By J.R. Miller
2 Kings 6:8-23
Two gentlemen--one a clergyman, the other a prominent business man--were conversing together about foreign missions. They were speaking especially of India.
"Sir," said the business man, "you cannot convert India to Christ in ten thousand years."
"Isn't that rather hard on God!" asked the minister.
"O, I hadn't thought of Him!" said the business man.
No doubt the king of Syria was a wise commander and made good plans for his campaign. But there was one element which he did not take into account. He left God out! He had not thought of Him. He did not dream that God could do anything, that He would take any part in the struggle this people were making. Other men are doing the same thing continually. They go on forming their plans, laying out their schemes--but taking no account of God. They forget that He has anything to do with the management of this world, that He knows what they are planning, or that He can interfere if He will with their schemes and their movements. They forget that there is an EYE looking down upon them, an eye which sees all they do; that there is an EAR, bending low, which hears every word they speak, and that there is a HAND which can easily thwart and circumvent their shrewd designs. Most people live just as if there were no God, as if they could do just as they please, and then they wonder why their plans miscarry.
The prophet was the best friend and the best adviser the king had. By knowing the enemy's movements, he was able to inform him about them. He sent to the king again and again, warning him not to pass a certain place. There really are no secrets in this world. In war, commanders endeavor to keep their movements from being known by the enemy, and ofttimes they succeed. But there is a place where everything is known.
Nothing is hidden from the eye of God. We are told in the New Testament that the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation. Right here we have an illustration of this word. The Lord knew the plans of the king of Syria to entrap the king of Israel. He made known these plans to the prophet Elisha, and he in turn told the king of Israel of the ambuscade, in order that he might save himself from the danger.
The Bible gives us many such warnings. In such and such paths it tells us it is not safe for us to go, for Satan walks there. Our own consciences also give us many a warning. There is a fable of a wonderful ring that a prince wore, which clasped his finger softly, when he went in right ways--but stung his flesh sharply, whenever he was in danger of going in some wrong path. That is what every tender conscience does. If only we heeded always the warnings of our conscience, we would never get into danger save when duty calls us, and then we would have divine protection, for where God sends us--He will take care of us.
The king of Israel was wise enough to heed the counsel of Elisha--and thus avail himself of the information which was given to him concerning the movements of his enemy. He did not scout the warning nor sneer at the prophet's words as timid fears--and then go quietly into the trap. He saved himself by heeding the warning.
Too many people, however, disregard divine warnings of danger in this or that place. They do not believe what the Bible tells them. There are no enemies in the place pointed out--so they proudly say--or if there are, they are not afraid of them. So, disregarding the friendly warnings, they rush straight into danger. But the king of Israel was wiser. When the prophet told him that in this or that place the enemy was hidden, waiting to ensnare him--he avoided those places. He saved himself by keeping away from the peril. That is what we are to do when warned of spiritual danger. Has not God promised protection--that He Himself will be our keeper, and that no evil shall befall us? But it is only when we are walking in God's ways and obeying God's commands, that the promise avails. The divine way of delivering us from any danger--is by warning us of that danger--that we may avoid it.
As soon as the king of Syria heard how his actions were being reported by the prophet, he determined to put an end to his opposition. He did not propose to be baffled and have his plans defeated by one man. He would have this man seized and brought as a prisoner to his camp. But men are very foolish--to try to fight against God. We are told in the Second Psalm, that when enemies plot against Him, the Lord, sitting in heaven, laughs at their efforts and has them in derision!
The Bible is full of illustrations of this. His enemies killed Jesus and put Him into the tomb. Then they rolled a great stone to the door, sealed it, and had a guard of Roman soldiers sent to keep watch. They supposed they had put an end to Christ's work--but we know how God in heaven laughed at these vain attempts. It is insane folly--to try to outmatch God and defeat His purposes. Horses and chariots and great armies amount to nothing--when the Lord is on the field!
It was a serious condition of things which Elisha's servant found one morning when he arose. An armed host was encamping round the town! We may criticize this young man and blame him for being timid; but would not you have been frightened, too? We are all very much alike in our temper and spirit. We have God's promises assuring us of divine keeping--but these seem to make life very little safer for us. Let us try ourselves by the test to which we bring the prophet's servant, and see if our faith is much better than his.
There are two kinds of courage: There is one kind that puts on a bold face and is brave even in the presence of danger, without any clear ground for the courage. But the prophet was brave in a different way. His courage was based upon the real protection of God. The true secret of confidence and calmness in danger--must always be the same--not in imagining that there is no danger--but in knowing that there is sufficient divine protection.
Jesus taught the lesson thus, "In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!" The great truth to be learned by all who would have true moral courage, is the reality of God's keeping. We are told in one of the Psalms that the Lord is our keeper; then in another, that we may hide away in the secret place of the Most High and there abide safely under the wings of the Almighty. Men sleep in their camps in war-time, with armed enemies surrounding them, and are not afraid, for they know that watching sentinels form a complete circle and keep a sleepless guard about the camp in the hours of darkness. So in any dangers, we may know that we are safe--because God waits and watches and is keeping us.
In answer to the prophet's prayer, the young man's eyes were opened so that he could see spiritual things. "Behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha!" The prophet's prayer was not that God would send an army to guard him--but that the young man's eyes might be opened to see the army that was already there. We cannot see angels encamping round our homes these nights, or hovering above our heads--but nevertheless they are watching and protecting us all the time. This glimpse is meant not for this one young man that one night--but for every young man on every night in every time of danger. If we could see spiritual things--we would behold such hosts about us every morning when we wake. Every child of God has a promise of angel protection--better still, divine protection. We cannot see Christ beside us--but He is always near--closer than breathing, nearer than hands and feet.