Friday, June 6, 2014

The Distractions at Hand

"My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" King Joash wept openly. It was mid-afternoon, and Joash was with Elisha. He was kneeling beside Elisha's sick bed. Joash knew that he wasn't going to make it. He probably wouldn't live through the night.

The old man patted his shoulder, and Joash lifted his head, looking at him through bleary eyes. "Take a bow and arrows." Elisha lifted one finger, and pointed past his head.

Really? He's dying, and he's going to do this now? Nevertheless, Joash retrieved the bow and arrows at Elisha's biding. He laid them on the bed beside Elisha.

Elisha placed his gray hand over Joash's hand. "Open the window eastward."

Sighing, Joash opened the window. He turned back to Elisha. The older man was laying on the bed very still. He should be resting. Instead, he met Joash's gaze with a fiery look of his own.


He turned back to the window. Stretched before him was the courtyard for Elisha's home. Beyond that, the land ran to meet the horizon in an endless game of tag. He raised the bow, and gripping it tightly, he pulled the arrow back. He stretched the string taunt, and for just a moment, he held it there. Then he let go.

"The Lord's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them." Elisha's voice was strong, even though his body was weak. "Take the arrows." Joash picked up a handful of arrows. "Now, strike the ground with them."

He sighed again. His heart wasn't really in whatever prophecy Elisha was spouting. He struck the ground three times with them, and feeling foolish, stopped. He look at Elisha expectantly.

But Elisha was angry. "Why did you stop? You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times."

Tossing the arrows aside, he went back to Elisha's bedside. A word from God was great, but he just couldn't focus on that right now.

Based on 2 Kings 13:14-19

Joash was clearly very upset about Elisha passing away. His heart and his mind were focused on that, rather then on the last message from God that Elisha was trying to deliver.

Why do you think that Joash stopped striking the ground?

When I was in youth group, and we were told to do something crazy, I was never the kid who did it without ceasing. I was the one who stood awkwardly to the side, doing just enough. If I had been Joash, I probably would have done the same thing. One, two, maybe three strikes before I would have felt completely ridiculous. I would have said, "Can I stop now?"

"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth." Colossians 3:2

"Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:31-34

"For those who live according to the flesh, set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." Romans 8:5

"Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you." Proverbs 4:25

Joash was focused on the physical. Elisha. Death. The ridiculous thing he had to do. He was not focused on God. There are a lot of distractions in our world. We can be distracted about how silly we look jumping and dancing. We can be distracted by hard situations in our lives. We can be distracted by trying to put food on the table.

I had something completely different planned for this message, but when I read threw it again, all I could see was the distractions. The natural, everyday distractions the enemy was using to draw Joash's eye away from the message at hand.

If Joash had been more focused on God's message, then maybe he would have kept striking the ground. Elisha said if only Joash had kept striking the ground, then they would have rid themselves of Syria forever. However, his focus was set on earthly things. God's words may come to us at inconvenient times   it certainly did for Joash   but we need to be so set on God, that we are able to hear Him speak at any time. Look past everything, and look forward to God. Set your sights on His words, His will.

Only then will we be able to let go of everything around us, and strike the ground, and bring forth victory.

V. Joy Palmer

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