In my last post, we continued our exploration of the life of Elisha. In this last post of this series, we pick up the story in 2 Kings 13:14-21 to learn of Elisha’s Death.
“14 Elisha was now ill with the disease from which he would eventually die. Yo’ash, the king of Isra’el, came down to visit him and wept over him; he said, ‘My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Isra’el!’ 15 Elisha said to him, ‘Bring a bow and arrows’; and he brought him a bow and arrows. 16 He said to the king of Isra’el, ‘Put your hand on the bow’; and he put his hand on it. Then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands 17 and said, ‘Open the east window.’ He opened it. Elisha said, ‘Shoot’; and he shot. He said, ‘Adonai’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory against Aram! You will defeat Aram completely at Afek!’ 18 He said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and he took them. He told the king of Isra’el, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck three times, then stopped. 19 The man of God became angry with him; he said, ‘You should have struck five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram completely. As it is, you will defeat Aram only three times.’
20 Elisha died, and they placed him in a burial cave. Now the raiding parties of Mo’av used to make yearly incursions into the land at the start of the year. 21 Once it happened that just as they were burying a man, they spotted a raiding party; so, they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s burial cave; and the moment the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.” ~ 2 Kings 13:14-21 (CJB)
We haven’t heard from or about Elisha since 2 Kings 9:1 when he sent one of the guild prophets to anoint Yehu to be king of Israel. This means over forty years of silence as far as the record is concerned, yet Elisha was at work in the land, and the Lord was with him. Now he was an old man and about to die, and the king of Israel went to see him. Let’s at least give Yo’ash credit for visiting the prophet and seeking his help. Only Elisha knew God’s plan, and the king was wise enough to visit him.
It is a shame that spiritual leaders aren’t appreciated during their lifetime but are greatly lauded after they die. The P’rushim were better at building tombs for the dead than they were at showing thanks to the living (Matthew 23:29-32). Faithful servants of God never “retire” even though they may leave their lifelong vocation and step back from public ministry. Even from his deathbed, Elisha was serving the Lord and his people. As long as God gives us strength and sanity, we should serve Him the best we can in whatever ways He opens for us. As I have said before, the concept of retirement is not in the Scriptures which is why I continue to serve in the church we attend and write my blog posts.
Elisha knew that Yo’ash was in trouble because of the Aramian’s and graciously used his failing strength to help the king. Yes, Yo’ash was a compromising king who disobeyed God, but Adonai is God, merciful and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in grace and truth” ~ Exodus 34:6 (CJB). He had promised deliverance for His people, and He would keep His promise. However, Elisha gave Yo’ash God’s promise of victory but did it in a way that required the king to exercise intelligent faith.
King Yo’ash was not a man of faith, but he could follow directions. However, he lacked the spiritual discernment and insight that people have who live in the Word and walk by faith. When the prophet put his hands on the king’s hands, it symbolized a conveying of power from God. When Elisha commanded him to shoot an arrow toward the area where the Aramian’s were in control, it spoke of victory over the enemy. This much the king could have understood because Elisha gave him a clear promise of victory.
But when Elisha told him to take the remaining arrows and strike the ground with them, he didn’t have the spiritual understanding he needed to make the most of it. Had he been a faithful worshiper of the living God, he would have seen the truth; but he was blind like the dead idols he worshiped. Shooting one arrow guaranteed victory, but the number of times he smote the ground determined how many victories God would give him. Because Yo’ash had ignorant faith, he limited himself to only three victories over the Aramian’s. If he had known the Word, he would have struck the ground at least seven times, the number of completeness.
When Elisha died, the king may have wondered if his promises died with him. To encourage the king, the Lord graciously performed a miracle after Elisha died. The Jews didn’t embalm corpses as did the Egyptians. They merely washed the body and wrapped it in clean clothes along with spices. One day, when the arrival of Mo’avite raiders interrupted a committal service of a man recently deceased, the mourners quickly put the body into Elisha’s tomb and fled. But God used that occasion to give the man life! Surely this miracle was talked about among the people, and the king may have heard the account from the lips of the men who saw it. This miracle told him that, though the prophet was dead, Adonai was still the living God and the God of power. His promises would not fail.
The Prophet Eliyahu never died but was caught up into heaven, but the Prophet Elisha died and was buried. However, Elisha seems to have performed a miracle even after he was dead. God has different plans for each of His servants, and it’s not our business to compare one with the other or to question what He does.
After studying the lives of Eliyahu and Elisha, in my next post (or series), I want to look at this whole concept of what is a prophet and are prophets still on the scene today.
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