How Can I Find Clarity in Confusion?
Mike Fitzpatrick | 2 Kings 2:23-25
At first glance, our Scripture for today may not seem like it has a lot to do with gaining clarity in the midst of confusion. I have read all the way through the Bible several times and there are many passages that I come across that have a question mark or exclamation points beside them. These are the passages that I just don’t get, or that seem shocking, or that I want to come back to.
This is one of those passages.
“Elisha went up from there to Bethel. As he was going up the road, some young people came out of the city. They mocked him: “Get going, Baldy! Get going, Baldy!” Turning around, Elisha looked at them and cursed them in the Lord’s name. Then two bears came out of the woods and mangled forty-two of the youths. From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel and then back to Samaria.” 2 Kings 2:23-25
If your life were put into print, where would your question marks and exclamation points be? At one point you knew what the story looked like and what part you played. But now, it’s super murky. You may know what you are doing next week, but beyond that are all sorts of question marks and exclamation points.
Who will I ultimately be?
What will I be doing for the rest of my life?
Turning a page in our lives can be intimidating. The clouds are all we can see, and we have no idea what that next chapter will bring or how to make sense of it.
And that’s the same feeling we get from this story of Elisha. How do we deal with it?
We have two options:
We can skim over it and not deal with it. I mean, that’s not what my God is like, so I’ll try to pretend that this little anecdote doesn’t exist.
Or, we can do the hard work of digging. Really mine for what is going on.
So, for the sake of clarity, let’s take a deeper look at Elisha’s story. There may be a bit more going on in this seemingly horrifying story than at first glance.
First of all, Bethel was a location that held special significance in Israel’s history, but unfortunately had more recently been known as the central location for idol worship, particularly the idol Baal.
God knew that if the Israelites started diverting their worship and devotion to anything other than the one true God, it could jack up everything.
So, idol worship was taken very seriously by God.
In fact, you may remember the first two of the ten commandments – don’t worship other gods and don’t worship any graven images (like Baal) – both a threat to God’s bigger plan of blessing.
So, Elisha is wandering into a territory where this kind of blatant disregard for God’s great plan is on full display.
But still, a bunch of kids tease Elisha and he calls these bears out to maul them?
We read that those who were picking on Elisha were ‘young people.’ Other translations read ‘young boys’ or ‘little children.’
“Come on, Elisha! They don’t know any better!”
However, the word used for youth or young boys here is the same word that is used in the Bible to describe Solomon when he was 20 years old and Joseph when he was 39. And the context suggests that they were serving in the shrine dedicated to the idol Baal, blatantly disrespecting and disobeying God’s Law.
These were not just random kids – they were likely adults who were actively threatening the purposes of God in the world.
Elisha was simply acting within his job description as a prophet of God.
“The mauling of the youthful mob is not vindictive anger on behalf of Elisha but divine judgment for culpable denial of the divine purpose.” (August Konkel)
This was not about Elisha having an itchy trigger finger when getting picked on. This was about God preserving God’s people so that the world could be blessed.
When we first approached this passage of Scripture, it seemed way the honk out there. Like, we have no idea what to do with it. But what did we do? We kept digging. We dug into the passage. We read it over and over again. We looked at context clues. We studied all of the nooks and crannies within the passage. We explored what other, really smart researchers had to say about it. We connected dots that we had no idea were there to begin with. And we came out on the other side with a better understanding of what God was trying to tell us through this story in Elisha’s life.
Is it crystal clear? Nope.
Do we still have further questions about it? Yep.
But some of the clouds have burned away. And if we were to dig further, more and more clouds would burn away.
That’s how you and I must approach the questions marks and exclamation points in our lives.
We keep digging to gain greater understanding.
“The Companion, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you.” (John 14:26)
Jesus knew that this human life can be full of question marks and exclamation points, and that God loves us too much to make us go it alone. So, God promised constant presence and guidance every step of the way.
But sometimes it’s still cloudy. Is that God’s Spirit speaking to me, or is that just what I want? Is God really telling me to quit my job, or is it just because my co-workers are jerkfaces? Is God telling me to pursue this career, or is it just what my mom or dad pursued? How do we know when God is speaking?
Friends, there’s no magic formula to make all the clouds, the question marks, and exclamation points disappear. But a healthy mix of Scripture, trusted friends and advisors, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will all encourage us to just take the next right step.
“In this world, we’re all digging wells. In our lives, we’re digging wells. We’re digging wells in relationships, where we put all this time and effort and energy and sometimes it doesn’t give us what we need. We put all our time and effort and energy in dreams and business and it doesn’t give us what we were after, but if you just keep digging—my God, if you could just hear me now—keep digging. You may be four inches away from every gift and blessing you ever wanted in your life.” (Tyler Perry)
Watch the full message: