The account of King Joash and the Prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 13 is the story of a missed opportunity. The Lord had given the king a chance to secure the fate of Israel against the Syrians. All he had to do was to “strike the ground” with his arrows to signify victory, and the Lord would do the rest. But Joash’s lack of faith cost him. He used only three arrows which weren’t enough victories to destroy the enemy completely. Recently, this story came to life for me. I believe God has given me a similar chance to shoot arrows (and maybe He has for you too). That’s when effort, in relation to faith, can move the hand of God.
King Joash and Elisha
The story takes place about the time that the prophet Elisha was about to die. King Joash may have done evil in the sight of the Lord by following in the steps of Jeroboam, but he understood Elisha’s power and connection to God. He was afraid that when the prophet left the earth, he would take the Lord’s protection with him. (Remember that Jeroboam was the one who set up a golden calf for worship in Dan in the north and Bethel in the south instead of encouraging his people to travel to Jerusalem to properly worship God His way).
Joash came to Elisha and cried. Elisha told him to take a bow and some arrows. Then he put his own hands on top of Joash’s hands and told him to shoot an arrow out the east window toward Syria. Now, in that time, there was a custom for someone to shoot an arrow or throw a spear into the country in which an army intended to invade. It was symbolic, like a declaration of war.
Then Elisha said, “The arrow of the Lord’s deliverance, and the arrow of deliverance from Syria. For thou shalt smite the Syrians in Aphek, till thou have consumed them” (2 Kings 13:17b). Here the prophet was assuring Joash that just because Elisha was dying didn’t mean that God’s power would be gone from Israel too. The connection between Joash’s arrows and a strike against Israel’s enemies, the Syrians, was clear. All Joash had to do was shoot in faith and God would bring the victory.
Then Elisha told Joash to “strike the ground.” He wasn’t asking him to pound arrows into the floor. He wanted him to shoot through that same window at no particular target so that the arrows hit the ground. The arrows represented Israel’s victories against the Syrians, and the shooting represented Joash’s faith that his efforts would mean something in the greater scheme of things.
Joash struck three times and stopped. Was he thinking about the futility of his actions? Was he worried about looking silly or afraid he would lose his arrows or have to waste energy picking them up later? Whatever the reason, when the Lord through the prophet Elisha presented him with an open window and an explicit connection between his actions and the results the Lord would bring about on his behalf, Joash stopped short.
Elisha was angry and told him, “Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times. Then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice” (2 Kings 13:19). Joash would receive the reward of his faith, or lack thereof. God had given him a clear opportunity to use his efforts according to his belief in God’s process as outlined by Elisha, but he had missed the mark. Both he and his people would pay for it, and there were no second chances after that.
My Opportunity from God
Recently, God has called me to a “fasting ministry.” I had never even heard of one before He spoke to me about it. For me, it involves fasting a certain number of days per week and praying a set number of times for a set number of weeks. With input from my pastor, the Lord helped me come up with the prayers I pray for my church as well as my own needs.
Not long after it started, I got a strong desire to pray those same “fasting prayers” even on days when I wasn’t fasting. So, seven days a week, whether fasting or not, I wake up at some point between 3 and 6 in the morning, head into my closet, and pray those prayers. So far, most times when I have found myself in my closet on those non-fasting days, the same thought has occurred to me. “I want to shoot ALL my arrows.”
See, God has given me an open window of opportunity. I have no idea how exactly He will use my efforts, but He has made it clear that those efforts are required. I have a part to play in order for Him to move. So, I keep shooting. Sometimes it gets hard. Sometimes my arm gets tired. And a lot of the time I feel like a terrible archer (because I don’t seem to be hitting anything). But by God’s grace, I believe in my heart of hearts that God has a purpose for me. He called me, He equipped me, and if I will just keep shooting, I will receive the reward of my faith.
Strike the Ground
Has God also given you an open window, a ministry or calling to fulfill for such a time as this? Did it come with His help and instruction, equipping you for the job? Be assured that even when God calls and equips, much of the outcome still rests on our decisions along the way. Joash’s minimum effort allowed only God’s limited rewards. As for us, if God has given us an opportunity for victory by faith, we can’t stop shooting until the Lord says, “Enough!”
Do you like analogies? Try reading Our Labor is Not in Vain. It’s an analogy involving an episode of the show I Shouldn’t Be Alive. Or, try Born Again: All About That Butterfly Life. An article about being born again uses the analogy of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to a butterfly. Or, Check out my YouTube Channel where I will read all my posts to you while you do something else.