Are you familiar with the story of the night the Syrian army surrounded Dothan in the middle of the night to capture the prophet Elisha who was spilling all their state secrets? If not, let me set the scene.
His Syrian Majesty King Ben-Hadad had sent a large army across the border in the middle of the night to surround the town. It was a good military move, as it wouldn’t attract the Israelite army in Samaria, just a couple hours march down the road from Dothan.
When the army arrived, they quietly spread out around the town, completely surrounding it on all sides. With the town and prophet locked up tighter than a drum, all the Syrians had to do was wait until morning, knock on the city gate, and say “Hey, hand over Elisha!” All was set.
Early the next morning, Elisha’s servant yawned, stretched, and got out of bed to get things ready for the prophet. Apparently, Elisha had encouraged this young man to start the day early and get things done. Now before you early risers out there take this as a sign that everyone should get up with the birdies, this was standard fare in the Middle East, due to the hot sun in the middle of the day and no air conditioning. But no matter the reason, his servant was up at sunrise with his apron on.
Looking out the window, seeing the enemy out there must have given him a grievous fright, as he scrambled back to where he and Elijah were staying in a tremendous panic. He just knew they were dead. There would be no WAY to escape now, for all exits to the city were sealed off. Through his human eyes, there was no hope. 2 Kings 6:15 says:
Early the next morning Elisha's servant got up, went out of the house, and saw the Syrian troops with their horses and chariots surrounding the town. He went back to Elisha and exclaimed, ‘We are doomed, sir! What shall we do?’
In many ways, the servant is just like us. First of all, even though he was a believer in the mighty God of Heaven, and had the benefit of going to church with a prophet besides, he immediately gave up hope when all seemed bleak. We’re doomed! There’s no way out! We have no faith! There’s no way we can pay off the church mortgage! And then he took it another step further.
Instead of trusting in God to provide an escape, the servant said to Elisha, “What are WE going to do?” Ever since sin entered this world, we have tried to solve the unsolvable by our own willpower and strength. Ellen White says in Patriarchs and Prophets,
“Cain felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Savior. He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his own merits. He would…present his fruits, the products of his labor. He presented his offering as a favor done to God, through which he expected to secure divine approval.”
Even Moses exclaimed in a moment of anger, “Must WE fetch you water out of this rock?”
When Jesus said “No man comes to the Father but by Me,” he made it very plain that reaching heaven by our own merits is not possible. As in the case of Elisha’s servant, much as we may wonder what WE are going to do to save ourselves, our only dependence should be on God.
If Elisha’s servant had studied David’s Psalms more closely, he might have remembered Psalms 3:6; “I am not afraid of the tens of thousands who have taken positions against me on all sides.” Or Psalms 27:3 where it says “Even though an army sets up camp against me, my heart will not be afraid. Even though a war breaks out against me, I will still have confidence.”
Now this particular servant had only been with Elisha for a short time as a replacement for the leprous Gehazi, so we need to cut him a bit of slack. He may not have been fully aware of the wonderful opportunity he had been given! It would have been a fine thing in those days for any young man to be the understudy of Prophet Elisha, but he had not yet realized the risks that went along with the benefits. But God and Elisha didn’t criticize this frightened young man for his desperation and spiritual blindness.
As a spiritual leader, Elisha was concerned for the feelings of his servant. Good men desire not only to be at peace with the world around them, but to have those about them be peaceful as well. His servant didn’t have the full advantage of an “Elisha” experience yet, so his master desired to give him convincing evidence of the God that employed him, and so also was employed FOR him.
Quietly, Elisha prayed for his servant – prayed that his servant would be blessed with the same spiritual eyesight that Elisha already enjoyed. And as the story turned out, I’m sure the servant got a real eyeful of the God that Elisha served, and learned the lesson Elisha had for him! (I won’t spoil the ending for you, but you can read the full story in II Kings 6).
As with all Bible stories, there’s a lesson here for us. Do you make it a habit to pray for others that their eyes will be opened to see God’s glory? Have you prayed that He opens YOUR eyes to see his glory? One of the greatest things you can do for those who are sad and fearful is to pray that God will grant them spiritual vision. For when God opens our eyes, He silences our fears and dries our tears. When we look at the world through spiritual eyes, through the eyes of faith, there is always hope, no matter what the situation.
And for those with strong faith, do you carefully consider those who are weak and somewhat timid in their servant Christian experience? Do you do your best to strengthen their hands and their hearts for God’s kingdom? If so, then you, too, are following in the spirit of Elisha. - Dave Fairchild