2 Kings 13:15-19
And Elisha said to him, Take bow and arrows. And he took to him bow and arrows.…
History gives us the explanation of this symbolic narrative. It appears that in former times war was often proclaimed or renewed by the despatch of an arrow into the enemy's lines. Elisha meant to teach the king that, although he was weak and dying, yet Israel's cause was not going to die with him; and that the same power that made Israel strong in the past would follow the king in his new campaign against the Syrian oppressor. Let us learn the following lessons from the laying of those old emaciated hands of the prophet upon the young strong hands of the king. We see there a picture of —
I. THE PAST DIRECTING THE PRESENT. When we crossed the threshold of the year we did not get rid of the old; for the past is always stretching out its vanishing hands to direct and influence the present. The white-bearded face of Elisha well represents the past, which is over behind us, overlooking our work. The actions, associations, and habits of the past are still with us. We may turn over a new leaf, but we cannot unlearn at once the irregularities of the defective writing on the previous page. We may point the arrow afresh, but the old hands are inevitably influencing the sweep it takes from the bow. This influence is exerted by the past, whether it is good or evil. Virtue and piety reap their immediate, as well as ultimate, harvests. The good deeds of the past are ever stretching forth their gentle hands to guide and bless not only ourselves, but others as well. Who can tell the influence of a mother's prayers uttered by lips long since sealed in death? In the critical moment of her boy's career, it would seem as if a straw would have turned the scale of destiny this way or that. The young impulsive nature is guided and restrained by the mother's prayers answered, the mother's words remembered, the mother's influence exerted; and these have saved him in the hour of danger
II. THE DIVINE CONTROLLING THE HUMAN. "The arrow of the Lord's deliverance " had power in it, not because of the strong hand of Joash who pulled the bow, but mainly because of the prophetic hands that were laid upon him as he did so. Mere human effort is fruitless unless a higher power directs and controls the course and goal of the arrow's flight. We may spread the sails, but they must be filled with heaven-sent breezes. We may sow the seed, but God gives the increase. "Man proposes, but God disposes." We form plans and projects, we bend the bow, and throw all our power into the work lying before us, but unless a higher power is with us, all the determination and foresight we may command are valueless. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it." If this is true in regard to temporal concerns, how much more should we recognise its truth in the spiritual sphere. Too long has the enemy oppressed and held dominion over our hearts and our lives. Let us look to the ground we would reconquer and reclaim for the King of kings. Let us resolve that this slavery of our souls to sin shall cease. And as we do so, let us pray for the presence and power of the "hands of the mighty God of Jacob" to strengthen our weakness and give us the victory. But while thus trusting in Divine help, notice that it was the young king who drew the bow. Human effort is as essential as Divine direction. God's promise to help does not warrant idleness. The sense of God's helping us should not paralyse, but should rather stimulate to doing and daring greater things than we have ever hitherto attempted. The narrative suggests that effort must be sustained to be successful. One blow never won a battle. The king stayed his hand after he had discharged three arrows, and the man of God was wrath, and said he should have smitten the ground oftener, and then he would have utterly consumed the foe. So long as God bids us "fight the good fight", we must not cease our warring. So long as His hand is urging us we must smite again and again. Let us not desist, as Joash may have done, from a feeling of tenderness towards me enemy, nor from unbelief in the efficacy of the means ordained of God for our deliverance. Both motives have hindered and crippled the efforts of many a hopeful life. Finally, let us ask ourselves, has "the arrow of the Lord's deliverance" been discharged from our bow at all? Have we declared war against sin and Satan? If not, let us do so before another day closes. Look up and see God's hands held out, waiting, and able to help and to save you, and to rid from the guilt and bondage and pollution of sin. Fight for your life, and the lives of those around you, and all your arrows shall bring help and joy and peace to you and yours.
(David A. Taylor.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Elisha said unto him, Take bow and arrows. And he took unto him bow and arrows.