicit with “So that [fill in the name] will know that I am the LORD. This is exemplified today by Naaman, the Syrian general, who asks Elisha for “…two mules’ load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD.”
Yet another consequence of these signs – and one we saw emphatically through the Elijah stories – is the connection between the revelatory signs of the prophet and the revelatory message of the prophet. Ahab is not judged simply by Elijah’s call to repent (though that should have been sufficient); he is forcefully condemned by his obstinance in the face of the mighty confirming signs the LORD did through him.
This is demonstrated today not so much through the king of Israel – who only emerges by title in chapter 6 – but through the king of Syria. King Ben-Hadad of Damascus – and this might be a family name we’ve seen before – is so convinced of Elisha’s power that he wants him dead. Oddly enough, so does the king of Israel. These intrigues sets up the rest of the Elisha story.
One final highlight… pay attention to the phrase that opens chapter 5: “Namaan, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria.” Wait:“…the LORD had given victory to Syria…”? Wasn’t Syria the enemy? Yet the LORD – the God of Israel – is giving them aid. That might be a signal to you, the reader, about the LORD’s methods and priorities.
Our verse for this week is Romans 8:28: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
2 Kings 4 through 6. Now let’s read it!
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.