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The Surest Road to Victory

About 30 years ago, I was in college, visiting a friend’s dorm room at the University of Illinois. For whatever reason that day, I picked up a devotional book he had – which one I don’t know – and it included this little story of Joash and Elisha at the end of the prophet’s life, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson I learned.  In fact, I either wrote down what I learned in this book, or I memorized it on the spot. It now serves as one of the little motivational quotes I sometimes put at the top of prayer lists, but before I get to the quote, here is the Bible story it was based on, from 2 Kings 13…

Elisha the great prophet of God was about to die. Joash was King of Israel at the time, and even though Joash has not fully followed God, even he realizes that if Elisha “sleeps with his fathers”, all hope is lost, because he’s the only one who seems to have a direct connection with the God of Israel.

So Joash comes to see Elisha on his deathbed, and this is what happens:

Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” 2 Kings 13:14 (ESV)

So it’s almost a comedic scene, for Elisha is the one who is dying, but King Joash comes before him crying about his weak army. But it just so happens that Joash has come to the right guy.  Elisha makes a plan…

And Elisha said to him, “Take a bow and arrows.” So he took a bow and arrows. Then he said to the king of Israel, “Draw the bow,” and he drew it. And Elisha laid his hands on the king’s hands. And he said, “Open the window eastward,” and he opened it. Then Elisha said, “Shoot,” and he shot. And he said, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 2 Kings 13:15 – 17a (ESV)

Do you follow what has happened? Elisha has instructed the king to take up his bow and some arrows.  Something symbolic is about to take place.  Then the king draws back the bow, and then Elisha apparently gets behind him, almost like a master archer teaching a novice how to shoot, but only for a moment because then it seems he takes away his hands and he tells the king to open the window. He tells him to shoot…and the king shoots. It seems that Elisha is symbolically transferring God’s power to the king in an upcoming battle against Syria. And Elisha provides some running commentary…

And Elisha says, “The LORD’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Syria! For you shall fight the Syrians in Aphek until you have made an end of them.” 2 Kings 13:17b (ESV)

But you see that’s just one battle against their dreaded enemy.  The king needs to fire some more symbolic arrows to defeat the enemy completely.

So look what happens next.

And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 2 Kings 13:18 (ESV)

So Elisha says take the arrows and strike the ground with them. Apparently he wants the king to fire the remaining arrows out the window, symbolic of the future victories Israel will have in other battles against this feared enemy. Now we don’t know what’s going on in the king’s mind, but we can guess.  He has already begun to think that he is wasting his time coming to see this dying prophet.  Here the prophet is asking him to shoot arrows at nothing out the east window, when he really thought the man was going to pray a prayer to simply make all the Syrians die, or something along those lines.

So the king takes the arrows with his bow and his mind is now full of doubt and skepticism, perhaps he looks at Elisha funny and then fires off three arrows.  But that’s it.  He’s got his hand full of arrows, but he fires off only three.

Now look at Elisha’s reaction:

Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.” 2 Kings 13:19 (ESV)

And then the story concludes: So Elisha died, and they buried him. 2 Kings 13:20 (ESV)

Now thirty years ago, I read this pithy quote about that little vignette, and it always stuck with me…

“Let it be said to his shame that he did not believe enough, so he did not obey enough.  It is what happens in the secret chamber that determines the amount of victory we have in the actual battle of life.”

Joash was told to do something to ensure victory over Syria, and yet…he thought it foolish.  Surely firing arrows into the ground could not lead him to victory over the Lord’s enemies.  But shooting those arrows out the window was the method God determined to use.

Similarly, our Heavenly Father tells us to pray, but too often we are like that foolish King looking at the prophet like he’s an idiot. Prayer is God’s chosen means for us to win battles, lots and lots of battles. We simply need to get on our knees…and start firing off arrows.

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Can You See Chariots of Fire? If Not, Pray This Prayer…

Fire flames on black background background

Open my eyes…

You’ve heard the phrase “more than meets the eye”? It’s when there is more to something than you first see. So, when you buy a house, you don’t want to sign the papers and then find out that there was “more than meets the eye” under the floorboards. Or, on the positive side, sometimes people have hidden gifts and talents that you don’t see at first glance, so there is “more than meets the eye” about them.

The phrase is important because when you think of the world we live in, there is actually more to it than meets the eye.

I think of the incredible story of  Elisha and his servant being pursued by the King of Syria, and one day they woke up surrounded by the evil king’s armies. Well, the servant woke up anyway; apparently Elisha was sleeping like a baby…

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 2 Kings 6:15 (ESV)

But Elisha calmed his fears with a remarkable statement…

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 2 Kings 6:16 (ESV)

And then Elisha prayed a prayer for his servant that we ought to pray for one another

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. 2 Kings 6:17 (ESV)

It was a glorious and happy surprise to Elisha’s servant when the Lord opened his eyes.  And that said…I like to imagine that Paul the Apostle was thinking about this story when he told the Ephesians that this is what he prayed for them…

…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a 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…  Ephesians 1:17-20 (ESV) 

It’s important to remember that Paul was writing to Christians. This is not a prayer that they would come to Christ, but that they as believers would see that the resources they have. I think this means that many of us don’t see what we could see…if we only prayed that God would open our eyes, and the eyes of those we love.

And in particular, the Apostle wanted the people of Ephesus to have their eyes opened to see three things:

  1. First, the great hope that they have. This is heaven.  And how many Christians live nearly every day without thinking about heaven and the joy that awaits them there.
  2. And second, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Pay attention now – This is not our inheritance – this is God’s inheritance.  Yes we have a great inheritance ourselves – that’s the hope we have in the gospel, but he also wanted us to see what God’s inheritance of us means to Him.  Here’s how he puts it – we are His riches.  Glory to God.  You can think on that for the next three years.  Sum it up this way though – Christian, he loves you a lot.  You are part of God’s riches.
  3. And third, Paul prayed that these believers would know the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward those who believe. Paul says that this great power is the power that raised Jesus from the dead…available to us…the immeasurable greatness of God’s power toward those who believe.

And so, moved by Paul’s example, it’s been probably about two decades that I’ve been praying this prayer out of Ephesians 1 for myself and for those I love, and I invite you to join me, because I don’t know about you…but I’d like to see a few chariots of fire.

 

For tomorrow, Wednesday, June 24th: Ephesians 2

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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