From First to Worst
This past Wednesday in our 20somethings Bible study I shared the story of Gehazi and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind, so I thought I’d write a few more thoughts here.
Elijah was a great prophet and trained Elisha to take his place. Elisha was a great prophet and, it appears, was training Gehazi to take his place. We only see Gehazi four times in scripture, but all four reveal something very interesting about his character and reveal a pathway of sorts that I have seen far too many Christians follow.
In 1 Kings 4 Gehazi was able to identify the Shunamite woman’s greatest desire when Elisha was unable to. Elisha was trying to repay her kindness by publicly rewarding her and talking her up to the King or commander of the army but she flatly refused. Gehazi told the prophet of her desire for a child and God gave her a son. Gehazi had a gift that far too many of us lack–he was able to recognize the needs of others and he used this gift for the glory of God.
Later in that same chapter the woman’s son became ill and died. She came to Elisha and Gehazi tried to push her away. This was obviously several years later because the boy had been out in the field with his father, but I find it very hard to believe that the promising prophet’s assistant changed so much in that amount of time. What happened? He went from a caring and observant person to a heartless man pushing away people in obvious distress.
To make matters worse, Elisha apparently didn’t recognize the change in Gehazi’s spirit because he sent Gehazi ahead with his staff to raise the boy from the dead. Here is where I believe we see the problem–Gehazi didn’t have God’s power on his life. Sure, very few people have had God’s power to the point where they could raise the dead, but Gehazi, as a close companion to Elisha, certainly had all of the tools at his disposal. He tried and failed.
1 Kings 5 is the story of how Naaman the leper was healed and offered unbelievable riches to Elisha who refused. (Side note- At current gold prices, the 150 shekels that had been sent would be worth over $3.7 million.) Elisha wanted nothing less than to steal glory from God for the healing but Gehazi saw a great opportunity to gather wealth to himself. He lied to Naaman, lied to Elisha, and was punished with leprosy. The guy from the previous chapter who showed a lot of promise and was on course to become the next great prophet of God has now ruined his life by valuing earthly possessions more than God’s glory.
Gehazi’s story would be a great lesson if it ended in 1 Kings 5, but with the insight God gives us in 1 Kings 8 it becomes all too familiar. Gehazi sat in the King’s palace telling of the great things Elisha had done. The one story he tells that is specifically mentioned is the raising of the boy from the dead. In hindsight Gehazi probably realized his failures. Knowing the end results, Gehazi probably wished he had operated in God’s power more. Looking back, Gehazi probably recognized his missed opportunities.
The reason this story hits home with me is that I could easily be Gehazi. I have had the opportunity to learn from great men of God. I have had opportunity to use my gifts in His service. Unfortunately I have even tried to do great things for God in my own power. Apparently Gehazi, still serving with Elisha, lived this way for so long that he completely lost focus on what was important. I’ve seen too many people who started out great follow this same path. So where is the exit ramp? Unlike Gehazi, I must recognize when I am serving in my own power or failing to utilize my gifts for God. I must get my strength from God.