I have recently been looking at 1 & 2 Kings. There are so many nuggets there that have warmed my heart as I’ve seen God’s faithfulness in taking care of his people, but I just can’t look past the recorded interaction between the prophet Elisha and his servant (2 Kgs 6:8-17). This little episode, in a book with so much theological gold, is part of an underlying theme that begins well before 1 & 2 Kings in God’s interaction with his people: that there is safety in following God. Further, this episode helps to bring out the reality that God’s presence, and the safety that trusting in him brings, is not always easy to perceive when we look at the world around us.
We know this to be true in our experience. There are many things in this world which, by human standards, should cause us great fear. The evil of humankind is easy to perceive; natural calamities from disease through to floods cause masses of death and destruction; and crippling fear of a lack of security in all its forms is always only one troubling conversation or unfortunate circumstance away. And although there is no easy answer, for Scripture does not promise an end to suffering in this life, we can have certainty of our security because of the fulfilment of God’s promises in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Before we look at this little episode between Elisha and his servant, there is some brief context that will be helpful. God’s promises to his people have culminated in the Davidic promise of a forever King from the line of David who will build a house for the Lord’s name and whose throne will be established forever (2 Sam 7:8-16). From the point that King David receives these promises, we can anticipate the excitement in the text, as with bated breath we ask the question of every descendent of David, Is this the forever King? As we start in 1 Kings, we are all but convinced that Solomon is the one. He pleases the Lord with the questions he asks (1 Kgs 3:5-14); he builds a temple to the Lord, blesses the people, and prays for them (1 Kgs 6-8); the Lord confirms that he hears Solomon and is pleased with the house built for the Lord (1 Kgs 9:1-5); and even the foreign Queen of Sheba is thoroughly impressed by how the Lord has blessed Solomon (1 Kgs 10:6-13). But then in 1 Kings 11:1, we see the problem: Solomon loved foreign women.
This is a problem for Solomon and for the people of God, because King Solomon loved his 700 wives and 300 concubines, and these women eventually turned him away from obeying the Lord, to idols. It was a problem because it was exactly what Moses had warned the people against in Deuteronomy 7:3-4, and it was the one conditional statement made by both his father David, and the Lord God throughout the narrative (1 Kgs 2:1-4; 3:14; 6:11-13; 9:6-9 etc). Thus from 1 Kings 11 onwards, we see that things go from bad to worse for Israel. In chapter 12 the kingdom splits in two, and the refrain is that each king did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. All of this culminates in the harrowing words of God to King Josiah, and the subsequent exile under the Assyrians and Babylonians. Although Josiah was a good king who mimicked his ancestor David, it was not enough to appease the fury of the Lord for the sins of his grandfather King Manasseh (2 Kgs 23:26).
Parallel to the dismantling of the kingdoms through the rebellion and judgment of the kings, we also read of prophets who spoke the Lord’s truth to the kings, showing that God’s promised blessings to the people come through the word of God (see 2 Kgs 17:13). True Israelites, those who believe in the Lord’s promises, are to hang off every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord (see Deut 8:3).
Here is where we can learn from Elisha’s interaction with his servant. The powerful king of Aram looks to attack Elisha because he speaks God’s word to the king of Israel. When his servant asked “Oh, my master, what are we to do?”, Elisha responds with these words of comfort, then he prays, and the Lord answers:
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kgs 6:16-17)
How wonderful it is to know of the Lord’s ultimate protection over his people! Those who love him, obey him, and trust his promises are those, like Elijah’s servant, who ought to be in awe and wonder at God’s control over all things, no matter how powerful these things may seem. And especially for us as Christians in 2021, we are even more privileged to open our eyes to the reality that the death and resurrection of Jesus means that we have nothing to fear, for “all those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37)