Prophetic doors – Elisha, lockdown, liberation
Seven times in 2 Kings chapters 4 to 9 is mention made of closed or open doors – doors of houses, of a small apartment, and even city gates after a lengthy siege, all associated with the ministry of Elisha the prophet. Some of these references concern his advice to others; the rest were occasions when he kept his door closed – or at least he ‘socially distanced’ himself. Each instance conveys a message we do well to heed. Here’s what they say to me. (All quotations are from the New Living Translation.)
- Fix present and future penury (2 Kings 4:1-7, noting verse 4)
By the way, penury is extreme poverty. The widow of another prophet was about to lose her two boys as slaves in order to clear an outstanding debt, but Elisha counselled her prophetically to call at her neighbours’ doors to borrow some of their empty jars. Eventually, when she had assembled all these containers in her home, she must ‘shut the door behind [her]’ so that she could concentrate on her God-given task of pouring her limited remnant of olive oil from this flask into these assorted vessels until every one was filled to the brim. She then had to sell enough to pay off her debts and store the rest for cooking family meals.
- Forestall occasion for hearsay (2 Kings 4:8-17, noting verse 15)
This story tells us how the prophet promised a woman of wealth that God would reward her for providing regular hospitality to him as a man of God and to his personal assistant whenever their itinerary brought them to her village. She was childless, and her husband was now aged. Significantly, ‘as she stood in the doorway’ to his attic apartment, he promised her a supernatural award of fertility that would bear fruit in a baby son. ‘Social distancing’ we’d call it nowadays. And this was a good way to prevent false gossip about a male-female one-on-one encounter.
- Focus prayerful entreaty (2 Kings 4:18-37, noting verse 33)
Some problems require a closed door to keep all distractions out of mind while one concentrates one’s full attention on interceding for a miraculous, divine intervention in an otherwise impossible situation. That ‘miracle baby’ was still but a child when he was stricken with a massive headache, probably sunstroke, while helping his father at work in the fields during the harvest season. Father sent the lad home to his mother, carried by a servant. She nursed him on her lap till he breathed his last around mid-day. Wisely, she laid him in the prophet’s attic bed, ‘then shut the door’ as she left him in there. When she sent the servant back to the harvest to request a donkey and another servant to escort her on a brief visit to Elisha, her husband was confused as to why she needed to journey to the man of God on that day since it was neither the Sabbath nor the day for new moon celebration. The narrative implies that, although religious, he lacked spiritual perception, so she didn’t tell him that their son was dead and in need of another miracle!
Although the man of God handed Gehazi his own staff and sent him off to lay it on the dead child, the mother sensed that his religious activities were also merely nominal, so she insisted that Elisha must come back with her in person to pray for her son’s resuscitation. (In fairness to Elisha, he probably had intended to pray fervently in his own home undisturbed after all the others had left – Gehazi, the mother and her donkey-minder – so that when Gehazi laid the staff on the dead body, it would become a dynamic means of life-imparting grace.) However, Gehazi’s ministry was as wooden as the stick he carried. So, on arriving, Elisha ‘went in alone and shut the door behind him’, measured himself on the deceased child, ‘and prayed to the Lord’ intensely for life to be restored. By measuring himself precisely to the boy’s dead body Elisha communicated his own bodily warmth to the cold corpse, and exhaling his own breath into the lad’s lungs he mirrored the Creator’s ‘kiss of life’ into Adam’s inert form. His faith was being tested, so he walked across the room and back before repeating the treatment. This time the lad expelled his breath, and there was no need to hold a mirror to his mouth to see if it would moisten over, because the child put explosive energy into a series of seven sneezes (the man of God was counting)! After the final sneeze he opened his eyes, fully alive.
- Forbid possible bribery (2 Kings 5:1-19, noting verse 9)
The foreign commander, Naaman, came ‘and waited at the door of Elisha’s house’ with a signed letter from the king of Aram requesting the soldier’s healing from his leprosy. The prophet, knowing in his spirit that the great man was loaded with wealth to pay for a cure, ‘sent a messenger out to him’ with instructions to ‘go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River’ to be completely cured. Proud Naaman felt utterly offended that the man of God had not come out to lay his hands on him. However, his servants persuaded him there was nothing to lose – except his pride and the incurable disease. He arose from his seventh immersion with skin ‘as healthy as the skin of a young child’, thoroughly ‘healed’.
On returning to the home of the man of God, this time the prophet spoke with him face to face, but when the grateful commander offered him a gift of gratitude, Elisha refused to accept it because God’s miraculous intervention cannot be bought!
Naaman returned home with some soil of the Holy Land on which to kneel in worship of Yahweh. But he was pursued by Gehazi who, with a cunning lie, begged a substantial ‘gift’ of silver and fine clothes. His master, by divine revelation, not only saw what he did but read his greedy motives; and Gehazi had to go into lockdown with Naaman’s leprosy.
- Frustrate threatened savagery (2 Kings 6:24-33, noting verse 32)
‘Some time later … King Ben-hadad of Aram mustered his entire army and besieged Samaria. As a result, there was a great famine in the city’ that was so protracted that some citizens turned cannibal! When the king realised how desperate conditions had become beyond his palace he vowed to decapitate Elisha. While ‘sitting in his house with the elders of Israel’ God forewarned him that a messenger was on his way to arrest him, so he counselled the elders, ‘When he arrives, shut the door and keep him out.’
It’s often best to walk away from potential entrapment and keep our hearts – and our mouths – far from conflict.
- Forfeit any flattery (2 Kings 7:1-20, noting verses 17 and 21)
How awesome was Elisha’s detailed promise of a glut of basic foodstuffs for sale within 24 hours after a prolonged city siege that had left its market stalls charging the starving inhabitants exorbitant prices for inedible, non-kosher items (2 Kings 6:24-25; 7:1-2). The Lord caused the siege to be lifted abruptly that very night by generating a noise resembling the crunch of chariots and the clatter of galloping horses. And how wonderful that four lepers ‘sitting at the [locked] entrance of the city gates’ (7:3) should decide to beg food from the enemy camp and were the ones to find the invaders had fled leaving rations galore! How appropriate that the officer of the royal household who mocked Elisha right in his face for his prophetic promise of plenty – and was told he’d see the abundance but never partake of it – was trampled to death in the hungry crush, right where the leprous messengers used to sit and beg, ‘at the gate’ (7:17, 20)!
- Frustrate potential jealousy (2 Kings 9:1-13, noting verses 3 and 10)
When Elisha sent one of his ‘young’ representatives ‘to Ramoth-gilead’ to anoint Jehu as the next king of Israel, he instructed him to do so in secrecy: ‘Call him into a private room away from his friends’. ‘Then’ immediately he must ‘open the door and run for your life!’ (9:3). In the jubilation that resulted when he’d disclosed his secret to ‘the other army officers’– and the mayhem when they set off to ‘destroy every one of … the family of Ahab’ throughout Israel, that young prophet was. in danger of being trampled to death as Ahab’s officers had been.
P.S. We live in times of instant mass publicity, some of it unedited on smart phones. God’s people need, as never before, to hear prophetically from heaven and act appropriately for his glory, and the blessing of others.