With this chapter, we come to an end of an era—the times of Elijah and Elisha. Other prophets will preach to the northern kingdom of Israel, but the time for Israel to repent is certainly running out. Israel’s day of judgment is coming. As we look at the “deliverer” or “savior” that God sent Israel, we are reminded that God’s salvation is not the divine response to Israel’s piety, and not even to her repentance. God brings deliverance to Israel because of His compassion and because of His unmerited grace. This is emphasized in the first and the last verses of the chapter.
That is the way it always is with God’s salvation. The “savior” whom God sent to Israel is like the Savior who was yet to come. Throughout Israel’s history, God would suddenly appear to deliver His people from the penalty for their sins, not because of their goodness or efforts, but because of His mercy and grace. Salvation is a manifestation of God’s grace, not a reward for man’s goodness. The “Savior” has now come, once for all, and God offers salvation to all who trust in His work on the cross of Calvary. The Savior is none other than the “seed of David,” who is the rightful heir to the throne. He died in the sinner’s place, bearing the sinner’s guilt and punishment, so that we might be forgiven of our sins and enter into His kingdom. What is required of us is that we believe in Him and receive His free gift of salvation? Have you trusted in Him and received the gift of eternal life?
I have said, as clearly and as forcefully as I can, that salvation is “of the Lord,” and that it is solely by His grace, and not our works. This does not mean, however, that men are to passively go through life, doing nothing, and waiting for God to do it all. Our text very clearly establishes a relationship between our works of faith and God’s unmerited blessings. Nothing could be more clear in our text than the fact that God would have given Joash as many victories as he struck the ground with his arrows. Elisha rebuked the king for not striking the ground more often. Thus, the number of victories Israel experienced over Syria was determined (humanly speaking) by the number of times Joash struck the ground. James tells us that,“we have not because we ask not” (James 4:2). Let us be careful that we do not turn the truth of God’s sovereignty and grace into a pretext for doing nothing, as though that were pious.
Finally, our text reminds us of the way a resurrection demonstrates the power of God and the certainty that His promises will be fulfilled. Elisha’s words to Joash may have been spoken in a weak and faltering voice. They were surely the words of a dying man. But the resurrection of that corpse spoke volumes to Joash and the people of Israel concerning the power of God through His prophet. It assures us that what God says, He will do.
If it was true of Joash, Elisha, and the unnamed corpse, how much more true is it of our Lord Himself, who died, was buried, and who was raised from the dead on the third day. How seriously would we take the words of our Lord if His body were still in the tomb? What hope would we have of eternal life? In the Gospels, our Lord made a point of staking everything He taught and claimed on His resurrection from the dead. It was the great and final sign that He was who He claimed to be—the Son of God and the Savior of the world