“So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof,” 2 Kings 4:40.
Shortly after I was converted, back in 1964, Dr Ian Paisley preached a sermon: ‘Death in the pot’. It was the means of opening my understanding to the character, source and consequences of the great apostasy which the Bible says is to corrupt and poison the worldwide body of professing Christians in the latter days!
It was my privilege to sit under Dr Paisley in those days, for he was carrying out the task given him of God — WARNING ULSTER OF THE INROADS OF ECUMENICAL APOSTASY WHICH WAS INVADING THE MAINLINE PROTESTANT DENOMINATIONS!
An elementary understanding of the prophetic significance of the scene in 2 Kings 4, led on to the opening up of such verses as 1 Timothy 4:1-5.
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”
And also 2 Timothy 3:1-5.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.”
Dr Paisley frequently referred to these Bible passages and others akin to them in his preaching back then and I drank in his expositions!
I recall a visit to Lisbellaw Free Presbyterian Church by Jordan Khan when the annual ministers’ week of prayer was held there. I believe that it was early in 1970. In one of his meetings he spoke on the parable of the mustard seed, Mark 4:30-32. I recall vividly still how he stated that the seed pictured the ‘professing church’ into which came the fowls of the air, which are used earlier in the chapter to symbolise the activities of the devil, in his attempts to hinder the gospel work of Christ.
In this parable, he said, the fowls represent ‘alien’ life coming in amongst the branches. Brother Khan pointed out that this was what was happening back then to the Church of Christ, with the invasion of liberals, modernists, ecumenists and other anti-God elements.
He was very right and that infiltration has become a flood tide, with most denominations today utterly corrupted with the acceptance of every form of moral perversion and religious falsehood!
These were but some of the experiences I had as I was taught of what was taking place within so-called ‘Christendom’! My spiritual ‘education’ continues to this day. As I read my Bible I can see ever more clearly the warnings about the very apostasy I can see evolving on a world-wide scale.
Just this morning (23/10/23) I read Daniel 8. There we have Daniel taught of God regarding the end times. He was greatly puzzled by the vision of the ‘Ram’ and the He Goat’. He was told by his angelic tutor that “The ram which thou sawest having two horns are the kings of Media and Persia. And the rough goat is the king of Grecia: and the great horn that is between his eyes is the first king,” 8:20-21. He is then told of events that have yet to happen. “And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand. And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days,” Daniel 8:23-26.
The history of the people of God is of a people under constant attack. The devil unceasingly seeks to ‘poison’ the gospel witness which the people of God are charged with maintaining in purity throughout the world. As Israel succumbed eventually to a full departure from God so as to bring these words of condemnation upon themselves from the lips of the Saviour: “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves,” Luke 19:41-46.
This rejection of Israel will continue until the Lord fulfils His purpose in mercy amongst them as foretold in passages such as Zechariah 12:9-14. Paul states the same truth in his epistle to the Romans. “I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. . . . . I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? . . . For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins,” Romans 11:1, 11-12, 15-27.
In these words Paul issues a warning to us Gentiles. I repeat that warning. “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness”.
The apostasy we see breaking out on every hand is but a repeat of the folly of Israel of old and will bring the same judgment upon the rebellious within the professing Church.
I first saw this truth under the preaching of Dr Paisley back in 1964.
Could I now turn your attention to 2 Kings 4:38-44.
I. CONSIDER WHEN THE THREAT OF DEATH AROSE.
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth in the land,” verse 38. Invariably a ‘dearth’ or a famine , is an indication of God’s grievance with His people’s sin. “If there be dearth in the land, if there be pestilence, if there be blasting, or mildew, locusts, or caterpillers; if their enemies besiege them in the cities of their land; whatsoever sore or whatsoever sickness there be: then what prayer or what supplication soever shall be made of any man, or of all thy people Israel, when every one shall know his own sore and his own grief, and shall spread forth his hands in this house: Then hear thou from heaven thy dwelling place, and forgive, and render unto every man according unto all his ways, whose heart thou knowest; (for thou only knowest the hearts of the children of men:)” 2 Chronicles 6:28-30.
A shifting away from the truth of God and straying into ‘by-path meadows, as old John Bunyan pictures backsliding, is the first step toward apostasy. In a time of spiritual dearth God’s people are apt to invent unto themselves doctrines and modes of worship that are contrary to God’s Word. It was in a time of famine that Abraham foolishly went down into Egypt and there endangered his wife’s virtue and with it the promise of a Redeemer. It was in the absence of Moses that an evilly restless Israel set up the ‘golden calf’ and entered upon pagan practices.
This is a day of spiritual dearth and with it has come many ‘venturing down into Egypt’ and the setting up of ‘golden calves’ and the adopting and implementing of the ways and thinking of the world. There has been a persistent spirit manifested for, despite the many warnings issued, the drift and departure from God ’s way continues apace!
What should the action of God’s people be in these days? Why it is that set forth in a verse which was on every lip and uttered in every prayer meeting in days gone by.
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land,” 2 Chronicles 7:14.
The lack of such praying and the abandoning of the prayer meting are features of this day of dearth.
II. PLEASE NOTE FROM WHERE THE THREAT OF DEATH AROSE.
“The sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.”
The folly began amongst the professed servants of God. Please recall that it was the folly of Aaron which aided the rebellion in the days of the ‘golden calf’. Recall also Paul’s warning to the elders of the church at Ephesus. “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember,” Acts 20:28-31.
The manifestation of the apostasy of today appeared in its earliest form in modern times back at the beginning of the last century. There was convened back then what was called, “The 1910 World Missionary Conference, or the Edinburgh Missionary Conference.” It was held from 14 to 23 June 1910. Some have seen it as both the culmination of nineteenth-century Protestant Christian missions and the formal beginning of the modern Protestant Christian ecumenical movement.
Out of that which followed that conference there emerged in 1948, the first meeting of the World Council of Churches. But for World War II, it would doubtless have taken place earlier.
The ‘Unity’ movement was driven by clerics who beguiled the people. Those clerics who recognised the error involved in ‘Ecumenism’, utterly failed to ‘contend earnestly for the faith’, but rather thought more of their stipends and positions in society than they did about the honour of Christ and His Word.
They were very unlike Moses who, “when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible,” Hebrews 11:24-27. There was little thought amongst many ‘evangellyfish’ clerics of the call found in Hebrews 13:12-14. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”
I just wonder how many today are willing to bear the reproach of Christ as were the Christians of the 1960s and 1970s, enabled as they were by the grace of the Holy Ghost!
III. PLEASE NOTE THAT IGNORANCE AMONGST PROPHETS WHICH ALLOWED THE INTRODUCING OF THE DEATH.
“And one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered thereof wild gourds his lap full, and came and shred them into the pot of pottage: for they knew them not,” verse 39. The prophet did not recognise ‘a wild vine’ and its poisonous fruit, the ‘wild gourds’.
Sadly, I feel that there is a similar lack of knowledge amongst many of God’s servants today. I hope I am forgiven for referring back again to earlier days. There was an awareness amongst God’s people both in pulpit and pew, which surpasses the level of understanding today.
I am not glorying in the personages of former times but rather I would honour the Lord Who had poured out His Holy Spirit and it was His influence which enlightened hearts and minds with an awareness of the deceits of the devil. Paul said: “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices,” 2 Corinthians 2:11. He said this in a day when the Spirit of God was working mightily. Of the Holy Spirit we read: “But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. . . . To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits,” 1 Corinthians 12:7, 10. In earlier days in the Free Presbyterian Church there was this enlightening by the Holy Spirit which made the people very aware of the workings of the devil.
I fear that discernment is not present today as it was back then. I often am sent links to sermons and articles by those whose views would never have been considered worthy of heeding never mind recommending them to others!
The ‘poison in the pot’ came about from a lack of discernment not just on the part of the collector of the ‘wild gourds’ but also those other prophets engaged in the making of the pottage. The use of the ‘plural pronoun’, ‘they at the end of verse 39 indicates this fact.
This lack of knowledge has always made an appearance in a time of spiritual danger and death amongst God’s people. Heed the prophet Hosea. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children,” Hosea 4:6.
The thinking of those who depart from God’s Word is to embrace and enter into the greatest of folly. Consider the words of Paul. “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: from which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm,” 1 Timothy 1:3-8.
I believe we can see this embracing of foolish and vain notions today!
IV. SUCH WAS THE IGNORANCE OF THE PROPHETS THEY HAD TO APPEAL TO THE MAN OF GOD FOR HELP.
“So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof,” verse 40.
False doctrine is indigestible to the true child of God. There is a bitterness that the most careless and ignorant believer will detect! The Saviour said: _“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself,” John 7:17. And again, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32. This enlightening us to poisonous falsehood is particularly the work of the Holy Spirit. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come,” John 16:13.
It is to be noted that their awakening to the danger was accompanied by an appeal to God’s man.
There is a parallel we may learn from in the state Israel is in at present and how it is they shall be delivered from that state. Paul wrote:“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away,” 2 Corinthians 3:14-16.
I am sure we can see a similarity between the events in our study verses and that which Paul says will one day take place amongst the surviving remnant of Israel.
When death is discovered in the pot, there is a need of a turning to the source of God’s Word, as was Elisha in his day. I have often read to the comforting of may heart Psalm 80 and those wonderful verses 3, 7 and 19.
“Turn us again, O God, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. . . . . Turn us again, O God of hosts, and cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved. . . . . “Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts, cause thy face to shine; and we shall be saved.”
That depicts a progressive turning unto the Lord as the increasingly more exalted titles given to the Lord, indicate an ever growing awareness of the Lord’s glory being revealed as the turning takes place.
May the Lord grant such a ‘turning’ again!
V. ONE FINAL THOUGHT, PLEASE NOTE THE CURE FOR THE POISON!
“But he (Elisha) said, Then bring meal. And he cast it into the pot; and he said, Pour out for the people, that they may eat. And there was no harm in the pot,” verse 41.
Meal has ever been the symbol of the Word of God. One of its most glorious titles of Christ, the Word of God, is ‘the Bread of Life’ (John 6:35). The Bible is God’s ‘manna sent down from heaven’ for our sustenance during our pilgrimage through the wilderness of this world.
The only answer to the poison of modernism and liberalism and their attendant perversions is the Word of God.
I have loved this verse from the day I first discovered it in the Bible. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them,” Isaiah 8:20. My wife Ann was brought up in the Independent Baptist Tabernacle in Ballymena under the ministry of the Pastor J Kyle Paisley, the father of Dr Ian Paisley. She has often said to me, as we have reminisced of those days, that the ‘old Pastor’, as he was commonly and reverently referred to back in those days, had most frequently quoted that verse when warning of the errors abroad.
The law and the testimony will keep us on the right path and restore us again to the right path should we foolishly stray. The meal purified the pottage and made it edifying and nourishing. If Ulster is to be edified and nourished again and delivered from the present dreadful spiritual ‘dearth’ there must be a casting of the meal into the pot from which our land feeds.
The word ‘cast’ means ‘to hurl’. That is to ‘throw strongly, vigorously’. Today, there is more ‘underarm bowling’ in the pulpit than the ‘hurling’ there ought to be. ‘Pillow fighting’ will never deter the devil and bring home God’s truth to the hearts of the population as it should.
What is called for today is that which Paul demanded of Timothy.
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables,” 2 Timothy 4:2-4.
If you wish to know what ‘hurling’ preaching is, then here it is defined for us. “Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Such preaching under the Reformers, the Covenanters, the Puritans, Whitefield and I have to say, under Dr Paisley in his early days, saw a turning.
It can be so again.
May God raise up in Ulster ‘hurlers’, not those the GAA type, but those who ‘cast out vigorously’ the Word of God.
Rev Ivan Foster (Rtd)
23rd October 2023