2 Kings 6:8-23
I distinctly remember reading this story from a children’s illustrated Bible, and it was one of my favorite stories there. Even if we can’t expect to always be delivered from danger the same way Elisha was, I think there are some great lessons for us. Let’s see what we can find.
Along with the supernatural aspects, the story contains some ironic/humorous points, but—as always—the humor is meant to teach a practical lesson. Let me get this straight, your majesty. Elisha is tipping off the king of Israel as to your raiding plans. The prophet has miraculous insight into the future far enough ahead of time to prepare for whatever you’re doing. So how do you plan to sneak up and capture him, exactly? He probably didn’t know the Proverb from Solomon, but it could've actually been helpful: “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord,” but he was going to learn it one way or the other. Come to think of it, that’s something that every human who’s ever lived is going to learn sooner or later. I mean, come on! You’re going up against an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Being who holds your very life in his hands? How dumb do you have to be to do that?
But the Lord, in his mysterious providence, allowed his servant to be surrounded in a small town by the Aramean army. It’s obvious that there weren’t enough (or any) soldiers who could put up any kind of fight. Looks like it’s game over for Elisha.
Can you sympathize with the servant? It looks like the Enemy is going to score a huge victory, and your reaction is sheer panic. From hindsight his fear looks pretty silly, but I can’t say that I’d do any better, can you? When all seems hopeless, do you do any better?
And Elisha attempts to calm his servant, and his words should be really useful whenever we’re in a seemingly hopeless situation: “Don't be afraid. . . Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
“That’s really great theology, but right now all I’m seeing is the Aramean army surrounding the city. It certainly doesn’t look like the odds are on our side.” But then the prophet prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened. And the veil was briefly parted and the servant saw who was truly outnumbered. The Aramean army surrounded the city, but surrounding the Arameans was the Army of the Lord God Almighty. Countless angels, each of whom could slaughter an army in a moment, stood ready to do the Lord’s bidding.
I think one thing we might miss here is the prophet’s merciful and gracious nature. He probably could've prayed for the Lord to just kill the enemy, and a moment later there’d be nothing left of them but corpses. But instead he just prayed for them to be struck blind, and an instant later each of them became as helpless as a newborn baby. The prophet then led them right into Israelite territory but still showed mercy by not allowing them to be killed. At the end of it, the Arameans proved that they weren’t quite as stupid as they seemed, and realized that fighting against the God of Israel was a losing proposition.
Regrettably, most of the time we don’t have the veil parted in front of us like the servant did. But that’s where faith comes in. It’s not blind trust in something that has no proof. It’s knowing that the same God who protected his prophet is perfectly capable of taking care of me, or as C. S. Lewis put it, "Faith... is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods." He might not do it in such a spectacular fashion as here, but one way or another he’s going to protect me from any real harm. And I can know for a fact that there are lots of unseen protectors surrounding me, and nothing gets past them unless it’s for my Father’s glory and my ultimate good. Take heart. “Don't be afraid. . . Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” What an understatement.
Father God, I thank you that it’s more than angels who surround and protect me. That’s nice, but it’s even better to know that I’m constantly surrounded by your love, your grace, your mercy, and your limitless power.