“The king of Aram was at war with Israel,” says verse eight. Israel was on the defensive, always having to be on guard against the Arameans (v. 10). The story tells us that the king of Aram would get ready for a surprise attack, but the king of Israel would always be forewarned, and always ready. The prophet Elisha would get the word from God and pass it on to the king of Israel, and Israel would be prepared. Time and again this happened, says the text, until the king of Aram was sure he had a spy on his staff. Finally, in verse 11 the king asked his officers, “Which one of you is on the side of Israel?”
“It’s that prophet Elisha,” replied one of the officers. “He hears everything. He probably knows what he say in your bedroom.” God is giving Elisha the information, but to the enemy it seems like he has superhuman hearing.
The king of Aram ordered that Elisha be found and captured. The report comes back that Elisha is not hiding out at all. “He is in Dothan,” the king is told, and verse fourteen says that the king then sent out a strong force, men and horses and chariots, enough to surround the entire city.
When Elisha’s servant woke up the next morning, he saw that the whole city was surrounded. “What are we going to do?” he nervously asked Elisha. The situation looked hopeless.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Elisha calmly, “those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” But it certainly did not look that way. It looked like it was a huge army against two little preachers. Then Elisha prayed that his assistant could really see the entire situation. And then, says verse 17, the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he could see that the entire army of Aram was surrounded by the army of the Lord, as the hills were full of God’s horses and chariots of fire.
The servant was afraid because he could see only the threat and the danger and the enemy. But Elisha was not afraid, because he could see more. With the eyes of faith, he could see that the Lord had already sent help, and that they would be safe. In fact, the chariots of fire turned out to be only back up support, and they would not even be needed. Elisha would handle the army without them. But the servant needed to see them so he too could have confidence and hope.
In verse seventeen Elisha prayed: “O Lord, open his eyes that he may see.” This can be our prayer in any time of need, and even if we don’t get to see a whole army of angels in chariots of fire, we can be assured that help is there. Help may not come in a way we expect or look for, and it may not come right away, and it may not even come in this lifetime. But God has promised to help us, and he has a far longer time span to work with than what we can see right now. “O Lord,” we can pray like Elisha, “help us to see; help us even to just remember what you have promised, which is that all things will work out for the good of them that love God, and that whether we live or die, we are in your hands.”
In II Corinthians chapters four and five Paul expresses this truth when he writes: “Therefore, we do not lose heart… For our light and momentary troubles right now, are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. For we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal… Therefore, we are always confident…, and we live by faith, not by sight.”
Elisha’s servant saw big trouble and lost heart. Elijah prayed that he could see with the eyes of faith, and then he saw that the trouble was light and temporary, and that a far greater glory would be revealed. Then, they were both confident and fearless, living by faith, and not by what they first saw. That is a lesson we could apply to ourselves every day of our lives.
Back to the story. At the first light of day, the army of Aram moved in on the city of Dothan; an entire army moving in to capture one man. And the one man does not run and does not hide, but he goes out to meet them and take them on. Elisha has no weapons. He is armed only with prayer, and in his prayer he asks the Lord to strike them all with blindness. And the Lord did so. Now, it can be a fair fight.
But Elisha doesn’t want to fight. Instead, he wants to have a little fun with these guys. So he goes out, meets the enemy army with a friendly voice, and says, “You all look lost. You are in the wrong city and on the wrong road. I know who you are looking for, so follow me and I will lead you right to him.” So the man these blind men are looking for, offers to show them how to find the man they are looking for. What can they do? They are in a strange territory and none of them can see where they are going. So they trust this man they cannot see, and Elisha leads them into a trap. He takes them right into the center of Samaria, a northern province of Israel; right into the hands of the king of Israel. Now, it is the army of Aram that is surrounded. So Elisha prays again, this time so that their sight may be restored, and so they can see what a predicament they are in. The king of Israel, overjoyed at this turn of events and now with the opportunity to destroy his enemy, asks Elisha gleefully, “Shall we kill them all?”
But Elisha, having a pretty good time of it, says “No, we don’t kill prisoners. You don’t even kill the ones you capture in battle, why kill these that I have brought to you?” Then Elisha says, “Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then let them go back to their master.”
Now, the king of Israel himself gets into the spirit of things, and doesn’t just give them food and water. Rather, says verse 23, he prepared a great feast, and they all eat and drink together. When all were done feasting together and having a good old time of it, he let them go. And the last sentence says, “So the bands of Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”
If it was only so easy to achieve peace all the time! Unfortunately, such acts of good will are often not reciprocated. The great King David treated his rebellious son Absalom with nothing but patience and good will. Still, Absalom led a revolt against his father. However, there are in the Bible happy little stories like this one of Elisha and the army of Aram, put there to give us little hints of what is to come in that perfect home prepared for us. Isaiah, another Old Testament prophet, put it like this: “The wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the leopard with the goat, and the lion with the calf…,” and all will live in peace and good will.
In the meantime, we live by faith, not by sight, looking, as Paul advises, not at what is seen but at what is unseen. For what we see is temporary, and we can see that. But what is unseen is eternal, and in that, Elisha teaches us, in our hope, a hope that will not disappoint us.
II Kings 6:17 — And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
II Corinthians 4:16-18 — Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen,since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
II Corinthians 5:7 —We live by faith, not by sight.
Today’s prayer is from a song by Michael W. Smith. The links below are videos of the Open the Eyes of My Heart sung first by Smith, and then by a blind, autistic boy (along with a bit of that boy’s amazing story).
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord Open the eyes of my heart I want to see You, I want to see You
To see You high and lifted up Shinin’ in the light of Your glory Pour out Your power and love As we sing, “Holy, holy, holy.”