Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen

 1-8-04


Title: Elisha’s Last Sermon

Text: Then (Elisha) said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. (2 Kings 13:16)

 

Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 13:14 –19
14 Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die. Then Joash the king of Israel came down to him, and wept over his face, and said, “O my father, my father, the chariots of Israel and their horsemen!”
15 And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and some arrows.” So he took himself a bow and some arrows.
16 Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.
17 And he said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.”
18 Then he said, “Take the arrows”; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground”; so he struck three times, and stopped.
19 And the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.”

 

Introduction:

What if our armed forces went into each battle afraid, or if they were undedicated to our country or to the task?

We’d lose the war.

Our military is taught complete commitment and courage; if they were not, they could never succeed.

In the same way, Christians must learn the lesson Elisha gave from his deathbed to a lazy young king.

Elisha was very sick.

He had faithfully served the Lord for forty-five to fifty-five years (through the reigns of four kings; Joram, Jehu, Jehoahaz, and Jehoash).

Since Elisha was near death, Jehoahaz paid him a final visit.

Although Jehoahaz had not been a follower of God, he still regretted losing the prophet of God, because he was his only point of contact with God in times of emergency.

As he lay on his deathbed, Elisha had Joash act out his final prophecy.

He told him to open the east window, which faced the direction of Transjordan, where Syria had occupied land belonging to Israel.

He then told him to shoot an arrow out the window.

The arrow symbolized God’s deliverance of Israel from Syria.

The prophesy was fulfilled when the Syrians were defeated at Aphek.

Elisha directed the king to strike the ground, which would symbolize attacking Syria.

He struck the ground three times, and stopped; which only represented partial victory over Syria. 

Five or six times would have represented total victory.

Elisha became angry over Joash’s action, which seems to indicate that Joash understood what was being symbolized, but deliberately chose not to comply with God’s plans.

This incident can easily confuse us; but in Eastern lands instruction by means of symbolic actions was common.

For example Samuel used symbolism when dealing with Saul.

We read, “And as Samuel turned around to go away, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore.  So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you.” 

The message here is that the LORD has rejected Saul from being king over Israel.

God’s patience had ended with this man who had hardened his heart in disobedience.

The accidental tearing of Samuel’s jacket provides a parting image of God’s tearing away the kingdom from Israel.

King Joash seemed unwilling to take any risks, and for that reason, Elisha was symbolically urging him and his nation to victory.

The prophet was dying, but the fight would still go on.

Through the symbolic actions seen in this story, Elisha was spurring on Joash to execute a specific task.

In effect, this was a call to do two things:

First, he was to carry out Public Warfare.

The cities, which Syria had taken from Israel, needed to be recovered.

The Bible is a wonderful history book.

It’s there, where we find that Jehoash recaptured the cities from Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria. 

In fact, Joash was very successful in his warfare against Ben-Hadad, since he defeated him and recaptured the cities of Israel three times.

King Joash had to act decisively in order to defeat Ben-Hadad.

But it was Elisha who stirred up the sluggish, young king with enthusiasm to fight the enemy.

He told him, “Be up and doing; smite the enemies of your country!”

That’s the Lord’s call to every Christian.

Too many of us have been on the defensive too long.

God calls us to the offense, to attack the fortified places of error and sin in our society and to be practical witnesses for Him.

Is there any way in which your example is seen as God’s offensive weapon against sin and evil in our society?

Does your light dispel the darkness?

The second thing that we have in the story is a call to Personal Warfare. 

The apostle Paul frequently likened the Christian life to a personal battle.

In Romans we read, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Romans 7:23)

Paul has come to the conclusion that as long as the believer is alive there will be a constant warfare between the old sinful nature and the new nature that God has given him.

Unfortunately, when the believer attempts to win that battle by himself, he is always defeated.

But, Paul gave us the formula for victory over sin when he said, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). 

FRIENDS, WE ARE INVOLVED IN SPIRITUAL WARFARE, SO WE MUST PUT ON THE ARMOR OF GOD.

When a man or woman becomes a child of God, he or she not only inherits God’s blessings, but God’s enemies as well.

The Lord’s foremost enemy is Satan, and his purpose is to destroy God’s work, but Jesus came in order to “destroy the works of the devil.”

Remember, Satan is a fallen angel and as such, he is only a created being.

He is in no way equal to God, who created all things, even Satan.

Even though Satan is superior in intellect and strength to mankind, he is inferior to God in every way.

As believers, we have the power of the indwelling, resurrected Christ protecting us from the devil and all his helpers.

In addition, believers have been given the whole armor of God “to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Each piece of the armor is to be “put on” to help believers overcome the temptations and attacks of the Evil One.

Listen to what the Bible says this armor consists of (In the interest of time, I won’t read the scriptures, but just tell you what it says):
 
1) Having Girded Your Waist With Truth:

The waist or abdomen area was generally thought to be the seat of emotions.

To gird this area with truth is to commit your emotions to believe the truth.

Often, a person knowingly allows himself to believe a lie because of fear or self-pity.

However, believers must hold a commitment to truth regardless of the repercussions.

2) Having Put On the Breastplate of Righteousness:

The breast is generally thought of as the place of the soul.

The heart must be kept pure and righteous because sin gives a foothold to the enemy.

However, confession and forgiveness on the basis of the blood of Christ, cleanses the heart.

3) Having Shod Your Feet With the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace:

Proper shoes enable the feet to go from place to place.

The believer must go from place to place, because he and she are to be about the Father’s business, which is to spread the gospel of peace and reconciliation.

4) Taking the Shield of Faith:

The Wicked One is “the accuser of our brethren” and he will send his fiery darts to instill doubt, fear, and guilt.

But, faith acts as an invisible shield that deflects these false accusations.

5) Take the Helmet of Salvation:

A helmet protects the head, that is, the brain and thoughts.

Assurance of salvation is a mighty defense against doubt and insecurity and the kinds of actions caused by them.

6) Take the Sword of the Spirit:

The Word of God is the only offensive weapon that we have.

It was used by the Lord Jesus against Satan, when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness.

The living Word is powerful, effective, and sharper that a two-edged sword.

7) Praying Always:

Prayer opens the channels between us and God.

In the midst of battle, we as believers must keep in constant communication with our Leader for directions and encouragement.

Our prayers for one another are important and effective.

It says in 2 Corinthians, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3). 

What Paul is saying here is, “We walk in the flesh, that is, we are just human beings, but we do not war after the flesh.” 

How are you doing personally as you wage war with that powerful inward foe, your own flesh?

Are you a person who gossips?

Are you refusing to forgive someone who has wronged you?

We are given the Holy Spirit so that we can daily overcome these things. 

When Paul wrote to the Galatians he said, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). 

To “walk in the Spirit” means to have the habit of continually walking by the power and under the divine direction of the Holy Spirit.

This is the only way to be delivered from selfish lusts.

Friends, you will never gratify the sinful desires that flow from the old nature; it’s impossible.

When God saved us, He did not do away with the old nature, neither did He reform the old life; instead, He gave us an absolutely new life.

The old nature is “not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” according to Romans.

The Christian can conquer the selfish life style and have continual victory by walking by the Holy Spirit.

In verse 16, the trembling hands of the king are touched by the rugged hands of the prophet.

We read, “Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands.”

Just as the touch of Elisha was on King Joash, so is the Lord’s touch on us as we go forth to fight His battles.

Joash experienced an alliance with the supernatural.

Do you remember that old song, “He touched me! Oh, he touched me!”

Jesus often touched people during His ministry, and His touch on our lives brings us His power as we go onward as Christian soldiers.

Is the touch of Christ on your life?

Offer yourself to Him.

Make Him your Lord, and visualize His hands clasping around your own, just as Elisha’s old, rugged hands fell in blessing over those of the young king, signifying God’s presence with Him.

What an encouragement it was for Joash to know that the Lord of Hosts would accompany him to the field of battle.

Imagine how the disciples felt when the Savior placed before them the responsibility of world evangelization.

Not only did Christ instruct them, but He encouraged them. 

He said, “I am with you always ...” (Matt.28:20).

Do you need to be reminded of that?

God is with you in days of blessing and barrenness, of storm and sunshine, of progress and opposition.

The Lord closed His time on earth with the disciples, with the one promise that makes all His teaching effective—the promise of His presence.

Jesus Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews13:5).

The true believer shall have the gracious presence of God with him in life, at death, and forever.

During the Civil War, a delegation came to see Abraham Lincoln.

In their conversation, they expressed the hope that the Lord was on their side.

The President replied, “That is not the thing that I am most concerned about.”

The men were astonished; what could be of greater importance than the question of whether God was on their side?

They waited for an explanation.

“What I am most anxious about,” said Lincoln, “is whether we are on the Lord’s side.”

Just like the prophet’s hand closed over the king’s hand, so would the might of the Lord, through Israel’s king, defeat the forces of Syria.

When His hand is upon us, is there anything that is impossible?

I think often of the verse that says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

I believe that through Christ you can be what you ought to be, do what you ought to do, and have what you ought to have, all to the glory of God. 

In this verse, Paul is saying, “In all things I continue to be strong because of the power Jesus infuses into me.” 

Paul has this strength as long as Christ keeps pouring the power into him.

A living Christ on the inside of you is more than sufficient to endure the circumstances on the outside.

What Christ wants Paul to do, Christ enables Paul to do.

Where the finger of God points, the hand of God provides the way.

In the story, God’s Purpose is realized through Israel’s king.

God’s purpose for Israel was victory over Syria.
 
Elisha said, “Open the east window”; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot”; and he shot. And he said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria; for you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.” (v.17).

The east window faced the direction of Transjordan, where Syria had occupied land belonging to Israel.

The arrow symbolized God’s deliverance from Syria.

The Syrians were to be consumed at Aphek by the army of Israel.  

Israel was on the winning side, because they were on God’s side.

And if we are engaged in the Lord’s work, we’re on the winning side, too.

Jesus said to Peter, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew.16:18).

Why is it that we fail so often, when the power that’s available to us is so unlimited? 

Jesus’ point is that death itself cannot destroy the church or keep it from going forward.

Jesus promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

By church He meant all believers, regardless of denomination.

Some have explained this verse as asserting the inability of hell to overpower the church and they see the church as being on the defensive against Satan.

However, the phrase “shall not prevail” may be understood as meaning, “shall not stand against.”

The idea expressed, would then picture the church as being on the attack against the gates of hell.

It is the church which is on the attack here and hell is on the defensive.

Elisha commanded Joash to shoot his arrows into the ground, but Joash meekly fired three arrows into the dusty earth around the prophet’s bed.

Why didn’t he get excited and shoot six or seven arrows?

This was a mock battle that predicted the outcome of the real thing.

Did he feel silly?

Did he misunderstand?

Joash simply didn’t believe there could be any connection between firing arrows in private and later seeing total victory in public.

Are we not guilty of the same thing?

We often limp in our prayer lives; we struggle to believe that a few words launched from our bedside can achieve anything in the real world.

After two or three attempts, we give up.

Conclusion:

We need to be wholehearted, and boldly believe that through us, God will ultimately win the battle against sin in our lives and our world.

Are you willing to follow the Lord faithfully, wholeheartedly, and courageously?

Remember, it is because His hand is on the bow that victory is a sure thing, in the end! 

Victory is ours, because Jesus won the victory over sin and death at Calvary.

Jesus won the victory, and then He turned around and gave the prize to us. 

The prize is eternal life, and John 3:16 tells how we get it.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Amen.

 

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