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A Widow and a Would-be King

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 30, 2022 12:00 am

A Widow and a Would-be King

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 30, 2022 12:00 am

When life deals us a painful blow, we're often tempted to strike back, aren't we? It goes against our nature to weather the storms of life silently. But that's exactly what God wants us to do sometimes. Obedience is learned through patience, and patience is only born through trials. 

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The power of temptation is impossible to overcome without intervention from God.

Mark it down, you cannot handle temptation alone. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, whatever is facing you is not uncommon to mankind, but implication, if you submit to God, He will provide a way of escape that you may be able to bear. That is, if you reach that intersection in your life where you have to make a decision and you say, Lord, I want to do your will, He will mark a door. There's nothing very spiritual looking about hurling yourself toward it.

You may be saving your life. When life deals us a painful blow, and we experience trials and tribulations, we're often tempted to strike back. It seems to go against our nature to weather the storms of life silently.

But that's exactly what God wants us to do sometimes. Today on Wisdom for the Heart, Stephen Davey returns to his series on the life of Elisha. We're in 2 Kings 8, where we encounter a widow who experienced severe tribulation.

From her life and example, we'll see that obedience is learned through patience, and patience is only born through trials. Stay with us for this message called A Widow and a Would-Be King. May I turn your attention, please, to the book of 2 Kings in chapter 8, to the story of a widow and a would-be king, two stories actually. The story here in chapter 8 is really a sequel to chapter 4, where Elisha, you may remember if you were with us, was invited to stay with the Shunammite couple, where they received what we called Shunammite hospitality, a couple who loved the Lord God of Israel. And they wanted to extend hospitality to Elisha whenever he came through town. And so eventually, as we study, they even built a room for him on their roof that was plush, accommodations with any and every cultural advantage that they could afford. Now, evidently, according to this sequel, this woman's husband has died.

He is alone with her son and household. And Elisha, knowing that a famine was coming her way, commanded that she and her son and family leave, go to the area of the Philistines in order to survive the famine. And so where the author picks up that story, he's picking up that conversation in reviews. So let's start at verse 1 of this chapter.

Pick it up there. Now Elisha literally had spoken to the woman in the past, whose son he had restored the life, saying, Arise and go with your household, and sojourn wherever you can sojourn. For the Lord has called for a famine, and it shall even come on the land for seven years. So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God. And she went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. And it came about at the end of seven years that the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, and she went out to appeal to the king for her house and for her field. Now the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, Please relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.

Now we have to stop there because you've been with us in this study. That verse probably raises some questions in your mind as it did mine. You remember the story of Gehazi, who in chapter 5 is stricken with the leprosy of Naaman, and he ceases to be the servant of the man of God. The question is now how can it be referred to years later as Elisha's servant?

Good question. It mired me down for some time as I read more opinions that I care to share with you, but of all of the things that I researched, two thoughts or possibilities seem to make the most sense. Opinion number one says that basically this is not occurring in chronological order.

And certainly Jeremiah and Ezra later in 1 and 2 Chronicles did not put things in strict chronological order, much like if you've ever read the Gospels, maybe you've been somewhat confused, as the synoptics never really in strict chronological order gave us the stories of Christ's own life. So here this was occurring earlier than the incident with Naaman. The problem that still raises to my mind is this is occurring seven years after the raising of the Shunammite son, and so that poses some problem. Of all the other opinions, I think this second opinion made the most sense.

I'm voting for it. You can choose to disagree and be wrong, but it's based on the fact that Gehazi's role was one of the most prominent roles in Israel's time. The servant of the man of God could inherit the role as the man of God. In fact, it happened already with Elisha. He had been the servant of the man of God, and he now became the leading prophet. And so Gehazi was in step, I believe, to inherit the role once Elisha went home to be with his king in heaven. So I happen to believe that this title is as much a title as it is a role, a title that would stick with Gehazi in the eyes of the people and in their memories as long as he lived.

There are other titles that have stuck as well. I give you illustrations, such as Rahab the harlot. Long after she left that profession, she was still referred to as the harlot.

And centuries later in the New Testament, we hear her referred to as Rahab the harlot, much to her chagrin, I'm sure. We have in our own culture the idea of one particular role, and that is the president. Long after that man has left his office, whether we believe he is deserving or not, we still refer to him as Mr. President.

It sticks. I happen to believe that Gehazi was known as being the servant of the man of God, even though it was in the past tense as long as he lived. So here in the king's court, he's still referred to as that title, even though he has long since left that position. Verse 5, and it came about as he was relating to the king, how he had restored to life, that is Elisha, the one who was dead. But behold, the woman, his son, he had restored to life, appealed to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, My lord, O king, this is the woman, and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life. The king asked the woman, she related it to him. So the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land, even until now.

That's interesting. Not only give her back the land, but give her all the wages of the produce from her property over the previous seven years. Give that to her.

And one loves some as well. Now, at first review, it's easy to overlook the tough times that this woman endured. We're given the silver lining and full view, and it's easy to forget the storm that has just swept through her life.

And I fear that if we don't take some time to look at the storm, we really can't appreciate God's solution. Well, I want to suggest to you that the sequel to her biography really gives us some modern day challenges. Let me give you two truths about tough times, and I'll relate it to her life as we work through them.

If you have notes and you care to follow along, here's the first truth. Number one, God most clearly works in the lives of those who are willing to accept the penalties of obedience. Now, I know the word penalty doesn't sound really spiritual, and preachers aren't supposed to, you know, use words like penalties for obedience, but that's where we happen to live. Don't overlook the fact that her obedience to the prophet brought the penalty of obedience. That is, it brought the storm. It brought tough, difficult times. Don't overlook the fact that obedience to the prophet would thrust her into the unknown. Would you look again at verse 1 as Elisha speaks to her, arise and go with your household and sojourn, notice this, wherever you can. Thanks a lot.

That's a big help. He never gives her a forwarding address. He never says, now listen, ma'am, I want you to leave here. I want you to go five miles and turn left and four more turn right.

There's somebody there waiting for you. No, he says, I want you to leave here with your son and go wherever you can. Wherever you can find a place to survive, live there. So by obeying that, it means stepping into the unknown. It means leaving her home. It means leaving her families. It means leaving her network. It means turning her back, perhaps forever on the estate that she and her husband who is now dead had enjoyed, had built with their own hands. It meant going to a strange land that would never be inviting to this God-fearer. She will eventually land in the area of the Philistines rule in their fertile region.

She will survive, but it would be an inhospitable place for her to survive. How do you raise this question in my mind as I studied? How do you determine the providence of God in your life? What is it in your life that has to occur before you say, wow, God is really at work in my life? It's triumphant time, not tough time. And yet this woman had God at work in her life, even though her times were now tough, difficult, challenging. Let me, let me give you another truth that really rephrases the first one, just says it a different way. And it's this, the solutions of God are most often experienced by those willing to trust him with a difficult future. The truth was when, when this widow obeyed the prophet, she abandoned any and all hope of a secure future.

Go out and live wherever you can. And there was never a promise. And then seven years later, you can come back and I'll restore your home and seven years wages of all that your land produced.

Well, who wouldn't go to seven year vacation? She had no guarantee. She was then in effect, as it were, by obedience to the prophet, giving God the permission to make her life difficult. Have you ever done that? Have you ever been right in the middle of it, struggling with how God is at work in your life?

Or maybe it seems that he's not at work at all, but you're surrounded by difficult, tough, challenging, oppressive times, where you've had to reach the conclusion either I am going to say, Lord, forget this, or Lord, you have, from a human standpoint, my permission to make my life tough. And now, seven years later, here comes this woman with nothing but a thin prayer, to ever hope of having her home returned, her estate given back to her again. Here's a woman whose home she cherished, all the memories, her husband built it. I imagine maybe she went back, she undoubtedly saw it, knew it was standing, knew it was there. But when she drove back, she wasn't invited. In fact, I'm sure the people in there were rather intimidated that she had arrived back in the land and afraid she'd stake her claim. Or perhaps there were squatters on the property and they didn't know her, but I doubt she was able to go in and rummage through things and walk through. But maybe from a distance, she looked at the estate and the home, and she could see outlining that estate, that upper room that she and her husband had made for the prophet of God. And maybe her mind was filled with the memories of dinner conversations and happy times, the room where her son was restored to life, and all of that.

And now there isn't a prayer that she'd ever get it back. You see, she had been willing to entrust a difficult future to God. And the only hope that she had was to personally talk to the king, the highest judge in the land. And maybe he would be unique, maybe he would give rather than grasp this youngest son of Ahab and Jezebel, he had seen his father rip from Naboth the vineyard that he coveted.

Why would this son ever give away property? She had only the remotest hope. But did you notice the timing of God as you moved to the solution that we came to so quickly? Just as she's walking past the palace guards into the courtroom of the king to stake her claim to tell her story, Gehazi is in the middle of telling the story of this woman. Look back at verse five again. And it came about as Gehazi was relating to the king how Elisha had restored to life the one who was dead, that behold, look, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, my lord, O king, this is the woman, this is the son whom Elisha restored to life, why we were just talking about you. I was just telling the king your story. Good night. What a coincidence.

Not on your life. Did it just so happen that this wayward Israelite king who cared little about God and less for the prophet of God was suddenly struck with a desire to hear the life story of Elisha? I'd like to hear about my enemy.

Come in and tell me his whole story. Is that a coincidence? Was it a coincidence that Gehazi, the man who knew more about Elisha, was the one invited into the king's courtroom that day to tell the story? Did it just so happen on the day that Gehazi arrives that this woman comes to make her plea before the king? Did it just so happen that she came in just after Gehazi was finishing the story about her and her son and look, here she is. Did it just so happen that she arrived without a court representative, which was the custom of that day?

And the only man aside from Elisha who could be her representative and validate her claim to the estate and tell the king, she's saying the truth, was there at that moment. For those who are willing to wait on the Lord, there is no such thing as a coincidence. Well, the chapter moves on, and I don't mean to twist our thoughts, but I want to take these two stories together. This is a story of temptation, and it's hidden, it's secret. It goes well with the story we've just finished.

There was a woman who succeeded, now a man who failed. Would you look at verse seven? It gives us some insight into the power of temptation that we need today. Verse seven, then Elisha came to Damascus. Now, Ben-Hadad, king of Aram, was sick, and it was told him, saying, the man of God has come here. And the king said to Hazael, take a gift in your hand and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord by him, saying, will I recover from this sickness? Always fascinates me, by the way, to see people who have denied God throughout their whole lives upon their sickbed call for the man of God.

Still happens today. So Hazael, verse nine, went to meet him and took a gift in his hand, and even every good thing of Damascus, 40 camels load, they're loaded down. And he came and stood before him and said, your son, Ben-Hadad, I imagine Elisha chuckled, my son, okay, king of Aram, has sent me to you saying, will I recover from this sickness? Then Elisha said to him, go say to him, you shall surely recover, but the Lord has shown me that he will certainly die. Now, it's one thing to have one problem passage to deal with in a sermon. It's another thing to have two.

Here's the second. At first glance, the verse is troublesome to me and to you, probably, as you've read it. It seems that Elisha told Hazael to report a lie. You're going to get well, oh king, when in fact, the king was going to die. Is Elisha telling him to lie?

Well, as we work through this, I think you'll find the answer as I did. Verse 11, and he, you need to write in the margin of your Bible here the word Elisha with he. And he, that is Elisha, fixed his gaze steadily on him until he, that is Hazael, was ashamed.

That is quite a clue. Elisha delivers his prophecy about the king's recovery. He will recover from this illness. He's not going to die from it, but he will die unexpectedly.

He never says how, the king will die. But after saying that to Hazael, he stares at him. He just, he looks at him.

His eyes lock on with Hazael's. And it's as if the prophet is reading the soul of this man and reading the intentions of his heart. And after a long space of time where the prophet of God is simply looking at Hazael, the Bible tells us that Hazael was ashamed. Maybe he had to look away. Maybe he shuffled his feet and, you know, was distracted by the birds or whistled or something. He could not keep looking at the prophet of God. That tells you that he was hiding something. He had a secret that no one knew. Then suddenly in verse 11, of all things, Elisha begins to weep. What a scene! Elisha just breaks down crying in front of this man.

What's going on? Verse 12, Hazael said, Why does my Lord weep? Then he answered, Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel.

Their strongholds you will set on fire, their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up. And Hazael said, But what is your servant who is but a dog that he should do this great thing? And Elisha answered, And here's the key to understanding.

The Lord has shown me that you will be king over Aram. Elisha never said, Hazael, you're going to murder the king and take his throne. But he did say, Hazael, the king is going to recover from his illness, but he is going to die.

And then he stares at him until Hazael becomes ashamed. Elisha was reading the heart of this man who was at that very moment feigning loyalty to the king, but in his heart, he was planning a coup attempt. He was feigning love and concern over the king who was sick. And yet he was thinking in his heart, now is the time to take the throne from this weak man. Now is the time to kill him, be rid of him.

Now's the time for me to grasp the throne. And Elisha had read the intentions of his heart. Notice verse 15. And it came about on the morrow, that is, he couldn't hardly wait 24 hours, that he, Hazael, took the cover and dipped it in water and spread it on the king's face so that he died.

And Hazael became king in his place. Now this is a clever assassination. The word cover, in my translation, is literally the word machbeir, which means to intertwine. It means woven. Many that I read believed it was a reference to the mosquito net that was held in place around the bed of a sick person to keep away the distracting mosquitoes and flies and other bugs.

According to historians that I read, it was a common practice in that day to dip the net just before retiring in water and then hang it, and that would cool the air around the person who was alive upon their success. What unbelievable treachery. Consider the steps downward for this man. Who was at one point in time loyal? He had risen through the ranks as the confidant of the king. He was faithful. He was trustworthy. And now his life intersected with a man who could read his heart. Now his steps would not just be one or two gradually, but now he will go down that slippery slope into dishonesty and terrible immorality. If you look at the steps once he meets the prophet, instead of repenting when the prophet pulls the mask off his heart, he defends it. He says, who in the world do you think I am?

A dog that I would take? The lives of innocent people? He goes back to the king and delivers half a message. Then with his own bare hands, he takes the life of the king and he steals the throne. And through the rest of Second Kings, we will discover Elisha's prophecy come true as Hazael becomes the most brutal enemy of Israel to date. There is a progression toward ungodliness. There is a progression toward godliness. I have given you in your notes five steps that have been adapted from Meir's commentary on James. You ought to carefully study through them sometime, but I want you to notice the right-hand side, the steps to making the godly choice. When facing temptation, step number one, actively resist under divine influence. Step number two, the impulse that has been tempted visualizes the aspects of sin, where if you fail in sin, you will begin visualizing whatever that sin will do for you, whatever you will be able to get, touch, taste, or feel. Step number three, if you would be godly, the will identifies with the conscience that's still small voice and refuses to proceed. Step number four, the virtuous choice is committed. There are two truths that I want to share with you. Truth number one, the presence of temptation is inevitable in spite of fellowship with God. Maybe that's the surprising part, but it's never a matter of if, it's a matter of when.

It doesn't matter if you have had your quiet time, if you are sharing your faith, if you are a testimony at work, you do not, you cannot ever avoid the presence of temptation. Hazael recoiled with horror at the thought that he would fall to the temptation of doing brutal things. He said, who do you think I am?

Some dog that I would do that. Well, he had not been that way, but he became that way. It started with a thought, I'd like to be king. And then it involved deceit, and then a life of deception and ultimately murder. True for unbelievers, it's also true for believers. That's why Paul wrote that we are to beware, we are to be careful, we are to take heed while we stand lest we fall. The point of that is at the very point where you believe you are the strongest, beware.

At the point where you are standing, be careful because that is the point of attack. And what you think you would never be capable of doing at that point, that's where you will be attacked and tempted. Truth number two, the power of temptation is impossible to overcome without intervention from God.

Mark it down, you cannot handle temptation alone. It demands intervention from God. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, whatever's facing you is not uncommon to mankind.

It is not unique to you. But, implication, if you submit to God, He will provide a way of escape that you may be able to bear. That is if you reach that intersection in your life where you have to make a decision between your will and your conscience and the impulse and you say, Lord, I want to do your will, He will mark a door with emergency escape and it's there.

And there's nothing really dignified about running for it. There's nothing very spiritual looking about, just hurling yourself toward it. You may be saving your life. Cry out for the grace and the power and the intervention of God. And you will discover at those times when you recognize like the hymn writer, prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, oh take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above it. Moments like that when you recognize your weakness and you lean entirely upon God, you will find Him to be a shield to those who trust Him.

You will find Him to be a strong tower for those who are willing to run therein. Thanks for joining us today here on Wisdom for the Heart. This is the Bible Teaching Ministry of Stephen Davey. In addition to these broadcasts, we also have some print resources including a monthly magazine. Each issue deals with a different topic and it helps you explore important and relevant truths. In the past, Stephen has written about a Christian response to the coronavirus, what we can know about the rapture and the tribulation, how to deal biblically with pain and loss.

In addition, Stephen's son writes a daily devotional and that's theologically rich and very practical. The magazine is called Heart to Heart. We send Heart to Heart magazine as our gift to all of our Wisdom partners, but we'd be happy to send you the next three issues if you'd like to see it for yourself.

It's the gift we give just for taking the time to introduce yourself. You can sign up for it on our website or you can call us today. Our number is 866-48-BIBLE. Call today. Well, thanks again for joining us. Stephen will conclude this series from the life of Elisha on our next broadcast, right here on Wisdom for the Heart.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-28 19:49:41 / 2023-03-28 20:00:11 / 11

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