KINGDOMS IN DECLINE
2 Kings 13
Evil In The Sight Of The Lord
Kings come and go as nations rise and fall. Jehoahaz succeeded his father Jehu, and he ruled seventeen years. He was no different than the previous kings of Israel, allowing idolatry and false worship to go on during his reign. This ongoing pattern of sin kindles the anger of the Lord toward his people Israel. God gave his people away into the hands of the Syrians. Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to his cry for help. God knew what his people were enduring, and he gave them a savior, and they returned to their homes to dwell in peace. God's kindness did not lead the people of Israel to repent, and they continued in their willful disobedience. Israel suffered heavy losses against the Syrians under King Benhadad. The army of Israel dwindled down to fifty horsemen, ten chariots, and ten thousand infantry, virtually nothing more than a police force. Jehoash followed in the footsteps of his father as well, and his sins were costly.
Prophets came and went, and the ministry of Elisha came to a close in the early years of Jehoash of Israel. The old prophet must have been at least eighty years old. As he lay dying, the king came to his bedside. As he wept, Jehoash called Elisha by the familiar titles that were similarly addressed to Elijah when he departed from this world. The term “father” recognized Elisha as the spiritual leader and teacher of Israel. The term “chariot” perhaps also pointed to the way in which Elijah was translated. When Elijah departed this world, he left behind a capable successor; but when Elisha died, it seemed that there was no one to assume spiritual leadership. Perhaps King Jehoash feared that a great era of God’s dealings with Israel was coming to an end. Elisha, having been moved by the compassion of the king, mustered his strength in order to assure him that God would still stand by his people. The prophet instructed the king to take a bow and arrows from one of the soldiers that would have accompanied the king on this visit. The king was told to place his hands on the bow as one would normally do when about to shoot that weapon. When the king took hold of it as instructed, Elisha put his hands upon the king’s hands and told him to shoot an arrow. The window was then opened, and the arrow was released as Elisha explained that the arrow symbolized deliverance from Aramean oppression. Israel would inflict an utterly crushing defeat upon the Arameans at Aphek in Gilead. Then the king was told to take the arrows remaining in the quiver and to strike the ground. Jehoash followed those instructions and hit the arrows against the ground three times. If the king had been earnestly desirous of victory, he would have kept striking until instructed to stop, or at least should have hit the floor five or six times. From his prophetic perspective, Elisha could see a missed opportunity because of Jehoash’s lethargic response. The Israelites would now defeat their enemies but thrice. Some time after the death of Elisha, some Israelite men were carrying the corpse of a companion for burial when the funeral party spotted one of these bands of raiders. With no time for a ceremony, the burial party hastily and perhaps somewhat roughly cast the corpse into the nearest sepulcher that just happened to be the one where the bones of Elisha lay. When that corpse touched the bones of Elisha, the dead man revived and rose to his feet inside the grave. God was teaching Israel respect for his prophet even after death. During the Syrian persecution, God had compassion upon his people because of his faithfulness. The time would come when he would cast off these people, but that time had not yet come. Jehoash recovered three cities which Ben-hadad had taken from his father.
Things To Consider:
- Why is discipleship important in families?
- How does God use people as his agency for judgment?
- What makes God angry?
- Why does God give favor to sinful kings?
- Why do people need a savior today?
- Why do you think responded the way he did in light of Elisha's imminent departure?
- Why do you think the young king needed so much reassurance?
- Do you think that the king had his trust in God or Elisha? Why?
- Why do you think death causes such a crisis of belief?
- Why do you think we sometimes stop short of complete obedience?
- Why wouldn't God cast his people away?