Now Jehoram the son of Ahab began to reign.
Homilist.Two subjects are here illustrated —
I. That whilst the forms of evil may change, the principle may continue rampant. His father and mother worshipped Baal, but the very "image" of the idol "that his father had made he put away." But notwithstanding that, "he cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam." Observe:
1. Though the existing generation sins not in the form of the preceding, their sin is not less sin on that account. The forms in which barbarians and our uncivilised ancestors sinned, appear gross and revolting to us; nevertheless, our sins are not the less real and heinous in the sight of God. Our civilisation hides the revolting hideousness, but leaves its spirit perhaps more active than ever.
2. That mere external reformations may leave the spirit of evil as rampant as ever. Jehoram "put away the image of Baal," but the spirit of idolatry remained in him in all its wonted force. "He cleaved unto the sins of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, which made Israel to sin: he departed not therefrom." This is ever true. You may destroy this form of government or that, monarchical or democratic, and yet leave the spirit in which these forms work, vital and vigorous to manifest itself in other forms. Another subject illustrated here is —
II. THAT WHILST SIN MAY ONLY BE IN THE FORM OF NEGLECT OF DUTY IT MAY IN THE CASE OF ONE MAN ENTAIL SERIOUS EVILS ON POSTERITY.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Elisha... which poured water on the hands of Elijah.
1. Elijah simply drops upon the scene. There is no warning, no period of pupilage or preparation. Of his previous history nothing whatever is known. Like Melchisedec he has neither "beginning of days nor end of life." We meet Elisha, on the other hand, for the first time in his father's fields, in "the meadow of the dance," at Abel-meholah. Shaphat is a man of means, for he has twelve ploughs at work; a man of piety also, for he has refused to do homage at the shrine of Baal. In particular, he has trained his son to know Israel's God.
2. During the whole of his public life — about twelve years at the most — Elijah to a large extent lived out of the world, or at least far above it, in stern sublimity. Elisha, on the other hand, is intimately mixed up with all the political movements and events of his day. Three kings seek him as their counsellor. Jehu is crowned at his bidding. Ben-hadad consults him in war. Joash attends at his death-bed. Whenever Elijah is seen in connection with kings and courts, it is always as their enemy — Ahab, Jezebel, Ahaziah. When Elisha is seen in the same connection, it is always as their friend — "My father, my father," is their uniform and reverent mode of address.
3. The miracles wrought by the two prophets form another interesting point of contrast between Elijah and Elisha. It is noticeable that Elisha wrought twice as many miracles as Elijah did, suggesting the inference that the parting request had been complied with to the letter: "And Elisha said, I pray thee let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me." On his introduction to work, Elijah begins with a miracle — the emblem of so much of his future career — a miracle of judgment: "There shall not be dew nor rain these years," referring to the drought, "but according to My word." Elisha begins with a miracle — the emblem also of so much of his future career — but it is a miracle of mercy: "There shall not be from thence," speaking of the bitter waters of Jericho sweetened, "any more death or barren land." The miracles of Elisha, in fact, remind us very much of the miracles of Christ — miracles of beneficence. The very grave of Elisha wrought a miracle that reads very like a miracle of Christ, for "when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood up on his feet."
4. As another point in the contrast between Elijah and Elisha, it cannot be out of a place to say that of Elisha, like Joshua the son of Nun, not a single infirmity or failing is recorded. This cannot be said of Elijah, for he fled into the wilderness and lay down under the juniper tree to escape a woman's vengeance, and in despair to die. The humbler Elisha may do the greater work. There is every reason to believe that in reclaiming Israel from idolatry, by the conversion of individual men and women, the "still small voice" of Elisha, conjoined with his healing acts and social intercourse, accomplished wider and more permanent changes than the fire and storm and national upheaval caused by Elijah. Nor is this to be wondered at. The ministry of Elisha in Israel lasted nearly five times longer than the ministry of Elijah. The rough and pioneer work had already been done.
5. The translation of the one, the ordinary death by dissolution of the other. In conclusion, the whole career of Elisha supplies us with some serious and useful practical lessons. His special feature of character was this — holiness. He was "a holy man of God." What a sublimity there is in this simple language! What honour or title is ever to be compared with it? Abraham was "the friend of God," David was "the man after God's own heart," Daniel was "the man greatly beloved," Elisha is "the man of God." All social distinctions that count so much with men sink here into insignificance. Whatever else we are honourably known to be, let us seek to "be holy even as God is holy." Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee."
(H. J. Howat.)
And Elisha said unto the King of Israel, What have I to do with thee
Homilist.Elisha was confessedly a godly man of a high type, and these verses reveal him to us in three aspects: —
I. AS RISING SUPERIOR TO KINGS.
1. He rebukes them for their idolatry. The loudest professors of our religion in these times will crouch before kings, and address them in terms of fawning flattery.
2. He yields to their urgency out of respect to the true religion. "And Elisha said, As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the King of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee." Jehoshaphat was pre-eminently a godly man (2 Chronicles 17:5, 6), and that influenced this great Elisha to interpose on their behalf. "Those that honour me I will honour, saith the Lord." A godly man is the only truly independent man on this earth; he can "stand before kings" and not be ashamed, and rebuke princes as well as paupers for their sins.
II. AS PREPARING FOR INTERCESSION WITH HEAVEN. what these kings wanted was the interposition of heaven on their behalf, and they here apply to Elisha to obtain this: and after the prophet had acceded to their request, he seeks to put himself in the right moral mood to appeal to heaven, and what does he do? "But now bring me a minstrel. And it came to pass, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the Lord came upon him." Probably his mind had been somewhat ruffled by the presence of these kings, especially at the sight of Jehoram, the wicked and idolatrous king, and before venturing an appeal to heaven he felt the need of a devout calmness. Hence he called for music, and as the devout musician sounded out sweet psalmody on his ear he became soothed and spiritualised in soul. Luther taught that the "spirit of darkness abhorred sweet sounds." There is a spiritual mood necessary in order to have intercourse with heaven, and this mood it is incumbent on every man to seek and retain.
III. AS BECOMES THE ORGAN OF THE SUPERNATURAL.
1. Through him God made a promise of deliverance. Through him God affected their deliverance (vers. 24, 25). We would remind those who perhaps ridicule the idea of man becoming the organ of Divine power:
1. That there is nothing antecedently improbable in this. God works through His creatures; since He created the universe He employs it as His agent.
2. Biblical history attests this. Moses, Christ, and the apostles performed deeds that seem to us to have transcended the natural. A morally great man becomes "mighty through God." God has ever worked wonders through godly men, and ever will
(Homilist.)Holy Spirit should come upon him to inspire him with prophetic utterances. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." We need that the hand of the Lord should be laid upon us, for we can never open our mouths in wisdom except we are under the Divine touch. Elisha had noticed that the Spirit of God acted upon him most freely when his mind was restful and subdued. He found himself best prepared for the heavenly voice when the noise within his soul was hushed, and every disturbing emotion was quieted. Having ascertained this fact by observation, he acted upon it. He could not create the wind of the Spirit, but he could set his sail to receive it, and he did so. At the particular time alluded to in the text, Elisha had been greatly irritated by the sight of Jehoram, the King of Israel, the son of Ahab and Jezebel. In the true spirit of his old master, Elijah, the prophet, let Jehoram know what he thought of him; and having delivered his soul, he very naturally felt agitated and distressed, and unfit to be the mouthpiece for the Spirit of God. He knew that the hand of the Lord would not rest upon him while he was in that state, and therefore he said, "Bring me a minstrel." The original Hebrew conveys the idea of a man accustomed to play upon the harp. Under the influence of minstrelsy his mind grew quiet, his agitation subsided, his thoughts were collected, and the Spirit of God spake through him. It was a most commendable thing for him to use the means which he had found at other times helpful, though still his sole reliance was upon the hand of the Lord.
I. LET US STRIVE TO BE IN A FIT STATE FOR THE LORD'S WORK. If we know of anything that will put our mind into such a condition that the Spirit of God is likely to work upon us and speak through us, let us make use of it.
1. It is very evident that we, too, like the prophet, have our hindrances. We are at times unfit for the Master's use. Our minds are disarranged, the machinery is out of order, the sail is furled, the pipe is blocked up, the whole soul is out of gear. The hindrance in Elisha's case came from his surroundings. He was in a camp; a camp where three nations mixed their discordant voices; a noisy, ill-disciplined camp, and a camp ready to perish for thirst. There was no water, and the men-at-arms were perishing; the confusion and clamour must have been great. Prophetic thought could scarcely command itself amid the uproar, the discontent, the threatening from thousands of thirsty men. Three kings had waited on the prophet; but this would not have disconcerted him had not one of them been Jehoram, the son of Ahab and Jezebel. What memories were awakened in the mind of Elijah's servant by the sight, of the man in whom the proud dame of Sidon and her base-minded consort lived again. Elisha acted rightly, and bravely. When he saw Jehoram coming to him for help, he challenged him thus — "What have I to do with thee? Get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother." When the king humbly and with bated breath confessed that he saw the hand of Jehovah in bringing the three kings together, the prophet scarcely moderated his tone, but exclaimed, "As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, surely, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, the King of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee." It was fit that he should be in that temper; the occasion demanded it. Still it was not a fit preface to the inward whisper of the Spirit of God, and the prophet did not feel ready for his work. Do you not occasionally fred yourself in an unhappy position? You have to preach, or to teach a class in school, or to carry an edifying word to a sick person, but everything distracts you. What With noise, or domestic trouble, or sinful neighbours, or the railing words of some wicked man, you cannot get into a fit frame of mind. Little things grieve great minds.
2. Elisha's hindrances lay mainly in his inward feelings: he could not feel the hand of the Lord upon him until the inner warfare had been pacified. He burned with indignation at the sight of the son of Jezebel, and flashed words of flame into his face. I know of nothing that is more likely to put a man out of order for the communications of the Spirit of God than indignation. Even though we may be able to say, "I do well to be angry," yet it is a very trying emotion. Doubtless, also, the prophet's spirits were depressed. Be saw before him the King of Edom, an idolater; the King of Israel, a votary of the calves of Jeroboam; and Jehoshaphat, the man of God, in confederacy with them. This last must have pained him as much as anything. What hope was there for the cause of truth and holiness when even a godly prince was in alliance with Jezebel's son? Moreover, the servant of God must have been the subject of a fierce internal conflict between two sets of thoughts. Indignation and pity strove within his heart. His justice and his piety made him feel that he could have nothing to do with two idolatrous kings; but pity and humanity made him wish to deliver the army from perishing by thirst. Like a patriot, he sympathised with his people; but, like a prophet, he was jealous for his God.
3. But what are our helps when we are pressed with hindrances? Is there anything which in our case may be as useful as a harp? "Bring me a minstrel," said the prophet, for his mind was easily moved by that charming art. Music and song soothed and calmed and cheered him. Among our own helps singing holds a chief place; as saith the apostle, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." Suppose, however, that singing has no such power over you; let me recommend to you the quiet reading of a chapter of God's Word.
II. WE SHOULD USE EVERY MEANS TO OBTAIN THE TOUCH OF THE DIVINE HAND.
III. WE SHOULD MORE ABUNDANTLY USE HOLY MINSTRELSY. Saints and sinners, too, would find it greatly to their benefit if they said, "Bring me a minstrel." This is the world's cry whenever it is merry, and filled with wine. The art of music has been prostituted to the service of Satan. It is for us to use singing in the service of God, and to make a conquest of it for our Redeemer. Worldlings want the minstrel to excite them; we want him to calm our hearts and still our spirits. That is his use to us, and we shall do well to employ the harper to that end. When the house is full of trouble, and your heart is bowed down, is it not well to say, "Bring me a minstrel, and let him sing to me the 27th Psalm: 'The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.'" When we come to die we will breathe our last breath to music. Then will we say, "Bring me a harper," and like Jacob and Moses we will sing ere we depart. Our song is ready. It is the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." Suppose you have done with the minstrelsy which I have now mentioned, there is next the music of gospel doctrine. If these do not charm you, fetch a minstrel from experience. Think how God has dealt with you in times of sorrow and darkness long gone by, and then you will sing, "His mercy endureth for ever." If you want music, there is yet a sweeter store. Go fetch a minstrel from Calvary. Commend me for sweetness to the music of the Cross.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(George Matheson, D. D.)
Make this valley full of ditches.
I. IT IS MAN'S PART TO MAKE THE TRENCHES. He set all the people of Israel, and Judah, and Edom to dig the ditches, that presently His power might be seen in filling them.
1. It is God's wont to use ordinary instruments. Sometimes, indeed, He goes out of His own beaten track, He is not necessarily confined to any one course; still, He is a God of order, and does everything accordingly. Nor have I forgotten that when Jesus was amongst men, He acted on the same principle exactly. He took the loaves and fishes of the lad, and multiplied them into a sufficient meal for the multitude.
2. Moreover, preparation for the coming blessing is essential. Suppose in this instance God had sent the water, but there had been no previous preparation for conserving it, it would have been virtually wasted. If there had been no trenches dug, the water would have speedily disappeared; there would have been a momentary refreshing, but nothing more. God will not have His gifts wasted. He outpours His blessings that they may secure the best possible results. This trench-making is not an inapt illustration of Christian effort. I know there are some hearts that will not receive God's blessing until there has been a good deal of digging in them first. There is nowhere to store it, no place to contain it. Their prejudices must be dug away, their doubts and fears must be uprooted. Digging is hard and difficult work, especially for those who are not used to it. I have found digging to be hard back-breaking work, but it is not so hard as is the labour of trying to get men's hearts right before God. There is something delightfully individual about this digging, inasmuch as every one can have a hand in it. You may not all be able to lead the hosts, but you can all have your spade and mattock with which to dig a ditch in your own immediate neighbourhood. It is humble work this; it is not like storming a citadel, or rushing on the foe, but it is just as necessary. Pick and shovel can be consecrated as surely as sword and spear. Do not be ashamed of delving for Christ, and of digging for Jesus.
II. IT IS GOD'S PART TO FILL THE TRENCHES WITH WATER. Do not omit your duty; but do not attempt His. There are some who go to this extreme. They want to "get up" a revival. Revivals that are worth having are not got up, they are brought down; they are the work of the Spirit of God.
1. Mark how mysteriously the water came. There was no sound of wind which generally precedes the rainstorm. There was no falling of the rain overnight. From whence did the water come? Was there some rock in the desert, struck as by the hand of God, that gushed its waters forth, as Horeb's did long years ago? When and where He pleases He does His sovereign will. I notice that the water came by the way of Edom — a most unlikely source. Let it come by way of Edom if it will, so long as it comes from God.
2. The Lord sent this blessing in spite of the sinners that were in the camp. They often hinder God's work, but some. times He seems to set them aside, as if to say, "My time to work is come, and even Jehoram and the abominations of Baal shall not prevent, and for Jehoshaphat's sake, I will save this people, and do them good."
3. How copious was the supply, when it did come. It filled the whole of the valley; the deepest trenches were filled to the brim, and the longest had enough to fill them from end to end. Oh, that some such favour might come to us, till heart and home are filled with blessing, and the whole Church rejoices in the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts, and in the saving power of His grace, effecting wonders far and wide.
4. And this, mind you, was only the beginning of good things. God called it "a little thing" to fill the valley with water. "He will deliver the Moabites also into your hands," the prophet said. There are surprises in store for those who trust in God, and do their part.
5. Remember also, when this blessing came! It was in the early morning when the meat offering was offered. God wrought many of His marvellous acts when either the morning or the evening sacrifice was being offered. 'Twas then that Elijah called upon his God, who answered him by fire. 'Twas then that Ezra rose up from his heaviness. It was then that Daniel was touched by the hand of Gabriel. Nor can I forget that when Jesus Christ was sacrificed, our offering for sin, the rocks rent, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and many that slept arose out of their graves. Ah! there is a lesson for us here. The blessing comes at the time of sacrificing.
I. OUR PRESENT POSITION. The armies of these kings were in a position of abject dependence; they were dying of thirst; they could not supply their need; they must have from God the help required, or they must perish. This is just the position of every Christian church. So dependent is the Christian Church upon the Holy Ghost, that there never was an acceptable sigh heaved by a penitent apart from him; never did holy song mount to heaven except he gave it wings; never was there true prayer or faithful ministry except through the power and might of the Holy Ghost. Sinners are never saved apart from the Spirit of God.
II. OUR DUTY as the prophet tells it to us. The prophet did not tell the kings that they were to procure the water — that, as we have already said, was out of their power — but he did say, "Make this valley full of ditches," that when the water came there might be reservoirs to contain it. If we expect to obtain the Holy Spirit's blessing, we must prepare for his reception. Before the Nile begins to rise, you see the Egyptians on either side of the banks making ready first the deep channel, and then the large reservoir, and afterwards the small canals, and then the minor pools, for unless these are ready the rising of the Nile will be of little value for the irrigation of the crops in future months; but when the Nile rises, then the water is received and made use of to fertilise the fields; and so, when the treasury of the Spirit is open by His powerful operations, each one of us should have his trench ready to receive the blessed flood which is not always at its height. Have you never noticed the traders by the river's side? If they expect a barge of coals, or a vessel laden with other freight, the wharf is cleared to receive it. Have you not noticed' the farmer just before the harvest-time — how the barn is emptied, or the rick yard is made ready for the stacks? Men will, when they expect a thing, prepare for the reception of it; and, if they expect more than usual, they say, "I will pull down my barns and build greater, that I may have where to bestow my goods." The text says to us, "Prepare for the Spirit of God." Do not pray for it, and then fold your arms and say, "Well, perhaps He will work"; we ought to act as though we were certain He would work mightily — we must prepare in faith.
1. Prepare for a blessing: prepare largely. "Make this valley full of ditches," not make one, trench, but as many as possible. For God, when He worketh, worketh like a God. Expect great things from a great God. "Make this valley full of ditches." Have a holy covetousness of the Divine blessing. Never be satisfied with what God is doing in the conversion of souls; be grateful, but hunger after more.
2. Moreover, prepare at once — trot dig trenches in a month's time, but "make this valley full of ditches" now.
3. Furthermore, prepare actively. Ditchmaking is laborious work; God is not to be served by child's-play, or sham work with no toil in it. When a valley is to be trenched throughout its whole length, all the host must give themselves to the effort, and none must skulk from the toil. I believe with all my heart in the Spirit of God; but I do not believe in human idleness. Celestial power uses human effort. The Spirit of God usually works most where we work most. "Make this valley full of ditches," a little more plainly and pointedly. If we are to have a blessing from God, we are every one of us to have a trench ready to receive it. "Well, how shall I have mine ready?" one says. My answer is, have large desires for a blessing: that is one trench you can all dig. Next, add to these desires, faithful, vehement, and importunate prayers. Furthermore, if desires and prayers are good, yet activity is even more so. Every Christian who wanteth to have a blessing for himself or for others, must set to work by active exertion, for this is the word, "Make this valley full of ditches." One thing more, and I leave this point. With all the work that the Church does in making the valley full of ditches, we must take care that we do it in a spirit of holy confidence and faith. These ditches were to be dug, not because the water might come, but because they were sure it would come.
III. DIVINE OPERATIONS. Observe how sovereign the operations of God are. When Elijah wanted rain, there was a cloud seen, and he heard a sound as of abundance of rain, and by and by the water descended in floods; but when God would send the water to Elisha, he heard no sound of rain, nor did a drop descend. I know not how it was that the trenches were filled. Whether adown some deep ravine, the ancient bed of a dried-up torrent, God made the mighty flood to return, as He did along the bed of Kishon of old, I do not know, but by the way of Edom the waters came obedient to the Divine command. God is not tied to this or that mode of form.
1. As the blessing comes sovereignly, so it comes sufficiently: there was enough for all the men, for all the cattle, and all the beasts. They might drink as they would, but there was quite enough for all.
2. Observe, that this flood came very soon, for the Lord is a punctual paymaster. Moreover, it came certainly; there was no mistaking it, no doubting it; and so shall God's blessing wait upon the earnest prayers and faithful endeavours of Christian people — a blessing such as the greatest sceptic shall not be able to deny, such as shall make the eyes of timidity to water, while he says to himself, "Who hath begotten me these?"
IV. The Lord bade His servant tell them that not only should there be water, but he said, "This is but a light thing in the sight of God. He will deliver the Moabites also into your hand." GREATER THINGS ARE BEHIND, and are to be expected.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
And it came to pass in the morning there came water by the way of Moab.
Sermon Outlines.I. THE THREEFOLD PREPARATION FOR THIS MIRACULOUS INTERPOSITION.
1. The preparation of supplication. The kings, in their need, "inquired of the Lord" (ver. 11) by means of His prophet. The act implies an application for the help of Jehovah. Preparation for the reception of special blessing by means of supplication is a law of God's kingdom. The prayer of the leper made way for Christ's miraculous healing (Matthew 8:2-4); the beseeching entreaty of the Syro-Phenician woman brought down the blessing she desired (Luke 7:24-30). The supplication (Acts 2:14) of the Early Church was the preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Supplication is the placing of the wood in order upon the altar in readiness for the descent of fire from heaven.
2. The preparation of the prophet's mind for the reception of the Divine direction. "When the minstrel played, the hand of the Lord came upon him" (ver. 15). The soul that has to bear the message of God to others needs to rise into some degree of harmony with the mind of God, to partake in some measure of the holy calm which belongs to Him. Music prepares the heart of the good man to receive, and hence to be the bearer of special help from the Divine Spirit.
II. THE MIRACLE ITSELF. That the flowing in of the water was miraculous is evident because it came without rain, where there were no natural springs, and in fulfilment of Elisha's prophecy. In the New Testament the supernatural Divine workings are classified into "signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost." (Hebrews 2:2).
III. THE TWOFOLD EFFECT OF THE MIRACLE. It was the occasion of life to one army and of death to the other. The one was brought about by the supernatural interposition, the other by a natural, though mistaken, inference. The cloud that was the help of Israel at the Red Sea, became the destruction of the Egyptians.
Then he took his eldest son... and offered him for a burnt offering.
The king is happy in child and wife.
Take you his nearest; take you his dearest: give us a life.
Cf. also the speech of Caiaphas in John 11:49, 50); and, doubtless, this was the custom in accordance with which the sheep-master offered up his son. Thus it was a picture of the way in which the unbelieving world has all along endeavoured to make peace with God. "How shall I obtain forgiveness? how ever shall a man be justified before God?" is the universal cry of the human heart; and thousands upon thousands in every age have answered it like Mesha: "By giving the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul." In heathen lands how many myriads of little children have fallen victims to this foul superstition? As if the guilt already incurred by a sinner could be wiped away by the simple process of contracting more! Let us thank God that even those among us who have not yet obtained forgiveness have been delivered from this miserable delusion. At the same time, there is room for inquiring if the dregs, at least, of that very superstition which made a victim of the son of Mesha on the wall of Kirharaseth, be not remaining with us. Do we not sometimes offer, as our atoning sacrifice, with a view to purchase heaven's favour, if not the fruit of our bodies, the fruit of our souls — our good deeds, our moral lives, our excellent dispositions, our prayers, our praises, etc.? They are as much a sacrifice of superstition as was that of Mesha. The only difference is, that Mesha's sacrifice was offered to an idol; whereas ours is presented to the living God. If there be another point of difference, it is this, that Mesha knew no better, whereas we are well assured that all such sacrifices are vain.
(T. Whitelaw, M. A.)
(J. P. Peters, D. D.).