There is a story in the Word which, while showing the mighty power of God, also teaches us another lesson. One of honor and humility; and how, if we walk (or do not walk) in them, blessings and promises can come in greater (or lesser) levels.
The story involves Joash, king of Israel, and Elisha the prophet, who possessed a double portion of the mantle of Elijah.
Joash and Elisha:
In 2 Kings 13:14 we are told that Elisha was sick with the illness which would soon transfer him to Heaven, and that Joash came to him weeping. Now, in many ways, Joash was weeping less for Elisha but much more for his kingdom, Israel, facing Hazael, king of Syria…
Yet, even as Elisha lay sick and dying, he gave a prophetic way out for Joash and his people. Joash merely had to take a bow and some arrows, open the east window and shoot arrows through it, striking the ground. However, this obviously was not a simple task for Joash…
King Joash struck the ground a mere three times, angering Elisha—“the man of God”—who prophesied that had Joash struck the ground five or six times, Syria would have been completely destroyed. Yet, because Joash struck the ground only three times, the victory would not be total, as Joash would only be able to strike Syria three times.
This is the last prophecy given by Elisha in the Word, and had Joash listened to the instruction, humbling himself as he honored Elisha before God… the word spoken to Joash would have had a more favorable outcome. However, because Joash did not fully listen and was unwilling to act wholly in honor and humility, the Promised Land’s end was likely much swifter than it might have been—even with the years of sin in both Israel and Judah.
“And Elisha said to him, ‘Take a bow and some arrows.’ So he took himself a bow and some arrows. Then he said to the king… ‘Put your hand on the bow.’ So he put his hand on it, and Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, ‘Open the east window’; and he opened it. Then Elisha said, ‘Shoot’; and he shot. And he said, ‘…you must strike the Syrians at Aphek till you have destroyed them.’… ‘Take the arrows’; so he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, ‘Strike the ground’; so he struck three times, and stopped. And the man of God was angry with him, and said, ‘You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.’”—2 Kings 13:15-19
The Importance of Walking in Honor and Humility:
While there may be many reasons Joash did not strike the ground enough times, we can see that two closely related ones were his lack of humility and his lack of honor toward a man of God, and to God Himself.
Now, you may say, “well, how was Joash to know how many times to strike the ground?” This is a good question, and in the natural, a seemingly honest reaction—though the prophetic word does lend itself to doing more striking, rather than less. Yet, in the spiritual we can see issues of the heart.
Already, even in the kingdom of Judah, which survived longer than the kingdom of Israel, there was a drifting away from God by His chosen people. Elijah had dealt with the iniquity of Ahab in Israel, and Elisha too had dealt with the iniquity of kings. But this is not to say that Joash was wholly evil, for he followed God more than many. However, there was that seed of drifting, pride, and lack of true reverence for God which was unfortunately common in many kings.
Because of this, when Joash was told by a prophet of God to strike the ground, he listened, but only in part. He acted with humility in part. He honored Elisha and God in part. For he obeyed as well as his heart allowed. He struck the ground three times, either truly believing in pride and arrogance that that is all a man like himself needed to defeat such an enemy; or believing lies of the enemy that he didn’t have to fully complete the instruction—he didn’t have to honor the dying the prophet—with the arrows given him.
Either way he did not act in humility as he ought, he did not honor as he ought; he believed in his own abilities too greatly and his pride led him asunder. However, even so, Elisha and God honored in part the small level of humility Joash had. God could have told Elisha that Joash and his people were through because he did not properly hear or follow the instruction. He could have allowed them to perish due to a lack of honor and humility. Yet, God allowed Joash to strike Syria the three times he struck the ground—not causing total victory but delaying defeat.
Joash was given a choice and a promise, yet, he did not latch onto either fully.
We, like Joash, are each given choices and promises from God—be they from the Word, His prophets, or the Holy Spirit. We can either believe the promise and listen to God’s voice, obeying in full… or we can disobey. We can go our own way and waylay the promise by our own choice.
Without God we cannot win our battles or receive our promises, so why would we not be humbled before Him and fully obey? God is perfect, He protects and provides. He does more than His part in the relationship, so why should we not walk in obedience, humility, and honor before Him?
As we saw with Joash, there is a place of half-measures… a promise partially heard… a promise that almost always dies because we do not water it with the fullness of our obedience.
Joash WAS walking in honor and humility up to a point. He came to the prophet of God for help from God. He realized that God was required. Yet, where Joash failed was in realizing just how much he needed God… just how far away from success he was in himself… just how prideful he was.
So too, we have the choice. We can walk wholly in honor and humility before our God, partly so as Joash did—which ultimately fails us—or not at all. Each of these measures bring with them certain levels of promise and blessing; certain levels of victory in our battles.
Yet, being wholly humble and honoring our God is not only the right choice, it is the one which brings the most favor—it is the one that teaches us to be like our God.
We are given a choice to settle for less, but why would we want to?
Why should sons and daughters of the King of kings WANT to settle? Especially when honor and humility are a part of God’s love-light.
Humility is not thinking we are worth less or any other derogatory view; it is realizing that God is more, that there is no one greater than He, and that He alone can save. It is thinking of God more than we do ourselves.
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.”—Proverbs 22:4
Honor, likewise, does not require us to believe in any way that we are beneath another or that we are useless, etc. It requires us to put our relationship with God first, to listen to what He says, believe it, and DO IT. It is treating God and others with respect, kindness, and love. It is respecting the authority of God and those He is using on earth. It is respecting His choices, allowing His loving kindness to pour out of us to those around us.
“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created.”—Revelation 4:11
In the end, walking in honor and humility is a choice. Yet, we can either do so to the fullest, and therefore receive the fullness of our blessings and promises… or we can choose to be prideful, full of our own honor and glory, and therefore receive a far lesser portion.
The choice is ours.
When we obey God’s command—especially to love Him, our neighbors, and even our enemies—honor and humility will come. For some of us it may be something we have to work at, for others, it may come easily, but either way, God is more than willing to assist.
God is waiting for us to lift our eyes to Him and ask for His help. Asking for Him to teach us how to walk in honor and humility before Him and those He has chosen to use on earth.
Therefore, let us each turn to God as we walk in honor and humility. Let us ask Him to teach us, not merely so that we will choose wisely and receive all He has for us… but also that we might be a light in dark places, a jewel in His crown, and living fully about His Kingdom business.
Let us not stop striking the ground until the promise comes.
“…But now the Lord says: ‘…those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed.’”—1 Samuel 2:30
“‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise:”—Ephesians 6:2
“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”—Michah 6:8