From 2 Kings 6-8
Elisha and his servant are surrounded by a foreign army that has been sent to kill them. His servant fears certain death. Elisha on the other hand sees something that his servant cannot. He sees they are surrounded by the LORD’s armies. God’s people need to have the perspective the LORD, his armies and his people are always surrounding us. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Israel has been unfaithful to the LORD and consequently is surrounded by hostile enemies who want to take over the land. They are always at war.
The king of Syria (Ben-hadad) is one such enemy, but he is having trouble defeating Israel because of the man of God (Elisha) keeps telling the king of Israel (probably Jehoram) where they will strike. Giving him opportunity to prepare in advance or flee.
8 Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.”
9 But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.”
10 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.
11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them,
“Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?”
12 And one of his servants said,
“None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”
13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.”
It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. (2 Ki 6.8-13)
The king of Syria is getting frustrated with his thwarted attempts to defeat the king of Israel. He suspects there is a traitor in his close circle (‘who of us is for the King of Israel’) who is telling the king of Israel. His servants however know of Elisha and respect the power of the LORD. They know where Elisha is.
He believes them and sends his army to Dotham to kill Elisha. They find him waiting, unafraid.
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. (2 Ki 6.15-17)
When Elisha’s servant rose early in the morning he probably saw everyone else including his master on the wall. He goes up and sees the massive army assembled around them. In situation like these it’s normal to fear for your life. Elisha however sees things differently.
Knowing the LORD changes people’s perspective on things in the world. Giving them hope.
Elisha shows him what he sees. The greater armies of the LORD surrounding the army of Syria. He is no longer afraid.
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. (2 Ki 6.18-21)
Elisha asks the LORD to blind all the Syrians. Making them helpless and easy to kill. But he doesn’t kill them. He does something unexpected. He shows them mercy.
He pretends to be someone else and he leads them to Samaria offering help. They follow him and so does the army of Israel with their king. When they get there Elisha asks the LORD to open their eyes so they can see again.
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. (2 Ki 6.21-23)
The king of Israel wants to kill them. He asks Elisha for permission. This seems fair enough considering they were trying to kill him and Elisha. But again, Elisha does something unexpected. He shows them mercy. Even more he gives them some food and drink. The Syrians never come back.
Was it the power of the LORD or the mercy of Elisha that caused the Syrians never to raid Israel again?
“There is no reason to believe that Elisha saw the angels that compassed him round, with his bodily eyes. But he knew that they were there. He was sure that God would not desert him in his peril, and had such a confident faith in “the doctrine of angels,” that it was as if he could see them. And so it was with David. “The angel of the Lord,” he says, “encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Ps. 34:7). So with Hezekiah, who, when Sennacherib invaded his land, “spake comfortably to the people, saying, Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the King of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him” (2 Chron. 32:7)” (Spence-Jones, H.D.M. ed., 1909. 2 Kings, London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.)
The people of God in the Old Testament knew the LORD and his angels surrounded them.
In the gospel when Jesus was being betrayed and captured by the chief priests and elders of the people he knew he could command legions of angels to save himself.
47 While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.
51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
52 Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Mt 26:47–54)
It should be of comfort to us to know the LORD, his armies and his people are all around us. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses (cf. Heb 12.1).
We are never alone.
Twelve legions of angels could have destroyed the whole city or blinded the whole city. The least they could have done was rescued Jesus from these people. Except Jesus, surrounded as he was by the LORD’s armies, knowing he could command them to save him, allowed himself to be captured. He did it to fulfill the scriptures and for our salvation.
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2016. All Rights Reserved.