Friday, September 6, 2019

Elisha, the Bears, and the Threat of Judgement

"He [Elisha] 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" (2 Kings 2:24).

The formation of the remnant was a call for Israel to repent. In order to make the point clear, God brought a severe judgment on the city of Bethel. Beth-El means “house of God,” and once the city had been a center of true worship. Jeroboam, however, had put one of his golden calves there, and now the city was a center of idolatry. Hiel of Bethel had defied God and rebuilt Jericho, losing his children in the process. Now the entire city of Bethel would lose some children.

Some translations say that “children” came out and jeered Elisha, saying, “Go up, baldy!” However, in the Hebrew it is clear that it was youths, not little children, who did this. It was a gang of teenagers, reflecting the attitudes of their parents, who mocked God’s prophet.

By saying “Go up,” they may have been mockingly encouraging Elisha to continue on his trek up to Samaria, the capital of Israel. They were ridiculing the prophet as he went to confront the king. Or perhaps by saying “Go up,” they were saying to Elisha, “Why don’t you follow Elijah up to heaven and leave us alone.” Either way, their contempt for God and His church was manifest.

Baldness was rare in Israel, and luxuriant hair was often regarded as a sign of power and blessing (compare 2 Samuel 14:26). By ridiculing Elisha’s baldness, these young people were calling him and his ministry impotent.

Under divine inspiration. Elisha cursed them, and then two bears came out of the woods and slew 42 of them. The flower of Bethel’s youth was cut down. This was a mighty judgment against the city and its idolatry. The sins of the father were visited on the children because the children followed in their fathers’ footsteps.

In every age the announcement of God’s kingdom is one of judgment. All men and women are called to choose. In Elisha’s time God was calling them to forsake idols and join the faithful remnant. It is no different today, and the cultural consequences of refusing to join with God’s people are the same now as they were then: the young people and the nation will be destroyed.

Just as in biblical days, children today continue to suffer and even die for the sins of their parents. Drugs and abortion most noticeably take lives. However, lack of parental authority also contributes to rebellion among young people with disastrous effects. In what way can you minister grace to a culture under judgment?