Elijah and Elisha 8
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Elijah and Elisha 8.
[P] Last month we went up to Tauranga for Mum and Dad’s diamond wedding anniversary. They’ve been together 60 years! That makes them quite old; and with that, you find that the memory is not quite what it used to be. You find that they ask you a question, then 5 minutes later they ask you exactly the same thing again – well the same answer that you just gave still applies! Have you ever repeated yourself? We all have; and here in our passage today God does. But it’s not Alzheimer’s! If you repeat something, you really mean it; you want to emphasize and draw attention to it. יהוה really wanted the answer. But you can ask the exact same thing and get the exact same answer, but yet it can be different. Now, Rhoda and I haven’t been married 60 years, it’s a bit over 16 years. Now, if I asked Rhoda on the 20th of January, 2001, the question: “Do you love me?” I am fairly sure she would have answered: “Yes!” Now, 16 years later, if I asked the same question: “Do you love me?”; she would probably answer just the same word: “Yes!” But there is quite a bit of difference! The context has changed, quite a bit has happened in the mean-time. Sixteen years ago, everything was new and fresh, seen through rose-tinted glasses. Yes, Rhoda loved me; but now, the rose-tint has faded – now Rhoda knows me a bit more, what I’m really like! She has put up with my grumpiness and idiosyncrasies, lived with my annoying habits, failings and weakness. Sixteen years ago, she loved me and meant it; now she loves me and means it – and it means a whole lot more! It was the same with Peter: three times Jesus asked him the same thing: “Do you love Me?” but it hit home a bit more that third time, as Peter recalled his 3 denials. Let’s read: [P] remember, יהוה had led Elijah back to Mount Horeb [1 Kings 19:9–18 Then he (that is, Elijah) came there to a cave and lodged there; and behold, the word of יהוה came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (there’s the question, the word of יהוה) He said, “I have been very zealous for יהוה, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (there is Elijah’s reply) So He said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before יהוה.” And behold, יהוה was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before יהוה; but יהוה was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but יהוה was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but יהוה was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. (here was a face to face encounter with the Living God!) And behold, a voice (the audible voice of יהוה!) came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (there is the question again, exactly the same words. Perhaps after that dramatic revelation you might expect some special revelation, some further insight. No, it is exactly the same.) Then he said, “I have been very zealous for יהוה, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” (there has been wind, earthquake and fire; then the very voice of יהוה Himself, audible – meeting in person with יהוה! And the answer is exactly the same! Elijah had not changed his stance either.) יהוה said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place. “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death. “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, (not everyone would be put to death) all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”] Now, Elijah continued to minister before Elisha took over from him; Ben-Hadad ruled for some time before Hazael replaced him; after Ahab came Ahaziah and then Jehoram, before Jehu took the throne. So this implies יהוה is referring to quite some time down the track. Last time we looked at the matter of “seeking יהוה”. Elijah earnestly sought God; he met with Him on Sinai, he genuinely discerned His voice. He was not taken in by the dramatic and impressive show. He met יהוה face to face! Heard His voice! What did יהוה say? There are some who maintain that Elijah, at this point, was depressed, low in faith, back-sliding, away from God, afraid. Yet Elijah had boldly stood before Ahab who was intent on killing him and confronted whole nation single handed. Was he depressed? He had the determination, motivation and will power to go 40 days without food and walk to Sinai. Was he low in faith? He called down fire from heaven, prayed for rain. Was He away from God? He was fed by angels, twice God aided him on his journey; God spoke with him. He was close enough to God to know genuine voice and not be taken in by dramatic display. God holds Elijah as archetypal prophet. He was one of only two in the Bible who did not die. He was with Jesus on mount of Transfiguration, will appear to herald Jesus. This is the prophet above all others (except Jesus and possibly Moses) that has God’s seal of approval. Here is a man who has pressed into God, not been satisfied with trivial answer, surface level. He sought God earnestly; and met with Him in person on Mount Horeb. God repeats His question: [P] “Elijah, why here?” Elijah wasn’t far from יהוה, he had discerned His voice correctly the first time, he was hearing from God – despite this dramatic personal encounter, יהוה was still saying exactly the same thing. He doesn’t change. But it was different. I recall back along I attended a fellowship where the pastor got cancer. The whole church was called to a week of prayer and fasting. At the end of that time I had a personal revelation of the faithfulness of God. I had never questioned that God was faithful, I knew the doctrine; in a way, nothing had changed in my doctrine or knowledge about God – but now it had hit home in way like never before. Nothing had changed, but it was utterly different! Elijah had heard correctly but now it was face to face with יהוה! When you are before the actual presence of יהוה all is stripped away. He is truth! You cannot but speak the truth. But Elijah gave exactly the same reply. [1 Kings 19:14 Then he said, “I have been very zealous for יהוה, the God of armies; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”]. Does it seem to you that he doesn’t really seem to answer יהוה’s question? I would have said something like, “You led men here. I am here at your command. That’s why I’m here.” יהוה leads Elijah there, then asks him why he is there! But the answer is there: he is there because of his zeal for יהוה. Like I said last time, it is a good question to ask yourself why you are here. Are you here because of your zeal for יהוה?! Elijah was here at Mount Horeb, the mountain of God; [P] because he was zealous for יהוה, earnestly seeking Him, following His directions. He was there to seek what יהוה was going to do now. Elijah, why are you here and nobody else? I mean this mountain was where the nation of Israel met God, entered into covenant relationship with Him. But where was everyone else? Where was the nation? Elijah was there by himself alone because: “the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” Elijah sought to turn the wayward idolatrous nation of Israel back to God. He hadn’t done it by his own power but at God’s command and in God’s power. The power of God had come down. God had done everything possible to turn this nation back to Himself, given convincing proof: a 3-year drought, fire from heaven, provision of rain. But still they were intent on wiping out the last remnant of commitment to יהוה! Inveterate, determined, adamant opposition to God! What more could be done?! Where to from here? Elijah was zealous for יהוה, seeking His purpose for His people Israel; but his evaluation was that it was hopeless. The nation was determinedly opposed to יהוה. Let me say that this has been the consistent attitude of Israel; culminating in the murder of His Beloved Son! Israel had convincing evidence of יהוה in power but still they were opposed to Him! This is exactly how it will be at the end. The judgements of יהוה will be carried out in dreadful power, people will know that it is Him but still they will not follow Him; rather, they will curse Him: [Revelation 6:16–17 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”] They know that it is from God, yet they hide. [Revelation 9:20–21 The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.] They know it is the judgement of God but they do not repent. Bowl after bowl of wrath is poured out [Revelation 16:9 Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory.] They know this is from God, that He has the power over these plagues but they do not worship, they blaspheme. [ Revelation 16:11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds.] Despite convincing, powerful demonstration of God, despite knowing full well that it is God; people are still determined in their opposition to Him! This was Elijah’s rather depressing analysis of the situation. How does God respond? Elijah maintains his position that the nation is determined in its adamant opposition to יהוה. Nothing had changed; a great demonstration of almighty power, the presence of יהוה Himself didn’t alter the situation. The state of Israel as a nation in covenant relationship with יהוה was beyond hope, irredeemable. Israel as a nation as the people of God was finished! The covenant was broken, the worship of יהוה obliterated yet Elijah remained zealous for יהוה and would not forsake that zeal; he would still seek יהוה and covenant relationship with Him even though the rest of the nation had determined to reject Him. Does יהוה agree? [1 Kings 19:15,16 יהוה said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus, and when you have arrived, you shall anoint Hazael king over Aram; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place.] יהוה told Elijah to anoint three people. We have some funny ideas about anointing; but it is simply a ceremony whereby someone was officially appointed to Divine office: be it a king (as 2 of these were), a prophet as the other one was, or as priest. יהוה does not say, “Elijah you’ve got it all wrong, the nation will come back to Me.” Neither this time, nor the time before, does יהוה argue with Elijah or suggest his evaluation is wrong. When you are in the presence of God you tell the truth! He makes sure Elijah is utterly convinced of his evaluation of the nation but He accepts it. No, He commands him to appoint three men: one as king of Aram (the nation of Syria to the north), the enemy of Israel; one king of Israel, and the other as prophet. Why appoint these three men? [1 Kings 19:17 “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.] [P] Judgment, judgment, judgment! The sword of Hazael, the sword of Jehu, Jehu and Elisha will put to death. It is a message of judgement! Elijah’s evaluation is that Israel is apostatized beyond hope, יהוה had done everything to turn their hearts back to Him but they would not be turned; therefore, the only thing left for them was judgment. Now, יהוה endorses this evaluation and issues the order for that judgment to be carried out. Israel would be utterly and thoroughly destroyed - יהוה was very careful to ensure none escaped. So יהוה gives Elijah instructions to anoint Hazael to be king of Syria. The purpose of this is that he may execute judgment on Israel, killing them by the sword. It shows the international influence Elijah had and the respect in which he was held, if could anoint king someone in a neighbouring country. Hazael means "God sees" – indeed God saw the condition of Israel and it was in accord with Elijah’s evaluation hence the judgment by the sword. He was a powerful king of Syria, God’s scourge to Israel during the reign of Jehoram, Jehu and Jehoahaz. יהוה told Elijah to return to his way of the desert (this doesn’t refer to Damascus, a river runs through Damascus) – he was to go to Damascus by way of the desert i.e. east of Jordan, not entering Israel. But more, יהוה was saying that Elijah was to return to the desert - this was to be his place of abode, this is where he would meet with God, in the lonely place apart from the life of the nation (cf. John the Baptist who was also a desert dweller.). יהוה gave the instructions for the establishment of this new order. [P] Jehu was to be anointed king of Israel – a completely different dynasty to that of Omri; and the nearest Israel had to a godly king, but he was a tough, violent man. Jehu’s role was to destroy the Ahab/Omri dynasty (2 Kings 9:1-10). He was the son of Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 9:2 - Nimshi was his grandfather) – Jehoshaphat means: "יהוה judges". The time had come for judgment of Israel! Jehu rid Israel of Baal worship and the dynasty of Omri (2 Kings 10:1-28). And Elijah was to anoint Elisha prophet in his place of, but it could also mean under him. Elijah’s ministry had to all intents come to an end – his role had been to turn the nation back to יהוה, now Elisha was to be prophet – his role was that of judgment, putting to death! [P] but also salvation (Elisha means "God saves") through judgment salvation would come. That is what salvation is from! If there were no judgement, why would we need saving?! All three were part of the same Divine intent and purpose: judgment upon the nation of Israel – their role was to kill! To destroy by the sword. There was a three-layered system to ensure that no one escaped the judgment of the sword. The first line was Hazael, those who escaped his sword would be put to death by the sword of Jehu, and if any managed to escape this second line, they would be killed by Elisha. All three were anointed by יהוה to bring death to Israel. Israel was contaminated, rotten with idolatry, beyond repair – this evil had to be extirpated. This is ever and always יהוה’s solution to corruption and evil. It is judged and destroyed and removed. First of all, in the flood; יהוה regretted that He had made man; so he destroyed him from the face of the earth. Again, with Sodom and Gomorrah. We see it here and then later in the exile of Israel, the later exile of Judah, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70; and that is what God has promised to do in the end time. Revelation is full of the judgement of God poured out. 2 Peter tells us that the elements will be burned up with fire! יהוה is faced with the determined inveterate unrepentant opposition of man; and His solution is judgement! Destruction! The only way to deal with this ingrained, inveterate, idolatry was to wipe the nation out, to destroy the idolaters, bring them to death. How does this line up with our concept of God? He instructed Israel to destroy, completely wipe out the inhabitants of the land because they were irredeemably corrupted with idolatry. Because they did not do so, they themselves became corrupted and ended being destroyed (cf. Num 33:55,56). If we don’t get rid of all evil and destroy it we will meet the fate we should have executed – we ourselves will be destroyed. With evil, with idolatry, it is either ruthlessly destroy or be ruthlessly destroyed. Anointed by God to kill and destroy God’s people – can we conceive this possibility? Is that what we understand by the anointing of God?! But God’s plan of judgment was ruthless and thorough – none was to be allowed to escape. This evil had to be utterly purged from His people. God’s will was to bring death to these people, death to idolaters – all those who place something before Him in their life. But יהוה also acknowledged that Elijah remained zealous for יהוה, He granted a new covenant relationship [1 Kings 19:18 “Yet I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.”] There are not 7,000 with Elijah; he is the only one; but יהוה will leave 7,000 in the future. “I will leave!” – it is יהוה’s doing, He will leave a remnant for Himself. [P] The word “leave” (“שׁאר”) is a verb, the noun is the word “remnant”. Remember Isaiah had a son called “Shear Jashub” – “a remnant will return”. The exact same thing happened in Judah, the nation was exiled but a remnant was saved, returned to the land. Judgement is coming but יהוה will leaved Himself a remnant! Paul explains this, quoting a couple of passages from Isaiah: [Romans 9:27–29 Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the sons of Israel be like the sand of the sea, it is the remnant that will be saved; for יהוה will execute His word on the earth, thoroughly and quickly.” And just as Isaiah foretold, “Unless יהוה of Sabaoth had left to us a posterity, (a remnant) We would have become like Sodom, and would have resembled Gomorrah.”] All would be wiped out by God’s judgement except for the sake of the remnant, the elect. Jesus Himself said: [Matthew 24:22 “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.] No longer with the nation as a whole – the relationship had changed; now He moved to having that covenant relationship with a remnant – a subset that kept themselves pure in their allegiance to יהוה. A remnant chosen by grace: [Romans 11:1–6 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the Divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.] Now God’s covenant promise applies to a remnant, those who He has chosen for Himself by grace, who have kept themselves from idolatry and remained zealous, faithful and true to יהוה – this is not because of their inherent goodness but because God chose them, in His grace; and decided and determined that they would remain faithful. "I have kept for Myself ....". It is not us who keeps ourselves (Jude 24; Phil 1:6; Rom 14:4; 1 Thess 5:24). So then was Israel finished with? By no means; יהוה had made promises to Israel and to Abraham that will never be broken – but not all Israel is Israel (cf. Rom 9:6-29; 10:21-11:10, 25-36). At this stage, there is a change in God’s dealings with His people; a change of dispensation as there was at Sinai when Moses went up the mountain. Prior to then יהוה dealt individually with the patriarchs, entered into covenant relationship with them individually and personally; at Sinai there was a change, Israel became a nation, יהוה entered into covenant relationship with the nation as a whole, collectively. Now that covenant has been broken, Israel failed to meet the terms by obstinately and continually pursuing idolatry – so now יהוה no longer deals with Israel as a whole but turns to dealing in covenant relationship with a remnant. It is to the remnant that יהוה now transfers the promises. The rest were to be put to death. But He "kept for Himself" 7,000 who had kept themselves pure, untainted by idolatry. This was not their own doing, because they were better, more righteous, than the rest – it was solely due to God’s grace, His gracious choice. He chose, selected certain ones to be kept free from idolatry. At heart man is inveterately evil (Jer 17:9; Rom 3:9-20, 23) but God choses some from among them for Himself so that there is some left for Him to deal with and reveal Himself through to the rest of the world. It is not due to any merit in themselves – the remnant exists because of יהוה’s gracious choice and mercy upon them. They remained free from idolatry only because יהוה had chosen them to remain so and determined that they would be so – it is all יהוה’s doing; so all glory belongs to Him alone. Elijah said that he was the only one left who was zealous for יהוה (cf. v.10, 14) – was he correct? There was Obadiah (18:3,4) and the 100 prophets he saved (18:4, 13) – but where were the followers of יהוה on Mount Carmel? (cf. 18:21) No one answered in support of יהוה – Elijah was there alone. Elijah was not lying; as far as he was concerned and aware, he was the only one left. It can seem like that, that you are the only one remaining true to יהוה and not going along out of self-interest and selfish motives. Where are they that live and burn for God’s glory alone? I remember back along at the Apostolic church; there was all sorts of crazies going on: the preaching of Scripture had been set aside; whenever the pastor got up to preach he would burst out into uncontrollable laughter. This was a signal for everyone else to do the same. The seats would be pushed back, everyone would fall over into a semi-conscious state, or be overcome with perpetual laughter. Well, not everyone; there was I like a fish out of water, like the sober one at a party; thinking this is crazy, this cannot be the Holy Spirit, surely? Am I the only one who thinks this is wrong?! I am the only one! But I wasn’t! First there was one, then I found another – there was a small group who were seriously concerned about what was going on – interestingly, they all also had a love for Israel. But you can think you are the only one, it seems that way; but יהוה keeps a remnant who remain true. There are others – and they too probably feel as if they are the only one; they are scattered far and wide, isolated from each other; steadfastly remaining true in the overwhelming idolatry that pervades all around. But Elijah may have been correct: no one was with him; יהוה says "I will leave ...." – Elijah may be the only one true, but יהוה would raise up a remnant, in the future 7,000, a perfect number who kept themselves from idolatry. Elijah felt as if he had laboured in vain but perhaps his witness, the drought, the contest on Carmel, the fire, the rain, the persecution by Jezebel, the judgment by Hazael, Jehu and Elisha – perhaps these things would trigger some to see the error of idolatry and the truth and reality of יהוה and so 7,000 would yet keep themselves pure and follow Him. There would be the Elijah’s and Jehu’s in the nation. Elijah’s labour had not been in vain after all, it is just that the fruit was not evident yet (cf. Isaiah 49:4; Gal 6:9; 1 Cor 15:58). I said God consistently acts toward rejection of Him with judgement; but He also consistently saves a remnant through that judgement: there was Noah and his family saved through the flood; God rescued righteous Lot from Sodom, He kept 7,000 in Elijah’s day; there was the remnant that returned from exile. So too, there will be a remnant that will be saved in the last day. The story of Elijah is not just a story from history; it is a prophetic preview of the end; when the inveterate rejection of יהוה by men and their opposition to Him will be met with terrible judgement but there will be a remnant – “for the sake of the elect the days will be shortened”. [P] [Romans 11:5 So in this way also at the present time, there is a remnant selected by grace.] Paul says that this story applies to the [P] present time; today! It is relevant to now! There is a [P] remnant; not by their own goodness or efforts, but because of God’s choice, [P] the elect, those I have kept for Myself! Just because יהוה chose to, chose them and chose to bestow His favour upon them. It is by [P] grace, that we are saved, not of ourselves. God always preserves a remnant for Himself – if it was left to man there would be none left but God preserves a people for Himself. The principle goes way back to Genesis in the days of Joseph, he said [Genesis 45:7 God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance.] Things had not gone wrong, יהוה knew this would happen: [Deuteronomy 4:27 יהוה will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where יהוה drives you.] Although only a few [2 Kings 19:30,31 The surviving remnant of the house of Judah will again take root downward and bear fruit upward. For out of Jerusalem will go forth a remnant, and out of Mount Zion survivors. The zeal of יהוה will perform this.] It is solely יהוה’s doing, so all the credit, all the honour all the glory goes to Him alone. He chooses the weak, the nobodies, the foolish to make a people for Himself: [Micah 4:7 “I will make the lame a remnant and the outcasts a strong nation, and יהוה will reign over them in Mount Zion from now on and forever.] Micah has much to say about the remnant: [Micah 5:7,8 Then the remnant of Jacob will be among many peoples like dew from יהוה, like showers on vegetation which do not wait for man or delay for the sons of men. The remnant of Jacob will be among the nations, among many peoples like a lion among the beasts of the forest,] [Micah 7:18 Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love.] Hallelujah! Although the nation of Israel is rebellious and deserving wrath – they will be judged; but a remnant will be pardoned because of God’s unfailing love. [Jeremiah 50:20 In those days and at that time,’ declares יהוה, ‘search will be made for the iniquity of Israel, but there will be none; and for the sins of Judah, but they will not be found; for I will pardon those whom I leave as a remnant.’] Pardon, forgiveness, removal of sin is for the remnant! [Jeremiah 31:7 For thus says יהוה, “Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise and say, ‘O יהוה, save Your people, the remnant of Israel.’] Salvation is for the remnant, it is the remnant who are יהוה’s people. Are you in the remnant, one of the chosen? Peter said: [2 Peter 1:10–11 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.] יהוה’s blessing is upon His remnant. We cannot do it but He does: [Zechariah 8:6,7 Thus says יהוה of armies, ‘If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?’ declares יהוה of armies. Thus says יהוה of armies, ‘Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; but now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ declares יהוה of armies. For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things.] There is יהוה’s blessing, His inheritance for His remnant, those whom He has chosen for Himself by grace; because His unfailing love lasts forever. Judgement is coming; but in wrath He remembers mercy. We live in a confused world and Babel is still with us. But God still has His faithful remnant that follows Him by faith and keeps their eyes on the heavenly city. Are you a part of that remnant?