Interview: Tom Simcox, Chariots of Fire
It’s one of our favorite episodes: our Israel My Glory magazine in-depth episode. We welcome Tom Simcox, a church representative here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry to talk about the often-overlooked prophet, Elisha. Tom wrote the article, “Chariots of Fire” and he and Chris will walk through the story in 2 Kings 6 where God protected Elisha from the king of Aram. It is an encouraging historical account of God’s sovereignty!
Tom says it best, especially in unknown times like we are living in today, “The God who protected Israel, who never sleeps nor slumbers, He is the God that protects us.” He doesn’t ask us to fight for Him. No, God is doing the fighting. Rest in that today friends! If you have missed this recent issue of Israel My Glory, give us a call and we’ll get it out to you. Or you can go to israelmyglory.org and see some of the articles there as well as sign-up for digital issues and archives.
→ You can read Tom’s article, “Chariots of Fire” by clicking HERE.
Steve Conover: Welcome to the Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover and with me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. On this episode we are happy to welcome back to the program Tom Simcox, Friends of Israel Church Ministries representative. He's here to discuss his recent article that appeared in our magazine, Israel My Glory.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. I always love Israel My Glory in depth episodes. We look at our most recent issue of Israel My Glory, our award winning magazine that goes to Christians all around the world who love and support Israel and the Jewish people. This issue is all about Elisha and Tom's going to come in and share about his very important article that talks about the prophet Elisha, God's miracle man in the days of the divided kingdom of the land of Israel.
Steve Conover: But first in the news, with fear surrounding coronavirus in Israel, Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a $2.8 billion package to help their economy through this crisis. Netanyahu said the aid is intended to stabilize the financial system after Israel imposed a 14 day self quarantine on anyone coming into the land. Netanyahu is quoted as saying, "This is a challenge we believe we can manage."
Chris Katulka: Yeah. Here's my take. Israel's going to need this money. As we reported last week, Israel's lead economist believes the country is going to lose a billion dollars every month due to this policy. Even El Al, Israel's airline is canceling most of their flights and has laid off nearly 80% of their workforce. No matter how you feel about coronavirus, it's going to have a profound effect on Israel's economy. Be praying for them.
I am excited to have a colleague and a dear friend, Tom Simcox, who is our church ministries representative in the Northeast with the Friends of Israel. Tom's been with the organization for many decades, ministering to churches all around the country in conferences, ministering in the Jewish community and I'm excited to have Tom in to talk with us about our most recent issue of Israel My Glory, which is Miracle Man, the Prophet Elisha. Tom, great to have you in the studio, my friend.
Tom Simcox: Chris, it's always a pleasure to not only be with you, but to be with our listeners and to just be able to talk about probably one of my most favorite subjects, which is A, the Word of God. And B, I love this man. I love Elisha.
Chris Katulka: Elisha is such an interesting character in the Old Testament and I think often overlooked.
Tom Simcox: He is. I think sometimes he kind of is in the shadow of his mentor.
Chris Katulka: Yes, he is.
Tom Simcox: I see people talk about Elijah and we know we're supposed to look for Elijah before the great and terrible day of the Lord so everybody talks about Elijah, but I think Elisha kind of just kind of gets swept under the rug and he's just kind of lumped together with the prophets.
Chris Katulka: And he performed twice as many miracles as Elijah did too, which is often overlooked as well.
Tom Simcox: Yes, he did. From something as mundane as the ax head that floated, to the feeding, to the resurrection of the Shunammite's son. Yes, he did some amazing, amazing exploits and we were talking before the broadcast and I see that there's a little parallel there between what he did and the way he did it in comparison with what Jesus would do when he came here.
Chris Katulka: Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000, the feeding of the 4,000, the idea of multiplying food, which is what Elisha did and providing for those that were hungry and providing enough for them. The idea of resurrection, even the idea of the dead coming back to life, even after, when Elisha dies, that one moment, the very end of his life there his bones are in the grave, a dead man is put into that same tomb. He touches the bones of Elisha, comes back to life. I think there's direct connection there with what Elisha was doing and what Jesus had come to do as well.
Tom Simcox: There is, I agree. And I also like the fact that, where was he ministering? He was ministering in the Northern Kingdom. The Northern Kingdom was very, very, I mean none of their rulers believed in God no matter what happened. They were totally contrary to God and yet God blessed them and God gave that Northern Kingdom some tremendous opportunity to see the power of God at work in their midst and we know that there was a remnant. We know that from Elijah, we know there was a remnant so he continued to bless and to encourage that Godly remnant by sending prophets to them. That did some amazing, amazing exploits.
Chris Katulka: And one more thing not to keep going with this because we have a lot to talk about in little time, but even the idea of Elisha reaching out, the Naaman who wasn't Jewish at all, heals him. The Jordan river, that whole image of his leprosy being cleansed, you see Jesus reaching out to the Syrophoenician woman. There is that element of even reaching out to the non Jew that is seen in Elisha that gets transferred into Jesus' story as well.
Tom Simcox: I agree. I love that one.
Chris Katulka: I was reading these two scholars were talking about Elisha and they were saying that he is a patriot. And what they meant by that was that in his role as a prophet, he helped Israelite soldiers and kings and even those kings who didn't honor the Lord. And that's where your article picks up, Tom. Elisha was helping an Israelite king, Jorum, in Second King 6. What's the story behind this moment?
Tom Simcox: Well, from what we can gather historically, there seemed to be times of peace and then times of struggle between Joram and the king of Aram, the Arameans, probably their king was Ben-Hadad. There were times where they were getting along fine and there were times when they were not, and this was clearly a time where they were not. We see in the text, it kind of jumps in that Ben-Hadad wants to make a move on Joram and what's happening is you don't see it necessarily. We see it from the text, but he didn't. Anything that he thought was being directly conveyed to Elisha by the Lord.
And if he was going to make a move, he said, "Well, we're going to set up here or here." And this is right in the text. We're going to move so and so, we're going to move so and so place. The prophet knew and he actually thinks okay, who in my court is for the King of Israel that he knows everything that I'm doing before I do it? Because Elisha then warned the King and it's interesting the king did not believe in God. But he took the intelligence that he got from the prophet, who got it directly from God, acted on it and found it to be entirely 100% accurate.
Chris Katulka: This is fascinating. Elisha is working with the king Joram and God is giving Elisha instructions. Listen, the king of the Arameans are moving people here, here and here, so detailed that even the king of the Arameans at that time thought there's a traitor in our midst here. And here it's Elisha ministering to this Joram who didn't technically follow after God at all.
Tom Simcox: That is correct. And yet I find it interesting that these kings listened to the prophet when they needed it, while they're probably praying to some other god somewhere, but they're getting all of their true direction and true leadership through a prophet who was 100% accurate, 100% of the time, which was required.
Chris Katulka: Do you think it shows that God remains faithful to his people even in the middle of the disobedience?
Tom Simcox: Absolutely. Chris, God's love for Israel is so evident as you read these pages within the Northern Kingdom, he tried so many times, even with probably one of the most godless kings. I know we're getting off a little bit, but when you think of Ahab and he said, "See how Ahab has humbled himself before me? I'm not going to bring upon him the judgment." God, he ultimately was judged, but God had planned on putting him away and he said, "I'm going to save this for later." Which actually happened. Because this godless, probably the most evil king, humbled himself before the Lord. I find that so amazing when you think about God's amazing grace and his love, even for us.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. That God would use a testimony. This is what Elisha stood as a testimony. He was really the leader of the prophets at that time. And I know it was Elijah, the prophets kind of had a bad name, among Ahab. Ahab called Elijah a troubler. I'm sure Elisha was also in the same vein as that with this king. They didn't look at the prophets that were the prophets of Yahweh as ones that were, stood out. But clearly this is a testimony and a marker to Jorum, wow, God is at work. We're going to trust in the God of Yahweh. They listened to Elisha and they followed him. That's a way of God showing that he wants to preserve and protect his people, I believe.
Tom Simcox: I agree.
Chris Katulka: Now we're going to transfer here because this becomes from just kind of a battle, where Elisha is helping with the strategy between a war going on between the Arameans and the northern 10 tribes of Israel, the Israelites. This moves from a battle into more of the spiritual realm, if you will.
Tom Simcox: It does. What we find in the text is that as this King of Aram, Ben-Hadad probably, as he's questioning, he thinks there's a spy and literally there are people within his midst, that I was very intrigued by this as I reread it for the article. “O king, no, it's not us. But there is a prophet who he knows every thought that you think on your bed. He knows every word in your head before.” They don't know God, but they know this prophet knows. And when Ben-Hadad hears about him he says, "Well, where is he?"
Chris Katulka: Yeah, we got to find him.
Tom Simcox: Right. And I think he kind of wants to take him out. Now we don't know whether he was going to harm him or whether he was going to capture him or whether he was going to try to turn him. But we know that he moves into where Elisha is, which is the town of Dothan, which is about 12 miles I believe, North of Samaria.
Chris Katulka: We're not talking about the Dothan in Alabama. We're talking about the Dothan in the northern 10 tribes of Israel.
Tom Simcox: Correct. And they come in at night and then in the morning they have totally surrounded. And wow, then the fat hits the fire as we could say.
Chris Katulka: Now listen, we're going to take a break here, Tom, because I think this is a perfect point for us to transition from the strategic way that God is using Elisha in this moment. He's surrounded, the enemies are surrounding him. A point in anybody's life where they might go, "We're outnumbered. We're overtaken." Elisha has a different spirit though. Elisha has a different way of looking at things. And so when we come back in a moment, we're going to continue our conversation and we're going to look at how Elisha challenges our lives to see what's going on in the unseen realm, the battles that are happening behind the curtain that we can't see, that God is waging on our behalf. You won't want to miss it. Be sure to stick around. And if you are not a subscriber to our magazine, Israel My Glory, I want to encourage you to go to our website foiradio.org, there you can get a one year free subscription of our award winning magazine, Israel My Glory. You'll even get this most up to date issue of Miracle Man, the Prophet Elisha. Be sure to stick around.
At the Friends of Israel, we're not shutting down during this time here as we're all dealing with the coronavirus. We're actually pushing forward with ministry. This is an opportune time for Friends of Israel to continue to minister to our Jewish friends, especially our elderly Jewish friends. I know of some of our workers on the field that I have the great privilege of leading. They are already active in connecting with the Jewish community as Christians, connecting with the Jewish community, reaching out and even providing food, groceries, and prayer for them. We want you to know here at the Friends of Israel, we're not shutting down. We are advancing the gospel, we're advancing the ministry of the Friends of Israel, and we would love for you to continue to participate in what we're doing. By simply going to foiradio.org you can give to help continue to minister to our Jewish friends even now during this time of crisis. Again, that's foiradio.org, foiradio.org. You can give to help continue and advance the work of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
Welcome back everybody. We have Tom Simcox, church ministries representative really all over the country. He's supposed to be in the Northeast, but he's so popular. He speaks in conferences and churches about Israel and the Jewish people all over the country. If you're ever interested in having Tom Simcox come speak at your church, please contact us. Tom is a great resource for learning about what God is doing through Israel and the Jewish people.
We're continuing our conversation about Elisha. We left off, Second Kings chapter 6, the Israelite kingdom, the northern 10 tribes are essentially in a battle with the Arameans north to them. And really the king of Aram is sitting there going, "How does the king of Israel know all of my strategy?" And the king of Aram looks and goes, all of his generals and people around him go, "Oh well it's this prophet Elisha. He's the one with the information." And so now we leave off with the story of the king of Aram's people surrounding the tents of Elisha. But before we get to that, Tom, can you tell us about the spirit of who Elisha is? His name? I think this helps define a lot about what we're going to learn from him in a moment.
Tom Simcox: Elisha's name and biblical names were always very significant. They weren't just given a name like my mom liked the name Tom, so I became Thomas. Names meant something and they identified and kind of marked out the kind of person that we were looking at here. And Elisha's name literally means my God is salvation. What an amazing name at an amazing time in a really fantastic place to be. Here he is in the midst of the Northern Kingdom, these godless rulers and he's got a name that's proclaiming my God is salvation. I absolutely love it. He had been a student of Elijah's. And if you remember, I'm sure we've talked with the radio listeners before about Elijah. Elijah not only instructed him, but as Elijah was getting ready to graduate home through a chariot of fire, Elisha asked this amazing question. He asked for a double portion of his spirit.
Chris Katulka: And he got that.
Tom Simcox: He did. And that was really, that was the son asking his dad for the double blessing that normally would have come to him. And so he's saying, "Look, you've been my spiritual dad and I'd like to have the double portion that would normally come as your firstborn." Which I always found really incredible.
Chris Katulka: I'd also like to add too, Elisha is the one that God chose.
Tom Simcox: Correct.
Chris Katulka: It wasn't Elijah that saw Elisha. Goes, "I see something in this guy." It was actually God who called Elisha and encouraged Elijah. It's hard to get those two together. To take him under his wing.
Tom Simcox: That's correct. And when God chooses, he does an amazing job. Elijah said, "I'll give you the double blessing, but you have to be with me when basically I depart. When however, the Lord calls me home." And Elisha was, he picked up that mantle, not only the mantle, then the physical mantle that had fallen from his mentor when he was brought to Heaven in the chariot of fire, but he also picked up the mantle of his ministry and responsibility of representing the prophets and also the most high God to that godless area.
Chris Katulka: I would like to say this though. We're moving into the story now where it converts a little bit. We have a transition here. It goes from this story of strategy in war, to all of a sudden a deeper picture because Elisha is surrounded by the King of Aram and his people. He's surrounded, he's about to be taken out. It looks like it and his, Elisha's associates are worried and Elisha says this to God, which I think is absolutely an amazing quote. He says, "Lord, open his eyes so that he can see." What is Elisha saying there about his people? His associate?
Tom Simcox: Obviously when the associate comes out and there's speculation, I don't believe this is Gehazi, I believe Gehazi has already been passed from the scene because the whole leprosy deal. But he's got another servant and the servant comes out in the morning. I kind of picture the guy coming out to pick up the newspaper, grabbed the bottle of milk, in those days. And all of a sudden he looks and he sees the enemy totally surrounding. He runs back in and he's afraid. Here, this prophet of the Lord whose name is my God is salvation, he's not worried. He is not worried in the least. Obviously God had alerted him or he was so close to the Lord that he sensed the divine protection. He then says, "Lord, open his eyes. Let him see what I know you've shown me."
And he opens up his eyes. And the entire area is surrounded literally by these flaming chariots, which totally outnumber the enemy, probably two, three to one. These chariots are clearly angelic beings. But number two, I think the flame, could we say the flame maybe reminds us of the holiness of God? The purification, Isaiah 6, the flame. But also maybe the Shekinah Glory. God's physical manifestation of his presence among his people was right there. They were there just the same as he had been with them back when they were in the Exodus.
Chris Katulka: A cloud by day, a fire by night.
Tom Simcox: Here he just sees that this town of Dothan, which is surrounded by enemies, the enemies are then surrounded by the forces of the most high God.
Chris Katulka: That's right. And what does God do to them?
Tom Simcox: Well, obviously God just takes them out. Literally he blinds them and by the time it's all over, Elisha escorts the king right into Ben-Hadad, is brought right into Samaria. He can't see. Follow me, follow me. And he just leads them right in. Oh by the way, opened his eyes and he's totally surrounded in the court of the King Joram in Samaria. This is one of my favorite accounts and I know we use the word story and I don't mean to belabor it, but these are real accounts. To me, a story is like once upon a time, they lived happily ever after, the end. This is real.
Chris Katulka: It's a historical account.
Tom Simcox: It is. And these accounts just, they give me goosebumps because the same God, Chris, that protected the Jewish people that protected Elisha, that had those chariots of fire, we have no idea that they could be around us today. We don't see them. We don't maybe discern them. But we're reminded of this. I know you have been talking with your listeners recently about Ephesians 6 and the spiritual warfare we're in. The take home from this for me is the God who protected Israel, who never sleeps nor slumbers, he is the God that protects us. And that's why in the book of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul reminds us, put on the whole armor of God. And I love the fact that he doesn't tell us to advance. And this isn't a football game. I want you to put on the armor, grab the ball and advance and move deep into the enemy territory. He says, "No, having done all, to stand."
Chris Katulka: That's right. It's a defense.
Tom Simcox: Yes. And look, who's moving? Who's doing all the advancing? That's God's job. Our job is to stand, go back to Exodus and see the salvation of the Lord.
Chris Katulka: That's right. And this is really important because what I think we see back in Second Kings, we don't just have to go to Ephesians chapter 6. What we see happening in Second Kings chapter 6, is this image that God is at work in the unseen.
Tom Simcox: He is.
Chris Katulka: And we can't always just look at our physical surroundings as Christians and go, "This whole thing is falling apart. God help us." We all wish we had an Elisha with us to peel back the curtain so that we could see God at work fighting on our behalf. That's what God is doing for us. He fights on our behalf. I actually think that's the whole story of the Bible is that God has been fighting for us from the very beginning.
Tom Simcox: I would agree. I'm reminded again as you shared that, remember the Prophet Daniel. And remember Daniel had a vision. I believe it's in Daniel chapter 10 and it took 21 days for the Lord to answer his prayer. He had this vision, he didn't understand it. He prayed and it took 21 days, three weeks for the answer to come and we find out that Gabriel who was dispatched was withheld for those 21 days in that spiritual realm by demons or a demonic forces, and finally then Michael the Archangel, another name, there's only three named angels and they all have direct relation to Israel. Michael's the Archangel, Gabriel's to clear messenger and then Lucifer is the enemy of Israel. All the rest are not named to us.
But it took Michael to come and help Gabriel get through because he said, "The moment you prayed and sought an answer, I was dispatched but I was withheld. But now I've come to let you know what's going to happen in the last days." The realm of the spiritual world, there's a lot of wrestling and we as believers need to be aware of that. We don't wrestle against just flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers in high places.
Chris Katulka: And that's why I want to encourage you to get our recent issue of Israel My Glory, Miracle Man, the prophet Elisha. If you want an in depth, look at the prophet Elisha, what he's doing not only in the Old Testament but how it applies to your life as well, I want to encourage you to go to foiradio.org. That's F-O-I as in Friends of Israel. foiradio.org and there you can sign up and get a one year free subscription, six issues of our award winning magazine, Israel My Glory.
Tom, thank you so much for coming in, bringing insights about Elisha and what he means to us as believers today.
Tom Simcox: My pleasure, Chris.
Steve Conover: Thank you for being with us today. Chris, next week we begin a new series on how to read our Bibles. What can you tell us?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, we're going to be looking at three aspects. We're going to be starting a series, How to Read Your Bible, three aspects of it, geography, context and culture. Next week, we're actually going to start our geography section. Knowing your Bible's geography is going to help open your mind as to what was going on in the Bible, where people were living, the stories that were surrounding each of those locations. They matter. They're not just fairy tales. These are real locations, so I hope that you join us next week.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione, co-written by Sarah Fern. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
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