Summary: Since Elisha was near death, Joash paid him a final visit. Although Joash had not been a follower of God, he still regretted losing the prophet of God, because he was his only point of contact with God in times of emergency. As he lay on his deathbed. . .
Title: Elisha’s Last Sermon
Text: Then (Elisha) said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. (2 Kings 13:16)
Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 13:14 –19
14 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!”
15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows.
16 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.
17 And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.”
18 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.
19 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.”
What if our armed forces went into each battle afraid, or if they were not dedicated to our country or to the task? We’d lose the war. Our military is taught complete commitment and courage; if they were not, they could never succeed. In the same way, Christians must learn the lesson Elisha gave from his deathbed to a lazy young king. Elisha was very sick. He had faithfully served the Lord for forty-five to fifty-five years (through the reigns of four kings; Joram, Jehu, Joash, and Jehoash). Since Elisha was near death, Joash paid him a final visit. Although Joash had not been a follower of God, he still regretted losing the prophet of God, because he was his only point of contact with God in times of emergency. As he lay on his deathbed, Elisha had Joash act out his final prophecy. He told him to open the east window, which faced the direction of Transjordan, where Syria had occupied land belonging to Israel. He then told him to shoot an arrow out the window. The arrow symbolized God’s deliverance of Israel from Syria. The prophesy was fulfilled when the Syrians were defeated at Aphek.
Elisha directed the king to strike the ground, which would symbolize attacking Syria. He struck the ground three times, and stopped; which only represented partial victory over Syria. Five or six times would have represented total victory. Elisha became angry over Joash’s action, which seems to indicate that Joash understood what was being symbolized, but deliberately chose not to comply with God’s plans. This incident can easily confuse us; but in Eastern lands instruction by means of symbolic actions was common. For example Samuel used symbolism when dealing with Saul. We read, “And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.”
The message here is that the LORD has rejected Saul from being king over Israel. God’s patience had ended with this man who had hardened his heart in disobedience. The accidental tearing of Samuel’s jacket provides a parting image of God’s tearing away the kingdom from Israel. King Joash seemed unwilling to take any risks, and for that reason, Elisha was symbolically urging him and his nation to victory.
The prophet was dying, but the fight would still go on. Through the symbolic actions seen in this story, Elisha was spurring on Joash to execute a specific task. In effect, this was a call to do two things:
First, he was to carry out Public Warfare. The cities, which Syria had taken from Israel, needed to be recovered. The Bible is a wonderful history book. It’s there, where we find that Joash recaptured the cities from Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria. In fact, Joash was very successful in his warfare against Ben-Hadad, since he defeated him and recaptured the cities of Israel three times. King Joash had to act decisively in order to defeat Ben-Hadad. But it was Elisha who stirred up the sluggish, young king with enthusiasm to fight the enemy. He told him, “Be up and doing; smite the enemies of your country!” That’s the Lord’s call to every Christian. Too many of us have been on the defensive too long. God calls us to the offense, to attack the fortified places of error and sin in our society and to be practical witnesses for Him. Is there any way in which your example is seen as God’s offensive weapon against sin and evil in our society? Does your light dispel the darkness?