II Kings 13:14-2014 Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” 15 Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. 16 “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.” 18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.” 20 Elisha died and was buried.
Jehoash came to the throne during a time of national crisis which became a personal crisis for him. He was in the leader’s seat. He had to make the calls about how Israel would defend itself. The army of King Aram was coming. Israel’s army had been decimated during Jehoash’s dad’s reign. Look at verse 7, 7 Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten-thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time. This young man inherited a broken situation and at a very young age.
That happens sometimes, doesn’t it? Sometimes young people are thrust into unfair responsibility or responsibility before they are ready for it. Sometimes even those of us who are more seasoned find ourselves overwhelmed, needing to make a decision with the realization that the impact of that decision will affect many people.
With Jehoash being young and new to the throne, he didn’t know what to do. He really couldn’t have known. Sometimes we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to know stuff that we couldn’t possibly know until we live through an experience. The good thing about a relationship with God is that He knows stuff, and He promises to walk day by day with us!
Often, Israel looked to the prophets to help them know what their next step might be. There was an awareness and respect for that process. Jehoash knew Elisha, could help, however Elisha was sick, very sick, deathbed sick. Jehoash needed to get to the prophet quickly to gain understanding about how to protect the nation of Israel.
Elisha was a prophet who had been given a special ability. He had been able to hear the plans of the enemy and give those plans to those overseeing the battle. That is the kind of person you want the inside scoop from; someone who knows the enemy battle plan is someone you need to have as a friend and confident. It’s a good thing Jehoash knew where to go for help. He went to Elisha to get a word from the Lord.
In order to align yourself with God for the victory you need, you need to ready yourself by seeking a Word from God.
Jehoash didn’t have access to all of the Bible promises like we have today, but he knew where to go to get a Word from God when he needed it. When you need to know what to do, when your back is to the wall, when people are counting on you to get something right, to execute something well, before you do anything, seek to get a Word from God.
You can constantly align yourself with God’s victory by constantly seeking a Word from the Lord. Keep your nose in the book!
You don’t have to wait for calamity or distress to get a Word from God. You can talk to Him daily and hear from Him daily. The truth is, problems arise every day. If you stay in daily alignment with God, you don’t have to try to quickly get in step with Him when the crisis comes. His voice will be familiar. His way will become clear.
Further, Jehoash was told to prepare, to get a bow and some arrows, to take the bow in his hands. Friends, the Word of God is your bow and arrow. It is your weapon. It is your arrow. Pick it up. Don’t put it in a closet. Don’t use it like a reference book like you might when you need a recipe once-in-a-while. You shoot your arrow by speaking the promises of God out loud, by relying on those promises, by declaring the truth and God’s victory. 2023 is a time to get ready for whatever is coming by getting serious about ingesting the Word!
It is hard to shoot an arrow when it isn’t in your hand. In fact, it’s impossible. It’s hard to wield a sword when you never pick it up. The Bible calls the Word of God the “Sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17. It is both and offensive and defensive weapon. Learn to wield it by availing yourself to it. Start somewhere. If it is a verse a day, if it is a chapter a week, if it is a devotion sent to your inbox, if it is re-reading Sunday’s sermons which are on our website, if it is writing out a few verses to memorize, get into the Word. Read it as often as possible.
Y’all, I have been a Christian for 48 years, and I don’t even remember studying this story in II Kings 13 until this very week. The Bible is the gift that keeps on giving because you will continue to learn things and relearn things and see things you never saw before as you continue to reach for the Word. Reach for the Word like you reach for your favorite candy or bag of chips! That’s good advice right there. You don’t have to have a degree in theology to understand that was a good word y’all just got right there.
Romans 11:33-“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!”
You will never learn it all, know it all or understand it all, but you can know more tomorrow than you did today. And what you learn may be the very nugget you need for the battle that is just ahead.
When you plan to read the Bible, ask God to speak to you. Ask Him to give you specific knowledge about what to study and as a result, ask Him what to do in your situation.
So, step one is to ready yourself by seeking a word from God. Step number two is to focus your faith and aim at the right target.
Elisha told Jehoash to “open the east window.” Notice he didn’t tell him to open every window. He told him to open one strategic window. There was one place he needed to concentrate his efforts. We need to quit trying to open every window and every door and quit trying to fire in every direction. You know you can get distracted trying to fight so many battles that you shoot at every target and hit nothing.
Why the east window? There were threats from other directions, but Elisha knew that Aram was the most formidable enemy. He was instructing Jehoash to focus on his greatest enemy. Where does God want you to direct your attention?
As I mentioned on Wednesday night, I started a new online support group, an accountability group for weight loss. It’s called “MyWeigh.” Cute, right? It isn’t focused on results, but on actions. Every Monday, members will make a promise to add something or subtract something, to start something or to stop it and the following Monday they will report whether they did what they said they were going to do. I began the group because I need the accountability. I know myself and know that I won’t want to report the following week that I didn’t follow through.
This has been week one. What did I commit to doing? I said I wouldn’t eat fast food. Guess what? I haven’t. But guess what else? There is a lot of other junk you can still eat even if you don’t eat fast food. I am spilling the tea on myself this morning, y’all. I chose something that still gave me the wiggle room I wanted. I could boast that I followed through and avoid reporting that I had m and m’s one day last week for lunch and Lay’s chips for another. I’m just being honest!
But wait, there’s more. I also made the declaration that I would only have water after 12 noon. Y’all, I was literally chugging Diet Coke at 11:54 a.m. on Friday to get as much in as possible before noon. And here’s the kicker…I like water. It isn’t a labor of love for me to drink water. It takes no effort for me to drink water. So, both of my goals were really pathetic and weak.
My real enemy is sugar. Friends, I didn’t even aim at that target. I didn’t even address my main enemy. Why tip toe around with things that aren’t even real goals or real enemies and spend time and effort on stuff that isn’t really going to give me the victory I need?
This week, I am going to open the east window. I am going to focus on my problem with sugar. I don’t know what tomorrow’s post will be yet, but it will contain the word “sugar” in it. It is my most-pressing dietary challenge. I am good in the exercise department. It’s the sugar that has to get the boot. I’m going to focus on the right target this week. That said, I’m NOT going to resume rolling through the drive-thru and drinking Diet Coke all day either, but you get my point.
Elisha told Jehoash to take aim at the most pressing enemy. What is your most pressing enemy? Where do you need to focus? Can we stop dancing around our issues in 2023? Can we stop making excuses for things that need to change? Can we receive some conviction that leads to some action and start moving out toward that which is coming against us? Open the east window!
To open the east window, Jehoash had to turn his attention away from the other windows. That left him and the nation of Israel potentially vulnerable in some areas.
One commentator I read suggested we look at it this way:
What if you have to lose a smaller battle to win a bigger battle? What if you have to lose a battle of climbing the ladder of success in order to win the battle of being a great parent? What if you have to lose a battle when it comes to winning arguments in order to win a battle that brings peace to your home and relationship with your spouse? What if you have to lose a battle that pleases people in order to win a battle that pleases God?
You probably can’t effectively fight multiple battles at once. What is your east window? Don’t let anything distract you from the east window. At what are you aiming your faith?
Get ready with a Word from God. Focus your faith and aim at the right target, and third and finally, shoot by taking clear, ongoing action.
Let me address the clarity piece first. After he told him to open the east window, he told him to shoot. Jehoash did so. Elisha had this to say immediately, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”
With that first shot, victory was proclaimed. Both gun and bow hunters know there is an instrument known as the “sight” on the gun or bow which enables you to define and hit a desired target. Where you place your perspective, where you focus your sight, will determine how successful you are when you release that trigger or bow. Where was the perspective? It was on victory. The focus was on God giving the victory. Elisha literally pronounced the victory before the battle even took place.
That is the kind of sight with which you need to act, believer. You need to align yourselves mentally and spiritually with the victory God wants to give you and declare it from the onset. Let your faith give you sight of the victory that is waiting!
Get in alignment with God’s victory for your life! Isn’t that how David defeated Goliath? Didn’t the little shepherd boy say this to the giant? “This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel.” I Samuel 17:46
Wasn’t that the approach of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were faced with being thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to the King’s statue? They said, If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. Daniel 3:17
Wasn’t that the kind of sight that Joshua and Caleb had when they had a positive report about the Israelites taking the Promised Land when the others said there was no way? What does Number 13:30 say? Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” Numbers 13:30
To look through the right sight, the sight of faith, means you will purpose to look at what God can do!
Jehoash shot the arrow. Elisha declared the victory. What happened next?
18 Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and the king took them. Elisha told him, “Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”
Commentators said that striking the ground three times was an indication that he actually shot the arrow out the window three more times and obviously it fell to the ground because at that point, he was shooting in the eastward direction, but not at any specific target. So, read that as, he shot three more arrows and quit. There were, however, more arrows available for him to shoot. He lacked perseverance. He wasn’t fully committed to the victory. He could have kept going.
This year we are focused on seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that as we do, our lives will come into alignment with His power and provision (Matthew 6:33). There is another Scripture about seeking, and it is combined with asking and knocking. It is in the very next chapter in Matthew in 7:7-8, 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
The tense of the verbs, “ask,” “seek,” and “knock,” in the original language reflects that we are to keep asking, to keep seeking, and to keep knocking.
Faith, not good intentions, brings the victory. You need to act in faith and keep acting in faith. You need to persist in faith. You need to resist doubt and keep claiming the promises of God. Don’t stop firing arrows of faith. Sometimes we stop acting in faith, just short of the blessing. Sometimes we stop believing just short of the miracle. Sometimes we give up marching in faith when just one more time around will bring the Jericho walls down. Don’t quit firing arrows of faith until you see the victory.
If you keep firing your bow at the right target in faith, you will get the victory. Elisha told Jehoash that he was going to have to keep dealing with Aram down the road because he didn’t keep firing in faith when the word of the Lord was given to him. I don’t want to battle stuff for a lifetime. I want to get some stuff settled. Anyone with me?
“Well, Pastor, I prayed once, and God didn’t answer my prayer.” “I came to the altar once and nothing changed.” “I asked God to take away this addiction, and I am still wrestling with it.” Sometimes, we may deal with life-long struggles because we don’t persist in faith. Faith pleases God. Faith releases the power of God. Faith gives God glory. Faith takes us where feelings never can.
Faith isn’t seasonal for the Christian. We don’t pull it out on Ash Wednesday and Easter and Thanksgiving and Christmas. We don’t flip on the switch of faith when our health collapses. We walk by faith and not by sight. Walking is something you do every day! Fire your faith every day.
Jehoash started something, but he stopped shortly after he started. Pray and keep praying, Church. Stand in faith and keep standing. War and keep warring in faith. Elisha rebuked Jehoash because he didn’t give his whole self to the task.
Keep shooting in the battle against sin. Keep shooting for the attainment of spiritual maturity. Keep shooting to grow your faith. Keep shooting to do more for the Kingdom of God. Keep shooting to see your family and friends and neighbors saved. Keep shooting because the world, the flesh and the devil isn’t going to stop shooting at you. The old saints used to put it this way, “Keep on the firing line!”
Let’s put away excuses in 2023. “Well, Pastor Melissa, I stopped shooting because I’m not a very good archer.” “I stopped shooting because the bow was too heavy.” “I stopped shooting because I was the only one shooting, and I wanted someone to shoot with me.” “I stopped shooting because nothing happened with the couple shots.” “I stopped shooting because I wasn’t in a shooting mood.” “I stopped shooting because I got tired.” “I stopped shooting because of Covid!” Covid-schmovid. Shoot! Shoot! Shoot! Fire in the hole! Let it rip! Send it out! Get ready with a Word from the Lord. Take aim at your most formidable foe. Fire away with faith that you will see the victory!