Tony Evans - Reversing Irreversible Consequences
How many of you like puzzles? Anybody like puttin' together puzzles? Okay? Well, today, we're going to have a puzzle, and we're going to see the protrusions and the indentations of this puzzle come together to address the issue of irreversible consequences. Can they be reversed? Is there the possibility that things could be different although they look like they can't be? Gehazi is Elisha's servant. Elisha has just instructed Naaman how to be healed seven times in the Jordan. Naaman dips down seven times, comes up totally healed and then turns and offers Elisha money, clothes, silver, gold, well worth in today's dollars over a million dollars.
Naaman says, "Elisha, because you gave me the secret to this healing, I'm going to make you a millionaire". In verse 16, Elisha turns him down. "I can't take your money. I can't take your clothes. It's not about that". And he turns down the money. Gehazi sees him turn down the money, to which Gehazi says, "You've got to be out of your mind. You didn't heal this man. You offered him well over a million dollars, and you gon' turn it down"?
So when Naaman leaves, Gehazi goes after him. When Gehazi catches up with Naaman, he says to him, "My master sent me, and he told me to catch up with you 'cause we got two seminary students". He calls them sons of the prophets. "We got two students who need a scholarship to get through school, who need some clothes 'cause they poor seminary students, and so he sent me to get a little somethin'-somethin' from you. Let me have a talent and some of the clothes".
So before I get any further, let me tell you what's going on now. The Bible calls it the sin of covetousness. "Covetousness" is "desiring and plotting to take something that is not yours to have". That's covetousness. A synonym for it is "greed," "going after something that is not legitimate for you to have, in an illegitimate way". Colossians 3:5, calls covetousness "idolatry". It is the worship of another god because you don't believe your God is the source, so you go to an illegitimate means to get it, "covetousness".
Jesus said in Luke chapter 12, about the covetous man, you don't have to turn there. He said, "Be aware of every form of greed". It comes in different shapes and different forms. And you know you're a covetous person when you plot to get something you're not authorized to have in an illegitimate way through deception. He says, "Elisha sent me". Elisha didn't send him anywhere. Not only that, but there was a fundamental mistake that Gehazi made. He said, "Elisha sent me". He used Elisha's name, he uses God's name, but he leaves out a phrase that Elisha said when he was offered the stuff because in chapter 5, verse 16, Elisha said, "As the Lord lives, before who I stand". "Before who I stand," it means, "to whom I'm accountable".
In other words, Elisha knew he was not just accountable to other folk. He was accountable to God, and God would see what he was doing, even if no man saw it. So Gehazi says, "Elisha sent me, and as God lives", but not "before whom I stand". He lost site of a divine accountability. So he comes, and he says, "Show me the money. I got some seminary students here Elisha sent me to help". Naaman is glad to oblige. So Naaman goes, and Naaman hands it to Gehazi, two talents, some clothes. Gehazi goes, takes it to his house, and hides it. He then goes to Elisha, and Elisha says, "Where've you been"? Gehazi says, "I've been nowhere". Elisha says, "Did not my heart go with you when you went to Naaman and when you connived to get this"? "How you know this"? Elisha has scoped him out, and this is what Elisha tells him: "Therefore," verse 27, "'the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.' So he went out of his presence a leper as white as snow".
Let's look at the consequences of his decision. Consequence number one, a personal curse, leprosy, and it was incurable and unreversible. According to Leviticus chapter 13, verses 45 and 46, when you got leprosy, you now had to move outside the camp because it was contagious, so you could give somebody else leprosy, and there was no way to fix it. It was irreversible. As we saw last week, uncurable. Perhaps there's somebody here today who feels like you're living under a curse. This thing won't go away. It's affected every area of your life. There's no cure. You are a leper: no solution. But not only that, he says, "You shall be a leper and your descendants". Not only that, he tells him it'll never change forever.
Let's fast-forward to chapter 8, verse 1. "No Elisha spoke to the woman whose son he had restored to life, saying, 'Arise and go with your household and sojourn wherever you can sojourn, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will even come on the land for seven years.' So the woman arose and did according to the word of the man of God, and she went with her household and sojourned in the land of the Philistines seven years. At the end of seven years, the woman returned from the land of the Philistines, and she went to appeal to the king for her house and for her field. Now the king was talking with Gehazi, the servant of the man of God, saying, 'Please relate to me all the great things that Elisha has done.' As he was relating to the king how he had restored to life the one who was dead, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appeared to the king for her house and for her field. And Gehazi said, 'My lord, O king, this is the woman and this is her son, whom Elisha restored to life.' When the king asked the woman, she related to him. So the king appointed for her a certain officer, saying, 'Restore all that was hers and all the produce of the field from the day that she left the land even until now.'"
I got a question. What in the world is Gehazi doing in the palace? What is he doing in the palace? This boy is a leper. Leviticus chapter 13, verse 44 and 45 says, lepers have to be segregated from the congregation, but now he's talking to the king, and if you gon' protect anybody, it's gon' be the king. Not only is he talking to the king, he is a liaison between Elisha and the king 'cause he now has a job. He's still called, "the servant of Elisha". She he's standin' between Elisha and the king, when he's been condemned to be outside due to leprosy.
Well, come on now. I need some more pieces to this puzzle because chapter 5 and chapter 8 don't make sense. Enter a woman, a woman whose son had been raised from the dead. We're told in those first few verses of chapter 8, that this woman, the Shunammite's son, was raised from the dead by Elisha. In the first three verses of chapter 8, you see the phrase, "seven years, seven years, seven years," and seven is the number of completion. Over a seven-year period, the woman meets Elisha and gets a miracle, the raising of her son. Seven years later, she comes to the king. What happened in the seven years, ooh, another piece of the puzzle. There's a famine. In chapter 6, verses 25 and following, "There was a great famine in Samaria," while he's talkin' about her.
Okay, wait a minute. I gotta put this puzzle together. I got a leper who appears no longer to be a leper. I got a woman, I got a prophet, and I got a famine. How do these pieces hook up? How do these pieces come together? How is he talking to the king like nothin' is wrong? How does the woman show up while he's talking about the woman? Why does this seven-year gap show up?
Chapter 7, verse 3, "Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate, and they said to one another, 'Why do we sit here until we die?'" In other words, "'We're in a hopeless situation, and we're just sittin' here, waitin' to die. If we say we will enter the city, then the famine is in the city, and we will die there. So we go there. There's nothin' to eat there, so we're gon' die there. But if we sit here, we gon' die here. So we are dead men regardless. Now, therefore, since we're gon' die anyway, why don't we go to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us and we live, if they kill us, we gon' die, so we gon' die anyway, so let's go over there to that army that's against Israel, and let's ask them if they'll give us some food. They may kill us, but we gon' die anyway. We're in a Catch 22, that's unfixable.' So they arise at twilight, and they go into the camp," 'cause the camp has food. This is the enemy of Israel, and they keepin' food from Israel.
Verse 6, "For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so they said to one another, 'Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us kings of the Hittites and kings of the Egyptians to come against us.' Therefore, they arose and fled in the twilight".
When they took a chance, they discovered God had already gotten rid of the problem. If they would've stayed outside and done nothin', they would've never discovered what God had already done. He had already scared the Aramean army so that they fled, and when they fled, they left all their stuff behind. 'Cause when they fled, "The lepers come," verse 8, "they enter the tent, and they ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes and went and hid them, and they returned and entered another tent, and carried from there also, and went and hid them". Verse 9, "Then they said to one another", stay with me here, "we are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent. If we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go tell the king's household".
Rewind. When Gehazi took that which was not his to take, Elisha says to him just before he sentences him, "Is it time for you to have silver, gold, clothes, this, that, and the other"? He said, "It's not wrong that you wanted it. It's wrong that you wanted it in this time". He said, "It's not time". Whenever you have to connive to get something God has not given you, it's not because it's necessarily wrong to have it. It's not your time. When you have to be illegitimate to get it, that means you run into maybe a content problem, but definitely a timing issue because, when the Bible says God gives something, "he gives no sorrow with it".
So if you gotta be manipulating to make it happen, then what you have done is that you have misused the time, but now this table has been laid out because God had gone before them and cleared it up so that now there's all this stuff, but they said, "Well, no, let's get this for ourself. Let's take this for ourself," and this one remembers and says to the other three, "No, no, no, no, no. Been there, done that". What I'm telling you is that these four lepers are Gehazi and his sons.
Go back. "You're gonna be a leper, and so will your descendants". You gotta connect chapter 5 with chapter 8, and somebody's got to explain how he's now in the king's court with no issues, and contagious, and how does these four characters, the king, Elisha, the woman, Gehazi, and then this central event, the famine, hook up so that he's now in the king's court? It's comparing Scripture with Scripture. The reason that the names are not given is because he's living under a curse. What's the point? What is the point?
Over and over again in chapter 8, "seven years, seven years, seven years, seven years, seven years". The time of completion. Oh, let me give you another word for it. It's called "retest". A "retest" is when God creates the exact same situation or a similar situation to it to see whether you learned your lesson, called "retest". You know the one thing I loved in school about "retest"? That means the teacher was givin' me another chance. It does not change my previous grade, but it gives me hope for a better tomorrow because it's a retest.
Notice, it's the exact same situation with the exact same stuff: silver, gold, money, clothes. He says, "The problem, Gehazi, is it's not time". Meaning, "Another time, it will be time, but it's not time now". He gives him a retest. If you are in an un- or irreversible situation, you ask God for a retest. "Lord, give me another opportunity to take the exam again". And God will test and retest and retest again, you know, retest on top of the retest, until you get the message, till I get the message, till we get the message.
While Elisha prophesies at the end of the seven years that the droughts gettin' ready to end, the droughts gettin' ready to be over, he prophesies that it's coming to a conclusion, but the officer of the king says, "That ain't gon' happen. That ain't gon' happen. This drought not gon' come to an end like you talkin' about, preacher". So Elisha tells him, in chapter 7, he said, "Look, not only is it gon' come to an end, you gon' see it, but you're not gon' benefit from it".
Now look at the end of chapter 7, verse 17, "Now the king appointed the royal officer on whose hands he leaned to have charge of the gate, but the people trampled on him at the gate, and he died, just as the man of God had said, who spoke when the king came down to him". Verse 20, "And it happened to him, for the people trampled on him at the gate and he died". Wait a minute. When we come to chapter 8, Gehazi is talkin' to the king. Wait a minute. He's now the liaison. He not only get his job back 'cause he's called the servant of Elisha. He's now the one that the king is leaning on for information, the same thing that the royal officer got to use.
Well, wait a minute. When the royal officer got trampled, that opened up a job opportunity. And so now the king is leaning on the former leper to get information. He now has two jobs. He's the servant of Elisha, and he's the information center for the king 'cause, if God's sovereignty allows it, not only can he reverse your leprosy, he can give you opportunities that you never thought could be in your life, in your world, and in your future. So God is a God of retest.
Have you ever felt like you've run out of options? Your "get up and go" has "gotten up and gone," and, you know, you look through the tunnel, and it's all dark except for the oncoming train coming your way? Hope is gone. You're throwing in the towel. You resigned, "It'll never get better". I've got good news. In spite of how bad it looks, in spite of how bad you were to bring it to the point it's at now, the sins, the mistakes, the failures, the rebellion, and you don't even know how to spell the word "hope" anymore, you've really set yourself up for God to do a reversal. He has a boomerang principle that he loves to operate with his children. When it looks like you goin' way out of the way, he knows how to turn that thing around and bring it back and change your situation.
I know it right now looks like there's no way out. I know it looks like right now for many that you've been consigned to a life of rejection, of failure, and it's unrecoverable. That's where God does some of his best work. That's where God literally changes his mind when we change our direction. So even though it looks like it is impossible, and it is, as far as you are concerned and as far as people are concerned, but since there's nothing impossible with God, if you're still here, you're still alive, you're still breathin', then you go for that return because God is able to make dry bones rise again. He can take the grave and bring life out of it. He can take yesterday's disasters and turn 'em into tomorrow's blessing. You don't give up on God because... guess what? He has not yet given up on you.