Posted by: Johnold Strey | August 12, 2015

Sermon on 2 Kings 4:42-44

WHEN YOU WONDER WHAT TO DO, RETURN TO THE WORD OF THE LORD

Text: 2 Kings 4:42-44

Introduction

It is a Lutheran social faux pas of the highest order. Under no circumstance whatsoever do you want to find yourself in the unenviable position of having to take the blame for this horrible situation. If it happens, people will be talking about it for years to come. What is this socially unacceptable behavior among Lutherans? It’s simple: Not having enough food for a church potluck dinner! Of course, that’s easier said than done. You have to guess how many people are going to be there, and you are somewhat at the mercy of the people who will be bringing food for the meal. And it doesn’t hurt to have a back-up plan just in case. (At St. Mark’s we call that back-up plan El Pollo Loco).

In the Gospel for today (John 6:1-15) we have a familiar miracle account from the ministry of Jesus. Jesus feeding the crowd of 5,000 men appears in all four Gospels, and it’s probably among the most well-known incidents from the ministry of Jesus. The lack of food to feed such a large crowd was not addressed by a fast food run or a hired caterer, but by the hand of the Son of God who proved his divine power through this memorable miracle.

In the First Lesson for today we have a much less familiar account from the ministry of the Old Testament prophet Elisha. A small amount of food is donated to the school of the prophets—a kind donation to be sure, but not enough to give a sufficient meal to 100 men. But the end result of this account is quite similar to Jesus feeding the 5,000. And while you and I may not be the beneficiaries of either of these miraculous meals, we can be beneficiaries of the lessons we can learn from them—particularly the lesson we can learn from the First Lesson, which is the basis for this morning’s sermon. And the lesson we’ll learn is simply this: When you wonder what to do, return to the Word of the Lord. 

Exposition

4IsaelAndJudahJust a couple of chapters before our First Lesson, the prophet Elisha had become the main prophet of God in Israel. The nation of Israel was divided at this point, and Elisha was ministering to the people in the northern part of the divided kingdom. The difficulty with life in the northern kingdom was that the temple was located in the southern part of the kingdom. With the nation split in two, faithful Israelites were politically removed from the place where the worship of the true God was to take place. There were two religious shrines set up in the northern kingdom where people could supposedly go to worship, but they would find themselves worshiping golden calves instead of the God of Israel.

While the religious scene in Israel was confused as it was, it was heartwarming to see that there were still some faithful Israelites who not only kept their faith in the true God but expressed their faith with gifts for God’s faithful prophets. An unnamed man came some 15 miles to deliver his gift to the Lord to the servants of the Lord. The gift consisted of 20 loaves of bread and some roasted grains of corn—the first grains of the harvest. Something not noted in our translation that does come through in other translations is that the amount of food was carried in a sack. In other words, it was generous, but it wasn’t a massive amount of food. It wasn’t enough to feed everyone in Elisha’s school of prophets. These were not like the larger loaves of bread you buy at Safeway and Sprouts. These were probably closer to the size of the gift loaves of bread that our Board of Outreach gives away to our worship guests around the holidays.

Keep in mind that there’s no scandal here. There was nothing that said a gift of food to the prophets must feed everyone a complete meal. But when Elisha told his servant to place this food before the 100 seminary students in the school of the prophets, his servant was a little perplexed. “‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha said. ‘How can I set this before a hundred men?’ his servant asked.” The servant wondered what to do. Did Elisha realize what he was asking?

But he was. Elisha wasn’t misinformed about the amount or confused about the math. He was informed by the Lord that the math would work out miraculously. “Elisha answered, ‘Give it to the people to eat. For this is what the Lord says: “They will eat and have some left over.”’ Then he set it before them, and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the Lord.” How Elisha specifically received this “word of the Lord” is not known to us. As a prophet, he had a direct line of communication with God that the prophets of the Old Testament and the apostles of the New Testament enjoyed. This is not something we expect to experience today. But the word from the Lord was clear. It’s not that they couldn’t have fed the seminary students in some other way, but this miracle taught Elisha’s servants and students that the Word of the Lord is as good as gold.

Application

The Word of the Lord is as good as gold. I think each one of us would have no trouble confessing that statement. We know God’s Word is true and factual. We want it preached in all its truth and purity. We believe what it says. But are there other times when we struggle to trust it? How well do we trust the Word of the Lord?

Elisha’s servant had his doubts, but when he heard the word proclaimed he also saw it fulfilled. We aren’t living at a time when God regularly operates in miraculous ways, but we are always living at a time when God operates with his Word.

Some time ago another pastor made an observation that struck me. He said that in our churches we are very quick and very good at defending the Word of God. We trust that its record is true. We will defend the Word to the death—we confess the Virgin Birth is real, the atoning death of Jesus on the cross really happened, and the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead is actual history. And that’s a good thing to defend and confess. It shows that we believe what God’s Word has to say about the miraculous work that Jesus did to rescue us from the consequences of our sin.

But then this pastor went on to ask if we trust the Word to do what it says. Do I trust that God’s Word is his power to save everyone who believes it? Do I trust that its message is the one thing we need to bring people to faith in Christ and into Christ’s Church? Do I trust that God’s Word gives me the proper guidance to follow to reconcile my family squabbles? Do I trust God’s Word when it says that he will provide everything I truly need in life, whether I have little or plenty? Do I trust God’s Word when it says that he has unconditionally forgiven all my sins for the sake of the atoning death and triumphant resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ?

When we face the various challenges and struggles of life, when we wonder what to do to address these problems, when God invites us to return to his Word for the answers, isn’t it easy to do everything but return to the Word?

Sadly, it is all too easy when we wonder what to do, to not return to God’s Word. But that hasn’t stopped God from pointing us back to his Word. And what comfort we find when he points us back to his Word! God’s Word through Elisha was that there would be food enough for everyone there, and God’s Word was true. It happened! So isn’t it also true—and thank God that it is!—that God’s Word is correct when it says that it is “the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:14). And isn’t it also true that God’s Word is correct when it says, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17)? And isn’t it also true that God’s Word is correct when it encourages us in our families and relationships to be “kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32)? And isn’t it also true that God’s Word is correct when it says that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all you need, you will abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8)? But most importantly, isn’t it true—and thank God that it absolutely is true!—that God’s Word to you, dear friend, is entirely correct and comforting when it says, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. … If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:9; 2:1-2)?

Conclusion

Are your Sunday dinner plans set? Will you have enough food ready for you or your family when you get home after worship this morning? I cannot promise you from this account that God has promised to stretch your leftover slices of ham or turkey into a Sunday afternoon feast for the whole family. But I can promise you that when you wonder what to do and where to turn, you can return to the Word of the Lord. God’s Word gives you his precious forgiveness, his comforting peace, his words of guidance for this life, and his words of promise for eternal life. His Word is as good as gold! Amen.

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