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Comment – The fruit of faithfulness

August 2008

The fruit of faithfulness

 

Faithfulness is unfashionable. It is not highly esteemed in our day, whether, generally, in marriage and everyday life, or in Christian commitment and obedience to God’s word. The account in 2 Kings 4:42-44, where Elisha fed 100 people from a backpack, may therefore be instructive.

 

The man who was faithful

 

We read, ‘There came a man from Baal Shalisha and brought the man of God bread of the first-fruits’. To understand how faithful an act this was we need to remember that this occurred in the apostate northern Kingdom – where not just the leaders but the population at large had turned their backs on the living God. Golden idols had been set up at Bethel and Dan to dissuade people from worshipping at Jerusalem, and an illegal priesthood had been established.

       Not only that, but a good harvest was widely attributed not to the providence of Israel’s God but to the Baalim – local fertility gods who often gave their name to villages and towns.

     It was from one such place, Baal Shalisha, that the unnamed man brought his first-fruits to the Lord. Defying the prevailing false religion, and in the absence of genuine priests and Levites to support, he shouldered his backpack and brought to Elisha the gift of first-fruits required by the law of God.

     His faithfulness, then, was to the Scriptures and the command of the true God (Exodus 22:29; 23:19). Are we willing to defy the false religion and unbelief of our own day and dedicate ourselves, our energy and our substance to the God of Scripture in obedience to his word? 

       

The man who was scornful

 

No doubt the man expected the derision of his idol-worshipping neighbours. But was he prepared for the scorn of Elisha’s servant – who sneered, ‘What! Shall I set this before one hundred men?’

     Did Gehazi have a point? Twenty tiny loaves and some ripe grain was hardly sufficient food for the hungry sons of the prophets. So those within the church often despise as ‘pitiful’ the contributions of the faithful, not to mention the faithful themselves.

     We are far too ready to write off fellow believers when they don’t live up to our expectations. Yet such are, metaphorically speaking, ‘the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind’ who fill the banqueting house of the Lord (Luke 14:21).

     True enough, they may have little to offer, but so did the widow with her mites. What makes all the difference, of course, is the One to whom we bring our meagre gifts.

 

The man who was powerful

 

Elisha would have none of Gehazi’s arrogance. ‘Give it to the people that they may eat’, he commanded again, ‘for thus says the Lord: They shall eat and have some left over!’

     Elisha is, of course, a type of Christ – who fed far greater multitudes with even fewer provisions (Matthew 14:13-21; 15:32-39). The lesson is clear; a little delivered faithfully (and in faith) into the hands of God can be used mightily – far beyond our asking or our thinking.

     This is how we need to view what we, and others, can contribute to the cause of Christ. Of course it is insufficient of itself to meet the need – either of God’s own people or of a dying world. But the real issue is what Christ can do if we bring it to him in obedience to his word and defiance of the world.   

 

The many who were grateful

 

According to the promise of God, not only were the hundred prophets satisfied but there was enough and to spare.

     Centuries later the Lord would speak through Malachi: ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there might be food in my house, and prove me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’ (Malachi 3:10).

     It can all begin with a single unknown person who is faithful to God’s Word.

 

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