“When There Is Death in the Pot”
By Rev. Tim D. Cormier
Text: 2 Kings 4:38-41
“And Elisha came again to Gilgal: and there was a dearth 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 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: for they knew them not. So they poured out for the men to eat. And it came to pass, as they were eating of the pottage, that 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.”
Here is a classic illustration of someone whose zeal outpaced his knowledge. It is worth noting that the young man in this story actually had good intentions. And he even put legs on his intentions and went out and put some efforts into his dream of helping to feed his brethren. But what he did not know was that he was actually introducing a lethal substance into the pot, out of which all his hungry friends were about to eat. And the tragic consequence was that what was prepared to nurture hungry souls swiftly became the very substance that would have brought about their swift and utter destruction without divine intervention.
He thought he was being helpful, but he almost destroyed the whole congregation. All he wanted to do was spice things up a bit – you know, add a little bulk to the program, and flesh it out a bit. Everybody was so hungry that it just seemed like the right thing to do. But in just a few moments of time the studied preparations of all those who had labored before him to prepare the meal were carelessly and ruthlessly destroyed.
We Need A Miracle
Only a miracle from Almighty God saved the day. “Bring meal” cried the old preacher. Not whole grain, but grain that had been ground into meal – the raw material of the bread of life. God teaches us through this miracle that His Word – broken down by anointed preaching and teaching – is the only substance that is capable of neutralizing the bitter, poisonous wild gourds that have been shredded into the mix of contemporary Apostolic ministry and fellowship.
The Bitter Harvest:
Bitter Roots, Bitter Weeds, Bitter Fruits, Bitter Seeds
Notice if you please the words of Hebrews 12:14-15:
“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”
Also notice 2 Peter 2:20:
“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.”
Sometimes, people leave our church services and meetings in worse shape than when they came. It is a sad shame to have to say it, but there are times when “death is in the pot” and no one with any real discernment is around that is able to do anything about it.
Poison: pure, bitter, toxic poison – hungry, starving people are being fed poison. Here is the startling irony and the ultimate enigma: God’s people gather together in His Name for the purpose of salvation. Yet, because of the bitter, poisonous nature of some men’s hearts – these are the ones whose words and actions are “Wild Gourds” that are being shred into the pot – many are being defiled. And the sad result far too often for many aspiring saints is that their latter end becomes worse than their beginning. They would have been better off never coming to our meetings.
A comment on the most celebrated Holiness text in all of Scripture (i.e., Heb. 12:14) is surely in order here. Again we quote for emphasis: “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord….” How is it that all we ever hear is verse fourteen? The very next words (in verse fifteen) should be a clear warning to us as we preach our strong Holiness message that we must be very careful lest our preaching becomes poisonous and bitter. SOME OF THE BITTEREST SPIRITS THAT HAVE EVER BEEN MANIFESTED CAME FROM STRONG, CONSERVATIVE, HOLINESS-MINDED APOSTOLICS. No wonder the strongest Holiness text is followed by such a stern warning against the danger of falling from grace by being defiled by a root of bitterness.
God only knows how many people have walked out of our churches filled with the poison of bitterness because of an improper administration of the Holiness message!
Wild Gourds grow without cultivation. We would probably call them weeds. They cannot be readily identified (“they knew them not”), but men who are driven by hunger often do not make rational decisions about what they eat.
The Wild Gourds blend in with the crowd. They say all the right things at the right times. They learn to bow and scrape and ingratiate themselves with the upper crust. They know how to dress for the part, like actors rehearsing their role for a dramatic stage production.
Sometimes these are folks who do not have the recommendation of their pastor; therefore they must highly recommend themselves. And this they do, never fear. Wild Gourds are not certifiably Apostolic, yet they look so good, and we are so hungry for fellowship that we sometimes fail to exercise discretion and caution. And they add a certain zest to our company!
So we mix them into the pottage, and we serve everybody at the fellowship meeting, or camp meeting, or conference…. And the poison insidiously taints the singing, the preaching, the fellowship…. What poison? The caustic words; the sarcasm; the bitter infighting; the rancor….
We may call it Church, but in reality it is Toxic Church. We may call it Fellowship, but it is actually Toxic Fellowship. Why should so many people leave our services feeling the effects of others’ bitterness? Are we that hungry? Are we so starved for fellowship that we must abandon the Apostolic admonition to know them who labor among us WHO ARE OVER US IN THE LORD?
Our pulpits are OPEN PULPITS. And we are so proud of it. We are open to Wild Gourds, poison, bitterness, and vitriolic personal attacks. We are too often wide open to toxic pulpit posturing that defiles our meetings and attempts to destroy our churches. We are open to men who can say any crazy thing they want to and then run back and hide behind the protection of the OPEN PULPIT.
Sadly, the OPEN PULPIT has seemingly become in some circles a platform where bitter and mean-spirited men can get up and take potshots at the target du jour, while their cronies eagerly mark their score cards, as it were, to see who makes the most points. Preachers leave meetings many times with mixed emotions, afraid to openly and honestly express what they truly feel because they don’t want to be the target at the next meeting.
There have been meetings where men would get up and take advantage of the local pastor and caustically strike out at situations he was struggling to contain. God is not the author of confusion! Any man – be he the pastor or a visiting minister – who hasn’t wept and prayed and interceded for the souls in the congregation has no right to get up and snipe at them from the pulpit! How easy it is for a young, over-zealous preacher-in-training to get a lap full of wild gourds and jump up in a fellowship meeting and thoughtlessly shred his bitter, toxic collection into the pot.
And what about our saints? They get to sit on the sidelines in wonder and awe as great spiritual super-powers slug it out. Some will leave confused; some will leave happy (you see, even abusive preachers can get a following of people that have abusive mind-sets); others will leave enraged; and still others will leave with broken hearts. All this because somebody poisoned the pot, and we appear to be lacking a man of Elisha’s stature who will teach us how to prepare the antidote for this noxious stew.
Show Me Your Love
Somebody needs to tell some of these men who are so desperately eager to show off their zeal that God does not call men to merely speak Truth for Truth’s sake; rather, we are to speak the Truth in Love! The Word of God should be fitly spoken above all other words. The way something is said becomes the frame for the picture that is being painted. If the Word of God is likened unto “Apples of Gold”, then the ministry that presents it would be likened unto “pictures of silver” – i.e., “A Silver Frame.”
Brethren, we do a great disservice to the Kingdom of God when our pulpit manners do not reflect the essence of the nature of the God whose Word we purport to be speaking. Our Master taught us that he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God. If our words are bitter we are sowing bitter seeds in the hearts of our people. Tragically, we are even now reaping a bitter harvest with unimaginable consequences because of too many years of Toxic Church.
[written April 04, 2006]