Life from Tombs

Life from a Tomb

Then Elisha died, and they buried him. And the raiding bands from Moab invaded the land in the spring of the year. So it was, as they were burying a man, that suddenly they spied a band of raiders; and they put the man in the tomb of Elisha; and when the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet. (2 Kings 13:20-21)

Elisha became sick, the illness ran its course, and Elisha died. He was not carried up into heaven the way his mentor Elijah was. That was not God’s plan or will for Elisha. Like countless others before and after him, Elisha simply became old, sick, and then died. Then they buried him.

Life from Tombs

Some time after Elisha was buried, a strange thing happened. As some Israelites were burying a man, a group of violent thieves (raiders) came upon them. In a hurry, they put the man in the tomb of Elisha. Now for the strange thing: When the man was let down and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.

This is one of the more unusual miracles in the Bible. There is no explanation about how or why this happened, and this silence suggests that there was no magic in the bones of Elisha to bring anyone else to life. If there was, there would be a long line of people bringing their dead loved ones to Elisha’s tomb! Instead, this was a unique, one-time miracle to bring honor to the memory of this great prophet. 

As such, this passage should never be used as an excuse for the superstitious practice of the veneration (or worship) of relics. In churches all over the world, there are what are claimed to be the bones or bits of this or that saint, or pieces of the cross, or whatever. These should be regarded as frauds that invite idolatry.

As well, this passage should never be used as an excuse for the bizarre practice of laying upon or touching the graves of men or women of God from the past, thinking that some kind of magical power can come through such contact.

As Adam Clarke wrote, “This is the first, and I believe the last, account of a true miracle performed by the bones of a dead man.” The strange incident of 2 Kings 13:20-21 was the beginning and the end of it.

Yet, there are two wonderful points of application. First, we can also be brought to life by our contact with these dead prophets — not through their bones, but through their words. Read what God gave us through the apostles and prophets; read God’s word. God brings the dead to life through a word.

Second, remember there is a tomb that brings life — but this is the empty tomb of Jesus, risen from the dead. We’re grateful that there are no bones in the tomb of Jesus, and that in Him we are promised eternal life.

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13

Shooting Arrows

Keep on Shooting

Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.” (2 Kings 13:18-19)

The King of Israel was with the dying prophet Elisha, and Elisha told him to shoot some arrows out a window in the direction of Israel’s enemy, Syria. In telling him to do it, Elisha made a connection between the shooting of the arrows and the opportunity for a victory to come over the Syrian army. Each arrow represented a battle won, the LORD’s deliverance of Israel against Syria.

Shooting Arrows

But when King Joash had the opportunity to boldly take this promise of God and gain much, the king shot three arrows and stopped. He did not sense what he should have – that each arrow represented a victory in battle over the Syrians, and he should have received the prophet’s invitation with more boldness. 

Because King Joash did not seize the strategic moment, the man of God was angry with him. The prophet Elisha was angry because now Israel would enjoy only three victories over the Syrian army, instead of the many more they could have enjoyed.

There are many situations in which we should keep “shooting the arrows,” but we content ourselves with a small effort. God wants us to press forward, and we hold back. So, don’t hold back!

– Keep shooting in the battle against sin.
– Keep shooting in the pursuit of Christian knowledge.
– Keep shooting in the attainment of faith.
– Keep shooting to do more for the kingdom of God.
– Keep shooting because the world, the flesh, and the devil will not stop shooting at you! 

When God invites us to take something by faith, we should receive it boldly, and honor God by not falling short, by receiving all He wants to give. We should ask Him knowing that He is a great King and giver who is honored by bold, reverent requests.  

We think of all the excuses that Joash could have made; yet none of them were valid.

– “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to be presumptuous and ask for too much.”
– “I stopped shooting because I’m not a very good archer.”
– “I stopped shooting because Elisha didn’t help me more.”
– “I stopped shooting because I thought three was plenty.”
– “I stopped shooting because I didn’t think it would do any good.”
– “I stopped shooting because I wasn’t in a shooting mood. I didn’t feel like it.”
– “I stopped shooting because I didn’t want to get over-excited.” 

Brothers and sisters, when God opens a door or gives you an opportunity, make the most of it. “Keep shooting” until God tells you to stop!

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13

Hands on the Bow

Hands on the Bow

And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. (2 Kings 13:15-16)

Elisha, one of the great prophets of Israel, was about to die. Though he was a man of God who healed many others, he was about to die from an illness (2 Kings 13:14).

As his death drew closer, Joash the king of Israel was worried. Israel was a small nation that faced many enemies (just like today!). At the time, their biggest threat came from the Syrians. But King Joash somehow understood that the real strength of Israel wasn’t in their armies, horsemen, or chariots; the real strength of Israel was in their close and faithful relationship with God. Prophets like Elisha kept that connection strong, so he was part of the real strength of Israel – but he was about to die.

Hands on the Bow

At that moment, Elisha told him to take a bow and some arrows. Through an illustration of arrows shot through a window, the prophet would show the king that the arrow of the LORD’s deliverance (2 Kings 13:17) was still present, and all Joash had to do was to shoot the arrow in faith.

King Joash began to do what the prophet told him to do. We can imagine the scene. Joash positioned himself in front of the window that faced the general direction of Syria. A servant brought him a bow and arrows. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow.” As Joash put the arrow in place on the bow and stood in front of the window, something unexpected happened.

Elisha came up behind the king, and as Joash began to stretch the bow and prepare to shoot, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. Like a father helping his child to shoot a bow, the prophet would guide the hands of Joash.

I think this whole scene is amazing and we can look at it in greater depth. But just consider this part: The prophet’s hands on the king’s hands, drawing the arrow back on the bow and pointing it in the right direction.

If you aren’t strong enough to “bend the bow” for whatever God has in front of you to do or experience, then ask Jesus to fulfill the sense of this picture for you. As illustrated in this scene from 2 Kings 13, ask Jesus to put His hands on yours, to give you the strength to do what He tells you to do, and to give you the skill to aim it all in the right direction.

Many times, I have felt too weak to do what I should; but with His hands on mine, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13

Strange Things

Strange Things

Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!” (2 Kings 13:14)

Life is filled with strange things; things that are unusual or difficult to explain. 2 Kings 13:14 presents us with a few strange things.

First, it is strange that Elisha had become sick. Elisha was a man of God, and God used him to bring healing to many people and to perform many miracles. Nevertheless, even Elisha became sick.

Strange Things

This teaches us that even people of faith and miracles are not immune to sickness and disease. This great man of God became sick like others whom he had healed when God had used him as a channel of His power and blessing.

In fact, this was the illness of which he would die. Though God used Elisha on many occasions to heal others, God appointed this illness to be the means of taking Elisha from this world. God has no one single way that He does this; it is a mistake to believe that all the godly men and women die in their sleep without a hint of prior illness.

A second strange thing was the reaction of Joash the king of Israel. This Joash was a wicked man, yet he came down to Elisha and wept over his face. In sorrow over the soon death of God’s prophet, King Joash cried out: “the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!” If those words sound familiar, it is because Elisha said the same to Elijah at the end of the elder prophet’s days on this earth. When he said this to Elijah in 2 Kings 2:12, Elisha recognized the truestrength of Israel. He knew that the strength of Israel was really in the presence of the people of God and the message of God. Now Joash saw that the same strength was slipping from this earth and he mourned it.

It is strange that a miracle-working prophet should die from sickness, and that an ungodly king would mourn the passing of a godly man. Yet from these strange things, we can learn two lessons.

We learn that even though the man of God suffered, God did not forsake him. Elisha’s sickness was painful, but it brought him to heaven. Whatever he suffered, it was a pathway to something better. I heard of a godly man who suffered from a fatal illness, and on his deathbed, someone asked him how he felt. Knowing his death was near, the godly man answered, “Almost better.”

We also learn that we should try to live such lives of godliness and goodness that even ungodly men will miss us when we are gone. Elisha lived such a life, and with Jesus filling our life, by His grace we may do the same.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 13

Renewing the Covenant


Time for Treason


Long Live the King

And he brought out the king’s son, put the crown on him, and gave him the Testimony; they made him king and anointed him, and they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king!”(2 Kings 11:12)

It was a dark and evil time for the Kingdom of Judah. For six years, the wicked queen Athaliah held on to her throne by a mixture of murder and mystery. The murder was found in the fact that she killed every rightful heir of the House of David she could find. The mystery was found in the fact that the one surviving heir was unknown to her and all of Judah.

A godly woman named Jehosheba hid young Joash at the time of the massacre, and the boy was raised in secret. But when he was six years old, it was time to reveal the true king of Judah.

It was a dramatic moment. For six years everyone believed there was no surviving heir to David’s royal line, and there was no legitimate ruler to displace the wicked Athaliah. The secret had to be secure, because the Joash would be immediately killed if his existence was revealed. At the right time, they brought out the king’s son. Notice how all this took place, step by step.

First the king’s son had to be revealed(brought out). No one could support him and he could not take his rightful throne until he was brought out before the people.

Next the king’s son had to be crowned(put the crown on him). This was the public and official recognition of him as king.

The king’s son had to come with the Word of God(theygave him the Testimony). Joash appeared before the people holding the scrolls of God’s Word.

The king’s son had to be received(they made him king). He had the royal right to impose his reign, but he instead allowed his rule to be received.

The king’s son had to be anointed(they anointed him). He could never fulfill his office without a divine anointing.

The king’s son had to be praised(they clapped their hands and said, “Long live the king”). The king’s son received praise once he was recognized as their king.

We can and should follow the same pattern in our reception of Jesus Christ, the True King’s Son.

– Behold the revealed Jesus.
– Recognize King Jesus, wearing His rightful crown.
– Embrace Jesus as the Living Word.
– Receive Jesus as the True King.

– Believe upon Jesus as God’s Messiah (Anointed One).

– Praise Jesus as the enthroned King.

But remember: you have to reject the false ruler (in 2 Kings 11, Queen Athaliah) before you can truly embrace the true king (in 2 Kings 11, Joash). We renounce every pretended king to receive and praise King Jesus, the eternal king. So we say, “Long live the King!”

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 11

Queen and Pawn

The Queen and the Pawn

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the royal heirs. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and stole him away from among the king’s sons who were being murdered; and they hid him and his nurse in the bedroom, from Athaliah, so that he was not killed. So he was hidden with her in the house of the LORD for six years, while Athaliah reigned over the land. (2 Kings 11:1-3)

We all know that many people of great power are also people of low character. For thousands of years, philosophers have asked: does power corrupt people, or does it reveal what they were all along?

Queen and Pawn

That’s a big question, and maybe it doesn’t have an absolute answer. But we do know one thing: many people show unbelievably low character trying to gain power. They can be vicious, violent, and lose all morality just to get to the top.

That’s the kind of person Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah was. When she saw that her son was dead (killed by Jehu, 2 Kings 9:27-29), Athaliah tried to use her son’s death to take power for herself, and Queen Athaliah reigned over the land for six years.

Look at the evil she did: she destroyed all the royal heirs. She tried to kill every descendant of the house of David. She hoped to murder every person from David’s royal line who might make a claim to the throne. Her plan almost worked.

She might have succeeded, except for a woman name Jehosheba. This little-known woman was like a pawn compared to Queen Athaliah. But through her courage and ingenuity, Jehosheba preserved the royal line of David through which the Messiah would eventually come. Evil people like Athaliah will begin their work, but God can always raise up a Jehosheba.

Ignoring the danger, Jehosheba saved the life of this one little boy. His name was Joash, and he was hidden with her in the house of the LORD for six years. For the sake of David, God remembered His promise and spared this one survivor of Athaliah’s massacre. The line of David was almost dead and continued only in the presence of a small boy, but God preserved that flickering flame.

Like the Samuel, the boy Joash grew up in the temple. Like Samuel, he probably found little ways to help the priests, whatever could be done without attracting too much attention. God had a heroic destiny for that little boy, but it would never have happened apart from the heroic work of Jehosheba.

Thank God that He knows how to raise up people like Jehosheba. This pawn defeated a queen! No one can out-smart God or defeat His purpose. But this passage leaves us a choice: will we do damage to others through the lust for power like Athaliah, or will we be heroic servants like Jehosheba?

 

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 11

Successful Failure

The Successful Failure

However Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who had made Israel sin, that is, from the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan. And the LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in doing what is right in My sight, and have done to the house of Ahab all that was in My heart, your sons shall sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.” But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart; for he did not depart from the sins of Jeroboam, who had made Israel sin. (2 Kings 10:29-31)

Jehu was one of the most complicated men to serve as king over the ten northern tribes of Israel, of what was known as the kingdom of Israel (the kingdom of Judah in the south was made up of the two southern tribes).

Successful Failure

All in all, we would probably say that Jehu was the best of all the bad kings of Israel. In many ways he was good, but Jehu did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam. Jehu aggressively worked against the worship of Baal in Israel. However, he promoted the false worship of the true God, after the pattern of Jeroboam who set up the golden calves that were at Bethel and Dan. He obeyed God – up to a point.

– Jehu carried out God’s will, but he went too far and executed more people than God intended.

– Jehu carried out God’s will, but he did it for personal glory and out of pride.

– Jehu carried out God’s will, but he only did it partially. He stopped the idolatry of Baal, but he continued the sinful idolatry of Jeroboam.

We might see Jehu as a great Israeli patriot. He protested against Joram and the house of Ahab for the harm they did to Israel, and knew that to be strong, Israel had to be cleansed of Baal worship. He knew that Israel had to come back to the true God, but he didn’t care how they did it. To Jehu it was just as good to worship God at Dan or Bethel, even though God commanded otherwise.

When we compare Jehu to the other kings of Israel, we see that he was the best of a bad group. No other king in Israel fought against idolatry as much as Jehu did; sadly, even he did not fight against it with all his heart.

By not taking heed to walk in the law of the LORD God, Jehu showed that he did not live a life of fellowship with God. He was a success in some ways, but he was really a successful failure. God used Jehu as His instrument, but Jehu never really seemed to have a real relationship with God himself.

Don’t fall into the half-way trap. Don’t be a successful person who ends up failing in the most important things.

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 10

jehu's bow

Dangerous Zeal

Then he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So they had him ride in his chariot. (2 Kings 10:16)

One of the strangest kings of ancient Israel was a man named Jehu. After he was anointed as king of the 10 northern tribes, Jehu took a bow and arrows and got busy. As an agent of God’s judgment, Jehu not only killed Joram the King of Israel (2 Kings 9:24), but he also killed Ahaziah the King of Judah (2 Kings 9:27). If that wasn’t enough, he then killed the wicked wife of Ahab, old Queen Jezebel (2 Kings 9:33). He then killed everyone he could from the family of Ahab (2 Kings 10). He did this as a unique instrument of God’s judgement against the House of Ahab, and there was a lot of blood on Jehu’s hands.

jehu's bow

This was the man who said to Jehonadab, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” It’s true that God gave Jehu a mission of judgement and Jehu carried it out with great zeal. In this work of judgment against the House of Ahab he had a complete and energetic obedience to the LORD, even to the disregard of his own safety and comfort.

Zeal is good. In many ways, we want to see more zeal among Christians today and not less. Paul said that “it is good to be zealous in a good thing always” (Galatians 4:18). Jesus told the Christians of Laodicea to be zealous (Revelation 3:19).

Still, the zeal of Jehu was dangerous in several ways.

First, Jehu had zeal only for confrontation and violence. Some people only feel energized by conflict. They seem to always want confrontation and violence, even if it is only verbal or social media violence. Make sure your zeal isn’t only against others.

Second, Jehu’s zeal did not result in obedience. 2 Kings 10:29-31 describes some of the disobedience of King Jehu. It’s possible today to see some Christians who seem to be full of zeal, but somehow that zeal doesn’t lead to basic obedience in the Christian life. When that is true, something is wrong.

Third, Jehu’s zeal was corrupted by pride. A humble man doesn’t say, “see my zeal for the LORD.” Zeal isn’t something we put on to show off. When I am proud of my zeal, I am in a bad place – because my zeal becomes a show that I display to impress others. It shows that our zeal is not in the service of God’s glory, but in the service of making me look good.

I wish that more Christians had more zeal. The disciples of Jesus noticed the Savior’s great zeal (John 2:17). But zeal has its dangers, and it seems that many people fall into the trap of an ungodly zeal, failing in the same ways Jehu did.

Let’s make this our prayer: “Lord, make me a zealous Christian – in the very best way.”

Click here for David’s commentary on 2 Kings 10