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TEXT: II Kings 2:23-25
SUBJECT: The Prophet, The Children, and The Bears
Listen up kids!
Today I'm going to tell you a story from the Bible. Because it's from the Bible, you know it's interesting, true, and important. The story took place almost 3,000 years ago in the land of Israel. This is not fairy tale; it's not a bed time story. It really happened. And what happened way over there a long time ago has something to teach you and me.
There once was a prophet whose name was Elijah. Except for Moses, he was the greatest preacher in the history of Israel. He spoke the word of God with great power and performed many outstanding miracles.
You'd think he would be greatly loved. But he wasn't. In fact, Elijah was horribly treated all his life. He was driven from his home, he nearly starved, a king and queen tried to kill him, and everyone blamed him for the trouble their own sins got them into.
The man who suffered so much in life, was greatly rewarded by God. Like other Christians, he went to heaven. But not in quite the same way. Most other Christians go to heaven by dying. But Elijah never died. When the Lord was through with him, He took him to heaven in a fiery chariot, pulled by flaming horses!
Have you ever seen a horse pull a wagon? I have and they've done it pretty slowly and in a straight line. But not these horses! They spun around like a whirlwind all the way up to God.
That would have been something to see! It was awesome and beautiful, and scary all rolled into one. But only one man saw it. His name was Elisha. Now, Elijah and Elisha sound very much alike. But they're two different men.
As Elijah was riding into heaven, he dropped something to his old friend. It was his coat (some Bibles call it his mantle). This was very important to Elisha-not because he was cold or because he admired the other man's coat so much-but because it was a symbol or sign of Elijah's authority. It was something like a policeman's badge. A badge itself is just a little piece of metal. But it tells everyone who sees it that the man wearing it has the authority to carry a gun, arrest people, and so on. That's what Elijah's coat meant to Elisha-that he had the prophet's power (which was God's power).
Elisha put the coat on and made his way to the city of Bethel. The name, Bethel, means "the House of God". The city had a rich history. Long ago, Jacob had met the Lord there; later, the tabernacle had been there for a long time. You'd think the people of Bethel would be the holiest people in Israel!
But you'd be wrong! In fact, the people of Bethel were among the worst sinners in Israel. For many years the grown-ups had worshiped.The Golden Calf-which was an idol the Lord hated.
Rotten parents had rotten kids! When the kids saw Elisha, they weren't happy to have a prophet in town and they weren't thankful in the least.
Instead of greeting him with kind words, they tore into him with a vicious joke. Now, there's nothing wrong with joking. And if you want to say something funny about me, I don't mind. But the joke the kids told that day wasn't innocent, it wasn't funny. It was cruel and hateful. When they saw God's prophet, they mocked him, saying,
"Go up, you bald head!
Go up, you bald head!"
Calling a man "bald head" was not very nice. But that wasn't the worst part of the joke.
No, it was "Go up" that was so offensive. Why? Because it meant, "Why don't you go up there where Elijah is-and leave us alone!"
When Elisha heard what they said, he got very mad. But not only did he get mad, but the Lord did too! Elisha cursed the kids in God's name, and two mother bears came out of the woods, and tore those kids to pieces.
Why? Because they did not respect the prophet of God. Which is another way of saying they did not respect the Word of God.
Can you imagine how scary it must be to be attacked by a bear? Can you imagine how much the long claws and the sharp teeth must hurt when they sink into your arm or leg? Can you imagine how the parents felt when their kids didn't come home?
But this really happened! There was a road or a field in Bethel littered with little arms and legs and dead bodies. 42 kids killed for not respecting God's Word.
What's the lesson for you to learn?
It's not that bears are dangerous (though they are).
It's also not that some preachers don't like kids (though some don't).
And, most of all, it's not that God is cruel (He isn't).
The lesson is this: You must respect God's Word.
Everyone here has Bible in school and comes to chapel on Fridays. Most of you go to church on Sundays and some of you, I know, have family worship and Bible reading at home.
When the Word of God is read or preached or taught, how much respect have you got for it? How much respect do you show for it?
Respecting the Bible pleases God, Isaiah 66:1-2.
Disrespecting the Word makes God very unhappy. And gets you into trouble. Maybe bears won't tear you limb from limb as they did long ago. But God is no happier with kids today who mock at His Word than he was in the days of Elisha.
How do you show your respect for God's Word? At church, in school, at home, or in private?
Kids, everything in the Bible is true, but not everything is equally important. Respecting God's Word is one of the most important things you can do. And not respecting it is one of the worst sins you can commit.
So why don't you respect it? When you don't feel like it, think back on the kids who didn't. And learn from their mistakes.
God bless you, every one. Amen.
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