By Bill Fiess and Pam Esteven
While listening through 2 Kings, I was impressed anew with Elisha’s great faith. Again and again, he faces problems that occur in ordinary life, yet Scripture never records that he becomes flustered. Instead, he demonstrates great faith in the Lord; time after time, he sees God’s power and deliverance.
COOL, CLEAR WATER
One of the incidents in Elisha’s life that strikes me is his encounter with the men of Jericho shortly after Elijah’s translation into the third heaven. The men of Jericho come to Elisha because the water supply has been compromised with something that has made the water undrinkable. Nicecity, bad water. At the Lord’s direction, apparently, Elisha throws salt into the water source, and through the prophet’s obedience, the Lord heals the waters which were still good by the time 2 Kings was written (2 Kgs 2:19-22).
THE WIDOW’S OIL WELL
One of the most famous examples of Elisha’s great faith is his gracious dealing with the widow of a fellow prophet. She is in danger of losing her two sons to servitude because of a debt she cannot repay. Faithfully following God’s desire to take care of widows and fatherless children, Elisha discovers that the only foodstuff this widow has is a small jar of oil. He directs her to shut her door after she has borrowed as many pots and pans as she can and to fill up those many pots with oil from the one jar she has. She obeys and discovers a real oil well. Elisha then tells her to sell the oil, discharge the debt, and live off the rest. In God’s hands, her small amount has become a nest egg to provide for her and her family. I especially love this story (2 Kgs 4:1-7).
THE FLOATING AX HEAD
Because of his great faith, Elisha was used by God after this incident to help more people by doing more miracles. God used Elisha to raise to life the dead son of the Shunamite woman (2 Kgs 4:32-37) and to heal the Syrian commander Naaman of leprosy (2 Kgs 5:1-14).
Another incident in Elisha’s life reveals just how much God is concerned with the everyday trials in our lives. This is the account of the floating ax head. Elisha’s theological students are expanding their seminary campus. As one student chops down a tree, the ax head flies off and disappears into the muddy Jordan River. As it turns out, the ax has been borrowed, and we all know that seminary students have only cobwebs in their wallets. How can this student repay the ax’s owner? However, this seminary student has positioned himself in his woodcutting so that if the ax head did fly off, it would land in the water and not a colleague’s head. This student has also been so careful as to have observed exactly where the ax head has sunk. Very graciously and very simply, Elisha throws a stick into the water where the student has directed him. As everyone knows, iron ax heads cannot do the backstroke, but Elisha knows the One who can make that happen. Miraculously the iron ax head floats. What a tremendous example of God’s concern for our daily troubles (2 Kgs 6:4-7).
CHARIOTS OF FIRE
The final example is the famous story of the chariots of fire. Elisha and his servant have ended up on the Syrian king’s most wanted list because intelligence information has continued to leak from the king’s most private meetings. He has finally realized that the leak is one who has not even been present at those meetings: Elisha!
The king then sends his forces to surround Dothan, the town where Elisha is residing, and to fetch the prophet. Elisha’s servant is quite nervous about this development, but Elisha himself is not and assures him that “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” What great faith. Elisha asks the Lord to remove the blinders from the servant’s eyes that he may see the army of heaven. It is an awesome sight: “the mountains full of horses and chariots of fire.” The servant had no need to fear. Elisha’s great confidence in God’s protection is completely justified and has kept him from needless worry (2 Kgs 6:8-17).
Do you and I have that kind of complete confidence in the Lord’s care for us? Or are we like the father in Mark 9:24 who said, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief”? Sometimes we, like Elisha’s servant and this father, need help with our unbelief. There are times in our lives when we need someone like Elisha, someone whose great faith points us to see God’s hand when our own faith falters.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, He was impressed with those of great faith. For example, He commended the centurion in Capernaum whose faith was such that he believed Jesus could, from a long distance, heal a gravely ill servant (Matt 8:5-13). Like Elisha in the OT and like the centurion in Jesus’ day, let us also be people of great faith so that we, too, may hear the commendation of our Lord. The greater our faith, the greater blessing we can be to others in this life. The greater our faith, the greater our service to God now and in the life to come. May we long to hear our Lord’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Bill Fiess teaches mathematics at Southwest Virginia Community College.
Pam Esteven lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with her husband, Roy.