In the 8th chapter of 2 Kings, there’s a life and death story told in a somewhat comedic way.
The king of Aram (present day region of Syria) has been trying to conduct raids on the neighboring nation of Israel. But whenever he would come up with a new plan of attack the prophet Elisha would alert the king of Israel as to what the military of Aram was about to do. The result was maddening to the king of Aram who assumed that one of his own advisors must be passing state secrets to Israel. His officials tell him it’s not one of them, but that the prophet of God in Israel (Elisha) tells the king of Israel everything the king of Aram says, even the words he speaks in the privacy of his own bedroom.
Furious, the king of Aram wants to know where Elisha is staying, and when he finds out, sends his army to get him. When the young assistant to Elisha wakes up the next morning, he looks out and sees that they are surrounded by the army of Aram. The prophet tells him not to be afraid because “there are more on our side than on theirs.” Then Elisha asks the God of Israel to open his assistant’s eyes. When the young man looks again, he sees the mountains surrounding them filled with horses and chariots of fire.
When the soldiers of Aram start moving in, Elisha asks God to blind them. It would be interesting to know whether the Lord took away their physical sight or just their ability to make sense of what they were seeing. In either case Elisha asked them what they wanted. When they told him, he replied that they had come to the wrong place, to follow him, and he would bring them to their man.
The army complied, and blindly followed Elisha into the national stronghold of the northern capital of Israel (Samaria). Only when the prophet asked the Lord to open their eyes did they see they had walked into a trap.
When the king of Israel saw that Elisha had delivered the enemy into his hands, “he shouted to Elisha, “My father, should I kill them? Should I kill them?” “Of course not!” Elisha replied. “Do we kill prisoners of war? Give them food and drink and send them home again to their master.” So the king made a great feast for them and then sent them home to their master. After that, the Aramean raiders stayed away from the land of Israel” (2Kings 6:21-23).
The smiles of that story are, as we all know, part of a far bigger story that moves to even higher ground in the days of “God with us”.
Yes, that was then as now is now. Th0se were the miraculous days of the prophets Elijah and Elisha. The story was the story of the God of Israel who wanted the hearts not only of his chosen people, but the hearts of their neighbors.
A question for us to think about together could be— once a life and death story of smiles like this finds fulness of meaning in the person of Jesus, how are we to read it as citizens of the kingdom of God? What applies and what doesn’t… when it comes to wondering how we can distinguish ourselves as servants and citizens of Christ— rather than as blind soldiers and clueless kings?