Ryan Olsen: Eyes to See
2 Kings 6:14-18
Good morning Chapel. Nice to see you this morning. Actually I know this is going to come as a surprise but I can’t see you. All I have is the smiling face of our fantastic tech guy Brandon. But because I know that you can hear my words, that you can see my face, I feel different than if it were just Brandon and I that are having a conversation. If it were just us, I would probably stand closer to him, maybe not have a spotlight on me, and I probably wouldn’t be slightly nervous. But that’s not the case. There is more going on than what is seen. In reality you are part of this story this morning. And because I am aware that you are out there, and that I have the privilege of using my words to talk about scripture, I know that God is in it. And because I know that God is in this, despite what I can see, everything changes. So today we are going to look at an epic scene in scripture where there is a lot more going on that what is initially seen. For that let’s go to 2nd Kings Chapter 6. Here is the set up.
So Syria and Israel were in a War. The Syrian king told his servants where he would set up camp to ambush the Israelites. But God revealed the location to Elisha the prophet who told the king of Israel so Israel was able to avoid the path of the enemy. So this obviously upset the King of Syria who inquired and found out that it was Elisha that was messing up his plans. So he sent an order out to find where Elisha was which turns out to be a city called Dothan. Now let’s pick up in verse 14.
“14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” so he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha.”
So in verse 15 we have the servant who wakes up in the morning, wipes his eyes, and before he takes his first sip of coffee, looks out the window and can see clear as day that they are surrounded. There is no question about that. There is no question about the severity of the situation. Based on everything that is seen, there is no way out. And in situations like that he can only do one thing. Ask his master. Point 1: Ask your master. If you are like me you are a problem solver. A fix-it-master if you will. A couple months back this fix-it-master started a small and brief fire in his kid’s bedroom ceiling attempting to fix very old faulty wiring. So this master did what needed to be done. I humbled myself and called …my father. Luckily for this message my Dad does happen to be the guy I call who can fix everything so the sermon parallel is obvious. When things get hard, tragic, stressful, overwhelming, daunting, or dangerous, who are you calling out to? Are you calling your heavenly father? And when you reach out, are you asking the questions that demonstrate you don’t have the answers, but are excited to be connected to the one who does?
“Master, what shall we do?” Perfect question. Now here is the important part. Make sure you are actually seeking an answer. God what is up with this Pandemic? God why can’t I kick this habit? God I know that the world has issues, but why are my issues so much bigger? God why can’t he see that it’s all his fault? God what’s up this this country? God are you there?” We live in a world that loves to question God, loves to question believers, but seems to desire very little to listen to an answer. We instead ask questions to vent, complain, or engage an audience that validates our way of thinking. The truth is that pride tries hard to keep us from truly humbling ourselves and listening for an answer because after all, we know best. And if we do actually stick around long enough to hear an answer, we are very quick to dismiss it if it doesn’t align perfectly with our line of thinking.
But think about it. What if the servant asked his master the question, but was off attempting to tunnel under the city, or make a disguise, or write his surrender speech before the Master returned a response. That would show a lack of trust, lack of devotion, and a lack of patience. Wait for an answer recognizing that it may not come when we want, how we want, or through the person we thought it would come through, but if you listen with ears pointed to the only one who can answer the big questions…He will.
This is worth stating as well. Please ask questions. The enemy is most effective when people don’t ask questions and simply drift through life. Don’t drift. Ask. The truth of the Gospel and the love of our God can stand up to any question. The important thing is then…you have to listen.
Point 2: Hearing the answer. I am in the fun phase of life where most of my day is spent answering fun kid questions. Which usually just lead to more questions. “Dad how tall can Tsunamis get?” “Dad can we fly in Heaven?” “Dad where does this piece go?” We are in a puzzle phase. And I love that my kids wait to hear my answer. The answer the servant receives is such a cool response, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” but I have to imagine a dumbfounded look in his eyes as he pondered the answer.
Two things probably went through his mind. 1) Comfort. Despite the clear danger there is more than meets the eye. God has got them. It brings me great joy whenever I can see a sense of comfort come over someone whenever I point them to God. The World needs His comfort and we, just like Elisha, can point them there. But the 2nd thing that probably went through the servants mind was doubt. If doubt had not been present, hearing the answer would have been just fine. Elisha wouldn’t need to do more. But with a bold claim that there are more fighters for God than fighters for the enemy when only the enemy can be seen, something else was required.
I believe that doubting God is an OK place to start as long as we don’t stay there, because He is absolutely trying to show us something. Maybe you have been a person of doubt for a while and if that is the case I am excited, because today may be the day that you see something you haven’t before. Maybe you have zero doubt in the good news of the Gospel, the love of God, and the hope for this world. For you, I would say that there is someone around you that is full of doubt, but would actually love to have what you have. They need to hear the words that God is fighting for them. They need to hear that they are loved. Maybe God would have these words come from your lips. Will you be that person and accept that challenge, knowing that it is all God that will take it from there. It is God who will enable them to see.
So Elisha waits maybe a second maybe a minute, before he prays and asks God to do something supernatural for his friend. Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” Let’s not overlook the fact that prayer was involved. If we are seeking to point others to God, or for eyes of our loved ones to be opened, covering that request in prayer is a key activity.
Then it happens. Let’s read this verse again “So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” In all of the scenes in all of history this has to be one of the most epic. To see the Army of God poised to attack the enemy and protect the faithful.
Point 3: Seeing the answer: Everything changes when the answer we hear is seen with our own eyes. Instantly several things happen. 1) Confusion is gone. Have you ever watched a movie that when the end is revealed it changes your perspective of everything else you just watched? Movies like Shutter Island, the Sixth Sense or go old school and think about Citizen Kane. A lot of confusing things happen, but in the end it all makes sense. They are really cool to re-watch because you view everything completely different. This time there was no confusion. When we truly see God, we can look back at the events of our life and see that in fact God was in them, using them, holding you, protecting you, and building your story. Maybe not the path you would have chosen, but a path that God was on with you nonetheless.
2) Fear is gone. The circumstances are not as bleak as initially thought because we know that we are on the side of the winning team. Throughout Scripture we hear God say ‘do not fear’. Are you walking through life believing these words? Can you read them, say them, tell others them, but still you fear? What would it take to have you truly believe that ‘fear’ is simply not needed when you are in God’s family? And what would it look like for you this week to live no longer afraid?
3) Confidence is gained. When we get a glimpse of what our Great God can do, we become confident that he can do it again. Since as we read ‘those that are with us are greater than those that are with them’ we have a new kind of confidence because we are never actually alone. Probably worth mentioning that we need to have discernment with our confidence. For example if you were intending to pursue a path that doesn’t align with God, you shouldn’t be confident that God with take care of you. If you are in a dating relationship that does not honor God for example, being confident that God will bring it forward to a beautiful marriage, may be unwise.
4) Lastly devotion is gained. “A God that can do that, that’s a God I will follow.” So how about you? Can you confidently proclaim that you are following that great God and His power is at work in and around you on a daily basis…. or is there hesitation, reservation, or disbelief?
Who of you had this thought? “But Ryan of course he was willing to follow God! Look what he saw! I would be confident and devoted if I saw flaming chariots too!” So can we lead a life completely devoted to God, Confident in Him, Fearing him, all with great clarity WITHOUT seeing flaming chariots? I submit that the answer is yes. And we get there by starting with…seeking. Just like the servant did when he sought after his master, it says in Jeremiah 29:13 “you will seek me and find me when you seek me with all of your heart.” Let me put it blunt. If you are not seeking, you are not finding.
I personally don’t know how a solar panel changes the suns energy into electricity, I don’t know who invented the electric tooth brush, and I apparently don’t know what the right combination of bait, timing, and equipment is to catch a fish at Lake Hopatcong. But I do know that fish are caught, the toothbrush does exist, and solar is an effective alternative energy source. Here’s the point. My lack of knowledge in these areas doesn’t change the fact that they exist. They absolutely exist and should I be interested in finding the truth about them, understanding them, and seeing them I absolutely can, but it is unlikely to happen by accident. I need to seek if I want to find.
Luckily for me my lack of knowledge in these areas and plenty of others, doesn’t really matter and so I choose not to seek those specific answers. But lack of knowing if there a God, Why he created man, and specifically in this case, is He for me, is way too important to not know. “There is no greater discovery than seeing God as the author of your destiny”- Ravi Zacharias. Today let’s pursue him with all of our heart because we have a God who is very interested in being known, being seen, and leading you down a path of an amazing life.
So how do we see Him? I see numerous areas in which God makes himself visible to us. Let’s talk about some.
First through nature. A view of the Grand Canyon, walk along the shoreline, or for me skiing above the tree line in park city Utah I can feel the presence of the creator as I see and experience the work of his hands.
Similarly we can see God through Science. Contrary to the belief of many, science actually affirms intelligent design as opposed to a universe formed out of randomness. The laws of physics, the composition of the atmosphere, or the amino acids required for human life all point to a designer.
God Also makes himself visible though His Word. It should not be a surprise that here you can get a beautiful picture who He is, His deep and unending love for us, and His plan for redemption of the human race through Christ. Which brings me to Christ. In the person of Jesus, God becomes visible. Not far off Chariots in the clouds, but near, and human, and perfect, and fleshy, and holy, and loving. Now we are getting somewhere. I spend a lot of time thinking about Jesus. He changed everything, and the more I think about him, the more I want to know him. And then I want to know him even more.
And so I picture myself in the scenes of the scriptures. I picture me in the boats when Jesus calmed the storm. I can see the fear in my brothers’ eyes, I can see the towering waves, and then I can see a steady hand and soft words that ended the turmoil. I can see myself in the crowd watching the many miracles that He performs. I can see Him love like no one ever. As the good Shepard who lays down his life for his sheep. Then I can see me denying Him 3 times. I’m even in the crowd yelling ‘crucify Him’. Then I see me watching him die realizing it was all because of me, but at the same time it was all for me. Then I picture myself here. This is where I belong. And I pause and I just stay here. I’m not sure there is a scene in scripture that I have thought about more than being at the cross. As my savior died, it is there that I see myself come alive. I love the lyrics to the song wonderful cross that says: “Oh the wonderful Cross Bids me come and die and find that I may truly live. Love so amazing, so divine Demands my soul, my life, my all.”
BUT, it doesn’t stop there. In Gods perfect plan, he knew that for the minds of those all throughout history to capture the image of Jesus on their hearts, more is needed. Not just a story. Not just a verse. And not even Jesus Himself. For those of you who are thinking that you would have more faith and power if you just saw Him, think of all of the disciples. They saw him and went back to their day jobs after Jesus went to the cross. The real power came afterward. Remember Jesus said In John 16:7 “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” They actually saw God better AFTER Jesus had left because of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of the Lord is what opens our eyes to see, opens our minds to understand, and opens our ears to hear. Simply put, we get to see, because He gives us sight. The Holy Spirit burning Gods love into my soul is my fiery chariot. Will you open your heart to him that you may see all of God’s wonder that he has in store for you.
So we can see God though his creation and Science. We can see God though his Word and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Lastly we see God through others. Maybe it’s the giggle of a child, the embrace of a loved one, or a special conversation with a friend, that we see God leaving His finger prints. I sing ‘Jesus loves me’ to my girls every night and no matter what happened that day or will happen after they are in bed, time seems to pause as God enters the room and we are all present, smiling, and singing.
And while I am convinced that God is in these moments, I believe there is another moment with People that That God uses to open the eyes of his children with even more amazing clarity. And that is moments with the broken. Moments with the hurting. Moments with the marginalized. Moments with the widows and orphans. Do you want to see Jesus? Volunteer at Night to Shine. Do you want to see Jesus? Hug someone who spends most of their time sleeping on a park bench. Do you want to see Jesus? Love someone that no one else seems to. Do you want to see Jesus? Leave your house and visit the Vietnam vet whose children have all moved away. Notice the needy. A women’s tire blew out in front of me in rush hour on rt 80 not too long ago. God tugged at my heart, so I stopped changed her tire, then I offered to pray with her which she accepted. 15 minutes earlier I was listening to music excited to get home after a hard day, but here I was with my hand on the shoulder of a complete stranger praying the hope of Christ into her life on the shoulder of a highway. I didn’t see that coming. If we ask our master “what shall we do” with our life, he will show us things that we didn’t expect.
Out of all of the ways that we can see Jesus that I just discussed, I saved the broken people one for last because it is here where Jesus spends his time. Max Lucado says it well: “Jesus lives in the forgotten. He has taken up residence in the ignored. He has made a mansion amidst the ill. If we want to see God we must go among the broken and beaten and there we will see him.”
So where is your clarity when it comes to seeing God? Maybe like the servant, God has burned images into your heart and mind that you can close your eyes and see him like a family member. Maybe you are not quite there yet which is OK. When Jesus restored the sight of the blind man in Mark chapter 8 we read that “..He had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?" 24He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around." 25Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
It’s comforting that receiving Godly eyes to see is sometimes a process. So if you are not there yet, recognize that Jesus is still at work. Notice the clues that he gives. Follow the trail of bread crumbs. Begin to see a world through the voice of scripture and community of believers and allow your eyes to open. And when they do …everything changes.
This brings us to our last point that seeing God’s protection changes everything. Our account of the servant ends here, but I like to imagine what his life was like from that moment forward. I can see him a couple weeks later hanging out with other servants when he hears, “Man, I’m scared the way life is going now.” The servant smiles and he hears another person say, “I know right! So much uncertainty and craziness. I’m only doing OK.” Now he wants to say something, but just then he hears from one last servant in this club that they have, “I know God is good and all, but this is just too much.” Elisha’s servant now erupts. “You guys have no idea! Our God is so much bigger, greater, and more awesome, than anything ever! We are so protected. We are so much better than just OK. We have a father that will fight for us, help us, hold us, cure us, and care for us. Don’t you see! I saw! I hope you see too!”
For us, seeing God could have a lasting impact just like it did for the servant. We will see our weaknesses not as problems but as opportunities to glorify God. The Apostle Paul had a weakness, but then heard “my grace is sufficient?” We will see our time as a gift to be used rather than to waste. We will see a world that doesn’t need a unifying president nearly as much as it needs a saving king. And when we have that thought and look to the hills and see that Holy Army, we get excited to not sit back and watch, but rather be part of something that God is fighting for.
Maybe it’s on the front lines sharing Christ with the nurse in the doctor’s office drained from this whole pandemic situation. Maybe it’s serving as a scout who has seen the schemes of the enemy in their own life that they offer their life-giving testimony to a high school student so they don’t end up walking that same broken road. Maybe you will serve as air support who does not get too close to the danger, but from above drops an assault of passionate prayer and intercession for those in the fight, for the suffering, and for the lost. Maybe some of you will serve as the medic picking up the wounded. You will look into the eyes of mom who lost her husband, be an ear to the teenager whose dad is never around, or be a shoulder to cry on for the young mom struggling with a special needs child. You will be used to the tears knowing that you are protected by the one who promises to wipe them away.
Maybe some of us will dare to go behind enemy lines, into battle, protected by the flaming chariots, the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and the breast plate of righteousness. From here you will stand up for the weak and marginalized amidst opposition. From here you will confront your so called friend who is slipping into lifestyle patterns that lead away from the creator. From here you will show grace and compassion to your neighbor who has just had an abortion. From here you will speak truth in a world of lies. From here you will show generosity in a world of selfishness. And you can do all of this through Him who gives you strength.
With eyes open to what Jesus sees, your life finally begins. You will become joy-filled children of God who are full of light and life and ready to be used. You can take risks because you know he has you. You can fall down because you know that he pics you up.
In the last verse of our passage today Elisha prays that the enemies of Israel will be struck with blindness. Do you know what that blindness did? I’ll let you read it for homework, but basically it made them ineffective at carrying out their mission. One of my fears in life is that I will be ineffective in carrying out my mission. As followers of Christ, we have a mission. If you need clarity on what that could look like for you, loving God, loving people, and serving the world is a good place to start. It would be a tragedy if the body of Christ was too blind to make that happen.
Let’s not miss even another day to see the world that way God wants us to see it. It’s time to...Ask….Hear…See…and never be the same again.