“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it heartily as unto the LORD and not unto men.” – I Corinthians 10:31
Just shoot it to me straight. Don’t shoot me down, but shoot it to me from the hip. I don’t want any shooting off at the mouth or shooting the breeze. I promise I won’t shoot the messenger, but if you’re not careful, you might end up shooting yourself in the foot! Do any of these idioms ring a bell? (Ha! That’s a play on words…get it? Did the idioms ‘ring a bell’? What…you’re still not laughing? Are you pulling my leg?) As it turns out, there are several figures of speech that are built around the word shoot. According to these sayings, we should tell it like it is, never put others down, not say more than is necessary, not confuse the message bearer with the message maker, and remember the boomerang effect of words. All of these phrases deal with the use and power of words…and then there’s this one, the one shooting idiom that’s not like the others, the one that tells us to “shoot for the stars”.
Have you ever wanted to shoot for the stars; to go about a task or to set a goal that’s “out of this world”? If so, then you were simply responding Biblically. You were simply shooting your arrows…all of them…to the ground. Proof? Really? You need me to back this up? Fair enough. Let me shoot it to you straight out of 2 Kings 13:15-19. In these verses, we find Jehoash, the king of Israel, coming to visit Elisha. News had reached him that this mighty man of God was about to die and he wanted to pay his respects to Elisha while he was still alive. During this visit, Elisha desired to pour out a blessing upon Jehoash…but Jehoash failed to see that this blessing was rooted in, and therefore hindered by, his desire to shoot the arrows. As a result, Jehoash was about to shoot himself in the foot. Elisha tells Jehoash to shoot an arrow out of the eastern window; as he shoots, Elisha places his hand upon the king’s hand and proclaims, “The arrow of the LORD’s deliverance and the arrow of deliverance from Syria.” Then, Elisha gave the remaining arrows to Jehoash and told him to shoot them. When he stopped shooting, Elisha asked how many he had shot (I’m guessing he finished a little too quickly!) and the king told him he had sent three arrows sailing. At this response, Elisha grew angry and said Jehoash should have shot at least five or six arrows. As a result of the king’s failure to shoot for the stars, Israel would (eventually) be shot down by Assyria.
Doesn’t that make you wonder what would have happened if Jehoash had shot six arrows? Or, what if he’d emptied the quiver? I wonder if he knew the significance of the “shooting arrows”. I hope not, because if he knew and still only shot three, what does that say about his faith, about his passion, about his determination, about his…uh, oh. Am I shooting off at the mouth? Am I shooting the messenger and failing to read the message? Am I like Jehoash? Do I hold back and, when opportunities emerge or lie in waiting, tippy-toe around them, afraid that I may awaken them? Do I, once the window of blessing is opened, tentatively take up three puny arrows and half-heartedly fling them out? And, if I were to know that God was standing right beside me, shaking His head as I looked up at Him and as He looked down at my arrow-stocked quiver, what then? Perhaps I would be wise to learn from Jehoash’s lesson and, from this point on, to empty my quiver.
When I think about others who have been straight shooters…and quiver emptiers…I think of Elisha, Abraham, Mary Magdalene, and the disciples. Elisha, who followed in the footsteps of Elijah, was bold enough to ask for a double portion of the power Elijah had. Now that’s shooting a quiver full of arrows! To have an equal amount could have easily cost him 10-12 arrows, but a double portion? That took them all. Then there’s Abraham. Surely he emptied his quiver when he moved to an unknown land, waited for an unseen son, and was willing to sacrifice an undeniable promise. And Mary Magdalene emptied her quiver when she broke her alabaster vase so that all of the oil would be poured upon Jesus. Likewise, the disciples emptied their quivers when they offered their bodies to become broken vessels from which the gospel would be poured out upon a lost and dying world.
And, lest we think the Quiver Club ended with the emergence of the early church, let us not forget the arrows of Saint Augustine, Martin Luther, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Billy Graham, not to mention those who shot in foreign lands like Hudson Taylor, David Livingstone, Jim Elliot, Mary Slessor, and Gladys Aylward. These are but a few examples, but they portray for us what arrow shooters look like, live like, and believe like. Surely these men and women entered heaven…or will enter heaven…with their quivers emptied.
So, what about us? What about you…and what about me? I want to shoot all of my arrows. I want to leave this life empty handed and empty quivered, knowing that I shot everything that was within my arm’s reach. I want to, but I know I have yet to make that “want to” a “done did”. I love what Saint Augustine said; “Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.” In other words, visit the King, let Him place His hand upon yours, open the window and then shoot every arrow that’s in your quiver! And, do you know what’s great about this figurative lesson in archery? God never tells us our blessings depend upon how well we hit the target. In fact, there isn’t much of a target. Elisha tells Jehoash to “strike the ground”. That’s right. All he had to do was hit the ground. I can do that. I can shoot something that, by nature’s law, will fall to the ground. In fact, the ground will literally pull it to itself; the target will seek the arrow rather than the arrow seeking the target. In God’s eyes, it’s not how far we shoot, how straight we shoot, or how accurately we shoot; in God’s eyes, all that matters is how many times we shoot.
In Isaiah 61:7, the prophet writes, “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” We need to remember that God is for us. He wants us to not only be blessed, but to have a double portion, a double quiver. His hand is on ours; ours is to be on the arrow. And, once we shoot, we are to shoot again…and again…and again…until there is nothing left in the quiver. Then, I believe, He will allow us to go to the place where our arrows fell, pick them up, and start the process all over again, only this time from a place that is further out, a place that is further in, and a place that is further up. So, what do you think? I hope you agree that, at the very least, pouring out our all is worth a shot!