Elisha was the young prophet who assisted and then later took the place of Elijah. Sometimes it’s hard to keep these two guys straight… Which one was first? Who defeated the prophets of Baal in the great contest? And which one got a double portion of the Spirit, performing even greater miracles than the other?
Here’s a hint: think in alphabetical order. Elijah came first, in the book of I Kings. Elisha’s ministry is recorded in II Kings.
These two men were God’s spokesmen during the troubling years between Solomon’s reign and the Babylonian captivity. I and II Kings, and I and II Chronicles cover the years when 19 kings reigned in the Northern Kingdom and 19 kings reigned in the Southern Kingdom. Some walked with God, but most did not.
Interestingly, the first time I ever heard about these kings and the divided kingdom was in my History of Israel class in Bible college. Even though it was hard to remember which kings were in which kingdom, I became fascinated with their lives—especially with the kings who honored God.
There’s a lot to learn from the lives of these Old Testament characters. And between the lifework of both Elijah and Elisha, Baal worship was finally extinguished from the nations of Judah and Israel.
One scene I think of again and again is found in II Kings 6. The Syrians were on the warpath against Israel. The king of Syria would plan his battle schemes and then inform his servants. But God would relay the information to Elisha, so he could tell Israel’s king, Jehoram. This allowed Jehoram to send his troops in advance to protect the towns Syria was planning to attack. Of course, after this happened a few times, the Syrian king thought one of his men was secretly passing information to the enemy. But he was told, it was the fault of the Israelite prophet.
The king of Syria demanded to know where Elisha was staying. His plan was to capture him, to stop Elisha from frustrating his schemes. Once he discovered that Elisha was in Dothan, the king sent his horses and chariots and a great army to surround the city. At night.
In the morning Elisha’s servant woke up and stepped outside, to find the huge Syrian army completely encircling the town. He went to Elisha and said, “Oh, no! What will we do?” Elisha answered:
Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them. And Elisha prayed… Lord, I ask, open his eyes that he may see. Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw… the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
When the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, Strike this people, I pray, with blindness. And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
Within a short time the Syrian king’s plans were once again frustrated as the Syrians became the captives of Elisha and the Israelites, instead of the other way around!
Although the Syrian army was massive, God’s heavenly army was even more massive. To the human eye, all anyone could see was the enemy. But once God opened the eyes of the one who was afraid, the power of the angelic forces became apparent. And suddenly he had nothing to be afraid of.
As believers we can be assured of God’s workings behind the scenes. Whether things are calm, or we’re being attacked, or little by little our circumstances seem to crumble, we should remember what Elisha knew very well. God is on the side of the right. He defends those who walk in wisdom, in goodness and in truth. Not that there won’t be difficulties or persecution, but when the battle is over and the dust settles, God will be the Victor. Those of us who are on His side will share in the victory.
I know what it’s like to be tempted to doubt God’s plans, to worry about the problems that come (or might come), and to fear the worst. But we don’t need to. And He doesn’t want us to. We can be confident that God is always at work behind the scenes. And His purposes to those who love Him are always good.