Tuesday, July 25, 2017
2 John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things (miraculous works, deeds) the Messiah (Christ) was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, 3 “Are You the Messiah we have been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” 4 Jesus told them (John’s disciples), “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen — 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured (cleansed), the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News (Gospel) is being preached to the poor. 6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me.’” 7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began talking about him (John the Baptist) to the crowds. “What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 8 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people with expensive clothes live in palaces. 9 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he (John) is more than a prophet. 10 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say, ‘Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, and he will prepare Your way before You.’ 11 I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. . . . 13 For before John came, all the Prophets and the Law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he (John the Baptist) is Elijah, the one the Prophets said would come. 15 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand! 16 To what can I compare this generation? It is like children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 17 ‘We played wedding songs, and you did not dance, so we played funeral songs (dirges), and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John did not spend his time eating and drinking (with others), and you say, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man (Jesus), on the other hand, feasts and drinks, and you say, ‘He is a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners!’ But wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” 20 Then Jesus began to denounce (censure) the towns where He had done so many of His miracles (mighty works), because they had not repented (change their hearts) of their sins and turned to God. 21 “What sorrow awaits you, Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon, their people would have repented of their sins long ago, clothing themselves in burlap and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse. 22 I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will be better off on judgment day than you. 23 And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. 24 I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment day than you.” Matthew 11:2-11, 13-24 (NLT)
The New Testament Gospel writers reveal many links between the Old Testament prophet of Elijah and John the Baptist and our Lord Jesus Christ. However, Jesus is more superior to Elijah and John the Baptist. The living God, who is Father of Jesus and Creator of the heavens and earth, has entrusted everything to His Son, Jesus Christ (see Matthew 11:25-27; Matthew 17:5; Luke 10:21; Acts 17:24; Ephesians 3:9). Blessed are those who believe and accept Jesus as the Son of the living God (see Matthew 11:6; John 20:31).
In Matthew 11, Jesus the Messiah identified John the Baptist as the long awaited Elijah (see Matthew 11:14). John the Baptist was not the literal reincarnation of Elijah. Nonetheless, John the Baptist did fulfill the prophetic function and role of Elijah by coming in the spirit and power of Elijah (see Luke 1:16-17). Elijah never died, but rather chariots and horses of fire took Elijah into heaven in a whirlwind (see 2 Kings 2:11). Because Elijah ascended to heaven without dying, faithful Jews believe Elijah would return again to rescue them from troubles on Day of the Lord (see Malachi 4:5-6). At the Jewish annual Passover feast, each Jewish family set an extra place for Elijah in expectation of his return. Enoch was another person taken into heaven without dying (see Genesis 5:21-24). The only other person taken into heaven in bodily form was Jesus after His resurrection from complete death (see Acts 1:9). One day, faithful believers of Jesus Christ will also rapture and taken into heaven at the time of Jesus’ second coming (see 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18).
John in a moment of weakness, while imprisoned, doubted Jesus’ mission as the Messiah (Christ) (Matthew 11:2; see also Luke 7:18). Sadly, Herod had John arrested and imprisoned because he criticized his adulterous marriage Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (see Matthew 4:12; Matthew 14:3-5; Luke 3:19-20). John had heard about all the miracles and mighty works of Jesus (see Matthew 11:2). So, John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the One who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3, ESV; see also Luke 7:18-20). The Jews had long been awaiting the arrival of the Messiah from God as predicted by the Old Testament (e.g., see Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; John 4:25; John 6:14; John 11:27).
Then, Jesus answered and told John’s disciples,
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have Good News preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me” (Matthew 11:4-6, ESV).
Jesus performed many miraculous works and healing during His public ministry as predicted by the Old Testament prophets (e.g., see, Isaiah 29:18-19; Isaiah 35:5-6; Isaiah 61:1-2; Matthew 15:31; Luke 4:18-19; Luke 7:22-23). Interestingly, the Old Testament prophets of Elijah and Elisha also performed the same supernatural and amazing miraculous deeds listed by Jesus in the Gospels (e.g., see Matthew 11:4-6; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56). Elijah and Elisha were the great prophets of the Old Testament that ministered to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The Old Testament reveals Elijah and Elisha restored the dead to life (see 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:8-37); brought food and Good News to the poor (see 1 Kings 17:7-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7, 42-44); healed people suffering from leprosy (see 2 Kings 5:1-14); and gave sight to the blind (see 2 Kings 6:18-20). Like Jesus, both Elijah and Elisha had God’s power to control the forces of nature and control the raging waters (e.g., see 2 Kings 2:7, 13-14; 2 Kings 2:19-22; Luke 8:22-25). Interestingly, Jesus acknowledged the miraculous works of Elijah and Elisha and linked His ministry to the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha (see Luke 4:24-27).
After John the Baptist’s disciples had gone away, Jesus began talking about John to the listening crowds. Jesus said concerning John:
“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’” Matthew 11:7-10 (ESV)
John the Baptist was a prophet, and the Jewish people held John in high regard as a prophet sent from God (e.g., see Matthew 14:5; Matthew 21:25-26; Luke 1:76; Luke 20:6). Many people repented of their sins and were baptized by John (e.g., see Matthew 3:5-6). However, Jesus declared that John the Baptist was a more than just a prophet (see Matthew 11:9; Luke 7:26-27). John the Baptist was the messenger predicted in the Old Testament prophets that would precede the Messiah’s arrival and announce the Messiah’s coming to prepare the people’s hearts to return to God (see Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27-28, John 3:28; cf. Malachi 3:1). Moreover, Jesus declared that of all humans ever born, none shines more brightly than John the Baptist (see Matthew 11:11). Most important, Jesus explicitly proclaimed that John the Baptist is Elijah (Matthew 11:14-15; see also Matthew 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; cf. Malachi 4:5-6). John the Baptist came “in the spirit and power of Elijah” as the forerunner announcing Jesus the Messiah’s arrival (Luke 1:16-17, 76; cf. Malachi 3:1).
Oddly, John the Baptist declared to the Jewish religious leaders that he was not the long awaited Elijah or the Messiah (Christ) (see John 1:21, 25). Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who ever lived, and his story is recorded in 1 Kings 17 — 2 Kings 2). The New Testament mentions the prophet Elijah at least thirty times, and ten of those references relate Elijah to John the Baptist. The Old Testament prophet Malachi predicted that Elijah would return to earth before the time of God’s great judgment when the Messiah arrives (see Malachi 4:5-6). In the religious leaders’ minds, there were four options regarding John the Baptist’s identity: John was (1) the prophet predicted by Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19), (2) Elijah (see Malachi 4:5-6), (3) the long awaited Messiah (see Luke 3:15), or (4) a false prophet. Instead John the Baptist called himself, in the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, “A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (see John 1:23, quoting Isaiah 40:3). John emphasized only why he had come — to prepare the way for the Messiah. The New Testament Gospels confirmed that John the Baptist prepared the people’s hearts for Jesus the Messiah by urging everyone to repent of their sins and turn to God (see Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:2-17; John 1:6-8, 19-34).
Interestingly, the prophet Malachi predicted the coming of Elijah “before the coming of the great and dreadful Day of the Lord” (see Malachi 4:5-6). This “Day of the Lord” is the time of Tribulation that will come on all the earth (see Matthew 24:15). However, no such judgments followed the ministry of John the Baptist because John’s ministry was to prepare the nation for Jesus the Messiah and to present Jesus to the nation (see John 1:29-34). Many Bible scholars believe that the prophecy of Malachi 4:5-6 will be fulfilled literally when Elijah comes with Moses as one of the “two witnesses” spoken of in Revelation (see Revelation 11:3-12). Both Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus at His Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-7; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36).
John the Baptist and Elijah shared many similarities. Like Elijah, John the Baptist was a courageous man, a man of prayer empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, a man who lived alone in the wilderness, and a servant who turned many people back to the Lord. The Gospels particularly demonstrate John the Baptist’s relationship to Elijah as to their distinctive dress. Both Elijah and John the Baptist wore clothes made of camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around their waists (see 2 Kings 1:7-8; Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6). Furthermore, both Elijah and John the Baptist’s main enemies were women in the royal court who sought their lives. For Elijah, the evil woman was Jezebel (see 1 Kings 19:2, 10, 14), and for John the Baptist the wicked woman was Herodias (see Matthew 14:3-12). Moreover, both Elijah and John the Baptists had days of discouragement and isolation (see 1 Kings 19:3-5; Matthew 11:2). Also, both Elijah and John the Baptist anointed their successors at the Jordan River, and both witnessed the heavens opening and flying objects descending from heaven above (see 2 Kings 2:7-8, 11-12; Luke 3:21-22). Elijah and Elisha saw an approaching chariot of fire (see 2 Kings 2:11-12), and John the Baptist and Jesus saw a descending dove (see Matthew 3:16). Like the prophet Elijah, John the Baptist boldly confronted sin and evil leaders that dishonored God (e.g. see 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1-2, 16-39; 1 Kings 21:17-24; 2 Kings 1:1-3; 15-17; Luke 3:8). Most importantly, both Elijah and John the Baptist encouraged Israel to repent by turning away from sin and turning back to the living God (see 1 Kings 18:30-39; Matthew 3:2, 8; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:3, 8).
Furthermore, both John the Baptist and Elijah chose to work alone and live in isolation during their ministries (e.g. see 1 Kings 18:22; 1 Kings 19:14; Matthew 3:1; Matthew 11:18). John the Baptist was like Elijah as a voice of the wilderness (see 1 Kings 17:2-6; Mark 1:4). Jesus noted that John the Baptist’s prophetic message was like a funeral song because John the Baptist did not come drinking and socializing but fasting and isolation (Matthew 11:16-19; see also Matthew 3:4; Matthew 9:14; Luke 1:15). John the Baptist and Elijah preferred the bleak hills without a support group. Both John the Baptist and Elijah were able to condemn Israel’s policy because he is outside the earthly system. In fact, both John the Baptist and Elijah abruptly appears to Israel proclaiming the living God (see 1 Kings 17:1; Matthew 3:1; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:2-3).
In contrast, Elisha and Jesus did not work alone or in isolation during their prospective ministries. Elisha and Jesus were involved with other people eating and drinking. Jesus came as an insider, and He was often called a glutton and friend of sinners (Matthew 11:16-19; e.g., see also Matthew 9:10; Luke 7:36; Luke 15:1-2; John 2:1-2). In fact, Jesus compared His message as a wedding with feasting and drinks (see Matthew 9:9-17). Also, Elisha was often accompanied by a company of prophets (e.g., see 2 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:1-7).). Similarly, many faithful disciples, women, and followers accompanied Jesus during His public ministry on earth (e.g., Luke 5:8-11, 27-28, 33; Luke 6:17; Luke 7:11; Luke 8:1-4). All social classes had access to Jesus and Elisha, from the lowly widow to foreign kings.
Most importantly, Jesus proclaimed that the people rejected John the Baptist just as the people rejected Him (see Matthew 11:16-19). At Matthew 11:20-24, Jesus began rebuking and scolding the various cities where He completed most of His miraculous works and deeds. The people of Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum saw Jesus’ miraculous deeds firsthand (see Matthew 11:21, 23). The various miracles Jesus performed confirmed Him as the long awaited Messiah sent from God. However, the people stubbornly refused to repent of their sins and believe in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ (see Matthew 11:5-6, 20).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
Amplified Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Dr. George Schwab, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2017).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).
Monday, July 17, 2017
14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about Him spread quickly through the whole region. 15 He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised (honored) by everyone. 16 When He came to the village of Nazareth, His boyhood home, He went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, for He has anointed Me to bring Good News (Gospel) to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed (broken, downtrodden) will be set free, 19 and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.” 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at Him intently.21 Then He began to speak to them. “The Scripture you have just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
22 Everyone spoke well of Him (Jesus) and was amazed by the gracious words that came from His lips. “How can this be?” they asked. “Isn’t this Joseph’s Son?” 23 Then He said, “You will undoubtedly quote Me this proverb: ‘Physician, heal yourself’—meaning, ‘Do miracles here in Your hometown like those you did in Capernaum.’ 24 But I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in His own hometown. 25 Certainly there were many needy widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were closed for three and a half years, and a severe famine devastated the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them. He was sent instead to a foreigner—a widow of Zarephath in the land of Sidon. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” 28 When they heard this, the people in the synagogue were furious (outraged). 29 Jumping up, they mobbed Him (Jesus) and forced Him to the edge of the hill on which the town was built. They intended to push Him over the cliff, 30 but He passed right through the crowd and went on His way. Luke 4:14-30 (NLT)
The prophets Elijah and Elisha are among the greatest prophets of the Holy Scriptures. Elijah and Elisha’s ministries form the great middle section of the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings (see 1 Kings 16:23 – 2 Kings 13:21).
Elijah and Elisha were Old Testament prophets that ministered to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The living God raised up the prophets Elijah and Elisha to combat the unfaithfulness and idolatry of Israel during the 9th century BC. The living God had called His people Israel to exclusive allegiance and worship to Him (see Exodus 20:1-3, 23; Exodus 34:14) and to tell the world about Him as the only true God (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). Sadly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel started mixing devotion to the living God with made-up gods and other foreign religions. Starting with evil reigns of King Jeroboam and his successor kings such as Omri and Ahab, Israel’s faithfulness to the living God was threaten with the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, creation of high places, and the worship of foreign gods such as Baal and Asherah (see 1 Kings 1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 16:25-26, 31-33).
The New Testament notes many parallels between the life of Jesus and that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Not the least of these is the account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven by the glory cloud as the prophet Elijah was received into God’s glory cloud (see 2 Kings 2:11-12; Acts 1:9-11). The New Testament often proclaimed Jesus as the new Elijah and the new Elisha. The Gospel writers, especially the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, seem to draw on the Elijah and Elisha narratives when telling the Gospel of Jesus. Jesus duplicated many of the same miracles of Elijah and Elisha such as raising the dead, feeding the poor, and healing the sick (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:17-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7; 2 Kings 4:8-37; 2 Kings 4:38-41; 2 Kings 4:42-44; 2 Kings 5:1-14; Matthew 4:23-25; Luke 4:18-21; Luke 5:17-26; Luke 9:10-17; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 8:40-42, 49-56).
Interestingly, throughout Jesus’ public ministry the crowds believed that Jesus was a mighty prophet like Elijah and Elisha. Ruling authorities, kings, and even common people believed Jesus was like an ancient prophet, such as Elijah (e.g., see Luke 7:16, 39; Luke 9:7-9, 19). In fact, some people considered Jesus to be Elijah (see Matthew 16:14; Mark 6:15). Jesus performed many of the same miraculous works of Elijah and Elisha that the Jews recognized Jesus as the great Prophet the Jews had been waiting to arrive (e.g., see Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Matthew 16:14; Mark 6:15; Luke 4:24; Luke 7:16, 39; Luke 9:7-9, 19; Acts 2;22). In Luke 4:23-30, Jesus explicitly sees Himself as the new Elijah and Elisha at the start of His public ministry.
In the New Testament, Jesus is described by many titles, including Messiah, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, Savior, and Lord (e.g., see Matthew 1;1, 16-17, 21-22; Mark 1:1; Luke 2:10-11; John 20:31). Jesus is also the Great Prophet predicted by Moses (see Deuteronomy 18:14-22). As a Prophet, Jesus preached God’s word and performed miracles like those of the great Old Testament prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha (e.g., see Luke 7:16-17). The disciples on the Emmaus road identified Jesus as “a Prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty Teacher” (see Luke 24:19). Like other prophets of the Old Testament, Jesus suffered for His faithfulness to God and His testimony (e.g., see 1 Kings 19:3-18; Jeremiah 11:18-19; Jeremiah 18:18; Jeremiah 20:1-2, 7-18; Jeremiah 26:7-11, 20-23; Jeremiah 38:1-6).
After Jesus’ testing and temptation by Evil in the Judean wilderness, Jesus returned to Galilee, full of the Holy Spirit’s power (see Luke 4:14, 18). With the coming of Jesus, Jesus brought God’s abundant Spirit upon His life (see Luke 4:1; John 1:14; John 3:34; Acts 10:38; Romans 1:4-5). In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God most often appeared as the power that endowed and enabled God’s prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha. Many passages associate the gift of prophecy with the possession of the Holy Spirit (e.g., see Numbers 11:25-26; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Kings 2:15; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 7:12; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:17-18). The Holy Spirit often “clothed” God’s prophets (e.g., see Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18-19; 2 Chronicles 24:20). Today, God has graciously poured out His Holy Spirit to all faithful believers of His Son Jesus (e.g., see Acts 2:38-39; Acts 11:15-18; Romans 8:9-11; Romans 10:14-17; Galatians 3:2, 5, 14; Ephesians 1:13-14). In the church today, God’s Spirit is not given to just a few, but to all through faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah (e.g., see Luke 24:49; John 14:16-17; Acts 1:1-5; Timothy 1:7; 1 Peter 1:4-5; 1 John 4:13-15).
God through His Holy Spirit empowered His Son Jesus to preach the Gospel (Good News), to announce freedom to the captive, to heal the sick and demon possessed, and to proclaim God’s grace to all people as predicted by the Old Testament (e.g., see Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 42;1; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:17-21; John 5:39. After His resurrection, Jesus declared the words of Moses, the Prophets, and even the Psalms of Israel point to Him because Jesus is the living Word of God (e.g., see John 1:1-5; Luke 24:44-49). During, Jesus’ public ministry, Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament by feeding the poor, freeing the prisoners and the oppressed, raising the dead, the giving sight to the blind, and healing the sick (see also Matthew 11:4-5; Luke 7:20-23). Soon, Jesus’ popularity spread throughout the region, and everyone praised and applauded Jesus’ authoritative and Spirit-filled teaching, preaching, and healing (Luke 4:15-16, 22, 32, 44; see also Mark 1:21-22). Similar to Elijah and Elisha who focused their ministries in Northern Israel (see 2 Kings 2:1-8), Jesus traveled all throughout Galilee, the northern portion of Israel, teaching in the Jewish synagogues, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom of God, and healing every kind of sickness and disease (e.g., see Matthew 4:23; Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:18-21). The news spread widely about Jesus as the miracle worker from Nazareth. Reports of Jesus’ powers and miracles spread far beyond the borders of Galilee so that sick and demon-possessed people were soon coming for healing as far away as Syria (e.g., see Matthew 4:24-25; Matthew 8:16-17; Matthew 15:30-31; Mark 3:7-10; Luke 4:37; Acts 10:38). Jesus all healed them all (e.g., see Matthew 4:25; Luke 4:40).
When Jesus arrived in Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown family, friends, and neighbors were anxious to see one of Jesus’ supernatural powers. The people of Nazareth had heard of Jesus’ miraculous works and authoritative teaching throughout the region and the hometown people of Nazareth also admired Him and wanted to see Jesus’ miracles and hear His wisdom teaching (Luke 4:22-23; see also Matthew 13:54; Mark 6:2). Nevertheless, some people in His hometown of Nazareth challenged Jesus and said, “Is not this Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22, ESV; see also Matthew 13:55-57; Mark 6:3). Importantly in Luke 4:23-27, Jesus compared His rejection in Nazareth to the rejection of God’s Old Testament prophets, Elijah and Elisha. In fact, Jesus explicitly compared His ministry to Elijah and Elisha and told the listening crowd,
25 “But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land. 26 And Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” Luke 4:25-27 (ESV)
Jesus proclaimed to His hometown of Nazareth that God sent the prophet Elijah to use his miraculous works to help the widow of Zarephath—a foreigner from the land of Sidon (see Luke 4:25). Jesus noted that there were many Jewish widows needing help in those days of famine in Israel, for there had been no rain for three and a half years, and hunger stalked the land (Luke 4:26; see also 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:1; James 5:17-18; Revelation 11:6). However, God bypassed all the Jewish widows and helped a Gentile widow living in Sidon through His prophet Elijah (see 1 Kings 17:8-16). Then, Elijah’s successor Elisha healed Naaman, a foreigner from Syria, rather than the many Jewish lepers living in Israel (see Luke 4:17, cf. 2 Kings 5:1-24). Jesus implied that His hometown Jews were as unbelieving and unfaithful towards the living God as the people of the rebellious Jews of Northern Kingdom of Israel during the days of Elijah and Elisha, a time great wickedness and idolatry in Israel. The cynical unbelief at Nazareth contrasted sharply with the simple trust and obedience toward the living God of the Zarephath's widow and Naaman. A climate of belief and trust in the living God leads to a display of God’s supernatural powers.
Jesus’ remarks about the Zarephath widow and Naaman the Syrian infuriated His hometown people of Nazareth (see Luke 4:28). Our Lord’s message of grace to all people by faith was a blow to the proud Jewish exclusivism. The Jews believed they were the only elect and chosen people of God. However, Jesus revealed that God’s everlasting love, grace, goodness, salvation, and care are available to all people by faith in Him, whether Jew, Gentile, man, woman, rich, or poor. The people of Nazareth became anger with Jesus, and an angry crowd led Jesus to the edge of the hill to push Him over the cliff (see Luke 4:29). However, God protected His Son Jesus, and Jesus walked away through the anger and riotous crowd’s grasp without harm (see Luke 4:30).
Disciple's Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988).
Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
NLT Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008).
The Living Bible Paraphrase (Tyndale House, 1971).
Dr. George Schwab, Ph.D., Professor of Old Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2017).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).
Monday, July 10, 2017
30 Then Elijah called to the people, “Come over here!” They all crowded around him as he repaired the (old) altar of the LORD that had been torn down. 31 He took twelve stones, one to represent each of the tribes of Israel (Jacob), 32 and he used the stones to rebuild the altar in the Name of the LORD. Then he dug a trench around the altar large enough to hold about three gallons. 33 He piled wood on the altar, cut the bull into pieces, and laid the pieces on the wood. Then he said, “Fill four large jars with water, and pour the water over the offering and the wood.” 34 After they had done this, he said, “Do the same thing again!” And when they were finished, he said, “Now do it a third time!” So they did as he said, 35 and the water ran around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the usual time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel), prove today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant. Prove that I have done all this at Your command. 37 O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that You, O LORD, are God and that You have brought them back to Yourself.” 38 Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench! 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD—He is God! Yes, the LORD is God!” 1 Kings 18:30-39 (NLT)
The Elijah and Elisha narratives found in the great middle section of the Old Testament books of 1 and 2 Kings reveal the living God’s miraculous power and presence in His world. The Holy Bible does not use a single word to define miracle but blends three terms: wonders, mighty works, and signs. Miracles include striking events such as childbirth, food provisions, bodily healings, future predictions, and resurrection (e.g. see 1 Kings 17:1, 17-24; 2 Kings 4:1-7; 2 Kings 5:1-15; Jeremiah 25:11-12; Matthew 1:18-25; John 11:38-44).
In the Holy Bible, God’s miracles are nearly all clustered during Israel’s great Exodus from Egyptian slavery, the ministries of Elijah and Elisha, and the ministries of Jesus the Messiah (Christ) and His faithful apostles (e.g., see Exodus 13:17-14:31; Deuteronomy 34:10-12; 1 Kings 18:16-39; 2 Kings 4:42-44; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 23:8). However, God’s miracles are revealed throughout the Old and New Testament (e.g., Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34-35; Daniel 6:25-27; John 4:48; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 19:11-12; Rom. 15:17-19; Hebrews 2:4). Signs, wonders, and miracles confirmed God’s true prophets and servants (e.g. see Exodus 4:1-9; 1 Kings 17:24; John 10:38; John 14:11-14; Acts 14:3; 2 Corinthians 12:11-13; Hebrews 2:3-4). Miracles are a gift of the Holy Spirit (see 1 Corinthians 12:10-11, 28-29).
In fact, miracles are at the heart of the Christian faith. The Holy Scriptures’ greatest miracles were Jesus’ incarnation as God in human flesh and resurrection from complete death (e.g., see John 1:1-5, 14; Luke 24:1-12). Without Jesus’ miraculous birth and miraculous resurrection, there would be no Christmas, no Easter, and no Christian faith. The Holy Scriptures reveal that Jesus the Messiah was accredited by God with miracles, wonders, and signs (e.g., see John 2:1-11; John 4:48; Acts 2:22). God did miracles through Jesus to authenticate Jesus as the Christ and His Son (see John 20:30-31; John 21:25). After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, Jesus’ faithful apostles and disciples continued His miraculous ministry as God’s power – the Holy Spirit – worked mightily through Jesus’ faithful followers (e.g., see Acts 5:12-16; Acts 6:8; Acts 7:35-36; Acts 14:3; Acts 15:12; Romans 15:17-19). Truly, the living God is all powerful!
Usually, miracles reveal God’s power and activity (Acts 2:19; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; Acts 8:9-13; 14:3; 15:12). Sometimes miracles and wonders are the work of Satan and his evil representatives and false prophets (e.g. see Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Deuteronomy 18:9-13; Matthew 24:24-25; Mark 13:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10; Revelation 13:11-14; Revelation 16:14; Revelation 19:19-20). These evildoers and false workers produce bad fruit and seek to draw people’s hearts and minds away from wholehearted allegiance and faithfulness to the only true and living God (see Deuteronomy 13:1-5; Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 8:9-13; 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12).
Miracles by the living God’s power are always redemptive and eschatological. Divine miracles and wonders always point and draw people to belief, faithfulness and love of the living God (e.g. see Exodus 4:1-5; Exodus 10:1-2; Psalm 65:8; Psalm 72:18-19; John 4:43-54). Miracles from God always lead to His glory. Even more, miracles point toward the future restoration and renewal of the heavens and earth at Jesus’ second coming. Miracles anticipate the renewal of the heavens and earth and paradise restored. In paradise restored, there will be no more want, hunger, pain, or fear. Keep in mind that miracles in the Holy Bible restore to pristine condition and rectify wrongs in our world. An example of miracles restoring a wrong condition is found at 2 King 2:19-22 where the prophet Elisha brings restoration to bad water and unproductive land. In Elisha’s healing of the waters and restoring the land, we have a foretaste of restoration of paradise and the removal of the curse of which creation was subjected through Adam and Eve’s original sin (see Genesis 3:1-24). Miracles not only bring restoration and redemption for people but also to creation itself. Adam and Eve’s original sin subjected creation to decay and frustration. Creation longs for its redemption (see Romans 8:20-22).
Amazingly, the Elijah and Elisha narratives from the Old Testament overflow with miracles of God. The Elijah and Elisha narratives are found in the great middle section of the book of Kings from 1 Kings 17:1 through 2 Kings 13:25. The miracles of Elijah and Elisha do not make them carnival magicians. Instead, the miracles testified to Elijah and Elisha’s divine message from the living God. The preceding book of Deuteronomy promised prophets after Moses that would also perform great miracles, signs, and wonders and their words would always come true (see Deuteronomy 18:14-22). Through His faithful prophets, God revealed His providential hand and lordship into His world (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:24; 2 Kings 4:42-44).
Elijah and Elisha were Old Testament prophets that ministered to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The living God raised up the prophets Elijah and Elisha to combat the unfaithfulness and idolatry of Israel. The living God had called His people Israel to exclusive allegiance and worship to Him (see Exodus 20:1-3, 23; Exodus 34:14) and to tell the world about Him as the only true God (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). From the moment that God chose Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, Abraham and his descendants were to bring God’s blessings to “all peoples” (e.g., see Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:18; Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8). God intended Israel to be His witnesses to the nations (see Deuteronomy 4:5-8). God chose Israel as a “kingdom of priests” and a “treasured possession” to reflect His goodness and righteous standards to the world (see Exodus 19:5-6).
Sadly, the Northern Kingdom of Israel started mixing devotion to the living God with made-up gods and other foreign religions. Starting with evil reigns of King Jeroboam and his successor kings such as Omri and Ahab, Israel’s faithfulness to the living God was threaten with the worship of the golden calves at Dan and Bethel, creation of high places, and the worship of foreign gods such as Baal and Asherah (see 1 Kings 1 Kings 12:25-33; 1 Kings 16:25-26, 31-33).
During the ninety-century BC, Omri and Ahab claimed the foreign god Baal had dominion over the rains, waters, and fertility. The ancient Israelites begin worshipping Baal believing Baal ensured fertility of the land and the production of crops. In ancient Canaanite mythology, Baal was depicted as the “rider of the clouds” holding a thunderbolt in his right hand living on a mountain in the north, a Mount Zaphon. The Canaanites believed Baal rode the clouds as the “rider of the clouds,” and they considered Baal a warlike weather god. The billowing dark clouds of a storm were viewed as Baal’s battle chariot in which Baal rode, thundering forth his voice and carrying lighting as his spear.
However, the miracles of God’s prophets Elijah and Elisha revealed that the true and living God was the true “Rider of the Clouds.” The Elijah and Elisha narratives proclaimed the true and living Lord God of Israel (also known as Yahweh, El Shaddai, and Elohim) ruled the rains, fertility, and fire and that Baal was only a false delusion and dead (e.g., see 1 Kings 17:1; 1 Kings 18:25-29; 2 Kings 1:2-17; 2 Kings 2:11-12). The contest of the living God verses Baal at Mount Carmel demonstrated Baal had no command over storm, rain, fire, or fertility as those powers belong to Yahweh (see 1 Kings 18:16-39, 41-46)!
The Old Testament repeatedly declared that the title “Rider of the Clouds” rightly belongs to the Lord God (see Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:4; Isaiah 19:1). The Lord God of Israel rides the heavens in His storm chariot as the Head of the heavenly armies (see Psalm 68:17; Psalm 104:3; Ezekiel 1:4-9; Joel 2:5; Habakkuk 3:8; Zechariah 6:1-2; 1 Chronicles 28:18). The living God’s chariot is in the clouds and whirlwind (see Isaiah 66:15; Jeremiah 4:13), and He controls storm, the fire, and the clouds (see Deuteronomy 33:26; Psalm 68:4; Psalm 104:3; Isaiah 19:1; Jeremiah 4:13; Ezekiel 1). The glory cloud, that pillar of fire and smoke that attested to the presence of the living God, preceded Israel into battle and during their wilderness wander (e.g., see Exodus 13:21-22; Joshua 10). God and the armies of heaven fought on Israel’s behalf from within the cloud at the Red Sea (e.g., see Exodus 15:4, 19). The Holy Bible proclaim to have God’s prophets means to have the presence and power of the living God’s heavenly armies (e.g., see 2 Kings 3:14-19; 2 Kings 6:8-12, 17).
Even more, Elijah and Elisha’s miracles pointed to Jesus’ coming miracles found in the Gospels. For instance, the multiplication of loaves and fishes by Jesus reflected the miracles of Elijah multiplying the widow’s bread and oil (see 1 Kings 17:7-16) and Elisha multiplying the oil supply for the widow and her two sons (2 Kings 4:1-7; see also Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:5-13). Jesus was the prophet like Elijah and Elisha, but even greater because Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God (see Mark 1:1; John 20:-3031). With His Son Jesus as well as for His faithful prophets, God multiplies what His prophets were already given to supply the need of others for His glory. Even more, the true and living God stands ready to multiply and help everyone in need who faithful love and seek Him first (see Matthew 6:33; Matthew 7:7-11).
The New Testament notes many parallels between the life of Jesus and that of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Not the least of these is the account of Jesus’ ascension into heaven by the glory cloud as the prophet Elijah was received into God’s glory cloud (see 2 Kings 2:11-12; Acts 1:9-11). When the prophet Elisha saw the whirlwind, the fire, and horses, the symbolism was unmistakable (see 2 Kings 2:11-12). The warrior God, the captain of the armies of heaven, had come to retrieve His servant and catch Elijah up into His war chariot. The living God’s angels reminded Jesus’ disciples of what Jesus had already taught them, that “this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen Him go into heaven” (see Acts 1:11). Jesus will come again as the Son of Man “coming in the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory” (e.g., see Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64; Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Luke 21:27).
When Jesus returns in the glory clouds, He will come as the Divine Warrior in His storm chariot as the Head of the armies of heaven. The clouds will be dark, laden with flashes of fire and a ripping wind as the resurrected Jesus will return to judge the earth and to establish His kingdom (see Revelation 1:7). The resurrected Jesus is not only the great Prophet and Son of God but He is also the Captain of the Lord’s armies (see Revelation 19:11-16). God and His Son Jesus stands ready to fight any battles of His faithful servants as He goes before His faithful servants, God’s children, in any battle. Jesus has already defeated Satan, death, and the grave (see 1 Corinthians 15:56-58).
In the Old Testament, the Spirit of God most often appears as the Spirit that empowers and enables prophecy. Many passages associate the gift of prophecy with the possession of the Holy Spirit (e.g., see Numbers 11:25-26; 1 Samuel 10:6, 10; 1 Kings 22:22-23; 2 Kings 2:15; Joel 2:28; Zechariah 7:12; Luke 1:67; Acts 2:17-18). The Holy Spirit often “clothed” God’s prophets (e.g., see Judges 6:34; 1 Chronicles 12:18-19; 2 Chronicles 24:20). With the coming of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus brought God’s abundant Spirit (see John 1:14, 18), and He has graciously poured out the Holy Spirit to all faithful believers. The true and living God and His Son Jesus freely and graciously gives salvation and the power of God’s transforming Spirit to anyone through faith and acceptance of Jesus and the Gospel message (Galatians 3:2, 5, 14; see also Acts 2:38-39; Acts 11:15-18; Romans 8:9-11; Romans 10:14-17; Ephesians 1:13-14). In the church today, God’s Spirit is not given to just a few, but to all through faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah (e.g., see 1 John 4:13-15). All believers of Jesus have been given God’s prophetic function to tell the world about the living God and His Son, Jesus (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). God has graciously given believers not a spirit of timidity but a Spirit of power (see 2 Timothy 1:7). Faithful believers of God are shielded by His power (see 1 Peter 1:4-5).
Is there idolatry today? A great part of the Old Testament is concerned with idolatry. Idolatry means worshipping any object, person, and thing other than the true and living God. During the Old Testament, the ancient Israelites had a hard time seeing that worshipping a few statutes or carved images interfered with their relationship with the one true God. Sadly, the ancient Israelites worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (also known as Israel), but they mixed their worship of the true God with other gods from foreign countries as well as golden calves and high places. The ancient Israelites ignored God repeated warnings through His prophets that God hated this “mixed” religion. The first commandment demands our exclusive allegiance and loyalty to God (see Exodus 20:3) and to His Son, Jesus the Messiah (see Luke 9:57-62). The living God and His Son Jesus are One (see Deuteronomy 6:4; John 10:30; John 14:9; John 17:11, 22). Jesus is God (see e.g., John 1:1-5, 14; John 14:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6). The living God is a jealous God, and He will not share His worship with any other humans nor other gods (e.g., see Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24). The living God is a consuming fire, and He demands our wholehearted allegiance to Him first (see Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:28-29). To a generation looking for signs and wonders, “we preach Christ,” who is the wisdom and power of the living God (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-31).
The New Testament broadens the definition of idolatry. The Apostle Paul said that greed is idolatry (see Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5). Things that people get greedy for – money, sex, power, and even food – functions as little gods. If anything or person comes before the living God, we are guilty of idolatry. As Jesus taught, we must seek God FIRST (see Matthew 6:33). In our lives, when circumstance seems overwhelming and the difficulties seem beyond our ability to overcome or even cope, God then shows us His miraculous power. God’s power is shown most clearly in our weakness (see 1 Corinthians 1:25; 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). Where our resources and efforts are insufficient, the miraculous power of God comes to our rescue. As the Elijah and Elisha narratives reveal, God’s care and blessings are available to all people, both rich and poor (e.g., see 2 Kings 4). Just ask God if you need God’s miraculous power today (see Matthew 7:7-11). There is no room for double-mindedness and no room for doubt (1 Kings 18:21, 39; see also James 1:7-8). No one can serve two masters (see Matthew 6:24). In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, God demands a single-minded and wholehearted commitment to Him as one’s only God!
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Dillard, Raymond B. Faith in an Age of Apostasy: Gospel According to Elijah and Elisha (P and R Publishing, 1999).