No Joke

It is a well documented fact that 70 – 75% of children raised in church, leave the church after graduating high school. Unlike the experience of previous generations, in which children left church during their college years and returned after marriage, statistics are showing that those that are leaving the church in the current generation are not returning. In the articles I have read on the issue, most children are leaving church because they find it hypocritical, boring, and irrelevant. To them, church is a joke.

The story of Elisha is strange. He is a strange man, who does strange things, says strange things, and does and says things for strange reasons. One of those strange moments is 2 Kings 2:23-25. While travelling through the city of Bethel a group of “small boys” mock Elisha by saying, “Go up, you baldhead!” Elisha curses them in the name of the Lord. Female bears then came out of the woods and “tore forty-two of the boys (2 Kings 2:25).” Ouch!

The message is simple. God is no joke. God verified that Elisha was His prophet by not allowing the boys to mock the man of God. Most people can’t get past the idea that God would judge children in such a harsh way, but for a moment, let’s flip the scenario around. God is God. So let us rather ask, why would those children do such a stupid and dangerous thing? What influences in their life led them to make such a careless and grave mistake? The answer is in the location. They were children of Bethel.

The name Bethel means “house of God.” “Beth”, means house and “El”, is the common name for God. Side note: Bethlehem is the “house of bread.” How could children raised in a place known as the “house of God” make such a grave mistake as to mock the “man of God?” Throughout 2 Kings there is mention of the sin of Jeroboam (2 Kings 3:3). What is the sin of Jeroboam? The sin of Jeroboam is found in 1 Kings 12:30. Jeroboam shifts the place and object of worship away from Jehovah in Jerusalem by making two calves and calling them “els”, “gods.” He set one idol in Dan, the other in Bethel. These children were raised to worship god, but it was a joke.

Children may be raised in the house of God, in a church, but if the church and the family make a mockery of God, their children will find God to be a joke. Churches and families must repent of the sin of pointing to idols and calling them gods. The theology of the church and family, for too long has been prosperity driven, based in the misguided liberalism of modernity, and ritualistic. Our preachers preach success rather than sacrifice. The authority of the Word of God has been compromised by our loose, immoral living. Our worship has been exchanged for entertainment. If we continue in the sin of Jeroboam, to stand in Bethel, point to idols and say, “this is God” our children are doomed to discern the joke. They will make a dangerous decision. They will leave the church.

Churches and parents should seek to model a Biblically based theology, a pure and holy life, and authentic worship of God before children. Let us not substitute cheap imitations for the real thing. If the church does not return to God, children will not return to church. Jesus loved the church. Jesus died for the church. Jesus is the rock, the foundation of the church. We need the church. Children need the church. The church is in desperate need to repent and return to its first love, Jesus.

2 Kings 2:23-25 teaches a stern message. God is no joke. Let us raise our children to worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).


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