Summary: Elisha was on his deathbed and Joash was in tears. In this fleeting moment, the prophet offers the King a gift - an inheritance of great value. What did Elisha offer, and what difference can that make to us?
OPEN: Tomorrow is Memorial Day and it’s a very special day. It’s a day to remember our military - those who’ve died in war. It was originally called “Decoration Day” and it was started shortly after the end of the Civil War, but no one seems to know when the tradition began. One of the earliest Memorial Day ceremonies was held by freed African Americans down in the South. It became a national holiday in 1971, and (ever since that year) on the last Monday in May people have decorated the graves of those who’ve died in war.
It’s called Memorial Day. A day to Memorialize - to remember - those who’ve fought and died for the United States over the years. It declares that their deaths and their sacrifice mean something to us. It declares that we take what they’ve done seriously and we don’t want to forget what they did for us.
In our text today, we read about a man who died, and who’s death is MEMORIALIZED by God so that we don’t forget what he did. His name was Elisha. And this chapter tells us a lot about what Elisha DID just before he died!
2 Kings 13:14 tells us “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!”
Now Joash (also known as Jehoash) reigned over the northern 10 tribes of Israel for 16 years, and 2 Kings 13:11 tells us “He also did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam…” So, he’s not a very nice guy. He was a man who did evil things. God wasn’t all that important to Joash, and yet Joash likes Elisha (the Prophet of God). And when he hears that Elisha is dying he rushes to his side and weeps over him. Joash may not have cared much about Elisha’s God… but he loved Elisha.
And so, here we have Elisha on his deathbed – and he offers a gift to Joash. He asks Joash to take a bow and some arrows and shoot an arrow out the East window. But before the arrow is shot, Elisha lays his hands on the king’s hands. And when the arrow strikes the ground Elisha declares: "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." II Kings 13:17
Now notice, Elisha put his hands on the King’s hands… it’s personal. This is MY hand on yours telling you this is what you will receive. This is my gift to you from God. And BTW Joash, when you get the victory over the Syrians at Aphek I want you to REMEMBER this day. MEMORIALIZE (if you will) this day.
(PAUSE) Now, remember … Joash is not a godly man (he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD). He’s not a church-going kind of fella. He goes to the parties, gets drunk, sleeps around - you name it, he’s probably done it. But he has a soft spot in his heart for his preacher … Elisha. And it looks like Elisha has sensed that he may only have this ONE opportunity to grab the King’s attention and turn him back to God. So Elisha goes BOLD!!!! And he does a little show and tell, and he asks Joash do something bizarre, something that he’ll remember. He asks him to shoot an arrow out the window.
Now, I played with this thought for awhile and it occurred to me that what Elisha was doing here was trying to leave Joash an inheritance. It’s like Elisha sees himself as a father-figure for the King, and he wants to leave the most valuable thing he can give to Joash… FAITH IN GOD.
ILLUS: When we think of an inheritance we think of someone giving their family money; property; jewelry; priceless paintings. The more valuable the estate, the more people seem to fight over it because they know the value of what they might receive.
ILLUS: Back in 1930, in Philadelphia, an 81 year old woman died (Henrietta Garrett) and she left an estate worth 17 million dollars (today, that would be worth about $240 million). But she died intestate - there was NO Will. She had only one known relative, a 2nd cousin, but once the estate became public knowledge, people came out of the woodwork to prove they were related. Now, you might ask: How many people tried to claim that inheritance? Over 26,000 people from 47 states and 29 countries, and they used more than 3,000 lawyers trying to get a piece of the pie. Why would they do that? Because it was a valuable inheritance.