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Grown-Up Bible Stories

Caring Enough to Win

My father! My father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” Many years before, a young prophet in training had cried those words as a flaming, angelic chariot dashed between him and his mentor. Then young Elisha had watched the great prophet Elijah fly up to Heaven in a whirlwind. Picking up the older man's cloak, he had gone on to be a spiritual powerhouse. [Quotations are not necessarily exact unless accompanied by a reference.]

My father! My father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” Today, Elisha wasn't speaking those words. A man he was leaving behind was saying them to him. This great prophet wasn't about to ride to Heaven in a whirlwind. Rather, he was slowly dying of illness. The man repeating the famous words wasn't expecting to become a prophet in his absence. Rather, Joash was already the king of Israel. (No, not that Joash! You're probably thinking of the other Joash, Judah's famed boy king. Joash of Israel was an entirely different man.) He was an able king, but he never managed to pull away from the idols his predecessors had introduced into Israel. He might admire a great man of God, but the admiration never led to an inner spiritual change.

Still, the king cared enough to repeat those famous words: “'My father! My father! The chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof!'” He also cared enough to weep over the dying man. Whether he recognized how quiet God's voice would seem without this spokesman or whether he only feared the absence of a miracle worker, we aren't told.

But, questions and personal failings aside, the king was present to honor the prophet on his deathbed.

Elisha didn't spend a lot of time basking in the king's honor. He was still alive, and he was still a prophet. The message of the King of kings burned in his heart, dampening the impact of mere earthly royalty. Elisha said, “Get a bow and arrows.”

The king complied.

Put your hand on the bow.”

Again the king followed instructions. The ailing prophet placed his own hands over the royal ones on the bow.

Open the window toward the east,” said Elisha. The king obeyed. “Shoot!” commanded the prophet. The king drew back the bow and let an arrow fly. It shot out the window in the direction of the sunrise. It was also, in a general sort of way, the direction toward Israel's then current oppressor, Syria.

Elisha said, “The arrow of the Lord's deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria. For you will strike the Syrians in Aphek until you have consumed them.” For perspective, Aphek was in Western Israel, far from the Syrian border. The enemy was more like a sword in the nation's side than a thorn in its flesh.

Then Elisha said, “Take your arrows.” When the king had his remaining arrows in hand, Elisha said, “Hit the ground with them.”

Joash slammed the arrows to the floor three times and stopped.

Approaching death failed to dampen the prophet's frustration. “You should have struck five or six times! Then God would have enabled you to hit the enemy until you destroyed them! Now you'll only have three victories!”


The story rather ends with a whine, doesn't it? Joash didn't have the spiritual drive to respond with energy when God promised an important victory. Elisha had heard the word of God from Elijah and responded with his whole heart to become a spiritual hero. Joash heard God's word from Elisha, but God never did get the king's whole heart. That lack of a wholly committed heart would prove his downfall. Elisha had faith and commitment, and he knew God in His power. Joash had neither faith nor commitment and only saw a limited form of God's power.

What about you? You have God's Word in the Bible. Does your whole inner being respond as you read its teachings? Do you even read them? Most of us are not called to military victory. We are called to spiritual victory. The same God who could overcome an ancient army can overcome our even more ancient spiritual foe. As in Joash's day, our level of success will largely be determined by whether we're ready go all the way when God calls. The battle is on. Are you fully engaged?

And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief. (Of Jesus Christ in Matthew 13:58)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. (Jesus in John 15:4)

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