3 Kings 2:23-24 is arguably one of the oddest passages in the Bible. Here it is:
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 up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.
Now, I am certainly no expert, but I do know that God does not put things in Scripture by accident. These are the very words of God, profitable for our teaching, reproof, and correction. With that knowledge, we must ask, “What do I do with this text?” How is God speaking to the recipients and to us?
The short answer is, “I’m not sure.” But here is what seems likely to me. God is reminding us of the seriousness with which He views His own glory. Elisha, as a prophet of God, stood in the place of God before the people, so an insult against a prophet was an insult against the name of God. To persecute God’s representatives was to persecute God, and God will have none of that.
If there is one thing that I am learning over and over again in this time through the Bible, it is that God is serious about His own glory. In His grace, He does not deal with us all as He did with those boys, because the reality is that we all deserve to be eaten by wild bears. But God has sent Jesus to bear the full brunt if His wrath so that we might receive grace and salvation, by which we are freed to praise the glory of God for eternity.