Shortly before the prophet Elisha died, the king of Israel, Joash, came to him in panic. Panic seized him because he was under attack by the Arameans, and he grew terrified that he was not prepared to win the battle. The scent of defeat and disaster wafted on the winds from a distance. A pure analysis of the numbers told him quickly that he was on the losing side of this battle. Everything that was available to him was not enough to win this war. So in desperation the king went to Elisha for help. Even though the king was facing a physical, tangible military crisis, he needed and sought a spiritual solution.
Elisha responded by telling the king to take his bow and arrows and place his hands on them. When he did, Elisha then placed his own hands on top of the king’s. By doing such, he merged the spiritual with the physical, inviting heaven’s viewpoint to bear on earth.
Next, Elisha instructed the king to open the window that faced toward the east—where his enemy waited—and shoot an arrow out of it. When the king did, Elisha said, “’The lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.’” (2 Kings 13:17).
In this passage we read that Elisha gave the king a prophetic word. He gave him exactly what he needed in the midst of a crisis and that is to see the spiritual side of the issue. Because if all you see is the issue itself then you will inevitably see defeat. But when you are able to see what God sees, it gives you the opportunity to conduct yourself in light of that truth. Keep in mind that it is only an opportunity, though, because God never forces you to have faith. If He did it would negate the very faith He forced you to have.
After this, Elisha told the king to take his remaining arrows. And so he did. “’Strike the ground,’” (2 Kings 13:18) Elisha instructed, which the king did. But then came the problem. In the king’s fear-induced haste or out of self-preservation—we don’t know—he did not act on the prophetic word Elisha had just given him which declared his victory. Rather, the text tells us that, “he struck it three times and stopped” (2 Kings 13:18).
This made Elisha very angry as he rebuked him by saying, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times” (2 Kings 13:19).
Friend, the lesson of king Joash teaches us this: Most of the time God’s promises are in your reach. They are not in your hand. Like Joshua, who had been promised every place the sole of his foot touched, and like this king, you have to go and get them. God’s promises for you don’t come about by you simply sitting around and waiting for them. They require you to act in faith, to live out the principles taught in His Word, and more—to align your life under God’s truth.
With the first arrow that Elisha called, “The lord’s arrow of victory,” the promise of victory for king Joash had been established. Yet the king was told to shoot more arrows out the window. We know that at a minimum he had at least six arrows in his quiver because of what Elisha said to him. But the king chose to shoot only three. Maybe he wanted to save his remaining arrows for the upcoming battle. Maybe he didn’t want them damaged, or maybe he didn’t want to have to retrieve them, or lose them altogether. The king was obviously covering himself in keeping back a few of his arrows. Yet for whatever reason, the prophet had given him an instruction, and he had held back. He quit long before he ever should have.
All of us, to one degree or another, can identify with this king.
At one time or another we have found ourselves under attack—overwhelmed by circumstances and situations coming against us, with no earthly solution in sight. I have never experienced a time like this in our nation where it seems that so many people feel so helpless and defeated. In a myriad of ways, many of us today are mirroring this king, concerned about the attacks we are facing.
Yet many of us are quitting way too early as well.
They are trying to mix “God’s way” by shooting a few arrows out the window with “their way” by making sure they have enough arrows remaining should they need to figure it out for themselves. These individuals, like the king, are too afraid to empty their quiver in faith. When it comes down to whether or not people will, few do.
Just like the king of Israel.
We want a little bit of God.
And a little bit of us.
Just in case.
But God rarely drops His promises into our laps. What God makes legal through His covenantal chesed love, you must make literal. You must bring its reality from heaven to earth. You must usher in what God has promised by participating in the grand drama called: Movement.
Because the king chose to use only part of what he had, he only received part of what had been promised. Don’t let that happen to you.
The promises for you in God’s Word are true, and the promises are complete. But rarely do these promises come apart from participation. When you attended high school or college, you were promised a degree at the time of your completion of whatever track you had chosen to study. However, your participation in the process was what ushered in the reality of the promise.
If you buy a toaster and bring it home, the marketing verbiage surrounding that toaster promises to supply you with toasted bread. But you still must plug it in. You still must put the bread in. You still must push it down for it to start toasting. There are things you must do to fully benefit from the promise of the toaster.
The king’s problem was real. His problem was big. I know that whatever you might be facing right now is real as well, and that it is also big. But don’t quit. Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t let the failures of yesterday negate your tomorrows. God can hit a bull’s eye with a crooked stick. When God gives you His perspective on what He would have you do, go ahead. Do it. Don’t merge what He says with what your friends say, or what you hear on the television, what your kids say, or even with what you think.
Your answer is already in your hands. Obey God, completely.