Elisha was a prophet in Israel during the ninth century BC He succeeded Elijah. His work lasted for half a century. Elisha is first mentioned in 1 Kings 9:16. He is described as the son of Shaphat,
who lived at Abel-meholah. That place has been tentatively identified with the modern Tel Abu Sifri, west of the river Jordan.
The prophet Elijah had been ordered by God to anoint Elisha as his successor. The narrative does not make it clear whether
Elisha was already one of Elijah’s disciples. When the two met, Elisha was busy plowing a field, and he does not seem
to have greeted Elijah with the respect that a disciple would normally show to his teacher.
Elisha’s use of twelve yokes of oxen in his agricultural work has been taken
as a sign that he was wealthy. Normally, two yoked oxen would be handled by one person. When Elijah passed by and placed his
cloak on Elisha’s shoulder, the latter man knew it was a sign that he should inherit the great prophet’s mission.
The nation needed a prophet. It was becoming more involved in Canaanite idolatry with the encouragement of King Ahab and his
Phoenician wife, Jezebel.
Elijah commissioned Elisha
symbolically and strode away. The new prophet hurried after Elijah to request a brief interval of time to announce his new
call to his parents before leaving home. To
mark the change in his way of life, Elisha made a great feast for his neighbours, roasting two oxen. This is another hint
that he came from a wealthy family. From that time, he was no longer a farmer. By associating with Elijah, he began to prepare
for his own ministry. There is no record of Elisha’s being anointed to the prophetic office. However, the transfer of
prophetic authority by means of the cloak would leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that Elisha was the next official prophet
God called an ordinary person like Jeremiah
to an extraordinary task. Jeremiah is best known for his role as a prophet. He warned Israel’s southern kingdom of Judah
of its pending doom. He loved God’s people and hated to see them refuse God’s mercy. However, the people of Judah
shunned Jeremiah and mistreated God’s messenger. They did not like him getting on their case. They continued to ignore
his warnings until Babylon finally destroyed them and took them captive. We remember Jeremiah as the “weeping prophet”—someone
who hurt whenever God’s people broke God’s commands. Instead of resenting Judah for the way they treated him,
he mourned Judah’s fate. Jeremiah wrote the Old Testament books of Jeremiah and Lamentations He was the prophet to Judah before its fall in 586 BC; his name is also spelled “Jeremias”
Jeremiah was born in the village of Anathoth, about three miles northeast of Jerusalem.
His father’s name was Hilkiah, and he belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. His call came in the thirteenth year of King
Josiah (640-609 BC). He refers to himself as “a child” when called (Jeremiah 1:6), but the Hebrew word is not
the same as used in 30:6 and cannot be limited to preadolescence. He was probably referring to his inexperience rather than
to his age. God informed Jeremiah that he had consecrated and appointed him before birth (Jeremiah 1:4-5). Jeremiah first
shrank with a sense of inadequacy and fear: “O Sovereign LORD,...I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!”
(1:6). God would not allow Jeremiah to excuse himself. He was assured that words would be given him to speak, and guidance
given for the way. Though Jeremiah suffered continued rejection
during his life, numerous writers of the apocrypha as well as more traditional writings honour his history. Jesus could well
have had Jeremiah in mind when he said, “You build tombs for the prophets your ancestors killed and decorate the graves
of the godly people your ancestors destroyed... [You are] the descendants of those who murdered the prophets” Jeremiah’s life ministry was set: judgment, disaster, danger, defeat, and impending
death for the nation.
What a job! We may not win popularity contests with others for enlightening them to God’s
truth. However, we must remain faithful nonetheless. Although God’s overall message to the world is one of love and
salvation, not condemnation, he takes sin seriously—especially among his own people. As we communicate God’s truth,
we must be careful not to gloss over sin. Sometimes we must play Jeremiah’s role-despite an unwelcome reception.
Deborah was the
name of two Old Testament women – one was Rebekah’s nurse the other a prophetess. The word in Hebrew means “honeybee”
Deborah was also
a prophetess and judge (Judges 4-5). Deborah’s position as a prophetess
shows that her message was from God. That was not unique in the Bible, but it was unusual. Deborah, known as a “mother
in Israel” (Judges 5:7), remained in one location and the people came to her for guidance. Evidently over two hundred
years later, when the book of Judges was compiled, a giant palm tree still marked the spot. Though she lived within the boundary
of Benjamin (4:5; compare Joshua 16:2; 18:13), Deborah was probably from the tribe of Ephraim. That was the most prominent
tribe of northern Israel. Some feel she came from the tribe of Issachar (Judges 5:14-15).
Deborah’s inspired leadership, the poorly equipped Israelites defeated the Canaanites in the plain of Esdraelon (Judges
4:15). The flooding of the Kishon River evidently interfered with the enemy’s impressive chariots (5:21-22). The Canaanites
retreated to the north, perhaps to Taanach near Megiddo (5:19). They never
reappeared as an enemy within Israel. The Song of Deborah (chapter 5) is a
poetic version of the account recorded in Judges 4.
was not a person to sit quietly and wait for someone else to get things done. As a
judge of God's people, she knew how to listen to the Lord's instructions and was quick to follow them. When it was
necessary to go to battle, she obeyed the Lord by appointing Barak as the military commander. When he hesitated to carry out
her instructions, she herself went with him to battle. Deborah was determined to follow the Lord at any cost and inspired
others to do the same. Her encouragement and example spurred Barak on to victory,
and it is possible that she was also a model for Jael, the brave woman who killed the commander of the enemy
forces. But the accomplishments of Deborah's military leadership were equally matched by the impact of her spiritual leadership.
When the battle against King Jabin had been won, Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise to the God of Israel because they
knew that he alone deserved the glory for their victory.LEARNING FROM DEBORAH
Our relationship to God affects
those around us. If we exhibit trust in God's ability to help and
promptly obey whatever he requires,
others will be encouraged to
follow our model.
leaders recognize that worship and praise to God is the right response to their accomplishments. The more we see God's
hand in our endeavours, the more we will want to fall before him in wonder and praise for his incomparable works and mercy.
FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE
There is no shortcut to knowing God and being
able to hear his voice. Knowing him requires that we spend time speaking and listening to him. One
way we can listen to him today is by reading Scripture. Try systematically reading the Bible from beginning to end. In this
way you will not be tempted to concentrate only on your favourite passages but will receive a more complete picture of God's
character and of the ways he has related to his people throughout the ages. Also, thank God openly and quickly for every good
thing he gives his people.
Moses' story reads
like a Hollywood script. He was born into an ordinary Hebrew family. However, he ended up as the greatest character in the
Old Testament. He was a Hebrew slave, but he was raised as an Egyptian prince. He was a shepherd who became a prophet, a priest,
a lawgiver, a judge, and a miracle worker. Most importantly, he founded the nation of Israel.
When God was looking
for someone to deliver his people from Egyptian bondage, he chose Moses.
The Old Testament mentions Moses by name 767 times. However, the New Testament
also mentions him 79 times in key passages. He spent the first 40 years of his life in the household of Pharaoh He spent the
next 40 years in Midian as a fugitive. He hid from the wrath of Pharaoh after killing an Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew.
He devoted his last 40 years to leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. He led them toward the land God had promised
to Abraham and his descendants. Moses died at the age of 120 after leading the Israelites successfully through 40 years of
wandering in the wilderness to the very edge of the Promised Land on the east side of the Jordan River.
Moses took a group of mistreated and worn-out slaves and moulded them into an entire nation. Israel, God's elect,
has since influenced and altered the entire course of history. Is it any wonder Moses stands out as one of the greatest leaders
in all of history? When God was looking for someone to accomplish an extraordinary task, he chose an ordinary man like Moses.
His story reminds us of God's desire to accomplish his extraordinary plans by using ordinary people in unique circumstances.
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