A Prophet For Me
- Emily Day
This week our class had a guest lecturer named Mark Smith. Mark is one of the directors of the Bethsaida excavation in Israel, and as an archeologist, he was able to illuminate and bring to life the stories in Kings and Chronicles. This week of lectures was a certainly a highlight for our class as we felt transported back to the time of the kings.
Mark brought in pottery and coins from this era - from early bronze age, to coins that circulated during the time of the temple destruction in 70AD. I genuinely shed a tear holding pottery from 5000 years ago. If the people in the Bible are “characters”, it was as though I was holding one of their props. But they aren’t just character - they are real people, and this was a tangible piece of their lives, or at least the lives of those around them.
It’s so easy, at least for me, to feel as though the books in the Bible are just stories, and forget that these were real people, with real feelings and lives, with a real God. And I was holding the pottery of people who were experiencing the same God that I get to experience today, thousands of years later. It felt intimate, in a way, to hold a broken piece of a cooking pot of someone who God knew, and was working out his plan of redemption for.
Mark was a fantastic speaker, and he alway started each lecture with a tie-in to our own lives. One that really stuck out to me was his comparison of Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was a big-wig prophet, and interacted with the kings a ton. He's referenced something around 29 times in the New Testament, the third most referenced OT person in the NT. He was a big deal.
And then there's Elisha.
Elisha actually did more miraculous things in his lifetime than Elijah, but they were just smaller scale. Elisha only talked to the kings once, the rest of his ministry was with the people - radically impacting a few people who aren't really of huge significance in the grand scheme of things. But they are of huge significance to God. Elisha's ministry is recorded to show us God's heart for each person in this narrative, not just the big important kings.
Mark talked about how ministries like Elijah's are rare, and it is more likely that most of us will have a ministry more akin to Elisha's. Humble. Not flashy. Kinda gritty, and with average people, not huge politicians or world stage game changers. Mark asked us if Elisha's ministry even mattered. As we thought about it, he began to answer: It mattered to the widow who was so poor she was going to have to sell her son into slavery. It mattered to the old woman who he blessed with fertility in her old age, and then raised her son to life again after he died. It mattered to the poor guy who dropped a borrowed axe into the river. It mattered to a lot of people. Maybe not big kings, but he changed people’s lives.
Again, I started crying. (You can just ask my desk-mate, Amy. The tears flow pretty regularly). Elisha was such a beautiful prophet, and it never seemed to bug him that he didn’t have the same ministry as Elijah. He probably isn’t even phased that he only shows up once in the NT. I think I got emotional about this, because I am often reaching for Elijah-type ministries. If I’m honest with myself, there’s a part of me that wants to get recognition for what I do for God in my life. That couldn’t be further from the point of living for Christ, but I would be lying if I said I am always content with my “Elisha” ministry.
There was one more thing that really struck me about the stories of Elisha. Why are they recorded? How did they survive 2500 years? These stories of “nobodies” were so important to God that He inspired them to be written down and protected, the stories of these people who don’t really matter (for the most part) to the overall narrative, but God wanted us to hear about them. And He wanted to honour Elisha for his obedience in the everyday, small scale ministries.
We serve a beautiful God, who gently reminds us that it’s not all about us, but about impacting those He places in our paths, and trusting Him to lead our ministries where He wants them.
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