You Should Have Struck Six Times!

You Should Have Struck Six Times!

John Guzzetta

King Joash, like many of his predecessors, was a bad king. He “did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kings 13:11). For decades, God had allowed the Arameans led by Hazael to defeat Israel. In fact, Israel was only able to field an army of fifty horses, ten chariots, and ten thousand men. That’s all they had left to maintain their defenses! So, when King Joash got word that the prophet Elisha was sick, he was worried for his own future.

When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, “My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” (2 Kings 13:14).

Though King Joash walked in the sins of his fathers, he knew Elisha was God’s prophet. He knew the amazing deliverances that God had provided through Elisha. The death of Elisha would be like having your queen captured in a game of chess. Joash feared the few chariots and horsemen of Israel would have no chance to resist Aram without God’s blessing through Elisha.

Elisha began making strange demands, that, at least for a bit, Joash was willing to play along with.

And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Put your hand on the bow.” And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, “Open the window toward the east,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot!” And he shot.

Finally, Elisha explained what was going on. And he said, “The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you shall defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them!” Though Elisha was about to depart the scene through death, the power of God was certainly still able to aid Israel. Elisha was attempting to leave Joash with a powerful blessing. Elisha continued,

Then he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground,” and he struck it three times and stopped. So, the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times. And Elisha died, and they buried him.

It is clear what lesson the inspired author is trying to communicate. King Joash wasn’t being humble, he was being hesitant. He lacked enthusiasm and fervency. He was reluctant to believe, and half-hearted in claiming the victory that God was ready to provide. While God could have given Israel victory thorough any means He desired, even without the agency of man, He chose to work through the king. Elisha wanted Joash to grab those arrows of victory and slam them to the ground convincingly, with exultation and exuberance!

But Joash just gave a meek little “tap, tap, tap.” Elisha was disappointed in him.

The conflict played out as the prophet said it would—King Joash won a few minor victories. When Hazael king of Aram died, Joash fought against the king’s son, Ben-Hadad. “Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel” (13:25).

Knowing, as we do, that “whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction” (Rom. 15:4), what application are we to make of this passage to our own lives?

First, we need high expectations. The “good enough” attitude has no place in God’s kingdom. Did we convert one person last month? That’s not enough, convert more! Is our attendance adequate? That’s not enough, bring in more! Did we have a pretty good worship service? That’s nice, but could be even better! It amazes me that we pursue excellence in some areas—we will stand in a long line to upgrade our PlayStation 6.0 to a PlayStation 6.1 the very day it comes out, or spend thousands to replace the 70” TV already hanging on the wall with a 72” TV—but we fail to give our enthusiastic best to God. In spiritual matters, we should expect and aim at excellence. Let’s give our top-notch efforts to the Lord, all the time (Heb. 5:12). He is worth every bit!

Second, we need to use God’s tools with believing zeal. Some may say, “This little Bible and this little church can’t impact this degraded and distracted community.” Well, not with that attitude they can’t! But with a firm faith in the gospel, the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16), this little church and this little Bible can do an amazing amount of good! “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord...” (2 Tim. 1:7-8).

Third, we need the perseverance to keep going until the job is done. King Joash teaches us that hesitant faith provides partial victories, which, I suppose are better than abject defeats, but which still come disappointingly short of the fullness of the blessings that God would love to provide. It fell to another man to defeat the Arameans at Damascus (2 Kings 14:28). The one who restricted God’s blessings was not God, it was King Joash. God offered him a bazooka, and Joash was content with a BB gun. God would rather have us ask too much than too little, and be diligent and busy with everything He grants. “Take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:13).