Bible Readings for October 23rd
In 2 Kings 4, we learn that the ministry of Elisha doesn’t simply pick up where Elijah left off—rather, Elisha actually mirrors the ministry of Elijah, and in doing so, his ministry points forward to a greater prophet yet to come. So, Elisha saves a widow and her sons who were in a desperate financial situation through a multiplication miracle (2 Kgs. 4:1–7), and he raises up another woman’s son who had died (2 Kgs. 4:18–37). Both of these sound almost exactly like the miracles of Elijah to spare the widow of Zarephath by causing her flour and oil jugs not to run out through the famine (1 Kgs. 17:8–16) and by raising up the widow’s son who had died (1 Kgs. 17:17–24).
But, we also read that Elisha’s ministry extends beyond what Elijah had done. As we come upon yet one more barren woman in the story of the Bible, Elisha prophesies to her that she will conceive and bear a son (2 Kgs. 4:16)—the same son whom Elisha raises up when he dies. Then, when the sons of the prophets find death in their pot of stew (probably some kind of food poisoning), Elisha miraculously heals the stew by throwing flour in the pot (2 Kgs. 4:41). Afterward, when a man comes to this meal from Baal-shalishah carrying barley loaves, Elisha commands the man to give the food to the sons of the prophets. Despite the man’s concerns that there would not be enough for everyone, Elisha prophesies that they would all eat, and that there would be food left over (2 Kgs. 4:42–44).
Taken together, the reports from Elijah’s and Elisha’s prophetic ministries point forward to the greater prophetic ministry of Jesus Christ. Consider the overlap: our Lord’s mother was barren by virtue of being a virgin (Luke 1:34), and Jesus’ first miracle multiplied wine that had run out at a wedding (John 2:1–11). Furthermore, he too raised up a widow’s son (Luke 7:11–17) and he also fed the hungry—a crowd of five thousand people (Matt. 14:13–21) and then a crowd of four thousand people (Matt. 15:32–38), each time multiplying a few barley loaves and fish so that those thousands of people had enough to eat, with a combined nineteen baskets of leftovers afterward.
Jesus moves beyond both the prophetic ministries of Elijah and Elisha, but not as merely another prophet. Instead, Jesus is the ultimate prophet and even the ultimate subject of all prophecy, since “the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Rev. 19:10). Every step forward through the Old Testament marches toward him, for he is the very Word of God made flesh (John 1:14). This is God’s own, beloved Son, so therefore, listen to him (Matt. 17:5).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.