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2 Kings 6:16-17

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Audio Sermon

Beauty and Strength

"So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Then Elisha prayed and said, 'O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:16-17)

Have you noticed the beauty that surrounds us? In Hawaii, we saw generous splashes of an intense blue-green color that filled the waves crashing on the shore. In Alaska we stood on a mighty glacier, which was beautiful in itself, but the ice was also punctuated by breathtaking streaks of an electric blue color that I remember with awe but cannot adequately describe. It was simply wonderful to see. We drank clear, refreshing, delicious water from that glacier. We also walked in the jungles of Yucatan and looked over the rain forest that was beautifully green and was also punctuated by intense, bright red flame trees.

Recently we walked among giant redwood trees in Northern California. It was a sunny day, but it was twilight where we walked because the trees were massive and there were so many of them. Streaks of light periodically made their way through the treetops and lit up small areas of undergrowth with beauty that filled us with wonder. Our voices were hushed because it was like walking in a cathedral lit from sunlight pouring through delicate stained glass.

The earth offers much that touches the soul with the beauty of this world, in nature, in music, in sculpture, in paintings and through the poetry of the written word. There is no “Mother Nature,” by the way. It is God Himself who has given us the beauty of nature and He has given people the ability to create what is lovely and moves the soul. But there is more.

Our God, who is Himself more beautiful than anything or anyone we could imagine, is also strong, as seen in today’s Scripture.  The context is 2 Kings 6:8-23, revealing the anger of the King of Syria, who hated Elisha, God’s prophet, because he knew what the king was going to do before he did it, and then revealed the information to his own earthly leader, the king of Israel.  The king of Syria sent “horses and chariots and a great army” to a mountainous place called Dothan, where Elisha and his servant were located. The servant was terrified, calling out to Elisha, “Alas my master! What are we to do?” Have you been frightened like that? Such fear comes in wartime and it grips many who are facing death or divorce, incurable sickness or crushing depression.

What can we do when we are overwhelmed? Notice today’s Scripture. Elisha did not personally move the “mountain,” but the servant was helped.  Elisha prayed for the servant, saying, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” It was not Elisha who opened the servant’s eyes, it was "the Lord (who) opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha." God surrounds our problems with His might.

Do you understand that in all of your troubles and sorrows, God’s holy angels are with you?  We do not ordinarily see them, though perhaps we do see them far more often than we know, for they simply look like people. But it is our blindness to the things of God that is our problem.  He is protecting and delivering us often. Our tendency is to focus on what we lack in life, but it would astonish you to know that many times God has protected you and delivered you from harm – today! God is immensely strong and He is watching out for you.

The Lord’s methods of deliverance tend to vary. In the case of Elisha and his servant, the answer to their need came in response to prayer. Elisha, who, like his predecessor, Elijah, was a man in concert with the will of God, prayed to the Lord in Verse 18: “Strike these people, I pray, with blindness. And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.”  They weren’t killed, which God could easily have done, but instead it is revealed that God listens to the prayers of His people and His inclination is to answer your need, just like He did for this servant.

Have you ever been in a place where you suddenly KNEW you were in the Presence of the living God? There is no feeling in the universe greater and more wonderful than that which comes from the touch of our Lord. Elisha had allowed himself to become a man of faith who was attuned to the Spirit of God. As it says in Romans 8:26 – “The Spirit… helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered…” He knows what is needed, far better than you or I do, and we may have prayed the “wrong” prayer in moments of crisis. But don’t worry, for the Spirit is praying at all times for you and for your situation, and He gets it right. And note Romans 8:34 – Jesus Christ, at the right hand of God, is also praying effectively on your behalf.

The Lord is beautiful and He is leading us into the beauty of heavenly relationship. Elisha yielded Himself in faith to the Lord and had been changed to the extent that he knew the Lord’s intentions for many of the situations that surrounded him and his nation. He could pray confidently and what he prayed was explicitly answered for he prayed in the will of God. His servant was surprised, just as we are often surprised, but there are men and women of prayer in every generation who have abandoned themselves to the Lord and are willing to be led by Almighty God.

And have you noticed that the utter strength of our Lord is tempered by mercy?  He can do anything. He can and does create universes, obliterate worlds, cause crops to bloom and will devastate a land through famine. He gives us sight, speech and the ability to hear, but as Moses noted in Exodus 4:11, He also “makes the mute, the deaf… (and) the blind.” In our lifetimes we have seen and will see terrible famines, awful wars, horrible diseases and more. And yet we also are touched by the delicate beauty of a butterfly. Even the menace of a spider’s web contains a delicate pattern, made beautiful by bits of dew reflecting the morning sun.

As the context of our Scripture continues, the men of the Syrian army were now blind, surrounded by powerful angels, and they were helpless.  They were well-armed and outnumbered the people in the place called Dothan, but it is frightening to become suddenly blind and their power was useless. Elisha called out to them in 2 Kings 6:18-20, “This is not the way, nor is this the city. Follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek. But he led them to Samaria,” the capitol city of the nation Israel. They followed, and when they were in the city of what was to them the enemy, Elisha prayed again “and the Lord opened their eyes and they saw” (Verse 20).

The king of Israel had his enemy in his grasp and asked Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them?" Elisha, who knew the heart of God, said, “You shall not kill them.” And instead a great feast was prepared for the Syrian soldiers, who were fed and sent home. The Syrians continued to be the enemy of Israel, just as you will continue to have problems in this life. But our beautiful God will touch us with His beauty and give understanding, just as He did with Elisha. You will know He is strong with strength tempered by mercy. It may well be that some of those Syrians who were spared will meet us in eternity, praising the Lord that He was merciful to them.

Father, when we pray to You and know Your touch, we find beauty like we never expected. Heal us and forgive our unbelief. Fill us with Your Spirit, hear our prayers and give us Your peace. Thank You for the strength and beauty of Your mercy.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

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