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TEXT: II Kings 4:8-37

SUBJECT: Elisha #8: Giver of Life

STORY

There once was a prophet in Israel whose name was Elisha. The man's work kept him on the road quite a bit, and whenever he came to the small town of Shunem, he dropped in on his friends, an old man and his young wife. The couple so loved the man of God they added a room onto their house and for him and furnished it with care. There he could enjoy a good night's sleep and a little privacy.

He was thankful for their hospitality and wanted to repay them for it. One day, he called for the wife and asked her what he could do for her. She and her husband didn't need money, but maybe Elisha could put in a good word for them with the king? 'No thanks' she said, because they were content with what they had.

Elisha was not satisfied with the answer. Turning to his servant, Gehazi, he asked him what he could do for them. The servant had an idea-and it was a good one. Though the lady had said nothing about it, she must want a child-and her husband is old. She was called for again and given a promise-a promise that had been made to other women of faith-'About this time next year, you shall embrace a son'.

She doesn't like the promise because she takes it for a nasty joke. But, like it or not, the Joke comes true, and about twelve months later, she and her husband have their baby boy. The Word of God can be trusted-not because it is reasonable-but because it is His Word, and with God all things are possible!

For some years the family enjoys good health and happiness. But one day something happens. The father and his son are working in the field and the boy comes down with a splitting headache. A servant is called for who carries the child back to his mother. Where he dies on her lap.

The woman is as hard as nails. She carries the dead boy to Elisha's bed and leaves him there. She then tells her husband to lend her a servant, because she's going to see the prophet. He wonders why: It's not Sunday, why are you going to church? Never mind that, she's got business with God. The servant is gotten and off they go.

When she's still a good ways off, Gehazi spots her and tells his master. He, too, wonders what she wants. The servant is sent down to her to ask three questions, Is it well with you? Is it well with your husband? Is it well with the child? She replies, It is well.

Some have taken this to mean the dead child was in heaven. Maybe he was, but that's not what she's getting at. Her words mean, I haven't come all this way to talk to your houseboy! She's got business with God, and when you come to God, you come through the Mediator-and not some flunky like Gehazi or your pastor!

When she gets to Elisha, she falls at his feet, pouring out her anguish. The servant tries to push her away, but the prophet lets her be. With words that break your heart, she explains what has happened to her son.

Elisha cannot believe what she's telling him. Why would the Lord promise her a son only to take him away when he's still a young boy? Gehazi is sent to see if what she says is true. Maybe the boy has only fainted. Gehazi looks in on him and sees the woman is right: the promised son is dead.

The two men make their way back to the gloomy apartment, and this time, Elisha enters alone and locks the door behind him. At the boy's bedside he prays, and the Lord tells him what to do. He lies on top of the boy-mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand. The cold body starts to warm up. But the boy is far from well.

The prophet begins pacing the house-back and forth he goes. Is he worried or hopeful? Both, probably. Then he goes back to the boy and does the same thing a second time.

The child sneezes seven times and wakes up from the dead. His mother is called for and her boy is given back to her. She falls at the prophet's feet, this time, in joy and thankfulness, but Elisha's in no mood for congratulations.

Take your son and go.

THE MEANING

Today's story is about life. Or, to be more exact, it is about God the Giver of Life. In reading it, we're apt to miss some of the miracles. Of course, God raised the boy from the dead-that's what gets your attention. But years before He did that, He gave the boy life in the first place. And then He sustained it every day, and every second of every day. God is the Lord of Life. He is alive-and more than alive (as we are), The Father has life in Himself. He controls life and gives it to whomever He wants.

This means life is good. The Hindu version of heaven is called Nirvana, which promises a salvation from life. The Bible has another word for this 'heaven': the word is Hell. We are not saved from life, but to life and for life! Though many Christians have forgotten this, devout (and not so devout!) Jews have not. The toast offered at their tables is not Cheers or Salud, but C'haim-to life.

We need to remember that life is the Gift of God-and it's not a gag gift, but a good one. Think of this the next time you're tempted to sing,

Just a few more weary days and then,

I'll fly away.

Warren Zevon was a pop singer, and as far as I know, not a Christian man. When he was diagnosed with lung cancer a couple of years ago, he went on Late Night with David Letterman, to tell his fans and others to Enjoy every sandwich. He was right. This means (if you're getting up in years), don't fret about how much of your life is gone and how little of it remains. If sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, then the good of each day is sufficient as well.

I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives, and also that every man should eat and drink and enjoy the good of all his labor-it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13).

THE SOURCE OF LIFE

God is the Source and Giver all life. If you read the first chapter of Genesis, you find plants and fish, birds, creeping things and cattle all summoned to life by the Word of God. And not just made alive, but sustained in life, and commanded to fill the earth with life by reproducing after their own kind.

All this life is good-God says so. But not good in itself, so much, as good in its use. What's all this life for? Chiefly, it is to support and please another kind of life that God is about to create: human life. The Lord God forms Adam from the dust of the earth. This connects him (and us) to our animal cousins. But he's not just another animal (with less hair). After shaping his body, the Lord breathes the breath of life into him and the man becomes a living soul.

His life, therefore, was not in himself. It was given by God and dependant on God. Every breath we take is the Lord's gift and should be prized as the best thing we have, apart from God Himself.

But Adam did not prize that gift-not for long, he didn't. When given the choice between life and death, he chose death, because he chose his own way over obedience. This cost him his life. No, he didn't drop dead (as the serpent thought he would), but lived on for more than 900 years. But the life he lived had a whiff of the grave on it.

Man had lost his life.

And God was going to give it back to him. And more.

THE PROMISE MADE

The Promise was made in the Garden of Eden. If the serpent conquered the woman, the woman would have her revenge. Some day, way off in the future, another woman would have a Son, and this Son would take on the serpent. The serpent would hurt the Son, bruise his heel the prophecy said, but the Son would revive and crush the serpent's head. In defeating the serpent, He would also defeat death.

The war would be a long and twilight struggle, with casualties on both sides. When the serpent inspired Cain to murder his brother, the Promise gave Adam and Eve a son to replace him. When the Serpent turned the whole world against God, the Promise found Noah. When the world worshiped idols, the Promise called Abraham to quit his home and to find a better country. When ten men thought to kill their brother, the Promise foiled their plans and made him their savior. When a wicked king commanded babies be thrown into the Nile, the Promise redeemed His people from their captors. When the wilderness threatened to kill them with hunger and thirst-and snakes-the Promise sent manna, water from a rock, and a Brazen Serpent to keep them alive. When the invaders oppressed them, the Promise raised up Gideon, Deborah, Samson, and others to preserve life.

By the Promise, David won decisive victories over the enemies of life, and his son, Solomon, firmed up the victories with a wise, long, and powerful reign in Jerusalem.

THE PROMISE FALTERS

At the height of Solomon's glory, the Promise seems sure. But then something happens. Solomon trades in wisdom for politics, and the promise falters. When he dies, the nation is divided, with most of it turning to the Golden Calf.

Things go from bad to worse, climaxing in the rule of Ahab and Jezebel. By the time of today's story, they're long dead, but their influence is stronger than ever. Inside of 200 years, Israel will be so rotten that God will give them to the Assyrians, who will carry them off into exile, never to return.

This is where we are in today's story: Israel is going to pieces and will never be put back together. Yet even now-in the worst of times-God is alive and He's still giving life to the dead!

The Promise is flickering, but it will not go out. Because it is God's Promise. He will provide the oxygen to keep it burning. Dimly, most of the time, with a burst of light now and then.

Israel must believe the Promise and keep their hopes up because it must be fulfilled. Even if unworthy men are on the throne, idols are in the Temple and the Assyrians are at the border.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;

For with the Lord there is mercy,

And with Him is abundant redemption.

And He shall redeem Israel

From all his iniquities.

The raising of the little boy, therefore, was a promise to Israel. If the child of promise dies, God can raise the dead. That was a lesson Abraham learned many centuries before. And a lesson God will teach His people one more time.

CHRIST

If God can give life to a dead boy, He can give life to a nation-a nation that can only be compared to a valley of dry bones: picked clean by the birds, bleached by the sun, and scattered by the wind and wild dogs.

And, if He can give life to a promised son, He can also give life to the Promised Son. This is just what He did. About nine hundred years after our lady received her son back from the dead, an angel came to another lady with a staggering promise,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also the Holy One that will be born to you will become the Son of God.

Life would be formed in the young lady's womb-without a man. And the Life she brought into the world would be the Life of the World.

But this Life would be cut off-the virgin's Son would die way too early! For a time, He would remain under the power of death. How long the boy was dead, we don't know-several hours at least. But the young Man was dead for three day and three nights. Then, like the boy long before, God raised Him from the dead.

But, unlike the boy, the Man was not raised to the life He had before, but to a higher life, eternal life, it was the Life of Heaven to which He was raised.

In this Resurrection, the Promise made way back in the Garden of Eden was fulfilled. Not hinted at, as other resurrections did, but completed. In this Promised Son, once dead and now alive, all the promises of God are kept!

Chief among these promises are the forgiveness of your sins, reconciliation with God, eternal life, and a joy unspeakable and full of glory.

All yours because Christ is yours! He was delivered for our transgressions-Paul says-and raised again for our justification. Note the word, 'our'-not 'their' trangressions, but 'ours'. Not somebody else's justification, but 'ours'! Isaiah strikes the same personal note,

Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.

Not to 'them' is He born; not for 'them' is He given, but to us and for us. That's what His very name means, God with us-not with someone else, but with us!

God is the Source and Giver of Life. He gives eternal life through the Promised Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is life you can have if you want it. You have it by faith in Christ-not by saying you believe in Him, but by believing in Him, and whatever else 'believing in Him' includes, it mostly means 'trusting Him'.

Jesus Christ came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly. So why don't you take it? Not once, but every day? This day God sets life and death before you. But He doesn't leave it there, with your choice, as though He doesn't care which side you come down on. He does care; He cares more than your best friend or the most fervent soul-winner. Offering life and death, He tells you to,

Choose life.

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