Sunday, November 20, 2016

[Matt's Messages] "LORD, Open Our Eyes!"

“LORD, Open Our Eyes!”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
November 20, 2016 :: 2 Kings 6:1-23  

I think that our message for today is a good one for the Thanksgiving holiday.

It’s all about seeing things that are easily missed.

Like our blessings.

We always sing that song this time of year, “Count Your Blessings.”

Count them one by one.

And it’s good advice. Because we can easily forget how good we have it until we get to thinking about, reminding ourselves.

So it’s good to slow down and count those countless gifts.

The title I picked for today’s message is “LORD, Open Our Eyes.”

And you’ll see where I get that as we study chapter 6 together.

Today, we’re only going to make it the first 23 verses.

We’ll have to save the rest for next week.

Today, we’re just going to read two short stories with more a few more miracles done by Elisha.

Strangely enough, the Books of Kings haven’t been talking that much about the kings for the last several chapters.

It should almost be called the Book of Prophets!

Because first Elijah and now Elisha have held center stage.

We’ve learned that one of the reasons for that is because the kings have been doing such a bad job.

There are little glimmers of goodness in the Southern kingdom, but every king of the Northern kingdom, every king of Israel has been at least two thumbs down. Some more than two!

Each and every king has been a big disappointment. All of the kings have been a failure.

But God has not failed.

The LORD has not failed His people.

He is still caring for them, especially for those who have stayed faithful to Him.

Kings may fail us (and often do), but the LORD never fails His covenant people.

I think that’s one of the big truths that this section of Scripture is getting across to us.

That’s why so many of the stories are simply God graciously caring for His people during hard times.

The hard times have come, in many ways, because of bad leadership.

But Elisha, the man of God, is on the spot to remind God’s people that no matter what God is still on the spot, God is still on the job.

2 Kings 6 starts with a quirky little story about an unusual and unique miracle.

“The company of the prophets said to Elisha, ‘Look, the place where we meet with you is too small for us. Let us go to the Jordan, where each of us can get a pole; and let us build a place there for us to live.’ And he said, ‘Go.’ Then one of them said, ‘Won't you please come with your servants?’ ‘I will,’ Elisha replied. And he went with them.

They went to the Jordan and began to cut down trees. As one of them was cutting down a tree, the iron axhead fell into the water. ‘Oh, my lord,’ he cried out, ‘it was borrowed!’ The man of God asked, ‘Where did it fall?’ When he showed him the place, Elisha cut a stick and threw it there, and made the iron float.

‘Lift it out,’ he said. Then the man reached out his hand and took it.”

Now, that’s a pretty unique story, isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s anything quite like it in the rest of the Bible.

Elijah never did that. I know that!

Elisha is apparently the head of the company of the prophets and this group of them needed a new place to meet and apparently to live.

And they Elisha agreed to go along for the barn raising.

They are cutting wood near the Jordan and the axehead, at least, this is how I picture it, the axehead flies off backwards over the man’s head and into the Jordan.

Deep! Unsalvageable. Unable to be found.

“What are we going to do?”

Now, what I never thought about before was just how bad this was for this man.

You can see how distressed he is. “My master Elisha, it was borrowed!”

Now, when you and I read that, what we do we think?

We think. How embarrassing. I’ve lost something I’ve borrowed before.

And you have to go to Lowes and get another. Right?

What did he think?  He thought, “I’m going into slavery.”

Does every man have a iron axehead in the days of Elisha?

No. Why? Because they’re expensive.

This guy had to borrow one.

It’s more like this. What if you borrowed your friend’s truck to do a little job and you totaled it and you didn’t have insurance.

How would you feel then?

That’s how this guy feels.

He’s just gone deep into debt that he can’t repay, and it probably means servitude until he can pay it off.

And what does Elisha say to that?

“It’s tough to be you!”

Is that what he says?

No, he says, “Where did it fall?”

And he does a miracle in the name of the LORD.

The iron axehead floats!

Here’s point number one.

Lord, Open Our Eyes to See That:


No matter how little they are.

Isn’t that great?

God is the God of small things, not just big things.

You know the things that to us are a big deal even if they aren’t a big deal to other people?

What’s an axehead worth, really?  Is it worth asking for a miracle to get one back?

I’ll bet this guy thought so.

I’ve always thought this was almost a trivial pursuit.

Whenever I’ve read this story before, I always focused on how different and weird it was. Iron floating!

But it’s not very different from the widow’s oil, the Shunammite’s son, the death in the pot, and the feeding of the hundred.

Those were all small to us and are tucked away deep in the Old Testament, but they were gigantic to those needy people at that time.

What’s your “big deal” right now?

What are you worried about?

What’s got you concern, your attention these days?

Does it seem too small to bother God with?

Author Dale Ralph Davis says about this story:
[T]he greatness of God in large measure consists in the fact that he is ‘faithful in little’. We make a mistake when we confuse God’s greatness with ‘bigness’ or when we associate his greatness only with bigness. Then we begin to carve out for ourselves a graven image of the living God which shapes him in our image: his is so busy, so preoccupied and distracted, pressured under time constraints. This CEO-type God can have no time for Joe or Jane Peon. Ah, but that is not our God. Part of his greatness appears in the fact that he does attend to the small problems, the dinky details, the individual needs, the mundane and ordinary affairs of the believer’s life. The hairs on your head are numbered; God does care about your axe-head (The Power and the Fury, pg. 104).
God cares about your big deal right now, no matter how small it really is.

Isn’t that comforting?

I remember a number of years ago, I was buying plane tickets, and I prayed really hard about when to buy them. And I had to go to the public library and get internet access to purchase them. So this was a while ago.

And I remember praying about it, and then sitting down to the computer and buying the tickets, and getting the best price I could have every imagined.

And I went out to lunch with a guy from our church who no longer goes here. And I was telling him about what the Lord had done.

And he said, “You think the Lord actually cares about that stuff? About the price of a plane ticket? And whether or not you got one in time?”

I said, “Absolutely. Don’t you?”

Yes, it’s no big deal to Him. But it’s a big deal to us.

And God cares about our big deals.

Now, that doesn’t mean that He always does what we want about them! Certainly not.

He does not always give us our axe-heads back!

But count your blessings. Nothing you care about is too small for God to take notice of and be involved in.

He’s the God of small things. He is the God who answers prayers for parking places. And for postage stamps. And business deals. And health insurance problems. And whatever your big deals is right now.

He cares. Even when the kings who are supposed to be looking out for your welfare do not, God is on the spot and on the job.

Put your trust in Him.

And that would be enough for us to take into Thanksgiving, but let’s see some more.

In the next story, the prophet Elisha is supplying military intelligence to the King of Israel. V.8

“Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel [back to that again!]. After conferring with his officers, he said, ‘I will set up my camp in such and such a place.’ The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: ‘Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there.’

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.

This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, ‘Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?’ ‘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.’

‘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.’ Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.”

It doesn’t say when this happened or where. It’s kind of vague on the details. It doesn’t even actually say which kind of Aram or which king of Israel. And some of these stories may be out of chronological order.

But none of that is very important.

What is important is that Elisha is using his prophetic abilities to inform the king of Israel of the troop movements of the King of Aram. Elisha and the king are working together here.

And he’s got miraculous intel to reveal military secrets.

And the king of Aram thinks he must have a mole, a traitor, inside his own team.

They assure him that they are all loyal, but the tell the king about Elisha’s abilities.

“He knows the very words you speak in your bedroom!”

So the kings sends a strike force to take Elisha out.

Now, what I always think is funny is that they think they can take him by surprise in the middle of the night!

“He knows the very words you speak in your bedroom!

So try to sneak up on him.”

But it does bother Elisha’s servant, perhaps Gehazi, but it doesn’t say. V.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, my lord, what shall we do?’ the servant asked.

‘Don't be afraid,’ the prophet answered. ‘Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’

And Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ [There’s our sermon title.] 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.”

LORD, Open Our Eyes to See That:


Here’s the thing. Verse 16 is true even if there is no verse 17.

Do you get that?

It’s amazing what the servant sees!  He sees hills full of horse and chariots of fire.

There is an amazing army of, angels? I assume.

Fiery horses and chariots like what took Elijah up in chapter 2.

And they vastly outnumber the Aramean strike force. If the two got into a battle, there would be no contest.

But here’s the point. Verse 16 is true even if there is no verse 17.

“Don't be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

That’s always true.

Whether we see it or not.

And not just that there is an unseen reality of spiritual warfare out there. Beyond our vision.

There are an infinite number of wonderful things out there beyond our vision!

We don’t know the half of it.
We don’t know a fraction of it.

We don’t know most of what God is up to!

Even in our situations.

Is that encouraging?  It is to me.

Because sometimes it feels like God isn’t doing anything.

And the reality is that God is doing an unimaginably great amount of things around me out of my perception all of the time.

Why don’t we all die today at church?
Why doesn’t a plane fall on our building?
Why don’t we all have heart attacks?

Are all of those things that could happen? I guess so. Why don’t they?

Sometimes miracles. All of the time, because God is doing stuff.

On the macro level and the micro level. And on the spiritual level.

We learned about Job today in Sunday School.

The thing about Job is that he didn’t know he was in the story of Job!

We know about the cosmic quarrel between the Lord and Satan in chapters 1 and 2.

But Job doesn’t know about any of that.

It’s all behind the scenes.

And Job trusts and learns to trust deeper that God is doing things behind the scenes, the right things, the things that need done.

Count your blessings. God is at work in ways you can’t see and probably can’t even imagine.

And He’s bigger than all of your enemies, combined.

What is the New Testament version of verse 16?

1 John 4:4, “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

That’s always true. Whether you can see it or feel it or not.

If you belong to the LORD, the one who is in you is greater than all of your enemies combined!

Put your trust in Him.

The story isn’t done yet. V.18

“As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, ‘Strike these people with blindness.’ So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. [The opposite of what he asked for his servant.]

Elisha told them, ‘This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.’ And he led them to Samaria.

[This is called a “Yahweh mind trick.” Get it? A little Star Wars reference for you there. No? Okay, we’ll move on. V.20]

“After they entered the city, Elisha said, ‘LORD, open the eyes of these men so they can see.’ Then the LORD opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria [Israel’s capital city!].

When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, ‘Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?’

‘Do not kill them,’ he answered. ‘Would you kill men you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’ So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel's territory.”

Lord, Open Our Eyes to See That:


The King of Israel was just drooling wasn’t he?

“Shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?”

But Elisha says, “No, they aren’t your prisoners. The are the LORD’s prisoners, and today He is showing them mercy.”

And they get a great big feast.

Probably turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and cranberry dressing....

Well maybe not that.

But they get a great big feast! The enemy gets a great big feast and then gets sent home and (at least for a time) the war is over. “The bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”

King Solomon said, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

Yes, that’s in the Old Testament!

But our Lord Jesus said it even stronger in the New.

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” (Matthew 5:44-47).

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”

That’s not an easy one to see.

It’s certainly not an easy one to do.

But when we love our enemies, we are being like our Father. Showing the family resemblance.

And we’re acting not like King Jehoram or whoever this is, but like King Jesus, the king of kings.

Who do you need to show love to this week?

Who is your enemy? How might you seek to bless them?

Do it wisely. Do it prudently. Shrewd as a serpent, innocent as a dove.

But do it.  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

Maybe even throw them a big turkey dinner.

They’ll never see it coming. And it might even end the hostilities.

Count your blessings. Because you were loved in this way.

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

While were His enemies, Jesus showed us love.

And think about this, Jesus had the ability to see spiritual realities that we can’t.

He knew about those horses and chariots on the hillside.

And He didn’t call on them.

In the garden of Gethsemane, He told Peter to put back his sword and He said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt 26:53).

But He chose not to do that.
He chose not to protect Himself.
Instead, He chose to die for His enemies.

Put your trust in Him.

And follow His lead.

Have you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If you have not yet, make this the day!

Because even though we are His natural born enemies, Jesus died to save those who will believe in Him.

And He came back to life to give us all of the blessings that we don’t deserve.

A feast with the king had been our enemy.

Once Your Enemy
Now Seated at Your Table
Jesus, Thank You!

Put your faith and trust in Him.

And if you have, then count that as your greatest blessing.

Pray that the LORD would open your eyes to see just how great our salvation truly is.

Because, thank God, we now belong to the God who cares about our big deals no matter how small they really are.

Thank God, we now belong to the God who is up to so many things we are not remotely aware of.

Thank God, that we belong to the God who loved us even when we hated Him.

And now He call us to love, not just our brothers and sisters though we need help to do that, too, but to love even our enemies.

And invite them to the feast that makes peace.


Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel