A Tale of Two Cities – Bethel
23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” (2 Kings 2:23 NIV)
The verses at the end of 2 Kings 2 are curious to many readers. Elijah is going up from the Jordan river area of Jericho to Bethel. While he is there he is accosted and jeered at by a group of youths . They jeered and derided him with the words “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead! (2 Kings 2:23 ESV) . Elisha responds by calling down a curse upon them in the name of the Lord ( verse 24) and immediately two she bears came out of the woods and mauled forty two boys.
These verses are instructive in that they show firstly that Elisha was folically challenged as many men are today. It is interpreted in jest by some as saying that one should be careful before teasing bald people. Unfortunately that is not the teaching if this passage! It has also been criticised and disbelieved on the basis that Elisha overreacted harshly in calling a curse down on the boys.
A closer look at the text though, does show us why this took place. This incident happened at Bethel which means the House of God . It was Jacob who gave the place its name ( Genesis 28: 17-19)
‘ He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:17 (NIV)
Bethel was a place of great promises and blessing being to Jacob. Later on in time though things changed . The House of God became a Place of Rebellion against God. During the time of the kings, after Solomon was dead ( but before the time of Elijah & Elisha ),the ten tribes of the North rebelled against Rehoboam the son of Solomon. Under the leadership of Jeroboam the son of Nebat . In a bid to stop his people travelling far south to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, Jeroboam erected two golden calves as idols ,which the people of Israel worshipped. He set up one in Dan in the far North, and one was set up in Bethel. 1 Kings 12: 32 shows how he also offered sacrifices to the golden calves , and had pagan priests serve there.
A spirit of rebellion and idolatry had taken hold in the House of God . Sadly nothing much has changed , there is still much idolatry in the House of God . Much is made of Man & his merits, or Man and his methods, but not so much of Christ & His Cross. So much of what takes place under the guise of worship is man worship, or worship of self. As someone has said the most popular form of church is Me Church- where it is all about me!”
What is this showing ? Firstly it is showing I believe that we should be careful of giving anywhere undue respect or reverence because of reputation. Beth-el was the house of God , but it had become over time, due to sinful human influence become a place that actually opposed the work of God. Could it not be true that nowadays, churches that purport to be places of worship , and have the reputation of being famous Houses of God have actually become temples of Satan? The solemn fact is that what was true of Bethel can be true of anywhere regardless of reputation, name or status.
Bethel is merely the manifestation of an even older form of opposition and rebellion to God. The root of this has its beginning in the opposition of Satan to God Garden of Eden. This was Satan’s sin, and this that sealed his doom.
Isaiah 14:12-15 (KJV) 12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!
how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God:
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
15 Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.