Elijah and Elisha are two of the most well-known prophets of Israel. They both served in the northern kingdom of Israel. Elijah is first introduced in 1 Kings: 17, as the prophet who predicted a three-year drought in the land. After being miraculously fed by ravens, he later stayed with a widow and her son, and that family experienced God’s supernatural provision of food.
After Elijah’s defeat of the prophets of Baal when he called down fire from heaven, the drought ended. Rain fell and Elijah fled from Ahab’s wife, the evil queen Jezebel, who had vowed to kill him (1 Kings 19). Reaching Mount Horeb, Elijah heard the voice of God tell him to anoint two kings as well as Elisha as a prophet. He did this, and Elisha immediately joined him.
Elijah later condemned King Ahab for murder and the theft of a vineyard and predicted Ahab’s death and that of his wife, Jezebel. In 2 Kings 2, Elijah called down fire from heaven to destroy two groups of 50 men sent from King Ahaziah. A third group of men was led by a captain who begged for mercy and was spared judgment. Elijah went to Ahaziah and proclaimed the king would die from his sickness, a prophecy that was soon fulfilled.
Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan River on dry land, and Elisha, knowing that Elijah would not be with him much longer, asked to be blessed with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Elijah was taken directly into heaven by a chariot of fire. Elisha picked up Elijah’s mantle and used it to cross the Jordan again on dry land.
He received the double portion he had asked for and performed many miracles in Israel. Some of Elisha’s miracles were the turning of bad water into clean water, causing a widow’s oil to fill many jars, and even raising a boy from the dead.
Before he was taken to heaven, Elijah left a letter for King Jehoram of Judah that spoke of judgment against him. It stated, in part, “The LORD will bring a great plague on your people, your children, your wives, and all your possessions, and you yourself will have a severe sickness with a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the disease, day by day” (2 Chronicles 21:14–15). The prophecy soon came true (verses 18–20).
Elijah and Elisha were both greatly respected by those in the “school of prophets” as well as by the kings of their nation. Their impact led to revival among some of the Israelites during a dark stage of its history. During the wicked reigns of Ahab and Ahaziah, God had His men leading the charge for righteousness.
Elijah and Elisha’s combined legacy continued to influence Israel for some time. Even the New Testament speaks of the expected return of Elijah, a role fulfilled by John the Baptist, the forerunner or the one to announce the coming of the Messiah (Mark 1).
The Tragedy of Gehazi by Reverend Clayton E. Williams, D.D
Hebrew maid told Naaman, the Syrian prince had come to the prophet to be healed of the disease which harassed him. Despite his reluctance to fulfill the prophet’s conditions, his mission had been successful and his gratitude and joy over his recovery, both in body and in spirit, prompted him to offer his benefactor rich gifts of silver and festal garments, all of which were immediately refused.
Stern and uncompromising Elisha wants to avoid the thought that he sold his powers for personal gain, as the sorcerers did their magic charms. After the cure of his leprosy, Namaan left. Gehazi wasn’t happy that his master didn’t collect Namaan’s offer, thus; his greed shut his mind immediately to choose evil instead of good.
At last he set out to take things into his own hands, and running after Naaman, he overtook his chariots. On seeing him, Naaman was concerned lest he might be the bearer of evil tidings. Gehazi, however, assured him that all was well, but that two young men of the sons of the prophets has arrived unexpectedly, and Elisha had sent him for a talent of silver and two changes of raiment. Naaman was delighted to show his gratitude and pressed upon him double that amount, much to Gehazi’s satisfaction.
Elisha, in the meanwhile, missing his servant, had guessed the reason for his absence, so he sent word that, upon his return, Gehazi should appear before him. And there he stood, condemned for his covetousness with a condemnation that left a mark upon him forever after, for he had contracted the leprosy of Naaman. But the leprosy of his body was of little import; he had already fallen a victim to leprosy of the soul.
He had been a good servant, far better than most. He had had a rare experience, living daily in the presence of a great prophet, sharing in his work and witnessing his power, but that did not save him from a great failure! Indeed, it helped in his case to bring it about, for the secret of his trouble lay in the fact that Gehazi was ruined by “familiarity with sacred things”.
Day after day he had gone out with the prophet and had seen his power flow out into life, changing it, restoring it, renewing it. I do not doubt that in the beginning he had been much impressed by the wonders that he saw and that the things he felt had moved his heart. No doubt he had followed Elisha with genuine admiration and had attached himself to him from the purest of motives.
His very obedience was evidence of his loyalty. But little by little – and here lies the tragedy – the unusual became commonplace, the wonderful became ordinary, and the luster that creative contact with God can give to a life was dulled. He lost a sense of their supreme significance. Life had been drained of its wonder by repetition and familiarity.
There is a very subtle danger here. It lies in the fact that those things which should always be sacred, tend to become commonplace. It ought to be the other way around: the commonplace should become sacred. We should worship God in the common task and find divine glory in everyday living.
Like Gehazi, one can live so continuously and so carelessly in the presence of fine things that they lose their significance. But mark you, it isn’t because we live so continuously in the presence of God that it means nothing. It is because we live so continuously and so carelessly in His presence. That was the trouble with Gehazi; he had lost his sense of faith’s reality in his own life.
God’s power demonstrated in another’s life meant little to him because he himself did not feel dependent upon God’s power for his own life. Religion had become a formal affair of fulfilling certain duties which life imposed upon him. And since his own life knew no deep need of the miracle of grace, he had, in consequence, no real appreciation of Naaman’s need and, therefore, no realization of what had been done to him. If we do not feel the urgency of our fellows’ need of God, isn’t it often because we, ourselves, no longer feel God is indispensable, no longer know the radiance of His presence, no longer sustained by His love?
We are not greatly moved by mankind’s desperate need of God. We think man needs a great many things: the solution of his economic, international, and personal problems, but I’m sure we’re not concerned about his need of God, or we would do something about it. If a man is not over concerned with making it possible for others to know God, it’s because God doesn’t mean very much to him? Isn’t it?
Gehazi didn’t count spiritual health worth very much because it didn’t mean much to him. He was much more interested in how much Naaman appreciated his restoration to physical health. All he saw was a man healed of a disagreeable disease. For which he thought he ought to compensate the one who had cured him.
He saw the process and its results, but not the hand behind it; the miraculous was not a window through which to catch a glimpse of something wonderful beyond – an earnest of the power or willingness of God to break through the limitations that life seemed to impose – the source of a new hope, a new faith, a new vision. It was something to be exploited.
You see, Gehazi had lost the capacity to wonder, to marvel, the most precious power we have, for there is a time in everyone’s life when the world is full of wonder, and to be a child is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness and to believe in belief, to see a miracle in every common process; but as time goes on we become accustomed to miracles and take them for granted, and wonder is supplanted by sophistication.
Our smattering of science, which is all the best of us have, convinces us that everything can be explained. We are tempted to think. Since we see how God works, that we can dispense with religion. We have seen behind the scenes, like the country yokel who went to the theater for the first time in his life and was wonderfully impressed by the storm that was staged during the play, but whose wonder suffered a collapse when they took him backstage and he saw that the thunder was made by rolling heavy balls about in a box, the rain by quivering of great sheets of metal, and the wind by whirling fans, and he remarked, “Well, I thought it was something marvelous, but I see it wasn’t anything after all!”
I fear that is the way we often feel about God’s wonders. Like the small boy who took apart the watch to find out what made it run, we have taken the world apart. We have found the wheels that make the ticks and discover what makes the hands move. But for all that, we have missed the Mind that produced it and the Spirit that sustains it. We live in a day of miracles, miracles that should touch our spirits with awe and wonder at the wealth of our universe.
Miracles are doorways through which to catch faith-creating glimpses of another world and if they can break our earthborn bonds and give birth to a spirit of divine expectancy, they can renew our courage and inspire our hearts. But too often, like Gehazi, we have thought of them merely as a means to serve our temporal ends.
Gehazi had ceased to wonder at the miracle and had turned his attention to the contribution it could make to his physical comfort and pleasure. His interest in the miraculous had shifted from the point where it brought a vision of God’s presence and power to the point where it represented a way to get something he wanted. He thought of God’s wonders as something to be exploited for personal gain and advantage.
There are some people who look upon faith as the touchstone to their heart’s desire. “Faith works miracles”, they say to themselves. “If only I can have faith enough, I’ll have no troubles.” They think of religion as a way to get what they want in life. When someone begins to use the best things in life for what he can get out of them, they begin to lose their spiritual significance, and he begins to lose his soul.
The secret of the miraculous does not lie in having something so unusual happen that it bludgeons our poor dull senses into seeing it. The secret of the miraculous lies in the delicate sensitiveness of a soul so responsive as to see God’s hand at every turning and to stop and marvel at the grace of it. Only most of us haven’t the eyes to see them or the heart to wonder at them.
The pursuit of the commonplace obscures them. It isn’t that we live in a humdrum world, but that we live in it and seek no more than that in it, and so we see no more in it, missing the best for which life exists. Seeing miracles in life is seeing God in life, and missing them is missing Him. And everything is an opportunity.
We have lost something from our life with all our cleverness and all our conveniences and comfort, something very precious: seeing the hand of God and marveling. The tragedy of our civilization lies in our not seeing the world with all its beauty, its glory, its miraculous possibilities, its abundant opportunities as the gift of God, a revelation of God’s love, a miracle of grace, but seeing it only as something to exploit to use for our own selfish purposes.
That’s the tragedy – to face the world in the moment of revelation, when God’s love manifest in Christ lingers by us and to say, “All is well, give me I pray Thee, two changes of raiment and a talent of silver.” “All is well; All I need is pleasure, adornment and security.” That is the tragedy. Gehazi thought that was what he needed when what he really needed was a miracle in his own life. He needed a miracle of grace to open his eyes, to make him see and appreciate God’s love and power in His world. And that is what we all need, a new vision of God’s love and power to redeem life, a new experience of God’s grace.