Updated: May 19
Over the last couple of days we have been looking at prayers that the prophet Elijah prayed. Today we are looking at his trainee or successor, Elisha.
Where Elijah had confronted the king about his wrong doing and demonstrated God’s power, Elisha showed God’s compassion and care to ordinary people.
Like Elijah, Elisha had performed many miracles, including bringing a boy who had died back to life, multiplying a little oil until it filled many many jars, making an axe head float and healing an Aramean army general of leprosy.
Elisha was God’s prophet to Israel but had become known in Aram which is actually modern day Syria.
In today’s Bible passage God is telling Elisha all of the plans made by the king of Aram to attack various parts of Israel. The king of Aram thinks his army is betraying him but when he hears that it is Elisha he makes a new plan. His new plan is to capture Elisha and have Elisha work for him instead.
I can’t understand how the king of Aram thinks this is a good idea. If Elisha knows all of the plans that this king is making, wouldn’t Elisha know that the king wants to capture him? And if Elisha knew that the king of Aram wanted to capture him then surely he would make sure that didn’t happen?
Anyway the king finds out that Elisha is in Dothan and sends a regiment of soldiers, some on foot, some mounted on horses and some in chariots to capture him. Just out of interest, Dothan is the same place where generations earlier Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers.
Elisha’s servant gets up one morning and sees Dothan surrounded by soldiers. He doesn’t know what is going on. He is in a state of shock and fear. And his first terrified thought must have been that this was a hopeless situation, the city would fall to this hostile force and he would be taken as a slave to serve in Syria.
Elisha though, has no such fears, his faith is so strong and sure that he prays for his servant friend. ‘Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.’ And at once the servant can see that all around, between the town and army there are similar forces, but these are fiery. Right back to the time when Moses led the people out of Egypt and across the Red Sea, fire has represented God’s presence on Earth. These new soldiers are God’s!
I imagine that Elisha’s servant is reassured that he is not going to become a slave to the Arameans but that he is now in a whole other state, this time of shock and awe at what God is doing.
Elisha prays again asking God to strike the opposing army with blindness. I understand that this means they became confused and couldn’t really comprehend what they were seeing, not that they were truly blind.
It seems like Elisha tells a bit of a lie here but I like to think that Elisha could have spoken to one of the officers and asked what or who they were looking for. And when told “The home of the prophet Elisha,” Elisha was freely able to tell them that they were in the wrong place because Elisha actually lived in Samaria.
Elisha’s third prayer in this story is as they enter the fortified city of Samaria. He prays for the soldiers eyes to be able to see again. They do and they realise that they have been captured and there is no escape.
The king is told to show hospitality and kindness to the captives and to release them. The king cannot take credit for capturing forces that he hasn’t captured, for something he has not done!
As I read this I am reminded of something that a very good friend of mind tells me whenever I get nervous. If God is with me, I am in the majority. You see, God is bigger and stronger than anything that I can face. Even if there is just me and God, I am on the side of victory. Whatever you are facing tonight or tomorrow or the next day, if you are facing it with God, be reassured that you are on the winning team.
And, remember that there is more going on than we can see or imagine. Initially the servant couldn’t see God’s warriors but they were still there. When the enemy is pressing in on all sides, we do not need to fear, God’s warriors are surrounding us... whether we can see them or not.
Tonight, let us pray for steadfast faith like Elisha, let us ask God to show us the ordinary people that we need to care for and be compassionate with and let us thank God for his mighty, fiery warriors that fight for His purposes on our behalf.