Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Note: This is the 2nd of a three part article about the surprising ease one finds in having a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you’d like to view the first part (about salvation) Click Here. Or if your interested in part three (about the strength and wisdom of God) Click Here
Alright, so we know that real salvation is far easier than it supposedly is in any other religion; what about our walk with Christ? Jesus actually lets us know that things won’t always be easy in life. He states, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). I don’t know about you, but I’ve read this verse maybe a hundred times, and it’s often brought me very little comfort. I think to myself, “Well that’s all well and good for you, Lord, but you just straight up told me things are gonna be difficult.” However, what I didn’t realize is that because Christ has overcome all things in the world, and because he is interceding for us constantly that through him our lives can be made much easier. With Elisha still taking the place of Christ in these stories, let’s look at how believers are able to interact with the Lord during the course of their daily lives.
She had done everything right. The woman of Shunem, although already well off on her own had given what she could to the work of the Lord in the form of taking care of the prophet Elisha. And he had rewarded her and her husband by giving them a child. Then it happened. The Bible records,
The child grew, and one day he went out to his father, who was with the reapers. “My head! My head!” he said to his father.
His father told a servant, “Carry him to his mother.” After the servant had lifted him up and carried him to his mother, the boy sat on her lap until noon, and then he died. She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, then shut the door and went out (2 Kings 4:18-21).
Scripture isn’t real clear on what happened exactly to the boy. But it seems likely that his father didn’t hear or see his son coming and likely struck him accidentally with a tool. Either way, the child from God had been taken away. In this world you will have trouble indeed. Watch what happens next though,
She called her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants and a donkey so I can go to the man of God quickly and return.”
“Why go to him today?” he asked. “It’s not the New Moon or the Sabbath.”
“It’s all right,” she said.
She saddled the donkey and said to her servant, “Lead on; don’t slow down for me unless I tell you” (2 Kings 4:22-24).
So she was off. Take note that her husband, although this was an emergency situation, worried about his wife visiting Elisha on a normal day. However, in faith his wife insisted on going to the man of God right away. Well, the woman reached the prophet, and some stuff happened which has little bearing on today’s message (Elisha sent his servant Gehazi to put his staff on the boy’s face, that failed so Elisha himself started lying on the boy [also to little avail]). After all of this though, there’s a breakthrough,
Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out upon him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes.
Elisha summoned Gehazi and said, “Call the Shunammite.” And he did. When she came, he said, “Take your son.” She came in, fell at his feet and bowed to the ground. Then she took her son and went out (2 Kings 4:35-37).
Elisha restored the woman’s son back to life. But I want to rewind a little bit to when she first left. The woman’s husband suggested that she was out of line in meeting the prophet on a non-holiday. His opinion is likely due to a misunderstanding with the Law and how it was to be carried out. Exodus 34:23-24 tells us,
Three times a year all your men are to appear before the Sovereign lord, the God of Israel. I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your territory, and no one will covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God.
Because they were entirely surrounded by people worshipping local deities, it was very easy for the people of Israel and Judah to weaken the Lord into something more manageable. Therefore, many people felt God was only helpful on certain special days (to the people’s credit, unless there was an emergency, many of the prophets only ventured out on religious holidays). It’d be the same as us feeling like God only listens to prayers on Sunday at church. Even in Jesus’ time on earth he was running into this issue of a localized Lord. When talking with a woman in Samaria, she brought up a big issue of contention between the Samaritans and the Jews. We read in John 4:19-20, “’Sir,’ the woman said, ‘I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshipped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.’” In this case, people had become so Temple-centric, that it was thought that the Lord was only reachable through high place or Temple worship. But check out how Christ responds,
Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:21-24).
Jesus threw the whole argument out. He said that it doesn’t matter about times and places, rather that we worship and come to God out of our spirits and the understanding of the truth of the Gospel. As noted before, a lot of the misconceptions as to how to worship the Lord were established in how the early ministry of Israel was carried out. Scripture notes on Temple worship,
But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing (Hebrews 9:7-8).
Imagine if you thought that you were only really, totally clean once a year. And you couldn’t even approach God, but rather had to rely on someone else to pray for you on that one day. This is how the Israelites felt all the time. Sure, there was a system in place for forgiving willful sin, but the accidental sins were only atoned for once a year at the Temple. The Lord did this so that the people would realize that something was not all there yet and there had to be a better way to reach God than through some human mediator. With the death of Christ, the way was opened up for all who believe to seek the Lord directly. Scripture records,
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.
At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split (Matthew 27:50-51).
The curtain that split was the one that separated the most holy place from the rest of the Temple. Take note, it split from the top, so we can see it as a visualization of God the Father reaching down from heaven and ripping the barrier between him and us with his own hands through the death of his Son. Now with Christ in our lives, we can come to him for help any time, any place. No matter what is going on, no matter where you are, you can come to God for help. We’re told, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). The Shunammite woman understood that God is a 24/7 Lord, you should too. We can come to Christ to help us any time, any place, all you gotta do is pray and he’ll be there to help you in our time of need.
Being the main prophet in an area must have been a real pain in the tail. At the very least I’d imagine it was fairly annoying being Elisha. After the whole issue with the Shunammite woman’s son, Elisha decided to relax with the company of the prophets and have a dinner with them (even though there was a famine in the region). However, trouble was brewing (or stewing I guess),
One of them went out into the fields to gather herbs and found a wild vine. He gathered some of its gourds and filled the fold of his cloak. When he returned, he cut them up into the pot of stew, though no one knew what they were. The stew was poured out for the men, but as they began to eat it, they cried out, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it (2 Kings 4:93-40).
“There’s death in the pot”? I think this ranks up there with Ralph Wiggum in the Simpsons proclaiming of some wild berries that, “They taste like burning.” Strange wording and likely heavily-applied hyperbole aside, Elisha had to fix the stew. We read, “Elisha said, ‘Get some flour.’ He put it into the pot and said, ‘Serve it to the people to eat.’ And there was nothing harmful in the pot” (2 Kings 4:41). Don’t try this at home; if your soup has deadly ingredients, it’s likely that flour will not solve the problem. But that’s not all Elisha had to deal with from the company of other prophets. A few chapters later the group decided to start a construction project which would expand their meeting place. Of course, something went wrong. 2 Kings 6:5 records, “As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh, my lord,’ he cried out, ‘it was borrowed!’” I can imagine the unnamed prophet falling at Elisha’s feet, overreacting like the prophets of the time largely did. Once again, it’s up to him to save the day…over a borrowed axhead. We read,
The man of God asked, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float. “Lift it out,” he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it (2 Kings 6:6-7).
Elisha lived a life of patience. Dealing daily with people not wanting to listen to him, having to lie on dead kids, and having to *sigh* babysit the other prophets. All jokes aside, these two stories have a very good lesson on how we relate with Christ. Everyone acts like the company of prophets. We freak out over menial things, some of which are very easily rectified. Every little life inconvenience drives us mad. The Bible tells me, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). So I pray about everything, even stupid things- *Elisha sigh* especially about stupid things. But guess what? It doesn’t matter, because Jesus has his ears open to everything we have to ask of him. When we accept Christ into our hearts, we don’t just gain a king, a purpose in life, and all of that other big stuff. We get a friend who is with us all the time. Before he went to the cross, Christ spoke to his disciples on this. He said,
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).
This applies to us as well, since we have the Word of God; which, in combination with the Holy Spirit that is sealed in all believers, teaches us everything from the Lord. Since Jesus is our friend as well as our Savior, he is deeply interested in every part of our lives and does not consider helping us with everything we talk to him about as a burden. Actually, Jesus said himself, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14). So, just like Elisha was more than willing to help out his fellow prophets over small, relatively unimportant aspects of their lives, so too is Christ ready and willing to be active in all that we experience. This is why Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. Jesus is not a genie. We’re not to just ask him for what we want all the time. Prayer is our way of communicating with our Lord. Not just for our needs, but sometimes just to talk. You know how it makes you feel better to bounce ideas off of someone? Christ is there for that too, and Holy Spirit will probably even help you choose which ideas are best. Pray for everything. Pray when you wake up and ask God to help you with your day, tell him what you are hoping to accomplish so that he’ll guide your day in the right direction. Pray when you need direction (and I’d recommend accompanying this with some time reading the Bible or listening to a sermon, as the Lord speaks through these to your areas of need quite frequently). Pray before going to bed so that the Lord can get things ready for tomorrow. Paul tells us that we can even just pray when we’re feeling anxious and need to calm down a bit. Scripture states,
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
If you’ve never memorized a verse before, I’d start here. We’re told to pray about everything; no matter what the issue is, take it to God. If you’re in the wrong, you’ll find out. If you’re in the right, you’ll be vindicated. We don’t have to be tied to a day, time, or a place; the Lord is always there waiting for you to talk to him. Just take a moment out of your day and talk to God; talk to him as a friend, as a king, or as a loving father- for he is all of these things and more. Talk to him, get it out, and you’ll soon find that this walk through life we all take starts to get easier and easier when you’re walking with Christ.