President Obama came out swinging at last year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner. He began:
“What a week. As some of you heard the state of Hawaii released my official long-form birth certificate. Hopefully, this puts all doubts to rest. But just in case they’re any lingering questions, tonight I’m prepared to go a step further. Tonight, for the first time, I am releasing my official birth video.” The screens then played the scene from Disney’s The Lion King when Mufasa, atop a cliff, lifts Simba up as the other animals in the savannah look on. Afterward, Obama said, “I want to make clear to the Fox News table that was a joke. That was not my real birth video. That was a children’s cartoon. Call Disney if you don’t believe me, they have the original long-form version.”
It has been said that Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language, but the reality goes deeper. Way back to the Boston Tea Party and the fateful decision to decline the continued blessings of a British Monarch. The same thing could be said of Europe. A Union of 26 countries divided by a common currency, the Euro, and of course Standard and Poor’s credit ratings. George Osborne, the Chancellor, fired the opening shots of the campaign against Scottish independence on Friday. He warned that Scotland would also risk a euro-style debt crisis if it left the United Kingdom and sterling to join the Euro, and become a Republic. Our choice of government adds diversity to our unity as Western democracies. Some nations have chosen to become a republic with a president. Other nations retain a monarchy …
In our series Christ in all the Scriptures, we have come to 1 & 2 Kings. As the title suggests, they trace the monarchy from David to Jehoiachin; from the Kingdom of Israel and Judah at its zenith under King Solomon to its disintegration under King Nebuchadnezzar. Last week in 1 & 2 Samuel, we saw how King David prefigured King Jesus. We observed how the Lord Jesus quotes from Psalm 110:1 to confound his critics with a very simple question:
“Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied. He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.” (Matthew 22:41-46).
How can the Messiah be both the Son of David and the Lord of David? Human and Divine? As we saw in the Autumn from Mark’s Gospel and Christianity Explored, God provided indisputable evidence that Jesus Christ is indeed divine.
Supremely in his power and authority over sickness and disease (Mark 1:29-34); his power over nature (Mark 4:35-41); and above all, his power over death (Mark 5:21-24, 35-43).
As we shall see this morning, some of the miracles of Jesus were pre-figured in the miracles of Elijah and Elisha. God’s power and authority was already moving away from Israel’s kings, not to presidents but to the prophets. As we seek Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings, first notice:
1. The Magnificence of King Solomon
Beside the glory and splendour of King David, Hodgkin says, “We need the magnificent reign of Solomon, the Prince of Peace, to complete the picture of Christ our King.” God said to David,
“…you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’
(1 Chronicles 22:9-10)
1.1 The Wisdom of Solomon
Solomon’s wisdom was literally proverbial. At Gibeon, the Lord came to Solomon in a dream
“Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Solomon answered… , “You have shown great kindness to your servant…, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be.” (1 Kings 3:5-12)
“God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else…And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five…From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:29-34).
“When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the LORD, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.” (1 Kings 10:1-5)
The Queen of Sheba may indeed have been impressed with Solomon’s wisdom but Jesus makes this telling comparison:
“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.” (Matthew 12:42)
The wisdom of Solomon was merely a foreshadowing of the wisdom of Christ, in ”whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). That is why if we lack wisdom, like Solomon, we only have to ask.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)
The wisdom of Solomon.
1.2 The Wealth of Solomon
Solomon asked for wisdom and God blessed him with wealth.
“The people of Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand on the seashore; they ate, they drank and they were happy. And Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines, as far as the border of Egypt. These countries brought tribute and were Solomon’s subjects all his life… (1 Kings 4:20-21)
“King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth. The whole world sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart. Year after year, everyone who came brought a gift—articles of silver and gold, robes, weapons and spices, and horses and mules… The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones” (1 Kings 10:23-25, 27).
Again Jesus refers to Solomon and compares his splendour with God’s creation and his provision for all people:
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28-29)
God will provide for our needs if we trust him.
The wisdom of Solomon. The wealth of Solomon.
1.3 The Wives of Solomon
The division of the kingdom and the exile of God’s people in captivity can be traced back to Solomon’s devotional life. His failure to obey God’s word impacted his family life and eventually destroyed his nation.
“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the LORD had told the Israelites, “You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.” Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love. He had seven hundred wives of royal birth and three hundred concubines, and his wives led him astray. As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God … So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 11:1-6)
Because of these sins the Lord punished Solomon by tearing the kingdom in two. In 1 & 2 Kings we witness the downward spiral of successive wicked kings. It is a sobering picture of the consequences of a divided heart. Perhaps it was Solomon that Jesus had in mind when he said,
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24)
In his wisdom and wealth, King Solomon prefigures the Lord Jesus Christ. But however magnificent, he was also fallible, and like us, in need of a Saviour. The magnificence of Solomon.
2. The Message of Elijah
Long before the outward semblance of royalty had disappeared, God transferred his power and authority from the kings to the prophets. Out of the darkness of this evil time, two figures stand forth as His witnesses. They show us that through all the failure, God was quietly preparing for the appearance of His Son and the announcement of his eternal reign of righteousness. Elijah and Elisha remind us of John the Baptist and the Lord Jesus. Elijah the rugged prophet of the wilderness, clad in a garment of hair and with a leather belt around his waist (2 Kings 1:8), suddenly bursts into the court of Ahab, and pronounces God’s judgement:
“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (1 Kings 17:1)
The secret of Elijah’s authority lay in those few words ”whom I serve.” He spoke the message of God fearlessly and faithfully. He reminds us of John the Baptist, similarly clothed, at the court of Herod, denouncing, just as fearlessly, the sins of that king too (Mark 6:17-18).
When his mission was complete, Elijah is commanded to anoint Elisha to be his successor (1 Kings 19:16). He is then taken into heaven, prefiguring the ascension of our Lord himself.
“As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.”
(2 Kings 2:11)
Then, in the closing scenes of the Old Testament, Malachi prophesies that before the Day of Judgement, Elijah will return.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.” (Malachi 4:5-6)
On the Mount of Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah meet with Jesus, the disciples are a little confused and disorientated,
“The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:10-13)
Elijah, a prophet to his generation, was then a prototype for John the Baptist who prepared people to meet Jesus. We have looked at the magnificence of Solomon and the message of Elijah.
3. The Miracles of Elisha
Elisha’s was a ministry of blessing and healing. In this he too is a type of Christ. When the Lord was about to take Elijah, Elisha insisted, “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” (2 Kings 2:9). The blessing that Elisha craved was not to be twice as great, but to have the portion of the first-born son. The first-born son inherited a double portion of his father’s property. (Deuteronomy 21:17). Like Solomon acknowledging his need of the wisdom of God to succeed David, so Elisha accepted the prophetic office but asked for the power of the Spirit to fulfil it. Hodgkin says, “In this last scene, we sometimes almost wonder whether we are in the Old Testament or the New. We have an ascending master, a waiting disciple, a descending power.
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8).
The power of God did indeed fall upon Elisha, so much so, that in several respects the miracles God performed through him are a prefigurement of the miracles Jesus performed.
If you have your Bible’s open, please turn with me to 2 Kings 4.
3.1 The Miracle of Multiplication
“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbours for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”
(2 Kings 4:1-7)
The miracle was in proportion to her faith. Elisha made her borrow and fill the vessels herself. He could have done it for her, but he wanted her to trust in God and experience his provision. This is similar to the way Jesus performed the miracle at the wedding banquet in John 2. The servants who drew the wine had poured the water and witnessed the miracle. Similarly Jesus had the disciples distribute the loaves and fishes to 4000 (Mark 8:1-10) and then the 5000 (Matthew 14:13-21) and then collect up the uneaten food. They had to work out the implications. The miracle of multiplication. In the next few verses we see also the miracle of procreation.
3.2 The Miracle of Procreation
One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. She said to her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us.” One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’” She replied, “I have a home among my own people.” “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked. Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.” Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.” “No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!” But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her. (2 Kings 4:8-17)
The miracle of procreation. This lady provided accommodation for Elisha. When he asked his servant how he could return the favour Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.” (2 Kings 4:14). Through the prophetic word, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son. The miracle of multiplication, the miracle of procreation.
3.3 The Miracle of Resurrection
Tragically, the little boy dies in her arms, probably from sun stroke. She lays him on Elisha’s bed and goes to find him. She will not leave Elisha until he returns with her.
“When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands.
As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes. Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out.” (2 Kings 4:32-37)
Something of an understatement! The miracles of Elisha authenticated his role as a prophet sent from God. The miracle of multiplication, the miracle of procreation and the miracle of resurrection. A forerunner to the miracles of the Lord Jesus.
1 & 2 Kings shows that behind the magnificence of Solomon, the message of Elijah and the miracles of Elisha is the hand of God at work preparing his people for the day when he would send his Son to be our Saviour. So that when he finally came they would recognise him by the promised made, the people sent and the prophecies fulfilled. So what of us? If we see the hand of God at work in history, how will we respond?
Like the woman of Shunem? Will we recognise Jesus as the holy one of God – will we make room for him? Will we thank him daily for his provision and blessings? Will we trust him with our pain and anxieties? Because then it won’t matter what kind of government we have, because we will be focusing on Jesus the key not just to the Book of Kings but indeed the King of Kings. Lets pray.