Study 11 THE AUDACITY OF FAITH – ELISHA
MORE STUDIES IN HEBREWS 11
by Francis Dixon
Scripture References: Hebrews 11:35; 2 Kings 4:8-37
In Hebrews 11:35 we read “women received back their dead, raised to life again.” These miracles were wrought by God through faith. One of these was the woman of Zarephath whose son died and was raised to life in answer to the prayer of Elijah (1 Kings 17:17-24). The other was the woman of Shunem whose son died and was raised to life in answer to the prayer of Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-37). In each case it is the faith of the prophet which is referred to. The women may have had some faith, but they received the blessing that came in response to the faith of Elijah and Elisha. In this study we consider Elisha and the woman of Shunem. Please read 2 Kings 4:8-17. Elisha had been a great blessing to the woman of Shunem and to her husband, and it was through his prayer to the Lord that the child had been born to them; but when the child grew up tragedy came to that family, for verses 18-20 tell us that the child died. Immediately, the boy’s mother went into action (verses 21-26). Notice that the woman of Shunem had no confidence in Gehazi. This is the meaning of her words, “Everything is all right” in verse 26. In actual fact it was not well. What she meant was that she wanted to see Elisha, whose faith shines out here as an audacious and a bold faith. What does it really mean to trust in God?
1. It needs great faith to trust God when we cannot trace His working.
If God had given this boy in answer to Elisha’s prayer, why had He allowed him to die? This was the big question which must have faced the boy’s mother and Elisha also – read verses 15 to 20. What a puzzling and challenging situation it was as the poor mother stood before Elisha! – see verses 27 and 28. What could Elisha say? Could he tell her why God had permitted this thing to happen? No, he could not! And you cannot say why God permits similar things to happen in your experience. There are times when we have to trust God in the dark. It needs an audacious, bold faith to trust God when we cannot trace Him. Perhaps you have to do that just now? Turn to John 11:1-25, and in particular notice verses 1,3,4,5,6 and 15! What a test of faith it is when Jesus keeps us waiting for the answer to our prayers!
2. It needs great faith to trust God when those who serve Him and profess to know Him have failed to secure the desired result.
We learn this from verses 29-31. Gehazi was Elisha’s servant, but he was out of touch with the Lord, and even though he had Elisha’s staff in his hand and had been commissioned by Elisha, when he laid the staff on the child nothing happened. Gehazi was a mere formalist – look up 2 Timothy 3:5; he had the form but not the force – look up Matthew 17:14-21 for a parallel illustration from the New Testament. So Gehazi’s failure was an added challenge to Elisha’s faith. The situation was rather like that described in Mark 5:25-26.
3. It needs great faith to trust God when the situation is desperate.
What was the real condition of the boy? How desperate was his case? The answer is in verse 32. Could anything be more desperate than this? The boy was not only dead, but he had been dead some while – look up and compare John 11:38-44. How impossible the situation must have seemed! Humanly speaking it was. Elisha knew that, and Gehazi proved it, and the broken-hearted mother knew it also; but – look up Genesis 18:14, and compare Matthew 19:26. Is your case a desperate one? God asks you to trust Him. Will you not do so? Stop! And at this moment lift up your heart in prayer and tell the Lord that you do trust Him with your life and your circumstances, then look up Psalm 37:5!
4. It needs great faith to discern God’s will and to pray the prayer of faith.
Please give attention to verses 32 and 33. Elisha needed faith to discover God’s will in this situation, for it is not always God’s will to heal the sick or to raise the dead. He can do it, but very often He does not do it because it is not His will; and faith does not alter God’s will. To claim that God will do something that is contrary to His will is not faith but presumption. What Elisha had to do was to find out what God’s will was and then to pray the prayer of faith. In this case the prophet discerned that God wanted to raise the child from the dead, and so he asked Him to do it. It needs faith to accept sickness or death from the Lord, just as it needs faith to ask for and receive healing from His hand; faith to “escape the edge of the sword” and faith to be “sawn in two” – compare Hebrews 11:34 and 37.
5. It needs great faith to identify ourselves in a practical way with the one whose need is so great.
From verse 34 we learn that in answer to Elisha’s prayer God performed a miracle. What faith was needed on Elisha’s part! What audacity to shut the door and to have everybody waiting outside while he, on the inside, asked God to raise up the boy! – look up and compare Acts 9:36-43.
6. It needs great faith to persevere until prayer is fully answered.
In this case prayer was answered in a most wonderful way, as we learn from verse 35; but before the answer came, “Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room”. Surely he was waiting upon God, making quite sure of His will, strengthening his faith, talking to the Lord and wrestling in prayer. Then, fortified and full of faith, he went back to the child and again went through the process of identification with the boy – and suddenly the answer came. Prayer was answered and Elisha’s faith was vindicated, for God had raised the boy up. God does not always at once say “Yes” to our prayers. Sometimes He says “Wait”, but His delays are not denials, so bring your need to Him and keep on praying!
7. It needs great faith to secure a testimony for the glory of God.
The story ends in a very quiet way, as we learn from verses 36-37. But how beautifully it ends! – look up and compare 1 Kings 17:21-24.
In conclusion notice Romans 10:11, which may literally read: ‘No-one who believes on Him, adheres to Him, relies on Him and trusts in Him, will ever be disappointed.’