We have noticed many unusual scenes that surrounded the life of Elisha. We have seen miracles about healing waters, healing stew, a floating ax head, cooking oil that does not run out, healing leprosy, and raising son’s from the dead. Elisha’s life, ministry, and miracles have all been about God showing who he is and what he is trying to offer to his people. He offering to his people to heal them, restore them, bless them, cleanse them, and erase their debts. But this final picture from Elisha is the most amazing miracle yet. In this series we have been looking at the faith God wants us to have as seen through the life and actions of Elisha. But the power of God that we will see in this text is accessible to us. So let’s turn our attention to 2 Kings 13 to see the ending for Elisha and the power of God toward us.
In 2 Kings 13 we are now at the end of Elisha’s life. The focus of the narrative has returned to the northern nation, Israel. Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, is on the throne for Israel. Remember that Jehu took the throne after wiping out the house of Ahab, as God told him to do. However, Jehoahaz did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and followed in the sins of Jeroboam with the false calf worship. This kindles the Lord’s anger and he uses Hazael, the king of Syria, to constantly attack Israel because of their sins. We were told how bad these raids would be back in 2 Kings 8:12. Elisha prophesied that what Hazael the king of Syria would do was set Israel’s fortresses on fire, kill their young men with the sword, dash to pieces the babies, and rip open their pregnant women.
But notice that these attacks against Israel have their intended effect. In verse 4 Jehoahaz decided to seek the favor of the Lord. The king asks for the Lord’s favor and notice that the Lord listened to him. Notice that the Lord listened because he saw the oppression of Israel and how severely his people were oppressed. This wording reminds us of the exodus when God saw the oppression of his people in Egypt and sent Moses as a deliverer. This wording reminds us also of the days of the judges when God’s people would be oppressed by nations for their sins, cry out to God, and God would listen to their cry and send a deliverer. In the same way, the Lord listens to the pleading of the king, he sees his people’s oppression, and gave Israel a savior so that the people escaped from the power of Syria.
Please see this picture of our merciful God. Even if God is obliterating your life because of your sins, seek the favor of the Lord. Do not quit on God. Do not determine that you are too sinful. Turn to the Lord and cry out for help. The Lord listened to this wicked king because God has compassion for his people. How often is God trying to show us how that he will have compassion if you will turn to him! God will send a savior for those who will call out to him. God will send a savior for those who will seek the favor of the Lord.
Unfortunately, like the days of the judges, God sends a savior and gives the people a reprieve but it does not change the people’s hearts. You will notice in verse 6 that they did not depart from their sins even though God had given them rescue. How sad it is that we are crushed, cry out to God, God sends help, but we do not then turn to God and praise him! God provides deliverance only for us to continue in our sins. God listening to us and answering our cry is not a license for us to continue living the way we were. Rather, God listening and helping means we are supposed to turn from our sins. God’s help does not mean that we carry on with our lives. God’s help means we change our lives. God’s compassion and sending a savior is supposed to soften our hearts to repentance. This is why God sent his Son for us.
For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6–8 CSB)
Notice how it is the same picture. We are helpless but God wants to show his love and compassion. So he sends his Son as the savior for the world. This is to push us to love the Lord and turn our hearts in repentance. But what God does for Israel by rescuing them does not affect the people. Not only does it not affect the people of Israel during the reign of Jehoahaz, but it does not affect his son when he takes the throne. Jehoash also did evil in the Lord’s sight (13:11). God’s salvation did not move the people like it was supposed to.
During Jehoash’s reign, we are told in verse 14 that Elisha is sick and is about to die. It is a very sudden declaration. Elisha’s work is about to end. But notice that there is no passing of the torch this time. We saw earlier that the Lord sent Elijah to teach the people. When Elijah’s time was complete, Elisha continued the work in Israel. But the work of Elijah and Elisha in Israel is the complete effort. Elisha will be the final miracle worker. Based on the reign of the kings that are given we learn that Elisha’s ministry has lasted about 50 years. Elisha was first called back in 1 Kings 19. Jehoash hears that Elisha is ill and goes to him. You will notice his words mirror what Elisha said to Elijah when Elijah was about to be taken up by the Lord. It seems the king is concerned that without Elisha, the man of God, Israel will be left defenseless. Who is going to care and provide for Israel once Elisha has left?
So Elisha instructs the king to take a bow and arrows. Then Elisha tells the king to open the window eastward, draw the bow, and shoot. It is important to listen to what Elisha says about this action in verse 17. The arrow represents the Lord’s arrow of victory. It is the arrow of victory over Syria. You will fight the Syrians in Aphek and make an end of them at that battle. So now the king understands what the arrows represent. Elisha tells the king to take the arrow and strike them on the ground. So the king strikes the arrows on the ground three times (13:18). But Elisha is angry with the king for only doing it three times because this represented only strike Syria three times.
Elisha is upset that the king did not do more with the symbol. If the arrows represents the victory of the Lord, then hit the ground until you cannot stop. Elisha had hoped for a response like Peter. Remember when Jesus was washing the disciples’ feet and Peter says that there is no way that he would ever allow his Lord to wash his feet. But Jesus tells Peter that if he does not wash his feet then you do not have a share with him. So what is Peter’s response? If that is what the washing symbolizes, then do not just wash my feet but also my head and my hands! (cf. John 13:9). But the king does not have this kind of response. Three victories are enough. It is a half-hearted concern and a half-hearted faith. Donald Wiseman made the point very well, “The extent of victory is limited by man’s failure to persevere.” Yet again in the books of 1 & 2 Kings we are seeing that God’s blessings and victory are limited by the faithlessness of his people.
Great Power (13:20-25)
We are told in verse 20 that Elisha died and he was buried. This seems to be the end of Israel’s hope. There is not another man of God. The torch was not passed. There seems to be no future hope for the wicked nation. But we are told something very strange in the next paragraph. Another man had died and was going to be buried. However, as this dead man was about to be buried, a band of Moabites raided in their haste to survive, they simply threw this man’s body in Elisha’s grave. Look at verse 21. “As soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” It is unbelievable scene describing the resurrection power that still remained for God’s people. There is still hope of life for the dead nation. Victory over death and restoration of life still remained. In verse 23 we see this as God is still having compassion and turning toward his people because of his covenant that he made with Abraham. Even out of death can come great life. Even when it seems like hope is gone, it is not gone at all. God’s people can still be revived and still have life. This message was seen in the days of Jesus. Listen to what the Gospel of Matthew says about what happened when Jesus died.
And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:50–53 ESV)
Did you see what happened? When Jesus died, the earth shook and tombs were opened. Three days later when Jesus rose from the dead, look at what else happened. The bodies of the holy people of God who had fallen asleep were raised from the dead, came out of those opened tombs, went into Jerusalem, and appeared to many people. Why did that happen? What was God declaring? Jesus going from death to life is you going from death to life.
Those who come in contact with the man of God will experience resurrection and restoration of life. Those who are God’s people will experience new life. Listen to what the apostle Paul proclaimed.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11 ESV)
God raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. (1 Corinthians 6:14 CSB)
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. (2 Corinthians 4:13–14 ESV)
Resurrection power was shown to a random, unnamed, unknown Israelite whose bones came in contact with the body of Elisha. Anyone who turns to seek the favor of the Lord and does not have a half-hearted faith is going to enjoy the resurrected life. God’s final message through his servant, Elisha, to Israel and to the world was the God would bring the dead to life. God can restore our sinful souls so that we can live with him for eternity. God will not let death have the final say but he will keep his covenant to Abraham, bless the nations, and give the life that we need. The arrows of God’s victory are in your hands. Will you strike the ground a couple times and enjoy limited benefits? Or will you strike the ground again and again and again, looking for all that God has to offer you including resurrection in the final day?