Bible Study on the Prophet Elisha

2 Kings 8:7-14: When God Weeps

 

By I Gordon

 

Introduction

 

Well, we’ve come to the end of the studies in the Elisha series and I think it would be nice to go out with a nice joyful topic don’t you? Well, either that or maybe we should just go for a tear jerker? Ok, fair enough, the tear jerker it is.

 

The last passage we are going to look at is in 2 Kings 8:7-14 and it’s probably not one that is about to break into the top-10 ‘happy’ texts of the Bible. But it is an interesting passage none the less. You see, up until now we have seen Elisha in all sorts of challenging circumstances and he has always, because of his trust in God, been confident, controlled, and somewhat unemotional. But not here... Not this time. In the passage before us Elisha will break down and weep. So let’s have a look at the circumstances that can make a prophet weep and also ask the question does God weep?

 

A visit to the enemy…

 

2 Kings 7:7-8 Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. When the king was told, “The man of God has come all the way up here,”  8 he said to Hazael, “Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the LORD through him; ask him, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’”

 

Now, the first thing that stands out is that Elisha is going to Damascus and to the king of Aram! Please remember that this is the same king that has been previously trying to destroy the nation of Israel and even Elisha himself! So why would Elisha go and see him? Why indeed… I have a sneaky suspicion that you don’t know! I’ll leave the answer for those whose eyesight still allows them to read the fine print.[1]

 

The second point that comes out of this passage is that deep down everyone is afraid of death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a prince or a pauper, everyone is reduced to the same level at the end of their life.[2] So here we have the king of Aram, the enemy of Israel, giving gifts to Elisha desperate to know whether he will recover or not. All the money, power and fame come to nothing when faced with death. How relevant are the words of King David on this matter:

 

“Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days;

let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth;

the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah

Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro:

He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it.  “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.” (Psalm 39:4-7)   

 

A steely stare…

 

2 King 8:8-11 Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, “Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’” Elisha answered, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover’; but the LORD has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of God began to weep.

 

Now, here’s a strange little thing. Elisha says to Hazael to tell the king that he will recover even though the Lord has revealed that the king will die. Is Elisha encouraging a big old fat lie? Is he telling a porky? Elisha, you are a man of God… what are you doing? No, I don’t think Elisha was encouraging a lie. Elisha told Hazael to answer the king’s question truthfully for the king’s illness would not lead to his death. From that illness he would have recovered. The Lord had showed Elisha something else however. Something dark. Elisha had been given a glimpse of the heart of Hazael.

 

For that reason Elisha stared at Hazael with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Ouch. You can only imagine how long and steely that stare was. Sinners squirm in the presence of holiness and Hazael knows that Elisha can see right through him. We would rather keep our secret sins just that… secret. We certainly don’t like the thought that someone else could know what’s going on in our thoughts and heart. But God knows and those he reveals it to know[3]. And Elisha knows exactly what kind of man Hazael is. So much so that he begins to weep.

 

How to make a prophet weep

 

2 Kings 8:12-15 “Why is my lord weeping?” asked Hazael. “Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,” he answered. “You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.” Hazael said, “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?” “The LORD has shown me that you will become king of Aram,” answered Elisha. Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, “What did Elisha say to you?” Hazael replied, “He told me that you would certainly recover.” But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king’s face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king.

 

When Elisha reveals the evil intent in Hazael’s heart he at first pretends, with a false humility, that he couldn’t be capable of such things. And then just as quickly he scuttles off and suffocates the king to gain the throne! Lovely man.

 

But all that aside, the main point that I wanted to explore in this study is this thought:

What makes a prophet weep? And connected to that are quite a few other questions – Does God weep? Does God have emotion so that he can grieve? You see we tend to talk a lot more about the character of God like His faithfulness, His justice, His holiness etc. But what about His emotions? Does He feel like we do? Yes… so many questions and so little time!

 

Let’s start at the top. What makes a prophet weep? Or to make it easier, what made Elisha weep? Elisha obviously wept because he could see the destruction and death that was coming to his people Israel through the hand of Hazael. Behind that thought however was Elisha’s sadness at the state and heart of the Israeli people. They were far from God. So much so that God was now allowing a wicked king to rise up and persecute them so that their hearts would turn again to Him. That’s what made God’s prophet weep.

 

But what about God? Does He weep? Or maybe we should make the question easier for God was made flesh and dwelt among us... What made Jesus weep? Can you think of any incidents when the Lord wept? Ok, I can’t wait… The Bible records two such incidents. Here are the scriptures:

 

Jesus wept at Lazarus’ Tomb

 

John 11:32-36 ‘When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

 

So what was it that made Jesus weep here then? I guess the easy answer is that He was moved by the grief of Mary and the other Jews at the death of Lazarus. I’m sure that was part of it, but it is not the full story as you can see from the footnote[4]. It seems that it wasn’t just this death that Jesus wept over. Jesus wept, and felt anger, over the suffering, death, and effects of sin that had come upon His creation.

 

Luke 19:41 “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

 

The second time scripture records Jesus weeping is actually on a day of celebration. It was Palm Sunday… the day that Jesus presented Himself as their Messiah, riding upon a donkey in fulfilment of Zech 9:9. Yet amidst all the joyful praise, Jesus still knew what would happen later that week and wept over Jerusalem for all that would come upon them. Jesus loved Israel. He loved Jerusalem. He loved

its people. He longed to be their protector yet they had rejected Him. At this same time, Mathew records Jesus saying:

 

Mathew 23:37-39 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ”

 

Conclusion

 

What made Elisha weep? It was the same as that which Jesus wept over… the heart of the people being far from God. We shouldn’t assume God to be unemotional or immune from grief. The scripture tells us in both the Old and the New Testament that the Holy Spirit is grieved and ‘envies intensely’ when God’s people turn from Him (Isa 63:10, James 4:4-6). So I guess the question is: If Elisha, Jesus and God care so much about the state of people’s hearts, do you? And would the Holy Spirit be jealous for your attention or would your life bring pleasure to God? I’m not trying to point the finger… only you and God know the answer to such questions. But may you, and I, be people that seek to please God and not those that bring Him grief.

 

 



[1] The answer takes us back… right back to when Elijah was God’s main prophet and Elisha was still just working the fields. Have a read of 1 Kings 19:15. Well, here it is for you: “The LORD said to him (Elijah), “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.  Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.”

With Elijah wallowing in a cave in self pity, God told Elijah to go and anoint Hazael king of Aram and Elisha as his replacement. He did the later but neglected the former. So in this passage before us Elisha was now doing what Elijah didn’t do.

 

[2] While we may all go the same way, the Christian knows the one who has conquered death and should not fear. Heb 2:14-15 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—  and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”

 

Consider and note the contrast between the following deaths. First those of unbelievers:

 

"I am abandoned by God and man! Doctor, I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six months' life. I shall go to hell!’  (VOLTAIRE)

"What blood, what murders, what evil counsels have I followed! I am lost; I see it well!" (CHARLES IX)

"I would give worlds, if I had them, if the Age of Reason had never been published. O Lord, help me! Christ, help me! It is hell to be left alone!" (TOM PAYNE)

"Oh, that I were to lie upon the fire that never is quenched a thousand years, to purchase the favor of God and be reunited to Him again! … Oh, eternity, eternity! forever and forever! Oh, the insufferable pangs of hell!" (SIR FRANCIS NEWPORT)

“The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels which should have established the millennium, led, instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now they look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.” (GEORGE BERNARD SHAW)

 

The death-bed words of believers:

 

"How bright the room! How full of angels!" (MARTHA McCRACKEN)

"The sun is setting; mine is rising. I go from this bed to a crown. Farewell." (S. B. BANGS)

"Can this be death? Why, it is better than living! Tell them I die happy in Jesus." (JOHN ARTHUR LYTH)

"Oh, that I could tell you what joy I possess! I am full of rapture. The Lord doth shine with such power upon my soul. He is come! He is come!" (Mrs. MARY FRANCES)

 

And my favorite…the death bed words of the great Christian, D.L Moody.

"Earth recedes, heaven opens before me.  If this is death, it is sweet!  There is no valley here.  God is calling me, and I must go!"  His son who was standing by his bedside said, "No, no father, you are dreaming." "No," said Mr. Moody, "I am not dreaming; I have been within the gates; I have seen the children's faces."  A short time elapsed and then, following what seemed to the family to be the death struggle, he spoke again:  "This is my triumph; this my coronation day!  It is glorious!" (D.L.MOODY)

 

[3] So how much better to agree with God about our own heart and sin! King David was a man who experienced this gaze of God at various times due to unconfessed sin. In Psalm 32 he wrote: “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”  

 

Or consider what it was that lead David to pray in Psalm 39:13 ‘Turn your gaze away from me that I may smile again.” Or imagine the guilt and shame that Peter felt after disowning Jesus for we read The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him… And he went outside and wept bitterly.’(Luke 22:61)

[4] From the Bible Knowledge Commentary:

In great contrast with the Greek gods’ apathy or lack of emotion, Jesus’ emotional life attests the reality of His union with people. Deeply moved may either be translated “groaned” or more likely “angered.” The Greek word  enebrimeµsato (from embrimaomai) seems to connote anger or sternness. (This Gr. verb is used only five times in the NT, each time of the Lord’s words or feelings: Matt. 9:30; Mark 1:43; 14:5; John 11:33, 38.) Why was Jesus angry? Some have argued that He was angry because of the people’s unbelief or hypocritical wailing. But this seems foreign to the context. A better explanation is that Jesus was angry at the tyranny of Satan who had brought sorrow and death to people through sin (cf. 8:44; Heb. 2:14-15). Also Jesus was troubled (etaraxen, lit., “stirred” or “agitated,” like the pool of water in John 5:7; cf. 12:27; 13:21; 14:1, 27). This disturbance was because of His conflict with sin, death, and Satan.