Honestly, of all the well-known Bible characters in the Old Testament, Elisha would probably be the one I “get” the least. First, I find him the most forgettable. Ask me to list his bio off the top of my head, and the first thing I’m likely to do is to start questioning myself, “Elisha? Or was that Elijah?”
Elijah, him I think I could start to talk about pretty easy. The butting heads with Ahab and Jezebel thing. The Mt. Carmel thing. The depression the thing. The voice of God in the whisper thing. The man of “like passions” thing (James 5:17 KJV). And, the New Testament clearly declares that Elijah was, in part, a precursor to John the Baptist (Mt. 17:10-13).
But what about Elisha?
Not much from the New Testament, he’s only referred to once (Lk. 4:27). Yet, when it comes to sheer prophet power, Elisha was given “a double portion” of Elijah’s spirit (2Ki. 2:9-12a). If there’s any doubt about that, just check out the miracles performed by his hand or through his word in 2Kings (miracles which most often, I can’t remember — did I mention I have a certain block when it comes to Elisha?)
But this morning, maybe this morning, there’s a bit of a breakthrough. Here’s what I’m chewing on:
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. And Elisha said, “Give to the men, that they may eat.” But his servant said, “How can I set this before a hundred men?” So he repeated, “Give them to the men, that they may eat, for thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and have some left.'” So he set it before them. And they ate and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.
(2Kings 4:42-44 ESV)
Does that have a familiar ring to it? Ever read or heard a story like this somewhere else? A story of not enough food to feed the people present? A story of a man of God telling his servants to go ahead and distribute the food? A story of everyone eating and being satisfied and there’s still food left over? Yeah, me too. Multiple times in the New Testament. Actually two different stories, at least one of which is covered by every gospel writer (only John covers but one of the occasions).
To be sure, Elisha’s story pales in significance to the other stories. He’s presented twenty small loaves with some grain and wants to feed a hundred, hungry men. No small task, but it doesn’t compare with a few loaves and few fish and four or five thousand to feed. While Elisha may have had a double portion of Elijah’s power, what multiplier must the Man of God in the New Testament stories have had? But it’s this story that sparks my possible “aha” moment this morning.
Is Elisha in some way a foreshadow of Jesus? If Elijah foreshadowed John the Baptist, then it might make sense that Elisha is a picture of Christ. Even the nature of some of Elisha’s other miracles have a certain familiarity to them. In addition to multiplying food, he brings back to life a child who had died (2Ki. 4:18-37); he cleanses a man afflicted with leprosy (2Ki. 5:1-14); he demonstrates authority over natural elements such as iron and water (2Ki. 6:1-7); and, even in his death, he’s the source of another man’s resurrection (2Ki. 13:20-21). Hmm. Kind of sounds like Jesus. Not being dogmatic, but wondering.
So, if Elisha is meant to add something to the tapestry of the fullness of the picture of the Messiah, what’s his particular contribution? Maybe, for me, it’s that fact of how forgettable he is. No butting heads with evil kings, no Mt. Carmel showdowns, just meek and lowly Elisha, yet with evident power and authority. While he was given the cloak of Elijah, yet he walked under the cloak of a certain obscurity, just as the One who was equal with God “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Php. 2:6b-7). Willing for others to be His hands and feet, distributing food and blessing, even as He demonstrates His authority and provides the power.
Did I just see Jesus? I’m thinkin . . .
For sure, more to noodle on. Perhaps someday I’ll feel like I have a handle on Elisha. But for now, I’ll take this blessing.
By His grace. For His glory.