The book of 2 Kings begins with the prophet Elijah being taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire, and it ends with Jerusalem being destroyed by fire, with plenty of action and intrigue in between. So how do we make the most of teaching this book, clearly presenting its message and getting to the greater Elisha and the greater king it points toward?
Andrew Sach, pastor of Grace Church Greenwich in greater London, has been teaching (and, interestingly enough, rapping) through the books of 1 and 2 Kings. He is also working on a book on 1 and 2 Kings for his Dig Deeper series. Having listened to some of his messages in person and others online, I noted nine things Andrew does as a teacher that makes his teaching clear and compelling, which we worked through in our conversation. Andrew demonstrates how Elijah and Elisha relate to John the Baptist and Jesus at numerous points in their stories. He also talks about how the story of the northern tribes of Israel presents an opportunity to get to Christ as the ultimate prophet, while the southern tribes of Judah present an opportunity to get to Christ as the true king.
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Andrew Sach: Up in the chariot, the prophet goes, leaving his successor to deal with God’s foes. Elisha is now the man with Elijah’s cloak. Elisha is now the water parter prophesying bloke. We’re expecting the judgment to come, instead Elisha raises a Shunammite’s son. A poisoned stew is healed, the sons of prophets fed as Elisha multiplies 20 loaves of bread. But the assassins finally arrive, none of God’s enemies is left alive.
Nancy Guthrie: Welcome to “Help Me Teach The Bible,” I’m Nancy Guthrie. “Help Me Teach The Bible” is a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracts. Learn more at crossway.org. My guest today is Reverend Dr. Andrew Sach who is Pastor of Grace Church, Greenwich. Andrew, thank you for being willing to, once again, help us teach the Bible.
Sach: Good to see you, Nancy. Happy New Year.
Guthrie: Yes, we’re talking on New Year’s Day. We both are up early on New Year’s Day to have this conversation. And, honestly though, as I was awaking this morning, I thought, “What a great way to start my year having a conversation with an excellent Bible teacher about a great book of the Bible.” I mean, I really can’t think of a better way to start the year. Now, tell us a little bit about your history. So, you studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge and then I see that you got a doctorate. What’s your doctorate in?
Sach: It’s in ears. Well, it’s how the brain processes the signal from the ears.
Guthrie: You have a doctorate in that?
Sach: I spent three years of my life in a soundproof room listening to thousands of clicks, basically, yeah.
Sach: And you’ve had a lot of ministry since then, how do you feel like you use that education?
Sach: I actually got converted at university, so that was the first step towards ministry. So, my first year at Cambridge when I became a Christian, and then I gradually got more and more involved in campus ministry. And towards the end of my doctorate, I was probably doing more Bible teaching than I was doing science, and that was the signal that it was time to make a change.
Guthrie: What did you think you were going to do with that degree?
Sach: I was interested in academia, I thought I might be a lecturer or researcher, yeah. But then, other things intervened and I was… I mean, I was very fortunate, the Lord was kind to me because most of my experiments worked, which is not normal in doctorates. So, I just had quite a lot of spare time and so I was able to do a lot of ministry thanks to that. But I realized it wouldn’t always be like that, so.
Guthrie: Well, you were at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate for a while and now you are the Pastor at Grace Church, Greenwich. You’ve also written a number of books. There’s a series of “Dig Deeper” books. The one that’s available here in the states is “Dig Deeper,” which was published by Inter-Varsity in the UK, but Crossway here in the States, which is really just about basic Bible interpretation and teaching skills. Is that how you would describe it? And then, I see you’ve done some other…you did “Dig Even Deeper: Unearthing Old Testament Treasure,” “Dig Deeper Into The Gospels,” and it’s my understanding you are working on a “Dig Deeper” on the book that we’re going to talk about today, 2 Kings.
Sach: That’s right. Yeah. The titles get less imaginative, so one of my friends said eventually the book will be called Rock Bottom, but I’m planning one on 1 and 2 Kings.
Guthrie: Okay, excellent. And you’ve been teaching through 1 and 2 Kings at your church over… You’ve, kind of, come and gone from that two book set, haven’t you?
Sach: Yeah, we tend to do that. We try to work through whole books of the Bible, but when they’re long books rather than giving the congregation sort of two years of 2 Kings. We do a block, and then we do something else, and then we return to it. So, I’ve almost finished, I’ve got a little bit left. We’ll come back to it in 2020 for the last bit.
Guthrie: I suppose that brings up one of a number of challenges to teaching 1 or 2 Kings, as you call it. I call it 1 and 2, but I’ll go with 1 and 2 because you’re my guest today. So, that’s one of the challenges of teaching 2 Kings, and oftentimes, I think we teach it with 1 Kings, is just its length. So, your approach has been to kind of come and go from it. I suppose that’s one way to deal with that challenge.
Sach: Yeah. I think it’s a bit like when people watch Netflix series, and they watch a season and then they pause and have to wait until the fall for the next one to come out. Then, you watch the next season, but you kind of pick up where you left off. We do it a bit like that. We did that for other books, and we did Romans, I think, in four blocks. We’ve done John’s gospel every fall, every autumn for the last four years, we do a block and then we come back to it the next year. So, it just means that you can tackle the longer books of the Bible without people being completely swamped. And if you had three months in or two months in, 1 and 2 Kings is about right.
Guthrie: What I like about that is, you’re committed to covering every part of the text. You’re not going to hop, and skip, and jump to accommodate people’s limited energy and attention span toward a particular book. But, you are accommodating that humanness in your listeners that it would be challenging to listen to that long of a series in those two books week by week when you’re actually not going to be skipping sections of it.
Sach: Yeah. So, I think you get the freshness when you come back to it and people have kind of missed it for a while, they’re ready for a bit more, but then when we start getting weary of it, it’s time to switch to something else. So, I think when I was teaching 1 Kings, I think Andrew, my co-Pastor was teaching Philippians. So, I would do four on 1 Kings, he would do four on Philippians, I would do four on 1 Kings, he would do four on Philippians. That kind of thing.
Guthrie: What do you think some of the other challenges are to the average Bible teacher in regard to teaching 2 Kings?
Sach: I think teaching narratives is a challenge, we have to teach it differently to how we teach an epistle. I actually really enjoy it because all of the illustrations are in the text. You don’t have to think of a story to illustrate the text because this is the story. And, I think, if you can tell the story in your preaching, then it’s already engaging and exciting so that the author inspired by the Holy Spirit is a literary genius, and often, there’s a surprise or a twist, and this little playful… I mean, so, I think 1 and 2 Kings is very amusing, I think it’s supposed to be funny. And all of that is actually there in the text, but the challenge is to… I suppose, if you were just to turn it into a doctrinal sermon, you could destroy the story. The idea is, there is a doctrine there, there’s some trait that is being taught, but it is being taught by the vehicle of the story. And to cut with the story, to run with the story, and particularly to try and capture the suspense of the story, not to give away the punchline too early but to wait until the author reveals it. Those kinds of things.
Guthrie: I would think it’s also a challenge, there are aspects of it that are very repetitive. That would be a challenge, week by week, people thinking, “Okay, I’ve heard this before.” Even though there are slight differences, there is a lot of repetitiveness to this book.
Sach: Yeah. And I think the author himself speeds up and slows down and I think we should do the same. So, for example, in the middle of both 1 and 2 Kings, you get a whole run of different reigns very, very quickly. So, in chapters 13, 14, 15, 16, you just rattle through loads and loads of different kings, one after the other. And I think that is supposed to be fast forward, look at them more quickly together. So, you don’t want to take a sermon on each of the small Kings, that really would kill your congregation, but rather speed up. And I think the point there is, compare them, see what’s repeated. So, I actually did all of chapters 14 and 15 in one sermon, and the point was that compare the… Well, it was, what’s the downward spiral as the Kings of Israel and Judah get worse, and worse, and worse? But, as I say, to take them individually would be a mistake. Whereas other points, the author really slows down, so Hezekiah, he gets a whole section to himself because he’s very important. So, you want to do Hezekiah probably in two or three sermons, whereas Shallum, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, they don’t deserve a sermon each.
Guthrie: You called your series God’s Superheroes.
Sach: That’s what we called the section of the book that was dealing with Elijah and Elisha.
Guthrie: Okay. Why?
Sach: Well, if I was on the Marvel board and a Christian, I would say, “It’s about time we made the Elijah, Elisha films, the movies.” And they’re fantastic. In 1 and 2 Kings, usually the focus is on the king. So, King Solomon gets the first chunk of 1 Kings and then the big kings in 2 Kings are people like Hezekiah and Josiah. But, in this particular middle of the books, the end of 1 Kings, the beginning of 2 Kings, the focus isn’t on the king but is on the prophet. Elijah and Elisha become the center figures.
Guthrie: They’re interacting with kings but the focus is on their ministry and what they’re doing?
Sach: Yeah. And I think the really interesting thing is that they come in the… Well, this is a big issue, actually, for understanding the whole book. The kingdom of Israel splits in half after the reign of Solomon because of his idolatry. And there’s a civil war, and Jeroboam leads a rebellion, and Israel breaks off from Judah. And then, you get the two stories side by side, so sometimes the author is focusing on Israel, sometimes the author is focusing on Judah.
Guthrie: Yeah. See, I think you’re hitting on the other thing that makes this book really confusing. I think about, for most of my life, I mean, I grew up very saturated in the Bible, but I’d be embarrassed for you to know how late it was that I really understood this divided kingdom business in terms of the historical timeline. Therefore, the difference when I’m reading books like 1 and 2 Kings, the differentiation between Israel and Judah, to follow that you’re going back and forth from North and South is challenging as a reader, and I think, as a teacher, there’s also a huge challenge there.
Sach: Yeah, it is challenging. And, the two kingdoms are quite different. So, the North, Israel is in the North, it’s confusing because, of course, Israel is the name for the whole country before the split and then it becomes the name for the North, Israel is worse than Judah. There’s two reasons for that, because the line of David, so God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7 that there would always be a King on David’s throne in his line forever, the succession of Kings in the line of David are in the South. So, the Kings of Judah are all descended from David, but in the North there is no legitimate succession.
So, people just seize power, they amass an army and invade, and it changes between different tribes all the time. That’s one difference, the other difference is Jerusalem and the temple is in the South, and that’s the center of where the law is, that’s the center of orthodox worship. Whereas right from the beginning in the North, you remember in 1 Kings, King Jeroboam I, he builds these golden calf shrines down in Bethel, and they become a center of idolatry, and he sets up his own priesthood. And so, all the way through 1 and 2 Kings, we see that Israel is worse than Judah, but the tragedy of 2 Kings is Judah goes the same way in the end. So, it’s as if Israel slides downhill very fast and then Judah is sliding downhill a bit more slowly but going the same way.
Guthrie: So, I listened through a number of your sermons on 2 Kings and I wrote down a number of things that were, I thought, distinctives, especially of maybe even your first sermon in your 2 Kings series, so on 2 Kings 2. And, if you don’t mind, I just want to walk through some of those things because I felt like they were really exemplary. You know, we hear someone and we think, “Wow, that was really clear, that held my interest, it also moved me, it challenged me, it got to Christ.” And we maybe hear someone else do that and we think, “Wow, that’s what I want to do.” So, I just want to try to break down some of the ways you did that, and maybe you can talk to us a little bit about some of the choices you made and what caused you to do that.
All right. One of the first things that I noticed you did in your 2 Kings 2 sermon. You just started right in talking about watching a television show “Line of Duty,” your Netflix reference. You used something that you knew the people in your congregation could totally relate to, this idea of finishing a season and you’re waiting for the next season to come. It caused me to be, “Okay, I’m excited to see what’s going to happen in this new season.”
Sach: Yeah. Yeah.
Guthrie: Then as you dove in, you read the text. Your reading was not flat, it was dramatic. Where the text was funny or where the text was interactive, you were kind of funny or interactive. I guess I just think so many teachers just can read the text in such a flat way, and it seems like, especially in narrative, you just can’t afford to do that.
Sach: I think it’s really hard to read it unless you understand it well as well. So, we always have two readings in our services and one of them is that kind of supportive reading, it might be from the New Testament if we’re doing an Old Testament book. But, the reading that we’re going to preach on is usually the preacher that reads it because you know where the jokes are and where the suspense is because you’ve understood it. I think it’s unusual in our churches to have the preacher doing the reading, but we think that’s a really valuable thing.
Guthrie: You can read the sections that are going to have import later. You can read them in such a way it’s going to catch their attention a little bit more because you know where you’re going.
Sach: Yes. We did an exercise, actually. I was trying to do an exercise with people at St. Helen’s Bishopsgate on training readers, and it’s quite fun. So, I got people to read a sentence and to try and put the emphasis on a different word each time. So, you could take…I mean, you take any sentence, but it’s amazing how much you can convey by your intonation. For example, I’m reading 2 Kings 2:15, and I say, “Why don’t you read it where you emphasize that Jericho is the important thing?” So, you read, “Now, when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said…” Or you can read it, when you say it’s the sons of the prophets that’s a significant thing, “Now, when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them…” So, you can decide, and, of course, you want to be able to make meaningful emphases, but only the preacher or only the person who studied it will know what the meaningful emphases are.
Guthrie: As you began this sermon, you did the dramatic reading of the text, but then, immediately after reading the text, you posed a question. Your question was, how do we know that Jesus is the savior judge? Now, that might not be the most natural question people would assume after you read this very dramatic text in 2 Kings. So, my thought was, “Okay, you’ve obviously studied this text and you know where you’re headed, and so, at the very beginning you’re stating a question that’s going to, in a sense, set it up for where you’re headed and what you’re going to deliver because you want them to be thinking about that question all the way through.” Would that be an accurate description of why you would have done that?
Sach: Yeah. And someone said to me, “You want to ask the question that the sermon is going to answer, and it has to be a question that people care about.” So, if I just said, “Now, here is our question, what is 2 Kings 2 about?” And, some people think, “I don’t care.” I mean, I guess a mature Christian cares but not everybody cares. Whereas, if you can show somebody, this is a question that you would like to know about and this Pastor is going to answer it for us. Hopefully, you’ve at least grabbed people’s attention for the next 10 minutes or so.
Guthrie: Is that almost your go-to style or format for a message, that you do have this place you’re going, and that as you’re thinking about how you began, you’re going to read the text. And that the first thing you’re going to go to is, how do I set it up to get to that question I’m going to answer?
Sach: Yeah, that would be the normal method, yeah. And so, actually, your introduction comes last in your preparation. So, you spend all the time working out where you get to and then only then can you write the beginning. So, I would usually write the introduction last.
Guthrie: Yeah. That’s quite often the case for me too. Yeah, sometimes I write the conclusion before I’ve even put together the message because it serves as a guide and it helps me keep from going off on tangents for one thing if it’s not going to serve getting to that point, but it helps me to get there. All right, so then you presented Elisha succeeding Elijah, and right there at the beginning, you tell us that it’s going to turn out to be a prediction of John the Baptist, kind of, turning over his ministry or being succeeded by Jesus. And that there’s a strong evidence that Jesus is God’s Savior Judge. That’s introducing something when we have barely gotten into the text yet is very foundational about where you’re going, and something that I would imagine 90% of your audience had never heard before.
Sach: I’ll tell you my working in this. Let’s take the other way around, let’s start with 2 Kings 2 and say what is it about. So, it’s a succession narrative where Elijah is taken up to heaven in a chariot and Elisha is shown to be his true successor. So, what is the point of the sermon? The point is, Elisha really is the true successor of Elijah. And it seems that a lot of the details of the chapter are about that, so the fact that Elijah parts the waters of the Jordan and goes across and then Elisha taking up his cloak, parts the waters of the Jordan that goes back across. And then you think, “Oh, yeah. Okay, so he definitely is the successor.”
And then, there’s some skeptics who weren’t quite persuaded and then eventually they get persuaded. But, as a point for a Christian audience, right, so now we want everybody to be really, really sure that Elisha really is the successor to Elijah, and you’re still thinking, “Okay, but why do I care?” One of the really fascinating things about the Elijah-Elisha story is that it’s, I think, one of the clearest places of typology in the Old Testament. So, places where one story foreshadows a later story, and I think in extraordinarily many ways, John the Baptist is the fulfillment of Elijah and therefore Jesus is the fulfillment of Elisha. And just as Elijah hands over to Elisha, so John the Baptist hands over to Jesus in a really, really similar way.
Guthrie: And the first half of that, I think, is more familiar to people than the second half just because there was so much Old Testament and even New Testament making clear that John the Baptist is fulfilling the ministry of Elijah, but it’s that next step of typology that I think most people are not familiar with the connection between Elijah, Elisha, and then John the Baptist and Jesus, but that would be new to people.
Sach: Yeah. I guess that is true. Elisha is probably less well known than Elijah because he’s not mentioned as often in the rest of the Bible. But I think that it’s because Elisha is the Jesus character. So, one of the things I kept saying through the series was, Elisha is the Christ figure in the book, he is the foreshadowing of Christ. He’s actually even got the same name, so Elisha means God saves just as Yeshua means He always saves. So, he is Jesus popping up in advance foreshadowed in the Old Testament. And I wanted people to know that straight away because I thought the question of, is Jesus the real thing? That’s the question all of us care about. But, actually, it’s related to the question of, is Elisha the real thing?
Guthrie: You’re talking about Elisha as the one who saves. Throughout your series, you call Elisha an assassin?
Sach: Well, it’s because of the way that Elisha is… (I always get the two confused, I have to pronounce it emphatically.)
Guthrie: I do too.
Sach: Elisha is introduced back in 1 Kings 19, and it’s the famous passage where Elijah is very depressed because the nation hasn’t repented. It’s just after the glorious showdown on Mount Carmel where the prophets of Baal are defeated and everyone cries out, “The Lord is God, the Lord is God.” But, Ahab and Jezebel, the King and Queen, they didn’t repent, and Elijah realizes that unless the monarchy returns to the Lord, then the country will not return to the Lord. One of the things we keep seeing in 1 and 2 Kings is what the king does is what the people do, and a bad king means an apostate people.
So, Elijah is very depressed that the people haven’t repented or that the king and queen haven’t repented, and he gets sent to Mount Sinai. And it’s the passage with the fire, and the earthquake, and the wind, and then the still small voice. And then God says to Elijah, and this is the bit that people, I think, forget about that chapter. After the still small voice, God says to Elijah, “Go and send the three…” and I call them the three assassins, so Hazael King of Syria, Jehu King of Israel, and Elisha the new prophet to succeed Elijah are to kill everybody. They’re going to bring God’s judgment against His apostate people. “There will be a remnant,” he says 7,000 who haven’t bowed the knee to Baal, but the three characters who are going to do the destruction: Hazael, Jehu, and Elisha.
So, the first time we meet Elisha back in 1 Kings, we are anticipating him bringing destruction and judgment. The real surprise is that when Elisha shows up, he doesn’t do very much killing people. He does a little bit and there’s the famous passage with the she bears that get called down and kill the young men. He does a bit of judging, that shouldn’t surprise us, we’re expecting him to be the Judge. The really surprising thing is that he does so much saving and rescuing. So the one who is announced as the Judge comes and brings salvation. And, when you reflect on that, you realize, actually, that’s exactly the same as the Lord Jesus. So, we’re used to Jesus being a savior, but many of the passages about the coming of the Messiah in the Old Testament, you think when the Messiah comes, he’s going to come and be the Judge. And Jesus of course will be the Judge when he comes on the last day, but the Judge first comes as a savior. So, that’s why I call Elisha the savior judge, the one who’s going to judge but first saves, just like Jesus is going to judge but first saves.
Guthrie: I just finished a book that’ll be coming out this spring called Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus. And, the first chapter is on John the Baptist. My thought about John the Baptist is, after he’s been the one to even recognize Jesus in the womb, he leaps for joy when Mary’s presence is there, and he’s the one who recognizes Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” And, yet, there he is in prison, and he sends his disciples to Jesus, “Are you the one or should we be looking for another?”
As I looked at it, it seemed to me that John had so immersed himself in the Isaiah scriptures about who the Messiah would be, and that the heavy note to him was on judgment. That’s why he’s always talking about fire, and an ax to the root, and all of that. And so, it makes sense that Jesus responds to him using one of those Isaiah scriptures, but drawing out the part about how he will heal, and cause the lame to walk, and bring good news to the poor and the captive, those things. Having that in my mind and then hearing what you said, it just so seemed to fit together that to see Elijah and Elisha is to see that same thing, this judge who comes to do miracles to save. And yet He will come to judge.
Sach: You’re right. It’s pretty clear that John the Baptist is a fulfillment of Elijah. I mean, he wears the same outfit. So, I always say to people, “If I turned up at your house wearing a blue leotard with my underwear on the outside, with a big yellow and red letter S on the front, you’d say, ‘Why, have you got a Superman costume?'” But when John the Baptist shows up with a camel’s hair cloak and leather belt, they think, “Oh, why are you wearing the Elijah costume?” Because that was 2 Kings 1:8, that was what Elijah was famous for wearing. So, that’s pretty clear, but then Elijah hands over to Elisha at the River Jordan, and the spirit of Elijah comes to rest on Elisha, and that is evidenced. John the Baptist hands over to Jesus at the River Jordan, and the Holy Spirit comes on him like a dove. Elisha has the name, God Saves, Jesus has the name The Lord Saves. Elisha, even his miracles, so he multiplies bread to feed a crowd that’s too large for the amount of food that they’ve got and there’s leftovers [crosstalk].
Guthrie: There’s leftovers, those kinds of details, oh my goodness.
Sach: The details, yeah. So, God has clearly set up history so that we get the Jesus story in advance in miniature here and then we see it again.
Guthrie: Another thing I noted in your teaching is that because we are once again dealing with huge sections of text that rely on things that have come before, and you’re recognizing that those who you’re teaching that day, maybe they weren’t there when you taught 1 Kings or a previous message. And so, you have to repeatedly include concise summaries of things that happen in advance. I think that’s actually a skill that we as teachers have to develop. I’ll find sometimes, and I think, “Okay, I’m going to go to the text, and I’m going to read these sections of text that apply to that.”
But then I’ll get to a point in my preparation that I think, “That’s going to be too complicated. I want people I’m teaching to be in the text and see where I’m getting it, that I’m not just making it up.” And, for them to develop being able to find things in the Bible through that kind of thing. And, yet, I realized as I was listening to you, if you had had people flipping back and forth, and reading big sections of text to understand some of the elements of the story that they needed to understand and the history to get what you were communicating, that would have been terribly confusing for your listeners and made your talk so incredibly long.
Sach: Yeah. Yeah, I think you want to be really selective and think, “What are the essential flashbacks?” And we have a handout that we give to the congregation, and I’ll often use that to try and make… So, I’ll actually write, “Flashback” and I’ll insert the verses there so people don’t even have to turn their Bible. So, everyone has just got one passage open which is the passage we’re studying, but the flashback passages, I’ll put on the handout.
Guthrie: The text or your summary of it?
Sach: The text, but as small as possible. So, I try and think, “If I had to really choose just two sentences that are necessary for the flashback, what are they going to be?” And I’ll print them out. I think, if you’re in a sermon where you have to flip back and forward, people get lost. And especially the newcomer to church, you know, the non-Christian, he’s walked in for the first time, it’s just overwhelming. Whereas, if you’ve got one passage and then there’s a sheet that says, “Here’s two flashbacks,” and the verses are right there. It’s just trying to make that less confusing and less complicated.
Guthrie: So, something else you had on your sheet for this message in 2 Kings 2 was, you were not only comparing Elijah and Elisha to John the Baptist and Jesus, you went further back. There’s a larger pattern here in the scriptures, there’s also Moses and Joshua. And, you used what you put on your handout to help people process that. So, talk to us about the comparison and then what you chose to put in writing for them to help them with that.
Sach: I like diagrams just because my background is in science.
Guthrie: I do too.
Sach: So, yeah. So, Moses hands over to Joshua, just like Elijah hands over to Elisha, just like John the Baptist hands over to Jesus. So, you’ve got three successions and they all line up. Moses is a bit like Elijah, is a bit like John the Baptist. Joshua is a bit like Elisha, is a bit like Jesus. And there’s just so many different connections between them it’s crazy. How do you know that Joshua is the successor to Moses? Well, because one of Moses’s most famous acts is, he walks up to the Red Sea, holds up his staff, and it parts. That’s a signature move for Moses. So, Joshua goes to the River Jordan, holds up his stick and it parts. And, you think, “Uh, this Joshua guy, he must be the new Moses.” Well, of course, that’s exactly the same way as Elijah hands over to Elisha, by parting the water, by parting the water. And it’s at the same water, at the same river Jordan that John the Baptist hands over to Jesus.
One of the things I love about typology is, you couldn’t make it up, and only a God who is in charge of history over a thousand years can do it. So, going back to that sermon, I said, how do we know Jesus is the real savior judge? What kind of evidence do we go for to persuade people that we should take Jesus seriously? I mean, Christian experience, He’s changed my life and that’s true. Eye witness evidence, Jesus really raised from the dead, the tomb was empty and so on, that’s true. But I think one of the big ones on the Bible’s own terms is fulfillment, the fact that Jesus exactly matches the shadow, that he ticks all of the boxes, all of the different prophecies come together.
And the New Testament makes quite a lot of that, I mean, even the apostles in their preaching, they make a lot of that. So, Peter, on the day of Pentecost trying to persuade the crowds that Jesus really is the Christ, he does it by fulfillment. And I think we tend not to do that, and probably it’s because our culture doesn’t know the Old Testament very well. I mean, what’s the point in telling people that Jesus fulfilled scriptures that they don’t know. But I think it’s wonderful when you see it, you think, “Only God could line up history to match exactly the shadow and their fulfillment in this way.”
Guthrie: When you were preaching this message, you referred to growing up, that you would see and be amazed by a prophecy, something like in Micah, that the Messiah was going to be born in Bethlehem. And I so related with that because I think my growing up, that’s pretty much the only way I understood fulfillment of the Old Testament, had to do with those kinds of specific prophecies. You’re talking about a very different kind of fulfillment, but this is the kind of fulfillment that, at least for me, for most of my life, was a huge gap in my understanding of the Bible. This is the part that has been missing, was missing for much of my life, and therefore, it’s the part that thrills me to grow in my understanding of, and want to communicate to other people. And, I’m not sure why it’s even more powerful to me than that other kind of prophecy, I mean, we need them all. But this fulfillment of these patterns, and people, events, they’re so deeply convincing that the Bible has one divine author. And that He’s not only the divine author of the Bible, He is the sovereign God over history.
Sach: Yeah, right.
Guthrie: My number seven of my list of nine of things you did. You were very helpful in helping your listeners to understand the import of geographic and historical references that might not have jumped out to them immediately in the text. Not only are we not very biblical literate about the history of the Old Testament, I think we’re very geographically challenged. So often, mentions in the Bible of specific cities, towns, locations, they’re just interchangeable because maybe we don’t have a mental picture of the geography and we don’t understand these things in history.
So, I noticed that when you taught 2 Kings 2, and a couple references come up, in fact, you read them in your sample reading earlier. There’s the mention of Jericho in this passage, and there is the mention of Bethel, and then there’s this mention of 50 men of the company of the prophets. Now, for a lot of us, we would read the text and just kind of run over those, but as a teacher, you helped to bring out why those are significant. And they would have been significant more likely to the original readers, but they aren’t as much to us. So, talk to us a little bit about that.
Sach: Yeah, thanks. Well, firstly, I’d just encourage people, you think, “How would I find this?” And I think the answer is just, if you preach the whole book over a couple of years, you start to learn those things. So, I wouldn’t have known that Jericho is really significant, but because I preached a sermon on 1 Kings 16 where the author talks about a guy called Hiel who rebuilds Jericho, and these terrible… But he leaves two of his sons in the process, he leaves his firstborn son and his youngest son. And then, the author in 1 Kings tells you, this fulfills the promise made by Joshua. Now, I’d forgotten about that promise made to Joshua, but because I was studying 1 Kings 16, the author reminded me, and I went looking and I found it in Joshua 6. After the famous bit about Jericho, you know, where they walk around it for seven days, and play the trumpets, and the walls fall down, and Canaan is conquered by the Israelites. Joshua pronounces a curse on anyone who rebuilds the city of Jericho, and he says specifically, “He’ll lay its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son and he’ll set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son.”
Anyway, 1 Kings 16, this guy called Hiel, rebuilds Jericho. I don’t know whether he is unaware of this promise or… You know, Israel has become so pagan they don’t even know the books of the Old Testament that are already around like Joshua. Anyway, he rebuilds it and he leaves two of his son. Now, because I’ve studied that, I now know that, and I read Bethel… Oh, sorry, I read Jericho. Oh, Jericho is very significant because Jericho is the place of curse, and yet, Jericho is the place Elisha saves people. That’s very surprising, you expect Jericho to be the place that he would do his judging. And maybe even more important that the Bethel people find so difficult to read when Elisha calls down bears to maul these youths. And, people always laugh at me about it because I’m quite follicly-challenged myself.
We understand, it’s not just he’s misusing his supernatural powers because he’s annoyed at somebody mocking his receding hairline, these people are at Bethel. Now, again, if we know 1 Kings, we know Bethel is the place that Jeroboam I set up the fake shrine to the calf god down in Bethel, the two golden calves, and it was the very heart of pagan false worship. And the fact they’re mocking him isn’t just because they don’t like bald men, it’s because they’re so contempt for God’s true prophet. So, here are the idolaters showing disdain for the one who has come in God’s name, and so they die. And, that’s why…and it really helps to know, this isn’t just, he gets angry, he’s got powers, he uses them just to crash these boys, no, this is God’s judgment against apostasy.
Guthrie: I think that’s a perfect example of how these geographic references give us insight in the text, because yeah, that chapter ends with him calling judgment on them and you’re just like, “Wow, that seems harsh and out of the blue.” But I’m getting the idea from you that understanding Bethel as this place of idolatry because of that place’s history, that was kind of the key that unlocked your ability to understand what was happening there.
Sach: Yeah. Yes, the thing is, the author always gives you the key as well. So, this isn’t just I know loads about geography and suddenly realize. It’s, if you read 1 Kings, he’s talking a lot about Bethel and he’s talking about Jericho. So, the author is his own best commentator. But the trouble is, often we read just the chapter for our sermons, if you just read 2 Kings 2, you’d never see that, but if you’ve worked your way through 1 Kings, then you remember, “Oh, you know, I remember he made a big thing about Jericho, and there’s a big thing about Bethel.” So, it’s just context is the help, the author has already told us the answer.
Guthrie: How about the reference to 50 men of the company of the prophets?
Sach: Yeah, the number 50 comes up in the first chapter of 2 Kings, and it’s a very amusing chapter, it’s a very funny chapter. It’s all about a very pointless attempt to overturn God’s Word. So, a King called Ahaziah gets a prophecy, he doesn’t like it and it comes true anyway. And he sends…he wastes 3 delegations of 50 soldiers in an entirely futile attempt to question God’s Word. So, possibly, that number 50 is in your mind, you think, “50 stands for the pointless doubt in God’s word.” God’s word is going to come true. And, there’s just that little echo, the number 50 has that connotation from chapter one.
Guthrie: And so, how did you apply that when you saw these 50 men in the company of the prophets?
Sach: I think the whole point of the chapter is to confirm that Elisha is the true successor to Elijah, that’s the main idea. But there’s this little bit at the end of the chapter where some skeptics aren’t sure and they go everywhere in search of Elijah, and Elisha says, “Look, you don’t need to find Elijah because I’m here now, I’m his successor, he’s gone up to heaven.” They said, “Yeah, whatever, we’re just going to go and check.” And the fact there are 50 of them who go searching, I think, again stands for a pointless doubt, a stupid doubt in what God’s done. Pointless opposition to God’s words, 50 men, chapter 1. Pointless doubt in Elisha’s legitimacy, 50 men chapter 2.
Guthrie: Well, the next thing on my list that I noticed from your teaching is, as I listened to quite a few of the sermons, you always have a repeated clear statement of both the point and application of the text. I’m assuming that you, in your study, you came to, “Okay, this is going to be my main point and application of the text.” But, I guess I find, sometimes teachers, maybe even in their preparation, they come to that, but it’s not stated either clearly or repeatedly in such a way that those who sit under the teaching, that when they leave and somebody says, “Well, what was the message about today?” That they could say, “The message was X.” So that, it’s not necessarily communicated in way they can grab it and hold onto it.
Let me just mention a couple of… You can tell me if I understood your main point, if it got across to me on a few of them. In 2 Kings 3, you made this statement, “We’re expecting judgment, but instead receive salvation. The judge is the one who brings rescue.” So, I would’ve come away thinking about that. 2 Kings 4, made this statement, “In a world under judgment, the safest place to be is sheltered with the one bringing God’s judgment.” Clear. 2 Kings 5, it was a message on Naaman. And you titled it in a very provocative way, can human traffickers be saved? So, that in itself, that you’re going to call Naaman who’s got a slave girl that he’s taken away from Israel and call him a human trafficker, that was a “wow” to me. Although, you didn’t camp a lot on that point, but it was there. But your whole message was on being inclusively exclusive, repeatedly, inclusively exclusive, as you were talking about how in our world today, many people would judge Christianity to be exclusive and see that as a negative thing.
2 Kings 6, hopelessness. Hopelessness, you kept making that clear. And, you made the statement, “Resurrection is the ultimate antidote to hopelessness.” In 2 Kings 17, you made this statement, “How can a God of love send people to hell? His judgment is right, His mercy is surprising.” So, I listen to those, I come away with those statements. Would you just talk to us a little bit about your preparation and how you come up with this statement, and then how you use the statement in teaching in such a way that people can grab a hold of it?
Sach: Yes, so my method would be to try and come up with a sentence that encapsulates the point of the chapter or the couple of chapters. I think the author has a point, so I’m not deciding a sentence, I’m sort of discovering a sentence. I listen hard to find out what the author is saying, but I want to try and summarize it because if I just say 10 things, you can smuggle a lot of muddle into a long list of things. If you have to choose what’s one thing, you’ve really got to understand it to say, “How does this all fit together?” So, I try and come up with a sentence and then I’ll try and break that down into the bits of that sentence that’ll I use to make my points in the sermon.
So, often my points…rather than having a sermon that I don’t know, the traditional number is three, isn’t it? There’s no reason why it should be but Christian sums are often three points. But rather than three points that go in different directions, I really want the three points that add up to the main point. So, I had for one sermon, in chapter 4, I had, “In a world under judgment, Elisha brings miraculous salvation to the remnant who cling to him.” That was my sentence. And I made my three points, the first one, “A world under judgment,” and I explained that, “Elisha brings salvation,” and I explained that, “To a remnant who cling to him,” and I explained that. So, but it adds up to a sentence. I think that way you can put in quite a lot of complexity, and detail, and texture without losing people.
So, my hope, I think people come to church with different backgrounds and different amounts of experience in understanding texts, or looking at the Bible, or, you know, some people are bookish, some people don’t read very well, some people have been a Christian a long time, some people aren’t Christians. So, what I, ideally, want to do is, everyone can follow the main idea, but there’s also things to stretch the mature Christian. And the way I try and have both is to make the main points really, really clear, and then under the points I can say some more detailed things.
Guthrie: And what strikes me about that main point sentence you just read is that it’s so naturally going to provide your link to Christ from this Old Testament narrative. That, in fact, it’s clinging to the greater Elisha, we might say, the greater Yeshua who saves, who is going to be the one who saves us from judgment.
Sach: I mean, that should always happen, shouldn’t it, because the Bible is about Jesus, and God has spoken about His Son and all His promises He has in Christ. So, it shouldn’t be difficult to see that because that’s what the Holy Spirit who inspired these words wants to do.
Guthrie: That’s a good example of another thing I wanted to ask you about, and that is, I think it could be easy in teaching a book like 2 Kings, which is, over and over again, especially later on in 2 Kings, after we finish Elisha being the kind of the focus. All these good kings, bad kings, and if we have a desire to get to Christ, it could so easily be that we’re getting to Christ the same way every week, that we’re longing for a better king. And, certainly, if we had to choose one thing that we were going to get out of the book of 1 and 2 Kings, that might be our takeaway, that all of these human kings, they haven’t lived forever, they haven’t ruled in justice and righteousness, we need a better king, that’s a big point. But, in the individual sermons or as you’re teaching through this, you don’t want that to be your point every week, that’s a big yawn. How did you keep from it sounding the same every week in terms of how you’re getting to Christ?
Sach: Yeah. The author does it differently, so it’s partly listening to the text. One of the really interesting things I’ve noticed in 1, 2 Kings is, we’ve talked already about the split kingdom, so Israel in the North, Judah in the South. It’s the story in the South that gets to Jesus most obviously because in the South you’ve got the line of David and Jesus is in the line of David. So, you look at the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew and you see all the Kings that you recognize from 2 Kings. But Israel, it just disappears into exile in Assyria and off they go.
Now, it’s interesting to me that it looks like the two stories get to Jesus in different ways. So, the Judah story gets to Jesus just by the line of kings being preserved, and even at the point that they are being carted off to exile, it’s very clever. I mean, the end of the book is so cleverly done because you’ve got this family tree in your head of all the kings, and they’re all being killed one by one, by one. And you think the last one has been killed. You think that all of the line has been wiped out, and then it turns out, there was one that you hadn’t noticed who is still there. And then, the very last paragraph of the book was, “Oh, by the way, the king in the line of David is still alive.” And, that’s the thread that takes you through to Jesus.
So, God preserves the Messiah even through exile, the line of Kkngs, all the way through. That’s the Judah story, whereas, the Israel story, the Kings go nowhere. I mean, there’s no line of succession, they’re all going to be taken off to Assyria, but it’s in the middle of the Israel story that you get these two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, and you get this amazing Shadow. So, there’s actually a lot of [inaudible] even within the book. In the North, you have the prophets who are a type of Christ, in the South you have the Kings that were in the line of Christ. So, even within the book, there’s just different ways of getting to Jesus.
Guthrie: You did that so beautifully in your message, your teaching on 2 Kings 17 because the way you got to Christ was, here’s these things happening in Samaria, which would be, kind of, shorthand for Israel because it’s kind of the capital city. And in your message on 2 Kings 17, you went to John 4 where there’s this Samaritan woman. So, you helped your listeners understand, these are the descendants of the people that we’re talking about from 2 Kings, and here’s this Samaritan woman who comes to the well and needs Jesus. And you brought the two passages together in a way that really moved me personally. You said, “To the people of Israel,” you’re talking the 2 Kings passage, “God had said, I can’t stand the sight of you, get out.” And then, here’s Jesus in Samaria to the woman at the well, and he looks at her and he says, “I know everything about you, and if you turn to me, you can be saved.”
Sach: : It is so wonderful.
Guthrie: It’s just the beauty of the gospel message right there. So, naturally from the text, this beautiful contrast, it’s really something. Okay. So, my number nine of the things you did. Now, I’ve got to tell you, I cannot see myself ever doing this one.
Sach: What are you going to say? I’m thinking, “What is number nine?”
Guthrie: I might hope to come up with my own twist based on your purpose for doing this, but I don’t see myself ever doing it. I look at you, it’s surprising that you use this. But what you did in every teaching session, I think on 1 Kings and 2 Kings, you can correct me if I’m wrong, is that you created a rap to include in your teaching for every session. All right, so talk to us about this.
Sach: So, well, firstly let me say that, as you can see, I’m not a natural rapper, and I’m a great fan of Shai Linne and some of your American rappers, so you probably got the context, Nancy, because I’d love him to record a version of it for me and do it properly. So, basically, a white English guy trying to rap isn’t itself quite an amusing thing. So, I’m not suggesting that I’m doing it properly or well. But I do love Christian rap and I think, you know, it’s a… I did it as a way of trying to give it a little summary so that people could hold the whole story in their heads. It started, actually, in a youth convention in South Africa, in Cape Town. I wrote one verse a day for the talks and then it, sort of, became a thing. But, yeah, the idea of it was just, it’s a bit of fun, but also it just helped people keep the whole story in their heads. But if you want to have a laugh at an English guy trying to rap, then tune in.
Guthrie: So, do you want me to pull one of them from a recording or would you be open to a command performance of one of your raps?
Sach: So, I see if I can remember it without looking. You have to do the rhythm, Nancy. We need a…so it’s a, kind of, stamp, stamp, clap, stamp, stamp, clap. “When the people had an evil King, they worshiped Baal, a terrible thing. God said he’s a fake, but if you’re in doubt, let’s see which of us can end the drought, or if you prefer light a barbecue. What’s wrong Baal, are you sleeping, have you gone to the loo? When the people see the fire, they exclaimed, ‘The Lord, He is God,’ and it starts to rain. Ahab and Jezebel won’t repent so miserable Elijah to Sinai sent. But God is not in earthquake, fire, or wind, ‘No more second chances,’ that’s how bad they sinned. Instead, God dispatches the assassins, 3, but tells of 7,000 who ain’t bowed the knee.”
“Ramoth-Gilead is the test, ‘Shall we go, Micaiah or give it a rest? The others all say what we want to be true, only a pessimist would listen to you.’ So off to the battle, Ahab goes in disguise, but God’s word always comes to pass and so, of course, he dies. His son is just as awful when lying in bed sick, he sends the Baal of Ekron but his men returned too quick, for they were intercepted by a man of hairy black gown who told them there’s no chance at all your King is coming down. Up in the chariot the prophet goes, leaving his successor to deal with God’s foes. Elisha’s is now the man with Elijah’s cloak. Elisha is now the water parter prophesying bloke. We’re expecting the judgment to come, instead Elisha raises a Shunammite’s son. A poisoned stew is healed, the sons of prophets fed as Elisha multiplies 20 loaves of bread. But the assassins finally arrive, none of God’s enemies is left alive.” Apologies to proper rappers out there who listened to this.
Guthrie: Oh, no, no, no, no, no apology needed. I just can’t imagine how long it took you to write it and then prepare to deliver it. It’s mind-boggling to me.
Sach: I mean, raps and poems, it does stick in your mind. And I can still remember that like a year later, so.
Guthrie: How do you think that helped you get across the message you wanted to…
Sach: Well, you’ll have to judge whether it does or whether people just were amused. I did one stanza…
Guthrie: And that’s not a bad thing, to be amused, right, in the middle of a talk?
Guthrie: To break the rhythm of our teaching, otherwise. To kind of call people back and hear it a different way.
Sach: Yeah. Yeah. And it just meant…I mean I’d written it on a conference because I wanted to summarize the story so far at the beginning of each talk, and so I just I added an extra stanza to the rap each time as we built up the story.
Guthrie: On a couple of episodes of “Help Me teach The Bible,” at the end of them, I have sung with Ligon Duncan.
Guthrie: And people tell me all the time that they loved the singing with Ligon Duncan at the end of his episodes. I’m not going to attempt to rap with you, but I don’t know, this may exceed the popularity of even singing with Ligon Duncan, I don’t know. Well, why don’t we close this way, Andrew. Of course, there’s so much of 2 Kings we haven’t covered, but what you have presented to us has been really helpful. You’ve handed us some good tools to dig deeper in our own pursuit of understanding in being prepared to teach 2 Kings. So, maybe you could finish this way, how has your own digging so deep into this book, what kind of impact has it had on you personally?
Sach: Let me come back to one of my favorite chapters and it has become a precious chapter to me, 2 Kings 5, which is a story of Naaman, or as I put it, Can human traffickers be saved? Because the whole question of, is Christianity inclusive or exclusive? It is a difficult one because rightly necessarily we are exclusive. So, Jesus said, “I’m the way, the truth, and life, and no one can come to the Father except through me.” We’ve just been studying the Sermon on Mount. It was Jesus who said, “The way is narrow that leads to life and few find it.”
So, it is exclusive, and often the church is berated for that, we’re told that we’re bigoted and narrow, and we only care about ourselves and to hell with everybody else, literally. But, what I love about 2 Kings 5 is, it’s the most beautiful defense of exclusivism, which is also in a different way, beautifully inclusive. This servant girl who’s been trafficked, she’s been kidnapped by Naaman in one of his raids on Israel. She finds herself working in slavery for Naaman’s wife, and Naaman is a leper. And this little girl says to her mistress, “If only my master was with the prophet in Samaria,” that is Elisha, “he would cure him of his leprosy.”
And it just shows me, this is absolutely a remarkable reaction. It’s remarkable because it’s very courageous, because, to bring up the L-word in that household, it would have been controversial, right? So, this is not a subject of conversation that you risk talking about his leprosy. It’s courageous, it’s also amazingly compassionate. I imagine that his leprosy would be the one consolation to her, that the man who kidnapped her, took her into captivity, at least his leprosy, and she would delight in that. But, instead, she wants him to be cured, which is amazingly gracious and compassionate.
But then, it’s also inclusively exclusive, and I just summarized it with these two questions, how many ways are there to be saved? Only one, only the prophet in Samaria. Your Syrian doctors can’t cure you, Sir, of your leprosy, you’d be wasting your time with them. There’s only one way to be saved, but who can be saved by that one way? Oh, even you, Sir. And I love that, that it’s a narrow path, but it’s open to anybody who will follow it. Only the Lord Jesus can save you, only the Elisha character can save you, but he’ll save you Sir. And so, here’s an outsider, a foreigner who has done terrible, terrible things. He comes and humbles himself before Elisha, the Christ figure. And, basically, he gets converted, and he becomes a member of God’s family. It’s a beautiful thing.
And I think if we can state our exclusivism and inclusivism together in that way, how many ways are there to be saved? Only one. But who can be saved by that one way? Anybody can, from any religion, from any sexuality, from any background, if they will come and repent, and trust in the Lord Jesus. And I love that. And it makes me proud of it being… It’s exclusivism as a beautiful thing rather than an ugly thing, inclusively exclusive.
And then, of course, at the end of the chapter, you get Gehazi, Elisha’s servant. And it’s a very horrible story where he tries to take advantage of this new convert and wants money from him, and so on. And I think he is racist and bigoted. And he talks about Naaman this Syrian in a disdainful way. And that’s the ugliness of exclusivism. We don’t want to be exclusive like that, we want to be exclusive like the little girl. If only my master knew the prophet in Samaria, he would cure him of his leprosy. If only you were to know the Lord Jesus, he would save you. And to be able to offer that to absolutely everybody with wide-open arms, even as we insist that there is only one way. So, I think, it’s a beautiful defense, I think, and it’s made me not ashamed of the exclusivity of the gospel because it’s also open to all.
Guthrie: That’s so beautiful. Thank you, Andrew. Thank you so much for helping us teach 2 Kings.
Sach: Thanks, Nancy.
Guthrie: You’ve been listening to “Help Me Teach The Bible” with Nancy Guthrie, a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible, Christian books, and tracts. Learn more about Crossway’s gospel-centered resources at crossway.org.