Elisha went back to Bethel, the corrupted society with a lost generation of youth. And as soon as he arrived, he was mocked:
“He went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head. . . . And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and [mauled] forty and two children of them” (2 Kings 2:23-24).
What an awful scene. You may think, “How cruel that God would allow little children to be attacked by bears.” But the words “little children” here are a poor translation. In the original Hebrew this phrase reads “young men.”
Did Elisha cause their deaths in a selfish fit of anger for being taunted? No. This godly man was moving under the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. The fact is, those mocking young men had committed an unspeakable sin. Let me explain.
Undoubtedly, the boys had heard about Elijah's translation into heaven. Yet now, by taunting Elisha with the cry, “Go up, baldy,” they were ridiculing the work of the Spirit. They did not accept the truth of the Spirit's holy work and their actions toward Elisha were an act of mockery against Him.
For many years God was patient with the fallen church in Bethel. Multitudes flocked there to worship at an altar of accommodation, and the Lord sent many prophets, including Elijah himself, to speak warnings. But a time came when God no longer tolerated the city’s idolatry and wickedness. So he called for judgment, sending onto this wicked scene a man with a double portion of the Holy Ghost. Elisha moved with authority in Bethel, preaching judgment against their sin.
Too many young ministers today are relying on the same fleshly methods that the fallen church in Bethel did. They are bringing into God's house the very music that first incited rebellion and sensuality in this nation. They are polling a sin-saturated society to learn how they can lure nonbelievers into a church building. And instead of offering worship, they are staging skits, parties and rock concerts. They are attempting to entertain the youth rather than confront their sins and emptiness with the simple, pure gospel. And the church faces the same spirit of mockery Elisha faced.