Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today
NL Daily Devotion for Tuesday, November 6, 2018
by Dr. Kimberly Leetch, Clergy Stuff
Elisha was prophesying in the countryside, but more than that, he was doing good for his people. When the people of the city complained that the water was bad, Elisha cleansed the water (forever!) with salt. Not a bad day’s work for a prophet.
Not everyone was happy with Elisha, however. Of course, as prophets often do, his words and actions would have been offensive to many who were not following God’s commands. Immediately after cleansing the water, Elisha traveled to Bethel, and along the way he ran into a mob of young men intent on harassing him (maybe worse, as mobs tend to do). There were at least 42 of them, and they were likely young men, not children. Certainly the numbers alone would have intimidated most.
The mob shouted, “Go up, bald head!” They were likely referring to Elijah’s recent ascension into heaven. They didn’t just want him to go away, they wanted him dead. The reference, “bald head” might have been because Elisha was bald, but it was more likely an insult either derived from the shaved head of a prophet or the shaved heads of lepers. Regardless of the exact meaning, the intent was clear — they meant Elisha harm.
Elisha cursed them, and nature did the dirty work. Two mama bears mauled 42 of the mob, and Elisha continued on his way.
This is one of those texts you don’t hear in worship, partly because it’s just ugly, but also because it’s not central to the story of God’s goodness. But it’s an important story nonetheless. It shows us that God dealt in a messy world with ugly people and dirty consequences. God’s world is not clean and proper and tidy. Maybe we can take comfort in the reality that God is present and active despite the world’s messiness.
Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:
2 Kings 2:19-25
Now the people of the city said to Elisha, “The location of this city is good, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.” He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw the salt into it, and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have made this water wholesome; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been wholesome to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke. He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!” When he turned around and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and then returned to Samaria.