TEXT: 2 Kings 13:14-19
Have you ever walked away from a situation frustrated because you realize you just missed an opportunity?
- Maybe it was to make a sale, or make an improvement, or maybe even make a point.
- Maybe it was an opportunity to minister to someone you haven’t seen in a while, or to give someone a quick word of encouragement.
- Maybe it was an opportunity to learn from someone who had something to contribute to your life, either for your career or family life.
Don’t you just hate that? Especially when you don’t realize it until it’s about 2:30 in the morning when you wake up to get a drink of water or something? You slap your forehead and go, “What a fool I was not to take advantage of that! Why didn’t I recognize that when I had the chance?”
Tonight, I hope to help you lessen those occurrences a bit by allowing you to see the life of Joash.
1. A GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITY
King Joash wept over Elisha who was on his deathbed. He used the same statement Elisha had used of Elijah in 2 Kings 2:12. Saying “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” was recognition of the important role Elisha played in the defense of Israel. Israel’s strength was not in chariots and horses, but in the power of God displayed through His prophet. King Jehoash, though a wicked king, was not ignorant of the great loss Elisha’s death would bring to the kingdom. Jehoash had inherited a weakened kingdom from his father and was undoubtedly aware that he needed a miracle to defeat Syrian forces.
Though he recognized the mighty ways in which Elisha had been used, Jehoash was not known for serving God. 2 Kings 13:11 says that he did evil and continued in Jeroboam’s sins, the worship of the golden calves. But who do desperate people come to in desperate times? The man or woman of God; the church, or people in the church; a godly neighbor they know prays; a friend who’s been witnessing to them for years. They know you have a hotline to God. Joash recognized that God had used Elisha mightily in Israel, therefore he wept over the coming loss.
But in the midst of his despair, God handed King Jehoash the opportunity of his lifetime – THE GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITY TO TERMINATE THE SYRIANS ONCE AND FOR ALL.
Elisha responded to Joash’s words by giving him specific instructions of what he was to do. JOASH WAS TO TAKE A BOW & SOME ARROWS. Elisha then put his hands momentarily on the king’s hands signifying the power of God moving through the prophet of God into Joash to perform this great feat. Then the king was to shoot an arrow out the window in the direction of the Israelite territories held captive by Syrian armies. When he did this Elisha explained the action by saying that the arrow represented the victory God would give to the armies of Israel over Syria at Aphek.
While looking at this story it cannot be stressed enough that throughout God’s Word we learn that the victory in any battle that God’s people are in will not be won through physical, intellectual or political might, but by the power of God.
- Psalm 20:7 NIV says, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”
- The Lord told governor Zerubabbel: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” Zechariah 4:6 NIV
- Mighty Samson was only might when “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him!” (Judges 14:6 ESV).
- And who could forget Gideon in Judges 7. God purposely whittled down the size of the army to a mere 300 so that Israel would recognize the deliverance coming from God not Israel’s military might.
Our story today of Joash and Elisha is no different. The symbolic laying on of hands and the declaration concerning the arrow were to show Jehoash that the victory would be won by God’s power, not Israel’s might or Jehoash’s skill as a leader. God was giving Jehoash the opportunity of a lifetime.
2. A MISSED OPPORTUNITY
After the initial firing off of the arrow, Elisha now wanted Joash to take the remaining arrows and “Strike the ground with them” (v.18 ESV). Many of the sources I consulted took this striking the ground as using the bow to shoot the arrows into the ground rather than taking them by the hand and tapping the floor. After being instructed by Elisha to strike the ground with the remaining arrows, Joash shot only a portion of the arrows and then stopped. If we stopped here we probably wouldn’t think anything of it, except for the fact that the text says that Elisha became angry.
Why do you think Elisha was angry? We can assume that Joash flippantly or half-heartedly shot the arrows simply going through the motions possibly doubting that this symbolic exercise would produce any desirable results. In other words, a lack of faith. (NASA ISIP NYA MARAHIL, “EH ANO BANG IBIG SABIHIN NITONG PAGTIRA KO SA LUPA, E WALA NAMAN…NAGSASAYANG LANG AKO NG PANAHON, ETC.”) Perhaps he didn’t know why he was shooting the arrows, but after shooting that first one and hearing the result of his doing so, you’d think if he truly believed what Elisha was proclaiming then he would quickly fire off every arrow he had eagerly awaiting the prophet’s next message. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “Here is all the power for a perfect victory, and yet the man that has it has to be contented with a very partial one” (Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vol. 3, p.31). HIS LACK OF ZEAL AND FAITH RESULTED IN HIS RECEIVING MUCH LESS THAN WHAT GOD DESIRED TO GIVE HIM.
Joash defeated Syria 3 times just like Elisha said (see verse 25). But how could it have been? Elisha’s rebuke stated that if only he’d struck the ground 5 or 6 times “you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it” (v.19 ESV). What might have been if Jehoash had taken what was clearly with his grasp? BUT BECAUSE OF LACK OF FAITH HE ONLY RECEIVED A PARTIAL VICTORY.
3. YOUR OPPORTUNITY.
Jehoash took a golden opportunity and turned it into a missed opportunity because of a lack of faith. God wants you to believe for bigger and better things and you should not be stuck in a cycle of unbelief.
Many of us are like Jehoash. Not necessarily in that we are living in wickedness, but that we share the lack of faith he expressed in front of Elisha. Our zeal is all but quenched and we talk about what God used to do. And therefore we are living in what Beth Moore terms ‘less-than-land.’ If only he had had the faith to strike the ground a few more times until that quiver was empty. Why do so many people end up focusing more on their problems than the opportunities created by their circumstances? Perhaps, it has to do with the fact that our human nature tends to have a morbid sense of interest in tragedies. IF ONLY YOU AND I WOULD TRUST GOD FOR THE VICTORIES IN OUR LIFE DESPITE THE ODDS.
When opportunity knocks, we get up and open the door and trust God to do the miraculous!
I want us to see what happened to the disciples in the feeding of the 5,000. By only looking at the problem instead of God’s provision the disciples thought only about how to accomplish this assignment of feeding the 5,000 in their own power and with their own resources. What they said was, ‘how can we fix this, we have only five loaves of bread and two fish v.13
They were thinking, “We can’t do this, it’s impossible! There is no way to feed that many people with what we have.”
Their problem was not with the dilemma, but with the way they were thinking. They had not yet grabbed onto the fact that Jesus was inviting them to join Him in His work and for them to see the power He has for those who would just believe. They thought they had to accomplish this task in their own power and with their current resources. They were thinking, “We can’t do this, it’s impossible!” But remember, Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do. John 6:6
We often forget that when God speaks or present an opportunity, He always reveals what He is going to do—not what He wants us to do. He only requires your faith, your belief in Him so He can work through us. That’s why Jesus said in Mark 10:27 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
As one person once put it: “I am a pencil in God’s hand. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.”
Brothers and sisters, UNBELIEF is paralyzing and it is usually the reason we see very little of the working of God in our midst and in the ways we long to see. When we show a lack of faith as Jehoash did we miss out many times on what God desires to do in us and through us.
Jesus went to his own hometown and Mark 6:5a, 6 (ESV) says, “And he could do no mighty work there…And he marveled because of their unbelief.” Why was this so? Because more often than not, GOD WORKS IN ACCORDANCE WITH OUR FAITH. (see Mark 9:29, Matthew 9:20-22, 27-30; 15:28; 17:14-21).
Beth Moore writes about the cycle of unbelief in her Believing God Bible Study: “We believe little because we’ve seen little, and we’ve seen little because we believe little” (BG workbook p.48). We need to believe that God truly is who He says He is and that He really can do what He says He can do. Unfortunately our unbelief will reap severe consequences. Just think of what we won’t accomplish when we choose not to believe God for the ability to accomplish that to which He has called us. Alexander Maclaren stated: “It is a solemn thought that the Church’s unbelief can limit and hinder Christ’s work in the world…” (p.31-32).
In the days before modern harbors, a ship had to wait for the flood tide before it could make it to the port. The term for this situation in Latin was “ob portu,” that is, “a ship standing over against a port,” waiting for the moment when it could ride the turn of the tide to harbor.
The English word “opportunity” is derived from this original meaning. The captain and the crew were ready and waiting for it, that one moment, for they knew that if they missed it, they would have to wait for another tide to come in. – Bits and Pieces
When a God-given opportunity comes, seize it! Believe that God will enable you to make the most of the opportunity you’re facing right now. Jehoash lost his opportunity because of unbelief, will you? I challenge you this evening to stretch your faith! Our God is able to do immeasurably more than you can ask or imagine.