And Elisha came again to Gilgal when there was a famine in the land. And as the sons of the prophets were sitting before him, he said to his servant,
“Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”
One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were.
And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.
He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” And there was no harm in the pot.
Miracles… do you believe in them?
7-year-old Roger Woodward and his sister were enjoying a boat ride on the Niagara River. They were the guests of a relative who lived nearby, and were enjoying all the sights and sounds of the falls.
No one was prepared for the tragedy that would invade that beautiful moment.
Their boat capsized and all three occupants were thrown into the river. The man who owned the boat went over the falls and was killed - instantly. Roger’s sister was saved by a couple of tourists near the river’s edge. But little Roger, beating wildly against the current, finally yielded to the inevitable and went over the falls wearing only his swimming trunks and a life-jacket.
A tourist down below saw it all. Through the mists he could see the little life jacket bobbing under the falls. Unconscious and fearing he would die, he was rushed to the hospital where he was discharged after three days - virtually unscathed except for a mild concussion.
30 years later, Roger returned to the sight of the accident to share his testimony before those gathered.
The crowd was breathless as he recounted his harrowing experience. The panic he felt as he neared the edge… the anger he felt because no one helped him… the flashbacks as he said goodbye to his parents, his dog, and his toys.
Then he said,
“I want you to understand that it wasn’t FATE that saved me – luck had nothing to do with it either. It was the hand of the Living God that saved my life that day – giving me the opportunity, to ONE day know HIM.”
In short - it was a miracle.
How often have we heard similar stories repeated again and again – of those whose salvation could only be explained by the miraculous intervention of God??
Some of YOU could ALSO tell of how God has done great things for YOU – things that seemed impossible that can only be explained as ⇒ “God’s miraculous provision.” It might have been reviving a relationship that was all but dead… or providing materially for some need you could never see a way to meet. It might be a sudden turn in health… or the softening of a heart of stone – you’ve seen God work too many times NOT to believe.
We see it in our text.
Elisha had returned to Gilgal to a school he founded for young prophets. At the time, there was a great famine in the land. The situation was made worse by the fact that Israel was under the judgment of God… and the King seemed no closer to repentance than before the famine began.
You will notice not even the young preachers were exempt from the suffering – like we see so often, the righteous suffer right along with everyone else.
When the economy is bad, in times of war or violence, when storms come, we do NOT belong to some special class of people who are insulated from suffering.
The one difference being, however, WE are NOT without HOPE.
As the Psalmist explains is psalm 121, “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved...”
Elisha - arriving on the scene and helping these poor struggling preachers - puts us in mind of how God helps US when WE are in trouble. Are YOU in trouble today??
Notice 3 things…
1. First, as we read this story we see what the Father does. There are times in all of our lives when NO ONE and NO THING will do, but God. The Lord looked down on this pitiful scene and took compassion on them. In v. 38, Elisha told his servant, “Set on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.”
Had they HAD any provisions for a stew, I imagine they would have already done that – but Elisha told them to step out in faith – God was going to provide what they needed, but they had to get ready for it as if the answer was already on its way. They needed to anticipate the provision of a loving Father for His children.
From this story we learn WHY God allows trouble to come us:
First, troubles have a purifying influence in our lives. The 7 year famine WAS an act of God’s judgment. God was speaking to them through their circumstances, showing them the need to turn from their sins and trust the Lord. Their starvation was a graphic reminder that sin doesn’t pay - that God WILL NOT be mocked - that ALL THE WORLD is under HIS DIVINE AUTHORITY.
I wonder, might God do some of the same types of things today? Does he put us individually or collectively in certain situations:
- to wake us up
- to call us to repentance and holiness
- to cause us to be preoccupied with HIS will rather than OURS.
- How OFTEN must God reach out to man through the trials of life to get his attention?
Troubles ALSO have a Unifying Influence – they remind us that we are no better than anyone else. We are all in the same boat. When one suffers, we all suffer. The sins of one directly impact the lives of others.
The fact that you go to church doesn’t exempt you from the harshness of living in a fallen world.
When you hear Christian people talk about societal sins – it doesn’t take very long for ignorance to show itself. One will say, “I don’t understand why the pastor gets so upset about gay marriage – after all, what those people do doesn’t affect ME.”
Sin ALWAYS affects us!! Sin isn’t committed in a vacuum, my friend – isolating the one individual from everyone else. No, it impacts EVERYBODY. Our children and grandchildren are going to face judgment for the sins WE have tolerated as a society. The Church suffers from the sins of a nation that has rebuffed the wooing of the Holy Spirit.
Solomon explained in Proverbs 14: that “Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a disgrace to any people.”
In my lifetime, the moral fabric of this country has become ‘threadbare.’ The changes that have occurred in the last 10 years are astonishing. I can’t IMAGINE what is around the bend. I can’t IMAGINE what kind of world my grandchildren will be left with that they have inherited from our misguided generation.
But not only do trials have a purifying and unifying effect, they have a Satisfying effect. When God gets involved, when He FEEDS His followers, THEN and ONLY then can we know REAL satisfaction. God always provides for His own. Where God guides, He always provides.
I want you to remember one thing – in your darkest hour, when others are forsaken and cry that we have been abandoned – there is HOPE for the child of God in what the Father does.
2. But not only do we see what the Father does, we ALSO see what the Flesh does. In v. 39, “39 One of them went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine and gathered from it his lap full of wild gourds, and came and cut them up into the pot of stew, not knowing what they were. 40 And they poured out some for the men to eat. But while they were eating of the stew, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.”
How many times have we seen it –circumstances are bad, but instead of seeking the Lord or carrying out HIS directions, we insert ourselves into the situation and try to make it better WITHOUT Him.
We want to help God out. We have good intentions - We want to do SOMETHING - even if THE WRONG THING - because we haven’t learned to wait on the Lord.
I’m sure this man never meant to poison the pot of stew – just like US when we are trying to help God out - we never INTEND to mess up what God wants to accomplish.
But regardless his motives, when you get ahead of God you are only inviting trouble. When you think you are helping God out – you are only making matters WORSE. Whenever a man walks in the wisdom of his flesh, he will POISON the pot. There are several examples of this in scripture:
Think of Adam and Eve. Created in innocence, they had only ONE desire – to love and serve God. It seems inconceivable that Adam and Eve would wish for anything MORE than the wonderful Garden God had given them and the unhindered fellowship they enjoyed with Him. But when Satan convinced them God was holding out on them, they acted in the flesh and brought death upon THEMSELVES and ALL creation.
Consider Nadab and Abihu – the sons of Aaron, the High Priest of God. In Leviticus chapter 10, they brought what the Bible calls “strange fire” before the Lord. That is, they came to worship the Lord in some fashion NOT PERMITTED in the scriptures. Their flesh got involved. They would “IMPROVE things,” they would come to God “THEIR WAY.” And God killed them.
Then there is Hophni and Phinehas who were killed because they had allowed their flesh to completely corrupt the worship of God.
Or Uzzah, who was struck dead because he reached out and touched the Ark of God when God had said only the priests could touch the ark, and THEN, only with poles.
On and on we could go, showing how when the FLESH gets involved in the things of God, it only brings ruin.
- What controversies have we created, thinking we knew best, but only resulted in making matters worse?
- How many times have we made decisions WITHOUT the direction of God, and we wonder why the whole thing blows up?
- How many Christians think they are helping God… when in reality, God isn’t in their decision AT ALL?
The flesh is an insidious thing – it will trick you into believing that you only have God’s best in heart, but your actions are only making God’s best more difficult to obtain.
We better be careful, friends, getting ahead of God. That's what the FLESH does.
3. But not only do we learn what the Father does and what the Flesh does, third we see what Faith does. In v. 41, “He said, “Then bring flour.” And he threw it into the pot and said, “Pour some out for the men, that they may eat.” ----- And there was no harm in the pot.”
Not to make light of the special moment here, but:
I seriously doubt any of US would have wanted to be first in line to sample that stew.
I mean, wouldn’t you have at least gone through the MOTIONS of eating but then looked to see if anyone dropped dead from it before you actually took the first bite? It was deadly stew, for crying out loud!! And all Elisha did was throw a little flour in there!!
How often does God do things or direct us to do things that require TOTAL CONFIDENCE IN HIM???
They were being asked to do something HARD – to exercise FAITH… they were being asked to TRUST the Lord. And when they did – they were able to be filled.
Martin Luther once observed: God our Father has made all things depend on faith so that whoever has faith will have everything, and whoever does not have faith will have nothing.
Could much of the trouble we find ourselves in be tied to a lack of faith?? The writer of Hebrews clearly says, “And without faith it is IMPOSSIBLE to please him.”
The Christian life REQUIRES faith. Trusting something we CAN’T see – taking steps, that quite frankly, may not make sense. We have to trust a God we cannot see to help us face those giants we CAN see.
- Maybe these men realized that they didn’t have anything to lose.
- Maybe they thought, “If we DON’T trust the Lord, we will die anyway. So why NOT??”
- How often have we been challenged to trust the Lord in a particular situation, but we have to fight the objections of the flesh?
These men put their confidence in God and they were saved… filled… their needs were met.
Does their example challenge YOU?
Do you trust Him??
One night a house caught fire and the flames forced a young boy out of his upstairs window to the roof. The father stood on the ground below with outstretched arms, calling to his son, "Jump! I'll catch you." He knew the boy had to jump to save his life.
All the boy could see, however, was flame, smoke, and blackness. As can be imagined, he was afraid to leave the roof. His father kept yelling: "Jump! I will catch you." But the boy argued, "Daddy, I can't see you." The father replied, "But I can see you and that's all that matters."
The boy jumped, because he trusted his father.
The Christian faith enables us to face hard situations, not because WE CAN SEE, but because we are certain that He sees US; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known.
Maybe you are in a “no win” situation? Maybe you can’t see your way clear? Won’t you put YOUR confidence in Him too?? Won’t you realize that so much of the Christian life demands FAITH? That God puts us in situations where we will resist the flesh and trust Him?
What situation are YOU in right now that calls for ‘faith?’ Why not take the risk and come forward – seeking God’s direction? What have you got to lose??