Eyes Opened: Chapter 17

2KI 6:18-17  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 5
We find, as we go on with the story, that there is war again between Syria and Israel. The healing of Naaman, the great captain, had made peace for a time between the rival nations, but the smoldering ashes of discord still existed and after a time burst once more into flame.
It was a strange kind of warfare. The king of Syria did not bring a vast army and meet the hosts of the king of Israel in open battle. It was what is called guerilla warfare. Guerilla comes from the French word for war, “guerre,” and means “little war.”
Not the whole army was brought out to fight, but small detachments of soldiers were sent secretly into the country to take the enemy by surprise, to seize some fortress left unguarded, to waylay the enemy’s troops on the march, or to creep unobserved into some city. Such is guerilla warfare, the kind of warfare which the king of Syria carried on against the king of Israel.
But it is a miserable failure. Very, very secretly the king of Syria makes his plans. He does not hold a council of war, lest his secret should ooze out, but, calling a few of his most trusted officers into his bedroom, in low whispers he explains his scheme. A certain place is named where the surprise attack shall be made. In the dead of night the soldiers are sent off, marching without being told their destination. But, lo and behold, when they get to the place, the Israelites are not there; they have taken down their tents and departed. Somehow they have heard the enemy is coming and have moved to a place of safety.
This happens a second time. “The king of Israel  .  .  . saved himself there, not once nor twice.” And at last the king of Syria has his suspicions; he suspects treachery. One of his own confidential advisers must be a traitor. The thought haunts him.
One morning, when his few trusted advisors come to him, he looks around pleadingly at them and asks, “Will you not show me who is the traitor? The case is clear; the conversation in my bedroom is repeated. Somebody is in league with the king of Israel; someone forewarns him of all my plans. Now then, tell me openly and at once: Which of you is the traitor?”
And one of them answered, “None, my lord, O king. We are all good men and true; we have not betrayed your trust. Does not Elisha, that prophet who healed Naaman, live in the land of Israel? This is his work. Not only can he do wonders, but he, by the power of his God, knows all that goes on. It is he who tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” And that Syrian, whoever he was, was right, for the God of Elisha is the God from whom no secrets are hid. He knows the words spoken in the bedroom; He reads the unspoken thought of the heart. And God told Elisha what was being planned.
The king of Syria feels that the man’s statement can easily be proved. He will capture Elisha, carry him off to Syria, and prevent all communication between him and his king. By this means, should the Syrian be correct, his plans will no longer be defeated.
Spies are sent out to see where Elisha is. When they return, they bring word that he is at Dothan. The town stands on a hill, twelve miles north of Samaria. It was an ancient place even in Elisha’s time, for it was at Dothan that Joseph, a thousand years before, had been sold by his brothers. It may still be seen, a pretty place, surrounded by olive-yards and gardens.
An army of solders is now sent in greatest secrecy to surround Dothan. Innumerable horses and chariots are sent for the work, and the king of Syria feels confident that Elisha will soon be in his power.
The army arrives in the dead of night. Dothan is asleep; the quiet little village, unwalled and unguarded, knows nothing of the danger which approaches it. Slowly and surely the village is surrounded, the camp of the Syrians is pitched, the sentries are posted, and Elisha is sure to be caught. In which of those flat-roofed, white houses he is sleeping they cannot tell; only morning light will discover. Meanwhile, he is like the bird caught in the snare. So think the Syrians.
At length morning dawns, and Gehazi’s successor, the servant of Elisha, awakes. This young man goes on the housetop in the fresh morning light and looks around him. He is terribly startled by what he sees. In every direction, north, south, east and west, closing around Dothan in an iron ring, are chariots, horses and soldiers. He sees the great host; he notices the Syrian banners waving in the cool breeze; he turns around and sees that there is no possible way of escape, but that they are hemmed in on every side.
Hastily he runs to his master’s room and calls him to see the terrible sight. As Elisha gazes on the vast host, the poor servant cries in terror, “Alas, my master! how shall we do?” And the first words of his master’s answer must have seemed very strange to that young man, for he answered, “Fear not.”
It has been well said that Elisha might as well have told him not to see when he saw, as not to fear when he saw so dreadful a sight. But Elisha does not bid him to not fear without giving him a good reason for his command. “Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.”
They that be with us are more than that vast Syrian host. And who had they on their side? Only a few frightened village folk; there was not a man of war among them. And who were against them? The trained bands of Syria with their captains, their horsemen and their skilled foot soldiers. So must have thought that poor young man.
His master prays. Looking up, Elisha says, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.”
Was the servant, then, a blind man? No; he could see clearly enough the streets and houses of Dothan, but he could also see, all too distinctly, the tents and chariots of the Syrians. And yet, in spite of this, I hear his master pray, “Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see.”
Was the prayer answered? It was. The Lord opened the eyes of the young man so that he saw what had been there before, although he had never seen it. There were the Syrians surrounding the village with their mighty host. But nearer still was another ring, another host, far more vast and more powerful. On the mountainside were their guards: a host of angels, encamping round about them, to keep them from danger, an invincible host of which the Lord was the Captain. “The Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.”
They were safe, perfectly safe, with such a guard. They need not fear, for they that were with them were far more than they that were against them. How astonished that young man must have been-astonished to find such close and intimate connection between this world and the unseen world - astonished to find that he had hitherto been so shortsighted!
The young prophet knew from that day forward that the world in which he lived was a double world. There was the visible world of trees, flowers, animals, birds and men, which he could see; there was also the unseen and invisible world, which he had never before seen, but which had always been there, and which was full of beings far greater and more important than those he had before noticed.
And are not we like him? Our natural eyes cannot see the spiritual world - cannot discern the countless beings by whom we are surrounded - and we are inclined to ignore or even doubt their existence. Only by the eye of faith can we catch a glimpse of what is ever beside us, and yet which is hidden from our natural sight.
On the great resurrection morning, two bright angels came down and sat in the empty tomb. A party of women came to the sepulcher; they looked in and saw and talked with the angels. Then came Peter and John, and they went into the tomb. The angels were still there, sitting in the same place, at the head and the foot of the tomb where the body of Jesus had been laid. The two apostles saw the empty tomb, saw the grave clothes, even noticed how they were folded, but we are not told that they even saw the angels. A little time after, Mary Magdalene came again to the tomb. She too stooped down and looked in. There were the two angels, sitting in the same place as that in which the women had seen them before.
We live in the midst of so much that we do not see. God’s angels look after us and do His bidding in serving us. Yet we do not see them. They see us, but we cannot see them. If we are the Lord’s children, let us take the comfort which this thought brings. We cannot be lonely with such company; we cannot fear with such protection; we can never be unattended with so many to minister to us.
In times of danger, in days of perplexity, in seasons of dismay, let us specially take courage. Elisha’s words, “Fear not,” should nerve us to hope and courage. Thank God there is an inner ring. Between us and our enemies are God’s chariots and horsemen; there are more with us than against us.
And what we now see only by faith we shall presently see with true, spiritual sight. Better still, shall we not find the Lord Himself standing by our side, waiting to usher us into the glories of paradise? Has He not promised, “I will come again, and receive you unto Myself ”? Oh! What a glad homegoing will that be! Led by our Lord and attended by countless hosts of angels, we shall pass to the rest of God.