Death in the Stew

An digitally altered photo of a hand blocking graphical representations of viruses in several different colors as they emerge from a distant point in the upper left corner

Our bodies may be tough and able to fend off many kinds of impurities and diseases, yet sometimes, the simplest thing can make us seriously ill. As an example, look in the Old Testament at an incident that occurred about a thousand years before Jesus was born.

“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth [famine] in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him: and he said unto his servant, Set on the great pot, and seethe [boil] pottage for the sons of the prophets. 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 [stew]: for they knew them not. So they poured out for the men to eat. And…as they were eating of the pottage…they cried out, and said, O thou man of God, there is death in the pot. And they could not eat thereof. But he 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.”

2 Kings 4:38-41

God led the prophet Elisha to return to Gilgal where there was a meeting place for the instruction of the sons of other prophets in the region, a kind of impromptu Bible school. Since there was a famine during this time, food was scarce. Yet this did not deter the faith of Elisha as he told his servant to prepare a stew for the students present. In his zeal, someone gathered an armload of herbs and vegetables, including a wild vine that produced gourds, not knowing that they were poisonous. When he returned, he cut up all of the produce and added it to the pot of boiling water.

A painting by Giorgio Vasari of the prophet Elisha in the school of the prophets putting meal into the poisoned pottage

The time came for them to eat and each student was given a portion of the mixture. Suddenly, after eating some of it, they began to cry out to Elisha, “O thou man of God, there is death in the pot” and they were not able to eat anymore. Unfazed by this, Elisha ordered some meal (flour) and tossed it into the stew. He then had it distributed again to them and they ate without having any bad taste or harm!

…even if we are not all able to attend an institute of higher and structured learning, God still expects His children to be students of His Word.

Now, at face value, this story demonstrates the importance of knowing how to choose the right food when we have no conventional places to eat, such as a restaurant or market. It also shows the miracle working power of God to be able to make a poisonous and life-threatening stew safe and palatable by just adding one ordinary ingredient.

But if we look deeper, we will find several parallels here. First, even if we are not all able to attend an institute of higher and structured learning, God still expects His children to be students of His Word. Young men like these here with Elisha, and later on, Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, all sat at the feet of their teacher, eager to learn from his knowledge and experience.

Blurred photo of televangelist on a small television in a room

Secondly, we see the need to have not only wisdom but also discernment when it comes to the source of our education in God’s Word. The one who readily collected the wild gourds did not know about their poisonous properties. We also need to seek God before we rush out intently to receive all that someone on the television, the Internet, or some other form of media has to say, or before we attend the first church we feel is right. There is a lot of seductive, bitter, and erroneous teaching present today that can easily harm or even poison us spiritually.

Our antidote to “death in the stew”, or false teaching, is the Word of God, the Truth.

Thirdly, take note again of what happened after some of the bad stew was eaten and the young men called out to Elisha. He had some meal put into the pot, and the danger was eliminated. Our antidote to “death in the stew”, or false teaching, is the Word of God, the Truth. When we turn to the Bible and apply it to our life, we will find that we will not be deceived into choosing erroneous and deceptive doctrine.

open bible laying flat and angled with shiny gold pen in center crease pointing to the top

As children of God, we live in a world where there is a famine of the Truth. As long as we are sitting at Jesus’ feet, hungry for more of His Word, then He, like Elisha, will make a way to keep us properly fed. But we must be sensitive and open to the promptings of His Spirit to prevent us from innocently trying to add things that will poison us spiritually. The devil is happy to feed us things that appear to be true but will ultimately harm us, and he will continue to do so until we are dead. Therefore, we need to stay rooted in the promises and commandments that God has declared in the Bible, rather than naively trying anything convenient that seems right and godly to us.

[Image credits:Featured image (when applicable) Clker-Free-Vector-Images/pixabay; Bruno Germany/pixabay; Giorgio Vasari/public domain; (blurred) flickr photo by Natecull shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license; Kate Cox/pixabay]