August 8, 2023
“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and harassed him, chanting, ‘Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!'”
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“From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and harassed him, chanting, ‘Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!’ He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled 42 of the children. From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel, and then he returned to Samaria.” 2 Kings 2:23-25 (HCSB)
The presence of miracles in the Bible inevitably leads people to one of two extremes. On the one hand, some deny that the advantages of the Bible ever took place. As far as they are concerned, God has left the World to operate completely based on natural laws. Of course, this view attacks the very heart and soul of what it means to follow Jesus. It denies the testimony of Scripture and the Bible’s message of redemption. If there is no possibility of miracles, Jesus was not God in the flesh, and He did not arise from the grave. If these miracles are not true, there is no eternal salvation.
The other extreme is to suggest that miracles should be common for believers, an ongoing experience. (Just how the miraculous can be commonplace and still be miraculous is a bit of a puzzle!) Those who hold this position fail to recognize that the miracles of the Bible are not spread evenly throughout Scripture.
Biblical miracles are separated into clusters: 1) Under Moses when the Lord was delivering Israel from Egypt and establishing her as a nation; 2) During the ministries of Elijah and Elisha; 3) During the Babylonian captivity of the Jews; 4) During the ministry of Messiah Jesus and shortly after His ascension; 5) During the age of the Apostles; 6) The last days.
Each of these clusters occurred at a time of great crisis or transition, always for the good of God’s people as a whole, with the intent of furthering God’s plan of redemption. Many so-called “miracles” today seem more in the nature of personal luxury from the perspective of making life more comfortable for certain individuals. God sent Elijah and Elisha to stop the spiritual decline of Israel and draw her back to Him. God publicly confirmed their ministries by allowing them to perform miracles.
Immediately after the Lord took Elijah, He established Elisha's prophetic office with two miracles: HEALING the waters at Jericho and CURSING a group of rebellious boys. The first miracle illustrated the nature of true salvation. Accursed Jericho repented, sought the Lord’s mercy, and obtained it.
The second miracle shows how (formerly blessed) Bethel incurred judgment upon itself by turning away from the Lord to worship idols. It could be that Elisha had begun his ministry by taking a vow to the Lord, hence shaving his head. The boys, therefore, were mocking Elisha's piety, perhaps provoking him so they could see him perform some kind of “sign.” (Matthew 12:39) Note: There is no indication that any of the boys were killed, only mauled. A hard lesson, indeed.