My friend, Debbie Rector, is so insightful.
A couple of weeks ago, we were talking about one of my favorite Bible stories — and she helped me see something new.
The story is found in the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, chapter 6.
In verse 8, we read where the King of Aram (Syria) is warring against Israel.
At one point, the king tells his servants about a plan to camp in a certain place. He’s obviously planning an attack.
This could be bad for Israel.
Yet a prophet, named Elisha, warns the King of Israel against going in that certain area.
And Elisha keeps warning the King of Israel, saving him and his forces more than once.
Soon, the Syrian king is very troubled and calls his servants together — basically asking which of them is the traitor sharing their secrets.
That must have been a tense meeting.
Then one of the servants sets the record straight.
None of them are traitors.
But a prophet named, Elisha, can tell the King of Israel the very things the King of Syria says in his bedroom.
Wouldn’t that have been eerie for the Syrian king?
The Bible doesn’t say how the king reacted, except that he wants to capture Elisha.
When he learns the prophet is in Dothan, the Syrian king sends horses, chariots and a great army to surround the city at night.
The next morning, Elisha’s servant goes out and sees the enemy army.
“What shall we do?” he asks Elisha.
That’s when Elisha says something very interesting.
“Do not be afraid,” he says. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Then Elisha prays to God, asking that he open the servant’s eyes.
And when the young man looks out, he sees the mountain is full of horses and chariots of fire around Elisha.
When the Syrians come down against Elisha, he prays for God to blind them.
And the Lord does.
Then Elisha tells the blind army that he’ll take them to the man they seek and leads them to Samaria, about 12 miles away.
There, Elisha asks God to open the men’s eyes.
And God does.
As soon as the king of Israel sees the enemy army, he asks if Elisha thinks he should kill them.
But Elisha tells him not to do that.
Instead, Elisha tells him to feed the enemy army.
So the King of Israel prepares a great feast, then sends the enemy army away after they’ve eaten.
And the Syrians don’t raid Israel again.
When I’ve written about this story in the past, I’ve concentrated on how scared Elisha’s poor servant must have been when he saw they were surrounded by that enemy army.
And how we can we feel like we’re surrounded by an army of problems and worries.
I’ve talked about how we must turn to God, who can give us a new view; help us in amazing ways — and surround us with his comfort, protection and love.
But after Debbie and I talked about the story, she summed it up in a way I’d never thought about before.
Focusing on the enemy army, Debbie said: “We really are blind without God.”
That set my imagination in a whirl.
I’d never thought much about what an enemy soldier might have experienced.
Put yourself in his sandals.
Imagine breaking out in a cold sweat when your king wants to know if you or one of your fellow soldiers is a traitor.
And the chill that runs down your spine when you hear about a prophet who knows what your king says in his bedroom.
Is any secret safe?
Can you hear the king barking out the orders to find and capture this prophet?
You pack up your gear and steady your horse as you hook him to the chariot you’ll be driving. You wonder how long this will take and when you’ll be with your family again.
And you wonder how hard the people of Dothan will fight as you take their prophet.
Surely, they’re no match for your forces.
Or will this prophet know you’re coming?
That chill returns.
Even so, you’re determined to have courage as you and your fellow soldiers head out in the night. The miles pass slowly, but finally you take your place with others around the sleepy city.
Dawn comes and you brace for whatever lies ahead.
Your commander gives the orders to advance. The forces move ahead.
Suddenly everything goes dark.
You can’t see.
All around you, your fellow soldiers are cursing, crying out or are unusually quiet. There is fear and confusion. You rub your eyes and blink, but that brings no sight.
Your horse, sensing something is wrong, starts to move, before you stop him.
What has this prophet done?
Then your army gets very quiet as a man says you’re in the wrong place and he’ll take you to Elisha.
What else is there to do, but follow this man? After all, you have your orders to capture the prophet. You hear foot soldiers stumbling and falling and walking into each other. With trembling hands, you shake the reins and your horse moves forward.
There is an unsettling quiet, and after what seems like a long way, everyone is brought to a stop.
You hear a man praying.
The next thing you know, you can see.
Fear hits you like lightning.
You’re in Samaria and right in front of you is the Army of Israel and its king.
Your life flashes before your eyes. You remember wrestling with your brothers, the first time you saw the woman who’d become your wife, the birth of your first child.
You wrap your hand around your sword. But you notice the king talking to someone — who dares to speak to his leader in a firm tone.
One of your fellow soldiers understands enough Hebrew to translate.
“It’s the prophet,” the other soldier says. “He’s telling him not to kill us — but to feed us.”
Who does that?
Your stomach growls, but can you trust these people? Wouldn’t they poison their enemies? You’re suddenly weary, but you boldly step out of your chariot as you and your countrymen are told to sit.
No one will see your fear as you wait. Time passes slowly, but eventually you see your enemy bringing you food.
Lots of food.
An Israelite man — just a little younger than you — looks into your eyes as he hands you bread.
He carries himself like a soldier and, for a moment, you think if he were Syrian how you might have fought fiercely alongside each other and sang songs of victory as you sat by a fire and ate roasted game and drank new wine.
You say nothing, but nod in thanks as he hands you the food. You and your fellow soldiers are quiet as you eat. You wonder if this will be your last meal.
Your belly is full when the Israelite king announces that you and the others are to go home.
Is this a trap? Will they ambush you once you’ve turned your back? You are wary as you leave and for miles down the road.
After a while, it looks like you will see your wife again.
But what will the king say when he learns you haven’t brought back the prophet? Your commander and the other leaders are quiet when they see the king.
Time passes and you’re told to go home.
There may be other raids. Other battles.
But not with the Israelites. Their God is too powerful. If he can blind a whole army, what else can he do? You shake your head over the soldiers, who could have killed you, but fed you.
You brush away a little shame, too, yet are relieved as you head back to your family. You will live another day.
Thousands of years after those soldiers surrounded Dothan, I wonder what their lives were like.
And although their physical sight was restored, did they still go home in spiritual darkness?
Debbie is right. Without God, we are blind to so many things — like the goodness and mercy of our Lord and how he protects and cares for us.
We’re blind to the hope, joy, peace and wisdom he can provide.
Worst of all, we’re blind to his salvation — that if we believe Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins and rose again; if we repent (are sorry and turn from our sins) and ask Christ into our hearts that we can go to heaven.
It’s the greatest, life-changing hope of all.
And it can open our eyes to a whole future of possibilities.