The Bald and the Beautiful
Good morning and welcome back!
If you would, start turning in your Bibles to .
If you were with us last week, you will know that we began looking at 2 Kings last Sunday morning and continued to look at it on Sunday night.
As I was preparing for this morning the Lord led me back to 2 Kings, so it seems that the Lord isn’t done with us here just yet.
Now last week we were introduced to Elijah and Elisha with our focus being on Elisha.
And just to recap a bit, on Sunday morning we looked at the subject of When Followers Lead and how Elisha went from the position of being the apprentice to the place that he was called by God to step up and be the prophet of Israel.
We learned how God had been preparing Elisha for this role for years, as he watched and learned from Elijah and how God had worked and prepared Elisha up to the moment he was called to step into the leadership role.
We took Elisha’s example here and hopefully were challenged to examine ourselves and how God has been preparing us to to take that next step of faith, moving into a leadership position of our own.
This could be a position in the church or a position in the community, because honestly it doesn’t matter as much where the position is at because as Christians we are called to be representatives of Jesus Christ EVERYWHERE.
In our life there really should be no difference in how we act in the “secular world” and the “church world,” because there really is no such thing as the two.
It is all God’s World and we are part of it.
How we act in Church should be how we act on the job or in the community.
And the point of Sunday morning’s message was to get us to recognize how God has been preparing and training us for more and more responsibility and leadership.
Because ultimately there is going to come a time when we are going to have to step into that next role.
For Elisha it came suddenly when Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind.
It probably will not be that dramatic for most of us, but it is coming just the same.
Then, on Sunday night we continued the narrative forward looking at the confirmation of Elisha’s calling.
Because just to be honest, Elisha still wasn’t sure that all this was real.
In fact, the others around Elisha were not totally convinced that all of this was real.
As we read Sunday night, they even sent people out to look for Elijah to make sure he was really gone, which they found out he was.
But the point was that Elisha’s calling was real and it was perfectly timed and appointed by God.
We also saw how God used Elisha to end a centuries old curse on the town of Jericho.
Prophets had tried before but couldn’t do it, mainly because it was not their job and their time.
We could say that “timing is everything.”
But also God used this event to provide confirmation of Elisha’s calling to both him and the people of Jericho.
First, Elisha tested out his anointing by parting the river and crossing on dry ground.
Then, he took the water supply that had been poisoned for centuries and purified it with a bowl of salt.
And, the message to the people was that :
They were represented by the water.
The poison was sin.
And the salt was the purifying work of the Holy Spirit that purged the poison.
And hopefully we were all able to relate this back to our own lives and how sin ruins and poisons us, making us useless for the kingdom of God.
However, when we call upon God to heal us, he sends the Holy Spirit to purge and purify us.
Then we become the “salt of the earth” fit to share the hope that is found in Jesus Christ with the world.
So, that is the message behind the message, but still on the surface, there is a lot of confirmation of Elisha’s calling going on here.
First, the confirmation to Elisha himself.
Second, the confirmation to the other prophets who were watching all these events transpire.
Third, the confirmation to the people of Jericho.
Now is going to come the confirmation to the non-believers, the mockers.
So, if you have found 2 Kings in your Bible I’d invite you stand with me as we read verses 23-25.
Again, that is .
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” 24 He turned round, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. 25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
Ignorance in Youth
Ignorance in Youth
Now, just reading these verses and not knowing any background information or anything about the culture, we would probably think “wow, that was harsh!”
And don’t get me wrong, what happened here was harsh, there’s no two bones about it, but I want to dig into some of the details here a bit that may help us understand it a little better.
First, looking at verse 23 again the Bible says . . .
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!”
The first thing here is the fact that Elisha was going up to Bethel.
In Elisha’s day, Bethel was not a nice place.
It was definitely not a spiritual or religious Mecca.
In fact, when we start digging into our Scripture a bit, Bethel was one of the leading centers for Idolatry in the entire Kingdom.
Ourt example comes from . . .
28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people went even as far as Dan to worship the one there. 31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.
1 Kings 12:28-
So, the king had actually set up altars to golden calves and called priests from every religion, except the Jewish Levites, to sacrifice to and worship these calves, which became a sin.
And we look at that from our perspective and think, “that was kind of dumb,” but we do the same thing.
We don’t set up altars to golden calves, but how many idols do we have that we worship?
Because remember and “idol” is anything that we use to replace God in our lives.
What is going on here is that these people had slipped into a life and sin and God’s blessing was no longer present with them.
And instead of repenting and returning to God, they tried to substitute these golden calves for God.
They decided that if God wasn’t going to pander to them and do what they wanted, they were going to “help themselves.”
They didn’t need God because they could make their own.
And they could sacrifice to these things all day long and the only thing they were doing was distracting themselves from the real issue, which was sin.
And, how often do we get wrapped up and busy with all the things in life because we are trying to distract ourselves?
It may not be trying to distract from some sin in our lives, but trying to distract ourselves from something that God is trying to tell us.
And the result was that God stopped talking to them because they stopped listening.
13 Don’t prophesy any more at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”
So, this is the attitude of the people of Bethel.
They had completely ignored God and stopped listening, so God stopped talking to them, but he was about to get their attention.
The second thing here is when the Bible talks about these youths.
Now, this is where your translation is important because in the KJV they translated it little children, and when we see that we say “these were little kids!”
In Hebrew the word “little” means “younger” as in my little brother.
For instance, my little brother is 38 years old.
Now, the word children in Hebrew is actually literally translated as “young man” or “adolescent” into English.
So, these “little children” or “adolescents” or “youth,” however you want to translate it are actually somewhere in their late teens to early to mid 20’s.
But still, even at that we read this and think that the reaction was harsh since all they were doing was making fun of him.
They were jeering at him, saying Go on up you baldhead!
And to us we say, “okay so he was bald,” but in their day this was a great insult because it was dishonorable to not have hair.
And they didn’t have toupees or Rogain.
But what they were saying was not just an insult to Elisha but they were also insulting God.
Remember they had already cut off communication with God by turning to the golden calves and idol worship.
But now they are mocking and insulting God’s representative, God’s “mouthpiece.”
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
THE EXACT SAME THING IS GOING ON HERE IN BETHEL!
But also when they are saying Go on up, they are referring to how Elijah had been called up to God.
They are saying, “you bald-headed disgraceful excuse for a prophet. If you are so great then why don’t you go back to God like they claim your master Elijah did. Take your God and leave, we don’t want you or need you.”
So, that’s the actual context.
And this is what prompts Elisha’s response.
From Baldness to Bears
From Baldness to Bears
24 He turned round, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.
Definitely, not the response that the young men were expecting and probably not the response that Elisha was expecting either.
Elisha was probably expecting this curse to be something that is revealed to them over time, but God had a different plan.
God chose to reveal the fact that Elisha was his servant and that God would not be mocked, IMMEDIATELY.
And this was not a small group of people either.
We don’t know how many there were in total but we do know that two bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of them.
We don’t know if the bears actually killed any of them, the Bible is silent on that point, but we do know that the bears go hold of them.
Which not only shut them but but everyone else in Bethel as well.
So, after this . . .
So, with that we now have Elisha’s calling revealed to
25 And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
And, with that we now have Elisha’s calling revealed to:
The other prophets
The believers in Jericho
The non-believers in Bethel
The stage is now set for Elisha to do the hard work that God has called him to do.
I wonder this morning what God has been revealing to us.
How has God revealed himself to you in your life?
Are you like Elisha who knew he was called but needed God’s confirmation?
Or maybe like the other prophets who were skeptical?
Or like the believers in Jericho who were looking for hope?
Or maybe the non-believers in Bethel, who have been distracting themselves with Idol worship?
Most of us would probably fit in one of these categories.
Maybe you are here this morning and you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
You have never taken that first step of faith.
You can do that today if you are willing.
Maybe you have accepted Christ but the things of life have pulled you away from accepting God’s calling on your life.
You can take care of that today as well.
The reality is, everyone is different and everyone’s needs are unique.
But God knows those needs and God can meet those needs, IF WE are willing to accept what God is offering.
Are you willing to do that today?
It’s your choice and you have to make it.
What will it be today?