Sunday, February 23, 2014


The Kingdoms of Israel and Aram were at war. The King of Aram was getting really frustrated, though, because somehow Israel seemed to know their battle plans ahead of time and managed to avoid the places the Arameans tried to attack! They went to the locations where they knew the Israelites would be, and over and over, there was nobody there to attack! So much for the element of surprise.

So the Aramean King decided they must have a traitor. He called his army together and said, “All right, who is warning the Israelites what we’re going to do?”

“Nobody,” they replied, “but their prophet Elisha seems to know an awful lot about our plans! He’s been warning their King.” So their new target became Elisha. They had to get him out of the way so they could go back to defeating their enemy! They found him in the city of Dothan, and they surrounded the city. When Elisha’s servant got up, he discovered a bunch of scary enemy soldiers all around the city walls, and they were after Elisha! The servant went to his master, terrified. “Don’t worry,” Elisha said, “There are a lot more people with us than with them!”

Now the servant was confused. “But it’s just you and me. What are you talking about?”

So Elisha prayed, “Lord, please open his eyes!”

His servant couldn’t believe what he saw! The Aramean army may have been surrounding the city of Dothan, but surrounding them, all over the hills, was a powerful army with horses and fiery chariots!

So Elisha prayed again, “Lord, please blind the Aramean army!” So God did that. Then Elisha went up to the enemy and said, “This isn’t the right road or city, but I’d be happy to help you. Follow me!” So Elisha started leading a confused and blind army away from Dothan, making plenty of noise so they would be sure to hear him, since they couldn’t see him.

When they got to where they were going, Elisha prayed, “OK, Lord, please open their eyes now.” The Aramean army was shocked to find themselves in Samaria, right under the nose of the King of Israel!

When the Israelite King saw that Elisha had led the enemy right to them, he was excited. He asked Elisha, “Should I kill them?”

But the prophet had another surprise up his sleeve. Both the Israelites and the Arameans were shocked to hear Elisha’s next words: “Nope! Don’t kill them! I have a better idea…let’s prepare a feast for them and be kind to them instead!”

It was the last thing anyone had expected. The enemy got a big feast, and they went back home with one less enemy. If they were gonna be nice to them, there wasn’t much point in Aram attacking Israel, so the attacks stopped.


He was an important commander in the army of the Kingdom of Aram. He had risen through the ranks, and led the Aramean army to victory after victory. His country loved him because he helped to make them more powerful than ever. But one day, he met an enemy that no army could defeat. It made it hard for him to lead his army as this enemy kept him away from the soldiers he commanded. He had never encountered anything like this before. This wasn’t even a person he was fighting this time. The commander’s name was Naaman, and he was in a battle for his life against the feared enemy called leprosy. It causes the skin to look scaly and awful. It can lead to deformed fingers and toes. Lepers can’t feel pain, so that can lead to some more serious injuries. It’s even a bit contagious. Now there are treatments for the disease, but back then, the only thing people could do was move away from others so they wouldn’t spread it. What was this important commander to do? He wasn’t used to being helpless against a fearsome enemy.

Some time earlier, bands of Aramean raiders had gone into the neighboring Kingdom of Israel and taken captives. One of these captives was a young girl who became the slave of Naaman’s wife. This slave girl cared for her master and mistress, and one day she suggested to her mistress, “Back home, I heard of a man who might be able to help. There’s a prophet in Samaria who can cure him.”

So Naaman went to the King of Aram and told him what his wife’s slave girl had said. The King sent Naaman with a letter to the King of Israel that said, “I’m sending you my servant Naaman so you can cure him of his leprosy.”

When the King of Israel got the note, he said, “Are you kidding? Who does your king think I am, God? I can’t cure leprosy!”

When Elisha found out the King had thrown a fit, he went to him and said, “Whoa, what happened? Have the guy come to my house, and he’ll know there’s a prophet in Israel.”

So Naaman set out to Elisha’s house. When he was almost there, he met a messenger who said, “Elisha says you’re supposed to go to the Jordan River and wash yourself seven times.”

“WHAT?!” Naaman cried. “That’s disgusting! Why does it have to be the Jordan River? Surely the rivers back home would have been better! Here I came all this way to have a prophet call on his God, wave his staff, say the magic words and heal me! Now what? The Jordan River?! Ewww!”

But his servants pointed out, “Wouldn’t you do it if the prophet told you to do some heroic deed to be healed? How hard can it be to have seven baths in the Jordan?”

“Oh, all right,” he said. He washed himself in the river once. Twice. Three times. What was happening? Four times. Five times. It was getting better! Six times. Seven times. Naaman’s skin was smooth and normal again! The leprosy had been defeated!

He couldn’t believe it. This seemed too good to be true! He and his servants hurried back to Elisha with the news. He had brought a bunch of treasure and clothes to pay for his treatment, but Elisha wouldn’t take any of it. From then on, Naaman vowed to serve the one true God who had healed him of his leprosy.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Unending Oil and Shunammite Resurrection

Elisha’s world had turned upside-down. He was working in the field one day when some guy named Elijah came along and told him to come be a prophet. After a few years of training, Elisha watched his teacher taken from him in one of the most dramatic ways imaginable. The fiery horses and chariot disappeared into the sky, the waters of the Jordan River parted, and Elisha started a new life as a prophet. As he had requested, God granted him a lot of prophetic power, and with God’s help, he did some amazing things.

One day, another prophet’s time came to go. We don’t know this prophet’s name, but he had a wife and two sons, and they were left very poor when he died. The woman had bills to pay, and no way to pay them! At that time, that only left one option. The people she owed the bills to would be coming any day to take her sons away to be slaves! She loved her sons, and she didn’t want to lose them! So she found Elisha and told him about their problem.

“What do you have in your house?” Elisha said.

“We hardly have anything!” she replied. “Just a small jar of olive oil!”

So Elisha told her what she needed to do. It sounded really weird, but she knew Elisha knew what he was talking about. Following his advice, she went around to all her neighbors and asked for as many empty jars as they could spare. Pretty soon, there were lots and lots of empty jars in their house. Then the woman and her sons shut their door and went to work. They took their tiny jar of oil and started pouring it into an empty jar. When that was full, they started filling another one. That filled up, and they poured oil into a third jar! It just kept coming and coming out of the tiny jar until all the jars in the house were full!

“Bring me another jar!” she said to one of her sons.

“That’s it!” he replied. “They’re all full!” Then the oil stopped flowing.

So she went to Elisha and reported the amazing news. “Great!” he said. “Now go sell the oil. You’ll earn enough from that to pay your debts and to support your family!”

Not all the people Elisha helped were poor. He often visited a rich couple in the town of Shunem. In fact, he came so often that they decided to build a guest room on their roof so that he would have a place to stay when he visited. Elisha and his servant Gehazi really appreciated their hospitality, and Elisha wondered what they could do to help this Shunammite woman and her husband. They even offered to speak to the King on her behalf, but she didn’t think that was necessary. Elisha and Gehazi were brainstorming what they could do to help them when Gehazi pointed out that the woman didn’t have any children, and her husband was old. So Elisha told the woman, “This time next year, you’ll be holding a son.”

“No, don’t get my hopes up!” the woman said. But just as promised, she got pregnant and had a son.

A few years passed. The boy grew, and his parents loved him. One day, he found his dad working in the fields and complained, “My head hurts!” His dad asked a servant to carry the boy home, and the boy’s mom held him. He was very sick, and pretty soon he died. The woman couldn’t believe it. God had done a miracle by giving her this child, and now the boy was dead! She carried his body up to Elisha’s room and hurried to find Elisha. She found him at Mount Carmel, and he saw her and recognized her from a distance. He sent Gehazi ahead to find out what was the matter, and she said, “Everything’s fine.” But as she got closer, he told Gehazi, “She’s very sad, but God hasn’t told me why.”

So the woman said, “Did I ask you for a son? Didn’t I tell you not to get my hopes up?” When he found out the boy was dead, Elisha was alarmed. He told Gehazi, “Take my staff and run. Don’t stop for anything or anyone, and when you get to their home, lay my staff on the boy’s body.” The woman refused to go with Gehazi, though, unless Elisha went with her. So while Gehazi ran on ahead, Elisha and the Shunammite woman hurried back to the house. Before they got there, Gehazi came running back from the house and said, “I did what you said, but the boy is still dead!”

The first thing Elisha tried hadn’t worked. So when he got to the house, he went upstairs and found the boy laying on the bed. Elisha knelt down and prayed. Then he did something really strange. He laid facedown on top of the boy, eyes to eyes, mouth to mouth, hands to hands. Maybe it was something like CPR? The boy’s skin was cold, as it usually is for dead people, but pretty soon, it got warm. Elisha stood up and walked back and forth, then tried again. The boy sneezed and opened his eyes!

So Elisha had Gehazi get the Shunammite woman, and when she came in the room, she was overjoyed to find her son alive! God had just brought a boy back from the dead!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Chariot of Fire

Queen Jezebel was furious! The prophet Elijah had called a contest on Mt. Carmel, and not only had her side lost, but her god Baal was humiliated, and she had lost a bunch of Baal’s priests! She only saw one possible solution: Elijah must die! In fact, Jezebel was so angry that she promised that if he wasn’t dead by the next day, she didn’t care how badly her gods punished her!

As soon as Elijah got word, he was outta there! He ran to the desert and collapsed, exhausted and scared, under a bush. He was so upset that he prayed that God would let him die! Then he fell asleep. An angel woke him up and gave him something to eat and drink. When he was done eating, he fell asleep again. Later, the angel came back and said, “Get up and eat. You have a long journey ahead of you.” So he got up and ate. Then he walked 40 days and nights until he got to Mt. Horeb. Once there, Elijah hid in a cave. After listening to Elijah pour out his complaints, God told him to stand at the mouth of the cave and promised to pass by. When Elijah got to the mouth of the cave, there was a fierce wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire. But God wasn’t in any of those. Then Elijah heard a quiet voice ask, “What are you doing here?” So Elijah poured out his complaints again.

In response, God gave Elijah some instructions. “Go to Damascus and anoint Hazael King of Syria. Then anoint Jehu King of Israel. Then find a guy named Elisha and train him to replace you as prophet. Between the three of them, many enemies will be defeated.”

So Elijah obeyed God’s instructions. After anointing Hazael and Jehu, Elijah found Elisha working in a field. Elijah threw his coat around Elisha. That meant he was inviting him to a new life of service to God. Elisha sacrificed his cows, said good bye to his parents, and left.

Elijah trained Elisha, and time passed. Israel’s evil King Ahab died in battle, and his son Ahaziah took his place. He was also evil and pretty soon Ahaziah died and his brother Joram took his place.

Some time had passed by now, and Elijah knew his time had come to go. He told Elisha to stay in Gilgal while he went on to Bethel. But Elisha insisted on going along. Other prophets also tried to convince Elisha to stay, but he insisted on going. So Elisha went with Elijah to Bethel, then to Jericho. Prophets at every stop tried to convince Elisha to stay, but he insisted on going with Elijah. The two of them got to the Jordan River, and Elijah took off his coat and hit the water with it. The water parted just like it had for Joshua many years earlier! Once the two prophets got across the river on dry ground, Elijah said, “What would you like, before I go?”

Elisha replied, “I’d like double the prophetic power that you have!” He didn’t feel worthy to succeed Elijah, and he knew he would need a lot of help from God.

“Wow, that’s a tall order!” Elijah said. “But if you see God taking me away, you’ll get it.”
While they were walking and talking, a fiery chariot pulled by fiery horses swooped out of the sky and took Elijah up in a whirlwind! Elisha cried out, “My father! You’re worth all the horses and horsemen of Israel!” Elisha tore his clothes in grief, and then picked up Elijah’s coat, which Elijah had dropped. He watched his mentor disappear into the sky in a fiery whirlwind of horses, then walked slowly back to the Jordan River. When he got there, he hit the water with Elijah’s coat, and it parted again!

When he got back across, the prophets from Jericho were there waiting. They could tell Elisha had gained a lot of prophetic power, to be able to part the waters of the Jordan with God’s help! That was no small river. They offered to go search for Elijah, but he told them not to bother. When they insisted, he said, “Fine, go ahead!” But of course they couldn’t find him. Elijah had just become one of only two people in the Old Testament to be taken to heaven without dying.