But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence. (2 Kings 13:23 NIV)
Covenant love is not easy. This is seen painfully in God’s interactions with the northern kingdom of Israel.
The sins of Jeroboam had continued through his dynasty up to the dynasty of Jehu. Elisha, like his predecessor Elijah, had faithfully served as a prophet of the Lord to Israel and had seen the people continue to stumble between two opinions. Wanting the best of both worlds, idol worship and an affinity to Yahweh the one true and living God. Elisha knew such compromise was not possible.
King after king would follow the sins of Jeroboam yet still on occasion turn to God. God would still come through for His people when they cried out to Him even though they never stayed faithful to Him once He rescued them. As Elisha’s days were drawing to an end, he expressed the compassion of God to the people of Israel by granting to Jehoash, the evil king of the time, an opportunity to gain victory over the Arameans their persistent enemy of the time. Jehoash’s failure to trust God totally through hitting the arrows more than the three times, meant he would never experience total victory he could have with total trust. Elisha had used his past moments to leave a life lesson to the king of the time and to those who would follow.
There’s the remarkable episode of the effect of Elisha even in death, where someone about to buried came into contact with the man of God’s bones and came back to life. This too gives hope that even in dead situation an encounter with God can bring it back to life.
This was not far from the dead relationship the people of Israel had with the God who rescued them. Yet God remained concerned, gracious and compassionate. Ever willing to keep covenant love, ever willing to remain faithful even as the other party is faithless.
For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden