Some of the stories about Elisha the prophet have always confused me in the past:
- In 2 Kings 2 a group of small boys jeer at Elisha and as a result the prophet curses them and two bears attack them and kill them.
- In 2 Kings 6 the company of the prophets are cutting down trees to build a new meeting place. A borrowed ax head slips off and sinks into the water. Elisha cuts a stick, throws it in the water and causes the ax head to float.
What do these stories mean? They seem harsh or insignificant. What do they have to do with me and my life?
I think this last question is the crux of my problem. Most of us read the Bible wanting to find something immediately encouraging to ourselves. We want instant affirmation and relevant application. But the Bible is not meant to be read like this. To borrow from Jen Wilkin, the Bible is a book about God, not me.
So the story about the small boys being mauled by a bear? Yes, it is unsettling. But look at the context of the story. Elisha has just been anointed successor to Elijah. He is the prophet God has chosen. Throughout the books of Samuel and Kings, the lesson in regards to prophets is that you do not reject the prophets of the Lord. If you do, there will be serious consequences.
What about the story about the ax head? It’s weird, it doesn’t seem to relate to my life at all. But maybe it doesn’t have to. Perhaps this story has to do with God establishing Elisha as the true prophet, the true successor of Elijah who will be involved in the major events to come concerning the prophesied end of the house of Ahab in 2 Kings 8-10.
So read the Bible with an eye to seeing who God is and what he is doing. Throughout these chapters we see God being faithful to the words of his prophets. He is faithful to his word. Those who worship idols will not succeed. God’s word will be fulfilled.