Study Notes

2Kings 4:27-44


As we saw in our study last week, a Shunammite had shown great hospitality to Elisha, by feeding him and having her husband build a room for him in their house. While looking for a way to bless her in reward for her giving spirit, Elisha spoke a prophecy that she would give birth to a son within a year, in spite of her husband's old age.

They did give birth to a child. But when the child was grown, he had some sort of internal problem in his skull, and died after a couple hours of suffering. The woman laid the body of her son on Elisha's bed, then headed off to Mount Carmel to get him.

As we examined last week, I believe that this woman had great faith. That is more than my opinion, for we have the commentary of the writer of the Hebrews, who in chapter 11, was extolling many of the Old Testament people that had such great faith. In verse 35, he says,

Hebr. 11:35 Women received {back} their dead by resurrection...

Notice the plurality of the word "women." There are only two women in the Old Testament who received people back from death. Elijah raised the son of the widow of Tsaq-ref-ATH, and (at the risk of giving away the story), Elisha will raise this woman's son as well. In spite of her sorrow, she knew it would be well, for she had great faith in God, as Hebrews 11 says,

Hebr. 11:39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith...

4:27 The Lord Has Hidden It From Me

When she saw Elisha, the woman fell at his feet. Elisha's servant Gehazi was going to push her away, but Elisha said to leave her alone. He knew she was upset, but didn't have a clue why - the Lord had not told him.

4:28-31 The Staff Has No Effect

When Elisha found out what had happened, he sent Gehazi with his staff to lay it on the child and raise him from the dead.

The staff is what we lean on for support. That is in fact why we call the people that work for an individual "his staff." They are who he leans on, delegates to, entrusts with duties that he would be doing himself, if he had the time.

But in Elisha's case, sending his staff to do the work did not have any effect. The child was not raised from the dead. Why not? I think that we can find the reason by comparing this account with a similar one found in the New Testament book of Acts.

For over two years, the apostle Paul lived in Ephesus. He worked hard making tents every day, and rented out a school auditorium to preach the gospel during the Ephesians' afternoon break (Acts 19:9). You see, history tells us that the workday in Ephesus was from 7am to 11am, then they had a five hour break from the heat of the day, after which the workday resumed from 4pm to 9pm.

So Paul would work hard for four hours, preach the gospel for five hours, then continue working at making tents for another five hours. It was at that point in Paul's ministry that we read,

Acts 19:11-12 And God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out.

Paul was busy working in the ministry - thirteen hours a day, six days a week. He simply didn't have enough hours in the day to minister to everyone that needed ministry. He didn't have enough hands to lay hands on everyone that needed him. But God was using Paul's handkerchiefs and aprons to heal the sick and deliver the demon-possessed.

Now, the things called "handkerchiefs" here literally are "cloths for wiping perspiration from the face." They are the sweatbands that Paul would tie around his forehead. The aprons were leather work aprons, worn by workmen and smiths.

So as Paul worked and sweated, the Lord multiplied his ministry. He was using that which was sent from Paul to do even more work. Elisha's staff, on the other hand, had no effect. Why were people healed from Paul's sweatbands, yet the Shunnamite woman's child was not resurrected with Elisha's staff? Because Elisha was not busy working in ministry. He was simply sitting up on Mount Carmel. The Lord had no need to multiply his ministry - he himself was available.

There is a principle here that is essential for any who would serve in ministry. Don't send your staff to minister for you unless you are busy about the Lord's business. Over the years, we have fielded numerous complaints from people who came from other churches and said, "the pastor there never does anything. He sends his elders to pray for people, to do hospital and jail visitation, to counsel, even to teach! And it's not because he's busy - he never does any ministry. He only plays his guitar, he only surfs the net, he only gets his paycheck."

Now, I don't have firsthand knowledge of these things, but if those reports are true, then it is evident that there will be no fruit from those ministries. The spiritually dead will not be raised to new life in Christ. The physically sick will not be healed. Because God has called the man of God to be busy about the work of God, working and sweating in ministry. Only then does the minister need to be multiplied in ministry. Only then will God empower the staff to minister miraculous resurrection.

4:32-37 Prayer For Resurrection

Now Elisha is on the scene, ministering in person. First, he shut the door and prayed. Prayer is such a vital part of resurrection ministry. If we are going to see people pass out of death and into life, if we are going to see people get saved, we've got to be praying. Paul knew the importance of this. He wrote in Romans of his desire to see the unbelieving Jews be saved and forgiven of their sins. He said,

Rom. 10:1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my prayer to God for them is for {their} salvation.

Many of us have a heart's desire for people's salvation, but neglect to pray.

I know that this year we began to see many more people being saved when we began a Sunday morning prayer ministry. And if you tracked the salvations with the staffing of that ministry, I think that you would see a directly proportional relationship between prayer coverage and salvation. I cannot over-emphasize the importance of prayer to see people saved.

Face To Face

The next thing Elisha did was to lay on the child, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. The ministry of raising people from the dead, preaching new life in the cross, is most effective when it is up close and personal, even well into our personal space and well out of our comfort zone. I know that people have sat here through altar calls on numerous Sunday mornings, but did not come to Christ until someone shared the gospel with them personally, individually, up close and personal.


Notice too that even though the boy's flesh became warm, he had not yet had his eyes opened. Elisha left and came back a second time for another face to face encounter. Many of us have felt defeated after sharing the gospel and getting little or no response. Lots of us have given up on people after only sharing once because their reaction was not what we wanted. The guy that was responsible for me coming to Christ came back countless times. Over and over, several times a week, for over two years, he kept coming to my house and sharing the truth of the gospel. We laughed at him, blew pot smoke in his face, argued with him, but he kept coming back. Elisha returned too, wanting to see the child's eyes opened.

Seven Sneezes

Before the boy opened his eyes, he sneezed seven times. Interestingly, this is the only time in the Bible where a human being is mentioned as sneezing. What that means, I don't know, but I do find it interesting!

4:38-41 Death In The Pot

When there is famine in the land, people are starving. And when people are starving, they are reduced to eating what is not necessarily good for them - sometimes it is even poison.

This man went out to gather whatever he could to throw into the vegetable stew that they were making. By picking gourds from a wild vine, he managed to accidentally poison their food.

Now, because the Word of God is often described as food (milk, meat, bread, and water) we can relate a famine in the land as a famine of the Word of God - a time when the truth is nowhere to be found.

I get e-mails from all over the United States saying, "please send a Calvary Chapel pastor over here - not one church in my town is teaching the Bible. Many of them don't even teach FROM the Bible!" But there are of course many churches in their towns. The problem is, that instead of offering the nourishment of the Word of God, they offer what is poison. When ministers don't know the Word, they just feed the people whatever they can find that looks edible. This man picked from a wild vine. But Jesus said,

John 15:1 "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser."

Jesus is the true vine. But this man collected from the wild vine for the people to eat, just as many people in the pulpit do today. Instead of offering the meat and milk of the Word of God, they offer poison: philosophy, psychology, and even false doctrine.

In doing so, the man poisoned those he was supposed to be feeding! And the people cried out, "O man of God, there is death in the pot!"

My instinct would have been to dump the pot into the garbage. But Elisha simply threw meal into the pot, and it became edible. Instead of trying to start over, or even filtering out the bad junk, he simply threw in the good stuff. He was able to put in so much of the truth that the lie was diluted and became harmless.

There are too many bad teachings that people have received, too much poison preaching that folks have heard, to spend my time starting over or filtering out. I know that if I just present the truth of the Word, it will be like adding meal to the pot. Eventually, the lies will be diluted. Soon, there will be no more harm in the pot.

4:42-44 Food Multiplied

A man came from BAH-al Shaw-lee-SHAW with bread and grain to offer to Elisha as the firstfruits. Elisha commanded him to give the food to the people so they could eat. But there certainly wasn't enough for everyone to go around - what would he do? Elisha reassured him that God would provide. And sure enough, everyone ate and there was some left over.

Of course, this sounds very similar to two occasions that we are very familiar with: Jesus feeding the five thousand, and later the four thousand. Our Lord had been ministering to a great multitude of people.

Matt. 14:15-21 And when it was evening, the disciples came to Him, saying, "The place is desolate, and the time is already past; so send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them {something} to eat!" And they said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." And He said, "Bring them here to Me." And ordering the multitudes to recline on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed {the food,} and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples {gave} to the multitudes, and they all ate, and were satisfied. And they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. And there were about five thousand men who ate, aside from women and children.

Although the stories are similar, notice how much greater the miracle of Jesus was. More food, more people. God is a God who provides for those that seek after Him. Whatever your need is tonight, know that He can and will provide as you seek after Him, as you are faithful.

Phil. 4:19 And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

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