Seeing the Unseen (2 Kings 6:8-23)

Seeing the Unseen
2 Kings 6:8-23

At the Yalta Conference in 1945, Winston Churchill asked Joseph Stalin to respect the religious freedoms of Eastern Europeans, to which Stalin, who was an atheist, famously replied: “How many [military] divisions does the Pope have?”

Joseph Stalin illustrates a man who does not respect the power of God… He was not the first man, nor will he be the last.

Christians, however, sometimes doubt the power of God; we do not trust what is not seen. In 2 Kings 6, Ben-hadad is the King of Aram, also known as Syria. He perceived that the prophet Elisha was a threat, but he also thought he could silence the prophet of God. His delusion is comical, but also deep in his heart.

6:8-10 - “Now the king of Aram was warring against Israel; and he counseled with his servants saying, “In such and such a place shall be my camp.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Arameans are coming down there.” The king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God had told him; thus he warned him, so that he guarded himself there, more than once or twice.”

Please observe that the “man of God,” the servant of God with the word of God in his heart was the defense of Israel against Syria!

Christian application: From the first time Jesus mentions the word “enemies” in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:43, the NT uses the word 32 times. Some people might be my enemy because I have done something against them. Or, they might be my enemy because I am a servant of Christ. Paul spoke of “enemies of the cross of Christ” in Philippians 3:18.

Of course, you and I know that the being behind all “enmity” is Satan himself. The clearest text on the spiritual warfare in which Christians are engaged is Ephesians 6:10-20. In verse 12: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Without speculating a whole lot on this spiritual warfare in which we are engaged - and I have found a whole lot of writers want to say a whole lot more about that than what the Bible reveals - we do know we are in a spiritual warfare, but we aren’t fighting against physical enemies; we are fighting against spiritual enemies. But it is a spiritual battle…

Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-4: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.”

6:11-14 - “Now the heart of the king of Aram was enraged over this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you tell me which of us is for the king of Israel?” One of his servants said, “No, 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.” So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and take him.” And it was told him, saying, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” He sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city.”

Samaria was the capital of the northern tribes of Israel; Dothan was about 12 miles south of Samaria.

Here is how foolish God’s enemies really are. Reason and logic are rarely used by the godless… If Elisha was able to thwart King Ben-hadad’s movements before, wouldn’t it be reasonable to believe that Elisha would know that Syria is sending their army to take him now?

6:15-16 - “Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Christian application: No, not everyone has the same strength of faith. Even some who have been Christians for many years still have trouble trusting God with certain aspects of their lives. All the apostles did not get out of the boat and walk on water in Matthew 14:28-33. We critique Peter because he took his eyes off Jesus and started to sink in the water. But at least he trusted Jesus enough to get out of the boat to begin with!

Five times Jesus refers to those with “little faith” in His ministry: Matthew 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Luke 12:28.

When we find our faith is tested, the first thing we should do is not panic! In The Upside of Down, author Megan McArdle invites the reader to imagine a plane crash or a terrible fire. The image that comes to our mind is likely an image or group of images that are really scenes from a movie or TV show we have seen. When all hope is lost, someone jumps into action, who looks very much like Liam Neeson (for McArdle’s generation; he would look like Harrison Ford for my generation, or maybe Bruce Willis), and save the day.

Except that’s not how things tend to happen. Amanda Ripley wrote a book called The Unthinkable, about disasters, and she found that most people don’t react in disasters - they do nothing. They look around and minimize what they see, hoping that things are really just a smidgeon outside of normal. Many people died in the World Trade Center because they did not grasp the seriousness of the situation. Many people did not evacuate during Hurricane Katrina because they thought things were just a little outside of normal and could not grasp in their minds the seriousness of the situation.

“Normalcy Bias,” as McArdle defines it (page 113) is acting as if things are fine even when they quite obviously are not.

Having a weak faith should not be “normal” for Christians. It happens from time to time, we do doubt. But that doubt should send us back to the Lord Jesus Christ in Bible study, meditation on the words of God, and prayer, as well as fellowship with fellow Christians and worship. That’s what God designed to strengthen our faith. So if our faith gets tested or becomes weak, we don’t panic!

Notice Elisha’s message: “Do not fear.” When Mary became pregnant with baby Jesu, the angel told Joseph: “Do not be afraid” (Matt. 1:20). He said the same thing to Mary in Luke 1:30. How many times does the NT tell Christians not to be afraid? While the word “fear” is used 95 times in the NT, here are the verses where Jesus tells one or more of His followers not to fear (20 times):

Matthew 10:26, 28, 31
Matthew 14:27 (Mark 6:50; John 6:20)
Matthew 17:7
Matthew 28:5, 10
Mark 5:36 (Luke 8:50)
Luke 1:13
Luke 2:10
Luke 5:10
Luke 12:7, 32
John 12:15 (quoting Zechariah 9:9)
Acts 18:9
Acts 27:24
Hebrews 13:6 (quoting Psalm 118:6)
1 Peter 3:14 (quoting Isaiah 8:12)
Revelation 1:17; 2:10

Notice - and highlight this - Elisha tells his servant: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” God has a host of angels at His disposal, whom He has serve Christians in ways that we do not know and will never know. Hebrews 1:14 tells us that angels are “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14). God has a host of them.

In Psalm 91:11-12, the palmist promises God’s people: “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways. They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.”

In Romans 8:31, Paul promises us: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

Forty-five times God is referred to as the “God of hosts” in the OT. Your old KJV uses the expression “Lord of Sabaoth.” That word “Sabaoth” translates the word “hosts” which refers to the innumerable angels which serve at God's command.

Don’t you remember when Jesus was threatened in the Garden of Gethsemane that He told His disciples that He could call twelve legions of angels to defend Him, if that was God’s will? Matthew 26:53. Since a Roman “legion” was 6,000 soldiers, Jesus says that He has at His disposal 72,000 angels! Now, we do not have the right to call those angels to our defense, but the point is still valid - “those who are on the side of Christians are more than those who are on the side of non-Christians.” Let’s be encouraged by that fact!

But, before we move on, let me also emphasize that we should not worship, pray, or otherwise honor angels. That would be sinful: Matthew 4:10; Colossians 2:18; Revelation 22:8-9.

6:17-19 - “Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria.”

Elisha was the man who had a strong faith; his servant had a weak faith. Elisha prayed and asked God to show the servant why he ought to have a strong faith.

Christian application: God responds to the prayers of His children. There are dozens of verses that show that God responds to man’s prayers. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”

I could multiply these verses, as you well know, but here is one more: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).

6:20-23 - “When they had come into 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. Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those 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.” So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel."

In Deuteronomy 20:10-11, the Law of Moses taught Jews that if a nation wages war against them but God gives Israel victory, if the nation is willing to live in peace, then Israel must live in peace with them.

In Proverbs 25:21-22, the inspired wise man told ancient Israel: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Elisha’s response to the POWs was, you might say, an evangelistic one. That is, his belief probably was that if he was nice to them, they would stop fighting against Israel. And it worked.

What Christ has done for us has the same purpose, to draw us to worship God: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

Christian application: I just had a lesson a few weeks ago about desiring the conversion of our enemy. In fact, the best way to “destroy” our enemy is to make him a friend - even a brother or sister in Christ.

In Romans 12:19, Paul wrote: “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” But he also wrote in the following two verses:

“But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

We see that fulfilled in the life of Elisha and the Israelites here in our text. Because Elisha was nice to his enemies, “they did not come again into the land of Israel.”

If we do things God’s way, we’ll receive the blessings God promises for us!

“Seeing the Unseen” - that’s the definition of faith. Let me conclude with the quotation from Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Faith is seeing spiritually the horses and chariots of fire in the mountains even when you can’t see them physically. We need to keep in mind that our country does not control the church of Christ. God does.

Take home message: Christ’s disciples will have enemies, and this will affect some Christians more than others. But Christ answers His people’s prayers and wants us to love our enemies.


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