One generation ago, Christian leader Leonard Ravenhill called the American Church “the sleeping giant.” Judging by the secular victories and trajectory of our culture, we continue to slumber. It appears that we have yet to humble ourselves, pray, seek His face, and turn from our sins sufficiently. But, let us not lose heart. Let us not grow weary in well-doing. If we press on to know the will of the Lord, we will be rewarded. This week, let’s not lose heart in prayer.
And [Elisha] said, “Take the arrows,” and [the king of Israel] took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “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.” — 2 Kings 13:18-19
I love this strange story from 2 Kings. It gives us hope for God’s grace and power even in the darkest times, and reminds us of our significance in His purposes on the earth.
In this setting, the prophet Elisha is on his deathbed when the king of Israel, King Joash, comes to visit him. A discerning reader would expect a harsh word of rebuke or judgment from the prophet in this final conversation with the king. The Bible tells us that King Joash did evil in God’s sight and that the king led the people of Israel to sin (2 Kings 13:11). Yet to our surprise, Elisha’s final words to the king speak of hope, victory, and potential.
Elisha has Joash engage in two prophetic acts. Immediately before these verses, Elisha has Joash prepare to shoot an arrow out the window of the house. Just before Joash releases the arrow, Elisha places his hand on the king’s hand to symbolize the hand of God on Joash’s battle efforts. After the arrow is shot, Elisha declares, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria!” (2 Kings 13:17).
Secondly, Elisha tells the king to take the rest of his arrows and strike the ground. Joash probably had no idea why the prophet commanded him to strike the ground, although the first prophetic act may have given him some insight. Trusting the esteemed prophet, the king strikes the ground with his arrows three times. Immediately, Elisha rebukes the king for not striking the ground more times, for if he had kept striking, he would have been given total victory over the Syrians. Though Joash didn’t deserve it, God allowed the king to play a role in His greater purposes.
God has put the arrows of prayer and His word in our hands. As we strike the ground with faith and confidence, God will allow us to be used for His glory. As we pray in Jesus’ name despite our imperfections, the Father’s covenant love for His Son and His people will bring grace and power to do mighty exploits for His kingdom.
Several years ago I went to the Jersey shore to help lead a ministry conference. The first night of the conference was incredible. The Spirit of God was poured out on that group; it remains one of the most memorable ministry events in my life thus far. The night ended around midnight after the prolonged time of worship and prayer. To my surprise my wife was still awake. As I began to recount to her by phone all that had happened, she said, “I knew that something special was happening.” She went on to explain that she felt a strong sense to pray after putting the kids to bed. Usually, a busy mom is ready to relax after a day of single-parenting two preschoolers! Instead, she was compelled to pray all night. She said it was as if she was there. She saw faces of people to pray for and interceded hours for them.
Who knows whether the life-changing encounter of that ministry conference was a partial result of my wife’s determination to keep “striking the ground” in prayer. We may never understand in this life the extent of our role in God’s victories, but we know that He calls us to participate with faith and expectation for what He is able to do.
Almighty God, the battle belongs not to the strong or well-prepared but to You. In Your name we ask for the grace to keep seeking Your kingdom and righteousness with all of our hearts. Rain down Your Spirit on me, my family, my community, all Your people, and on every region of this nation. Revive us. Restore us. In Jesus’ name, amen!
Yours for Jesus’ victories,
Chuck Hetzler, Ph.D.
Senior Associate, Christian Union Day and Night
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