Viewing entries tagged
Providence

Eyes of Elisha

One of the Hebrew words that was used to denote the prophets in the Old Testament can be translated literally as "seer" or "one who sees".  It is no mystery as to why a term like this would be used to describe the office of a prophet, since kings and commoners would seek them out in order to discover what the future would hold or what God would have them do.  In the story of the prophet Elisha in the book of 2 Kings, though, we get even more detail concerning what a prophet could see. In one well-known story in chapter 6 of that book, Elisha is staying in a city called Dothan (a situation with which I am currently sympathetic) when the army of Syria marches in and surrounds the city walls.  The king of Syria wanted Elisha dead for being able to see all of his troop movements before they even occurred and for telling such news to the king of Israel.  So it seemed as if the city of Dothan would be thrown down, and yet the seer was not troubled.

Early that morning, when Elisha's servant went out to see the commotion outside of the gates, he returned to his master in great distress saying, "Alas, my master!  What shall we do?" (2 Kings 6:15).  Elisha himself was calm, however, and simply prayed that God would open the eyes of his servant that he may see.  Apparently, Elisha's eyes were already opened, and what he saw gave him no cause for alarm.

The Lord answered Elisha's prayer, and the young man was able to see not only the Syrian army, but also a great force of horses and chariots of fire filling the mountains around the city, completely surrounding the smaller earthly force (v. 17).  Now the servant was able to see that his master's words were wise and true when he said, "Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (v. 16).

Many of us would love to be able to have our eyes opened in this way so that we could see the power and protection of God when we are experiencing trying times.  But the reality is that if we have been born again through the power and working of the Holy Spirit, we have had our eyes opened.  Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:3-4, "And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.  In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the Image of God."  The ones who have blinders on their eyes are the ones who are perishing, not those who have been born again.  They cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, but those who have been given the gift of faith surely can.  Paul says of believers, "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (v. 6).

If we are born again believers, our eyes have been opened; thus says God's Word.  And yet my guess is that probably none of us are seeing horses and chariots of fire wandering around the countryside.  I know that I don't see anything like that in Dothan, Alabama!  But let me ask you something: did Elisha actually have to see something like that in order to be assured of God's power and protection?  We are actually never told that he himself saw those flaming chariots - just the servant - although he certainly might have.  My point is that he didn't really need to see them.  Elisha knew what an awesome God he served.  He knew that his God was the Creator of the universe and the sovereign King over all history.  He knew that if God wanted him to live to see another day, that there was nothing that could stop that from happening.  He also knew that if God was through with him, then nothing could delay his departure.

This is the way that Paul talks about our eyes being opened as New Testament believers.  We have been given "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."  In 2 Corinthians 1:20 Paul says that all God's promises find their 'yes' in Christ.  We have absolutely no reason to fear anything that Satan or the world can marshal against us because our God has never left His throne.  He is still the one holding all the reins of history, and all of His forces are constantly arrayed around His children to accomplish all of His purposes concerning us.  Sometimes that means that He leads us to walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but it is only so that He can reassure us with His presence and conform us to the image of Jesus Christ.  At other times He gives us mighty victory over impossible odds in order to encourage us and fill us with an appreciation of His awesome wonder.  But at no point does He leave us alone and forgotten, and we should ever remember that.  Keep your eyes open to the fact that God runs the show and that He has your best interests always at heart if you belong to Him in Christ as one of his children.

Amazing Providence

Have you ever asked God to go back in time and fix something?  I sure have!  There are times when what I have been praying for has seemed so unlikely to ever come to pass because of other events that I know have already taken place that I just ask God to go back and change those events so that my request can be granted.  I mean, certainly God is powerful enough to do something like that.  He is the Creator of time itself, so why couldn't He just alter it a little? One problem with that request, though, is that it assumes that God has steered history in the wrong way - or at least not the best way - the first time around and that He is only going to get it 'really right' after I have asked Him to do so.  Or maybe it just simply assumes that God sits back and watches what we do with history - as if He is not the One writing every scene for His own purposes and glory - and therefore He should be open to the possibility of changing something that we have messed up.  Either way, though, there is a denial - however subtle - of the fact that God is all-wise, perfectly good, and totally sovereign, and it is distrustful - again, however subtly - that this all-wise and perfectly good sovereign God has done the right thing in allowing certain events to come to pass.

Now, those of us who have been truly born of the Spirit of God know that these things are not true.  We know that God is all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, totally sovereign, and perfectly good because He has told us these things about Himself in His Word.  We know that He directs all of history to tell His story the way that He wants to and that nothing ever happens that He has not perfectly planned for the ends that He had in mind; and again, we know this because He has told us these things are so in His Word.  It's just good to be reminded of these things sometimes when we begin to despair at the way circumstances are working out in our own lives.

So consider this reminder from 2 Kings 3.  In that chapter, the king of Moab decided to rebel against Israel rather than pay the tribute that had been previously demanded of him and his people.  Thus Jehoram, the king of Israel, sent word to Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, and asked him if he wanted to go to war against Moab with him.  Jehoshaphat agreed and they also talked the king of Edom into coming along with them to the battle.  But then these three kings made an error in their supply calculations, and suddenly their armies were left with no water to sustain them.  This was one of those moments where you would wish that you could go back in time and do things differently.  I'm sure they had to feel stupid and vulnerable, and they began to despair that the battle would be lost.

At this point, the godly King Jehoshaphat knew that they needed to inquire of Yahweh, to find out what He would have them to do.  Therefore they sent for Elisha the prophet.  And Elisha told them that God would work a fantastic miracle for them, filling the land with water without a single drop of rain falling.  At the same time, he told them that God would give them victory over the Moabites.

And this is how the whole thing worked out: God did indeed miraculously fill the land with water, which was exactly what the people needed right when they needed it, but the Moabites were not aware that this had happened.  When they woke up in the morning and went to look at the camp of the Israelite army, the sunrise caused all that water to look red like blood.  They thought that their enemies had slaughtered each other, so they ran down into the camp, not suspecting an armed force standing at full strength.  The Moabites were then cut down easily by the combined forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom, and when they fled the battle, the three kings and their armies followed them and conquered some of their choice cities.

Looking back over the entire story, we can see that God was engineering each event to perfectly provide for His people and to declare His own majesty and glory - for we can't read a story like that without marveling at how awesomely sovereign our God is!  And this should remind us that God works similar wonders in our own times of distress.  The thirst and unpreparedness of the armies of Israel and Judah was a part of God's plan to both provide for their victory and to cause them to see that He is awesome and glorious!  Why would we ever think that our own difficulties are anything less?  After all, the God who always tells the truth and who always keeps His promises has told us that He works all things for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).