Holy Man Of God

Bible Book: 2 Kings  4 : 8-37
Subject: Holiness; Holy Living; Christian Living

One of the most intriguing stories in the Old Testament to me is the story of the Shunammite woman and Elisha found in Second Kings 4:8-37. Though there are many great truths to be learned from this passage, the first one to capture my attention is found in verse nine: "And she (the Shunammite)

said to her husband, 'Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God who passes by us regularly.'" Something about the prophet Elisha caught this woman's attention. What was it? Was it his reputation as a prophet? Was it his ability to preach? What was it that caught her attention? It was his Holiness. Notice her words again, "Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God...." When I look at Elisha through the eyes of the Shunammite woman, I want to get to know him better. I want to know how he became a holy man of God. I want to know where he started. I want to know the path he traveled. I want to know what it cost Elisha to become a holy man of God. I want to see the fruit of his holiness. The Shunammite's observation about Elisha reminds me of the words of J. C. Ryle, "True holiness is a great reality. It is something in a man that can be seen, and known and marked, and felt by all around him. It is light: if it exists, it will show itself. It is salt: if it exists, its savour will be perceived. It is precious ointment: if it exists, its presence cannot be hid." Before we turn our attention to the holiness that characterized Elisha's life, we need to note a biblical perspective on the subject of holiness. One of the most challenging verses in the Bible is found in First Peter 1:16, "Be holy, for I am holy." This scriptural mandate to all Christians raises at least two significant questions. First, what does it mean to be holy? Second, how does a person become holy? It is my objective to answer these two questions. The answer to the second question will be illustrated from the Second Kings 4:9 passage about Elisha. Stephen Olford in his book, The Way Of Holiness, reminds us that the words in First Peter 1:16, "Be holy, for I am holy." constitutes a divine command, and failure to obey them is a serious sin. However, I believe that before an appropriate and obedient response can be given to the command, one must have some understanding of what it means to be holy. The word holy, in its various forms, occurs more than 600 times in the Bible. The Old Testament book of Leviticus, from which the Apostle Peter quoted, uses the word holy or holiness more than 150 times. The command to which Peter referred, "Be holy, for I am holy." is repeated five times.

I. The Misunderstanding of Holiness

To gain a proper understanding of what holiness means, we must first look at what it does not mean. The word holy can create different images for different people. For some, like the Pharisees, holiness is defined by what a person does not do. When this concept is seen in contemporary culture, it may mean that holiness is equated with a host of prohibitions. It is defined more by what a person does not do than by what a person does.

A. Does Not Mean Perfection

When God commands His people to be holy, He is not suggesting that they be perfect and without sin. Sanctification, which is a New Testament way of describing holiness, is progressive. In the Christian experience salvation is instant and complete. On the other hand, sanctification is a   process by which a Christian grows and matures. Sanctification is progressive. The salvation experience does not eradicate sin from the life of the Christian. This is seen very clearly in Paul's testimony in Romans 7:15-25. Although the sin nature is not removed from the Christian, God does provide an enabling power to live a holy life. It is important that we recognize that God never commands a Christian to do something that He does not also enable him to do. God's commands are enablings. Paul describes how he overcame the conflict with his sinful nature in Romans 8:1-13.

J. C. Ryle in his book, Holiness, says, "I do not say for a moment that holiness shuts out the presence of indwelling sin. No: far from it. It is the greatest misery of a holy man that he carries about with him a 'body of death'; - that often when he would do good 'evil is present with him'; that the old man is clogging all his movements, and, as it were, trying to draw him back at every step he takes. But it is the excellence of a holy man that he is not at peace with indwelling sin, as others are. He hates it, mourns over it, and longs to be free from its company." Ryle continues, "Neither do I say that holiness comes to ripeness and perfection all at once, or that these graces I have touched on must be found in full bloom and vigour before you can call a man holy. No: far from it. Sanctification is always a progressive work. Some men's graces are in the blade, some in the ear, some are like the full corn in the ear. All must have a beginning."

B. Does Mean Separation

Now that we have seen that holiness does not mean to be free from sin, or to be sinless, let us look at what the word does mean. The word holy suggests the setting apart of something or someone for God's use and purpose alone. Stephen Olford, in combining the definitions of the Old Testament, New Testament, and Anglo-Saxon words for holiness, gives this simple and very helpful definition of holiness. "Given spiritual life, holiness means the maintaining in health of that life before God and the setting apart of that life for His service alone." Jerry Bridges in his book, The Pursuit Of Holiness, says, "To live a holy life is to live a life in conformity to the moral precepts of the Bible and in contrast of the sinful ways of the world. It is to live a life characterized by the (putting) off of your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires....and (putting) on the new self, created to be like God in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22,24)."

II. The Marks of Holiness

Now, with Elisha as our example, let us examine the subject of holiness in the life of a man. Our aim is twofold. First, we want to observe some specific characteristics of holiness in the life of Elisha.

Secondly, we want to learn what steps he took that brought about holiness in his life. First, we will look at how Elisha's holiness was revealed. The Shunammite woman gives us insight into the practical aspects of holiness. Her words are simple, but informative.

A. Observable

Her comment to her husband about Elisha indicates that Real Holiness Is Observable. She said, "Look now, I know...". The authorized version uses the word perceive. "I perceive that this is a holy man of God." She admonished her husband to look and see what she saw - Elisha's holiness. Real holiness is observable. A holy person will not have to inform others that he is holy. Holiness announces itself. The Shunammite woman saw something in Elisha that reminded her of God. To put this in New Testament language, we would say Elisha had a Christlike character. The hymn writer admonishes us with these words to have a holy, Christlike character: "Let others see Jesus in you." Stephen Olford illustrates this point with a story from England about the saintly Thomas Cook, who was due to visit in a certain home. The husband and wife were determined to give him a royal welcome and make sure that all of his temporal needs were cared for. The unconverted maid rebelled against all the work of preparation, so when she visited the butcher for the weekend roast she vented her feelings, "I don't know who this Mr. Cook is, but you would think he was the Almighty Himself, judging by the fuss that is being made." A week later the maid returned to the butcher shop very subdued and quiet. The man asked her how she was getting along with the visitor. Softly she whispered, "I am sorry for what I said last week. The Reverend Thomas Cook is the most wonderful man I have ever met.

B. Consistent

The Shunammite woman reminds us that Elisha came by regularly, continually, often, frequently, and he was the same every time she saw him. He was consistently holy. Our contemporary world is crying out for this kind of consistency. It longs to see a Christian living out his faith with a consistent sameness day in and day out - in the good times and in the bad times. Consistent Christlikeness will make an impact in our world. The text also reveals that Real Holiness Is Practical.

C. Practical

The Shunammite woman recognized that Elisha was a man. He was not an angelic being. He was not a robot. He was not a superman. He was just a man, but he was a holy man. It is important for us to see that God does not require of us that which we cannot perform. Biblical, observable, consistent holiness is also very practical. It's available to any Christian who longs for it.

III. The Means to Holiness

We now come to the next question: how did Elisha become a holy man? What factors were involved? What path did he take? We must go beyond the immediate text to find the answers to these questions. When we examine the brief information available to us about Elisha, we see several very important factors that helped to shape his life and produce holiness in him.

A. Total Commitment

In First Kings 19:19-21, we are introduced to Elisha. God used Elijah, the great prophet of Israel, to call Elisha unto Himself. Observe Elisha's response to Elijah's word. His response was immediate and complete. He left home, family, job, and possessions to follow the Lord. His response was one of Total Commitment to God. This is always the first step on the path to holiness. Total commitment always comes before holiness of life. This commitment must be initial, but it must also be continuous. We must take up our cross and follow Christ Daily. In Second Kings 2:1-14, there are insights into Elisha's journey that are not immediately obvious, but a careful reading of the passage will yield some very important truths.

B. Desire

In these verses we see Elisha's Desire To Go All The Way With God. I do not fully understand why Elijah asked Elisha to stay at Bethel, and at Jericho, and at Jordan (2 Kings 2:1-8), but I do know that these events reveal Elisha's desire to go as far as he needed to experience all that God had in store for him. Elisha's desire for God is again confirmed in verse nine when Elisha said, "Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me." Elisha had an insatiable desire to know God. God meets man at the level of his desire - man can have as much of God as he wants.

C. Determination

Second Kings 2:3 and 5 reveals that Elisha's pursuit of God was also marked by Determination. The sons of the prophets were Elisha's fellow ministerial students. They were his colleagues. They should have been a major source of encouragement. They turned out to be a major source of discouragement. Elisha could have easily given in to the discouragement, but he pressed forward with great determination.

D. Discipline

At this stage in Elisha's pilgrimage, it is apparent that he was a man of great Discipline. He set his heart on knowing God, he charted his course, and he disciplined himself to stay focused on   pursuing God. The outcome was holiness. Holiness does not come easily to anyone. Holiness comes to those who are Totally Committed To God, who have a consuming Desire to know Him, and who are Determined and Disciplined enough to stay the course. Elisha paid the price and his life was characterized by holiness. When God said, "Be holy, for I am holy," He was not making a suggestion, He was giving a command, but let us remember, God's commands are God's enablings. What He commands us to do, He enables us to do.


Let our daily prayer be:

"Jesus, my Savior, in my behavior,
Help me to be like Thee;
Harmless and holy, loving and lowly,
Patient and pure like Thee!" By E. H. G. Sargent