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Elisha’s Practical Joke

Today we are going to look at a fourth battle story, however this one is a little different.  This one is more like a covert, under-cover military operation. So it’s not your typical battle. But it is a fantastic story with a lot of great lessons in it.

You’ll remember that last week, the Assyrians had completely destroyed the ten tribes known as ‘Israel’, and only the two tribes known as ‘Judah’ had survived. Well, today we need to go back in time about 200 years from that point. Israel has not yet been wiped out. The King of Israel at this time is King Ahab and his capital city was the city of Samaria. At this particular time, the Arameans were at war with Israel. But they were having a little trouble because of a certain prophet named Elisha.

So let’s turn to 2 Kings chapter 6, starting at verse 8 to see how this story begins.

8 When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, “We will mobilize our forces at such and such a place.”

9 But immediately Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, “Do not go near that place, for the Arameans are planning to mobilize their troops there.” 10 So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he would be on the alert there.

2 Kings 6:8-10

Ok, pause here for a second. I want to make sure you understand what is happening here. The King of Aram would meet with his officers and say “Ok, let’s go launch a surprise attack on the Israeli army at this place.”

But what would happen is that God would reveal to Elisha exactly what the Arameans were planning to do, and he would then tell King Ahab. Of course, King Ahab would then take his army out of harms way and when the Arameans came for their ‘surprise’ attack – there would be nobody there. And this happened time and time again. The King of Aram would plan a surprise attack, and Elisha would ruin the surprise. As you can imagine, the King of Aram was starting to get pretty upset that every time he planned an attack, the King of Israel was already one step ahead of him.

We read that in verse 11:

11 The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who has been informing the king of Israel of my plans?”

12 “It’s not us, my lord the king,” one of the officers replied. “Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom!”

2 Kings 6:11-12

That’s got to be a little un-nevering, doesn’t it. Knowing that even when you hide away in your most private place, there is someone listening to every word you speak…

In our world of technology, more and more people are getting concerned about this kind of ‘invasion of privacy’. Just this week I read in the news about a young man who is suing the FBI for attaching a GPS tracking device to his car without him knowing. People get very concerned when different agencies can track their every move with GPS, satellite imagery, and what not. They can listen in on phone calls, intercept emails, record your internet activity. They can see everything you do and hear everything you say.

But this isn’t anything new. God was listening in on the King of Aram thousands of years ago. In fact, God’s known everything about everyone since before we were born. There is nothing hidden from God. There is no secure bunker deep inside the earth that you can go where God is not right there with you.

And depending on how you look at it, that might make you nervous, or that might bring you great comfort.

Let me explain what I mean. I think a lot of the time, when we talk about God seeing everything, we say it as a warning. Like “Don’t you try to get away with anything, cuz God will see you.” And we paint God as a police officer with a big stick.

And while it is true that God does see the wrong things we do, we forget about the other side. If God can see everything, then He also sees when you do right. He sees how hard you try to be a good husband or wife…. To raise your children well…  To be a good friend or neighbor… He sees all that stuff too! If God can see everything, then He knows about the struggles your going through – even if no one else knows. If God can see everything, then He knows about the hurt you feel that you can’t tell anyone else about.

As children of God, knowing that our Father knows everything about us should be a great comfort to us. But to the King of Aram, this was a serious problem. Verse 13.

13 “Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “so I can send troops to seize him.”

And the report came back: “Elisha is at Dothan.” 14 So one night the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city.

2 Kings 6:13-14

The King of Aram is not going to stand for Elisha ruining his plans anymore. In fact, I imagine he was probably hoping to capture Elisha so that Elisha could tell HIM what the King of Israel was planning.

But this is where it get very interesting. Verse 15.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. “Oh, sir, what will we do now?” the young man cried to Elisha.

16 “Don’t be afraid!” Elisha told him. “For there are more on our side than on theirs!” 17 Then Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!” The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

2 Kings 6:15-17

Is that not incredible? First of all, it would be pretty impressive to see flaming horses and chariots. That would be pretty cool. But what is more exciting, is that for this brief moment, this young man – this servant of Elisha – had his eyes opened to see the spiritual reality around him. That would be incredible.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like, if God would open our eyes to see the spiritual realities around us. You know, because we live in a physical world, I think sometimes its hard for us to recognize that we also live in a spiritual world too. We forget that there are angels (And demons) all around us. We forget that we, ourselves, are spiritual beings.

I wonder how differently we would live our lives if we could see the spiritual realities around us. If we could see the angels protecting us (perhaps even the fiery horses & chariots) around us. Or if we could see the demons behind those temptations that we often give in to. Or if we could see God, our Father, right beside us at every moment in every circumstance. How differently we would go through life… But you know, just because we can’t see them, it doesn’t make them any less real. Sometimes, like Elisha’s young servant, we just need to be reminded that they are there.

Well, after this young man’s eyes were opened, the Bible doesn’t tell us anything else about him – whether seeing those horses and chariots of fire comforted him or just made him more terrified. But there is more to the story. In fact, this story only gets better. Verse 18 now.

As the Aramean army advanced toward him, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, please make them blind.” So the Lord struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked.

19 Then Elisha went out and told them, “You have come the wrong way! This isn’t the right city! Follow me, and I will take you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to the city of Samaria.

2 Kings 6:18-19

Now if you were paying close attention at the beginning of the message, you’ll remember that Samaria was the Capital city of Israel – the enemy of these Arameans.

So I think it’s hilarious that Elisha, the very man this army came to capture, goes out to meet them and says “Hey, guys. Um, you’re in the wrong city, but because I’m such a nice guy, I’ll take you to find the guy you’re looking for. Just follow me.” I don’t know how Elisha kept a straight face talking with these guys all the way to Samaria. But somehow Elisha keeps it together and marches this army right into the heart of the Capital city of their enemies. Then… verse 20…

20 As soon as they had entered Samaria, Elisha prayed, “O Lord, now open their eyes and let them see.” So the Lord opened their eyes, and they discovered that they were in the middle of Samaria. 2 Kings 6:20

These guys have got to be feeling pretty dumb at this point. They have been seriously bamboozled. I’d hate to be they guy that has to go back to the King of Aram WITHOUT Elisha and explain how the guy they were supposed to capture lead them right into the heart of enemy territory. But here’s what happened. Verse 21.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?”

22 “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.”

23 So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel.

2 Kings 6:21-23

So there you have it. What a crazy story! We start off with a story of Old Testament espionage. Then we get invisible flaming horses & chariots. And we end with Elisha pulling off this practical joke on the enemy armies. Who knew that all that was in the Bible?

But through this wild and highly unusual story, we learn some important truths about God. I imagine if we thought about it for a few moments we could come up with a whole list of lessons, but let me quickly point out just one that stood out to me.

That is that God does not stand idly by. You can write that down – God does not stand idly by. At the beginning of this story, when enemy armies try to attack God’s people, God gets involved. He spoils their surprise attacks time and time again by telling Elisha exactly what their plans are. He doesn’t just stand idly by. Later when the enemy army surround Dothan in order to capture Elisha, we see that God gets involved again and sends his own army of fiery horses and chariots to protect Elisha.

Then as Elisha goes out to mislead this army into Samaria, again, God gets involved – blinding them to who Elisha really is and to where they really going. God does not stand idly by.

Our God is not a passive God. He is very active. He is involved in his Creation. We touched on that a little bit last week with Hezekiah and King Sennacherib, but here it is again. One of the major themes of the Bible – perhaps even THE major theme of the Bible is that God is with us. We are created to be with Him. So it should be no surprise to us that God is involved in our lives.  God cares what happens to you and me. He is actively involved in leading us, protecting us, teaching us, stretching us, strengthening us…  God is with us and He is involved in every area of your life.

That’s exactly why God sent his Son Jesus to die on a cross for our sins. He saw that we were helpless and hopeless in our sins. He saw that we were headed towards eternal destruction with no way to save ourselves. And He couldn’t just stand idly by.

God intervened. Jesus took the punishment for our sins and spared us from being separated from God forever. All that is required of us is accept God’s gift of forgiveness. And if you’ve never accepted that gift from God, I encourage you to do so even today. Just tell God “Thank you for taking the punishment I deserved. I acknowledge you as my Savior and Lord, and I accept your forgiveness.” And when you do that, not only does God wipe your slate clean – forgiving and forgetting all your sin, but your relationship with God is made right and God promises that from this point on all throughout eternity, He will be with you and He will never leave you.


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