We began this short series in early January by looking at a farmer. We will return to that farmer momentarily. But in that opening message of the series, I mentioned a lot of well-known names like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Elijah, Esther, Elizabeth, Mary, Peter, John, James, Paul, etc. These names, and others, are some of the most well-known names from the Bible and despite these individuals living thousands of years ago, their names are still common today. These individuals, and others, are extraordinary people. They are truly heroes of the faith.
But this series has not been about those heroes. This series has been about the people that are behind the scenes, or otherwise relatively unknown individuals. We have seen how Hathach helped Mordecai and Esther. We saw the role of Paul’s sister’s son in saving Paul’s life. We looked at the response of a man possessed by thousands of demons and how that response likely helped thousands of others to (presumably) know about Jesus. We reviewed the faith of two women (Hannah and Huldah) who both had a role to play in the lives of two young men (one being Hannah’s son, Samuel, and the other being a king) who each greatly impacted Israel for a season. We looked at the role of family with the imparting of faith into Timothy by Lois and Eunice, the impact David’s father seemed to have had on him, and the influence of Zebedee and Salome on James and John.
The people of this series are far lesser known by most people, and truly unknown by many. But they too are heroes. They may not have been extraordinary as we think of that word, but they were significant in their roles and they should also be considered heroes. And that is why this series has been called Unsung Heroes.
But this series began with a farmer – a man who was tending the field for his parents with 24 oxen. He may have had greater aspirations or perhaps he did not. But his life changed dramatically when he chose to follow someone who was closely following God. The man whose life was changed was Elisha; the man whom he followed was Elijah. The One who made it possible was God.
Again, Elisha was tending to his field. Elijah had been told to find him (by God), and he did. After this brief paragraph in 1 Kings 19, we don’t hear anything further about him for a few pages, until we get to 2 Kings 2. What we can surmise is that Elisha had been apprenticing under Elijah, and likely experienced more than the few words we have about Elijah in those final pages of 1 Kings. Why do I say that? Because when Elijah said his time of departure was near, Elisha went with Elijah across the Jordan (while 50 others stayed behind). And when Elijah asked what he could do for Elisha, Elisha’s response was that he would receive a double portion of spirit on him.
That is a bold request. Remember, Elijah was the one who brought a boy back from the dead. He defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Etc. But Elijah did not have the authority to grant such a request. So, listen to his response to Elisha. Read 2 Kings 2.10. So, what happened? Read verses 11-12.
He saw it. And, thus, he was changed. Immediately, he picked up Elijah’s cloak, went to the water’s edge and following the example of Elijah earlier, he struck the water and it parted for him to walk through (2 Kings 2.14). I will come back to this passage in a moment. But first, let me share what Elisha did in his ministry. This will be rapid fire, but the passages are in your notes.
In the remainder of that chapter, he “heals” some water. Then he cursed some boys who were taunting him about being bald, and God sent bears to devour the boys.
In Chapter 3, Elisha gave counsel to the king.
In Chapter 4, he helps a widow turn the small amount of oil she has into a surplus to pay off her debts and keep her sons from being taken as slaves (vv. 1-7). Then he gave a woman hope to have a son because of her help to him, and she did conceive one year later (vv. 8-17). The story then continues several years later (vv. 18-37). The son died and the mother went to Elisha, and Elisha returned with her to raise the boy from the dead. The chapter ends with Elisha healing a pot of stew which had been inadvertently poisoned before he multiplies an amount of bread for the people with him to eat (20 loaves feeding 100 people).
In 2 Kings 5, Elisha healed the commander of a foreign army (vv. 1-14). (Rick noted to me recently that he noticed two Unsung Heroes in this story – a girl who had been taken from Israel to be a slave and the commander’s wife. If you look, you will find Unsung Heroes throughout the Bible!).
Chapter 6 contains the story of a man who had borrowed an axe. The head of that axe dislodged and fell into the water. Elijah caused it to float so it could be retrieved (vv. 1-7). Then, Elisha tried to comfort the king as Syria threatened war because Elisha understood that the armies of God, though invisible to most everyone were primed for battle to protect Israel (vv. 8-23)
In Chapter 7, Elisha predicts the end of a famine (a sermon I preached a couple of years ago). In 2 Kings 8, Elisha’s actions are remembered by the king which allows the Shunammite woman (the one with the son from early) to have her land restored to her). Then, beginning in verse 7, he foretells the death of the Syrian king.
In Chapter 9, God had Elisha prepare Jehu to be the next king. And then we arrive at the end of Elisha’s life in 2 Kings 13. Here, Joash, the king of Israel, asked Elisha about victory in war over Syria. Elisha rebuked him for not going the distance (he only struck the arrows three times – you might recall the sermon I preached on that passage a few years ago, complete with banging the arrows on the ground).
And then Elisha dies. But amazingly, even though he was dead, a man who had died was revived because his body was thrown into the same grave where Elisha was buried, and when his body touched Elisha’s bones, the other man came back to life. (Again, you may recall that I preached this message on Resurrection Sunday in 2013).
The point of this quick survey of episodes from the life of Elisha is to show that he did some magnificent miracles. Remember, he had asked for a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. And it is often noted that he did twice the number of miracles. Indeed, Elisha was extraordinary.
So, why am I preaching about this great miracle worker as the concluding message of a series on Unsung Heroes?
That is a fair question. My response begins with the first message in this series. Remember, when we first meet Elisha, he was working in a field with 12 yoke of oxen. He was a farmer. Elisha was a young man taking care of his dad’s field with 24 oxen. He was just a farmer. No more. No less. But God!
God told Elijah to go find Elisha. Elijah was obedient. But what changed the life of Elisha was when he chose to follow Elijah. In other words, as I said earlier, Elisha’s life changed when he followed someone who closely followed God. But that wasn’t all.
Let’s go back to the Jordan River for a moment. Read 2 Kings 2.4-8.
Elijah tested Elisha twice. Twice he said to stay behind. Twice Elisha did not. We do not know how much time has passed since the day on the farm, but Elisha chose to leave behind his job and parents to follow Elijah and he wasn’t going to stop now.
But verse 5 says that they were not alone. The sons of other prophets came to talk to Elisha. They knew the will of God in this matter. Perhaps they were merely trying to inform Elisha of what was to happen or perhaps they were jealous. Regardless, they decided to accompany Elijah and Elisha on the rest of the journey – probably to watch what was about to happen. We can’t know their motive, and we don’t know anything else about them except for one thing.
When Elijah and Elisha went across the river, they did not go. The sons went along, but they did not cross over. Verse 8 says the two of them went over on dry ground. The 50 others did not.
Do you know why Elisha received what he received? Do you know why he was able to do what all the things he did? Because he was willing to go a little extra. He was willing to do a little more. He was willing to believe a little more. Again, the sons of the prophets knew God’s will about that day. They told Elisha (v. 5). But they were not willing to go the distance. Elisha was. And that is why he went from being a farmer to being a hero. Of course, his name is not as well-known as many in the Bible, but it would be hard to call him an unsung hero. But the only difference between him and others is the role that God played in his life and the response Elisha gave.
Do you know why so many people miss out on being a hero? Do you know why so many people miss out on what God wants to do for them and through them?
The answer is that they are not willing to go the distance. They are not willing to go, or to give, a little extra. That is really what separates all of the heroes of the Bible – the ones we sing about, as well as those who are unsung – they were willing to give a little extra. And, as you have heard me say countless times in this series, the difference between ordinary and extraordinary is a little extra.
Did you miss your opportunity? NO. Have you missed an opportunity? Sure, we all have. See, most people give up, thinking they have missed their opportunity. But disciples are not always chosen when expected. In Jewish culture, during the time of Jesus, the age was 12. If you were deemed worthy to follow a rabbi, he would call you to follow – at age 12. If you were not considered worthy, then you went back home and likely joined the family business – like Peter and Andrew or James and John. In other words, Jesus still saw value in these men even after their initial opportunity was gone. Not only did Jesus see value, He helped them realize their potential.
Did Peter and John miss an earlier opportunity? We can’t know for sure, but probably. Did they miss their opportunity? No. And once they realized the opportunity, they were willing to go, and give, a little extra.
Just like Elisha. Remember Elisha’s life changed when he followed someone who closely followed God. The apostles lives changed when they followed someone who closely followed God. And that someone, Jesus, still invites us to follow today.
None of us may be known as heroes by the masses. But every one of us can be a hero to someone. If you are still here, if you are listening to my voice, if you still have life in your body, then you haven’t missed your opportunity yet. You still have time to be that hero. You still have time for success.
And success is spelled f-a-i-t-h. For the believer, pleasing God should be considered the greatest success. And Hebrews 11.6 says that it is by faith that we bring pleasure to God. Read Hebrews 11.6.
So, let me share an acrostic for faith that I developed to help us all give that little extra for the glory of God.
- Faith Requires Action (Obedience)
- Action Requires Intentionality (Not Just Good Intentions)
- Intentionality Includes Teaching (Great Commission)
- Teaching Brings Hope (through the Gospel)
- Hope Increases Faith (Making More Disciples Leading Others to Begin this Faith Cycle)
Let us have faith. Let us live by faith. And let us, like Elisha give a little extra, go a little extra, and let God have His role in making us a hero for His glory – whether anyone but Him knows about us or not.