During the Spring term of my senior year in college, my campus was on high alert. The National Guard showed up to keep the peace. One night during that tense period, my date and I were walking across the quad when a quartet of young men came towards us. As they approached, they fanned out and blocked the sidewalk ahead of us and dared us to pass them. Believe me, I felt threatened.
In 2 Kings 2:23-24, a prophet of God felt threatened. Soon after Elisha had begun his ministry, he was walking down a country road near Jericho, a place long known for bandits who set upon lonely travelers. Suddenly a gang of young hoodlums surrounded Elisha and started teasing him. “Baldy! Go away, Baldy!” they taunted. Terrified, Elisha turned and cursed them in the name of the Lord.
Does that sound like a harsh over-reaction to simple teasing? Look at verse 24. This was no small gang. At least 42 youths surrounded Elisha! No wonder he feared for his life. Immediately two fierce bears came out of the woods and began to maul his taunters.
Elisha seems to have been shaken by this raw display of God’s power. Though it was far off his route, he headed north to Mt. Carmel. Why? Because that was where his predecessor Elijah called down fire from God and killed the prophets of Baal. At that same place now, Elisha needed time to process the results of his curses before continuing his work.
Never again did Elisha curse anyone. Never again did Elisha fear for his life. In fact, when the entire army of Aram later surrounded him in Ch. 6, he was unafraid. He treated the army with mercy, protected the lives of the men, and sent them home safely.
Elisha taught me two lessons. First, never underestimate God’s desire to protect His children. But second, never underestimate the raw power of God when we call out for help.
And yes, God protected my date and me that night on campus.