Scripture describes it as attempted guerilla warfare. Ben-hadad tried to carry out a series of assaults against the citizens of Israel (2 Kings 6:8). “Tried” is the operative word, because every time the king of Syria sent out a war party in ambush, he found enemy troops inexplicably guarding the camp he had intended to capture (vv. 8-10). The inspired text says this happened “not just once or twice” (NKJV), but that Ben-hadad’s plans were foiled repeatedly.
The monarch came to the conclusion that there was either (a) a spy, or at the very least, (b) an intelligence leak within his own war cabinet. Somebody was obviously “feeding” Jehoram — his Israelite counterpart — information, so he summoned his military counsel together in an effort to expose the traitor (vv. 11-12). Ben-hadad inquired, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” (v. 11b).
As it turned out, no one from Syria had disclosed the king’s plans. The informant was actually Elisha — the prophet from Israel — in HIS Majesty’s secret service. Like a character from a James Bond movie, the man of God had a divine “surveillance camera” (cf. Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; Zechariah 4:10) in the king’s bedchamber and was therefore privy to his most secret conversations (v. 12). Every strategy concocted within Ben-hadad’s heart was revealed to Elisha by God who, in turn, conveyed such to the Israelite king in Samaria.
Armed with this new information, Ben-hadad turned his attention away from attacking a nation to capturing an individual (v. 13). Think of a deck of 52 playing cards, not with photographs of various high-ranking Iraqi officials, but with Elisha’s face on every single card! The Syrian ruler sent a large force to surround the city of Dothan under the cover of darkness (a village about 12 Roman miles north of Samaria — cf. Genesis 37:17) and apprehend Elisha (vv. 14-15).
Early the next morning, Elisha’s servant awakened and discovered the Syrians entrenched about the city (v. 15). He seemed to have known that the soldiers had come for his lord and cried out in fear, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” (cf. Exodus 14:10-14). Like American forces searching for Saddam Hussein, the army had located the great prophet and was under orders to take him prisoner (v. 14).
Elisha knew that a very great danger existed, but he also knew something of the militia arrayed in his defense. He calmly told his servant, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). That may have sounded reassuring, but at that particular moment, no allied troops could be seen in the vicinity. Elisha then prayed that his servant’s eyes might be opened (v. 17). The prophet’s prayer was immediately answered, and suddenly his aide beheld a massive, heavenly detachment of horses and chariots of fire (v. 17b; cf. Exodus 3:2; Numbers 22:22-31)! This was a vision of deliverance!
Consider for a moment the servant’s pitiful cry, “Alas … what shall we do?” You can almost hear the alarm in his voice, can’t you? He could only see an imminent attack; he could only see the problem. Brethren, we must strenuously guard against a similar mentality in the church today. Despondency sees only the multitude amassed against us, and fails to consider the Divine host that is marshaled on our behalf. The Bible says, “… If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b). Do we really believe that …?
Our problem is in the perception of the physical instead of the sight of the spiritual. It’s not that we lack sufficient funds, or manpower, or space, but VISION! We need to stop thinking about what we can’t do and get a glimpse of what God can do through us (Philippians 4:13)! The New Testament teaches, “While we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are NOT seen …” (2 Corinthians 4:18a; emphasis mine?mb). “For we walk by faith, NOT by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7; emphasis mine, mb).
Years ago, a grade-school class was told to go home and count the stars in the sky as part of their science lesson. Students came back with wildly dissimilar answers. One child said, “A couple of hundred,” another said, “Ten thousand,” while yet another offered, “One million.” Finally, the teacher asked one little boy who had not yet spoken up. “How many stars did you count?” she inquired. The boy replied, “Three.” “Only three?!” the teacher exclaimed. “How did you only see three?” He said, “I guess we just have a small backyard.”
Beloved, let me humbly, but forcefully suggest that we need a big backyard today; we need a great vision — one that is worthy of the “King of kings and Lord of lords”!! I’m not thinking in terms of some miraculous manifestation (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10; Ephesians 4:11-13); I’m talking about faith and focus. The eye of faith sees Divine presence, whereas the eye of fear sees desperate problems. God is on our side and He’s never lost a single battle! Amen?! Once we come to terms with that truth, we’ll stop wringing our hands in doubt and start using them in fervent and devoted service (Hebrews 12:2).