‘He took up the mantle of Elijah'(2:13).
Elijah’s ministry had ended. Elisha’s ministry was about to begin. It was the beginning of a new era. This may have been a new ministry. It was not, however, a new message. Both men preached the Word of the Lord. Elisha continued Elijah’s work. He took up where Elijah had left off. He brough the Word of the Lord to the people. Elisha was not exactly the same as Elijah. He was Elisha – not Elijah! There was, however, continuity. The second ministry built on the work done during the first ministry. The laying of the foundations – this was what Elijah’s ministry had been all about. Now, Elisha would build on this good foundation. He would take the work of God forward. Into the future, on to the second stage – this is what Elisha’s ministry was all about!
‘Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’ (2:14).
Elijah was no longer there – but God was still there! Don’t imagine that God goes away when there’s a change of ministry. While Elijah had been serving the Lord, Elisha was being prepared for his time. God is always one step ahead of us. We are living in the present day. He is planning for the future. With each succeeding generation, the question is asked, ‘Where is the Lord?’ In every generation, God is looking for those who will serve Him – ‘testifying of the Gospel of the grace of God, testifying of repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, declaring the whole counsel of God’ (Acts 20:24, 21, 27). This is ‘the mantle of Elijah’ (2:14) – the mantle of prophetic ministry. Will you ‘take up the mantle’ for God and the next generation?
The situation seemed hopeless – ‘The child was lying dead on his bed’ (32). What did Elisha do? He ‘prayed to the Lord’ (33). What are we to do when everything seems hopeless? Pray: ‘Restore us again, O God of our salvation … Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4, 6). When we are at our lowest ebb, God is waiting to hear from us. Our prayer may not be eloquent – but it must come from the heart! Perhaps, we can hardly put our prayer into words. God looks beyond our inadequate words. He looks into our hearts. If, in our hearts, we are saying to Him, ‘Restore the joy of Your salvation to me, and provide me with a spirit of willing obedience’, He will hear and He will answer (Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 51:12). You can make a new beginning with God – right now!
How are we to receive God’s blessing? Are we to ‘do some great thing’? Are we to prove ourselves worthy of His blessing? No! The Word of God gives this simple instruction: ‘Wash and be clean’ (13). Salvation is not something to be paid for or earned. It’s ‘the free gift of God in Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 6:23). We don’t come to God, saying, ‘Look at me. Look at how good I am. Look at my religion. Look at my morality. You’ve got to bless me. I deserve it’. We come to Him, believing His Word – ‘the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ – confessing our sins and trusting in His promise of forgiveness – ‘If we confess our sins, He forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong’ (1 John 1:7, 9). Forget about ‘doing some great thing’. Obey the command that really matters: ‘Wash and be clean’.
Elisha was ‘the man of God’ (6, 9, 15). This was the most important thing about him. More than anything else, he was ‘the man of God’. We find the same phrase in 1 Timothy 6:11 – ‘But as for you, man of God, … aim at righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness’. We are to be people who put first things first. There is nothing more important than this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.’ Does this seem too heavenly-minded? Jesus also says, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Luke 10:27). We are not to be super-spiritual. We are to be spiritually natural and naturally spiritual. Let there be no conflict between loving God and loving our neighbour. Christ is our Lord. We serve others for His sake (2 Corinthians 4:5).
We read in verse 2, of ‘windows in heaven’. Malachi 3:10 also speaks of ‘the windows in heaven’. Calling us to ‘bring the whole tithe(tenth)’ to Him, God invites us to look to Him to ‘open the windows of heaven and pour down an overflowing blessing’. In verse 9, we read of ‘a day of good news’. What ‘a day of good news’ it will be when God ‘opens the windows of heaven and pours down an overflowing blessing’. All of our days of good news come from the day of good news: ‘I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day … a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:10-11). ‘In Christ’, there is ‘every spiritual blessing’. God has given us so much. Let us give ourselves to Him: ‘Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called’ (Ephesians 1:3; 4:1).
‘Go and meet the man of God and inquire of the Lord through him’ (8). God’s servants, appointed by Him to serve the people in His Name, play a significant part in leading the people to a deeper knowledge of God. They bring the Word of God to the people. That is what they have been called to do. It is good to have faithful teaching from God’s Word. There needs also to be faithful hearing, reading and doing of God’s Word. God’s servants can take us so far – and no further. You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink! God’s servants say, ‘Here are the wells of salvation’. It is up to the people themselves to take the next step: ‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation’ (Isaiah 12:3). God’s Word is provided for you. It is delivered to you. What are you doing with it?
God’s judgment on Jezebel was awesome (30-37). Why does God’s Word speak to us so strongly of judgment? God is warning us. He is calling us to repent, to return to Him before it is too late, before our opportunity for repentance has gone. Make sure that you don’t reach the point of no return. ‘Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near (Isaiah 55:6). For you, this may be God’s time. The Lord may never be so ‘near’ again. You are in ‘the valley of decision’: ‘Today, when you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts’ (Joel 3:14; Hebrews 4:7). There is still time – to open your heart to Christ, to trust Him as your Saviour, to become a new creation in Him. Here is a prayer you can pray: ‘Restore us, O God, let Thy face shine, that we may be saved!’ (Psalm 80:3, 7, 19).
Jehu was a proud man: ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord’ (16). He was full of his own importance, a bit special, a bit out of the ordinary, a cut above the rest. God did not share Jehu’s opinion of himself – ‘Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord the God of Israel with all his heart…’(31). Jehu’s attitude was ‘I’m all right, Jack’. He didn’t bother to look too closely at himself. Let God’s Word search your heart: ‘The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword… discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart’ (Hebrews 4:12). Let this be your prayer to the Lord: ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!’ (Psalm 139:24). Make sure that you mean it!
Let us ‘make a covenant’ – to ‘be the Lord’s people’, to ‘do what is right in the eyes of the Lord’ (11:17; 12:2). Part of this ‘covenant’ will involve our use of ‘money’. Real covenanting with the Lord will always mean much more than how much money we give to Him. Real giving is a matter of the heart: ‘the money which a man’s heart prompts him to bring into the House of the Lord’ (12:4). ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ (2 Corinthians 9:7). Our giving will only be cheerful when it comes from the heart. There are three types of giving: ‘Grudge giving’ – ‘I have to’; ‘Duty giving’ – ‘I ought to’; ‘Thanksgiving’ – ‘I want to’. What kind of giver are you? This is an important question. Is it just ‘the Church always looking for money’? No! There is more: God wants us to give ourselves to Him.
We love making comparisons. ‘This one’s better’. ‘That one’s better’. Some kings were better than others. What’s the difference between a bad king and a good king? It’s really very simple. The good king does what is ‘right in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:3). The bad king does what is ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (13:11). This is not a matter of popularity. It is a matter of obedience. It’s possible to be popular among the people without being obedient to God. Obedience is more important than popularity. We must choose obedience – even when popularity doesn’t come into it. There is one King who stands head and shoulders above all other kings. Jesus Christ is ‘King of kings and Lord of lords’ (Revelation 19:16). How does your life look ‘in the eyes of the Lord’? Pleasing Him – Nothing matters more than this.
Throughout life, we are faced with choices. Some of our choices are very important. Some are relatively unimportant. Everything can seem so complicated. Even the less important decisions appear to be very difficult. It’s very confusing. You wonder what to do. You don’t know which way to turn. In all of life’s decisions, there is no more important choice than this: What will I do – ‘evil in the eyes of the Lord’ (14:24; 15:9) or ‘right in the eyes of the Lord? (15:3). You’re wondering what to do. You’re looking for guidance. Here’s a prayer you can pray: ‘Send your light and your truth. Let them guide me’ (Psalm 43:3). Jesus is ‘the Light’ and ‘the Truth’ (John 8:12; 14:6). Keep looking to Him, asking Him to be your Guide. He will give you wisdom to know God’s will and strength to do God’s will.
Within every one of us, there is conflict. It is the conflict between good and evil (15:34,24,28; 16:2). Paul experienced this conflict: ‘I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. I don’t do the good I want to do. Instead, I do the evil that I don’t want to do… When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand’ (Romans 7:18-19,21). What are we to do when we feel this conflict tearing us apart? We are to confess our sin – ‘Wretched man that I am!’. We are to trust in Christ – ‘Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!’ (Romans 7:24-25). While we are in this earthly body, the conflict rages on. We ‘wait in patience for deliverance by the Lord’. When He returns, we will ‘rejoice in His salvation’ (Lamentations 3:26; Isaiah 25:8-9; Hebrews 9:28).
‘The people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt’ (7). What happens when people reject the God of salvation? – They become ‘empty’ and ‘worthless’ because they have chosen to ‘pursue emptiness’ by ‘following worthless idols’ (15). If you don’t have salvation, you have nothing. Jesus makes this perfectly clear when He says, ‘What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36). You can have it all – all that the world thinks is important – and yet have nothing – nothing that really matters! The world has its ‘winners’. They have won ‘the praise of men’. We must be careful: ‘Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’. It’s better to be ‘God’s friend’ (James 4:4; 2:23)
Hezekiah ‘held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him…’ (6). We give up so easily. We start well, then we lose our way. We don’t stick at it. Some people are all smiles – when things are going well. When the going gets tough, they lose their smiles – and you can’t see them for dust! What’s the problem? – They’ve taken their eyes off Jesus. They’re looking around at everyone and everything – except Jesus. Notice how different Hezekiah was! He ‘held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him’. This is what makes the difference – Keeping your eyes on Jesus. What is it that keeps us going? We are ‘kept by the power of God’ – He ‘is able to keep us from falling’ (1 Peter 1:5; Jude 24). ‘Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus’ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
‘Do not be afraid because of the words you have heard’ (6). Who are you listening to – the world or the Lord? Sometimes, the voice of the world seems to be so loud – so loud that we can hardly hear the voice of the Lord at all. We need to listen well if we are to hear the voice of the Lord in today’s world. When we are discouraged, we need His Word of encouragement: ‘The zeal of the Lord will do this’ (31). When you feel like saying, ‘I can’t’, remember this: ‘Our God is able’ – ‘able to help those who are tempted’, ‘able to provide you with every blessing in abundance’, ‘able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think’ (Daniel 3:17; Hebrews 2:18; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20). Don’t say ‘I can’t’. Say, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthen me’ (Philippians 4:13).
‘Carried off to Babylon’ (20:17) – There’s a real sadness about these words. In Revelation 18:2, Babylon is described as ‘a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit’. In today’s world, it seems like things are going the same way. ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ (Revelation 14:8; 18:2) – Everything seems to be falling round about us. We hear so much bad news. We wonder, ‘What does God think about all this?’. God is looking for people who will stand when everyone else is falling, people who will stand up for Him – ‘Come out of her, My people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues’ (Revelation 18:4). Even ‘in Babylon’, there were ‘the chosen’ – people who belonged to the Lord (1 Peter 5:13). Let us be such people – ‘in the world’ but ‘not of the world’ (John 17:11,16).
You never know what’s going to happen next! There was repair work going on at the House of God (5-6). It seemed so mundane. What happened next was certainly not mundane. Revival broke out! A book was found. It was ‘the Book of the Law’ (8).The rediscovery of God’s Word brought transformation. Everything changed when the Word of God took its rightful place among the people. King Josiah wanted to find out what was in ‘this book that has been found’ (13). He read its ‘words’ to ‘all the people’ (23:2). The words were not only read.They were acted upon: ‘The king… made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord and to keep His commandments… with all his heart and all his soul… and all the people joined in the covenant’ (23:3). They returned to ‘the ancient paths’, to ‘the good way’ (Jeremiah 6:16) – and so must we!
In 18:5, we read about Hezekiah; ‘There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him’. Here, we read about something rather different – ‘Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him’(25). This seems confusing: Which was the better king – Hezekiah or Josiah? We need to look more closely at these statements. Hezekiah is commended for his trust in the Lord – ‘’Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel’ (18:5). Josiah is commended for his obedience to God. His actions were ‘according to all the law of Moses’ (25). Trust and obedience belong together. Hezekiah’s faith led to obedience (18:6). By his obedience, Josiah showed that he had ‘turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might’ (25). We need both – trust and obedience.
‘The king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valour… all of them strong and fit for war’ (24:16). A prisoner of war is taken out of the battle. We have been given ‘the whole armour of God’ (Ephesians 6:11,13). We must use ‘the weapons of our warfare’. We must ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). It is not easy to ‘fight the good fight of faith’ (1 Timothy 6:12). Satan wants to make us his prisoners of war. Satan is a very powerful enemy – ‘the whole world is in the power of the evil one’. We must live as those who ‘are of God’, firmly convinced that ‘He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world’ (1 John 6:19; 1:4). The world seems so strong. The devil seems so powerful. It will not always be so – ‘Hallelujah!’ (Revelation 16:19; 18:21; 20:10; 19:1,6-7).
‘Finally, in the end, it came to the point that He cast them out of His presence’ (24:20). There is a real word of warning here. God is patient – ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). We dare not presume upon God’s patience: ‘Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase? God forbid!’ (Romans 6:1-2). There can come a point when God says, ‘This is the point of no return, the end, the final straw’. This is what God’s Word says in Romans 1:21-28 – ‘They did not honour God or give thanks to Him… Therefore God gave them up… They worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator… For this reason God gave them up… Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up…’. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Come to Christ now!