Faith is Evidenced by Action (Plus, Leave a Life-Giving Legacy)
2 Kings 13:19 (NIV) 19 The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.”
On verses 14-19, 22-25: In the final chapter to Elisha’s ministry on earth, Elisha meets Jehoash king of Israel, who weeps knowing that Elisha is sick and approaching death. Testifying to Elisha’s greatness, Jehoash calls Elisha “the chariots and horsemen of Israel” (v14), just as Elisha had so called his mentor Elijah (2 Kings 2:12). Pursuant to Elisha’s instructions, Jehoash grabs a bow, opens the east window, and shoots with Elisha’s hands on Jehoash’s hands. After that Elisha declares that Jehoash will be victorious over Arameans (v17). Elisha then tells Jehoash to take the arrows in his quiver and strike the ground. So Jehoash takes the arrows and strikes the ground three times. But Elisha becomes angry, saying that Jehoash should have struck the ground fix or six times, because the fact that Jehoash only struck the ground three times meant that he would only defeat Aram three times.
What is going on here? Elisha is not teaching Jehoash to be superstitious. Rather, at this crucial time when Elisha is nearing death and Israel is under Aramean threat, Elisha is testing Jehoash’s faith in God. In the first exercise, Elisha puts his hands on top of Jehoash’s hands, and together they use a bow to shoot out the east window. It’s not clear if they actually shot an arrow out the window or if Elisha was just getting Jehoash to pretend. In any event, this exercise was relatively easy for Jehoash because Elisha’s hands were guiding and strengthening Jehoash’s hands as he stretched the bow. By declaring after shooting with the bow that Jehoash will be victorious over Aram, Elisha was teaching Jehoash that victory would depend on Jehoash’s faith in God’s Word.
So in the second exercise, Elisha is watching to see what kind of faith Jehoash would place in God’s Word when Jehoash does not have Elisha’s hands to guide him (symbolic of the time upcoming when Jehoash would need to lead Israel without Elisha’s guidance). Elisha tells Jehoash to take the arrows into his hands and without Elisha’s help strike the ground with those arrows. The fact that Jehoash only struck the ground three times suggests that Jehoash was passive, lazy and doubtful. Had Jehoash struck the ground five or six times, Jehoash would have had complete victory instead of partial victory over Aram. For the number of times Jehoash struck the ground reflected how much faith Jehoash had in God’s Word and God’s faithfulness. Indeed, despite Aram overpowering Israel while his father ruled Israel, Jehoash would go on to defeat Aram three times just as Elisha had predicted (v22-25).
What can we learn from this?
1. Your level of faith in God will determine our level of victory with Him. As 1 John 5:4 says, “And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith” (1 John 5:4, NKJV). Much faith, much victory. Little faith, little victory. No faith, no victory.
2. Faith is evidenced by action. It’s easy for anyone to say “I believe in God” or “I trust in God”, but it is what they do and how they live that really shows what they believe. It’s easy for anyone to say “I love God”, but how much a person loves God is shown through their actions: the way they worship, the way they serve, the way they pray, the way they use their time and money, the way they take risks for Him.
A classic example is baptism. It’s easy for someone to say, “I believe in Jesus and want to follow him”, but if that person refuses to obey a basic command from Jesus like getting baptized to evidence their faith, then that person must ask themselves, “Do I really believe in Jesus and want to follow?”
Faith is evidenced by action. As James 2:18, 26 says, “But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
2 Kings 13:20-21 (NIV) 20 Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.
On verses 20-21: Elisha dies from his sickness and is buried. Evidently Elisha didn’t leave the earth as gloriously as his mentor Elijah did. Elisha died from an illness whereas Elijah never died but was taken up to heaven alive. But one thing Elijah never did which Elisha did do was bring someone back to life even after their own departure from the earth. Elisha’s legacy was such that even after he died, other dead people were coming back to life and finding hope just by getting close to his bones.
What can we learn from this? Leave a life-giving legacy. When you die, may the legacy you leave — the memory of your character, your faith, the way you loved God and loved others — be an inspiration that brings life and hope to those who come after you.
Heavenly Father, thank You that the gift of victory in this world is wrapped up in our faith in You. May I live each day with victory-inducing faith and may my actions show it. In the end may I leave a legacy that brings life and hope to others and leads others to Jesus. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!