When Elisha was in his last illness, King Jehoash of Israel visited him and wept over him. “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” he cried.
Elisha told him, “Get a bow and some arrows.” And the king did as he was told. Elisha told him, “Put your hand on the bow,” and Elisha laid his own hands on the king’s hands.
Then he commanded, “Open that eastern window,” and he opened it. Then he said, “Shoot!” So he shot an arrow. Elisha proclaimed, “This is the Lord’s arrow, an arrow of victory over Aram, for you will completely conquer the Arameans at Aphek.”
Then he said, “Now pick up the other arrows and strike them against the ground.” So the king picked them up and struck the ground three times. But the man of God was angry with him. “You should have struck the ground five or six times!” he exclaimed. “Then you would have beaten Aram until it was entirely destroyed. Now you will be victorious only three times.”
Then Elisha died and was buried.
2 Kings 13:14-20 (NLT-emphasis mine)
Today, the above passage of Scripture came to me while I was at work. I was praying for some personal issues to be worked out in my life. But as I was thinking on such issues, I realized that I was just asking God to perform some “minor miracles”. What I meant is where we ask God to help a infirm person feel better instead of total healing. Asking God to help us meet the month’s mortgage/car note/credit card payment instead of enabling us to pay them off altogether. It’s where we ask God to just get us through “another day’s journey” instead of totally transforming our lives.
In the above passage from 2 Kings, we see such a situation. King Jehoash (or Joash) was looking for Divine help against Israel’s enemy, Aram (in what’s modern-day Syria) from the dying prophet, Elisha. As you can read above, Elisha gave explicit instructions to the king on what to do-each act symbolic of God’s intervening on Israel’s behalf.
However, Elisha then told Jehoash to strike his arrows on the ground; and this is where it gets interesting. Jehoash struck the ground three times with the arrows-okay. However, Elisha got angry with the king, telling him that if he had struck the ground five or six times, Israel would have had total victory over Aram. However the three strikes symbolized that Israel would only defeat Aram three times.
When I first read that passage in the past, and heard my pastor preach about it, I was puzzled on why Elisha was so hard on Jehoash. The man did do what the prophet commanded him to do, so why the stink? Then as I pondered the story some more, I began to understand what was going on: God/Elisha wanted to see how serious Jehoash was about defeating Aram. It wasn’t up to God or Elisha to demonstrate that seriousness, it was all up to Jehoash (in fact, this post’s original title was, “How Bad Do You Want It?”). It was as if Jehoash-despite his desire for military victory-was a little half-hearted. Maybe he felt that three strikes were enough. Maybe he felt that he shouldn’t ask God for more than he thought worthy of. Or like in the aforementioned above scenarios, maybe Jehoash was looking for an immediate victory (even if short-term) over Aram instead of totally defeating it. I don’t know, but those seem to be my theories.
It also raised the question in my heart, “If I were Jehoash, would I strike the ground with the arrows more than three times?” Of course, my immediate response was “yes”. Then as I explored myself, I realized that I would have been half-assed like the king. I too would have felt that three strikes were enough. That maybe I wanted a momentary victory over a permanent one?
I also realized that when we look to God to do the extraordinary, we need to realize that God may lead us down some strange paths-strange to our human eyes. We may be called to go somewhere, talk with someone, or engage in some activity we would usually not do. We may be called to go against what our “logical” minds would tell us. We might even be called to go against the conventional wisdom of our personal circles of family, friends, and/or colleagues. And for us, it could just be a little too much to do, so we’ll ask God to do what we think is “enough”. So we go through life, half-heartedly, asking God just for enough to get by, which to me is sad if you ask me. Like Jehoash, we have little victories to get us through the day instead of total victories that blow our mind. Then we wonder why our lives just seem so…ordinary.
What we need to do is take those arrows and strike them more than just three times. Strike them ’til they break! Strike them until God, or some “Elisha” She sends our way says, “Enough. Now I know you’re serious.” We need that faith in the Divine to do what seems strange to others, but to us and God it what needs be done to get what we truly desire. For that, I believe, will truly give us the desires of our hearts.
Then we will have total victory in our lives. Then we will fully live.