Elisha was undoubtedly one of the greatest biblical prophets. He had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and thus performed twice as many miracles; he did not fall prey to fear like Elijah (when he hid in a cave from Jezebel and asked God to take his life); and the final miracle performed through him was after his death. In the fanfare of Elisha’s greatness, it is easy for us to overlook the truth that God had to grow him up at the start of his tenure as prophet of Israel. The proof of Elisha’s growth (as evidenced by a change in his thinking and behavior) is this: Elisha went from killing forty-two kids because they ridiculed him about his baldness (2 Kings 2:23 – 24), to sparing and treating to a feast an army that was sent specifically to kill him (2 Kings 6:14 – 22). Something happened to Elisha to change him from his old way of thinking (old school) to a new way of thinking (new skool).
We can infer that old school Elisha was intolerant, quick to anger, swift to pronounce judgment, and hence meted out harsh (if not criminal) justice. Power in the hands of such a man as old school Elisha is dangerous as the kids who survived the mauling by the two bears can attest. I mean, Elisha was out of control! He did not pause to think to himself that kids sometimes will behave like kids. Yes the kids were wrong for what they did, but they were not “dead” wrong – they did not deserve death. Even if he was upset, a sensible fellow would have chastised the children and moved on. But no, to him the ‘sin’ of ridicule was punishable by death. Old school Elisha was a child himself who was not grown up in the Lord. He simply focused on “what” the kids were doing (mocking him) rather than “why” the kids were doing what they were doing (possibly to have some fun).
Light-bulb moment: When we simply focus only on what was done to us (from a selfish point of view) rather than try to understand why it was done; we tend to over-react and throw the baby out with the bath water.
Note: Taking our eyes off Elisha for a moment, the story of what happened to the youths teaches us that we have to be careful who we mess with for we can never be sure how they will react. It is better to avoid trouble by not messing with anyone in the first place.
When we look for parallels between old school Elisha and other people in the bible, we find something interesting. We find that the Pharisees were the ones that concentrated on the “what” (action) rather than the “why” (heart). They chose to focus on what Jesus was doing only from their own selfish point of view and so acted solely based on that point of view. They could not see beyond themselves and so made a decision that is even crazier than the decision Elisha made. They decided to crucify a man who did nothing morally reprehensible but was healing, teaching, feeding , and caring for people and instead released a man who was a violent thief.
New skool Elisha on the other hand was a different man. He not only showed mercy to the men that were sent to kill him but threw them a party. What new skool Elisha did can be paralleled with what Jesus did. Jesus was merciful to us by paying the price for all our sins and then threw us a party by making available to us all the covenant blessing of God through the Holy Spirit with whom He sealed us.
So what changed Elisha? Simply put……God. As he continued walking with God, his heart started to resemble the heart of God. And the heart of God is this: that people do not perish but come to repentance.
“For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord GOD. “Therefore turn and live!” – Ezekiel 18:32
While old school Elisha would probably have called down lightning to set the Syrian army ablaze, new skool Elisha simply blinded them temporarily and escorted them to the King so they may be thrown a party. He did not destroy the men but showed them mercy. As a result, the men sent to kill Elisha turned back from their old ways of raiding Israel for the bible says that the raiders no longer entered Israel (see 2 Kings 6:23) – they did not perish but repented.
Just as God remains long-suffering towards us and extends His loving kindness to us through Jesus (who sacrificed Himself for us), we are to extend the same courtesy to others.
God wants us to be transformed from old school to new skool by dumping the ruler of this world (Satan) and allowing Jesus to live within us and walk with Him. He wants us to truly know Him by studying His Word. As we do this, we build our knowledge of Him and build our faith in Him. In time, we are able to act out of a heart of love rather than act out of our own selfishness. When we do this, we find that we are no longer instruments of calamity in our own lives and other people’s lives but rather become bridge builders and vessels of positive change in the world.
Light-bulb moment: When saved, we become Elisha’s as we become empowered by the Holy Spirit. Yet, our old school must be transformed to a new skool. When we choose to grow in God by renewing our minds (see Romans 12:2), the impact of our life grows.
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” – Galatians 5:25