Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Though the fig tree does not blossom and there is no fruit on the vines, though the product of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, though the flock is cut off from the fold and there are no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord: I will exult in the victorious God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, my personal bravery, and my invincible army.”
“His grace is great enough to
meet the great things,
The crashing waves that
overwhelm the soul,
The roaring winds that leave us
stunned and breathless,
The sudden storms beyond
our life’s control.
His grace is great enough to
meet the small things,
The little pin-prick troubles
His insect worries,
buzzing and persistent,
The squeaking wheels
that gate our joy.”
Annie Johnson Flint
Today’s Study Text:
“And he (Elisha) went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him (Elisha), and said unto him, ‘Go up, thou bald head: go up, thou bald head.’ And he (Elisha) turned back and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood and tare forty and two children of them.”
II Kings 2:23-24
“Since God has created each person unique, from his or her fingerprints to hair follicles, He intends that each person be treated special.”
What do I believe it means to respect the people I have contact with each day?
Do I especially treat the members of my family with respect?
“Respect is a power. It is a power within a person. It is the gift we can give ourselves or share with others.”
Ralph Ransom Frederick
“When men (and women) do not fear God, they will not regard man (or woman).”
Those of us of a certain age can still hear the voice of Aretha Franklin singing her powerful hit from a number of years ago, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T.” I’ll never forget her strong, vibrant voice spelling out that word and thinking to myself, “I want to be just like that fabulous lady singing so powerfully.” If you have never heard Aretha’s rendition of this song, I wish you could for she lays out before her listeners, a melody with such a profound message. You can’t imagine disrespecting yourself or another individual after hearing this iconic song.
As I read II Kings 2, in its entirety, in preparation for today’s devotional, I chose to address the incident found in our study text for today, II Kings 2: 23, 24, before taking up the study of the miracle recorded in II Kings 2: 19-22, and tomorrow, when we study these passages, I think you’ll understand why.
For today, I want to bring to our remembrance the fact that in II Kings 2: 15, after Elisha had witnessed the chariot of fire take his mentor and friend in a blaze of glory to heaven, Elisha returned with Elijah’s mantle to the same river that had opened when struck by Elijah’s garment.
With the students from the School of the Prophets in Jericho looking on, the same event was again witnessed by the young men and we are told in II Kings 2: 15, “They came to meet him (Elisha), and bowed themselves in the ground before him (Elisha).”
Let’s be clear about this scene. It was the power of God, as evidenced in the life and ministry of Elisha that brought these students to their knees. They recognized in Elisha the same spirit which carried Elijah through a ministry of highs and lows and highs again. I can only envision that they were filled with admiration and relief that the same God who had been with Elijah was now with his successor. And so, as the Hebrew tells us, these young men paid “obeisance” to Elisha. As the word “obeisance” means, they showed Elisha a gesture of respect, the same act that Joseph’s brothers paid him when they came before their brother who now, unknown to them, was “set over all the land of Egypt,” by the ruling Pharaoh.
It is with this visual picture in our minds that the Bible informs us that Elisha went up to Bethel, where I am certain by now the message of Elijah’s translation to heaven had gotten. Along the road Elisha traversed, the Bible says “little children” began to make fun of his bald head.
As I remember this story being read to me in my childhood, I can tell you that the adults who shared this story, were quite eager to point out the fact that those who disrespected Elisha were in for a very severe punishment. I can also recall how my sister and I would look at each other, wide-eyed with fear because we sure didn’t want any bears coming to get us if we were disrespectful to our “elders.”
This is why an in-depth study of this passage is so beneficial for there’s more than meets the eye here. I want to begin with a text found in 1 Kings 16: 34 which provides insight on this whole sad story.
You may remember that God had said that when Jericho was destroyed, it would not be rebuilt. But in direct defiance of God’s word, we find that, “In his days did Hiel the Bethelite build Jericho: he laid the foundation thereon in Abiram his firstborn and set up the gates thereof in his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake by Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16: 34, K.J.V.).
God made it clear to Joshua years before that Jericho was cursed and was not to be rebuilt. Furthermore, to do so would be at your own peril as Hiel the Bethelite found out for he lost two children in the midst of his building project.
What we must not lose sight of is that Hiel came from Bethel and one wonders if the rebellious attitude of Hiel filtered down to the young people of the city, too. Or potentially, Hiel’s, “I’ll spit in the eye of divine guidance,” only reflected the godless, skeptical attitude of a number of residents in Bethel, and this attitude was passed on to the “little children.” However before we come to believe that bears were sent to punish very young ones, we find that the Hebrew translation of the words “little children,” actually means, “young men,” who scholars state were most likely twenty years old, for this is the same age Solomon was when in the same Hebrew word, na’ar, he was referred to, (1 Kings 3:7), as a “little child.”
With this detail to add to the story, we can conclude, with Scriptural backing, that a group of rebellious young men in their twenties, came out of a city that contained citizens that doubted not only the word of God but of his servants as well. And in a most disrespectful manner, they hollered, “Go up you bald man.”
Their taunting derision of Elisha not only portrayed a disrespectful attitude toward his physical appearance, which would have been bad enough on its own, but by laughingly saying, “Go up,” they were showing their utter contempt for God’s intervention in the life of His servant Elijah as He took Elijah to his eternal home without seeing death.
As we look at this experience in the life of Elisha, my childhood fear of bears coming to get me if I behaved disrespectfully has turned into a deeper and clearer understanding of my gracious heavenly Father’s desire to keep all of us, every person, on the pathway of His protective care. And there are four specific lessons which I find instructional in my own life’s journey when I read this story now:
Lesson #1: God’s Word is true. We do ourselves no favors when we doubt what God says, even if we have the means and materials to rebuild Jericho. If God says it won’t happen – it won’t happen no matter how hard one tries to make it happen.
Lesson #2: God’s protective care is over His children who are called by His name. You might say, “But Dorothy, how about those who died for their faith.” I don’t doubt for a moment that those who gave their lives for Jesus had their heavenly Father by their side every minute of their perilous journey here on earth. Recently, I was reading about two well-known martyrs, Jerome and Huss as well as others like them. Much to my surprise, over and over again, biographers reported that these brave souls were singing right up until the moment of their last breath. I ask you, “Who do you know that sings while they are being burned?” Not me, but then if God called us to lay down our lives for Him, I have no doubt we would have the same tenacity and strength, and yes, a voice to sing.
Lesson #3: Mocking or deriding another’s physical appearance degrades the one doing the mocking more than the person they are disrespecting. Every individual on earth is God’s child. This is something we must never forget. I sometimes cringe when I hear Christians name-calling, labeling people they don’t even know with derogatory epitaphs and passing on malicious rumors or gossip which demeans another’s reputation. I think the life of Jesus should always be our example and interestingly, Jesus’ harshest words of condemnation were for the Pharisee’s whose “white washed” outside only served to cover the mud on the inside. It doesn’t work for us to say we love the sinner but condemn the sin when we go around embroiling ourselves in malicious name-calling or demeaning rhetoric.
Lesson #4: God’s children should be the examples on this earth of respectful treatment of all God’s daughters and sons. When we care for others around us, and treat each person we meet as Jesus treated every individual during His ministry on earth, those we meet will be the first to say, “That person is so kind and loving, I want what they have.”
There’s a very interesting text found in 1 Peter 2: 17 which deals directly with the issue of respect. The Apostle Peter wrote: “Show respect for all men, treat them honorably. Love other believers of which Christ is the head. Reverence God. Honor the emperor.” It is important to note that it may very well have been under the rulership of the “emperor” that the order was given to crucify Peter. Yet we find that this stalwart for Jesus tells followers down through the ages to live a life respectful of others. In essence following Jesus’ words to love your enemies even respecting those with whom we may disagree.
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It isn’t just a terrific song. It’s the way we can choose to live everyday as we reflect the love of God to a world in need of kindness, gentleness, and yes, respectful behavior.
“Respecting another person is simply admitting that God is big enough to love him or her just as much as He loves me.”
Stephen Arterburn and
“O Christ! Who has shown us the beauty of eternal peace and the duty of inseparable love, grant that we may ever think humbly of ourselves, abounding in gentleness and pity towards all, that following the example of Your humility and imitating You in all things, we may live in You, and never depart from You.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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