Crooked Sticks and Straight Lines

From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, chanting, “Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!” He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the children. From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel, and then he returned to Samaria.

2 Kings 2:23-25

In “Precious Puritans,” Propaganda (a rapper) discusses his discomfort as an African-American listening to his pastor quote Puritan theologians. His discomfort comes from the fact that many of these theologians lived in a time when slavery was common in our nation and many of them either said nothing about it or even participated as chaplains on slave ships. He poses this question to show how contradictory this is for the descendants of the slaves.
How come the things the Holy Spirit showed them
In the Valley of Vision
Didn’t compel them to knock on their neighbor’s door
And say “you can’t own people!”

In the end, though, he realizes much of his struggle is amplified by the discomfort he feels when people quote him in spite of his own imperfections. This brings him to the following conclusion which may be helpful in understanding the passage above.
So I guess it’s true that God really does use crooked sticks
To make straight lines
Just like your precious Puritans

Along with a double portion of Elijah’s spirit, this passage can make you wonder if Elisha inherited a double portion of Elijah’s temper. Some small children taunt Elisha with what may have simply been childish banter. Elisha response was to curse the children. The children were then mauled by two bears. It’s hard for me to imagine that any of this occurred as part of the will of God (much like the calling down of fire on the 102 soldiers by Elijah in a previous story). God gave Elisha power, but it is very possible that Elisha misused his power in this instance. Again, Satan could have taken advantage of this moment to bring tragedy into the lives of the people of this village.

Before we judge Elisha, though, we must remember that we are just as capable of misusing any power God may give us and potentially be cooperating with Satan in his quest to “steal, kill, and destroy.” We are not above this possibility. We are fallible human beings, what Propaganda refers to as “crooked sticks.” Still, God is willing to use us in fulfilling His mission in spite of our inconsistency in resisting the darker side of our imperfect natures. So, before we judge, remember that we are human like the imperfect servants, too.

  • In what way have you given in to missusing the gifts of God in your own life for selfish purposes?

Published by llongard

I grew up in northeast Wisconsin. After high school, I moved to Minneapolis, MN to attend North Central University and graduated 1992 with a degree in Biblical Studies and Humanities. I spent most of the next fifteen years in the Twin Cities area until my family and I moved to Indiana in 2007. For most of the first seventeen years after college, I was involved in university ministry either as a volunteer, bi-vocational, or full-time campus minister. Through those years, I also worked in the main street marketplace as a retail manager/trainer and as a service representative in the insurance industry. I've also worked in various education roles. Most recently, I have been working on various projects addressing homelessness in Indianapolis and as team lead for Diakonos Community, a Communitas International missional initiative. Through this ministry, we seek to build missional communities in Indianapolis that serve and bring the life of Christ to those on the margins of society. Our strategy is to collaborate with community agencies that serve those in need and share Christ through meaningful relationships. I am blessed with a wonderful wife, three amazing daughters, and two cats (can't forget the cats, LOL). As a family, we enjoy camping, hiking, gardening, and going to the YMCA together. I also enjoy fishing, riding bicycle, and being involved in whatever my daughters are doing. Though I have not lived in the Green Bay area for over 20 years, I am still a major Packer fan.

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