Three Arrows, or Six
2 Kings 13:15-19
And Elisha said to him, Take bow and arrows. And he took to him bow and arrows.…

It is a very difficult task to show the meeting-place of the purpose of God and the free agency of man. One thing is quite clear, we ought not to deny either of them, for they are both facts. It is a fact that God has purposed all things both great and little; neither will anything happen but according to His eternal purpose and decree. It is also a sure and certain fact that, oftentimes, events hang upon the choice of men. Their will has a singular potency. In the ease before us, the arrows are in the hands of the King of Israel; and according to whether he shall shoot once, twice, thrice, or five or six times, so will the nation's history be affected. Now, how these two things can both be true, I cannot tell you; neither, probably, after long debate, could the wisest men in heaven tell you, not even with the assistance of cherubim and seraphim. If they could tell you, what would you know, and in what way would you be benefited if you could find out this secret? But sometimes a practical question about these two points does arise. It is correct to say, speaking after the manner of men, "If men are earnest, if men are believing, if men are prayerful, such and such a blessing will come"; and that the blessing does not come, may be rightly traced to the fact that they were not as prayerful and as believing as they ought to have been. Next, reflect what great things may lie in a man's hand There stood Joash an unworthy king; and yet m his hands lay, measurably, the destiny of his people. If he will take those arrows, and will shoot five or six times, their great enemy will be broken in pieces. If he will be dilatory, and will only shoot three times, he will get only a measure of victory; and poor Israel will ultimately have to suffer again from this enemy, who has been only scotched, and not killed. You do not know, dear friends, what responsibility lies upon you. You are the father of a family; what blessings may come to your household, or may be missed by your children, through your conduct! Once more, notice what great results may come from very little acts. It was a very trifling thing, was it not, to shoot an arrow from a bow? Your child has done it many times in his holidays. He has taken his bow, and shot his little home-made shaft into the air. This is what the King of Israel is required to do, to perform this very slight and common feat of archery, to shoot from an open window, and to drive his arrows into the ground beneath; and yet upon the shooting of these arrows will hang victory or defeat for Israel. so there be some who think that hearing the Gospel is a little thing. Life, death, and hell, and worlds unknown, may hang upon the preaching and hearing of a sermon.

I. LET ME SPEAK OF SOME MATTERS IN WHICH MANY MEN TOO SOON PAUSE. There are some who, having great opportunities, — and we all have them more or less, — shoot only three times when they ought to shoot five or six times.

1. One of these matters is in the warfare with the evil within. Some, as soon as they begin their Christian life, fit an arrow to the string, and shoot down big sins, such as swearing., or drunkenness, or open uncleanness. When they have shot these three times, they seem to think that the other enemies within them may be tolerated. My brother, thou shouldest have shot five or six times.

2. There are some who shoot three times, and then leave off, with regard to Christian knowledge. They know the simple truth of justification by faith; but they do not want to know much about sanctification by the Spirit of God. Why not, my brother? Canst thou be saved unless thou art sanctified? Some are perfectly satisfied with laying again the first principles, always going over those; but they want to know no more. I beseech you, strive to be educated in the things of God.

3. Some, again, sin in this way with regard to Christian attainments. They have little faith, and they say, "Faith like a grain of mustard-seed will save you." That is true. But are you always to be a little one? A grain of mustard-seed is not worth anything if it does not grow; it is meant to grow till it comes to be a tree, and birds lodge in its boughs. Come, my dear friend, if thou hast little faith, do not rest till thou hast great faith, till thou hast full assurance, till thou hast the full assurance of understanding.

4. Others, again, seem satisfied with little usefulness. You brought a soul to Christ, did you? Oh, that you would long to bring another! Do you not remember what the general said, in the war, when one rode up to him, and cried out, "We have taken a gun from the enemy"? "Take another," said the general. If you have brought one soul to Christ, it should make you hunger and thirst to bring another.

5. And this spirit comes out very vividly in prayer. You do pray; else were you not the living children of God at all; but oh, for more power in prayer! You have asked for a blessing; why not ask for a far greater one?

6. The Church of God, as a whole, is guilty here, as to her plans for God's glory. She is doing much more now than she used to do; but even now, though she smites three times, we may say to her, "Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times." Oh, that the Church of Christ had a boundless ambition to conquer the world for her Lord!

II. But now, secondly, let me speak of THE REASONS FOR THIS PAUSING, Why do men come to a dead hall so soon?

1. Some of them say that they are afraid of being presumptuous. You are afraid of being too holy, are you? Dismiss your fear. You are afraid of asking for too much grace; be afraid of having too little. You are afraid of conquering sin; tremble for fear of an unconquered sin. There is no presumption in taking the largest promise of God, and pleading it, and expecting to have it fulfilled.

2. Perhaps one says, "I have not the natural ability to be doing more, or enjoying more." What has natural ability to do with it? When all thy natural abilities are in the grave, and thou lookest only to the spiritual strength of God, then thou shalt see greater things than these.

3. Shall I tell you the real reasons why men pause in their work? With some, it is because they are too dependent upon their fellow-men. This King Joash could shoot when Elisha put his hand on his hand; probably Elisha only did that once, and then left him to himself, and said, "Now, you shoot." Then he only shot three times. There are many Christian people who are a great deal too dependent upon their ministers, or upon some elderly Christian person who has helped them onward.

4. Another reason why some pause is, that they are too soon contented. Joash thought that he had done very well when he had shot three times, and that Elisha would pat him on the back, and say, "How well you have done!" That kind of feeling creeps over many workers for the Lord.

5. Joash, too, I dare say, gave up shooting because he was unbelieving. He could not see how shooting the arrows could affect the Syrians; and he wanted to see.

6. I should not wonder, also, if Joash was too indolent to shoot five or six times. He did not feel in a shooting humour. Now, whenever you do not feel in a humour for prayer, then is the time when you ought to pray twice as much.

7. Joash also probably had too little zeal. He was not wide awake, he was not thoroughly aroused, he did not care for the glory of God. If he could beat the Syrians three times, that would be quite enough for him.


1. When Joash had shot three times, he paused; and therefore the blessing paused. Three times he shot, and three times God gave him victory. Do you see what you are doing by pausing? You are stopping the conduit-pipe by which the river of blessing will flow to you. Do not do that; to impoverish yourself must certainly be a needless operation.

2. You will suffer in consequence, as this king did; for, after the three victories, the rival power came to the front again.

3. Others will also suffer with you.

4. Meanwhile, the enemy triumphed.

5. What was even worse, Jehovah Himself was dishonoured.

6. Yet again, glorious possibilities were lost.


1. If we pause in our holy service, or in getting near to God, or in sucking the marrow out of the promises, remember that the enemy will not pause.

2. A cure for this stopping lies in the reflection that in other things we are generally eager.

3. And lastly, this question ought to prevent us from ever pausing Can we ever do enough for our Saviour?

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows.

WEB: Elisha said to him, "Take bow and arrows;" and he took to him bow and arrows.

The Story of a Bad Stopping
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