One of the strangest stories in the Bible comes from the life of Elisha: “From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. “Go on up, you baldhead!” they said. “Go on up, you baldhead!” He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.” (2 Kings 2:23-24, NIV)
These young people were mocking God, God’s word, and God’s minister. These kids didn’t represent the official position of Israel, but they were a spiritual barometer for the nation.
A barometer measures atmospheric pressure and helps in forecasting the weather. These kids tell us everything we need to know about the spiritual atmosphere in Israel at the time. No doubt they were simply repeating what they heard from their parents at the dinner table each evening.
Don’t get me wrong – these young people are responsible for their own wrong choices and actions – but it is also descriptive of the atmosphere of the nation. In a nation with no reverence for God, his Word, or his ministry, such jeering wasn’t a big deal.
We live in a broken society ourselves. Perhaps the most heart-breaking symptom of our nation’s brokenness is school violence. Obviously, this says a lot about the perpetrators of violence who are responsible for their actions. But what does it say about the spiritual atmosphere of the nation?
What does it say when a major television network equates prayer with a mental disorder? When Billy Graham, at his death, was mocked by some?
Here’s the thing about the bears. These bears were a warning sign to Israel – a wakeup call. The nation had sunk to a new low – youths openly mocking God. If the nation didn’t change – if the nation didn’t turn back to God – something worse than a bear attack was looming.
The forecast of the future did not bode well. “But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.” (2 Chronicles 36:16, NIV)
Unfortunately, Israel didn’t learn the lesson of the bears. In 722 BC, the nation of Assyria marched in and Israel was no more.
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit New Life’s website www.NewLifeDenton.org for more information.