Summary: Elisha teaches us the importance of respecting divine authority
September 15, 2013
Weird Stories in the Bible
Boys, Bears and Baldness
Opening words: Today, I begin a new six part sermon series, Weird Stories in the Bible. Before I begin, I will admit two things. First, I will admit I have not selected these pieces of scripture. They were selected by the high school class, who assigned job to one question filled young man. Second, I will admit he did a wonderful job of selecting some weird pieces of scripture. I the next few weeks we will look at these odd stories.
1. Noah’s nudity
2. Enoch’s eternity
3. Lot’s incest
4. Ezekiel’s bones
5. Hosea’s wife
Today, we begin by looking at Elisha’s curse. This story has been circulating around our young for some time now. It is a weird story that leads us to an excellent question. Would God send two bears out of the woods to maul forty-two teenagers? Perhaps, this is a better question. What is the story of the teenager mauling bears trying to teach us? May God give you ears to hear this morning’s scripture lesson, 2 Kings 2:23-25. I have called this message Boys, Bears and Baldness.
2 Kings 2:23-25 23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. 25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
Albert Einstein once said, “Let everyone be respected as an individual and no man idolized.” If you think you can remember that quotes say, “Amen!”
Several years ago, I found myself ninety miles northeast of Moscow. I was in the Russian city of Dmitrov. It is the home of the Renewal Orphanage, which is the home of approximately 120 handicapped orphans. We were there to offer them hope and remind them that they were loved by God. The days were filled with a variety of activities but the evenings were the same. Every night as the children were going to bed, our little mission team would gather for devotions. Everyone was required to take a turn leading devotions. The professionals went first. The most uncomfortable went last. The very last person was a high school student from this church. I offered to help him and he agreed. I asked if he knew any scripture. He gave me an uncomfortable look and said, “Well, I know one piece of scripture but I don’t think it applies.” I asked, “What is the scripture?” He replied it comes from Second Kings and it talks about 42 teenagers being eaten by bears.” I said, “That sounds perfect. Let’s do it.” Can I be honest with you? His devotion was the best devotion on the trip. I don’t remember anyone else’s devotion on that trip but I do remember his. That weird piece of scripture challenged me and jolted me out of a spiritual funk. I figured if I could preach on that scripture then I could preach on any scripture. We are looking at that weird story today.
The main character in this weird story is Elisha. Our New Testament minds know very little Old Testament characters. We have to ask the question. Who is Elisha? He was a prophet of God to the northern kingdom of Israel for sixty years. (892-832 BC) He was respected by many people in his world. His name can even be found in both in the Quran and the sacred writings of the Baha’i faith. Yet, he was not respected by everyone. According to the text, he is traveling to Bethel, the royal cult center of the northern kings. Word spread of his journey and group of youth come out to meet him. Their goal is not to welcome him; their goal is to disrespect him. Listen to what I am about to say. Disrespect in the Bible will not be tolerated. I have said it a million times. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, even you. For their disrespect, they youth receive the ultimate punishment, death. Verse 24 says, “Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youth.” I asked myself two questions about this text from the very beginning. First, if you saw forty-one of your friends being mauled by two bears why would you stay to be number forty-two? Second, why is this story in the Bible? What is it trying to teach us? I can’t answer the first question but I can the second. The issue at the very bottom of this story is authority. This story has nothing to do with juvenile delinquency. Their story has nothing to do respecting wildlife. This story has nothing to do baldness. (However, 85% of all American men have some signs of baldness by the time they 50 years old.) This weird story has everything to do with respecting authority. How much respect do you offer the authority figures in your life? Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.