by Michael J. Klassen
The great prophet Elisha lay on his bed, about to die. Jehoash, the king of Israel knelt beside him, terrified of losing his only connection to God.
“The chariots and horsemen of Israel,” the king pleaded. Jehoash relied on Elisha to hear from God—and give him advice regarding their ongoing battles (hence the reference to “the chariots and horsemen”) with the ancient country of Aram. Without Elisha, Jehoash felt helpless in his struggle to prevent Israel from being annihilated by this ever-growing power which eventually became Syria.
“Get a bow and some arrows,” Elisha whispered,
Jehoash ran to his quiver sitting in the doorway and returned to his mentor.
“Take the bow in your hands,” Elisha continued. Jehoash obeyed, then Elisha placed his hands on the king’s.
“Open the window and shoot.” Jehoash complied.
The the great prophet fixed his steely eyes on the king. “The arrows in your hands are full of the Lord’s victory over Aram. Now take the arrows and strike the ground.”
Jehoash placed the arrows in one hand and hammered them into the dirt floor three times.
“What have you done??” Elisha asked, raising his voice. “If you had struck the ground five or six times, you would have completely conquered your enemy. But now you will only defeat them in battle three times.”
Jehoash soon departed, never to see the man of God again.
Whenever I read this passage in 2 Kings 13, my initial reaction to the king is, “You nincompoop!! Why didn’t you strike the ground more times with the arrows? If I were in your sandals, I would have done it a hundred times!”
We don’t know why Jehoash responded like he did, but I wonder if he doubted his ability to rally the troops for long, once Elisha passed away. Or, perhaps something happened earlier in his life when he felt that God had let him down, so he grew weary of venturing out and taking risks
Regardless, the king proved that he not only suffered from a lack of vision, but he also suffered from “small God syndrome.”
How big is your God?
Like Jehoash, many of us suffer from the same malady. For some reason, Jehoash was unable to believe that God would give him the victory over his enemies.
What doubts do you struggle with in regard to God’s involvement in your life?
Repeatedly in Scripture we see God intervening in his creation. Paul writes that God “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).
God is able. He can do anything. Obviously, our job isn’t to manipulate him into fitting into our plans. But God is able.
Donald McCullough, in his book The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity writes:
The worst sin of the church at the end of the twentieth century has been the trivialization of God…We prefer the illusion of the safer deity and so we have pared God down to more manageable proportions. Our era has no exclusive claim to the trivialization of God. This has always been the temptation and the failure for the people of God. Pagan gods have caused less trouble than the tendency to re-fashion God into a more congenial, serviceable god.
Our tendency is to place God in a neat and tidy, serviceable, easy-to-manage box. Within that box we place our expectations of him.
Let’s look for a moment at the different sizes of boxes we place God in:
The Small Box
People in this category can be heard to say things like:
“God exists, but he doesn’t care about the details of my life. He’s just too busy.”
“My marriage will never change.”
“I’m unable to change.”
This is a pretty manageable box. It’s pretty safe because we place few if any expectations on God. That way he doesn’t let us down.
The Medium-size Box
People in this category may claim:
“God interacts with my life in small ways. He can give me patience or strength on occasion, but to be honest, I can’t believe he will ever heal me of my rheumatoid arthritis.”
“I don’t know how God could ever forgive me of my little discretion from a few years ago.”
“God can only speak to me through people I love and respect.”
The Big Box
People in this category say or think things like this:
“God can use anyone or anything to speak to me.”
“God is good even when I don’t understand.”
“God can forgive any sin.”
While these statements reflect few if any limits on God, the fact is, all of us place the eternal, infinite God in a box—either consciously or subconsciously.
What if God really was greater than our minds could conceive? What if God really orchestrates world events with the minute details of our lives? What if he works all things—all things!—together for good to those who love him?
Like Jehoash, God has placed the arrows of our hopes and dreams in our hands and asks us to strike the ground of unbelief.
This morning, let’s let God out of His box—as if one could actually contain him. Let’s strike the ground multiple times knowing that nothing can stop our great God.
What boxes do you tend to place God in?
Michael serves as co-pastor of The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.