Elisha was one of the most influential prophets in the Old Testament. He carried on the prophetic ministry of his mentor Elijah and performed more recorded miracles than any other prophet. Elisha’s story demonstrates the power of God and shows us principles for pursuing a life of faith and obedience.
Elisha lived during a dark time of Israel’s history – the period of the divided kingdom. The northern kingdom of Israel had turned away from God and fallen into idolatry and evil. But God always preserved a remnant of faithful followers, and Elisha was one of them.
Elisha’s ministry lasted around 60 years, spanning the reigns of several kings of Israel and Judah. He provided guidance, rebuke, and encouragement to the kings and brought comfort and healing to the people. His life shows that one person submitted to God can make a big difference.
Here are some key facts about Elisha in the Bible:
- He was the successor to the prophet Elijah
- He performed twice as many miracles as Elijah
- His ministry spanned around 60 years in the 9th century BC
- He advised and rebuked several kings of Israel and Judah
- He prophesied events that came true many years later
- His miracles included healings, providing food, controlling nature, and raising the dead
- He showed compassion to those in need and judged the wicked
As we explore Elisha’s story, we see principles for pursuing God wholeheartedly, walking in faith, trusting God’s provision, and living a life of integrity and holiness. Though Elisha lived centuries ago, his life provides vital lessons for Christians today.
Elisha’s Call to Be a Prophet
Elisha’s story began when he was plowing with a team of oxen on his family’s farm. The prophet Elijah approached Elisha and threw his cloak around his shoulders (1 Kings 19:19). This act symbolized God calling Elisha to leave his work and follow Elijah as his assistant.
At that moment, Elisha slaughtered his team of oxen, cooked the meat over a fire fueled by the plowing equipment, and fed the people present. This signified his total commitment to follow Elijah. “Then he arose and went after Elijah, and became his servant” (1 Kings 19:21 NKJV).
Though called suddenly, Elisha abandoned his livelihood and comforts to obey God’s call on his life. This demonstrates stepping out in faith to pursue God’s plans for us. Like Elisha, we may not know all the details but as we follow God step-by-step, He will guide us into His purposes.
Elisha’s Request for a Double Portion
Elisha responded, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” (2 Kings 2:9 NKJV). This was not a selfish request but reflected Elisha’s deep hunger for God’s power to carry on Elijah’s work.
Elijah told him this would only happen if Elisha saw him taken into heaven. As Elijah ascended to heaven in a whirlwind, Elisha cried out “My father, my father!” and tore his clothes in grief. But he caught Elijah’s cloak as it fell from him.
Elisha received what he requested – a double portion of Elijah’s spirit to equip him for his ministry. We too can seek more of God’s Spirit and He will empower us for greater works (John 14:12). Our spiritual hunger and pursuit of God matter more than wavering faith.
Elisha Performed Twice as Many Miracles as Elijah
After Elijah’s departure, Elisha carried on his prophetic ministry with great power. The Bible records 16 miracles that Elisha performed, compared to only 8 by Elijah. This fulfilled the promise that Elisha would do twice as many miracles.
Some of Elisha’s miracles included:
- Parting the Jordan River (2 Kings 2:14)
- Purifying bad drinking water (2 Kings 2:19-22)
- Instructing the widow’s oil to multiply to pay her debts (2 Kings 4:1-7)
- Raising a boy from the dead (2 Kings 4:32-37)
- Causing an ax head to float (2 Kings 6:1-7)
- Predicting a 7-year famine then reversing it (2 Kings 8:1-6)
- Healing Naaman of leprosy (2 Kings 5:1-19)
These miraculous signs demonstrated God’s power working through Elisha. They helped restore Israel’s faith in God and showed He is greater than counterfeit gods. Elisha pointed people to trust the one true living God.
Elisha’s Ministry Spanned 60 Years During Dark Times
Most scholars agree that Elisha was born around 865 BC and his ministry spanned around 845-795 BC. This was during the divided kingdom with the evil kings Ahab, Ahaziah, and Joram ruling over Israel.
This was a dark time of idolatry and evil in Israel. Yet God raised up Elisha as a lamp shining in the darkness. For 60 years Elisha provided godly counsel and reproof to the rulers. He ministered to the needs of the people with compassion. And he provided stability as generation after generation continued turning away from God.
Elisha served five kings of Israel: Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram, Jehu, and Jehoash. His ministry outlasted them all. He also interacted with the Judahite king Jehoshaphat and predicted future deeds of the kings Jehu and Joash of Judah.
The length of Elisha’s ministry shows God’s faithfulness across generations. Though the kings failed and the people fell into sin, God kept His light shining. Elisha’s perseverance challenges us to remain steadfast even when those around us compromise.
Elisha Advised and Rebuked Kings
Though Israel’s kings wielded great power, Elisha did not hesitate to advise and rebuke them in the name of the Lord. He provided godly counsel to the kings and served as their conscience. Elisha’s interactions with the kings provide great examples of speaking truth to power.
After Ahab killed Naboth for his vineyard, Elisha pronounced God’s judgment on Ahab and his wife Jezebel (1 Kings 21:17-24). This demonstrated Elisha’s boldness in confronting even an evil king.
When the armies of Judah, Israel, and Edom faced attack from Moab, Elisha instructed King Jehoshaphat to dig trenches in the wilderness. God filled the trenches with water and caused the Moabite armies to turn on each other (2 Kings 3:9-25). This showed Elisha guiding rulers into God’s plan.
When the Moabites attacked again, Elisha promised King Jehoram deliverance. He instructed Jehoram to shoot arrows out the window as a symbol of defeating the Moabites (2 Kings 3:14-19). But when Jehoram stopped shooting before using all the arrows, Elisha said he would only partly succeed against Moab. Elisha demanded full obedience to receive full blessing.
Elisha became sick with the illness that would take his life. When King Joash visited him, Elisha told Joash to shoot arrows out the window as a sign of defeating the Syrians. When Joash stopped after only shooting three times, Elisha said he would only have three victories over them (2 Kings 13:14-19). Again Elisha insisted on complete obedience to experience God’s full deliverance.
Elisha consistently held Israel’s leaders accountable to follow God’s ways. He warned them to turn from sin and obey God fully. We too must speak boldly for righteousness, calling even influential people to repent and walk uprightly before God.
Elisha Foretold Events Far into the Future
In addition to performing miracles and advising kings, Elisha also exercised the prophetic gift of foretelling future events. His prophecies demonstrated God’s sovereignty over all things and far-reaching knowledge of what is to come.
When the Syrian king Ben-Hadad sent his servant Hazael to ask Elisha if he would recover from illness, Elisha prophesied that Hazael would actually become king over Syria and bring terrible destruction on Israel (2 Kings 8:7-15). This came true years later.
Elisha personally commissioned one of his servants to anoint Jehu as king over Israel and pronounce God’s judgment on the house of Ahab (2 Kings 9:1-13). This happened during the reign of Joram, before anyone expected Jehu to be king. But Elisha foresaw it.
Joash of Judah
Elisha also prophesied future deeds of Joash of Judah, predicting his military victories over Syria and telling King Jehoash of Israel that he would shoot arrows of victory (2 Kings 13:16-19). These prophecies looked far ahead to things no one could know.
Elisha’s ability to foretell the future solidified his legitimate role as God’s prophet. Fulfillment of his prophecies decades and generations later proved that he spoke God’s words. Bible prophecies should strengthen our confidence that God knows and controls the future.
Elisha Showed Compassion to the Needy
Though Elisha rebuked kings, confronted idolatry, and worked spectacular miracles, he always made time for individuals in need. His life brimmed with compassion for people on the fringes of society – the poor, widows, foreigners, and children.
- The poor widow’s oil: Elisha multiplied one poor widow’s tiny bit of oil into enough to provide for her and her sons (2 Kings 4:1-7).
- The Shunammite woman’s son: When this woman’s only son died, Elisha raised him from the dead, bringing joy after despair (2 Kings 4:8-37).
- Naaman the foreigner: Elisha cleansed the leprosy of this Syrian commander, even though he was an enemy (2 Kings 5:1-19).
- The starving prophets: Elisha purified a pot of deadly stew to make it edible for a group of prophets facing famine (2 Kings 4:38-41).
- The 100 men fed: With only 20 loaves, Elisha fed 100 men with food left over, providing a feast in famine (2 Kings 4:42-44).
Elisha made time for individuals in desperate need, from prominent community members to the poorest in society. He did not delegate caring for the needy but helped them himself. Elisha calls us to show Christ’s love through compassionate action, not just words.
Elisha Lived a Life of Holiness and Integrity
Elisha’s life challenges us to pursue integrity, avoid greed, and reach out to those considered undeserving. Though he possessed incredible spiritual authority, he used it for serving God and others, not for his own gain.
- Elisha refused gifts from Naaman after healing his leprosy, avoiding any appearance of profiting from God’s miracles (2 Kings 5:15-16).
- He condemned the greed of Gehazi, his servant who chased after Naaman for profit (2 Kings 5:20-27).
- He judged the wickedness of Jezebel and the house of Ahab calling for their overthrow.
- He provided mercy, deliverance, and restoration to foreign enemies like the Syrians.
Elisha lived above reproach, without a hint of scandal or corruption staining his prophetic ministry. His life challenges us to live holy lives of integrity without greed, pride, or moral failure.
Key Lessons from Elisha’s Life
As we study Elisha’s interactions with kings, miracles, prophecies, and acts of service, what key lessons emerge for Christians today?
Wholehearted devotion – Elisha left everything to follow and serve God’s prophet. His devotion challenges us to pursue God with our whole hearts too.
Unwavering faith – By faith Elisha stepped into his calling, trusted God for provision, and obeyed God’s instructions. His example shows us to walk by faith not sight.
Moral courage – Elisha rebuked kings and denounced evil. His moral courage inspires us to stand for truth and righteousness.
Compassion for all – Elisha helped foreigners, women, children, the poor – even enemies. His service to all teaches us to show Christ’s love to anyone in need.
Power of God’s Spirit – The miracles Elisha worked revealed God’s Spirit on him. We too can experience greater power from the Spirit to overcome challenges and do the works of God.
Word and deed – Elisha not only spoke prophetically but acted. He modeled speaking the word of God and demonstrating it with action. Our witness requires both words and deeds.
Perseverance – For 60 years Elisha remained steadfast in ministry through great evil. His endurance motivates us to stand firm serving God even when times are dark.
Elisha’s inspiring life story demonstrates key principles like faith, integrity, courage, compassion, and perseverance. As we walk with God, Elisha provides an example of wholehearted obedience and willingness to be used by God. Though he lived long ago, his life offers vital lessons for 21st century Christians.
By studying Elisha’s interactions with Israel’s kings, his miracles, prophecies, and acts of service, we gain wisdom for pursuing God faithfully no matter our circumstances. Elisha’s life encourages us to seek more of God’s Spirit, speak boldly for Him, care for people in need, and stand firm for truth.
As we apply these lessons, we can follow Elisha’s example of living as lights for God during dark times. Our faithful witness can bring hope and transformation to lives and communities today, just as Elisha did in ancient Israel.