AGCC Sun. a.m. 10/26/1997
(see also: 8/4/91)
TEXT: II Kings 13:14-25
INTRO: The way we live will
continue to minister long after we are gone, good or bad!
ILLUS: Centuries ago Charlemagne ruled what today is much of the
European continent. By a strange situation this ruthless ruler conveyed an
important spiritual message to the world...but not during his lifetime, instead
it was after his death, by the bone of his index finger! When he died, he was
entombed in a grand style, having his body set on an ivory throne decked out
with gold and precious stones. On his head they placed a crown of jewels, and by
propping up his arm they had him holding a scepter, the symbol of power. On his
finger was a signet ring; he wore a robe of purple, and on a scroll placed in
his lap were written many of the deeds, many which were evil..but with Scripture
verses mingled in so as to give a sense of approval by God. The burial unit was
sealed finally. Centuries later the seal was broken to reveal some surprises.
The flesh had rotted like any man, now only a skeleton sat on the throne. His
flesh had turned to dust and settled at the feet of the throne, along with the
dust of his earthly robe that had also rotted. The prop that had held up his arm
and hand had disintegrated also, and his skeleton hand had dropped to the floor
taking with it the scroll that once sat on his lap. When those who unsealed his
tomb noticed that his skeleton hand now resting on the open scroll on the floor
seemed to be coincidentally pointing with his index finger they bent over and
read where by chance his finger bone was pointing...and it was to this:
"What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his
own soul." Luke 9:25. The bone of a dead man spoke greater truth than
that man had ever spoken in his lifetime!
We should live so that our life continues to minister even after
death...our ministry can last longer than we can!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that the reputation of a godly life can help bring life to others...even after
we are gone! Give God a testimony He can use.
I. SERVICE 13:14-19
A. Faithful 13:14
1. Elisha is about 80 years old and is dying of some kind of lingering disease...a very different exit than his mentor Elijah who was taken up into heaven by a chariot of fire and never saw death.
a. There doesn't seem to be any bitterness however here...he is ready to minister when called upon.
b. This alone says something about his character.
2. Interesting enough, this is the first mention of Elisha in 43 years!!!
a. The last reference to him was in II Kings 9:1...an event that precedes this passage by about 43 years!
b. So what was going on for 43 years that the Bible is silent about Elisha?
(1. He was probably just faithfully serving God and Israel...
(2. No great miracles are recorded for this 43 year period of time
(3. It was just routine faithful service...this was the bulk of his ministry!...and it is often the bulk of our lives too!
3. So often we think of great ministry being supernatural events happening weekly in our lives, but the bulk of spirituality is rather mundane faithfulness day in and day out!
4. It is this mundane constant faithfulness however that leaves the
greatest testimony of our lives!
ILLUS: An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years and were returning to New York to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they were defeated, discouraged, and afraid. They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.
No one paid any attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President's entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man.
As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, "Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us."
"Dear, you shouldn't feel that way," his wife said. "I can't help it; it doesn't seem right."
When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President's arrival, but no one noticed this missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East Side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.
That night the man's spirit broke. He said to his wife, "I can't take this; God is not fair."
His wife replied, "Why don't you go in the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?"
A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, "Dear, what happened?"
"The Lord settled it with me," he said. "I told
him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous
homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it
seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, 'But
you're not home yet!'" --
Ray Stedman, Talking to My Father
5. The greatest testimony of our lives is not the occasional miracles that
catch people's attention, but the faithful obedience to God day by day!
B. Faith 13:15-17
1. It is interesting that King Jehoash came first for help from Elisha instead of turning first to his army!
a. The phrase he says upon finding the dying prophet, "My father! My father!....the chariots and horsemen of Israel!" is a way of saying that Elisha was more valuable than all the horsemen of Israel!
b. When confronted with an enemy the king was more interested from the help of an old dying faithful man of God than he was in his own army!
2. Perhaps the King was worried what would happen without Elisha.
3. At least this was a step of faith on the King's part, and Elisha
assures him by placing his hands over the King's on the bow and arrows thus
saying, "God's hand is upon you King Jehoash in going against the
ILLUS: It is better to be faithful than famous. -- Theodore Roosevelt
4. Elisha tells the king to open the window toward Aram (Syria) and shoot, as an act of faith that God will give them victory over the enemy.
a. This was often done in antiquity as a sign of faith in God's favor...
b. The king would shoot either an arrow or throw a spear into the other
country or towards it as an act of confidence and faith.
C. Failure 13:18-19
1. Up to this point, the King merely did whatever Elisha told him, but now Elisha tests the King's faith...by telling him to strike the ground...but not telling him how many times to do it!
a. The king can not only do what Elisha says, he must have his own faith.
b. Elisha had full faith that God would help them against the enemy...but did the king...we cannot go to heaven on someone else's faith!
2. Without being told how many times, he strikes the ground 3 times!
a. Elisha becomes angry, this was only moderate faith at work....he should have struck the ground 5 or 6 times!
b. Because the King had only moderate faith, the results will be moderate!
c. They would win 3 victories against the Arameans....but it would take 5 or 6 victories to totally destroy the enemy.
3. This was a tragic failure, for it meant a mediocre life for Israel
under Jehoash. The King's heart was not fully into obeying God!
ILLUS: A college man walked into a photography studio with a framed picture of his girlfriend. He wanted the picture duplicated. This involved removing it from the frame. In doing this, the studio owner noticed the inscription on the back of the photograph: "My dearest Tom, I love you with all my heart. I love you more and more each day. I will love you forever and ever. I am yours for all eternity." It was signed "Diane," and it contained a P.S.: "If we ever break up, I want this picture back."
We who have been baptized have professed our love for God and for others. We belong to Christ. There can be no P.S. in our life given to God. We can never break up with Him. We are His. We belong to Him--forever.
Charles Krieg --James S.
Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988)
a. The legacy of this King was thus only a so-so life.
b. He could have become a great king if his faith had been great!
c. King Jehoash never did fully live for the Lord.
4. How about us....is our faith only mediocre?
a. How will our children see our walk with God, is our faith wholehearted?
b. What legacy will we leave them about walking with God?
c. Will the testimony of your life still speak "LIFE" in the
II. SYMBOL 13:20-21
A. Frustration 13:20
1. Elisha now dies...and though Aram is pushed back somewhat, a new enemy also gives Israel a hard time, the Moabites come in every spring probably to raid their crops and steal from Israel.
a. By not living for the Lord the nation had lost God's blessings
b. They lived from one frustration to another...and still wouldn't turn to the Lord.
2. One day as a group of Israelites were carrying a dead friend for burial they met up with one of the Moabites' raiding parties...and to protect themselves they flung the dead body into the nearest crag...Elisha's tomb.
a. It seemed that nothing went right in Israel!
b. If only they could link the quality of their life with this lack of faith!
c. The constant battles with the enemy was God's way of trying to send
them a message...but they weren't listening!
ILLUS: A lady visiting the Holy Land came upon a sheepfold located high on a hilltop. Her attention was drawn to one poor sheep lying by the side of the road bleating in pain. Looking more closely, she discovered that its leg was injured. She asked the shepherd how it happened. "I had to break it myself," he answered sadly. "It was the only way I could keep that wayward creature from straying into unsafe places. From past experience I have found that a sheep will follow me once I have nursed it back to health. Because of the loving relationship that will be established as I care for her, in the future she will come instantly at my beck and call."
The woman replied thoughtfully, "Sometimes we poor human sheep also want our stubborn ways and as a result stray into dangerous paths until the Good Shepherd sends sorrow and pain to arrest us. Coming then into a sweeter and closer communion with our Savior, we at last are conditioned to hear His voice and follow His leading."
B. Freedom 13:21
1. God was about to speak again through the man of God though he was long dead....the testimony of his life would still exude power even after death!
a. Something weird and wonderful happens, when the dead man's body touched the bones of the man of God the dead man was brought back to life instantly!
b. Though long gone, Elisha's testimony still had power!!!
2. Imagine this man's surprise upon experiencing such "bare bones ministry"?
3. This was certainly meant to send a signal to all of Israel...that
though they are dead, contact with God can bring them back to life....Elisha
stood as God's representative and his testimony still contained the power of
ILLUS: Jeff Fenholt played the original Jesus in the sacrilegious
musical Jesus Christ Superstar, which purposefully leaves out the Resurrection.
Fenholt toured the U.S. and recorded the album, which sold approximately fifteen
million copies in the United States. Fenholt later became a vocalist involved
with Black Sabbath, a rock group with even an anti- Christian name. Although he
was outwardly successful, inwardly he felt a "deep emptiness." He has since come
to embrace, as his Savior and Lord, the Jesus Christ of the Gospels, not the
fictionalized Jesus he used to portray on the stage. Today he is a singer and
speaker for the Lord. -- Jeffrey C. Fenholt,
From Darkness to Light, (Tulsa, OK: Harrison House, 1994).
4. Since God could not find another live person to preach the message of life to a rebellious people, He used the bones of Elisha to speak through...it also was a symbol of what God wanted to say to this "dead" nation....to make contact with God and they would live!
5. Real freedom from frustration only comes in a living relationship with
III. SALVATION 13:22-23
A. Favor 13:22-23
1. The only thing that allowed a rebellious nation like Israel to continue to exist anyway was God's love!
2. God had made a commitment to Abraham concerning his descendants, and though they were rebellious God would not destroy them, instead He put them through the fire to get them to return!
a. This is not God's meanness coming through, it is His love!
b. God's "heat" is not intended to destroy, but to save!
ILLUS: A diamond is a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.
-- As quoted in Bob Phillips, Phillips' Book
of Great Thoughts & Funny Sayings, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers,
Inc, 1993), p. 92.
3. How much easier their lives might have been had they turned to the
B. Faithfulness 13:24-25
1. As God had promised, and according to the level of faith King Jehoash had expressed, the King got exactly what he had faith for... 3 victories only and partial recovering from the enemy, only some cities were recovered!
a. But in his lifetime the enemy was not completely overcome.
b. God had been faithful, too bad the King had only been somewhat faithful.
2. King Jehoash's legacy might have been different had he fully trusted God, what will our legacy be?
3. We cannot always judge our faithful walk's impact by the moment...it
may seem that we walk faithfully and nothing much happens, but only God knows
how later it can make an impact...we need to stay faithful even when we don't
see results now!
ILLUS: My parents, Salvation Army officers, were out on a miserable December night for an open-air meeting. Not another person was around, but my dad said that "God didn't need people to be out listening; He only needed us to be faithful." So they played a few carols and Dad gave a short message before everyone retreated inside.
A few weeks later, Dad was ringing the bell at a mall when a lady asked him if he had been on that street corner two weeks earlier. She explained, "My father had been in a coma for six months. We were dreading the holidays since Dad was not really with us. But then we heard the carols, and to our amazement, my father sat up and said, 'That's God's music.' And with that he died."
What an encouraging proof of God's faithfulness
to those who are faithful. -- Christian Reader, Nov./Dec. 1995, p. 64.
4. The death of the man of God did not mean the death of the God of man!
a. Elisha's faithfulness lived on in power after his death...so can ours.
b. Bare bones ministry can only happen after we have fleshed out a life of faith now!
c. Give God something to work with later by how you live today.
CONCLUSION: The testimony of Elisha's life continued to minister even after he was dead! Elisha's life had so demonstrated the presence of God that even after death just having contact with his bones brought the dead to life again! May our lives so evidence God's presence that others find life in God when they come into contact with us.