ELISHA: MAN IN HIS SPIRIT
In the early period of the kings, Elijah and his successor Elisha were violent men. It was the age when justice demanded, “a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye and a life for a life” (Genesis 9:1-7). Early on, Adam had learned that he could not eat everything, nor could he have everything. Adam learned the hard way, that if he ate the wrong thing, he would die. Unfortunately, the knowledge came too late because Adam disobeyed the warning. Adam died in the hope that his offspring would heed the warning. However, Cain did not heed the warning; therefore, Cain learned that he could not replace his brother’s life. It is the perpetuation of a measurement, which could not and which cannot amend the harm it has done. Even in Jesus’ day, “the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matthew 7:2). Unfortunately, those that are in power use favoritism and also extend that favoritism in their favor. Favoritism has become a bottomless pit, which no one has been able to fill. Not just for the individuals, but also the nations were toppled by unfulfilled favors. The kings of Israel and the kings of Judah are good examples of what favoritism does. Today, our modern socialistic systems lives and thrives on making empty promises. Let us not forget, to include the promises we make as Christians, which have no chances whatsoever to be fulfilled. We all suffer from a false sense of reality when we expect some super being to rescue us from the trouble we are in. I am afraid when people tell me that the Lord will take them away before their trouble will start.
I remember, as if it was yesterday, when we all had met at our Ukrainian neighbors. The men bolted the doors, used farming tools as weapons, boiled water, and had bags of sand ready, so that we could take our last stand against those, who had decided to kill us. We, too, had hoped that God would act and remove us. Well, before that night was over, I had to get our two cows and bring them home to be milked and sheltered. Out of nowhere, two planes flew over the town where my grandfather was the executive. The planes threw couple of bombs, which caused a loud noise, followed by thick black smoke rising into the sky. I was nine years old, and I did not realize that night, that the Lord had sent the Russians to save us. In the morning, not one of those people, who wanted to kill us, were to be found. They all just disappeared. Whom will the Lord send to save us in America?
The man, who overextended favoritism, was king Solomon, himself. For supplies, Solomon gave to Hiram twenty cities (I Kings 9:11). Solomon raised his son without common sense, named Rehoboam. Rehoboam’s logic defies all human reasoning. He listened to the people he grew up with and he followed their advice. Rehoboam told the people, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. And now, whereas my father laid upon you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (I Kings 12:10-11). Rehoboam lost ten tribes to Jeroboam. If the people, who followed Jeroboam, thought that they had chosen the lesser of the two evils, they were sadly mistaken. Favoritism escalates! Once they stopped following the house of David, any one could become king of Israel. They could become king by sheer power and by expanding of their favored projects. These projects were the two new worship and sacrifice centers for their god, work guaranteed for their supporters, and a new capital for their kings like Samaria, which outdid Jerusalem. It was not at all surprising that the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, and the Romans wanted Samaria. The historians of the “Kings” and the “Chronicles” have misplaced the cause of Israel’s demise on Jeroboam. The historians did lend a blind eye to the real cause of Israel’s demise — it was their hero, Solomon. It was Solomon who introduced the Tyre-Sidonian’s influence into the Hebrew culture. Solomon befriended king Hiram and partnered with king Hiram in business ventures and in shipping. Solomon needed king Hiram’s seamen and his technicians to accomplish his projects. He did not become the richest and the wisest man on his own. Solomon shared diplomatically, materially, and religiously with people that could help him get what he wanted.
Before Jeroboam took Solomon to the task over his generosity with the foreigners, Solomon was in bed with a Sidonian princess and an Ammonite princess. We read:
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their god’; Solomon clung to these in love (I kings 11:1-3).
He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turn away his heart. For King Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods (I Kings 11:5-8).
In the same chapter (I Kings 11:31-40), Jeroboam was chosen to stop Solomon’s religious idolatry and take Israel back to God. Unfortunately, Jeroboam disobeyed and he did not take on the powerful lobbyists for their religions. Can we possibly imagine what those hills around Jerusalem looked like with all the shrines and altars, similar to a cemetery filled with human and animal statues?
Solomon used religion to enhance his fame and his coffers. And so did Jeroboam; only, by that time the people had no more to give. Yahwehism, that was intended to reduce the many costly sacrifices to so many deities, Solomon turned into the most expensive religion at the time. The temple was the most elaborate and the most costly structure. The temple took seven years of sacrifices and forced labor to built. The use of the ”whip” is a reference to the method Solomon used to get the people to work. And when the temple was dedicated or initiated, the rituals and the sacrifices were staggering. Alone in one day, “Solomon offered as peace offerings to the Lord twenty-two thousand oxen and a hundred and twenty thousand sheep.” The celebration lasted eight days and the writer wants the reader to believe, that the people went home happy (I Kings 8:62-66). How could the people been joyous, when one of Solomon’s officials by the name of Jeroboam, was plotting to split the kingdom; and therefore he had to flee to Egypt? The people could not wait for Solomon to die. The people demanded a reduction of the financial burdens. The first act of Jeroboam’s administration was to eliminated the religious extravagance. Jeroboam built two inexpensive calves, which did what the costly temple did in Jerusalem. Solomon already had introduced the people to cheaper religions. And all Jeroboam had to do was maintain those religions. Solomon’s son Rehoboam and his grandson Abijah endorsed these foreign gods and sacrifices (I Kings 11:26-15:8). It should not surprise the reader why the people of Israel deserted costly Yahwehism in favor of a much less expensive Baalism.
The arrival of Elijah represented a revival of a concept that was present with Adam and Eve and with every godly person in the world. God was not tied to a place or to an object. God was an “image-bearing” Spirit. This nameless and mysterious Life-bearing-Being and Spirit could live and work through a human being. This all powerful God and Spirit could inhabit a person. This God did not require religious relics or buildings to be worshiped. God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jacob became Israel and the father of a nation. The kings were leading the people away from the God of their fathers. It was God’s Spirit that had energized Elijah’s human spirit to take on the gods of stone and of metal. The indwelling of God’s Spirit or of God’s Presence, in man, is not a New Testament concept. God’s Spirit does add a new and a more beneficial aspect in man. God’s Spirit extends God’s Presence to all practicing believers, and not just to a handful individuals, like preachers, prophets, and teachers. It is not just the person, who represents the true nature of God’s spirit, but it is revealed in the evidence of how that person lives and what he or she communicates. The life of the preacher has to agree with what he preaches. Jesus made this point very clear in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit to give life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” And John 14:23-26, “If a man (person) loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him/her and make our home with him/her. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word that you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me. These things I have spoken to you, while I am still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” As to the question, Philip asked Jesus in John 14:8, “Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.” Jesus’ reply is recorded:
Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves (John 14:9-11).
The idea that man is not able to do anything that can and that could please God is misleading, and it can cost us our salvation. It was after the fall from grace and God’s favor, that man became conscious of right and wrong. Even the natural man’s conscience is a witness to his deeds, without any help from anyone, human or divine (Romans 2:14-16). Man cannot be saved without his consent, and the Spirit of the Lord will not take up residence in a person, until that person allows the grace of God to fill that being by changing an ungodly life into a spiritually productive life. A human being becomes a temple of the Spirit of God when he or she begins to emanate the fruits of the Spirit to others (Ephesians 2:21-22; I Corinthians 6:19; Galatians 5:22-25). What Jesus said to the Samaritan woman applied to all of his followers, “But the hour has come, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Worship is more than just lip service or praise. Worship is doing the things that are greater than what the Lord, Himself, did (Matthew 7:15-23; John 14:12-13).