From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths. " Kings 2: 23 - 24
In the search for passages in the bible about boys, we are mining a rather thin seam - which is not really an excuse for coming up with this one... I think it is good to look at one of the harder passages for us to cope with in the Old Testament and see what we can learn.
Perhaps the first thing to point out is who the boys were. According to the Amplified Bible's comment
This incident has long been misunderstood because the Hebrew word "naar" was translated "little boys." That these characteristic juvenile delinquents were old enough to be fully accountable is obvious from the use of the word elsewhere. For example, it was used by David of his son Solomon and translated "young and inexperienced," when Solomon was a father (I Chron. 22:5; cf. I Kings 14:21 and II Chron. 9:30 ). It was used of Joseph when he was seventeen (Gen. 37:2). In fact, not less than seventy times in the King James Version this word "naar" is translated "young man" or "young men."
So we are dealing with at dealing with juvenile delinquents... However I think we can be confident that were reflecting the views of the adults of the village; as such this is a strong reminder of the degree to which the adults who surround a child when he is growing up are responsible to a large degree for the way that he comes to think; as possible mentors we need to be very conscious of what we are modelling to our YFs especially - are we living a responsible, wholesome lifestyle that they should be emulating?
But beyond this is the harder question of Elisha cursing them. This is one of very few passages in the bible where an evil act has immediate consequences - though it is not unique:
"Then Herod went from Judea to Caesarea and stayed there a while. He had been quarreling with the people of Tyre and Sidon; they now joined together and sought an audience with him.... On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died." Acts 12: 20-23 (abridged)
And it is a reminder of a fundamental principle - 'God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. Gal 6 v 7. Indeed one of the extraordinary things about the stories of Elijah and Elisha is the degree to which some very blatant miracles - the confrontation on Carmel for example - fail to change the behaviour of those who know about them. We sometimes think 'if only they saw a miracle, they would become a Christian'. It doesn't seem to work like that - it's at least as much about living lives that show Jesus to the world.
Lord God Almighty; forgive us when we don't take you seriously enough. Help us to live each day conscious that we are your servants and are accountable to you. May we live lives that glorify you and so draw others closer to you, that more will come to true repentance and faith in you and your glorious son, Jesus. Amen.