Eyes to See

Very recently, I was reminded again of the story in the Old Testament wherein the prophet Elisha, a true man of God, had the uncanny ability to remain completely calm in the face of overwhelming odds, whereas his servant was anything but relaxed. The difference, it turns out, was simply a matter of one having spiritual sight that the other lacked.

You can read the entire account for yourself in 2 Kings 6:8-23. The king of Syria unsuccessfully trying to wage war against the nation of Israel. Not one of his battle plans work out as he might have liked. Eventually, one of the king’s servants informs him that, “Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” (Verse 12) In layman’s terms, Elisha’s relationship with God is such that the king of Syria cannot hope to construct “secret plans” without Elisha hearing of them and counseling the king of Israel such that military disaster is avoided over and over again.

As the account continues, the king of Syria decides that enough is enough, and that he must first deal with Elisha before he goes to war with Israel again. Informed that Elisha is in Dothan, the king sends out a great army of horses and chariots and surrounds the city. Waking up the next day, Elisha’s servant is understandably panicked: “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (Verse 15) In those first few moments, Elisha’s response must have seemed less-than-comforting and completely nonsensical:

2 Kings 6:16-18 (ESV)
He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.

In yesterday’s sermon, Keith Simon did what I thought was an excellent job of reminding us that when Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of the Passover celebration, most – perhaps all – of the people in the cheering crowds were looking at Jesus through the “lens” of their ongoing oppression coupled with a deep desire to rid their country of Roman rule. (Download/listen to “The King Arrives.”)

The Romans, for their part, were quite correct in their concern that some sort of upstart political leader had entered the gates of “their” city; palm branches, after all, were a recognized Jewish nationalist symbol that hearkened back to the reign of King David, his son Solomon and the glory days of the political and military state of Israel. Just think how we might view Palm Sunday a little differently had the cheering crowds been depicted as waving white flags with a blue Star of David in the center. Yet this anachronistic image gets us closer, I think, to what Jesus, the Jewish leaders and the Romans “saw” as the parade commenced. No wonder the Pharisees were telling Jesus to shut up his disciples! (Luke 19:39) As we live on this side of the Cross, it is tempting to regard the Palm Sunday crowds as foolish at a minimum, and traitorous or even enemies of God. Why, we wonder, could no one accurately see what was about to take place? Why was everyone rushing to meet Jesus as a Conquering King and not as the Passover Lamb? Surely the nationalistic crowds did their part to unsettle the local authorities and set in motion the swift response of the Jewish leaders and the Roman government.

As I pause to consider these two episodes in Scripture, it seems to me that the common problem was spiritual blindness, something we all struggle with in various ways.

As in 2 Kings 6, blindness to the inner workings of God’s Kingdom can cause us to panic. We come up against a vexing problem, and since we will most often limit ourselves to searching for solutions that are immediately accessible to our physical senses – a solution that seems rational, reasonable and doable – we tend to miss the larger realities taking place around us. Were we given “eyes to see” (Ephesians 1:18) what God is really doing in the world, even as we go through hardship and toil, we might at least be able to relax with Elisha into the massive truth that God really is in control, whatever the outcome.

Likewise, I think we all suffer from a propensity to “wave the wrong flag” when Jesus comes to town. I know I do. Lacking the vision to see Jesus for Who He really is, I immediately begin to compartmentalize Him into the small, self-focused interests and day-to-day realities of my own life. The clearest-possible sign that I am waving my own nationalistic flag at Jesus is when I find what He says or does confusing, frustrating or just plain aggravating. Far from embracing what Jesus is doing in those moments, our Nation of Self welcome wears out quickly, just as it did in Jerusalem within a mere four days.

When we find ourselves responding to situations with frustration, panic or dismay at some situation in our lives, I think it might be time to pray for God to open up the eyes of our hearts. When we begin just about any sentence with, “I can’t understand why God would…” then I think it’s probably time to slow down and take a long, hard look at the “flag” we are waving at Jesus. Are we telling Jesus what we think his Kingdom should look like, or are we instead on our faces, praying fervently that He would give us a more accurate picture of Who He is and how we can cooperate with His plans?

Ephesians 1:15-23 (ESV)
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

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