This week, we continue in our Faith Heroes series. In the series, our faith heroes include:
As we saw last week, Elisha came onto the scene towards the tail end of Elijah's ministry career.
Elisha was clearly identified by the Lord and anointed to be Elijah's successor. His one request is that he would inherit a double portion of Elijah's spirit; however, Elisha’s request would only be granted if he saw Elijah being taken to heaven.
In case you missed last week’s episode, I encourage you to go listen to it. Spoiler alert: Elisha sees Elijah’s departure from this world, and his request was granted.
This week, we explore Elisha’s ministry and see the power of succession planning. Let’s dive into Elisha’s life and ministry, and see why he was a faith hero.
Who Is Elisha?
Elisha was Elijah’s successor. During his ministry years, he advised four kings, performed miracles, and taught others. His ministry to Israel spanned sixty (60) years.1
As we saw last week, Elijah found Elisha in a field plowing and anointed him as his replacement. According to scholars, this was the only command that Elijah fulfilled of the three anointings God gave him.2
Elisha was anointed four years before the death of Ahab and served approximately seven or eight years with Elijah before God took him to heaven.3
He faithfully served the people of Israel for sixty years as the nation’s prophet. Over his lifetime, he carried out numerous miracles including:
- Creating clean water for Israel
- Multiplying a widow’s oil
- Bringing someone back to life
- Healing someone of leprosy
- Making an ax head float
In addition to his miracles, he turned scoffing of himself into a bad situation for some youth. He called out his servant for desiring what someone else had and completed the commands given to Elijah to anoint Jehu and Hazael.
Let’s dive into some of the miracles he performed.
In 2 Kings 2, we see one of Elisha’s first miracles of his ministry. He was staying in Jericho, and the men of the town approached him and said the water was not healthy – their crops couldn’t grow and it was bad.
So Elisha said,
“Bring me a new bowl…and put salt in it.” – 2 Kings 2: 20
They did as he instructed, and then Elisha went out to the spring and threw the salt in it. He said,
“'This is what the Lord says: I have purified this water. It will no longer cause death or infertility.’ And the water has remained pure ever since.” – 2 Kings 2:21-22
The Widow’s Oil
One day, the wife of a deceased man who served in the company of prophets sought out Elisha for his help. Her sons would soon be taken as a slave if she could not pay the debt of her dead husband.4
He begins by asking the widow what she has in her home. She replies, nothing but a small amount of oil.5
He says to her,
“Borrow as many empty jars as you can from your friends and neighbors. Then go into your house with your sons and shut the door behind you. Pour olive oil from your flask into the jars, setting each one aside when it is filled.” – 2 Kings 4:3-4
She did as she was instructed, filling jar after jar until there were none left. When the last jar was filled, the oil stopped flowing.6
The widow then went and found Elisha, and he said,
“'Now sell the olive oil and pay your debts, and you and your sons can live on what is left over.” – 2 Kings 4:7
The compassion of Elisha and the faithfulness of the woman were on full display in this miracle. I love how he asks her how he can help.
We may not have the power to multiply jars of oil like Elisha, but we do have the power to ask how we can help people. When was the last time you asked someone how you can help them?
God may use you to help someone through a difficult situation or to meet a physical need. I encourage you to ask the Lord how you can make a difference in someone’s life this week.
Death to Life in Shunem
Elisha traveled around the territory of Israel, and one day his travels brought him to a town named Shunem. In this town, a “well-to-do” woman urged him to have a meal with her and her husband.7
This woman recognized that Elisha would be traveling this way multiple times, and urged her husband to prepare a room for him in their home so he had a space to lay his head when he traveled to the area.8
During one of his visits, Elisha asked the woman how he could repay her kindness, but he never received an answer. She was taken care of and lived among her people, and that satisfied her.9
One day, Elisha asked his servant Gehazi if there was anything he could do for her. He replied,
“Well, she has no son and her husband is old.” – 2 Kings 4:14
When he heard this, he knew how he could repay her. The woman and Elisha spoke, and he said,
“About this time next year…you will have a son in your arms.” – 2 Kings 4:16
Although her faith was strong, she was skeptical, but a year later her son was in her arms just as Elisha said.
One day when the child had grown, he was in the fields working and collapsed. His father told his servants to take the child to his mother. According to scholars, the boy collapsed from an apparent heatstroke and subsequently died.10
After laying her son on Elisha’s bed, she closed the door and went and sought out Elisha. He saw her coming and sent Gehazi to see if all was good. She told a fib to Gehazi and said all was good.
When she arrived at Elisha, she broke down. Gehazi tried to pull her away, but Elisha replied11
“Leave her alone! She is in better distress, but the Lord has hidden it from me and has not told me why.” – 2 Kings 4:27
Elisha told Gehazi to take his staff, and run to the boy. Do not stop for anyone. Do not greet anyone. You have one mission – go on ahead of me, and place my staff on the boy.
The woman would not leave without Elisha, so he left with her, but Gehazi returned to him and said the boy was still dead.12
Elisha went to the boy, closed the door, and began to pray. He laid on top of the boy and breathed life back into him. Two times he did this, and the second time, the boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.13
The boy was then returned to his mother, fully restored to life.
Naaman’s Leprosy & Gehazi’s Greed
Elisha continued to do miracles in the land of Israel and advise the kings. Naaman, a commander and valiant soldier, in the king of Aram’s army was dealing with leprosy.
His wife had a servant who had been captured from Israel. She told Naaman that there is a prophet in Israel who could cure him of his leprosy.
Naaman went to the king and received a letter and permission to travel to find Elisha. When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes, and said, “Am I God?”.14
Elisha heard the king had torn his robes and told the man to come see him. On the way to Elisha, a servant of Elisha came to him and told him,
“Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River, and your skin will be restored and you will be cleansed.” – 2 Kings 5:10
Upon hearing these words, Naaman was angry that Elisha himself would not come out greet him or meet with him, so he turned around headed back home.
His servants pleaded with him to go and do as the prophet had said. They told him that if he had asked him to do something big, he would do it.
So…Naaman followed his servant's advise, and went washed in the Jordan River, and he was instantly healed of his leprosy.15
Naaman was grateful for the healing and wanted to pay Elisha, but he would not accept it, so he headed home. Before he left, he declared that he would not bow a knee to anyone but the one true God because of his healing.16
Gehazi was not happy with Elisha, so he slipped off and chased Naaman down, and lied to him saying he had changed his mind, and he would like the gifts Naaman was offering.
In fact, Naaman gave Gehazi a double portion.
When he arrived, Elisha asked Gehazi where he had been. He replied nowhere, but Elisha recounted his exact movements. Gehazi’s greed had got the better of him, and because of it, he received the same fate that Naaman had just been cured of – leprosy – he then left Elisha’s service.
Floating Ax Head
Lastly, we will look at one of the more comical miracles that Elisha performed. The company of prophets that served the people asked Elisha if they could build a new place to meet since their current place was too small.
Elisha told them to go, and they headed to the Jordan River. As they were cutting down trees, one of the ax heads flew off and into the river.
The prophet cried out for help because it was a borrowed ax. Elisha asked where the ax head had entered the water.17
“When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and and made the iron float. ‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.” – 2 Kings 6:6-7
Elisha’s Death & A Body Revives
In 2 Kings 13, we see Elisha’s death pronounced after suffering from an illness, but not before he prophesies about how many times King Johash of Israel will defeat the king of Aram.18
Sometime after Elisha had died, some Israelites were burying a man when they saw an approaching Moabite raiding party. They were not about to hang around and meet those guys, so they tossed the body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man revived and stood on his feet.19
There is no indication from scripture or from scholarly articles that this person walked out of the grave, but they do suggest that the double portion Elisha received allowed his bones to retain the power even after his death.20
A Life Well Lived
We see from Elisha’s life, a life filled with blessing and purpose. He was a compassionate prophet and one that lived in complete alignment with the Lord.
His miracles give each of us hope, and a reminder that God sees us in the good times, as well as our struggles.
In the background, we see the faith of the people who expected Elisha to show up and help them. Elisha relied on God’s strength and leading, but walked in faith to help those in need even when he didn’t have all the information.
We can take encouragement from Elisha’s faithfulness, his request to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, and his pursuit of living a life sold out for the Lord in turbulent times.
When we encounter various trials and struggles, let's head back to the example of Elisha, and ask God for help. The answers to our questions or our prayers may not be instantaneous, but if we are consistent in our pursuit, the answer will come.
However, the answer we seek or desire may not be the answer God provides. We must be willing to accept the answer He provides.
Elisha’s life is a testimony of why he is a faith hero.
Lord, thank you for your faithfulness and love for each one of us. Thank you for the example of Elisha, and for renewing our hope that you see us even when we fill buried beneath our struggles. I ask you to give each one of us an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life this week. Thank you for who you are, and what you are doing in each one of us. Amen!
- Faith Heroes series
- ELISHA THE PROPHET Son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah; successor of the prophet Elijah. Elisha was active in Israel for 60 years (892–832 BC), performing miracles, teaching students, and acting in state affairs during the reigns of kings Joram (Jehoram), Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash (Joash).Amy Balogh, “Elisha the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016). ↩
- ELISHA—God his salvation, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, who became the attendant and disciple of Elijah (1 Kings 19:16–19). His name first occurs in the command given to Elijah to anoint him as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). This was the only one of the three commands then given to Elijah which he accomplished. On his way from Sinai to Damascus he found Elisha at his native place engaged in the labours of the field, ploughing with twelve yoke of oxen. He went over to him, threw over his shoulders his rough mantle, and at once adopted him as a son, and invested him with the prophetical office (comp. Luke 9:61, 62).M. G. Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), 224. ↩
- Elisha accepted the call thus given (about four years before the death of Ahab), and for some seven or eight years became the close attendant on Elijah till he was parted from him and taken up into heaven.M. G. Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), 224. ↩
- 2 Kings 4:1 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:2 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:5 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:8 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:9-10 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:11-13 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:17-20One day while the boy worked in the field with his father, he suffered an apparent heatstroke and died.J. Randall O’Brien, “Elisha,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 482. ↩
- 2 Kings 4:23-26 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:29-31 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 4:32-35 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 5:1-7 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 5:11-15 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 5:17-18 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 6:1-5 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 13:14-20 ↩︎
- 2 Kings 13:20-21 ↩︎
- The death of Elisha is attributed to terminal illness, and little is said of his final days (2 Kgs 13:14, 20–21). However, his bones maintain their life-giving properties, even after his death. In order to avoid being killed by a band of violent men, those burying a man hastily throw his body into Elisha’s grave. As soon as the corpse touches his bones, the man is revived, immediately strong enough to stand on his feet. Even in death, Elisha has the power over life and death granted to him when the Lord allowed for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to rest upon him (2 Kgs 2:9–12).Amy Balogh, “Elisha the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016). ↩
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