“And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” – 2 Kings 6:17
This text is a suitable one for the period preceding Easter. It directs the mind to Easter themes, such as the existence of the soul within the body, and the reality of the spiritual world. It shows also relations of helpfulness between those in the spiritual world and men upon the earth, which exist through angelic ministry. And it testifies to the unseen but providential care which the Lord exercises over those who trust wisely in Him.
The Syrians, being at war with Israel, sought to destroy Israel’s king by encamping near where he was likely to pass and then falling upon him unawares. The Lord, through the prophet Elisha, warned Israel of the Syrian camp; so the king of Israel continually escaped. Then the Syrian king learns that it is due to Elisha that Israel is informed against him, and he resolves to capture Elisha. With such a purpose he invests Dothan. Here we have illustrated a condition which exists today. As long as Elisha counseled Israel, the attempts of the Syrian army were futile. To succeed against Israel the prophet must be destroyed. The prophet spoke the Word of the Lord. He stands therefore for the Lord. Israel represents those who follow the Lord by obeying His Word, or those of the Lord’s Church. As long as the church is instructed, enlightened, and guided by the Word, it is preserved unhurt from its enemies.
The enemies of the church know this as well as the Syrian king knew that his efforts were in vain as long as Elisha counseled Israel. So, just as the Syrians tried to destroy Elisha, the enemies of the Christian Church have resolved to destroy the Word of God, the Bible, by denying that it is from God and trying to prove that it is naught but fanciful human history. But if they could read it rightly, they would see that it is they and their own failure which is depicted in the very stories which they say are pure inventions.
The Lord had promised Israel protection from all enemies as long as His Word was obeyed. Now, even after He has so many times been forgotten, He does not entirely forsake them, and is ready to renew His covenant. A great Syrian army encompasses Dothan with the hope of putting out of their way the main obstacle to their success, the prophet Elisha. But this wonderful prophet, differing widely from all other prophets, remains peaceful and unconcerned as to the outcome. And later in this same chapter we find him sitting peacefully in his home under even more trying circumstances. We know that his assurance was founded upon his faith in the power and willingness of the Lord to deliver out of trouble all who look to and trust in Him. Peace, faith, and calmness like Elisha’s should characterize every true Christian, for he may know equally well that the Lord is ever present with him, and that if he looks to the Lord and trusts in Him, the Lord will allow nothing to injure his spiritual life.
Elisha’s servant greatly feared when he saw the army about Dothan. But Elisha had an assurance about which the young man knew nothing. So he asked the Lord to open the eyes of the young man, that he might see. With his material eyes the young man saw the Assyrian soldiers and horsemen on the hills about Dothan. But when the Lord opened the eyes of his spirit, he saw Elisha’s helpers in the spiritual world. To know that the soul exists within the body with all its faculties waiting to be opened in eternal life helps us to understand how many of the miracles were wrought. It is so that the Lord’s disciples saw Him after the Resurrection.
And notice that the young man saw the country about him filled with multitudes of the heavenly host. This teaches us how near and how real the spiritual world is. We find many passages in the Bible which testify to this same fact:
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalm 91:11).
“The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them” (Psalm 34:7).
“But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us” (Psalm 44:7).
“He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me” (Psalm 55:18).
“Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies” (Psalm 108:13).
“Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me, And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. Then he said, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia” (Daniel 10:18-20).
“Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared” (Exodus 23:20).
“Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
“And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings” (Luke 1:19).
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (Revelation 1:1).
“I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches” (Revelation 22:16).
Elisha said to the young man, “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” It is not the appearance, yet it is always true that those who are sincerely trying to overcome weaknesses are encompassed with a power greater than the power of evil. If one knows this, it encourages him to lay hold of the spiritual powers for good that the Lord has already provided within him. Abundant unseen helpers are always present. We need to have faith in this fact. The Apostle Paul writes, “But God is always faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
The deliverance was accomplished simply. In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Syrians were smitten with blindness, so that Elisha led them away from Dothan to Samaria, where they came under the power of the king of Israel. The king was eager to smite the Syrians, but Elisha counseled him not to do so, but to feed them; and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away.
That the Lord did not cause the Syrians to be destroyed but ordered that they be fed shows how in many unsuspected ways the Lord exercises His protecting care. It was, doubtless, hard for the king of Israel to restrain himself from destroying these enemies, who were now in his power, but he obeyed the Word of the Lord. It was not necessary for the king to exercise his power. His duty was fully done in simple obedience to the Word. The Lord, likewise, can best deliver anyone out of his temptation if he will simply do as the Bible teaches. It is not man that works deliverance. His part is to remain steadfast in faith and obedience. Then the Lord, who is the only one who has the power so to do, in the proper time removes the cause of temptation and gives peace. Evils seem formidable to us, but to the Lord they are as nothing. The establishment of good in us requires time, for the growth of spiritual things is like that of the plant – first the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear.
The power to save – the Lord’s power – is ever present with us. All He asks is that we abide in His Word until He can bring forth the ripened fruit of spiritual understanding, strength, and peace. We can no more make spiritual things grow than we can make plants grow in a garden. We provide ourselves with conditions favorable to growth, but the Lord, the Creator is the one who makes them grow.
“I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses.”
“In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.”