Zeal – Strike the arrows on the ground
Most bows today have a 25 to 30 lb. pull. But the armor piercing English Longbow had a 110 to 185 lb. pull. It wasn’t arm strength but shoulder strength that mattered. Most of us today would dislocate our shoulders trying to pull one of these bows. But what if someone told you that you didn’t have to shoot the arrows but merely strike them on the ground. Would you believe him and strike vigorously or would you think, “Oh yeah, this is not going to work but I’ll go through the motions. What I’ll really do is build up my shoulder strength so I can shoot the bow.”
“Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped. The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times” (2 Kings 13:18-19).
The king did as he was told but without any zeal or fervency. The king might have thought, “I will do what the prophet says but it is kind of silly to be hitting arrows on the ground. I hope no one sees me doing this.” He did not have an earnest belief that what he was told to do would be effective against his enemies. But these were God’s enemies as well. Later on in 2 Kings 13:25 we read, “Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.” But the enemy was never completely destroyed.
Often I have felt like king Jehoash. Many times out evangelizing I have thought, “I hope no one comes to the door. I don’t feel like talking to anyone; all I want to do is stick tracts in the doors.” I am doing what God said to do, but with no zeal or fervency. Yes it is good to obey God even if we don’t feel like it. But how much better to be sold out and fervent in our obedience.
Just as Jehoash’s lack of fervency limited what God was willing to do, our unfaithfulness and lack of zeal limits the goodness that God is willing to do in our lives and in the lives we touch. Yes God is completely sovereign. But also man has a real responsibility toward God (1 Cor. 9:16, Eph. 2:8-10, Phil. 2:12-13). In Mark 6:5-6, we read: “He [Jesus] could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.”
God does not want anyone who is half-hearted. He spits them out of His mouth (Rev 3:16). The kingdom of Heaven is not for the fainthearted either. Forceful men are taking hold of the kingdom of Heaven (Matt 11:12, Luke 14:26-35). It is not just going to cost us a lot; it is going to cost us everything. Yet Jesus says: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30). He always gives us grace to do what He has assigned us to do no matter how difficult it seems (Eph. 4:7).
God was willing to give Israel complete victory over Aram [Syria], but the king’s lack of zeal (belief) limited that victory.
The things God tells us to do, like prayer or evangelism, may seem weak like hitting arrows on the ground sometimes, but they always have eternal consequences which will turn sure defeat into overwhelming victory. Keep doing those things fervently.