I keep coming back to this passage on Elisha in 2 Kings. I don’t remember a week in the past year where I have not thought about it and I come back to it even more of late. You know the one from 2 Kings 6:
15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. 19 And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.
20 As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. 21 As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” 22 He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.”23 So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.
The fixation on it in my mind has built even more of late as we are home in these times and more and more people have taken to squabbling with each other. This isn’t a sermon — this is me getting stuff out of my head.
First, note how the angel army was there, but the servant could not see it. It required Elisha to pray that the servant’s eyes be open. It took the prayers of someone else to help open another’s eyes. There seemed to be a bit of a lack of faith with the servant. He was afraid and he could not see that the God who had sustained them thus far would keep sustaining them. The servant needed to really see God’s presence to understand. When he did, it was amazing. A whole army of angels surrounded them.
How often are you praying for others that they see God’s presence in their lives? I will tell you the truth, as I keep trying to build this radio show of mine being my own syndicator and own ad sales guy while sustaining an entirely different radio show too, I have found myself needing to pray more and more just for my own encouragement. It is remarkable how often, as self-doubt starts to sweep over me, God steps up and shows how he is working. Sometimes you have to pray that even for yourself — just ask God for encouragement to get through your own week.
Second, note how Elisha does not want his enemies punished. He wants them to see too. But sometimes one must be blind before one can see. Sometimes you think you can see so clearly, but you really are not seeing things the right way. You need to be blinded a bit so you cannot see. I suspect it would do a lot of people good if they were blinded to politics for a bit. Too many people have swapped true religion for a political religion. They have taken up protest and yelling instead of praying and studying scripture. One of the great dangers of our quarantine is distraction, but instead of getting distracted by scripture, we’re distracted by political screed. We might need to pray that God closes our eyes to politics and opens them to Him.
Third, look at how the King of Israel and Elisha treat the Syrians. They do so with grace. The Syrians go away. The blinded see the light and realize where they are. They realize God is with Elisha. The response is not to slaughter them, but to treat them kindly — to satisfy their actual hunger.
There are a lot of people right now who cannot bring themselves to treat their opponents with any great charity. More and more people see the other side as their enemy. Governing differences are now attacks. Competing philosophies are now treason. I understand that the godless could go there. After all, this is the best they will ever have it and politics is, for many of them, their religion. They bring about their heaven on earth through politics and protest.
But for the Christian, things should be different. We have an obligation to truth and we have an angel army with us. I see too many friends who claim to be people of faith and they are so, so angry right now. They don’t see the angel army. They forget God is sovereign and in charge. They are more wrapped up in the America of their mind than the God of their reality. They need prayer. We all need prayer.
Elisha knew. He was the one others sought, looked up to, listened to, and respected because he knew to rely on God, not panic, and treated others — even those who would capture or kill him — with a certain amount of grace and mercy they might not have deserved. He showed patience with his servant who could not see despite having seen miracles. He showed gentleness with a king. He showed firmness and charity to an enemy.
Fourth, the Syrians never saw the other army. They did not know their destruction could have been imminent. But God’s people treated them in a way that caused the Syrians to not fight. They returned home, unsaved, but spared.
We head into even more trying times as a nation moving forward. We need to pray for ourselves and others that God opens our and their eyes to His presence and pray for encouragement. We need to be more charitable to others and break bread with those with whom we disagree.
There’s an army of angels out there for us. They surround us. They protect us. They do battle for us. The Syrians sent an army to capture Elisha. They never even saw Elisha’s army and Elisha never acted like he had one. He just acted as a godly man. We could all learn a lot from his example as we argue and reason over the reopening of the nation, the virus, the data, the things we and others have gotten wrong, and politics in general. We could use to have our eyes opened to God and blinded to the petty squabbling so many of us have been distracted by in our quarantines.
This season of our lives will pass. Whether we’re closer to God or the world when is passes has a lot to do with how we engage the time.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Cor 4:16-18