*Good morning! Yes, you read the title correctly. I could have probably come up with fifteen other titles, but I just had to use that one. Let's get right into today's study.
"From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. 'Go on up, you baldhead!' they said. 'Go on up, you baldhead!' He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths." (II Kings 2:23-24)
First of all Bethel sits near the southern border of the Northern Kingdom. Therefore, it is near Jerusalem (capital of the Southern Kingdom). Bethel had long been associated with the worship of the Lord. The name means "house of God." Were the youths trying to prevent the prophet from going to Bethel, or were they just making fun of his appearance? And why did I begin with this verse?
I believe the young lads were simply making fun of his appearance. My real question is: Did Elisha abuse his power? I've been teased a time or two because of my appearance, but I have never called down a curse on the one doing the teasing. No, I just tease them back. I think in order to understand what is going on, we need to backtrack a little and learn more about the prophet Elisha.
If you recall Elisha was chosen to succeed Elijah. We first read about Elisha in I Kings 19:19-21. It is there that Elijah "threw his cloak around him." (verse 19) *This cloak becomes very symbolic. Now, when Elijah wraps his cloak around Elisha (symbolizing prophetic power/calling) Elisha said "Let me kiss my mother and father good-bye, and then I will come with you." (verse 20) This statement indicates that Elisha did not leave everything immediately to follow the prophet. We will discover that when Jesus called the disciples they left everything and "immediately followed Jesus." Elisha goes back home. However, when he does go home "he took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate." (verse 21) Elisha cuts off all connection with home. Once he leaves he will have nothing to go back to. He is all in.
Elisha is with Elijah by the time we get to II Kings, chapter two. It is in this chapter that we get the amazing story of God taking Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah tells Elisha to stay put while he goes on his journey, but Elisha refuses. First, Elijah is going to Bethel. Elisha follows him there against Elijah's wishes. Then he goes to Jericho, and Elisha again follows. Elijah and Elisha are not the only cast of characters in this story. There is a "company of the prophets" who are seemingly eager to rain on Elisha's parade. They are constantly reminding Elisha that "the Lord is going to take your master from you today." Elisha refuses to entertain them. The last scene takes place at the Jordan. Now, this is interesting. We are told that as the two prophets walked on toward the river "fifty men of the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance." (II Kings 2:7) These fellows had been trying to bring Elisha down the entire time. Now, they stand at a distance and watch while Elisha follows Elijah all the way.
"Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground. When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, 'Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?' Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,' Elisha replied. (II Kings 2:7b-9)
If you recall, the story of Elijah's ministry was very much occupied with religious and political confrontations. Yes, there were miracles, but they were not the emphasis. Elisha is asking to be able to do more in way of miracles. Now, remember back to the time when Elijah first put his mantle/cloak around Elisha. Elisha shrugged it off and ran home. Here, he will have a second chance.
"As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. And Elisha saw him no more. He picked up the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan." (II Kings 2:11-13)
Well, Elisha, you asked for it, now here's your chance. How badly do you want that double portion anointing? Yes, he was given a double portion, but first, he had to take up the mantle/cloak. Years ago, I had been working at a job for many years. I knew everything there was to know about my job. *I could go back today and pick up where I left off. But, one day I promised my wife that I was going to try to get a job that paid more and had benefits. I applied at a place that I knew was hiring and paid well and had great benefits. But, I knew nothing about the job. I still remember my wife calling me at work (the job I worked at for so long) and saying, "Well, you said you would get a better job. Here's your chance. They have called to schedule you an interview. What should I tell them when they call back?" Sometimes doors open all around us, but it's not always easy to walk through them. Elisha picks up the mantle. He picks it up at the Jordan. The Jordan is where many things happen for the first time: Like Jesus beginning his ministry there.
Elisha is now the prophet. Elisha performs twice the amount of miracles of Elijah. His story is much more about miracles than Elijah's. Oh, back to those pesky lads. I'm sure that Elisha had on his mind at the time they were hounding him about his bald head, the time Elijah called fire down from heaven to consume over fifty men. (II Kings 1) I really believe that Elisha calls the curse down simply because he can. This proves that his ministry is more concerned with his ability to perform miracles.
As we prepare to continue through the Old Testament (eventually making our way to the New Testament) keep in mind that the prophets are at work at the same time as the kings. Many kings come and go, both in Israel and Judah. (Remember Israel is divided) I won't cover every chapter, but will hit many important points, (and probably a few unimportant ones) Join me again tomorrow for another look into the scriptures. -Pastor Rick