Unit: History of Israel (1-2 Kings; 2 Chronicles)
Theme: A Troubled Kingdom
Lesson Text: 1 Kings 18:31-39; 2 Kings 2:11-14; 5:9-15
Supplemental Text: 2 Chronicles 24:19; Psalm 100; Acts 3:18-19; 2 Kings 17:13
Aim: Know by the testimony of prophets the Lord is God.
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By Mark Scott
The prophets of the Old Testament were the mean junkyard dogs of Israel. They nipped at the heels of kings, priests, and the people to keep them on the straight and narrow. They functioned like prosecuting attorneys against Israel. Their goal was to give Israel an accurate picture of God and to bring them back to him (2 Chronicles 24:19; 2 Kings 17:13).
Though no Bible books are named for Elijah or Elisha, they are two of the most significant prophets of the Old Testament. Both men made it into Jesus’ ordination sermon (Luke 4:25-28), and some of their miracles are templates for miracles of Jesus (e.g., 2 Kings 4:18-37 with Luke 7:11-17). Their testimonies play large in this lesson.
God of Israel
1 Kings 18:31-39
Elijah burst on the scene during the reign of wicked King Ahab (1 Kings 17:1). The king had sold out to the idol gods and the people followed Baal (1 Kings 16:31-33). Since the drought failed to get the attention of the people, a contest was arranged at Mount Carmel. Sacrifices were made on altars. The prophets of Baal went first, but fire failed to come down from heaven to acknowledge their sacrifice.
Elijah then stepped forward. He took twelve stones (one for each tribe) and built an altar. He dug a trench around it and arranged the wood on it. He butchered a bull and laid it on the altar. Then he “baptized” the altar with four large jars with water three separate times. Finally, he prayed a simple but decisive prayer in which he acknowledged who God was, who he (Elijah) was, and what God had commanded. He pleaded with God to answer with fire so that Israel would turn their hearts back to God. Elijah’s prayer was answered dramatically. The fire that fell from heaven consumed everything, including the stones, the soil, and even the water. The people were convinced and cried, “The Lord—he is God!”
God of the Prophets
2 Kings 2:11-14
Leadership transitions are always important. Elijah had already called Elisha to follow him in prophetic ministry (1 Kings 19:19-21). Now it came time for that prophetic mantle of leadership to be passed to Elisha in such a way that other prophets would affirm it (2 Kings 2:15).
As Elijah began his journey to the Jordan River, Elisha seemed aware something big was about to happen. Second Kings 2 described how the two journeyed east from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho, and then to the Jordan River. Elijah struck the river with his cloak and it parted. (The same place where Israel had crossed over into the Promised Land and the same place where Jesus would be baptized?) Elisha requested a double portion of the Spirit that rested on Elijah. In reply, Elijah said, in effect, “Keep your eyes open” (v. 10).
The moment arrived when Elisha saw the chariot of fire and horses of fire (symbols of God’s presence and power in battle). Then a whirlwind (storm or tempest) took Elijah to heaven, and Elisha saw him no more. Elisha used Elijah’s torn garment—all that remained of the senior prophet—and tried it out on the Jordan River. History repeated itself. The waters parted, and Elisha walked across back into the land of Israel.
God of the World
2 Kings 5:9-15
After coming up from the Jordan Valley, Elisha performed several miracles to affirm he was God’s new representative (2 Kings 2:19—4:44).
Elisha’s influence spread to Aram (modern-day Syria), where bands of raiders from there would cross into the land of Israel. Due to Israel’s disobedience, these raids were successful. Some Israelites were taken captive. One was an unnamed little girl who knew of Elisha’s ministry.
Naaman was a commander in the king of Aram’s army, but he had leprosy. The little girl informed Naaman’s wife that Elisha could heal him. So Naaman took gifts and ultimately made his way to Elisha’s place.
Elisha did not even greet Naaman (a sign of disrespect in that world?). Instead, he sent a messenger to tell the commander to wash . . . seven times in the Jordan. Naaman objected and felt he was being treated with disrespect. But Naaman’s servants calmed the commander, and he complied with Elisha’s strange request. “His flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.” Not only did Naaman’s skin change, so did his attitude. He acknowledged that there is no God in all of the world except in Israel.
The testimony of the prophets is that Israel and the whole world should know that God is God.
Dr. Mark Scott serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin, Mo. He retired in May after more than 30 years as professor of New Testament with Ozark Christian College in Joplin.