“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!” He turned around, 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.“ (2 Kings 2:23-24, NIV)
That’s our text for Sunday – I hope you’ll join us as we dig into it. It is a very interesting account and there’s a lot more there than you see at first glance.
These young people, mocking God, God’s word, and God’s minister were a barometer in Israel. A barometer measures the atmosphere and helps in forecasting the weather. These kids tell us everything we need to know about the spiritual atmosphere in Israel at the time. No doubt they were simply repeating what they heard at the dinner table each evening.
Don’t get me wrong – these young people are responsible for their own wrong choices and actions – but it also descriptive of the atmosphere of the nation. In a nation with no reverence for God, his Word, or his ministry, such jeering wasn’t a big deal.
Like you, I watched with broken heart the events in Parkland, Florida unfold yesterday.
Let this sink in: we live in a nation where there are school shootings. Obviously, this says a lot about the perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their actions. But what does it say about the spiritual atmosphere of the nation? What does it say when a major television network equates prayer with a mental disorder?
Here’s the thing about the bears. These bears were a warning sign to Israel – a wakeup call. The nation had sunk to a new low – youths openly mocking God. If the nation didn’t change, something worse than a bear attack was looming. The forecast of the future did not bode well. “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.“ (2 Chronicles 36:16, NIV)
Unfortunately, Israel didn’t learn the lesson of the bears. In 722 BC, in marched Assyria.