Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us.The Invisible Realities of the Eternal World
2 Kings 6:16
The invisible realities at times are very real to some and very unreal to others. This incident is an excellent example of it. Danger menaces two men. Death itself seems in the cup for both. But one is a citizen only of the seen and temporal, while the other's spirit soars up to God and believes in God, and is as certain of the existence of God as that he is alive.
Consider the fruits of this belief in the existence of the eternal verities:—
I. There is a Confidence in Time of Perplexity.—'Fear not,' said the prophet to his dismayed and affrighted companion. There you have courage after a godly sort in the hour of danger. There is, in some natures, an intrepid, unconquerable element which, when beset by opposition, begets instant resistance and blossoms into conquest. And you have here a man's faith under searching test. That faith comes out well. It does not flinch in the hour of fiery trial because the man by the eye of faith beheld the invisible.
II. Another fruit of belief in the eternal is The Identification of God's and the Individual's Interest. Where there is genuine belief in the realities of the eternal world, man's protection in danger, man's companionship with God's good angel-guards, man's acquiescence in the rightness of the life-lot is known and believed in to be of God's giving. In short, whatever is, is for the best.
III. There is also another fruit of belief in the eternal world, viz. Liberation from the Bondage of Doubt. The doubting Christian cannot lead a happy life. With some people there is a tendency of temperament to this. In fact, it is questionable if any soul can escape its 'passage-at-arms' with doubt. And where doubt is truly genuine it should enlist deep attention and beget profound respect. If it is honest it will be like that of Thomas, who sincerely doubted Christ's resurrection, and whose doubt was never scoffed at, but tenderly dissipated by Christ. All the same, the less we know of doubt the better; and just as truly as it is an axiom of indisputable value that 'prevention is better than cure,' so the less a mind is troubled by doubts the happier and more useful the life. And what we contend for is that freedom from the bondage of doubt and unbelief is in highest evidence in this prophet. God was a magnificent reality to him. All else was shadow.
Of course it is always some ground for consolation that whatever clouds of doubt may rise to obscure the character of God and darken the sunshine of the love of God, that Divine character is for ever and ever the same, and that heavenly sunshine is steadily falling upon the soul however much it may fancy itself forgotten of God.
Reference.—VI. 16, 17.—W. H. Hutchings, Sermon-Sketches (2nd Series), p. 249.
2 Kings 6:17
Among the men in Dothan who possessed good eyesight, I think Elisha's servant might be reckoned. And yet, when he came to Elisha and cried, 'Alas, my master, how shall we do?' Elisha fell upon his knees and prayed, 'Lord, open his eyes, that he may see!' He had seen everything except the brightest and the best. He had been blind to his unseen environment.
I. And so I gather that in the world around us there is the presence and power of a living God, and till we see that presence, we are blind.
It is very hard to see God in today. It needs an opening of the eyes, such as Elisha's servant got, to catch the trend of the everlasting love in the petty transactions of the present hour.
We need to believe in the immanence of God. We cannot live without a spiritual environment. We must protest against the quasi-scientific spirit that refuses to rise above the secondary cause. For me the secondary must imply the first, and in the second the impulse of the first is vibrating.
II. There are some spheres where the holden eyes are blessed. I do not forget that it is the great compassion of God that keeps us half-blind from the cradle to the grave. They darken the bird's cage when they teach it to sing; and unless the covering hand of the Almighty darkened the windows here, we should never sing, and never be strong at all. Do not be blind to the untold blessings of our blindness: But I am not pleading for vision for tomorrow. I am pleading for the recognition of the Divine today.
III. And what is the moral value of this unseen environment? It is this. It lifts me above circumstances. It shows me the mightier powers at work around me. It kindles my soul to claim and hold the mastery that I feel in my heart of hearts ought to be mine. The very weakest may be strong in Christ, and the very feeblest be powerful in God, if he will recognize that God is here, and that in every effort for the right, in every struggle to be true, in every sore endeavour to be free, the armies of Syria may block his way, but the horses and chariots of fire are at his bidding.
—G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 64.
Illustration.—Did you ever hold in your hand one of these puzzle-cards on which there is something clearly and plainly drawn, and some face or figure in the lines that is not evident? Here is the garden, find the gardener, for example. And we study the card, and hold it at all angles, and we turn it round and turn it back again, and for the life of us we cannot see the face, when in an instant, ah! there it is; and now we can see nothing else; and we hand it on and we wonder how our neighbour can possibly escape detecting what is so plain to us. 'Lord, open his eyes, that he may see! And the Lord opened the young man's eyes, and he saw.' And the present moment was filled with the Divine. And the ministries of heaven were near at hand, for the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire.
—G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, p. 67.
2 Kings 6:17
I. The history of Elisha at Dothan is an inspired record of one of these rare glimpses into the invisible world surrounding us which adds to the dignity, the grandeur, the security of this earth life, by assuring us that we are encompassed by spiritual intelligences empowered to act on humanity, guiding, arranging, inspiring, protecting.
II. Let us learn the lesson from the vision of Elisha. It is a picture of the eternal realities that surround these lives of ours. It is a proof that man is not merely an animal organism, but an immortal spirit belonging to two worlds; that though, for educative purposes, he is smothered for a while in the animal, his true ego belongs to the spiritual; that the world of spirits is floating, in all its power and beauty and energy around him, and that greater are they that are with him than they which are against him. The weakest amongst us is not fighting alone. In temptation and trial and soul darkness, when we seem hopelessly overmatched, when the Syrian hosts of our lower nature are besieging us with haunting memories and evil thoughts and faithless suggestions, when the cry goes up, 'Alas! Master, what shall we do?' if some Elisha were at hand to pray 'Lord, open his eyes, that he may see,' we should see the mountain 'full of horses of fire and chariots of fire'. It is better that we should not see. 'Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.' It is better that, with a powerful effort of the will, we should cross by faith the threshold of the door which divides us from the world beyond the senses, and simply believe that the unseen is greater than the seen; that more are they that are on our side than they which are against us.
III. 'Against us!' But are any of the beings of the spirit world against us? 'All Saints' will obviously be on our side, but 'All Souls!' would not some of that number harm us if they could? I reply that I think there are 'seducing spirits,' disincarnate human beings of low character, imperfect, crude, more ignorant than ourselves. I think that for a while after death they haunt the grosser atmosphere of our world; they are not yet awakened, and they blindly hunger for the limitations they have left. But I am convinced that they are under training, under discipline; they are not overlooked, forgotten, neglected by the Father-Spirit of the world. As for there being any peril to ourselves from them, all the mischief, and all the malice, and all the passions, and all the hate of a Hades full of unregenerate humanity cannot harm the life consciously 'hid with Christ in God'. One strong act of faith will lift you into that sphere in which 'they that are with us are more than they which are with them,' for 'behold, the mountain was full of horses of fire and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
—B. Wilberforce, Following on to Know the Lord, p. 143.
References.—VI. 17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxvii. No. 2215; see also Twelve Sermons to Young Men, p. 397. E. Medley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxix. 1891, p. 227. C. A. Berry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. 1896, p. 216. W. Gorman, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxii. 1902, p. 134. H. C. Potter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 309. H. P. Liddon, Sermons on Old Testament Subjects, p. 286; see also Outlines of Sermons on the Old Testament, p. 77; Penny Pulpit, No. 599. VI. 18.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 100. VI. 19.—W. L. Watkinson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxvi. 1904, p. 321. VI. 23.—C. Jerdan, Pastures of Tender Grass, p. 373. VII. 1-16.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel , 1 and 2 Kings, p. 383. VII. 2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1238. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. iii. p. 108. VII. 3.—J. McNeill, Regent Square Pulpit, vol. ii. p. 193. E. Tremayne Dunstan, Christ in the Commonplace, p. 33. VII. 3-7.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxii. No. 1903. VII. 4.—Ibid. vol. 1. No. 2894. VII. 9.—F. Case, Short Practical Sermons, p. 21. S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year (2nd Series), vol. i. p. 34. T. Champness, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlix. 1896, p. 229. A. Connell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvii. 1900, p. 341. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel , 1 and 2 Kings, p. 390. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1996. VII. 19.—Ibid. vol. i. No. 3. VIII. 9, 15.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Kings from chap. viii. p. 1. VIII. 12, 13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlix. No. 2828. IX. 4-7.—J. Fraser, Parochial and Other Sermons, p. 144. IX. 16.—J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, vol. ii. p. 155. IX. 25, 26.—A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, part iv. p. 209.
Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye.
And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go.
So he went with them. And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood.
But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed.
And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim.
Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.
Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp.
And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.
And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.
Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel?
And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the LORD, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria.
And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, LORD, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the LORD opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
And the king of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?
And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink, and go to their master.
And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.
And it came to pass after this, that Benhadad king of Syria gathered all his host, and went up, and besieged Samaria.
And there was a great famine in Samaria: and, behold, they besieged it, until an ass's head was sold for fourscore pieces of silver, and the fourth part of a cab of dove's dung for five pieces of silver.
And as the king of Israel was passing by upon the wall, there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king.
And he said, If the LORD do not help thee, whence shall I help thee? out of the barnfloor, or out of the winepress?
And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to day, and we will eat my son to morrow.
So we boiled my son, and did eat him: and I said unto her on the next day, Give thy son, that we may eat him: and she hath hid her son.
And it came to pass, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he rent his clothes; and he passed by upon the wall, and the people looked, and, behold, he had sackcloth within upon his flesh.
Then he said, God do so and more also to me, if the head of Elisha the son of Shaphat shall stand on him this day.
But Elisha sat in his house, and the elders sat with him; and the king sent a man from before him: but ere the messenger came to him, he said to the elders, See ye how this son of a murderer hath sent to take away mine head? look, when the messenger cometh, shut the door, and hold him fast at the door: is not the sound of his master's feet behind him?
And while he yet talked with them, behold, the messenger came down unto him: and he said, Behold, this evil is of the LORD; what should I wait for the LORD any longer?