Scripture: 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 13:19 ESV
Observation: This intriguing and somewhat bizarre story tells how Israel’s King Joash sought Elisha’s blessings before this aged prophet passed away. Elisha graciously extended one last favor by commanding Joash to draw back his bow and shoot an arrow eastward toward Syria. Joash followed instructions, and Elisha pronounced the Lord’s forthcoming victory over Syria (through the king and his army). Elisha then directed Joash to clasp his arrows in his hand and strike the ground. So Joash struck the earth three times and hastily stopped. Angry with Joash over his halfhearted actions, Elisha prophecies that Joash will defeat Syria three times, but the strife between Israel and their neighbor will linger.
Takeaway: Our greatest enemy is not our neighbor but within us: our recurring, unmitigated sin. If we rationalize and make excuses, these addictive sin patterns will eventually master us. Indeed, Jesus warned that when our hearts and minds are set free from oppression by evil spirits (who tempt and trap us in sin), we will be worse off in the end if we fail to fill the void with godly habits (Matthew 12:43-45). Otherwise, those areas of our lives unsurrendered to God will cause us to limp through the rest of our lives and potentially defeat us.
Thankfully, “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). So if we cooperate with the Holy Spirit and ruthlessly strike against our pet sins, put them to death, and fill the void with godly habits that uplift our souls, we will walk upright and live the abundant life that Christ promised (John 10:10). Easier said than done? Yes, particularly if we white-knuckle the process rather than rely on God’s grace (which accounts for setbacks), his Word (which convicts and inspires us), and fellow believers (who will support, encourage, and hold us accountable). Together, empowered by the Holy Spirit, we will strike down our enemy and end the strife.
Prayer: Thank you father that your grace is always sufficient to overcome the machinations of the Evil One. Would you please help us wholeheartedly cooperate with your Holy Spirit and strike down habitual sins, that we might walk upright living the abundant life? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling