One of the things that God is always trying to tell us is how much we are unable to see. In particular, we have looking at the nation of Israel in the books of 1 & 2 Kings and we have observed how Israel is unable to properly see God and their relationship with him. Elijah and Elisha have been sent to help the people but they have been rejected even though they are teaching and performing the miracles of God. In 2 Kings 6 we encounter another miracle that seems mundane and strange. We have noted in our study of Elisha that many of his miracles seem to fall into this category of strange and mundane until we look a little closer and see the meaning behind the miracle. No miracle is done for the sake of doing a miracle. Every miracle portrays an important spiritual message. This is also the case in 2 Kings 6.
Axe Head Floats (6:1-7)
Elisha is with his company of prophets and the prophets observe that they need to build a bigger place to stay because of their growing number. So they go to the Jordan River to collect logs to build a large place for the prophets. As they are cutting down some trees to build a new place for the company of the prophets to live, one was cutting a tree and his axe head fell into the water. Now he is really upset because the axe was borrowed. So he tells Elisha what happened. Elisha goes to the point in the river where the axe head fell in, cut a piece of wood, threw it into the water and made the ax head float. The man then takes the axe head out of the water. Is this some silly magic trick? It certainly seems mundane and insignificant. Why does Elisha perform this miracle? Why is this miracle recorded for us? What could possibly be the importance of this act?
We need to understand the world in which this happens. Iron was expensive in ancient Near Eastern times and this would have been a great loss. This would have put the prophet in debt to the one from whom he borrowed this axe. But there is something more going on than simply saving this prophet from going into debt over the lost axe head.
You might recall that Elisha has been doing a number of miracles with the water. In 2 Kings 2:21 Elisha healed the waters of Jericho. This was a picture of the healing and the reversing of the curse God was offering to Israel. In 2 Kings 4:41 Elisha removes the death from the pot of stew that was poisonous. This also was a picture of the healing and reversal that God was offering to Israel. In 2 Kings 5 we saw the instruction for Naaman to dip himself in the Jordan River seven times for cleansing and healing. So here we are at another water scene where the axe head sinks into the water. It is a picture of debt and loss. But Elisha raises up the axe head and restores it to the prophet. Yet again Elisha is reversing the condition. Yet again Elisha is showing a picture of restoration. It is a continuing symbol for Israel’s future. You can be healed. You can be cleansed. Your condition can be reversed. You can be restored. It is not too late.
Eyes To See (6:8-23)
Now hold this message in your mind because it directly connects to the events that are recorded next. In verse 8 we are told about another time when the king of Syria was attacking Israel. So the Syrians are planning another attack. But Elisha sends a message to the king of Israel, warning him that this would be the place where the Syrians would set up camp for attack (6:9). Look at verse 10. Elisha did this many times. Elisha used to warn the king of Israel more than a couple of times about the Syrian attack. Now this should be surprising to us. We were told in chapter 5 that God was with the Syrians as they attacked Israel. Clearly this is communicating to us that this attacks are God’s judgments for Israel’s wickedness and rejection of God. We still have a son of Ahab on the throne and the nation is worthy of judgment for its rejection of God’s servants, Elijah and Elisha.
This becomes a problem for the king of Syria. Since the Israelite armies keep knowing where the Syrian camps are, the king of Syria thinks that he must have a spy in his midst. Someone is giving Israel this critical military information (6:11). But one of the servants tells the king that it is not that they have a spy. Rather, Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in secret in your bedroom (6:12). How amazing that one of the servants of Syria understands the real problem! This servant understands that there is a prophet in Israel who is doing this. The king of Syria’s response to this is that they need to seize Elisha.
So the king of Syria sends horses, chariots, and a great army and surround the city where Elisha is staying (6:14). This says a lot about the power of Syria as they are able to coming into Israel’s territory and easily surround this city where Elisha is at. But also consider the irony that the king of Syria thinks that he can capture the prophet who knows that the he is planning in his own bedroom. When the servant of the man of God wakes up, he looks out and sees that the Syrian army has surrounded the city with horses and chariots. It looks like they are doomed. So the servant asks Elisha, “What shall we do?” Look at Elisha’s answer in verse 16. “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.”
Now think about how impossible this sounds. This town in Israel is surrounded by the powerful Syrian army. There is no escape. But the answer is that there is no need to be afraid. There is more with us than with them. Then Elisha prays that the Lord would open his servants eyes to see. So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant and he saw a mountain full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (6:17). Then as the Syrians came down toward Elisha, Elisha prays for the Lord to blind the Syrian army. So the Lord strikes them with blindness.
But what happens next might be the most surprising of the whole event. Elisha leads this blind army to Samaria, the capital of Israel. Once they are brought to Samaria, the Lord opens their eyes and they see that they are in the middle of the capital city. The king of Israel asks Elisha if they should strike down and kill this Syrian army. You would think that this was going to be the result. But look at what Elisha says in verse 22. We are not going to kill them. Set food and water in front of them so that they can eat and drink and go back to their master. So the king of Israel prepared a great feast for this Syrian army. They ate and drank and were sent away back to their master. So the Syrians no longer came on raids into the land of Israel. What just happened and what was God teaching?
Can You See?
There are three things God wants us to see. First, God wants us to see the unseen protection of God. You have to love how Elisha calms his servant in verse 16. “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” God is always telling us that we do not need to be afraid. God is always telling us that he will never leave us or forsake us. God wants us to see that those who are with us are more than those with them. Why is Elisha not going to panic? Because those who are with him are more than those who are with them. God wants us our eyes opened to see that we have come to innumerable angels in festal gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus (Hebrews 12:22-24). Our faith will overpower our fears when we see the unseen. We cannot see what we have and therefore must walk by faith and not by sight.
Second, God wants us to see that peace is given to those who eyes are opened. A great feast is given to those whose eyes are opened. This is an amazing picture that these Gentiles, who are enemies of Israel, have a feast prepared for them by the king of Israel. Jesus told many parable depicting the realization of this prophetic picture. For example, Jesus told a parable about a great feast in which those of the invited Israel made excuses on why they would not come to enjoy the great banquet. So the master of the feast told his servants to go out those in the streets and the alleys to bring in the poor, maimed, blind, and lame. They were even instructed to go to the highways and hedges so that the house may be full (Luke 14:15-24). So here it is in 2 Kings 6 where the king of Israel is giving a great feast to those who are enemies of Israel but now their eyes are opened. They now are changed. They were blind but now they see and, as such, never fight against Israel again.
So how are we going to have this kind of sight that enjoys the peace God offers and sees that there are more with us than against us? Finally, God wants us to understand that he is in the business of blinding those who think they see and giving sight to those who know they are blind. Jesus said that this was the very work he was accomplishing. The context of our reading is that the disciples come to Jesus wanting to know why Jesus speaks to the crowds in parables. This was Jesus’ answer.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them. (Matthew 13:13–15 ESV)
Jesus is teaching in a way so that the blind would see and those who are seeing will not see or understand. Jesus specifically said that this was the condition that afflicted the religious leaders in his day.
Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.” (John 9:40–41 ESV)
Do we see what is happening? Elisha is repeatedly warning the king of Israel about the Syrian encampments, trying to get this king to see. Even though he is the son of Ahab and he walked in the ways of his father, God is continuing his work to get Israel to see. Elisha’s miracles are to get people to see that God has come to offer restoration and reversal of their condition if they would submit to the Lord. In fact, Elisha is even showing that God is even working to get the Gentiles to see. Even though they are blind, bring them into the feast and let them see what God is doing. Paul had the same prayer for you.
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. (Ephesians 1:17–19 NRSV)
As you come to know the Lord the eyes of your hearts will be enlightened. You will have spiritual sight and know the hope to which you have been called. You will know the riches of his glorious inheritance. You will know the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe. You will only see as you come to know the Lord. You will only see when you see what God is doing in your life.
But here is the problem. Everyone thinks they see. This is kind of the problem in our culture right now. No one is humble enough to listen to anyone else. I know I see and I am not going to listen to anything different than that. But we are truly blind when we think like this. If no one can come into your life and tell you about your blindness, then you are blind. If all that you see is the blindness of others but not your own, then you are blind. God’s offer is for everyone to see. But if you think you see without him, you do not see at all. Friends, we should not be surprised or upset when people who cannot see think you are crazy. Stop arguing on social media on what you see. They are not going to see because of your cute memes and cliche statements. They will only see when God opens their eyes. Only God can open the eyes in people’s hearts. Only God has the power to open dark hearts. So do not be surprised when they cannot see and arguing with that is not going to go anywhere.
Rather, we need to spend our time receiving the spirit of wisdom and revelation as we come to know the Lord so that our eyes will be opened. Do you see the feast that God has put in front of you to enjoy? Do you see the hope to which he called you? Do you see the riches of his glorious inheritance? Do you see the immeasurable greatness of his power for us? Are you looking for the power of God in your life as you come to know him further? God is here and available to you if you will come to him and receive the sight that he wants you to have. Come to know God and enjoy a faith that stands above our fears.