GEMS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
“Bam! Let’s kick it up a notch!” So Emeril Lagasse would fairly shout, to the hearty roar of the audience on his TV cooking show. And then the famous chef would add some more spice, hot sauce, or some other ingredient to his culinary creation. Bam! Another dish fit for a king.
The Book of Kings relates the account of a soup fit for the prophets (2 Kings 4:38-41). The sons of the prophets were men studying under the tutelage of Elisha. During a famine in the land, they became hungry, so Elisha instructed his servant to prepare a soup—probably and primarily made of lentils. But one in the group concluded he needed to “kick it up a notch.” So he gathered some wild gourds, sliced and diced and added them to the soup. The gourds might have been Cucumis Colocynth—belonging to the botanical family which includes edible melons and pumpkins. But while these gourds may have been attractive to the eye, they were actually bitter to the taste and poisonous. Thus, instead of spicing up the soup, the first taste resulted in the cry, “O man of God, there is death in the pot!”
The remedy for this poison in the pottage was realized when Elisha added some flour. By way of this visible sign, God neutralized the poison in the soup so that all could eat without suffering any harmful effects.
Can we not see a parable in this account?
Modern religious chefs often attempt to kick God’s Word up a notch, wanting to spice up the old saving truths of Scripture. What they add might seem attractive to human desire and reason, but in every case it is bitterly poisonous and can even be fatal to the soul.
Bedeviled by the claims of science, many conclude that the spice of millions of years must be added to God’s own creation account to make it more palatable and reasonable! At the other end of earth’s history, the millennialists would add a thousand years of Christ’s earthly rule to the pot. This seems very attractive to those wishing for heaven on earth, but it detracts from the Gospel, and contradicts Jesus’ own words, “My kingdom is not of this world.” (John 18:36) In each case, it is like adding attractive rhubarb leaves to a healthy green salad—tainting it with poison.
The heart of the Gospel message is that salvation is by God’s grace alone, received by faith in Christ alone, based on Holy Scripture alone. But the proud and sinful mind concludes, “We need to kick this up a notch.” And so human works and decisions are added as necessary for salvation. This is like adding deadly nightshade berries to a tasty blueberry pie. In all cases, when men add spicy concoctions from their own minds and attractive gourds from the world, they are not improving, but instead adulterating, the “pure milk of the word” (1 Peter 2:2) with poison—poison which can kill saving faith.
The soup of the prophets was purified by adding wheat flour. We are mindful of our Lord Jesus who said, “I am the bread of life . . . the living bread which came down from heaven.” (John 6:35,51) He Who is the Truth and the Word gives life through His Word. The poison of false doctrine comes from the devil, “but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17) And so the antidote to all the poisonous teachings of the world must always be God’s truth in Christ and the pure “word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23). By that Word we are nourished and by that Word we are kept safe unto eternal salvation. Eating, let our cry ever be, “O God, in You there is life!”
David Fuerstenau is pastor of Holy Truth Lutheran Church in Ketchikan, Alaska.