Friday, April 25, 2014

2 Kings 12-14 Strike the ground

From 2 Kings 12-14

2 Ki 11.21-12.3; Jehoash; Jehu-Elisha; Jehoash Reigns in Judah
2 Ki 12.4-18; Jehoash; Jehu-Elisha; Jehoash Repairs the Temple
2 Ki 12.19-21; Jehoash; Jehu-Elisha; The Death of Jehoash
2 Ki 13.1-9; Jehoash; Jehoahaz-Elisha; Jehoahaz Reigns in Israel
2 Ki 13.10-13; Jehoash; Jehoash-Elisha; Jehoash Reigns in Israel
2 Ki 13.14-25; Jehoash; Jehoash-Elisha; The Death of Elisha
2 Ki 14.1-22; Amaziah; Joash; Amaziah Reigns in Judah
2 Ki 14.23-28; Amaziah; Jeroboam; Jeroboam II Reigns in Israel

Passage and Comments
Several kings will pass in the reading today. One king to note is Jehoash. Unlike most of Israel’s kings he did right in the eyes of the LORD. The credit for this is given to a priest named Jehoiada who instructed him. When he comes to power he repairs the temple. Although they did initially have some problems with people stealing the money that was devoted to the temples repair.

Today’s passage reminded me of how we do not always realise the availability of the LORD’s grace and we lose out because of it.

14 Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Ki 13.14)

Beware, Joash is sometimes spelt Jehoash. This can get confusing. Joash calls Elisha his Father. It signifies intimacy between the two and perhaps Joash is acknowledging Elisha as his elder and source of spiritual guidance. He then says, ‘the chariots of Israel and its horsemen’ which is a bizarre things to say. But chariots and horsemen represent the strongest part of the army which defends the people. He is saying Elisha is the strongest part of his nation. A quick look at the description of Joash’s reign reveals Joash was evil in the sight of the LORD (2 Ki 13.11). So I suspect he used these expressions without any real feeling behind them.

15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” (2 Ki 13.15-17)

Quite often in the scriptures actions predict future events. Elisha has set the scene where what happens next will be about Israel’s victories over Syria. The LORD is blessing Israel through Elisha. Despite Joash’s failings the LORD is being gracious to him and Israel by allowing him to win this victory. We will find out why later.

18 And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” (2 Ki 13.18-19)

Given Elisha has already given him some knowledge that what is happening between them concerns Israel’s victories over Syria perhaps Joash knew the number of times he struck the ground with them would represent the number of victories Israel would have over Syria. But who know what he was thinking at the time. If he assumed the LORD was being gracious to him I think he would be more inclined to think this way. But he didnt. What if he believed and struck ten times? One hundred times? Israel could still be a world power today...

20 So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 And as a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (2 Ki 13.20-21)

A man was being buried. Presumably he was dead. According to Jewish law, touching the dead makes people unclean. Touching Elisha’s bones should have made him unclean. Instead he revived. Signs keep showing that Elisha is a prophet of the LORD. The sign also signifies the LORD was with him when he predicted the three victories over Syria.

22 Now Hazael king of Syria oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion on them, and he turned toward them, because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them, nor has he cast them from his presence until now. (2 Ki 13.22-23)

The LORD was gracious to Israel. Normally Syria would finished Israel. But because of his covenant promises he spared them. The statement shows how widely known the covenant was in Israel’s worldview. The final statement is helpful for dating the book of Kings. It was written during the time of exile.

24 When Hazael king of Syria died, Ben-hadad his son became king in his place. 25 Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities that he had taken from Jehoahaz his father in war. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel. (2 Ki 13.24-25)

The LORD was gracious to Israel and Elisha’s prophecy was fulfilled. ‘Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.’

Story of Israel
The passage describes two competing aspects in the LORD’s character. Firstly, the LORD is gracious and will honour his covenant promises despite the failings of Israel and her leaders. Time and time again the LORD will send prophets to Israel and Judah who call her to repent. This is an act of grace on the LORD’s behalf, because if they do repent and no longer sin. The LORD will not bring punishment upon them. Secondly, if there is continued sin despite calls for repentance. The LORD will eventually judge and punish. The text refers to Israel’s destruction. Soon the book of kings will explain very clearly why Israel was destroyed.

The passage also shows us that the LORD does give opportunities for people to ask for grace and his blessing.

Story of Jesus
Which brings me to Jesus. Jesus said to his disciples in the gospel;

16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” (Jn 16:16–18)

Jesus often spoke in cryptic terms. But if one is thinking of his death and resurrection it can be quite easy to work out what he is saying.

19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (Jn 16:19-22)

The world will rejoice at Jesus’ death. But they will be sorrowful. But when Jesus is raised from the dead, their sorrow will turn to joy. The joy of knowing Jesus is alive and he will never leave them. A joy that no one will take from them.

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. (Jn 16:23–24)

In the day the apostles know Jesus is alive. They will understand so they won’t have to ask anything of him regarding what he said. Jesus instructs them to ask of the LORD and they will receive that their joy may be full.

My point in quoting this is to say that following the death and resurrection of Jesus. The LORD has made himself available to hear the prayers of not only the apostles, but believers of all stripes. Jesus instructed them and us to pray and ask. When Joash was given the opportunity to strike the ground with the arrows he didn’t keep on striking the ground. He should have trusted in the LORD’s grace and faithfulness to his covenant. Jesus instructs us to ask and receive. To keep on asking that our joy of knowing the risen Christ and receiving from the LORD be made complete.