UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Used with permission: Character by Character compiled by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge. Copyright © CWR (www.cwr.org.uk).




Scripture passages referenced and linked in this lesson are written out for your convenience on this page.

UB David + I'll B Jonathan, Inc.


Character by Character

Lesson 5: Elisha


Scripture passages referenced and linked in this lesson are written out for your convenience on this page.

Elisha: “God is my salvation”

Complete surrender

1 Kings 19:19-21 (click the link to read the passages)

he was breaking with a secure and peaceful life

We have already looked at this passage when considering the ministry of Elijah, but it will do us no harm to consider it once more. There were four things which could have discouraged Elisha from following Elijah’s call. First, he came from a prominent family and had the prospect of inheriting considerable material wealth. Second, he had a good relationship with his family, thus making it difficult for him to leave them. Third, he was leaving the position of foreman over at least eleven servants to assume a position of servitude. Fourth, he was breaking with a secure and peaceful life for one of danger and physical hardship. Yet he did not hesitate to do it.

For thought and contemplation:

already engaged in a specific task

Someone has pointed out that whenever God called anyone to a special work in either the Old or New Testament, they were never idle but already engaged in a specific task. An honest calling in the world does not preclude us from receiving a higher and more heavenly call.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Prov. 3:5-6, NIV)

The mantle received

2 Kings chapter 2

obtains the coveted mantle of power

Was Elisha disobedient in refusing to remain behind when his master asked him to? (v.2) Some think so, but look again at the facts. Elisha was Elijah’s companion for at least six years (1 Kings 20:22 & 26; 22:1 & 51). During that time he had learned to discern the true wishes and desires that lay behind his master’s words. He would have been able to distinguish between a test and a command by the very inflection of his master’s voice. Elijah’s words were a test, not a command. That Elijah was pleased by Elisha’s refusal to remain behind is quite clear. He presses on, sees his master taken up to heaven, obtains the coveted mantle of power and goes out to accomplish twice as much as his master did.

For thought and contemplation:

Elisha demonstrated that he had acquired a servant’s heart by knowing and following the unspoken wishes of his master. Without that quality, no one can effectively serve as God’s representative here on earth. Ask God to help you cultivate a ‘servant’s heart’.

“My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways.” (Prov. 23:26, NIV)

Speaks with authority

2 Kings chapter 3

join together to make war on their common enemy, Moab

The king of Judah, the king of Israel, and the king of Edom join together to make war on their common enemy, Moab, but on the journey south, disaster strikes because of lack of water. Faithful Jehosphaphat suggests that they should seek the help of the Lord through one of His prophets. They go to Elisha, who condemns Joram as being insincere, but for the sake of godly Jehoshaphat, he seeks the Lord on their behalf. A minstrel is summoned and, as he plays, Elisha receives a prophetic word from God: “Make this valley full of ditches… You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you… will drink” (vv. 16-17, NIV). The next morning the prophecy is fulfilled.

For thought and contemplation:

It is a blessing to be favoured with the company of those who have power with God and know how to engage in prevailing prayer. It is a pity that many of the governments and rulers of our day fail to understand this, for a nation may be greatly upheld by the fervent prayers of those who live under God’s authority.

“…This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” (Zech. 4:6, NIV)

Miracles performed

2 Kings chapter 4

Miracles flow fast and furious in Elisha’s dynamic ministry. First, a widow who comes to Elisha saying that a creditor has come to take her two sons is saved through the miraculous supply of oil (vv. 1-7). Next, when Elisha stays in the home of a wealthy woman in Shunem, he predicts that she will have a son—a prophecy which is fulfilled.

the son is taken ill and dies

At a certain point in his life, the son is taken ill and dies, but is miraculously brought back to life through Elisha’s prayers (vv. 8-37).

Later, when some students at the school of the prophets are eating broth which has inadvertently been poisoned, Elisha again intervenes and produces a miracle. His final miracle is the feeding of 100 men with a small quantity of food.

For thought and contemplation:

Does God work miracles today? Of course He does. Salvation is a miracle. Divine guidance is a miracle. Pause and give some thought today to the miracles which God has done for you. Begin with your conversion—then add others as they come to mind. And don’t forget to say ‘thanks’.

“Jesus… said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matt. 19:26, NIV)

Elijah compared with Elisha

The difference between Elijah and Elisha is much more striking than the resemblance. Elijah is the prophet of the wilderness, rugged and austere; Elisha is the prophet of civilised life, of the city and the court, with the dress, manners, and appearance of “other grave citizens.”

Elijah is the messenger of vengeance—sudden, fierce, and overwhelming; Elisha is the messenger of mercy and restoration.

Elijah’s miracles, with few exceptions, are works of wrath and destruction; Elisha’s miracles, with but one notable exception, are works of beneficence and healing.

Elijah is the “prophet as fire”, an abnormal agent working for exceptional ends; Elisha is the “holy man of God which passeth by us continually,” mixing in the common life of the people, and promoting the advancement of the Kingdom of God in its ordinary channels of mercy, righteousness, and peace.

Temptation resisted

2 Kings 5:1-19

he was a leper

The healing of Naaman is, without doubt, one of the best known of Elisha’s miracles. Naaman, a commander-in-chief of the Syrian army, was a great and successful soldier—but he was a leper. His Jewish slave girl tells him there is a prophet in Israel who can cure him, and a letter is dispatched from the king of Syria to the king of Israel, asking for his help. The king of Israel, Joram, regards this as an attempt to pick a quarrel, as he considers the request impossible to fulfil.

tells him to go and wash in the river Jordan

When Elisha hears this, he sends for Naaman and tells him to go and wash in the river Jordan. Though resistant at first, he does as Elisha says and is healed.

Elisha refuses the presents he is offered, and resists the temptation to take any credit to himself for the miracle.

Elisha refuses the presents he is offered

For thought and contemplation:

Although a Christian faces many temptations, one of the greatest is the temptation to take to oneself credit that is due only to God. Difficult though it may be for us to understand, it is a firm Scriptural principle that God will not share His glory with anyone else.

“For my own sake… I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isa. 48:11, NIV)

Exercising faith

2 Kings chapters 6 & 7

loses a borrowed axe-head

During building operations, one of the sons of the prophets loses a borrowed axe-head in the river Jordan, and appeals to Elisha for help. Elisha miraculously causes the axe-head to float in the water so that it can be easily retrieved.

he is foiled and frustrated by the miraculous acts of the prophet

Elisha’s supernatural knowledge also enables him to keep the king of Israel informed of the Syrians’ every move in the war. Advised of this, the king of Syria attempts to capture Elisha, but he is foiled and frustrated by the miraculous acts of the prophet.

Elisha’s faith rises to every occasion, and nowhere is that more evident than in his prediction of relief in the great famine of Samaria. His prediction comes to pass the very next day.

his prediction of relief in the great famine of Samaria

For thought and contemplation:

Ever considered what faith really is? Take each letter of the word ‘faith’ and see if you can think up various acrostics that spell out its meaning. Here’s one to start with: Forsaking All I Trust Him. Now see how many you can come up with.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Heb. 11:1, NIV)

Victorious in death

2 Kings 13:1-21

Elisha died when he was about eighty years of age. During his long ministry he had been a prophet to whom rich and poor, great and small had turned for help. Toward the close of his life, he appears to be on good terms with King Jehoash, who visits him and shows deep concern over the prophet’s approaching demise. On his deathbed, Elisha predicts the coming victory over Syria, instructing the king in a symbolic ritual with bow and arrows. The king, who is not a man of outstanding faith, limits the scope of the victory, thus making Elisha angry. One last miracle remains: after Elisha dies and is buried, his bones bring life to a dead man.

For thought and contemplation:

Elisha asked Elijah for twice as much power as that which was shown by his master. Did he receive it? It is recorded that Elisha performed exactly twice as many miracles as did Elijah. He seemed to have more power in his dead bones than many of us have in our living bones!

“…if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit…” (Rom. 8:11, NIV)

The lesson to be learned from Elisha

he had become preoccupied more with projects than with people

In much of the book of Kings, Elisha seems somewhat overshadowed by his powerful and illustrious master, Elijah, but there can be no doubt that he was a great and mighty prophet nevertheless. The outstanding lesson that we learn from Elisha’s life is the importance of loyalty. But not just loyalty—a special kind of loyalty. Elisha learned how to know and follow the unspoken wishes of his master. Elisha was no doubt aware of the story of a previous servant of Elijah who, when instructed by Elijah to remain behind while he went into the wilderness to die, did exactly that. It is significant that, although the servant was not disobedient, this is the last mention of him in Scripture (1 Kings 19:2-3). Elisha demonstrated a sensitivity to Elijah’s unspoken wishes, and was rewarded by God with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit.

Used with permission: Character by Character compiled by Selwyn Hughes and Trevor Partridge. Copyright © CWR (www.cwr.org.uk).

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