By Lisa Huddleston
There are those times when things seem to be just a little more out of control than usual. Everyone experiences them, and it’s during those times of our greatest need that we struggle to pay attention to the very things that would help us most—specifically God’s direction through his word. The more things spin, the less likely we are to take the time to listen or to respond. Sure, we’re throwing out those “God, help me” prayers left and right, but we aren’t quite as diligent in paying attention to his answers. And that’s what God showed me this morning as I read chapters 4-8 of 2 Kings.
Truthfully, I was kind of in divide-and-conquer mode. I have several assignments that need attention today, but since I didn’t get to it yesterday—my normal writing day—number one on my list was to write this devotional. It’s lame (and futile) to approach that task without some input from the One about whom I hope to write, so I dutifully sat down on the couch to read today’s section in my Daily Walk Bible. As I read without much expectation, I began to notice a common thread between the stories contained in these chapters. All had to do with the prophet Elisha and all recorded the varied responses of different people to God’s word.
Here’s what I saw:
- First, there was the Shunammite woman who built a room for Elisha to stay in whenever he visited her town. When Elisha told her that she would finally have a son, she replied, “Don’t mislead your servant, O man of God!” (4:16). Later, she stated the same response as, “Don’t raise my hopes” (4:28). Sometimes I feel the same way. I don’t even dare to ask God for little things let alone big things, because I’m afraid even to have hope. It hurts too much when my dreams don’t come true. But the Shunammite’s dreams were realized. She had a son and even had him restored from the dead. God was able to meet and even surpass her hopes, because it was his will to do so. After all, it was his idea!
- Next, there was the man from Baal Shalishah. He brought twenty loaves of barley bread to Elisha who thanked him by telling him to feed all the rest of the people who were there. The man replied, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” (4:43). It was an impossible assignment, and his question seems very logical to me. Yet, he set the bread before the men, “and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord” (4:44). I can imagine his surprise as his “How?” was answered! Sometimes the tasks I face seem to be impossible, too. Either I feel that I don’t have the skill to accomplish them or there just isn’t enough of me to go around to do all that needs to be done. But God can multiply my abilities and accomplish whatever he chooses—if it’s according to his word and his will.
- Then, there was Naaman, the commander of the army of the Aram. “He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded … but he had leprosy” (5:1). On the advice of a servant girl, Naaman goes to Elisha to be healed, but when he gets there Elisha doesn’t even come out to see him. Rather, “Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, ‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed’” (5:10). Rather than running to the Jordan to wash, Naaman’s pride is hurt, and he goes away angry (5:11). God’s assignment was too simple for such a great man. After all, weren’t there better rivers in his own country? Who did Elisha think he was? Naaman almost let his pride keep him from being healed. Thank goodness, he heard his servants who begged him to follow the advice, and he was restored. I wonder how often I let pride keep me away from the blessings of God? How many times have I let hurt and anger stand in the way of God’s will being done in and through me?
There were many more responses in the chapters I read today: fear (6:15), impatience (6:33), doubt (7:2), selfishness (7:9), and shame (8:11). All immediately focused on what they could see, but each one had his or her eyes opened to the supernatural power of God. Nothing is impossible with God! (Luke 1:37). A simple message—sort of like Elisha’s directions to Naaman—but just as deceptively deep.
What is your response to God’s word today? Are you afraid to hope? Do you wonder how it could be? Are you insulted by the simplicity of the message? Are you impatient, doubtful, selfish or ashamed? Yes! I am … but God will work anyway. My hope is not in me or in anything I do, but my hope is in him! And, thankfully, he will never let me down.