Read 2 Kings 4:38 -44
· Looking ahead to the end of 2 Kings, we know that this book was written after Judah fell to Babylon, so at least 300 years after the events described in this chapter. We can safely surmise that the original readers of Kings – like those set in the events recorded here – were in bleak circumstances. So, today’s reading of two accounts of God’s provision is meant to encourage hard-pressed believers and/or those who live in straitened times. “…I shall not want.”
· VV. 39, 40 – Even prophets can make critical mistakes. We’re not sure if the food tasted like death, or made folks violently ill, or even was lethally poisonous. What we do know is that – in a time of famine – the addition of these wild gourds rendered the whole meal inedible. We who are surrounded by food can hardly imagine how disastrous this was.
· V. 41 – This is clearly a miracle – the flour wasn’t just the forgotten ingredient that brought the food back from death status. So why does Elisha use flour to perform the miracle? While we’re at it, we could also ask why he threw salt into the water supply at Jericho (2 Kings 2:20). I like Davis’ conjecture that these are “pegs on which to hang the memory of his works.”. In other words, from now on, when believers add flour to or dash salt on their meal, they might recall God’s miraculous supply. And then remember that all that they enjoy – come it from a full pantry or desperate conditions – are provisions from God.
· V. 42 – Heartening to see this fellow still carrying out the duties of worship amid a society that had largely walked away from God. Those 7000, remember?
· VV. 42, 43 – Of course we’re going to recall our Lord’s feeding of larger crowds with less to start with. Take in the message: our God makes alive and keeps alive.
Read 2 Kings 5:1-14 (though I bet you won’t be able to stop there)
· Jesus mentioned Naaman (Luke 4:27). What was His point?
· V. 1 – These little phrases that carry so much truth: by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. Even non-Israelite nations are under God’s sovereignty? Yes. Wait, had given victory even over Israel? Yes. The victory that included tragedies that certainly lay behind the little girl now enslaved in Naaman’s household? Yes.
· VV. 3, 7 – It is helpful to contrast the faith of the little girl with that of the king. The king is God’s Son to represent before the people of God what faithful image-bearing looks like. And to that calling he’s a big failure. But then this no-named little girl – what a pro she is! In SS this past week, Beckie used the phrase, ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ Indeed.
· V. 11 – Many times…most times…almost all the time, God saves people through a route that includes some humbling along the way. Naaman is very much put off by his being treated without fanfare…he’s used to commanding respect. More generally, this interaction with God isn’t going like Naaman had imagined it would. These are common barriers to trusting obedience.
· V. 12 – To top it off, he’s instructed to bathe in an Israelite river when he knows of better waterways at home…where he’s from…me…Naaman! He senses (rightly) that to follow the word of the prophet will be to reject other methods more familiar to him. He’ll have to deny himself….Naaman! Simple but not easy.
· V. 13 – Thankfully Naaman had people close to him that were willing to push back, to talk sense. Do you have people like that nearby? Or are you keeping straightshooters at a distance?
Read 2 King 5: 15- 19b
· Wow! How encouraging. This great man was healed AND has come to believe in God. In fact, going back to Jesus’ point in bringing him up, Naaman’s strong faith is an implicit rebuke to God’s covenant people who didn’t believe. Often a new believer is a challenge, even a reprimand to a group of long-time believers who have for some time stopped taking God seriously.
· VV. 17, 18 – By Old Testament editing standards, Naaman’s speech over these two verses goes on for a while. So this is important! What are some ingredients in his words to Elisha that mark him as sincerely believing?
· V. 17 – The dirt that Naaman requests is from his understanding that the God of Israel is the God of the whole earth. And that God has chosen to dwell in the land of Israel…on Israel’s ground. He wants to bring that God ground back to his country. He understood the particularity of this God – amazing.
· VV. 18, 19a – Now here’s a challenging verse. Naaman looks ahead and realizes that his job will land him in some compromising situations. He wants God to see the truth of his heart and not judge him by his outward actions. Another reminder that we shouldn’t think that the religion of the OT was a religion of externals!
Read 2 Kings 5: 19b-27
· Why do you think that Elisha refused payment from Naaman in the first place? Another way of getting at that answer: what lesson of Elisha to Naaman was Gehazi refuting when he went after Naaman for the reward?
· In the opening of Romans, when Paul is laying out his case for the guilt of Israel, one of his closing lines is that “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you [Jews].” This charge is at the heart of our episode today: By his request for payment from Naaman, Gehazi, the Israelite (who lives as close to the chief prophet of Israel as one can get), makes Jehovah out to be just another god who is at the end of the day just after gain.
· The application for us is easy: what signal about God and the gospel are we sending to our neighbors by our contentment… or lack thereof?
Read 2 Kings 6: 1-7
· Some helpful historical background from Ray Dillard: “We are worlds away from Israel in the ninth century BC. We usually date the beginning of the Iron Age to around 1200 BC. We know that for at least a time Israel lagged behind her neighbors in developing the technology to exploit this material (1 Samuel 13: 20-21). Iron implements would have been tremendously expensive. Many hours of labor would have been required to gather the wood for fires, to refine the ore, and then to shapen and sharpen the tool. There was not much ‘discretionary income’ in ancient Israel. Losing a borrowed axhead then would be comparable to wrecking a borrowed car today.”
SO THIS IS A BIG PROBLEM.
· Glancing ahead at the next episode having to do with an international military situation: we again are taken aback at the truth that God cares about the big picture and the relatively small concerns of individuals. Arranging rides, lost rings, broken clutches…
· V. 5 – Alas, my master! It was borrowed! How much despair and fear contained in these two sentences. God is near to the brokenhearted.
· V. 6 – Just checked: iron doesn’t float.
Read 2 Kings 6: 8-23
· Another great passage. Remember its first readers who were living in the shadow of the fall of Jerusalem. Everything looked bleak. How this episode must have encouraged them – there’s more to a situation than what the eye (normally) can see. It’s those who keep the reality of God’s power in front of them who can be not frightened in anything by your opponents. (Philippians 1: 28
· VV. 12 – This whole episode has to do with sight. We see as through a very foggy mirror. God sees and knows all. The words He give to us are truth, heavenly truth, from a perspective that comprehends all that there is. The words of God are the insight we need.
· V. 15 – Another alas my master! (See yesterday’s reading). We continually run into problems too high for us.
· V. 17 – A good prayer for us and/or for those whom we serve alongside. May God open our eyes to see – not what is good yet imaginary – but what is hidden and true.
· V. 17 – Another use of chariots of fire. Still recommending that movie!
· VV. 21-23 – I’m not sure why the Syrians are spared. We’ve seen plenty of killing, even carnage, up to this point in Kings. Do you have thoughts?