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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Outnumbered
Text:2 Kings 6:8-23 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Amazing Purpose
 
Preached:2017/04/02
Added:2017-04-26
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Outnumbered”
2 Kings 6:8-23
 
“Leaks” have dominated our news. Information that is thought to be secure is somehow leaked to the press. As a result, information that should be kept for intelligence officials, often regarding the security of our nation, is leaked out so that everybody knows what should have been known only by those with security passes.
 
Ben-Hadad, the King of Syria (also known as Aram) faced a similar situation, but on a much larger scale. The Syrians were at war with Israel. Many believe that the main purpose of the war was to capture King Joram of Israel. We have an indication of that in verse 9-10: The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Syrians are going down there.” So the king of Israel checked on the place indicated by the man of God. Time and again Elisha warned the king, so that he was on his guard in such places.
 
In an effort to capture King Joram, the Syrians set up many different ambushes, but because Elisha warned King Joram where the ambushes were, the Syrians were frustrated each time. According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, the ambushes were enough to curtail Joram’s hunting expeditions. The Syrian ambushes cramped his lifestyle, but they did not lead to his capture because of Elisha’s many warnings.
 
Needless to say, the King of Syria – Aram – was furious. Verse 11: This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” - He was sure that he was up against someone like, Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks. He figured there must be someone in his administration who was an extremely effective spy for the Israelites.
 
But one of his officers knew what was going on. In answer to the king’s heated question, the officer replied in verse 12, “None of us, my lord the king, but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.”
 
Man Proposes, God Disposes
 
As Ben-Hadad, the King of Syria, gave the order in verse 13, “Go, find out where he is, so I can send men and capture him,” we see a truth that is recorded many times over in Scripture, namely, that often what man proposes, God disposes.
 
Can you picture the strategy that was employed by Ben Hadad? He finally knew the source of his “political leaks”! Once he captured Elisha, it would put an end to his frustration. By capturing Elisha the door would be wide open to capture King Joram. Once he had the king of Israel captured, he could take over the whole nation.
 
With that in mind, we can picture the intensity with which he sent horses and chariots to Dothan where Elisha was. Verse 14 tells us that they went by night and surrounded the city. Ben Hadad had planned everything out so well. He must have been exuberant in his expectation of certain victory!
 
Who would have imagined the turn of events? As the forces of Ben Had came toward Elisha, verse 18 describes how Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.
 
Many commentators believe that the blindness was on the order of confusion and not a literal blindness. And there is some indication of that in the use of the Hebrew word for blindness. But no matter how that confusion or blindness affected the Syrian soldiers, the result was that they were led to Samaria. Elisha said to them, in verse 19, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.”
 
And he brought them to king Joram who was the exact man they were looking for! But imagine their surprise and their fear when they opened their eyes and they looked and there they were inside Samaria! Instead of them taking the king of Israel captive, the king of Israel had them as captives!
 
It is one more reminder that God is sovereign. It is one more example of how God is able to take the schemes of men and turn them around upon them. Although man proposes, God often disposes. In his heart, declares Proverbs 16:9, a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.
 
That verse is of great comfort to those of us who believe in the Lord. We find great comfort in knowing that the Lord will lead and guide us according to his will. Even when our plans do not work out, and we feel remorse because of that, we also have great comfort in knowing that the Lord determines our steps and that we are walking with him, trusting him to lead us according to his perfect will. But for the unbeliever, there is painful frustration, if not in this life, then in the eternity yet to be revealed, as God turns the evil that people plan against them to bring judgment upon them.
 
The Greater Force
 
Another truth of great comfort in this passage is that God’s angelic forces are far greater than any human army. Verse 15 describes the fear of Elisha’s servant as he went out the next morning and saw that the Syrian army with all their horses and chariots had surrounded the city of Dothan. He cried out to Elisha “Oh, my Lord, what shall we do?”
 
From his point of view, they were as good as dead men. The Syrians had surrounded them; there was no way of escape. Would the Syrians perhaps keep them in captivity and try to get Elisha to reveal to them where the forces of Israel were camped? And if Elisha refused to do that, which the servant probably figured he would refuse, then what would happen? Then would come the death sentence, perhaps delayed by a time of torture. The Syrians were known for their brutality. The servant was understandably terrified.
 
By contrast, Elisha was as calm as anyone could be. When his servant exclaimed, “What shall we do?” Elisha replied, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
 
The servant must have been in great perplexity. There were two of them and they were surrounded on every side by the Syrian army.  How could it be possible that those who were with the servant and Elisha were more than those in the Syrian army?
 
But in verse 17 Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
 
What he saw was the angelic force of Almighty God. But the servant was not the only one surrounded by the angelic army of God. Angels surround us, just as they surrounded the forces of Syria and surrounded Elisha and his servant. But we fail to recognize God’s angels. We know from Scripture that angels are present with us always. Some have even entertained angels without being aware that they have done so, Hebrews 13:2 tells us.
 
But Elisha had no doubt that the angelic force was there. He understood that God’s army is far greater and more powerful than any human army. He understood the truth of what would later be written in Psalm 91:9-11: If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.  Elisha exemplified the truth of Psalm 20:7: Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
 
We often find ourselves in situations where we are overwhelmed. We are not overwhelmed with the hosts of the Syrian army, surrounding us on every side. But I’m sure that in your life, as in mine from time to time, we are surrounded by every type of problem imaginable, or so it seems.
 
We live in an increasingly hostile culture. The hostility is often directed toward Christianity. But no matter what happens with the circumstances of our lives, or in the hostility of the world, we can have that same peace that Elisha had. We can have that same peace because we know the truth of verse 16 “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
 
Blessed with Sight; Struck with Blindness
 
Another truth that we see in this passage is that it is the Lord who grants vision to many and strikes others with blindness, in both the physical and spiritual realm.
 
You may recall that when Moses was told to lead the people out of Egypt, he gave the Lord a number of excuses, including that he was not an eloquent speaker. This is the reply that the Lord gave to Moses in Exodus 4:11-12: The Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?”
 
But it is not just in the physical realm where God gives sight or allows blindness. It is not just in the physical realm where the Lord allows some to hear while others are deaf. The same is true spiritually. That is, in fact, why the Lord spoke in parables. In Matthew 13:10, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”
 
He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them…. 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.”  (Matthew 13:11, 13-15)
 
Jesus went on to explain that those who do not believe in him – the Jewish leaders of his day, but also all others who refuse to believe today, fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
 
But to his disciples Jesus said, “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” Just as God gives physical sight and the ability to hear, so also it is only by God’s grace, that we have spiritual sight – eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to respond in saving faith to the gospel message. It is given to us by God through the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit and the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Our salvation is all of God’s grace and none of our merit.
 
Spiritual Sight Alleviates Fear
 
As we picture the Syrian army being led by Elisha and his servant out of Dothan and into Samaria, we are reminded that those who trust in the Lord need not be afraid. We can be sure that the servant’s fear had now turned into amazement as the Syrian army followed them right into the presence of the king of Israel. Now the servant was realizing what Elisha had already realized, Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.
 
But it is not just the angelic forces of Almighty God that are with us; the Holy Spirit of God dwells within us. You recall how the apostle John put it in 1 John 4:4: ...You are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Or consider how the apostle Paul put it in Romans 8: If God is for us, who can be against us? ...We are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (31, 37)
 
The human experience involves fear. And no one understands that more clearly than our Lord. He lived on earth and experienced everything that we experience, and so much more. Of all people, he who is divine and yet truly human, knows the reality of fear while living in a hostile world.
 
Consequently, what was one of his most common greetings to the disciples – and to you and me in the timeless word of God?  One of his most common greetings is: “Fear not!”  No matter how frightening our circumstances, we need not fear. We all face circumstances that cause a surge of fear within us, yet in those times when fear could grip and cripple us, we do not need to be afraid. We are surrounded by an angelic force. We are surrounded, (as we read in our responsive reading from Psalm 125), by the Lord himself: As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people, from this time forth and forevermore. (Psalm 125:2)
 
No wonder the Lord greeted his disciples with the words, “Fear not!” We are surrounded by the protective providence of our faithful God, and have within us the Holy Spirit of God, and he who is in you is far greater than he who is in the world.
 
The author of Hebrews knew the full brunt of persecution; he wrote in the first century when Christians endured great hardship for their faith. Yet he encouraged his readers, and encourages us with these words in Hebrews 13:5-6, God has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say,
 
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
 
The Spiritually Blind Cannot Perceive
 
Not only do we see in the passage that we need not fear the hostility all around us, but we also see that the wicked have no conception of the Lord’s ways. In verse 21 we read how when the king of Israel saw them (the Syrian army), he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?
 
This is the same king whom we read about back in 2 Kings 3. You may recall that he was the one who blamed the Lord for their situation as he and two other kings, with their armies, were stranded in the desert. As a last resort they called upon Elisha, and King Joram had nothing kind to say to him.
 
But now that Elisha was leading the whole host of the Syrian army into his presence, King Joram greets him with honor. He calls him, “My father.” But the reason that he does so is that he figures this is his opportunity to kill the entire army. He has no conception of the ways of the Lord.
 
The Lord’s intent was not that the Syrian army would be wiped out and destroyed, but rather, that Elisha, through an act of great kindness would heap burning coals on their heads. That is, after all, what the apostle would write much later in history, in Romans 12:14-21:
 
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. … Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
 
To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
 
And that is, of course, what Jesus taught as well. Jesus taught us to express kindness and compassion, even to those who oppose us. In Matthew 5:43-44, he said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
 
And that is exactly what we find Elisha doing in this passage. He tells king Joram not to kill them. Instead he has food and water brought before them, and verse 23 tells us he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master.
 
He repaid their evil with kindness. As a result the passage concludes by telling us that the bands from Aram – from Syria – stopped raiding Israel’s territory. That is sometimes the case. Kindness can soften the hearts of those who oppose Christianity.
 
But that is not always the case. Jesus warned that those who oppose us will persecute us.  In John 15:18-20 he said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.  Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.”
 
But even in the face of persecution, in the face of ridicule and slander, we are to exhibit the kindness and compassion that the Lord has commanded us to show; we are to extend the same gracious attitude that Elisha extended to the Syrians in captivity. The passage in Romans 12 teaches that we are not to take vengeance but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
 
* * *
 
The king of Syria thought that he had a spy in his castle. He failed to realize that God is indeed omniscient, and there is nothing that can be hidden from him.
 
That is just one more reason for those of us who believe in him not to be afraid. We are never outnumbered by the enemy, no matter how strong and powerful they look. Instead, if your faith and mine is truly in the Lord Jesus Christ this evening, then we can take great comfort in knowing that those who are with us are more than those who are with them. Take comfort that he who is within you is greater than he who is in the world, and that if God is for us no one can stand against us. Through faith in Jesus Christ – even though we face the whole host of the devil, a force far more fearsome that Ben Hadad’s Syrian army – we are yet more than conquerors through him who has loved us and given himself for us. Amen.
 
- bulletin outline -
 
When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What
shall we do?” the servant asked.
 
“Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” – 2 Kings 6:15-16
 
“Outnumbered”
2 Kings 6:8-23
 
I.  As Syria (Aram) fought against Israel (8), Elisha warned King Joram where the Syrian troops were planting ambushes (9-12). The passage teaches:
     1) Although man proposes (13-14), God disposes (18-19; Proverbs 16:9)
 
 
 
 
     2) God’s angelic forces are far greater than any human army (15-17)
 
 
 
 
     3) It is the Lord who grants vision and blindness in both the physical and spiritual realm (17-18; Exodus 4:11-12; Matthew 13:13-16)
 
 
 
 
II. Applications:
     1) Those who trust in the Lord need not be afraid (16; Psalm 20:7; 1 John 4:4; Rom. 8:31,37)
 
 
 
 
     2) The wicked have no conception of the Lord’s ways (21)
 
 
 
 
     3) As Christians we are to express kindness and compassion, even to those who oppose us (22-23; Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:17-21). In this case,
         kindness to the Syrians ended the raids against Israel (23d), though that is not always – or even usually – the case (Matthew 24:9; John 15:18-20)
 
 
 
 



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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