2 Kings 6: Elisha, Aram and the invisible chariots of fire study

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Bible Study on the Prophet Elisha

2 Kings 6: Elisha, Aram and the invisible chariots of fire study

by I Gordon


There is a very interesting little story hidden away in 2 Kings Chapter 6 concerning Elisha and the king of Aram. In the Bible we read of powers and principalities and battles in the spiritual realm yet only a few glimpses of this realm are given. The passage before us in this study, in 2 Kings 6:8-23, is one of those times. It is a passage where we get to see the unseen and glimpse at how the angelic realm participates and interacts with the human realm. Through this story we shall also see our constant need to have our spiritual eyes opened... Let's have a look.

How to frustrate a king and win every war

2 Kings 6:8-14 Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, 'I will set up my camp in such and such a place.'  The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: 'Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there  .' So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.  This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, 'Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?'  'None of us, my lord the king,' said one of his officers, 'but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.' 'Go, find out where he is,' the king ordered, 'so I can send men and capture him.' The report came back: 'He is in Dothan.'  Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. 

The passage before us starts with the king of Aram at war with Israel. You may remember from an earlier study that this was the same Aram  [1]  that Naaman came from in 2 Kings chapter 5. Obvious it hasn't taken long for normal relations to resume and its back to war! So the king of Aram convenes a top secret meeting and a plan is hatched. It is a fantastic sure-thing plan that can't fail... well, it would be if Elisha didn't alert  [2]  Israel to every plan of attack before they executed it!

Now, put yourself in the king of Arams shoes for a while. How frustrating would it be to come up with a hush-hush secret squirrel plan only to find out that your enemy already knows about it? You would clearly think that you've got a rat, a mole, in your midst. Someone must be playing both sides! Where is the snitch? Well, as we read above in the text, the king finds out that there isn't a mole... just a man in Israel who knows the very words the king speaks in his bedroom in Aram! Obviously the king's plan now has to change. Forget about attacking Israel for a while... take out Elisha!

Before going on we should bring this back home a little more. You see, all Christians are in a battle and all Christians have an enemy that hates them. 'The thief', Jesus said,  'comes to steal, kill and destroy. But I have come that you may have life!'  (John 10:10) Our enemy is subtly planning his strategy  [3]  . He comes to rob us of our hope, kill our faith and destroy our witness for God. His means of attack may differ from the king of Aram but his intent is the same. But how good is it to be on the side of God? Left to ourselves we wouldn't stand a chance. Left alone we would not be able to stand in the midst of such a powerful enemy... But we are not alone. Let's have a look at what happens!

Where are you looking? 

2 Kings 6:14-17 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city.  'Alas, my lord, what shall we do?' the servant asked. 'Don't be afraid,' the prophet answered. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, 'O LORD, open his eyes so 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.

So the king of Aram thought he had a fool proof plan... As we read above, a whole army surrounded the city in a vice like grip. A bit of overkill you might say just to capture one man but the king is obviously serious about taking out Elisha! Now, in the natural, things certainly look pretty grim. Huge army... surrounded... vice like grip over the city. And in the natural is exactly where the servant of Elisha is looking for he cries out 'Alas, my lord, what shall we do?'. Ever been there? Ever looked at the hopelessness of a situation and just cried out 'Oh no, oh no Lord... there is nothing I can do! There is no way out. ' I'm sure you have. I certainly have.

But look now at the response of his master Elisha for he replies 'Do not be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' Is Elisha crazy? Does the lift not go to the top floor anymore? Do not fear...? There is more with us than with that entire army...? Strange words indeed. Does Elisha know something that no one else knows or is it time he retired and took things easy? And why, for that matter, is he always so calm?  [4] 

And Elisha prayed, 'O LORD, open his eyes so 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.

Wow! They were protected all along but the servant didn't know it! He couldn't see it. All around Elisha were thousands of angels surrounding and protecting him  [5]  . What an amazing scene. And what an awesome glimpse into the supernatural we are given here. If any harm is to come to Elisha or his servant then the armies of Aram have to get through these angelic warriors first!  [6] 

Now, what the servant of Elisha had to learn is the same lesson that the servant of the Lord has to learn today. Our great need is to have our eyes opened. Is this not what the Apostle Paul would always pray?

Eph 1:16-17 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 

Eph 1:18-19 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. 

Eph 3:17-19 And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

What is our need? To have our eyes opened spiritually! They are opened when we are saved but there is a continual need to ask the Lord to give us further spiritual sight and revelation. As Paul prayed above, we need to see His power, His protection, His love, and His inheritance  [7]  in those that believe.

So I guess the question is, what happens if we don't see these things? Well, let me ask it another way... What was the servant like when he couldn't see what Elisha could? You see, Elisha was perfectly calm and his servant was a mess simply because of what they could and couldn't see. The servant, as long as he stayed close to Elisha, was completely safe because of the angelic protectors but he certainly forfeited his peace and well being by focusing on the things he could see instead of focusing on the things that are unseen. The same goes for us.

Conclusion  [8]  

God's protection is upon us  [9]  and our worry and unbelief does not change that. We are as protected when we stick close to Jesus as the servant was when he stayed close to Elisha. But our sense of peace is dependant upon what we can see spiritually.

So what about you? Is your current cry 'alas my master! What can I do?' or are you hearing the words 'Do not fear! Those that are for you are greater than those against you'? Ask the Lord to continue to open your eyes to His truth and presence in your life so that you can see things clearly. But you have to desire it. And always be honest  [10]  about where you are at. If you are honest with the Lord about what you can and cannot see, and truly desire to know His ways and truth then He will see to it that you see things more clearly.

[1] ↩ Aram is modern day Syria... wars then, threats of wars now. Clearly, until the Lord returns, there is nothing new under the sun.

[2] ↩ A few years ago, after the devastating tsunami in the Indian ocean that killed over 200,000 people, there was talk of installing an early warning system that would alert the people in the area, and the world at large, of any potential life threatening tsunami well before it struck the coastline. Sounds like a good plan. Well, Elisha was Israel's early warning system. After hearing from God, Elisha would correctly and consistently warn of a pending attack while the enemy was still hatching the plan! Isn't it great that God knows all and is always one step ahead?

[3] ↩ Yet no matter how many plans he devises or tries to implement, God is always one step ahead! Nothing takes God by surprise. And if he does allow Satan to implement some of his mayhem, as He did with Job, there is always a purpose and God is able to bring good out of it. How frustrating this must be for Satan to see his plans ultimately come to nothing! He thought he was onto a winner in getting Jesus crucified... He thought he had actually killed the son of God! He probably rejoiced for a couple of days... only to witness Him rise on the third day and find that that death would be the very means by which he himself would be judged!

[4] ↩ Same with the Lord Jesus. Complete panic-proof! Nothing could shake him or make Him fear because He knew His Father and He knew His protection. Even on the night He was arrested He said He could call on 12 legions of angels if He needed (Matt 26:53. The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that 'A Roman legion numbered about 6,000 soldiers.' This was angelic protection of about 72,000 angels!)

[5] ↩ I have read some amazing stories connected with the war of independence in 1948 in Israel. After Israel was declared to be an independent state they were immediately attacked by the armies from seven surrounding nations. The war was approx. 17,000 Jews fighting for the lives and the existence of the Israelite nation against 7 armies. Apparently some of the 17,000 Jews didn't even have a weapon. And yet there are miraculous stories of the Arabs fleeing for their lives because they saw great and mighty forces coming against them... even if there was in reality only a few Jewish settlers protecting the area. Now that is God protecting His people because of His promises. And what did the Arabs see that made them flee if it was not a glimpse of the angels that protect God's people in the unseen world?

[6] ↩ And just to get an idea of whether this would be a fair fight, you may remember that when the Assyrian army came against Judah and King Hezekiah, the Lord sent His angel to take out the entire 185,000 Assyrian army (See Isaiah 37). So, no, a large army of men versus even one angel is not a fair fight. Elisha was well protected! And so are we. We should remember what the Bible says about these angels for 'are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?' (Heb 1:14) And 'he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.' (Psalm 91:11)

[7] ↩ I always find this verse fascinating. An inheritance is something that is left to us when someone dies. Well, God has an inheritance as well and He isn't interested in houses, cash or cars. It is called a glorious inheritance. The inheritance that God the Father receives through the death of His own Son is us! Amazing that we would matter so much to Him!

[8] ↩ While I'm not going to go into verses 18-24 in any depth, it is worth pointing out a few things in the fine print... These verses present a fantastic example of what the New Testament says in Romans 12:14-21 which says 'Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse... Do not be overcome with evil but overcome evil with good.' Here was the army of Aram sent by the king to kill Elisha. And how does Elisha respond? By striking them down or setting the angelic guardians on them? Mmm, no, not quite. He provides them with a great feast and sends them home safe and sound... that's how! In this way Elisha typifies the Lord Jesus who didn't respond with vengeance towards those that came to arrest and kill Him. But He overcame evil with good by enduring the cross and praying for their forgiveness.

[9] ↩ God uses all things to protect us. I read a little story recently of a Christian boy in Africa who was being pursued by a mob out to do him no good. He was being pursued for some time and because he was tiring he decided to hide in a cave. He was worried about this however as there was only one way out of the cave and if his enemies looked in the cave they would be sure to find him. Upon entering the cave however, he saw a miraculous thing - as soon as he entered a spider began work on a web across the narrow entrance to the cave. Once the mob reached the cave, they saw the web across the entrance and decided not to look inside as no one could have entered the cave without breaking the spiders web. So God can use all things. Things as mighty as angels or as small as spiders!

[10] ↩ There is a great story that I would like you to read. It is in Mark 8:22-26. Please go read it. No, actually go and please read it now. Back? It is a great story because it is not at all usual for a healing of Jesus to not completely work the first time! But here was this man, who Jesus had touched and healed of blindness, who could only see say 'I see people but they look like trees walking around.' In other words, you couldn't say he was still blind, but neither could you say that he now saw clearly. Why is this story included in the gospel? Because it is very typical of those that come to the Lord. They have been saved but still can't see very clearly! So what does it take for the issue to be resolved? Well, it takes honesty on the part of the man. He has to acknowledge to the Lord that he still doesn't see very clearly. He may have been tempted to say 'Praise the Lord, I can now see'. Or 'Oh well, Jesus touched me but I still can't see very well I guess I never will.' Both would have been wrong. His honesty lead to a fresh touch and then he could see! I'm sure you see the parallels with people coming to the Lord.