Saturday, 2 May 2015

Elijah and Elisha (1) law and grace

There is very little preaching on Elijah and Elisha today.  You will struggle to find almost any material on Elisha apart from Rev Alexander Stewart's excellent little book 'Elisha: Prophet of Grace'. I'm genuinely not sure where you can get this book today although the Free Church Bookshop in Edinburgh is probably your best option.

The ministry of Elijah and Elisha was during a pretty bleak period in the history of Israel.  Elijah ministered during the reign of Ahab and his infamous wife Jezebel.  Alexander Stewart's description of Jezebel is well worth quoting; 'Jezebel was a woman of tremendous force of character, savage, vindictive, unscrupulous, indomitable.  To the energy of a proud and insatiable nature she united the zeal of a religious fanatic.'

Through her weak willed husband, Jezebel set up Baal worship throughout Israel with all the associated immorality and fanatically drove out the true worship of Jehovah.   These were Israel's 'killing times'.  Prophets were cut off without mercy.  Those who survived lived as fugitives in dens and caves. The supremacy of God seemed completely overthrown and Baal seemed to reign supreme.

Elijah's name means 'Jehovah is God'.  His ministry was to vindicate God's supremacy and call Israel back to fidelity to their covenant God.  Elijah was the messenger of judgement.  The authority of God had been disowned. His majesty had been insulted. The claims of his covenant had been denied.  The disease was desperate and it called for a desperate remedy.  Elijah's ministry brought down judgement after judgement on Israel's unfaithfulness and sin.

At Horeb God spoke to Elijah through a mighty wind, an earthquake a fire and finally through a still small voice. Elijah was asked to pass the mantle on to Elisha in the wilderness of Damascus.

While Elijah had been the prophet of law and judgement, Elisha was primarily a prophet of grace. Elijah's ministry had been characterised by the wind, the earthquake and the fire but Elisha's ministry was more like the still small voice.  It was gentler, filled with love and the overtures of grace.  Instead of crushing the people with judgement he responded to their backsliding with gentleness and grace. Of course judgement and law is just as necessary as grace and love.  As Stewart says; 'Before Elisha could have sown the seeds of grace, Elijah must have ploughed the fields of judgement.' Indeed Elisha means 'God is salvation' and in many ways as Elijah is a figure of John the Baptist so Elisha is a type of Christ.  

It is sad so little is known of Elijah and Elisha.  So much in their ministry was taught by symbols and parables, by deeds rather than words.  It was the age of prophetic action rather than prophetic speech. Whatever work we put in to studying these incredible prophets will be richly rewarded   As Stewart says; 'On every hand we find ourselves in a field that, on the devout and diligent gleaner, yields a harvest of vital truth.'


  1. AW Pink's book on Elijah is excellent and well worth reading if you can find a copy.

  2. Thanks David. I love AW Pink. Try and get Alexander Stewart on Elisha if you can. Well worth studying.