A bed, a table, and a candlestick - 2 Kings 4:8-11
This fourth chapter of 2 Kings is one of the most delightful and instructive in the Old Testament. It begins with a famine, and it ends with a feast, plainly proving that God has come into it by the way. Elisha, the man of God, who stood for God and showed what His goodness and grace were to a needy and sinful people, is the great figure in it, but he does but illustrate the fullness that there is in our Lord Jesus to meet every need that any man or woman can have. Thus we will view him. Elisha shall show us what the Lord Jesus is as the dispenser of the grace and blessings of God.
The chapter opens with a bankrupt widow, a speaking picture of a burdened, unforgiven sinner, but Elisha met her need, and not only was her debt paid—the past all settled—but she had “the rest” to live upon: the future was all secured and provided for. So it is with all who have turned to the Lord Jesus Christ in their need—they are justified freely by the grace of God—cleared for ever of their guilty past—but their future is also secured: the grace of the Lord is sufficient for them.
But the figure changes, the bankrupt widow, now forgiven and free, gives place to a great woman with great possessions. And this very change has been wrought in and for us. Christians, we who were once bankrupt sinners, are now a great people through the grace of God. I hope we are not great in our own eyes, and I hope that we do not desire to be great in the eyes of the world; yet we are great in the eyes of heaven, for we are the children of God. Hear the words of Holy Scripture: “The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirits that we are the children of God, and IF CHILDREN THEN HEIRS; HEIRS OF GOD AND JOINT HEIRS WITH CHRIST; if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8). No angel has so high a place as that, nor can any claim so great a destiny. I saw crowds of people waiting in the streets the other day and learnt that the king’s daughter was expected to pass, and when she did, she was given a respectful and loyal tribute by the crowds, and perfectly right—honor to whom honor—she is a great person in the land, and the people acknowledge it. As you and I walk in the streets nobody notices us; we have no honor in this world, for we are nobodies in its estimation; but the day is coming when we shall enter our own land, the golden gates to the Father’s house will be thrown back for us, and in that day the angels of God will line the shining way and welcome us home—the sons of God brought to glory by redeeming blood. This is the dignity that God has put upon us; may our ways be consistent with it. Let us live as the children of God should, as those who have great resources and a great destiny.
We owe everything to our Lord, and it is right we should consider Him and His desires. What does He desire? Above all things He wants our company. True love can be satisfied with nothing less from us. Notice in our picture that THE MAN OF GOD PASSED BY THE HOUSE OF THE GREAT WOMAN CONTINUALLY. It is thus that our Lord acts. He seeks for a place within our hearts and lives. And the Holy Ghost has come to take of the things of Christ and show them to us, and thus He passes by us continually to win a place for Himself in our hearts. It is thus that we see Him in Revelation 3: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock,” He says, “if any man hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him and he with Me.” The man of God did not force himself upon this woman’s hospitality, but when she constrained him, he went in and ate bread with her. It has been said, and truly said, that “we get as much of the company of the Lord as we desire.” If we constrain Him, He will not deny us His company; it is this that His heart yearns for, and it is a joy to Him when yearning for Him awakens in our hearts.
I gather that these occasional visits of Elisha to the Shunammite’s house were wonderful times for her, insomuch that she determined to have him there not as an occasional visitor but as one of her household, a constant guest. And we, have we not known seasons of joy when we admitted the Lord to our hearts? In sorrow we have sought Him, and He has blest us with His own comfort; in times of depression, He has cheered us, and turned our mourning into songs of praise. He has touched our hearts with His love, and we have been ashamed of our neglect of Him but rejoiced in His grace that abides ever the same. These seasons may not have lasted long, but they were wonderful while they did last. He gave them to us that we might long after Him more and do what this great woman did for Elisha.
She said to her husband, “Behold, now I perceive that this is a holy man of God, which passes by us continually. Let us make a little chamber on the wall…and it shall be when he comes to us that he shall turn in thither.” Her perception was right—she was a wise woman. Oh, that we may be all like her in regard to Christ; but if we are to be, as she prepared a chamber for Elisha, so we must prepare a chamber for Christ. The heart is the chamber—your heart, dear Christian. It may not be very large, but it may be the guest-chamber of the King of glory. But how can the heart be prepared for Him? Let us learn the lesson that the story of this wise woman teaches.
She was a practical, thorough kind of woman, and I have no doubt that the first thing she did was to use the broom and clear out the cobwebs that were hidden in the dark corners and sweep out of the chamber all that was unsuited to the desired guest. Test yourself here, dear Christian. Are there lurking in your heart things that you cherish that keep the Lord out of it? Ah, if you do but see Him passing by, and get one glimpse of His glory, these cherished things will be filth and rubbish to you; you will feel them to be encumbrances, occupying time and space that the Lord would fill, and you will want to be rid of them. Do you say, “I have tried often to give up habits and things that I know are wrong but have only failed, until I have almost despaired”? Yes, I know that experience, and I know what you need—a true sight of the cross upon which Jesus gave Himself for you to redeem you from all that iniquity that holds you and to purify you to Himself, to be His own peculiar treasure. You need that backward look to the cross and then an upward look to the glory into which He has gone, and the Holy Spirit who dwells in you can give you both, and the Holy Spirit will be the power within you to bring you into conformity to Christ. It is in the presence of the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Spirit that we are enabled to condemn and turn out of our lives what is contrary to Christ, and best of all, and most needful of all, to judge and turn from sinful self.
The Lord Himself will come to our aid if we place ourselves without reserve in His hands, and we may take up David’s words and say to Him, “Search me, O God, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in me.” Lord, take your candle and go through every chamber of my life from its topmost turret down to its deepest vault. Light with your own light the dark recesses in it and show me things as they appear to you!
Now comes the furnishing of the chamber. Into the one that she prepared for Elisha the great woman put A BED, A TABLE, A STOOL AND A CANDLESTICK.
The bed is the place of rest. You remember the words, “Come to Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest to your souls.” The yoke of the Lord means submission to His holy will, and His will is good and perfect and acceptable. It is not against us but for us, and when we yield ourselves to it the inward conflict and restlessness give place to quietness and rest. And as we learn of Him who is meek and lowly in heart, the envying and jealousy and ambitions of men that make them fret and fume do not trouble us; we can leave ourselves and our concerns in God’s hand and in confidence in Him find rest. This is the first thing; we have no chamber fit for the Lord to dwell in if this is absent, but in such a heart He will find His pleasure and rest.
Then follows the table, and this speaks of communion. “I will sup with him and he with Me,” said the Lord. He desires to enter into our things, our joys and sorrows, for He loves us and is interested in us as our dearest and truest Friend, and He desires to bring to us His own comfort and grace in all that may cause us grief, but He would also lead us into His things, for He wants us to sup with Him, to have communion with Him in His things as His friends. A heart that is at rest from itself and consequently free to hold communion with Him is a heart that is delightful to Him.
The stool came next, and we must not overlook this. Mary understood the need and blessedness of the stool, for she sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word, and we can only be maintained in communion with Him as we sit at His feet and learn of Him. The old restlessness will reassert itself if we neglect this; but as we sit at His feet, we shall abide in Him and His words will abide in us, and we shall ask what we will, for hearing His word and speaking to Him in prayer go together. At His feet we learn of Him, and the more we know Him the more we love Him, and He has said, “If any man love Me he will keep My words: and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him.” The chamber will not be tenantless if we show our love to the Lord by hearing and keeping His word.
Then the candlestick will be there. Our bodies will be full of light, having no part dark; sincerity and truth will mark us, and we shall shine for Him who dwells within our hearts. The light that has shone in will shine out.
Into this chamber swept and furnished the man of God came and lay there, and the Shunammite was a happy and honored woman. May the spiritual reality pictured in this Old Testament story be true in every one of our lives!