I guess the time comes when God has had enough. Over and over the kings’ rise and fall and none of them worship God alone. As God looks down on his people he sees them doing the most detestable acts. Worshiping other gods and sacrificing their own children to these false idols!
I see a connection to our culture today. I believe that we are not far off from these kings and these people. We worship many other gods and sacrifice our children to them. We want money and neglect our children to get it. We want leisure and sacrifice our children by disengaging and ignoring them. We want ease and don’t parent our children as a result. The worst is that some will actually kill their children through abortion to keep from having to be inconvenienced by their very existence!
Good news and bad news. The good news is that some of the kings did some good. The refurbished the temple, made repairs, offered sacrifices to God and still called upon Elisha for guidance. The bad news is that they never fully removed the pagan shrines from their culture and society. Even though they knew that God was the only true God, they worshiped other gods anyway.
I find this to be true in my life. I clean stuff up and make changes only to keep little shrines to other gods. Like the god of greed or lust or anger. Just like the kings, I would do much better to fully clean house instead of hanging on to the lesser idols.
2 Kings is one of the more gory books of the bible. The descriptions of death and what happens are powerful visuals that make you cringe when you hear them. What is the purpose of telling us about the blood spatter of jezebel, that it hit the wall and the horses? Or the point of telling us that only her skull, hands and feet remained after the dogs had their way with her? The details are gruesome are PG 13 at best!
This raises a good question, is everything in the Bible appropriate for children to read? I find it interesting that parents who are very careful to not allow their children view violence in TV, movies or video games do not feel the same way about the Bible. What do you think?
There are a couple of passages that disturb me in our reading today. The first one is Naaman right after he is healed. He asks to be pardoned from the sin of bowing before the god of Rimmon when his king goes to the temple. I don’t know why God heals this man or why he does anything for the people of Aram when they worship other gods. It seems like people get struck dead for such things in other situations, but it seems like Naaman gets his pardon.
The other passage is the one about the severity of the famine as a result of the siege. It is so bad that two mothers decide that they are going to eat their children. The shocking thing is that the dispute is that mother #2 didn’t follow through after they ate child #1. Mother #1 is complaining to the king that Mother #2 should offer her son for supper as they agreed. I don’t even know what to say on this one…
I have always found it interesting that Elijah gets such a better billing than Elisha. Many Jewish Rabbis believed that Elijah was still alive and that’s why they set a place for him at the Passover meal. Since he didn’t die, it was assumed that he would return at some point. But scripturally, there is little information about Elijah. Even when John the Baptist came on the scene, the people thought he was Elijah.
I love the stories of Elisha though. He does some really cool stuff. The story of the bears mauling the boys because they were calling him baldy is one of my favorites. Back in August of 2003, I had the opportunity to teach on this passage. I have inserted a few of the points below if you have been wondering what was happening during this event.
1.Who is Elisha?
It is interesting to find that Elijah was only in his twenties, hardly old enough to be bald.
2.What are the ages of these boys?
It is interesting to see that they were not boys but young men, as the Hebrew work is translated in other places, and would be better understood as a gang…the same type we fear today. Looking at different translations will help you see this.
3.Is there any significance to their mocking?
Most translations say “Go up” because they are telling him to blast off like Elijah just did. Elisha most likely shaved his head in response to Elijah being taken. He had torn his clothes and the bible gives us many examples of head shaving as a normal response to this type of situation. The young men are teasing him about the loss of Elijah. The repetition in the passage shows how powerful this mocking was.
4.Why did Elisha turn around and look at them?
This is like a second chance; the Bible shows many of the second looks to confirm bad decisions, like when Jesus looked at Peter when Peter denied him three times.
5.Why did he curse them?
You see this all through Scripture, when someone mocks God, His word or even his messenger, God passes judgment on them.
6.What is the significance of the bears mauling the boys?
It shows how serious this offence is but it is also seen as a warning because later the whole place is destroyed. If only they would have listened.
In chapter 22, we get a cool glimpse into a heavenly discussion through the vision of Micaiah. Did you ever imagine God coming up with ideas for interacting with humanity through brainstorming with spirits? There are no other examples like this in scripture so it’s hard to make any firm conclusions but I do find this extremely interesting. Texts like this create more questions than answers for me.
Elijah rocks! I seriously love this guy. He comes on the scene with no introduction. Even though he is never mentioned to us prior to these chapters, everyone knows about him. Ahab has even been looking for him. He has great faith and is willing to place that faith in God as he did with the flour and oil and with the prophets of Baal. If there was ever a super hero of the Bible, I would have to be Elijah. Many people miss the cool super human feats he can accomplish. The one in chapter 18 is awesome! As the rain starts to fall, God gives him “special” strength and he tucks his cloak (cape) into his belt and takes off running. Elijah runs faster than a chariot, passes Ahab and gets to Jezreel first. I picture him leaning against the gate asking Ahab, “What took you so long?”
I can still remember sitting in a small Sunday School class room at the EV Free church of Fresno, now called The Bridge (still EV Free). This was the church that shaped my knowledge of the Scriptures and my understanding of what it meant to be a follower of Christ. Pastor Rick Yohn preached every Sunday and I have great memories of EV Free. In that small classroom, I remember 1 Kings 17 being taught. I could picture that jar of flower and oil as if I was really there. Years later, during a period of time when I had walked away from God, like all these kings did, I was in need. I remembered this story and it prompted me to search the Bible to find it, as I could not remember the reference.
I had a blast last Christmas when I got to teach on this passage in our Christmas series on 12/7/08. I hope you enjoyed this passage as much as I did those many years ago.
There are so many stories in the Bible that are unbelievably strange. This is unquestionably one of them. No names are given but we have two prophets. The old one, that we would assume is wiser, ends up being the one to deceive the other prophet with a lie. He claims God said something to him that God never said. The result is shocking…the old deceiving prophet lives and the other man, who seems less at fault, is killed by a lion. Wow!
I have been on the receiving end of spiritual manipulation. I can remember a man telling my wife that an illness she had was not being healed because God told him she had a lack of faith! He also told me I was not where God needed me to be…he ended up being dead wrong.
I am always leery when people tell me what God is telling them, especially when it goes against God’s word to me. I hear God through Scripture, not in dreams or burning bushes. If you have a message for me from God, it had better line up with his written word or else I won’t come eat at your home!
How ridiculous is this! Solomon has a hard time staying away from the women because he loves them so much. He decides it’s a good idea to marry many (700) foreign wives. As a result, these women are not worshipers of God but of other gods. They pressure Solomon to build altars for these gods so they can continue their pagan worship. Not only does wise Solomon build them, but his heart is turned to worship them as well. Now I may not be as wise as Solomon. I may not have been able to figure out the “cut the baby in half” thing, but I am wise enough to know that Solomon is a dope for doing this. Oh how quickly we lose our devotion and commitment to God.
This blog was originally written by Pastor Doug Bartel of Hillcrest Church, starting in Spring 2009. Keep that in mind if you read anything that doesn't quite add up to the time of year.