Seeing Better

2 Kings 6:15-17 15When the man of God’s servant got up early and went out, there were soldiers, horses, and chariots surrounding the city. So his attendant said to Elisha, “Oh no, my lord! What will we do?” 16He answered, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, open his eyes so that he can see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw that the hills were full of horses and chariots of fire, all around Elisha.

O Lord, open our eyes so that we can see. Amen. 2 Kings 6:17

Last week I went to the Vision Center at Walmart to get my eyes checked. The nurse took me into one room where she checked my peripheral vision, eye strength and then shot that wonderful puff of air onto my eyeball. Then she asked me if I could read the numbers inside the colored dot pictures. I thought I did well. I saw the numbers 3, 4, and 12. I saw three out of twelve numbers. She asked, “Do you know if you’re color blind?” “Yes, I am very color blind.”

The doctor took me into another room. He asked me to read the different lines of letters on the wall. He changed lenses. He asked, “Is this better or worse or the same?” After testing my eyes and talking to me for a while, the doctor sent me home with a new prescription. In layman’s terms the prescription says, “You’re old and you need bifocals.”

I’ve been having trouble reading the small font in the novels I read before bed. I want to see better. I may have to get bifocals to do that.

The servant of Elisha needed to see better. Bifocals would not help him, though. He needed the Lord to open his eyes so that he could see better.

King Ben-Hadad II of Aram kept trying to set up ambushes against the Israelite army. He would tell his Aramean officers: “I will set up my camp in such and such a place” (2 Kings 6:8). But with the help of the Lord’s omniscience, the prophet Elisha kept sending word to King Joram of Israel saying: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans are going down there” (2 Kings 6:9).

When the King of Aram learned that Elisha was giving away his secrets, he told his officers, “Go, find out where he is so I can send men and capture him” (2 Kings 6:13). When the report came back that Elisha was in Dothan, the king sent his army of horses and chariots that surrounded the city at night.

That sounds a little like overkill, doesn’t it? A whole army to arrest one little prophet. That’s like hunting a rabbit with a battalion of tanks.

Actually, the Aramean army was undermanned. Their fight, as we learn to see better, was not with Elisha, but with the Lord himself.

Elisha knew this, but his servant did not. So when the servant saw a sea of spears and countless chariots glinting in the early morning sun, he was frantic and cried out to Elisha: “Oh no, my lord! What will we do?”

Listen to Elisha’s calm response based on what he was able to see with the eyes of faith: “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed that his servant would be able to see better: “O Lord, open his eyes so that he can see.”

The Lord opened the servant’s eyes. The surrounding countryside was full of the Lord’s angelic fiery army.

We can so easily be like Elisha’s servant? We see the events and situations of life with our eyes and everything looks overwhelming. We experience fear.

Elisha’s servant saw all those Aramean horses and chariots and could only think the worst. Perhaps the same thing happens to you when you are in the doctor’s office and you hear him say, “You’ve got cancer.” Or when your teenager slams her bedroom door in your face and shouts, “I hate you!” Or when you read the email from your superior that says your company is downsizing. Or when your spouse or parent has recently died and you don’t know what to do next.

What makes you afraid? Is it the fear of losing your independence as you get older? Your marriage falling apart? Not being able to have a child? Your children growing apart from you and the Lord? The ogre at work or the bully on the block? The clock of your life ticking?

Fear itself is not a sin. But it can lead to sin. We can allow fear to grab hold of us and not let go. We can try to desensitize our fear with drinking binges; hide our fear with angry outbursts; deaden our fear with sullen withdrawals. No matter what we do to try to overcome our fears on our own, we exclude God from the solution and make the situation worse. Worry saps our joy. Dread numbs our day.

Fear corrodes our confidence in God’s goodness. We begin to wonder if God’s eyes are shut as ours grow wide. For all the noise fear makes and room it takes, fear does little good.

Fear never cured a disease. Never rescued a marriage. Never strengthened a business. Never gave us a child. Faith did that!

Fear may fill our world, but it doesn’t have to fill our hearts. The one statement Jesus made more than any other in the Gospels was “Don’t be afraid.” We heard him say to the disciples in the upper room, “Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Jesus wages a war against fear. He reminds us, “Take courage, I am here” (Matthew 14:27). He comforts us, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me” (John 14:1).

What a powerful statement Elisha gives to his servant. It is a statement we need to be reminded of again and again. “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

Psalm 34:7 puts the truth of God’s abiding presence in the face of fear like this: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them” God isn’t like the firefighter who can come to your rescue only after he has received a call for help. God isn’t like the police officer that is so busy that he isn’t there immediately when you need him. By the time either the firefighter or police officer arrives, it might be too late to save you. God has his angels be more like secret service agents who never leave the side of the President.

We would not be so afraid if we prayed that we could see better. “Lord, open my eyes to see your presence.” Wait! That’s exactly what we pray in the Lord’s Prayer! When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” we are praying that God opens our eyes to see him breaking the devil’s kingdom here on earth and establishing the Lord’s kingdom in our hearts and homes. When we pray, “Your will be done,” we may be praying for a promotion, a healthy baby, a cure from cancer, or good weather for graduation parties. But with those words we are praying that God opens our eyes to accept that God’s will is better and greater than our own.

When we pray, “Give us today our daily bread,” we’re not putting a coin in the heavenly vending machine to ensure we’ll have something to eat. We are praying that God opens our eyes to the many blessings that he gives or refrains from giving us today. When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” we’re not saying, “God don’t tempt me to sin!” He doesn’t do that. With that petition we’re requesting God to open our eyes to see that his abiding presence and his guardian angels are always with us so that have the power to overcome sin.

When you are dealing with medical issues, pray to see your Great Physician is there in the hospital room or standing next to the surgeon. Jesus is the One who heals the cancer of your sin with his blood; he cleanses your guilty conscience with his atoning sacrifice; he heals you with the balm of his forgiveness; he holds you near to him in his nail-scarred hands.

When your marriage seems to be falling apart or you are fighting with your siblings over your parents’ care or your teenagers are acting like … well, teenagers, pray to see the Holy Spirit as the Counselor that Jesus sends in his name. He will teach you everything you need to do. He will give you a peace that the world cannot give.

When your teenager starts driving or you are going on a long trip this summer, you can feel anxious. Pray to see the angels that God commands to guard you in all your ways (Psalm 91:11).

Before the sermon we sang, “Peace Like a River.” This hymn was written by Horatio Spafford after several traumatic events in Spafford’s life. Spafford was a wealthy Chicago lawyer with a thriving legal practice, a beautiful home, a wife, four daughters and a son. He was also a devout Christian. His circle of friends included Dwight L. Moody and other well-known clergymen of the day. At the very height of his success, Horatio and his wife Anna suffered the tragic loss of their young son at the tender age of two to scarlet fever. Shortly thereafter on October 8, 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed almost every real estate investment Spafford had.

In 1873, Spafford scheduled a boat trip to Europe on the S.S. Ville du Havre, to give his wife and daughters a much-needed vacation from tragedy, and so that he might join Moody for an evangelistic campaign in England. Spafford sent his wife and daughters on ahead while he remained in Chicago, to take care of some unexpected last-minute business.

While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sailing ship, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford's daughters drowned. Anna survived with other passengers. She sent Horatio the now famous telegram, “Saved Alone.” (It was only two words because you had to pay by the word.)

With a heavy heart, Spafford boarded a boat that would take him to his grieving Anna, in England. Spafford was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died. “When peace like a river attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll – Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Despite the tragedies of his toddler son’s death, the loss of his real estate investments and the deaths of his four daughters, Spafford did not give up his faith in God. Instead, he was praying to see better. “And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight.”

Whether you wear glasses or not, we all pray that we might see better. Fuzzy eyes of faith can lead to fearful hearts. Make Elisha’s prayer your prayer: “Lord, open my eyes so that I see better the angels you send to watch over me. More importantly, help me see better your will for my life through your Son who lived, died, rose, ascended and rules for me. I won’t be afraid, for I know those who are with me are more than those who are with them.” Amen.

Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not let it be afraid. Amen. John 14:27