2 Kings 6
8 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.”
9 The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.” 10 So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
11 This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
12 “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.
16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
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.
How could this happen? It was going to be a great day in Dothan. Sure, there was a little squabbling going on between Israel and Aram, but that was normal. This wasn’t the age of political propaganda and twitter posts. Kings and nations simply went out and fought for control. When the weather warmed up you said goodbye to the warriors and the army men as they went out to protect their families and their nation. It was normal, especially during this time of the kings of Israel. God’s people had the God-given obligation to protect the Promised Land.
It was also normal for a prophet to serve God’s people. During this time period, Joram was king and Elisha was God’s man as prophet. Even though the kings were often disobedient to God and his prophets, God still kept his promise to love his people. So, Elisha, by the power of God, was helping Joram, the king, with his battle plans against Aram.
The king of Aram was going a little crazy because it seemed like Israel was always one step ahead. He thought that one of his staff members was leaking information. When he heard that God’s man, Elisha, was helping Israel, he changed his target. Rather than draw up the next plan of attack against the army of Israel, the king of Aram wanted one man, Elisha, and he wanted him dead. When the king found out that Dothan was the place, “he sent horses and chariots and a strong force” under the cover of night.
The faithful servant of Elisha though it was going to be a great day in Dothan. He was up and at ‘em early. Maybe he liked an early morning walk to spend a few minutes with the Lord in prayer and clear his head. Maybe he was going to get the latest news and a cup of coffee. Yes, it was just another day in Dothan. But then he experienced one of those moments that no one wants to have.
I imagine if an A-list director was making a movie for this scene the music would be soft and ominous, the lighting would be low and hazy, and the camera angle would start zoomed in at the servant’s face. Then, the music would start to be louder the camera angle would pan out to reveal the dangerous threat of the Aramean army surrounding the city.
The only thing the terrified servant can muster is, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” What is the Aramean army around you? What causes such paralyzing fear? We could make a long list, a really long list, I’m sure, because we all have fears. Some can be things that cause physical pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain, things that happen to you, your kids, your parents, or others you care about, and things that have happened or could happen. So many things cause fear. We could have a long series of Bible studies to dissect each kind of fear that grips us and how Jesus answers each and every one of those fears with his forgiveness, his protection, his love, and his certainty of heaven, which he paid for in full.
It goes beyond fear, doesn’t it? It’s not just that terrifying things come up in life causing a similar response to the servant in Dothan, “What do we do now?” When fear grips you, do you know what does not have a hold of your heart? Trust. See, God has a whole lot of promises that cover all the fears that come up in life. And when we choose to let the fear into our hearts, that means it is pushing trust and faith out. That servant was failing to trust God’s promises.
God says, “Trust me. Above everything else, believe what I tell you.” It’s actually the First Commandment. And so letting fear crowd out the faith that God has given us is not just being afraid, it’s also being disobedient.
Just think about the things we’ve been hearing in this Easter worship series. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection have made a lot of promises to us. On Easter Sunday, we heard the promise that his life means we have victory over sin, death, and hell, a victory that God will not remove from his children. Next, Jesus promised his peace will go with us as we are sent out to live for him. Then, Jesus gave us the proper kind of praise, not for ourselves, but for him because of his free gifts of life and salvation. Just two weeks ago, we were reminded of the beautiful picture of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. He never lets us go. He never stops feeding us, protecting us, and directing us. And last week, Jesus promised that the kind of love he has and the kind of love that he puts into our hearts will give us the right attitude and actions towards each other forever.
That’s a lot of promises. And Jesus keeps them all. When for even one day, we aren’t paying attention like we should, we get a little too selfish going our own way, or we think Jesus could be doing a better job, we end being a lot like the servant of Elisha that morning in Dothan. We fail to trust the Lord, we fail to trust his promises, we fail to obey him because of our spiritually weak eyes.
Too often we are looking at ourselves. Too often we are looking around us at our earthly circumstances. Too often we are looking at our life here as the first priority. Anything that threatens to mess with my circumstances takes my attention, forcing my eyes to move from where they need to be… on Jesus and his promises.
It’s a little bit like Peter walking out on the water to meet Jesus. When his eyes were on Jesus, he could not see the storm and the waves. When the circumstances and surroundings started to take his eyes off of Jesus, he sank like a man who’s trying to walk on water.
Elisha’s servant felt sunk, but Elisha reacts as if nothing is the matter. With a huge army surrounding Dothan with certain doom, Elisha says, “Don’t be afraid.” In other words, the circumstances didn’t change where Elisha’s eyes were. God’s promises to protect him and defend him were just as true with the Aramean army surrounding the city as they were the day before they got there. God’s promises to love his people and save his people from every evil were just as true. God’s promises to work all things for the good of believers were just as true. God’s promises to be with us always to the very end of the age were just as true. What Elisha’s physical eyes were seeing did not change God’s promises, not one bit. And so, what Elisha’s eyes were seeing did not change his trust and obedience.
There is a way to walk through this life with those kind of eyes. That’s what Elisha prayed for: “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” And what did the servant see? He saw God’s army of fiery horses and chariots all around them. He saw that God’s promises are still true even when circumstances might look dismal. He saw that God’s power is greater than anything in this world. He saw that trusting the Lord and obeying him is never going to leave you alone and helpless. He saw that obeying the Lord and having him as your number one priority is the best kind of eyesight there is.
Jesus has opened my eyes and yours so that we can see it, too. Jesus has opened our eyes to the facts that sins are forgiven, death is defeated, and hell is not an option for Jesus’ followers. Jesus has opened our eyes to the power of God’s promises to save people not matter what is surrounding us on earth. Jesus has opened our eyes to see the power of the Word and Sacraments to change disobedient sinners into God’s children. Jesus has opened our eyes to see God’s law as a beautiful way to say thank you to God for his free gift of forgiveness and grace. Jesus has opened our eyes to see obedience as a safe thing for us and not a burden.
When you see with these eyes, you are trusting Jesus, you are believing in his power, you are loving him above everything else. You are being obedient. See, it’s not a bad word, because God’s not trying to get something out of you or take advantage of you. That’s not why he wants obedient children. He wants obedient children because he wants to protect us from danger. He wants obedient children because it makes us a light that helps others see things as clearly as we do. He wants obedient children because we have a Father who loves us and wants what it is best for us.
This only possible because Jesus opened our eyes to a completely different kind of life when he rose from the dead. It’s a life where our eyes don’t see any enemies. We see the Lord in all his power saving us from any and every possible threat to our eternity in heaven.
God granted a special request to his prophet Elisha so that the servant would not be afraid, so that the servant would have trust, which is loving and obeying God. And God grants that same request to you every time you open the pages of his book. There you have his promises and his power. There you have the path of life given to you through Christ.
We all been like the servant standing in Dothan saying, “Oh no, what shall we do?” But God changed our sight through the precious blood of his Son, Jesus. We are now happy to obey him, trust him, love him because he is the one whose power saves us.
Surveying the situation now, how are you liking your chances against any difficult decision, any evil, any enemy, any problem, any temptation to disobey? Just like that servant in Dothan, our eyes are open. As the psalmist says, “The Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.”