2 Kings 13

2 Kings 13
Pastor David Groendyk

We flip back to the northern kingdom of Israel again. Keep in mind from 2 Kings 10:30 that God had promised Jehu’s next four descendants would reign as kings. That’s no small promise given Israel’s history with assassinations and mutinies. Today’s chapter tells us about Jehu’s first two descendants—Jehoahaz and Jehoash. Both of these men are notable for two reasons: their moral wickedness (vv. 2, 11) and their military disappointments (vv. 7, 19). Both of these men also are snapshots of the spiritual state of Israel, and yet end up being vehicles through whom God proclaims his promises and grace.

Jehoahaz is really a pathetic and pitiable man. Imagine having on your gravestone: “Here lies a king whose army was turned to dust.” Well, pity is just what the Lord does, but it’s not exactly Jehoahaz whom the Lord pities. God sees his people being oppressed (and homeless?) and does something about it. It’s actually quite similar language to when God sees his people enslaved, beaten, and oppressed in Egypt in the book of Exodus. God intervenes on behalf of his people out of compassion, love, and pity to send them a (little ‘s’) savior. How does Israel respond to their salvation? By continuing to worship golden cows and other idols (v. 6). It’s the same old story that’s been plaguing Israel for years. God’s warm deliverance and grace is met by cold hearts.

Jehoash, likewise, seems to be rather unaffected by God’s promises. During his tenure as king, Jehoash has this interaction with Elisha while Elisha is on his deathbed. He begs for God’s help against Syria to last even after Elisha dies. Elisha grants the king’s request, albeit in strange fashion. He goes through this symbolism of shooting an arrow out the window, which represents God’s salvation from Syria (v. 17). Then, Elisha commands Jehoash to shoot a handful of arrows into the ground, which he begins to do (v. 18). However, Elisha gets angry at Jehoash for not shooting enough arrows into the ground, and so the salvation from Syria that Jehoash was seeking will be limited rather than total (v. 19). One might fault Elisha for not clearly communicating his expectations to the king, but that does not seem to be Scripture’s evaluation. The assumption seems to be that Jehoash should have known exactly what to do with how many arrows, but he lacked the enthusiasm, zeal, and faith for God’s promise. What a pathetic response to God’s offer of a blank check! Neither God’s pity nor his promises move his people.

The clock is ticking for Israel, and they’re stuck repeating their rebellious and stiff-necked history. The last few verses of this chapter offer three rapid-fire snapshots of who God is, what he’s like, and what he does. Ralph Davis says that these snapshots will be haunting for Israel, because they show how much help and grace they had before ultimately being destroyed by Assyria in 2 Kings 17. On the other hand, for true believers, these snapshots give us something to rejoice in and hold to. First, in verses 20–21, there is resurrection hope. It’s a mysterious story, but the meaning is clear. A dead man gets hastily thrown into Elisha’s grave, and as soon as his corpse lands on Elisha’s, this random dead man is resurrected to life. That’s what God’s power can do. Second, in verses 22–23, there is a gracious covenant. As long as God’s covenant is in place, you can count on his rock-solid commitment to you. Third, in verses 24–25, there is solid truth. Despite Jehoash’s lackluster response to Elisha earlier, exactly what God promised came true. Jehoash defeats Syria exactly three times.

So this is the last mention of Elisha in Kings. No more of God’s messengers appear to Israel and Judah like this to give Israel warning and light. Things are not going to go well, but that’s not because God hadn’t tried. With the last mention of Elisha, we’re reminded of exactly how much God has done to reach his people’s hearts. We can all join in praying that we would be soft-hearted and receptive toward God’s provisions for us.