Israel: A Nation in Distress
In 2 Kings, the bible shows us that the nation of Israel is in a state of turmoil. At this time, Israel was in and out of wars with another nation known as the kingdom of Aram. The main issue for Israel at this time was that they were losing most of their battles against the Arameans. Eventually, they came to a time of rest and the war seemed to have subsided. However, a few problems remained: their government was weakened, their military was depleted, and the king of Israel was grieved for the nation’s state.
In desperation, the king of Israel seeks guidance from the prophet Elisha for his nation just as we are led to go to the Holy Spirit for help. The king and the prophet Elisha have a moment in 2 Kings 13:15-19.
“Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands. Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.” Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him.
“You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”
Elisha responds by giving him two important instructions:
1. Fire an arrow outside the eastern window.
2. Pick up the other arrows and strike the ground.
The First Instruction: A Declaration of War
Let’s look at the first instruction. The king is commanded to shoot the arrow outside the eastern window. When you shot an arrow at another nation during this time, it symbolized that you were declaring war against that country. Culturally, this meant one nation had plans to invade another country.
Elisha, despite Israel’s military state, commanded the king to initiate war against the Arameans. He wanted the king (in his nation’s lowest moment) to pick a fight with them. Not only did he tell him to initiate an act of war, he told him that Aphek would be the place where he would conquer them. Aphek served as the capital for the Arameans. It was also the place where Israel lost battles they previously fought with them. This was a place that was known to the Israelites as a place of suffering, defeat, and loss. Elisha was telling the king that he would win in the same place Israel had been overtaken.
Elisha was declaring that Israel would have total victory over the Arameans in the name of the Lord. However, though that was God’s original intention for Israel, something significant happens in the second instruction. The king deals lightly with Elisha’s instructions and with God’s promise for Israel.
The Second Instruction: Strike the Ground
In the second instruction, the king is commanded to pick up the remaining arrows and strike them against the ground. The king begins to strike the ground three times and before we know it the prophet Elisha was scolding the king for what he did!
What happened here? The king did exactly what he was instructed to do. He took the arrows and began to strike the ground. However, the arrows represented God’s promise of victory for Israel over Aram. When the king took up the arrows, this was a representation of him grabbing hold of the promises of God and bringing them down to the earth as he struck the ground.
The king did as he was told, but he approached these promises half-heartedly. He struck the ground only three times, so he would only win three victories. The truth is that God wants a partnership with us. He wants to do things WITH us. The king settled for less victory than was available to him because of how he approached the promises of God. He settled for partial victory and his complete victory was put on pause.
God desires that we wouldn’t just receive partial victory! He wants us to have total victory.
How do we gain total victory with God?
We must lay hold of His promises and wholeheartedly strike them against the ground. We must partner with God in bringing what He said to the earth. We won’t get free from sin by playing defensively. We won’t gain total victory over our temptations and faults by seeking only relief from them. We have to chase them down and fully conquer them.
Psalms 18:37 says “I chased my enemies and caught them; I did not stop until they were conquered.” If God has promised freedom for those who put their trust in Him, we must grab ahold of that promise and bring it to the earth with everything we’ve got.
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