‘Living with Uncertainty’ Meditations: 12. Uncertainties of Provision (2)
2 Kings 2:9 Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.
And So: As I suggested in the previous study, I suspect virtually all of us in the West take for granted the ease with which we can get hold of food, drink, etc. and I went on to examine some of the ways the Bible shows God supplied for some of His saints in the Old Testament period. However, and I don’t know if it came out clearly enough in that study, provision is directly tied to need and need invariably involves uncertainty, as we are finding out today. (I stood in a queue for ten minutes recently waiting to do my usual weekly shop while security guards let people out to let people in!) Yet there is another side to this which we will shortly move on to consider in the next study after we have first picked up on that other amazing prophet, Elisha, who followed on from Elijah, and in a similar fashion observe how need and provision go together.
Elisha’s Provision: Let’s first note how God provided for him:
– he asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (2 Kings 2:9) and apparently got it.
– he was enabled to cleanse a polluted spring (2 Kings 2:19-22)
– he receives God’s protection of his reputation via two bears! (2 Kings 2:23-25)
– he brings reassurance to Jehoshaphat and Joram against Moab (2 Kings 3:14-19)
– he guided a widow into a miracle of provision of oil to cover her debts (2 Kings 4:1-7)
– he was given hospitality in Shumen (near the Jezreel valley, south of Nazareth) (2 Kings 4:8-10)
– he promised a son for the woman there, which she had (2 Kings 4:11-17)
– he raised up her sick (?dead) son (2 Kings 4:18-37)
– he cleansed some poisoned cooking (2 Kings 4:38-41)
– he fed a hundred men with only twenty loaves (2 Kings 4:42-44)
– he brought about Naaman’s healing (2 Kings 5:1-19)
– he retrieved a lost axe-head (2 Kings 6:1-7)
– he blinded the Aramean army at Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-23)
– he foresaw and withstood arrest (2 Kings 6:30-33) and prophesied provision (2 Kings 7:1-20)
– he prophesied a seven-year famine and protected a woman (2 Kings 8:1-6)
– he prophesied over Hazael his future as leader over Aram (2 Kings 8:7-15)
– he instructed prophetic anointing of Jehu to be next king (2 Kings 9:1-13)
– on his deathbed he prophesied over Jehoash limited victory (2 Kings 13:14-20)
An Aside: When we compare Elijah and Elisha, it almost seems that Elijah’s reputation is eclipsed by that of Elisha, for Elisha was clearly a miracle-working prophet in a way that Elijah had not been. Nevertheless Elijah’s reputation stands having been the one who had stood in the face of Ahab’s wickedness and the presence of the prophets of Baal and is clearly honored by the Lord as he is taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. Yet his ministry seemed to slide away after his apparent breakdown after the Carmel victory and we saw the Lord provided a successor for him in the form of Elisha, and only used him a further three times (items 10 to 13 in the list in the previous study). There seems to almost hang over him an element of failure that restricted his ongoing use. Now what is beautiful is that on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, we see that it was Moses and Elijah (summing up the Law and the Prophets?) who were seen with Jesus planning his departure (Lk 9:31). Was it that because there had been an element of failure hanging over both men (Moses having blown it with the water out of the rock) that the Lord in his grace has both men seen in this honored role, as if to say, ’These are my honoured servants, even if they didn’t always get it perfectly right’ – an act of amazing grace?
Times of Need: Now we have said that miracles happen in the face of need and need is so often about uncertainty. Put the other way around times of uncertainty reveal a need and a need is an opportunity for God’s glory to be seen. Now let’s go back over those instances of provision in Elisha’s ministry and now observe the uncertainty and the need that provoked the provision:
– Elijah is going, Elisha is uncertain as to how to proceed, he needs reassurance. (2 Kings 2:9)
– a spring is polluted and unusable (2 Kings 2:19-22)
– his reputation is at stake (2 Kings 2:23-25)
– the two kings need guidance (2 Kings 3:14-19)
– a widow is in financial need (2 Kings 4:1-7)
– he needs a base, somewhere to stay (2 Kings 4:8-10)
– the woman is childless (2 Kings 4:11-17)
– the son has apparently died (2 Kings 4:18-37)
– the cooking has been poisoned (2 Kings 4:38-41)
– there are a lot of hungry followers with no provisions (2 Kings 4:42-44)
– Naaman has leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-19)
– an axe-head has been lost (2 Kings 6:1-7)
– the Aramean army at Dothan threatens him (2 Kings 6:8-23)
– he is likely to be arrested and killed (2 Kings 6:30-33) there is shortage(2 Kings 7:1-20)
– a seven-year famine is coming and the woman will be affected (2 Kings 8:1-6)
– the remaining ones were all about knowing the uncertain future (2 Kings 8:7-15, 9:1-13, 13:14-20)
Go back over this list and catch a sense of the uncertainty that would be prevailing in each and every case. These things range from providing food and finances, finding lost articles, bringing guidance, bringing childlessness to an end, bringing new life to the dead, making food or drink usable, dealing with enemy threats, and making the future clearer. It is perhaps one of the most remarkable periods of Old Testament history that reveals the Lord who is a provider. The New Testament equivalent with some remarkable similarities is, of course, the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels.
And us? The challenge here is that we are shown a God who clearly delights in moving in and through His servants to meet the need of the hour and remove the sense of uncertainty that hangs over it. Dare we step into the arena of belief and confront and put to death our unbelief and ask the Lord to enlarge our faith so that we bring every area of our daily needs to Him – expectantly! May it be so.