2 Kings 13: Lessons from Jehoahaz and Jehoash on Breaking the Cycle of Sin in Your Life

Introduction: This chapter provides an overview of the cycle of sin that gripped Northern Israel. They turned their hearts from God and embraced idolatry. To bring them to repentance, God allowed foreign invaders to defeat them. The Jews then cried out for deliverance. Out of mercy and grace, God delivered His undeserving people. Yet, because their hearts were evil, the Jews returned to their sins each time God delivered them. Thus, the Jews found themselves ensnared in a cycle of sin. To make this point clear, 2 Kings 13 repeats many of the themes from Judges 2, where the Bible recounts a nearly identical cycle of sin. From the Jews’ cycle of sin, God reveals seven lessons for breaking the cycle of sin in your life. These include: (1) obedience, (2) true repentance, (3) family worship, (4) faith, (5) hope, (6) gratitude, and (7) transformation.

First, as they had done in the past, the Jewish leaders of Northern Israel disobeyed God by embracing idolatry. God then used foreign invaders to bring the Jews to repentance. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin begins with faith-led obedience. Second, the Jews cried out for deliverance and God delivered them out of compassion. Yet, as soon as they were delivered, the Jews returned to their idolatry. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin requires a repentance that results in a real change in your behavior. Third, the Jewish leaders failed to teach their sons about God’s mercy and grace in delivering them. They also failed to properly worship God as a family in the manner that God commanded. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin requires family worship and raising your children in the Lord. Fourth, the Jewish King Joash showed outward piety in coming to Elisha near his death. But Elisha showed him that his faith was shallow. Elisha used symbolism to show that faith should be manifested through constant prayer. From Joash’s mistake, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin requires faith, manifested in prayer. Fifth, the Jews made the mistake of placing their hope in Elisha instead of God. To show their error, God used the dead bones of Elisa to bring a person back to life. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin requires placing your hope in Jesus. Sixth, out of mercy and grace, God granted the Jews victory in battle. Yet, the Jews showed no gratitude and eventually returned to their sins. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin requires gratitude for God’s deliverance. Finally, God restored the lands that the Jews had lost because of their sins. Yet, the Jews later lost these lands again because they failed to walk with God as a transformed and holy nation as God intended. God does not want you to squander what Jesus did for you. From the Jews’ mistakes, God reveals that breaking the cycle of sin requires letting God restore and transform you for His holy use.

1. Obedience: Breaking the Cycle of Sin Begins With Faith-Led Obedience. 2 Kgs. 13:1-3.

  • Jehoahaz becomes King of Northern Israel and does evil. Following the death of King Jehu (2 Kgs. 10:36), Jehoahaz became King of Northern Israel. Yet, despite knowing of God’s judgments on the evil leaders who preceded him, King Jehoahaz disobeyed God’s law and embraced idolatry. In an effort to bring him to repentance, God allowed the Syrians to continually attack him: “1 In the twenty-third year of Joash the son of Ahaziah, king of Judah, Jehoahaz the son of Jehu became king over Israel at Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin; he did not turn from them. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.” (2 Kgs. 13:1-3). King Jehoahaz ruled Northern Israel for 17 years, from 814 to 798 B.C. He began his reign during the 23rd year of the reign of Joash, the King of Judah (2 Kgs. 12:1). Like the Kings of Northern Israel who preceded him, Jehoahaz embraced idolatry. This included: (1) following Jeroboam’s idol worship of golden caves; (2) preventing the Jews from worshiping in the Temple in Jerusalem, and (3) the continued use of a counterfeit priesthood (1 Kgs. 12:25-32). Jehu also committed the same sins of returning to Jeroboam’s idol worship (2 Kgs. 10:31). Thus, he shared in the responsibility in failing to raise his son to properly worship God. These actions caused God’s anger to burn against Northern Israel. To bring the nation to repentance, He allowed King Hazael of Syria and his successor, King Ben-hadad III, to continually attack and harass the Jews. God could have removed Jehoahaz for his idolatry. Yet, because his father Jehu faithfully removed the idols to Baal that Ahab had created, God promised Jehu that four generations of his sons would sit on the throne: “The LORD said to Jehu, ‘Because you have done well in executing what is right in My eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in My heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.”’ (2 Kgs. 10:30). Thus, God was faithful to keep His promises to an undeserving nation. Yet, because of their disobedience, God limited the extent of the Jews’ blessings. They survived. Yet, they experienced torment.

  • God previously warned the Jews that King Hazael would be His instrument of discipline. When Elijah was on Mount Horeb, God revealed to him that the pagan King Hazael in Syria would be one of the instruments that He would use to discipline Israel for its disobedience: “It shall come about, the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall put to death.” (1 Kgs. 19:17). When Elisha later commissioned him, he cried because God showed him the pain and suffering that he would inflict upon Israel: “Hazael said, ‘Why does my lord weep?’ Then he answered, ‘Because I know the evil that you will do to the sons of Israel: their strongholds you will set on fire, and their young men you will kill with the sword, and their little ones you will dash in pieces, and their women with child you will rip up.”’ (2 Kgs. 8:12). This chapter records King Hazael’s attacks on Northern Israel. God also used him to judge Judah as well: “Then Hazael king of Aram went up and fought against Gath and captured it, and Hazael set his face to go up to Jerusalem.” (2 Kgs. 12:17). In both cases, God’s goal was to bring the nations to repentance.

  • The Jews’ “curses” were the consequences of the Jews’ disobedience. The events in the chapter mirror the cycle of sin that God describes in the book of Judges. There, the Jews’ disobedience through temple prostitution to the Canaanite gods Baal and Ashtaroth also caused God’s anger to “burn.” To bring the Jews to repentance, God also lifted His hedge of protection and allowed foreign invaders to plunder the Jews: “13 So they forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. 14 The anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He gave them into the hands of plunderers who plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went, the hand of the Lord was against them for evil, as the Lord had spoken and as the Lord had sworn to them, so that they were severely distressed.” (Jdgs. 2:13-15; 3:7; 10:6). Any type of idolatry violates God’s Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). Moses warned that violating God’s Covenant would cause the Jews to lose God’s hedge of protection and become defeated in battle: “The LORD shall cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will be an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Dt. 28:25). Each time the Jews turned from God, they lost in battle as He promised (e.g., 1 Sam. 4:2, 10; 2 Sam. 18:17; 2 Kgs. 14:12; 2 Chr. 25:22). Eventually, their ongoing idolatry would lead later generations to their exile. “Therefore My people go into exile for their lack of knowledge; and their honorable men are famished, and their multitude is parched with thirst.” (Is. 5:13).

  • Idolatry puts a believer in communion with demons. Although idols like money have no real power by themselves, the unbridled desire for these things puts a person in communion with demonic forces. “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” (1 Cor. 10:19-20). God will never leave or forsake a believer (Heb. 13:5; Dt. 31:6). Yet, He cannot stop you if you choose to listen to the demons over the Holy Spirit. If you are chasing after the things of the flesh, you are in fellowship with demons. This is a dangerous place to be. You stand outside His hedge of protection.

2. True Repentance: Breaking the Cycle of Sin Requires a Real Change. 2 Kgs. 13:4-9.

  • Jehoahaz cries out to God but backslides after being delivered. Out of mercy and grace, God delivered Jehoahaz after he cried out for deliverance from the Syrians. Yet, after God lifted the threat against him, Jehoahaz returned to his sins: “Then Jehoahaz entreated the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him; for He saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Aram oppressed them. The Lord gave Israel a deliverer, so that they escaped from under the hand of the Arameans; and the sons of Israel lived in their tents as formerly. Nevertheless they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, with which he made Israel sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained standing in Samaria. For he left to Jehoahaz of the army not more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots and 10,000 footmen, for the king of Aram had destroyed them and made them like the dust at threshing. Now the rest of the acts of Jehoahaz, and all that he did and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? And Jehoahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in Samaria; and Joash his son became king in his place.” (2 Kgs. 13:4-9). Under the constant threat of invading troops, Jehoahaz’s army was reduced to a small fighting force. Without any means to defend himself, he cried out for God’s help. In response, God sent a deliverer to free the Jews from oppression. Outside of the Bible, historians have confirmed that an Assyrian king named Adad Nirari III of Assyria attacked the Kingdom of Aram and captured Damascus in 802 B.C. King Hazael also died around this time, and his son Ben-hadad III became King of Aram. This war caused the soldiers of Aram to lift their attacks in Northern Israel as they fought off their own foreign invaders. Yet, Jehoahaz did not respond to this relief by trying to properly worship God. He failed to change his ways because his repentance was not genuine. He was only interested in lifting the punishment, not in getting right with God. Jehoahaz not only abused God’s mercy and grace by returning to the worship of golden calves, he committed an even worse sin by embracing the worship of the pagan goddess Asherah, the consort of Baal (2 Kgs. 13:6). Ahab had introduced the idol worship of Asherah (1 Kings 16:33), and Jehu had destroyed these idols (2 Kgs.10:27-28). Jehoahaz effectively undid his father’s limited reforms by bringing these pagan idols back to Northern Israel.

Jehoahaz cries out to God, and God hears his prayers1

  • The Jews followed the same cycle of sin as they did during the time of the Judges. Jehoahaz’s apostasy, his torment, his cry for deliverance, and his return to sin after being delivered followed the same cycle of sin that existed during the time period of the Judges. Just as it was with Jehoahaz, the Jews did evil in God’s eyes with their pagan idolatry (2 Kgs. 13:2; Jdgs. 2:11-13; 3:7). God’s anger against Jehoahaz (which culminated in foreign invasions to bring him to repentance), also unfolded in a similar pattern during the time period of the Judges (2 Kgs. 13:3; Jdgs. 2:14-15; 3:8). The cry of Jehoahaz for deliverance also followed a similar pattern during the time period of the Judges (2 Kgs. 13:4; Jdgs. 2:18; 3:9). God’s use of a deliverer to deliver Israel in response to the cry of Jehoahaz also followed an identical pattern during the time period of the Judges (2 Kgs. 13:5; Jdgs. 2:16, 18; 3:9). The decision of Jehoahaz to return to his evil ways after being delivered also followed the same evil pattern that occurred during the time period of the Judges (2 Kgs. 13:6-7; Jdgs. 2:19; 3:12-14). God wanted the Jews to learn from their prior mistakes, not repeat them. God also does not want you to return to your old sins.

  • True repentance requires more than sorrow, it requires a change of behavior. The prophets warned the sorrowful Jews that they would not be delivered until they turned to God and changed their behavior: “Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, ‘If you return to the LORD with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the LORD and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”’ (1 Sam. 7:3). God cares less about your tears and more about your desire to change your behavior: “And rend your heart and not your garments. Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil.” (Joel 2:13). After you desire to change, He then wants you to call out to Him so that He can give you the power to make that change possible: “They cried out to the LORD and said, ‘We have sinned because we have forsaken the LORD and have served the Baals and the Ashtaroth; but now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve You.’” (1 Sam. 12:10). Give God the opportunity to deliver you from your sins. You can do this by breaking from your ways and turning back to Him. Let Him then guide your actions.

3. Family Worship: Breaking the Cycle of Sin Requires Family Worship. 2 Kgs. 13:10-13.

  • Jehoash becomes King of Northern Israel and follows in his father’s sins. Despite witnessing the consequences of his father’s evil acts, Jehoash followed in his father’s evil acts after becoming the King of Northern Israel: “10 In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz became king over Israel in Samaria, and reigned sixteen years. 11 He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not turn away from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, with which he made Israel sin, but he walked in them. 12 Now the rest of the acts of Joash and all that he did and his might with which he fought against Amaziah king of Judah, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 13 So Joash slept with his fathers, and Jeroboam sat on his throne; and Joash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.” (2 Kgs. 13:10-13). Following the death of Jehoahaz, Joash reigned for 16 years, from 798 to 782 B.C. The Joash of Northern Israel became king three years before the death of the King Joash of Judah, who shared the same common name. Jehoahaz failed to teach his son Joash of Northern Israel the mistakes of his idolatry. Thus, Joash continued in his father’s sins. He also continued the sins of his grandfather Jehu, who began this dynasty.

  • Jehu and Jehoahaz’ failure to teach their children also repeated a familiar pattern. During the time of the Judges, the parents also forgot to teach their children all that God had done to deliver the Jews. As a result, their children also engaged in idolatry: “All that generation also were gathered to their fathers; and there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord, nor yet the work which He had done for Israel. Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, and they forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed themselves down to them; thus they provoked the Lord to anger.” (Jdgs. 2:10-12).

  • God will discipline both idolaters and their descendants. As part of the Second Commandment, God warns that He will punish both idolaters and their descendants to the third and fourth generations: “[F]or I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me . . .” (Ex. 20:3-6; Dt. 5:7-10). ‘“Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’” (Dt. 27:15). This can be seen in countless families today. If a man or woman lets drugs, alcohol, or adultery become an idol in their lives, their children will suffer. Many times, the damage inflicted upon children is played out again upon the children’s children. The curse that God refers to is frequently the removal of His hedge of protection. When you embrace idolatry instead of fleeing from it, you inflict damage upon your children and sometimes even your grandchildren. Are you storing up a legacy of sin or blessings for your kids?

  • Teach your children to love God by obeying His Law. As beneficiaries of God’s Law, the Jews were obligated to teach it to their children and grandchildren: “. . . but make them known to your sons and your grandsons.” (Dt. 4:9). “ . . . and that they may teach their children.” (Dt. 4:10). “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 6:7). “You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Dt. 11:19). “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6; Ps. 78:4-6). Yet, it was not enough to teach the Jews God’s Law. They had to love Him enough to want to follow it out of devotion and not obligation: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Dt. 6:4). A nation that fails to teach a generation to love Him will create a generation that does not recognize Him as Lord. This is exactly what happened to Israel: “An ox knows its owner, and a donkey its master’s manger, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” (Is. 1:3). “Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons; and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration; but My people do not know the ordinance of the LORD.” (Jer. 8:7). In case any Christian feels freed of His requirement to raise their children in Him, Paul is clear that it still applies: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4). Your love and your children’s love for Jesus should create a desire to follow His Ten Commandments out of love and not obligation: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15). “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.” (Jo. 14:21). Do you know His Law well enough to teach it? Are you teaching your children to love Jesus by being obedient to Him?

  • Worship the Lord as a family. Joshua committed to teaching his children about God. He committed to worshiping the Lord as a family: “If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh. 24:15). Are you worshiping and serving Jesus together as a family?

  • If a nation fails to raise a generation in God’s teachings, Satan will deceive it. Satan was the first to break God’s Commandments. He loved his own beauty so much that he sought to have others worship him (Is. 14:12-14; Ez. 28:14-19). He later tried to tempt Jesus with the world in exchange for worshiping him (Matt. 4:9-10; Lk. 4:7-8). Satan’s tool is deceit: “Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.” (Dt. 11:16; 30:17). He lied to Eve by promising her that she could become “like God” if she ate from the tree of life (Gen. 3:4-5). Throughout the Bible, he has tried to entice God’s people to turn from God by worshiping other gods, idols, or other men (e.g., “Baal and Ashtaroth” – Jdgs. 2:13-15; 10:6-14; 2 Kgs. 13:4; Dan. 3:5-18; “the creation” Ro. 1:25). During the end times, Satan will again seek to have others worship him (Rev. 13:8-12). The day of judgment will come after he again “exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” (2 Thess. 2:1-4). Thus, unless a nation raises their children to love God, Satan will deceive them.

4. Faith: Breaking the Cycle of Sin Requires Faith, Manifested in Prayer. 2 Kgs. 13:14-19.

  • Elisha promises God’s deliverance but rebukes Joash for his lack of faith. After recounting Joash’s overall sinful trajectory, God records an account to demonstrate the shallow nature of Joash’s faith. He came to Elisha during a terminal illness out of fear that God’s blessings would leave with Elisha. Yet, when Elisha tried to bless Joash using a metaphor for prayer, Joash failed to understand it: “14 When Elisha became sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash the king of Israel came down to him and wept over him and said, ‘My father, my father, the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ 15 Elisha said to him, ‘Take a bow and arrows.’ So he took a bow and arrows. 16 Then he said to the king of Israel, ‘Put your hand on the bow.’ And he put his hand on it, then Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. 17 He said, ‘Open the window toward the east,’ and he opened it. Then Elisha said, ‘Shoot!’ And he shot. And he said, ‘The Lord’s arrow of victory, even the arrow of victory over Aram; for you will defeat the Arameans at Aphek until you have destroyed them.’ 18 Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, ‘Strike the ground,’ and he struck it three times and stopped. 19 So the man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck five or six times, then you would have struck Aram until you would have destroyed it. But now you shall strike Aram only three times.’” (2 Kgs. 13:14-19). Joash never saw himself as an idolater. He saw himself as devoted to God. Thus, he came to Elisha in mourning upon hearing of Elisha’s terminal illness. Upon arriving, Joash did not repent of his idolatry. He felt as though there was nothing wrong with using golden calves to express his faith in God. He viewed Elisha as an idol no different than his golden calves. He thought that God’s power would disappear once Elisha disappeared. His lack of true faith became apparent when Elisha sought to bless him. Elisha first asked him to fire his arrow east to show him that he should attack the Syrian forces at Aphek. This was to the east in the territories that they had seized in Jordan (2 Kgs. 10:32-33). The city of Aphek was also the place where God defeated the Syrian army to demonstrate to Ahab His true power (1 Kgs. 20:26). This second victory at Aphek (after Elisha’s death) was to confirm God’s power to deliver the Jews without a prophet. He then told him to “strike the ground” (2 Kgs. 13:18). The Syrians symbolized the things of the flesh. Thus, they are represented by the ground. Lacking in his faith, Joash did not understand this. Thus, he only struck the ground three times instead of emptying his quiver. Elisha then told him that his victories would be limited to the extent of his faith with only three victories.

Elisha instructs Joash to use a bow and arrow to give a prophecy of God’s victory2

  • True faith is manifested by repeated and constant prayer. As explained by one commentator, the repeated use of arrows symbolized both the faith through repeated acts of prayer and the repeated acts of seizing what God offers: “Elisha clearly asked Joash to do something that modeled prayer. · Shooting the arrows required effort and aim. · Shooting the arrows required instruction and help from the prophet of God. · Shooting the arrows had to be done through an open window. · Shooting the arrows had to be done without knowing the exact outcome ahead of time. · The target was only fully known by faith. · Shooting the arrows was ineffective because it was not repeated enough, reflecting a lack of confidence in the process. · Shooting the arrows had its strategic moment, and when that moment passed it was gone. · Failing to shoot the arrows hurt others, not only himself . . . · Keep shooting in the battle against sin. · Keep shooting in the attainment of Christian knowledge. · Keep shooting in the attainment of faith. · Keep shooting to do more for the kingdom of God. · Keep shooting because the world, the flesh, and the devil will not stop their shooting. When God invites us to take something by faith, we must receive it boldly – and ask Him knowing that He is a great king and giver who is honored by bold, reverent requests.”” (David Guzik on 2 Kgs. 13).3 Without a strong faith, you will not fully break the enemy’s power over you. You may rebuke him temporarily. But the enemy will then likely come back to haunt you. This is exactly what happened with the Jews.

  • Works without faith are meaningless to God. It might appear that Joash did all the right things. He showed humility by coming to the prophet. He showed compassion by crying for the prophet. He showed submission when he cried twice: “My father, my father,”’ (2 Kgs. 13:14). He also recognized God power when said “the chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’” (2 Kgs. 13:14). He then showed obedience in doing what the prophet told him. Yet, without true faith, all of these acts were meaningless to God: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Jesus will also rebuke many who believe that they are saved based upon their good works when none of their works were driven by their faith in Him: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ ‘And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”’ (Matt. 7:22-23).

5. Hope: Breaking the Cycle of Sin Requires Placing Your Hope in Jesus. 2 Kgs. 13:20-21.

  • A man who touched Elisha’s bones is miraculously revived. The Jews had placed their hope in the prophet Elisha. But God demonstrated that He was in control by creating a miracle through the resurrection of a dead person: “20 Elisha died, and they buried him. Now the bands of the Moabites would invade the land in the spring of the year. 21 As they were burying a man, behold, they saw a marauding band; and they cast the man into the grave of Elisha. And when the man touched the bones of Elisha he revived and stood up on his feet.” (2 Kgs. 13:20-21). Joash mourned because he thought that God’s power would disappear when Elisha (Joash’s idol) disappeared. But, to demonstrate that God is not represented through idols, He resurrected a dead person following Elisha’s death. Using Elisha’s dead bones (which were unclean under Jewish law), God did the impossible by resurrecting a man from the dead. This symbolized what Jesus would offer to all with faith who were dead because of their sins (Eph. 2:1-10). This also symbolized the spiritual restoration that God would offer Israel from its dead bones (Ezek. 37:1-14).

Washington Allston (1779-1843) “The Dead Man Restored to Life by Touching the Bones of the Prophet Elisha” (oil painting 1811-1813)4

  • Trust in God (not people) to break your cycle of sin. Joash returned to his sins following Elisha’s death because he assumed that God’s power left with Elisha. Thus, he turned back to his pagan idols for protection. By performing a resurrection after Elisha’s death, God showed that the Jews were to put their trust in Him, not in people. “O give us help against the adversary, for deliverance by man is in vain.” (Ps. 60:11). “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” (Ps. 146:3). “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.” (Ps. 118:9). God’s righteousness and His desire that you lean on Him will appear foolish to the world. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18). “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). Today, people regularly become filled with hope in their favorite candidate or political party with each election. Yet, these people cannot save you. Have you placed your hope in Jesus or in powerful people?

  • Place your hope in Jesus and His unseen promises. Like the price paid by the Moabite soldier, the “wages” of your sin is death (Ro. 6:23). Thus, every person without a means of atonement bears the curse of eternal death (Gal. 3:10; Dt. 27:26; Jer. 11:3). Faith in Jesus is the only means for a person to be saved from eternal death (Gal. 2:16; 3:11; 5:18; Jo. 3:16; 10:9; 11:25; 14:6; Ro. 7:6; 8:3). If you think that you can be righteous by being a good person, then Christ’s death served no purpose: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal. 2:21). Joash placed his hope in the things that he could see. You are to place your hope in Jesus and what is unseen. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). “For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees?” (Ro. 8:24). “while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18). If you put your hope in people and in what you can see, you will likely be disappointed. You may also lack the strength to resist when Satan tempts you in your despair.

6. Gratitude: Breaking the Cycle of Sin Requires Thankfulness to God. 2 Kgs. 13:22-23.

  • Out of mercy and grace, God protects the Jews from complete destruction. God initially allowed King Hazael to be the instrument of His judgment. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God then protected the Jews from the complete destruction and expulsion they deserved: “22 Now Hazael king of Aram had oppressed Israel all the days of Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion on them and turned to them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and would not destroy them or cast them from His presence until now.” (2 Kgs. 13:22-23). Although the Jews did not deserve it, God was faithful to keep His covenant with the patriarchs to give the Promised Land to the Jews (Gen. 15:18-21; 26:2-5; 28:13-15; Ex. 34:6; 2 Kgs. 14:26-27). God’s grace was also a sign of His compassion to His people: “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” (Ps. 86:15).

  • Thank God in songs and prayers for your deliverance as well. The Jews returned to their cycle of sin because they took God’s mercy and grace in delivering them for granted. David was a sinner. Yet, his many psalms of gratitude for God’s deliverance brought him back to God each time that he sinned: “A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. A Psalm of David. I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Ps. 30:1). “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Ps. 27:1). “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). “My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me.” (Ps. 144:2). “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). “On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.” (Ps. 62:7). “The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” (Ps. 9:9). When God delivers you, don’t take His actions for granted. Instead, give thanks for His deliverance.

  • Be thankful for God’s mercy and grace in your life. God showed mercy and grace in sparing the Jews following their return to idol worship. God calls upon every believer to be thankful for His mercy and grace: “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Col. 3:17) “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20; Ps. 34:1). Do you give thanks for God’s forgiveness of your sins?

7. Transformation: Let God Restore and Transform You for His Holy Use. 2 Kgs. 13:24-25.

  • God faithfully restores cities taken from Northern Israel. God not only showed mercy and grace in protecting the Jews of Northern Israel from destruction, He also allowed the Jews to defeat King Ben-hadad III of Syria in battle and recover cities that the Jews had previously lost in battle: “24 When Hazael king of Aram died, Ben-hadad his son became king in his place. 25 Then Jehoash the son of Jehoahaz took again from the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael the cities which he had taken in war from the hand of Jehoahaz his father. Three times Joash defeated him and recovered the cities of Israel.” (2 Kgs. 13:24-25). The Jews recovered territory in Gilead and Bashan. These cities belonged to the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (2 Kgs. 10:33). The Jews’ recovery of their lost territories showed that God was interested in something more than victory. He wanted to restore what the Jews had lost because of their sins. The fact that Joash prevailed three times in battle also shows that God was faithful to keep His promises through Elisha. But the Jews would soon squander what God gave them through a return to their sins.

Three times, God allowed Joash to reclaim lost lands in Northern Israel5

  • God seeks to restore you from sin and from what you have lost because of sin. Out of love, God wanted to restore His people: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacob and have compassion on his dwelling places; and the city will be rebuilt on its ruin, and the palace will stand on its rightful place.”’ (Jer. 30:18) God’s grace in restoring the Jews foreshadowed Jesus’ grace in restoring you. Each of Jesus’ healing miracles demonstrated this. For example, He healed: (1) a man with the withered hand (Matt. 12:9-21, Mk. 3:1-6; Lk. 6:6-11), (2) a paralytic man at the pool of Bethesda (Jo. 5:1-18), (3) a woman who suffered from a disease for 18 years (Lk. 13:10-17), (4) a man swollen with fluids (Lk. 14:1); (5) Lazarus, who died (Jo. 11:1-44); (6) a blind man at Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22-25), and (7) a deaf man who also had trouble speaking (Mk. 7:32-35). In each case, Jesus restored the thing that the person had lost because of sin. If you turn to Him, Jesus also wants to restore what you have lost.

  • Use the gift of your spiritual restoration to live as a new creation in Christ. The Jews failed to use their gift of restoration to live a life free from bondage. Instead, they returned to their spiritual bondage through their idolatry. God does not want you to make the same mistake. Jesus came to restore what you have lost because of sin. God calls upon each believer to live as a new creation and not squander what Jesus purchased with His blood: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Cor. 5:17). “and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” (Eph. 4:24). Living as a new creation requires that you renew your mind each day by repenting of sin and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). Are you living as a new creation? Or, are you squandering God’s blessings?