Sunday, October 30, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "God of Wonders"

“God of Wonders”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
October 30, 2016 :: 2 Kings 4:1-44  

You may have noticed that the amount of miracles in this book has been increasing.

There have been a lot of miracles in the Books of Kings, some of them pretty super-amazing. Many of them very weird.

But starting with Elijah and now stepping up even more with Elisha, the number of miracles in the center of these two books has been growing.

I’m not sure why. I have a few ideas, but they are hard to prove.

There is no one verse that says, “And here is why there are so many miracles in the last chapters of 1 Kings and the first chapters of 2 Kings.”

But they are there.

One of my of hypotheses is that these miracles are showing that God is still powerfully and compassionately at work even when He’s disciplining His people.

God is still powerfully and compassionately at work even when He’s disciplining His people.

Even though every single king in the northern kingdom is a thumbs-down king.

Including King Joram that we learned about last week.

Thumbs down.

Here’s a king who is failing His people.

But the LORD never fails His people.

I think that’s a big reason for these miracles, Elijah’s and Elisha’s miracles.

And some of Elisha’s miracles are here to mirror Elijah’s miracles. We saw that two weeks ago. The same God is doing the same thing even through different prophets.

God has not changed or gone away.

He is the same God of wonders: yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

And, of course, that’s good news for us.

Because even though we don’t live in the age of the kings of Israel or in the age of the prophets of Israel like Elijah and Elisha, we belong to the exact same God.

The God of Wonders.

So, today, we’re going to read four fairly short miracle stories from the days of Elisha, and then we’re going to sketch out a picture of Who this God of Wonders truly is. What we can learn about the God of Wonders by studying a few of His miracles.

Let’s look at story number one.

Chapter, verse 1.

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, ‘Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.’”

That’s a real problem.

We aren’t told the name of this widow, but we are told that her husband had been one of the company of the prophets.

But he died. Perhaps he died at the hands of Jezebel and her prophet-killing men.

It doesn’t say. But it does say that his widow is in desperate trouble.

Her husband had had to borrow money and now that he’s dead, there is no way to pay it back except for her two sons, who should grow to take care of her, to be taken into slavery.

Can you imagine?

Can you imagine how she felt?

Her husband had loved the Lord, and look where that got them!

Her husband had feared the Lord, the beginning of the wisdom, but the end of his life.

And now here is she is with nothing but her boys and they’re going to get taken away from her.

So she cries out to the head prophets, “Help!”

And see how Elisha responds. V.2

“Elisha replied to her, ‘How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?’ ‘Your servant has nothing there at all,’ she said, ‘except a little oil.’”

I never noticed this before, but there’s a big difference between how Elisha responds to this nameless needy widow and how he responded to King Joram in the last chapter, isn’t there?

Remember how sarcastic he was with Joram when Joram asked for help? “What we do have to do with each other? If Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat wasn’t right here, I wouldn’t even talk to you. I would pretend you weren’t here!”

But with this lady, it’s “How can I help you?”

I think that’s significant.  We’ll come back to that.

All she has is a little bit of oil.

Now, that should sound familiar, right?  Kind of like Elijah in 1 Kings 17 with the widow at Zarephath?

Different prophet, same God. V.3

“Elisha said, ‘Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don't ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.’ She left him and afterward shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, ‘Bring me another one.’ But he replied, ‘There is not a jar left.’ Then the oil stopped flowing. [Wow!] She went and told the man of God, and he said, ‘Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.’”

The God of Wonders.

Overflowing blessings from the God of Wonders.

Story number two. This one is longer, and it’s got more twists and turns in it. Verse 8.

“One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, ‘I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let's make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.’”

Get the picture?

Have you ever heard of a household having a guest room for traveling preachers called a “prophet’s chamber?” This is where that comes from.

Elisha had a standing invitation to stay at this wealthy couple’s home.

By the way, verse 7 introduced Elisa with the title “the man of God.” That phrase to describe a prophet occurs like 70 some times in the Old Testament, like 55 of them in the Books of Kings, and it’s applied more times to Elisha than to any other one man. He is the “man of God.” Representing God. Speaking for God. Acting for God. So when they cry out to him for help, it’s almost the same as them crying out to God for help. He’s the man of God.

And the man of God has a standing invitation to enjoy the hospitality of this well-to-do couple.

And he really appreciates it. V.11

“One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Call the Shunammite.’ So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, ‘Tell her, 'You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?'’ She replied, ‘I have a home among my own people.’ [I’m good, thanks. I’ve everything I need  right here.] ‘What can be done for her?’ Elisha asked. Gehazi said, ‘Well, she has no son and her husband is old.’ Then Elisha said, ‘Call her.’ So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. ‘About this time next year,’ Elisha said, ‘you will hold a son in your arms.’

‘No, my lord,’ she objected. ‘Don't mislead your servant, O man of God!’ But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.”

Wow. We learn a few new things here.

First off, Elisha has a servant of his own. I’m glad his name wasn’t Eliba or Eliga. That would get really confusing!

His name is Gehazi, and we’ll learn more about him in the coming weeks.

We also learn that Elisha is grateful and wants to reward his friends for their generosity. He offers the help of the king, perhaps he’s willing to cash in a favor from King Joram after all the help he was in last week’s battle.

But she says that she doesn’t need anything.

Gehazi reads the situation and says that a baby would be really appreciated, but who can do that? The husband is really old.

Does that remind you of anything?  Yes. We’re supposed to think of Abram and Sarah, and Mr and Mrs. Manoah, and Elkanah and Hannah, and for us on this side of the story, Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Who can bring life out of a barren womb?

The God of Wonders.

She can hardly believe it, but in the Spring, she’s holding a newborn in her hands.

That’s like miracle number 2A.

Because this boy grows a little, and tragedy strikes. V.18

“The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. ‘My head! My head!’ he said to his father. His father told a servant, ‘Carry him to his mother.’ After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died.”


It doesn’t say. It just says that he cried out about his head, and then he died.

The miracle child died.

How sad is that?

How wrong is that?

We live in such a broken world.

And now this mother faces an even greater enemy than the widow did in verse 1.

She isn’t facing the slavery of her two sons. She’s facing the grief of losing her one and only son.

And she feels it deeply and desperately. But watch what she does. V.21

“She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out. She called her husband and said, ‘Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.’ ‘Why go to him today?’ he asked. ‘It's not the New Moon or the Sabbath.’ [It’s not a break day or a religious holiday.] ‘It's all right,’ she said [cryptically]. She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, ‘Lead on; don't slow down for me unless I tell you.’ So she set out and came to the man of God at Mount Carmel.

When he saw her in the distance, the man of God said to his servant Gehazi, ‘Look! There's the Shunammite! Run to meet her and ask her, 'Are you all right? Is your husband all right? Is your child all right?'’ ‘Everything is all right,’ she said [cryptically].

When she reached the man of God at the mountain, she took hold of his feet. Gehazi came over to push her away, but the man of God said, ‘Leave her alone! She is in bitter distress, but the LORD has hidden it from me and has not told me why.’”

I love that.

You know why?

Because it shows that Elisha is just a regular human like you and me.

These stories can almost make him seem super-human because the Lord uses him to do all of these miracles.

But here he is at a loss.

He doesn’t know what’s going on. The God of miracles, Yahweh, has not yet revealed it. But now, she does. V.28

“‘Did I ask you for a son, my lord?’ she said. ‘Didn't I tell you, 'Don't raise my hopes'?’”

And now he knows.

Now he knows what’s happened. Something bad has happened to the miracle child.

And this woman is beside herself with bitter grief, but her eyes are on the Lord.

She’s crying out, yes, but in faith. If anyone can do anything about it, it would be the God of Elisha. The God of Wonders. V.29

“Elisha said to Gehazi, ‘Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. If you meet anyone, do not greet him, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy's face.’

But the child's mother said, ‘As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.’ So he got up and followed her. [Interestingly, those are the exact same words that he used in chapter 2 when he followed Elijah all around that last day. They indicate fierce loyalty and faithfulness. V.31]

Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy's face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, ‘The boy has not awakened.’ When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch.

He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay upon the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out upon him, the boy's body grew warm.

Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. [Life for life.] The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, ‘Call the Shunammite.’ And he did. When she came, he said, ‘Take your son.’

She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.”

Wow. Wow! Wow!!!!

This miracle son was brought back from the dead.

He was a double miracle son! And the second was more amazing than the first.

Why did the miracle work like this?

I don’t know. It’s similar to what Elijah did in Zarephath in 1 Kings 17.

I’m not sure why it worked like that there, either.

But I know who did it. It wasn’t Elisha.

It was the God of Wonders.

It was YHWH.

That’s Whom Elisha was praying to in verse 33.

And that’s Who answered.

Two more miracles in this chapters. Both are very short and very similar. V.38

“Elisha returned to Gilgal and there was a famine in that region. While the company of the prophets was meeting with him, he said to his servant, ‘Put on the large pot and cook some stew for these men.’ One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were.

The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, ‘O man of God, there is death in the pot!’ And they could not eat it.

Elisha said, ‘Get some flour.’ He put it into the pot and said, ‘Serve it to the people to eat.’ And there was nothing harmful in the pot.”

This is teaching the danger of potluck dinners.

Watch out for the Fall Frenzy of Food!

I’m just kidding. But I would be happy to take the first bite of every dish today to make sure that they’re all safe.

Somebody put something bad into the pot, and it apparently became deadly.

And that’s a potential tragedy on two levels. One is if anybody dies. But two is that there is a famine in the land, and this is some food, that they’re apparently going to have to throw away!

We can’t lose sight of that fact that these folks are desperate.

But Elisha miraculously saves the day.

It doesn’t say outright that it’s a miracle, but it’s right here with all of these other similar miracles, so I think it’s safe to say that it is another miracle from the God of Wonders.

And here’s the fourth and last one. It goes right with it. Verse 42.

“A man came from Baal Shalishah, bringing the man of God twenty loaves of barley bread baked from the first ripe grain, along with some heads of new grain. ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha said.

‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ his servant asked [There isn’t nearly enough. There’s a famine out there. People are hungry.]. But Elisha answered, ‘Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the LORD says: 'They will eat and have some left over.'’ Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD.”

The God of Wonders.

Just like the oil that didn’t run out until they had enough.
Everybody gets fed today.
Everybody gets fed.

By the God of Wonders.

Now, what does all of this mean?

Again, I’m not sure I know all of why the author put these miracle stories into the Books of Kings.

I definitely believe that they happened, but lots of things happened that don’t make it into our Bibles.

This got included in our Bibles.

At least one reason is to show that the same God that worked with Elijah is at work  with Elisha.

And that this God is at work doing good for His people even when the Kings of Israel are not doing good for their people.

If the king won’t take of them, then the King of Kings will. And He’ll use a man of God to do it.

I think that’s part of what we’re supposed to see here.

And another part of it is just to show off what kind of a God the God of Wonders truly is.

Let me sketch out three points for you to describe Him.


The God of Wonders is Wonderfully Compassionate.

Do you feel that in these four stories?

The recipients of every one of these miracles was a desperate person in a desperate situation.

They were needy.
They were helpless.
They were desperate.

And the God of Wonders cared. He moved toward them. He stepped into their difficult situation, and He miraculously provided for them.

It really struck me that the God of Wonders did His miracles for needy people.

He didn’t just show off.

You know, His miracles weren’t like, “Let me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Watch me make a rainbow appear out of nowhere. Now you see me, now you don’t!”

It’s not magic.

It’s miracles.

And they are miracles to aid desperate people. Needy people.

That’s because God cares.

He cares about widows.
He cares about nameless widows. People we would never know about if it wasn’t right here in the Bible.
He cares about single moms who are struggling to make it.
He cares about grieving moms who are mourning and missing their offspring.
He cares about couples who can’t have children.
He cares about starving people with not enough to eat.

He cares about the poor, the defenseless, the helpless, the vulnerable.

The God of Wonders is compassionate.

That’s such good news, isn’t it?

Especially if you are needy.

If you are desperate right now, take heart in this, the God of Wonders cares about you and your situation.

Cry out to Him when you are in need.

2 Kings 4 is in your Bible to remind you that the God of Wonders doesn’t just love to do wonders. He loves to do wonders in the lives of those who are desperate.

Now, there is no promise here that He will give a miracle to everyone everytime they ask in faith.

That’s what the health and wealth and prosperity teachers false promise to unwitting people today.

Jesus has actually promised that in this world we will have trouble.

But He cares about our troubles.
And He is intimately involved in our troubles, walking with us through them.

And He wants us to cry out to Him in faith like the women in this chapter and look to Him for a miracle.

We can see His heart here. And it’s good!

Cry out to Him when you are in need.

And LOOK OUT for others when they are in need.

Because we need to cultivate our heart to be like His heart.

We need to care about what He cares about.

Do we care about the poor?
Do we care about the needy?
Do we care about the defenseless, the helpless, the vulnerable?

Do we care about widows?
Do we care about single moms who are struggling to make it?
Do we care about grieving moms who are mourning and missing their offspring?
Do we care about couples who can’t have children?
Do we care about starving people with not enough to eat?

And not just, do we say we care, but do we act on that compassion?

Because the God of Wonders acted. He did something.

Something powerful.


The God of Wonders is Wonderfully Powerful.

That’s obvious, right?

Oil that doesn’t run out.
A child when they couldn’t have one.
Soup that was saved.
And bread that fed everyone.

Which one did I skip?

Oh yeah. Brought back from the dead.

I think that this story and the Elijah one from 1 Kings 17 are what the author of Hebrews is talking about when he glories in the accomplishments of faith in Hebrews chapter 11.

He writes, “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.”

That’s power!

Wonder-working power.

Whenever Paul wants to talk about power, He doesn’t go directly to creation, which is where I would tend to go.

He goes to resurrection. The power to bring back from the dead.

And only God has that power.

Life from death.

Does that remind you of anybody?

It turns out that it isn’t not just the kings in the books of Kings that remind us of Jesus.

Jesus is our perfect PROPHET, priest, and king.

When they are at their best, the prophets remind us of Jesus, too.

The man of God.

Remember the time when Jesus stopped the funeral?

I mean literally. It was in the town of Nain. And the funeral procession was parading through the town and the widow was crying by her son who had died.

And Jesus stopped the train and told the boy to get up.

And Jesus said (like verse 36), “Here’s your boy.”

And what did the people say? Luke 7:16, “They were all filled with awe and praised God. ‘A great prophet has appeared among us,’ they said. ‘God has come to help his people.’”

The God of Wonders is Wonderfully Powerful.

So trust Him.

That’s the point of Hebrews 11, right?

It was by faith that these women received back their dead.

Trust in the power of the God of wonders.

Now, I don’t expect resurrections these days.

But I do expect resurrections in the last days.

Read 1 Corinthians 15 and see how many resurrections are on the way.

Every one of us who BELIEVES will get a new body!

A resurrection body like Jesus’ new body.

We should long for that day.

Philippians 3 says that we “eagerly await a Savior from [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20).

That’s even better than the miracle that Elisha did.

Because that boy died once more, probably when he was an old man.

But one day we will be raised to glorious undying new bodies.

By the One who said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

By the powerful God of Wonders.

And we don’t deserve it.

It’s all because the God of Wonders is wonderfully generous.


Do you feel the generosity of God in this chapter?

His graciousness?

I pick it up in how God goes above and beyond the need in every story.

I love the picture of the widow and her sons collecting all the pots in town for the oil.

{Knock knock.} “Hey, umm, could we borrow all of your bowls and pots and pans for a couple of days? Yeah, it’s for a science project the boys are doing. I’m not supposed to say. It’s classified. Can we?”

And they are all full.

And the woman doesn’t need a son, but she gets one.

And then she gets him back.

And people get the stew they need.

And they all get their fill of bread.

What does that story remind you of?

You know when Jesus multiplied the bread and the fishes, everybody who realized that there was a miracle happening, would have been thinking about 2 Kings 4.

This is the generosity of God!

He goes above and beyond.

He pours out His grace.

He shows us His magnanimity.

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

All of these miracles are foretastes of the kingdom to come.

They all pointed to Jesus’ first coming.

And they all point to Jesus’ second coming, too.

When the God of Wonders will bring salvation to those who are faithfully waiting for Him.

In the Kingdom, there will be no famine, and the feast will never run out.
In the Kingdom, the curse will be reversed, there will be no death in the pot.
In the Kingdom, the last enemy, death, will die itself.

And the God of Wonders will get the glory forever.


Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God