Pastor Gerry Koning ~ In the story of Elisha's encounter with Naaman, the pagan 5-star general with leprosy, we find a beautiful example of the gift of grace. It was a gift that came through a young Jewish girl who had been captured and placed in servitude in Namaan's household. Unlike Naaman, she had beautiful skin; and unlike Naaman, she knew the grace of God. The gift also came through some dunking in the dirty Jordan River, but the result was a cleanness that affected Namaan's heart, not just his skin. We too find the beauty of free grace when we are able to humble ourselves, receive grace as it is given, hold the things of this life loosely, and stay intimately connected to Jesus.
Pastor Gerry Koning ~ In the story of Elisha and the Shunnamite woman we find that grace comes in the way of new life. The Shunnamite woman represents in the Bible the weak and the outsiders, yet she is also an example of persistent faith and hope in the midst of her circumstances, making her the perfect recipient of new life by grace. It was the life of Elisha that gave the new life, but only because he had the Word of Life, namely Jesus, working in him. The Shunammite woman recognized this and learned, as we learn as well, that as one clings to the One who has the words of eternal life, she is freed from any and all cultural expectations of what defines us or gives us value in life, and then we can have true life indeed.
Pastor Gerry Koning ~ Why am I here? What is my purpose? So many people struggle with this question today. But God, in His grace, has called us all and given us purpose. He calls us not only for salvation, but also for vocation, namely that of prophets. In the case of Elisha, we see that the acceptance of this call brought a complete change to his life, from a life of wealth to poverty and from a status of leader to servant. And that is the purpose of any call from God -- to be a servant. But God does not call us without also giving us His power. We receive the power of His Spirit, and also the assurance that we no longer live under judgment. God visited His fire of judgment on the cross so that we could take the cloak of the Spirit and be prophets of God's grace and justice.
Pastor Gerry Koning ~ There can be no doubt that we live in a world full of injustice. But this is not new to us; it is something as old as time, and Elijah had to deal with it too, with greedy King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel. We see this so very plainly in the story of Naboth's vineyard. Ahab knew that Naboth's vineyard was far more that just a plot of dirt to Naboth-- it was his God-given, eternal inheritance -- yet Ahab and Jezebel were determined to take it from him anyway, one way or another, even if it meant death to Naboth. God our Father has promised an eternal inheritance to all His children, and it is up to us to help them find the Father, not only for the inheritance of life to come, but also here and now in this world. It is when we act justly that we open the door to the Father, but when we do injustice, we close that door.
Pastor Gerry Koning ~ 1 Kings 18 tells that familiar story of Elijah's contest with Baal and Mt. Carmel. But what we may not recognize until we look deeper is how this was a demonstration of God's grace, as well as God's power. When God took the initiative to end the drought, even though there is no mention of Israel's reaching out to Him, that is grace. When God uses the difficulties in our lives to show us our idols and allow us to turn from them, that is grace. And when God sent fire to burn up the offering rather than to destroy His faithless people, that is grace, and it points us directly to the grace of Jesus on the cross. The grace of Jesus means He bleeds for us so that we do not have to bleed, or in any other way, perform for Him.
Pastor Gerry Koning ~ This sermon begins a series on Elijah and Elisha. In I Kings 17 we find Elijah bringing the Word of the Lord to Israel that it would not rain there for three years in punishment for their sinful ways. We also find Elijah being provided for by the hand of God and bringing a widow's son back to life. And all of this teaches us several things about the Word of God: it is powerful, it provides for our need, it brings life, and it is self-authenticating in the way it can produce life giving change. God gave His Word through the person of Elijah, but when this Word was taken away the results were disastrous for the people. We live in a world where God's Word is readily available to us, so why do we still live in a drought sometimes? Could it be that we are simply not giving enough time and attention to feasting on God's Word?