Second Kings 2 tells the story about these prophets, Elijah and Elisha, who are travelling from Gilgal to Bethel. That’s over 100km in distance and they travelled on foot. Midway, Elijah is taken up to heaven in a whirlwind, leaving Elisha as his successor.
While that’s pretty cool, the story doesn’t end there.
Continuing on to Bethel, Elisha stops at a river, parts it with Elijah’s staff and crosses on dry land. Then he stops in Jericho and performs another miracle—he purifies their bad water by throwing some salt in it. Elisha is confirmed as a prophet and word about him spreads.
And yet, the story doesn’t end here either.
Finally reaching the outskirts of Bethel, a large group of boys go out to Elisha and mock him saying, “Go away, you baldhead!” (2 Kings 2:23 NLT). To this, Elisha curses them in the name of the Lord and two bears come out of the woods and maul 42 boys (24).
From there Elisha goes to Mount Carmel and finally returns to Samaria (25).
Wait, wait, wait. What just happened?
Prophets aren’t supposed to sic bears on people, just like God isn’t supposed to let prophets sic bears on people…right?
Perhaps because I didn’t know the answers, I felt the need to justify God’s actions—to explain away the “bad stuff.”
Growing up I knew God was full of grace and mercy; that He sent His Son to die for me and save me from my sin. Growing up, I do not recall ever thinking God was someone who punished by mauling. That sort of description was not in my Godictionary. That was an outdated version of God—it was old school.
Without too much thought, I learned to look past the uncomfortable incident, and focus on the good miracles Elisha performed in Bethel, like making a jar of olive oil keep flowing (4:1-7), and raising a boy from the dead (4:32-36).
In fact, I developed a habit of filtering out any Old Testament stories, which didn’t quite fit into my tidy ideal of God. As long as I didn’t think about a jealous or vengeful God, everything was OK.
Unfortunately, the doubts nagged at my mind. If God is the same today, tomorrow, and forever (Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 3:18), what does that mean for today? Is God a contradiction?
I know God is good, but I need the strength to believe it in every circumstance.
Perhaps because I didn’t know the answers, I felt the need to justify God’s actions—to explain away the “bad stuff.” But when I really thought about it, I realized God is bigger any of my rationalizations. He is God. He does what is right and good and His reasons are His own. They don’t make sense to me, but then, I’m not God. But it’s not my job to understand – I’m called to obey.
“My thoughts are completely different than yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9
Instead of asking to understand, I now ask for faith. I know God is good, but I need the strength to believe it in every circumstance. By changing my questions and focusing on God, I’m finding it easier to let the Bible speak for itself and to let go of my limited definition of who God should be.
What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot see. – Hebrews 11:1