Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- III. Christ in the Historical Books
8. 2Kings --
- Power for Service.
- The blessing that Elisha craved, in asking for a double portion of the spirit of his master, when Elijah was about to be taken from him [2Kin 2:9], was not to be twice as great, but to have the portion of the first-born son. The first-born son inherited a double portion of his father's property, twice as much as each of the other sons [Deu 21:17]. Elisha asked to have the prophetic office, and with it the power of the Spirit to enable him to fulfil it. In this last scene, we sometimes almost wonder whether we are in the Old Testament or the New. We have an ascending master, a waiting disciple, a descending power. ''Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me'' [Acts 1:8]. No Christian is exempt from the call to be a witness. Christ wants witnesses everywhere, and we cannot do it without His power.
'Thou hast asked an hard thing'' [2Kings 2:10]. There are two conditions:
- Absolute surrender. In his first call, Elisha showed this thoroughness. He shows it now. Unhindered by the discouragement of others, and even by the seeming discouragement of his master, he pressed on from point to point, having counted the cost. It is a serious thing to follow Christ; He always bids us count the cost. At last it meant Jordan itself: death to the self-life. The baptism of the Spirit always means a baptism into the death of Christ [Rom 8:8-13; Gal 2:20].
- The second condition was faith. ''If thou see me when I shall be taken from thee, it shall be so.'' He kept his eye fixed on his master. ''And Elisha saw it.'' The result was, he rent his own clothes-- no more dependence on self-- and took up the mantle of Elijah, for that was to be his only power now. He put it to the test at once, and was able to do the same works as Elijah had done. ''The works that I do shall ye do also'' [Joh 14:12]. And the prophets found it out [2Kin 2:14,15], and a life of blessing and service to others was the outcome (Rev. E.W. Moore).
- Salt. [2Kings 2:19-22]
- The healing of the waters of Jericho at their source, by casting in salt from a new dish, touched the people of Elisha's day, and is full of significance for us. It shows the power of the Gospel to change men's lives at their source. Christ brought this life-giving power in His perfect manhood. But we may recognize the ''new vessel'' also in every renewed heart which brings the power of the Gospel to other lives. Christians are to be ''the salt of the earth'' [Mat 5:13]. Dr. Thomson tells us there seems no reason to doubt the identity of the fountain which tradition points out as the scene of the miracle. The water is abundant, transparent, sweet and cool, and abounds in fish, and on the margin of this delightful brook grow a great number of bushes.
- Ditches. [2Kings ch. 3]
- The miracle by which water was brought to relieve the need of the hosts of Israel, Judah, and Edom, who had combined to put down the rebellion of Moab, also contains a lesson on the manner of the Spirit's coming. When the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha, he said: ''Make this valley full of ditches.'' It was a valley to begin with, a low place, a place of humility. God's rivers choose the valleys to flow in. Water always seeks the lowest level. But ditches had to be cut, the humbling work carried still further. If we would be the means of blessing to others, we must allow the Lord to cut His channels deep in our hearts. ''For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, and your beasts.'' No sound, but the waters came. So it is with the Spirit:
- He came sweet influence to impart,
- A gracious, willing Guest,
- While He can find one humble heart
- Wherein to rest.
- ''And it came to pass in the morning, when the meat offering was offered, that, behold, there came water by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water.'' Again we are reminded that it was Calvary that procured the blessing of Pentecost.
- A Pot of Oil. [2Kings 4:1-7]
- In the multiplication of the widow's pot of oil, we have another illustration of the work of the Spirit. Again, it is a lesson of emptying. The poor widow had nothing in the house wherewith to discharge her debt, save a pot of oil. We also owe a debt we cannot pay. We are debtors to live after the Spirit [Rom 8:12,13], we are debtors to love one another [Rom 13:8], we are debtors to carry the Gospel both to the Greek and the Barbarian, both to the wise and to the unwise [Rom 1:14]. Nothing of our carnal nature can avail to discharge the debt. The oil-- the Holy Spirit-- will alone avail. But as in faith we begin, at God's bidding, to pour it out into the empty vessels around us, we shall find that His supply is an inexhaustible one, and that the only limit is the measure of our expectation. ''Go and pay thy debt, and live of the rest.'' The power of the Spirit is enough both for life and for service.
- Soul-Winning. [2Kings 4:8-37]
- In the raising of the Shunammite's son, we have a lesson for the messenger of the Gospel. Gehazi had the outward symbol of office [but] without power. When he laid the prophet's staff upon the dead child, nothing happened. But with Elisha was the secret of the Lord. ''He went in, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hand; and he stretched himself upon the child, and the flesh of the child waxed warm.'' We see in the action of Elisha the secret of dependence upon God, of power in prayer, of personal influence. It gives us a picture of how much it costs to win souls; he seemed to give his very life, as Paul was ready to do when he said, ''We were willing to have imparted unto you, not the Gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us'' (1The 2:8).
- In the healing of the deadly pottage [2Kings 4:38-41], we have a picture of how a Christian may cleanse the moral atmosphere around him, or purify the conversation, by the introduction of an element that is positively good.
In the multiplying of the barley loaves [4:42-44], we have a foreshadowing of a greater miracle, by the shores of the Sea of Galilee [Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-14].
- Naaman. [2Kings 5]
- And now we come to the healing of Naaman the Syrian, and in it we see the whole Gospel in miniature. Naaman, a great man, honourable, gracious, exalted, a victorious captain, a mighty man of valour-- but he was a leper. There is that ''but'' in every life that has not come to Jesus Christ for cleansing. ''If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me'' [John 13:8]. The leprosy of sin, be the outward show of it ever so slight, incurs God's declaration ''utterly unclean.'' ''If any man keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all'' [James 2:10]. God says, ''There is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God'' [Rom 3:19-23].
Nine steps of humbling brought Naaman low enough to receive the blessing.
- He accepted the testimony of a little captive maid.
- He found it was not the great King of Israel who was to cleanse him.
- He found that the cleansing could not be bought, even with [a great sum of money].
- He had to go to the house of a poor prophet.
- The prophet did not even come out to work the miracle, but sent a message.
- He was to wash in the despised little river of Jordan.
- He had to be guided by the good advice of his servants.
- He had to obey.
- He had to become as a little child [v.14].
''And he was clean!''
- Before his cleansing, Naaman said ''I thought'' [v.11]. Now he could say ''I know'' [v.15]. In some such manner, God has to remove one by one, all our preconceived notions of how we will be saved, and bring us to Calvary. We may hear the message of salvation from a very humble source. No good deeds or fancied merits of our own can purchase it. No earthly rivers of reformation or culture can remove the guilt of sin. There is only one thing in all the universe that can do it: ''The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin'' [1John 1:7].
- The Lost Axe-Head. [2Kings 6:1-7]
- John McNeil of Australia [in his book The Spirit-filled Life] has drawn a lesson for us from the lost axe-head. We may lose that sharp axe-head, the power of the Spirit for service, by disobedience, by want of separation, by neglect of the Bible, by neglect of communion, by lack of faith. If you have lost it, go back and look for it. You will find it where you lost it: just there and nowhere else. Have you found the spot where obedience failed? Yield, and obey just there. Do not continue at work chopping with the axe-handle. Many do this; there is much effort but no results-- no chips fly off at the stroke. If we have enjoyed and have lost the fulness of the Spirit, let us confess, betake ourselves to the open fountain [Zech 13:1], and obey, and He will put away our sin, and give us afresh of His fulness. For His sake, for the sake of our souls, for our own sake, we must not try to live and labor without being filled.
- Chariots of Fire. [2Kings 6:8-33]
- Elisha lived in the calm sense of God's immediate presence. This was the secret of his power. When he and his servant were surrounded in the city of Dothan with the army of Syria, ''a great host,'' and the servant said, ''Alas, Master! How shall we do?'' Elisha said, ''Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.'' If we lived continually in the sense of God's protecting presence, what calm power there would be in our lives!
- Witnessing. [2Kings 7]
- The four lepers, who carried the good tidings of the plentiful supply in the deserted camp of the Syrians to the starving people of Samaria, are an example for us as Christians. If we have discovered the riches of Christ for ourselves, ''we do not well to hold our peace.'' We should make the same resolve they did: ''Now therefore, come, that we may go and tell the King's household.''
- ''Is thine heart right?'' said Jehu to Jehonadab the son of Rechab, ''Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart?'' And Jehonadab answered, ''It is.'' ''If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up with him into his chariot.'' [2Kings 10:15].
Our King sees us toiling along life's journey, and He puts to us this question: ''Is thy heart right towards Me? Lovest thou Me more than these?'' [John 21:15]. If we can reply, ''It is. Thou knowest that I love Thee,'' our King, as it were, stretches out His hand and draws us up and seats us with Himself in heavenly places, and makes us to ride in His chariot of power. We have the same thought in the Book of Chronicles: ''The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on the behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him'' [2Chron 16:9].
The history of Judah is so bound up with the history of the Temple that it will be better for us to study it as a whole, in the Book of Chronicles. Those books, as we have already seen, are written from the Temple standpoint.
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For another brief look at this book of the Bible,
see the related chapter in OT Reflections of Christ, by Paul Van Gorder.
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