2 Kings 13:20-21
And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.…
1. The Jews thought this the crowning miracle of Elisha. Certainly it is unique in the pages of Holy Scripture, and it has also the distinction of being peculiarly offensive to modern thought. The author of Ecclesiasticus sums up his praise of Eliseus, "After his death his body prophesied. He did wonders in his life, and at his death were his works marvellous" (Ecclus. 48:13, 14).
2. Let us look at the circumstances. Elisha was dead and buried. His funeral, according to Josephus, had great pomp. The Moabites were still unsubdued, and infested the land of Israel. Some men were bearing a corpse to burial, when they suddenly "spied a band of men," and, in their eagerness to escape, thrust the corpse into the open tomb of the prophet, and, upon contact with the sacred body of Elisha, the man "revived and stood up on his feet."
3. That the men did this with any idea of restoring the man to, life seems scarcely worth discussion. Their intention is manifest in the text. The Israelites did not believe that the dead could raise the dead, though Elisha had raised the dead, when alive, by means of prayers and actions; nor would they have willingly deposited the body of a sinner in the resting-place of the holy prophet. Fear in the emergency led to this action, and accounts for it, God overruling it to His own purposes.
I. THE MIRACLE.
1. I should like to notice at the outset what a very short and unadorned account we have of this marvel. It is related within the limits of a single verse. How calm and restrained is the narrative! It gives the simple fact, without any embellishment or note of admiration. This in itself betokens an inspired writer. A similar instance of conciseness and composure may be found in St. Mark's account of our Lord's ascension and session to the right hand of the Father: "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God" (Mark 16:19).
2. This is the record of a miracle, and the credibility of miracles is admitted to be a common point of assault in the present day. Perhaps, this arises from looking too much at the miraculous from the lower rather than the higher side. In other words, to fasten our thoughts upon it as an infringement of natural law rather than to regard it as a Divine work, wrought for a moral purpose. The overruling of a lower law by a higher cannot be accurately described as an "infringement," for it is a part of universal law. A miracle is an exceptional occurrence, to awaken man to a sense of the Divine presence and power.
3. But this miracle is especially "offensive" to the sceptic, because of the instrument which God employed in effecting it — a dead body. When there is a living agent who operates, whether prophet or apostle, the wonder-working is not so far remorea from human experience. The spiritualist resents the idea that there can be sanctity and "virtue" in human remains. And yet, as it has been often shown, there are other miracles in the Bible of a kindred nature, as, for instance, the cures wrought through the touch of the hem of Christ's garment (Mark 5:28, 29), through the "handkerchiefs and aprons" of St. Paul (Acts 19:12), and the shadow Of St. Peter (Acts 5:15).
4. It may be admitted that miracles wrought through martial Objects seem more in keeping with the New Testament than the Old; for now God's Son has entered into relations with matter through the Incarnation, thereby elevating it, and imparting to it new qualities. But God uses what instrument He wills, and when He wills, for the accomplishment of His purposes; and, as we shall see, the miracle in the Old Testament may be a type and picture of future truth — a dramatic representation, so to speak, of Christian mystery.
II. WHAT IT TEACHES.
1. The sanctity of Elisha. This event seems to be in his history a sort of counterpoise to the rapture of Elijah. Both were victories over death — the one, by his passage up to heaven without subjection to the "last enemy" (1 Corinthians 12:26); the other overcame death after he was dead and buried.
2. The power of God,
3. As the miracle was calculated to invest the memory of Elisha with a fresh halo of reverence, and to exhibit the Almighty power of God, so was it designed to breathe hope into the hearts of the depressed Israelites at a period in their history when they needed something to encourage them, and to revive their confidence.
4. Beyond, however, the temporal purpose, there was, we believe, a typical and prophetic significance in this wonder. Does it not point to Christ's death as the means of bringing back life to man? Although all His acts were redemptive, His death was the principal. "We were reconciled to God by the death of His Son" (Romans 5:10). He "by His death hath destroyed death" (Proper Preface, Easter). Our reconciliation was effected "in the body of His flesh through death" (Colossians 1:22). But the miracle not only pictures the efficacy of Christ's death; it teaches also that to know its quickening power we must be in union with Him. It was when the man "touched the bones of Elisha, he revived." There was contact before there was life. So there must be union with Christ, sacramental, moral, spiritual, if we would be restored; for only "if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death shall we be also in the likeness of His resurrection" (Romans 6:5). But the union must be moral as well as sacramental — the one the outcome of the other — for "he that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk even as He walked" (1 John 2:6); that is, the life which God has given within must be, is bound to be, shown forth in the outward imitation of Christ's life. And this union must be spiritual, the spirit of man corresponding with the guidance of the Holy Spirit — an obedience of love.
5. The text, too, is a type of bodily resurrection, though a return to mortal life.
1. Let us be careful, in our view of nature and of the fixity of natural law, that we do not make God into a "mechanical Deity" (Mozley). The soul, made in the image of God, is "conscious of will" in itself, and therefore "declares for a Deity with will"; upon which the power of miracle follows.
2. God can use what may seem to be the most unlikely instruments for the fulfilment of His designs, inert matter to be the vehicle of life and grace.
3. Observe how God fores to honour His saints, and thereby to make His power to be known (1 Samuel 2:30).
4. Lastly, let us be mindful of the truth that the death of Christ is the meritorious cause of all our gifts and graces, and that through union with Him alone have we spiritual life — "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live" (John 5:25) — the life of grace in the soul here, the life of glory in the body also hereafter.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year.