The Enemy Of Best
It is said that, “the good is often the enemy of the best.” While this may be a mundane proverb, it may also, in fact, be scriptural. Joash, one of the kings of Israel, demonstrated this very attitude at a crucial time of his reign. While he may not be considered as one of the godliest men that ruled in Israel, he certainly showed his love, respect, and concern for the prophet Elisha when the latter was on his deathbed. As the great prophet neared death, the king came to express his despair at the coming loss to the nation that had so long been blessed by his ministry. Elisha was not quite finished in ministering, however. The prophet took the visit as an opportunity to comfort Joash and his nation concerning the ongoing persecution of Israel by Syria. God used Elisha prophetically in pronouncing deliverance to Israel from this oppression that they suffered. The way in which it was carried out, however, should be of interest to us.
Elisha first asked the king to shoot an arrow from the open window toward the east, and proclaimed it the “Lord’s deliverance from Syria.” Then, the prophet asked the king to do something very odd indeed. He said,
“Take the arrows. And he took them. And he said unto the king of Israel, Smite upon the ground. And he smote thrice, and stayed. And the man of God was wroth with him, and said, Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.” 2 Kings 13:18-19
Why Joash struck the ground with the arrows only three times we may never know. He may have felt embarrassed to do such a strange thing. Perhaps he felt it was something that was beneath his station as the ruler of a nation. Or, perhaps he felt that three was simply “enough.” In any case, it just wasn’t sufficient to please the man of God. There are several problems presented here:
- The future of Israel’s deliverance had been compromised.
- There was a certain intensity that was obviously lacking on the part of Joash.
- Elisha must have been troubled with the fact that, just before his death, it seemed there was no one to replace him that was quite as committed to the cause he held so dear. Who would care for this nation?
- Why not strike the ground until the prophet declared it was enough? After all, Elisha had started all of this; surely he would know how much was indeed enough!
One might wonder how this incident would be “reported” today. Would it be said in some glossy brochure that the man of God, working in conjunction with the king, had recently prophesied deliverance to Israel? Would it be shared around the world by e-mail that Joash had been “used by the Lord” in an answer to Israel’s need? Or would there be a realistic presentation of the truth: the king had settled for a little bit of obedience, when much more had been the intended will of God. It was actually a case of a little good in lieu of the best!
Today, we often are faced with the same thing. A little bit of harvest, a “significant” revival here, and another there, can too easily substitute for complete immersion into what God wants us to do. Rather than judging our successes by what others do, or by what we have done in the past, we should be careful to gauge our success according to the present will of the Lord. How much is really enough? Only God really knows. The Church must continue to strike with the arrows of spiritual deliverance until the Master declares, “It is enough.” It will never be sufficient to look like a king, talk like a king, or simply dress like a king; we must act like one.
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