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Beware of Wild Gourds!

From: Elisha - The Man of God

Hamilton Smith

THE TIME OF DEARTH (2 Kings 4:38-41)

Each changing scene in Elisha's eventful history increasingly discloses the ruin of Israel, only to make manifest that where sin abounds grace does much more abound. Already we have seen the curse at Jericho, scoffers at Bethel, Moab in rebellion, widows in need; and now we find "there was a dearth in the land."

In this time of famine Elisha comes to Gilgal. The sons of the prophets are found sitting before Elisha; suggesting that in their dire need they are waiting upon the man of God to bring relief. They rightly assume that the one who had saved armies from destruction, and raised the dead child of the Shunammite, had resources to meet their need in a time of famine. With the sons of the prophets there was faith to use the grace of God ministered through the prophet. God delights to answer faith, however feeble, and will never fail those who wait upon Him: though He may take a way which, while meeting our needs, will disclose to us our weakness.

Thus it comes to pass that Elisha instructs his servant to "set on the great pot and seethe pottage" for those who were looking to him for provision. It would seem that, in this time of dearth, they had been naturally husbanding their slender resources by using some smaller vessel. Nature would argue that the prevailing dearth would only require a little pot. Providence would suggest that a wise economy demanded the little pot. With God, however, there is no lack of supply; and faith, bringing God in, calls for "the great pot: heaven's plenty is only met by "the great pot." We can count upon great things from a great God.

The directions to seethe pottage were given by the prophet to his servant. However, there was one present to whom no directions were given, and who must needs intermeddle with the servant's work: one who was not content, as were the sons of the prophets, to sit before Elisha, but with restless activity must go "out into the field" at his own charges, and seek to help in meeting the common need by adding his contribution to the pot.

If we are to partake of heaven's provision we must needs be in quiet rest in the presence of Christ, like the sons of the prophets sitting before Elisha. So in later days the place of rich provision was found by Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, rather than by Martha with her restless activity. Doubtless the man who "went into the field to gather herbs," was a very sincere man and thought, as Martha in her day, that he was contributing to the general good. It was, however, the intrusion of the flesh in Gilgal, the very place that signified the cutting off of the flesh. The result was that through the fleshly zeal of one man, death is brought into the pot.

This man, leaving the presence of Elisha, goes out into the field to gather herbs. He thought to add something from the field to the supply that Elisha was drawing from heaven. The field in Scripture is ever used as a picture of the cultured world. The culture of this world can add nothing to the food from heaven. The Colossians, in their day, were in danger of seeking to supplement Christianity by the addition of human eloquence, human philosophy and human superstition. They were adding wild gourds to the heavenly pottage. Instead of bringing the soul into closer relationships with God, such efforts end in separating the soul from God.

Moreover, there is no difficulty in securing wild gourds. It was a time of dearth, and yet with the greatest ease this man gathered "his lap full." There may have been a dearth of wholesome life-sustaining food, there was no dearth of wild gourds. The mischief is at once detected when the pottage is poured out. All the company detect the poison. Had it been one man who complained of the pottage, it might have been suggested that his taste was at fault. But we read, "As they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof." That which should have been a source of supply to maintain life, had become, by one man's act, a means to destroy life. They may not know how to meet the difficulty; but at least they are alive to the trouble, and, moreover, they rightly turn to the man of God for guidance.

Their appeal to Elisha is not in vain, for he has resources to meet this fresh need. He has an antidote for the poison. His simple instructions are, "bring meal," which at once is cast into the pot with the result there was no longer any harm in the pot. Does not this meal speak of Christ? The thoughts of nature, the philosophy of man, the elements of the world, the religion of the flesh — things by which man seeks to add something to God's provision to meet His people's need — are all exposed and corrected by the presentation of Christ. It was thus the Apostle met the attempt to introduce wild gourds that threatened the Colossian saints.

The Apostle detects the poison — the enticing words of the moralist, the philosophy and vain deceit of the world, the insistence of the holy days, of the new moons, and of sabbath days, by the ritualist; and the worshipping of angels by the superstitious. To meet these poisonous influences that are destructive of the true life of Christianity he presents Christ. He says all these things "are not after Christ." They may be served up with "enticing words" and much shew of wisdom "and apparent" humility, but they "are not after Christ." Then he presents Christ in all His glory as the Head of the Assembly — His body. As it were, he casts the meal into the pot. He tells us that we have all we need in Christ, for "in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead," and further, "we are complete in Him." "Christ is all and in all" (Col. 2, 3).