Dear Heavenly Father, You are the beginning and end of all things. The ultimate meaning of existence is found in You. Our ability to understand our own lives depends upon our view of You. Our felt need of You requires that we know You and that we know ourselves. Please help us through this passage to gain more accurate views of Yourself, of ourselves, and of the real world in which we must live and serve You. Hear us and have mercy on us for Christ’s sake. Amen.
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
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Hark! The herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King!
Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.
Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Now display Thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.
This passage is a chronicle of truly remarkable Providential events whereby God sustained His servants in this period of national declension. This was an exceptional period of God’s dealings with His covenant people. It was exceptional because of God’s use of what we consider to be supernatural events to meet His peoples’ needs. There is nothing supernatural for God. The laws which He built into the natural creation do not regulate Him. He does as He pleases and nothing restrains Him. Yet, in His ordinary interaction with the recipients of His grace, God works through the laws of His creation and not in contradiction of them. Nonetheless, He remains the same. His commitment to His people remains the same as well. Therefore, we learn crucial realities about God and about the way He sustains His cause in the earth from this passage.
A few questions for reflection in working through this text would be:
a. What do we learn about God in this chapter?
b. What do we learn about the difficulties of serving Him in this world?
c. What do we learn about ourselves?
Elisha, the prophet of God, was obviously God’s designated leader in His kingdom during this period of redemptive history. As Dads you are God’s designated leaders within your individual families. What are some of the most difficult issues that leaders face, whether in families or churches or governments or places of commerce?
One such question must be, how do you meet the needs of those under you without violating righteous principle? Another difficult question relates to the way we must respond to those who defy our authority and set themselves in opposition to us. Answers to such questions are indicated within this text. What are they?
This historical account also provides a nauseating lesson as to the consequences of turning away from God and losing His benediction. Where is that lesson in the text?
Click here for Matthew Henry’s Commentary.
Truth in Practice
Under God’s blessing upon Elisha’s ministry the number of men seeking instruction for the spiritual service of God and His people increased to the extent that new facilities were required for the school of the prophets. Strong leaders tend to foster others desiring to become leaders. In the ensuing building project, an ax head flew off into the water. That in itself would have represented a material hardship. That is why the ax was borrowed in the first place. Yet the hardship was accentuated because it was borrowed and because the prophets were righteously concerned about the principles of the ninth commandment. What could they do?
God Himself supplied their need in a supernatural way. We may rightly expect that legitimate needs incurred in doing the work of God will be met without having to violate righteous principles. The faithfulness of God may be trusted in that regard.
The service of God in this world meets with multiple difficulties and hardships. Some seem to be very natural, like a broken ax. Often there are spiritual forces behind those “natural” problems. Then again, other problems come with unmistakable malicious intent, such as the Syrian army coming to arrest Elisha. Note that the man of God was not at all flustered, because he knew the covenant faithfulness of God. He was cognizant of the protection of God, and even of angelic beings. Yet, when God demonstrated that protection to the embarrassment of those who made themselves the enemies of Elisha, the man of God did not seek revenge. Instead, he brought blessing upon them and set them free. All who know themselves to be the servants of the Most High, can afford to be generous and kind to their enemies. The living God is with them and for them, and vengeance belongs to Him.
The large heartedness of Elisha was not understood or appreciated by his own countrymen, especially when the Syrians laid siege to Samaria and cut off the supplies of food. This was, in fact, a result of Israel’s idolatry and God’s anger at them. Yet, the king blamed Elisha and Elisha’s kindness to his enemies when he might have destroyed them. The good works of God’s people are often misunderstood and are even used against them. But again, we serve God! The all-important issue is honoring Him and trusting Him to meet whatever needs arise from honoring Him.
The most impressive lesson from this passage concerns the character of God. His power is apparent. His sovereignty is unmistakable. God’s goodness and faithfulness are displayed openly. Yet, perhaps what should strike us the most is God’s love for His name and for His people. He is determined by whatever means to uphold His own reputation. And in no small measure that involves Him upholding those who stake their lives upon His service.
May God make us to be those who so love Him and so trust Him that more and more we venture everything upon Him and upon the faithful service of His cause where He has placed us.
Pastor Gary W. Hendrix – Grace Reformed Baptist Church, Mebane, North Carolina
Q. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at their death?
A. The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness (Heb. 12:23) and do immediately pass into glory (Php. 1:23; 2 Co 5:8; Luke 23:43), and their bodies, being still united to Christ (1 Th. 4:14) do rest in their graves (Isa. 57:2) till the resurrection (Job 19:26).