What if God has called me to something and I’m just plain afraid to follow? What if the path He has put before me seems too frightening or overwhelming?
Elisha is the disciple of and successor to the Old Testament prophet Elijah. Both Elijah & Elisha were prophets to the northern kingdom during the dynasties of Omri & Jehu.
When Omri became king in the north (885-874 BC), he sought political alliances with Tyre to increase his access to the lucrative Mediterranean trade routes. Omri sealed the alliance by arranging the marriage of his son Ahab (874-853 BC) with the Tyrian princess Jezebel. She arrived in Israel intent on replacing the Hebrew God with her god. Much of Elijah’s work took place under the exceedingly evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel.
More: Prophets Introduction
The Axe Head
1Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. 2Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” 3Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it. – 2Kings 6:1-7
- Elisha and his disciples went from Samaria to the Jordan River to cut down some trees in order to build a new meeting hall. During the cutting, one of the men dropped a borrowed ax-head in the river. He cried out to Elisha in fear.
- Why does a lost axe head call for a miracle?
- The key to this passage is knowing the worth of the axe head. Iron implements were tremendously expensive to produce.
- The axe head was expensive and the disciple is now in tremendous debt. His most likely means for repayment is to indenture himself as a servant.
- Unlike pagan gods, the God of Israel controls creation. It does not control Him. He can draw the axe head from the river.
- This miracle anticipates the day when the Lord will redeem creation from the fall and creation will no longer frustrate our labor but will join it.
- God is a redeeming God. His willingness to deliver this disciple from slavery reflects His willingness to deliver His people from their slavery to sin.
- Like this disciple, you can meet God in the midst of your daily mundane chores. You don’t have to be in a church or participating in a religious holiday.
Horses & Chariots of war
8Once when the king of Syria [aka Aram] was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” 9But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” 10And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice. – 2Kings 6:8-10
- Approximately 852-841 BC, Joram (Jeroboam) I, the son of Ahab and Jezebel, was king of Israel, and Ben-Hadad II was the king of Aram/Syria.
- Ben-Hadad was sending his spies into Israel. Based on their information, he would then move his army to strike Israel.
- God revealed the Ben-Hadad’s plans to the prophet Elisha who warned King Joram who avoided each conflict.
- There was a spiritual remnant in the land, but the majority of Jews worshipped both Jehovah and Baal.
- In contrast to the previous story, we see God at work on an international level.
11And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. -2Kings 6:11-14
- Ben-Hadad demands to know who is spying for Israel.
- Amazingly, his men know the truth: None of them was disloyal or even a spy. God told His prophet Elisha every word the king spoke in his bedroom.
- Ben-Hadad served a idol with no eyes or ears. Now he meets a God who knows his innermost secrets.
- Instead of repenting, Ben-Hadad seeks to kill the prophet of God.
15When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. 19And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria. -2Kings 6:15-19
- Fear grips Elisha’s servant when he finds himself surrounded the next morning.
- Elisha prayed to the one and only living God of Israel, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord answered his prophet’s prayer and opened the servant’s eyes.
- The servant saw the powerful army of God positioned to protect His prophet and His people.
- Not only is God at work in our daily routines, He’s at work in global politics.
- Surprisingly, Elisha doesn’t ask God to wipe out his enemies, which is the objective in war.
- God shows the army mercy and makes them physically blind to reflect their spiritual blindness.
20As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the LORD opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. 21As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” 22He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” 23So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel. -2Kings 6:20-23
- The humble prophet of God leads the blind army for 10 miles to the capital city, presenting them to the king of Israel.
- God again shows them mercy by preventing the King of Israel from harming them.
- By the end of their encounter, the Aram army is apparently no longer spiritually blind either. They stop their raiding parties into Israel presumably because they now know the God of Israel.
- Elisha brought the soldiers to Samaria as a witness to the people of Israel and also as witness to the people of Aram.
- God is acting to make His name known to all peoples.
- God’s solutions are bigger than our problems. Nothing is too small (like the axe head). Nothing is too big (like an invading army) and nothing is too personal (like the King’s pillow talk).
- God is intimately involved in our lives and our nations.
- God has a plan — even though we may not see or understand it.
When God calls, 5 ways to run your race well
- Follow God’s call with humble faith and obedience (1 Kings 19:19-21).
- Trust God to equip you for whatever the call He gives you (2 Kings 2).
- Seek greatness by doing only that which He calls you to — no more and no less (2 Kings 5).
- Aim for self-sacrificing love, not impact (2 Kings 5).
- When you’re afraid, remember nothing is too big or too small for God (2 Kings 6).