Study 7 PHILIPPIANS 4:19 ILLUSTRATED
Studies in the Life of Elisha
by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: 2 Kings 4: 38-44)
In Gilgal there was a theological college, of which the Principal was Elisha, described in verse 42 as “the man of God”, and there were one hundred students, described in verse 38 as “the sons of the prophets”. They were all in danger of starving, for verse 38 tells us “there was a dearth in the land.” Then, quite unexpectedly, a wonderful thing happened. A man arrived on the scene with a gift of food for Elisha, but at the Lord’s bidding he gave instructions for it to be given to the students, and when all were fed there was still some over. Here is an O.T. anticipation of our Lord’s miracles of the feeding of the 5000 (Matthew 14:15-21) and of the 4000 (Matthew 15:32-38), and it is a glorious illustration of Philippians 4:19 - of the way in which God provides for the needs of His people. How does He meet their needs?
1. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS WORD.
Notice the words, “For this is what the LORD says”, and “according to the word of the Lord” (verses 43-44). Frequently in the Bible God promises to provide for His children, and not one promise has ever failed or will ever fail. David testified to God’s promise of provision when he said - Psalms 23:1; 34:10; 37:25; Isaiah gave the same assurance to every believer - Isaiah 33:16; our Lord said the same thing in Matthew 6:25-34; and Paul added his testimony - Romans 8:32; 2 Corinthians 9:8. These are all God’s promises to us assuring us that He always provides for His children according to His word.
2. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE IN ANSWER TO PRAYER
Elisha and the college students prayed to God in their extremity, and because Elisha had prayed he was able to say, “For this is what the LORD says …” (verse 43); so let us notice that although God promises to supply our needs He waits for us to pray that He will do so. Why is this? One reason is to keep us dependent upon Him. Prayer does not make Him more willing to give, but it provides the channel through which He can give. If we find our supplies running short it is so that we may feel our need of Him and be cast upon Him. God always gives to us in answer to prayer - either our own or that of someone else. This is very much illustrated in the lives of Elijah and Elisha.
3. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE AT THE APPROPRIATE TIME
Often He allows us to come to the end of our resources before He sends His special provision. This is wonderfully illustrated in the experience of George Muller and the daily provision that He made for his hundreds of orphans in Bristol - all in answer to prayer. This provision always came just at the right moment - as it did for Elisha and his students!
4. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE IN A SUITABLE WAY.
The students needed food, so the Lord sent food. George Muller needed food, fuel and clothing for his children, so the Lord supplied these necessities. What are you needing? – look up Luke 11:11-12, and trust Him, for He will never fail.
5. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE FROM AN UNEXPECTED QUARTER
“A man came from Baal Shalishah… ” We are told nothing about him, which reminds us that God does not always provide for us in the way we expect. We are tempted to say, “So-and-so could help”; but the help comes from ‘Baal Shalishah’! Elijah was fed by ravens (1 Kings 17:4), and sustained by a widow (1 Kings 17:9), which reminds us that God’s resources never run dry. He is never at a loss to know how to supply our need, which is often quite different from what we expect.
6. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE USUALLY THROUGH A HUMAN CHANNEL
The need of the college was supplied through the man from Baal Shalishah. God’s gifts of food and other necessities do not drop from the skies, and if we are in need He sends them through a human channel, through one of His stewards who feels burdened to supply our need in the name of the Lord. The same is true with regard to spiritual gifts. These are usually dispensed through the preaching of the Word or through the living, consecrated testimony of one of God’s children. The Lord Jesus fed five thousand, but He did it through the disciples; on the Day of Pentecost the Lord saved three thousand souls through the preaching of Peter and others; and Paul’s needs were constantly met through the sacrificial giving of the Christians in the early Church. Do we feel the responsibility placed upon us to be ready to be channels through whom God can give to meet the needs of others?
7. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE ON AN ADEQUATE SCALE
He always gives abundantly: verse 43 says, “They will eat and have some left over”; and verse 44 says, “They ate and had some left over.” There was plenty left over! It was a miracle, and He will, if necessary, work a miracle for you.
8. GOD PROVIDES FOR HIS PEOPLE FOR AN UNSELFISH PURPOSE
The “man from Baal Shalishah” gave food to Elisha, but Elisha shared it with his students. All God’s giving to us should issue in our sharing with others. Notice the words in verse 42 - “Give it to the people… ”, and compare them with Matthew 14:16 and 1 John 3:17. We are to share with others the gifts that God bestows upon us. This is especially true in relation to spiritual gifts. For instance: He has saved us - but are we seeking the salvation of others? He comforts us in our sorrows. Why? Look up 2 Corinthians 1:4. He lifts our burden, but He says - Galatians 6:2. God is no man’s debtor, and as we give to others so He goes on giving to us - compare Proverbs 11:24 with Luke 6:38. The more we give the more He gives, and the more He gives the more He would have us give. What a great giver He is!
Closing Thought: Psalm 23:1.