Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 29: “He Took Up … the Mantle of Elijah”
 


How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 29: “He Took Up … the Mantle of Elijah”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 18, 2010

Although the title and purpose of this lesson in our current manual appears to make the sole point that Elisha took up the mantle of Elijah in both a literal and figurative sense, illustrating that one prophet succeeds another, the content of the lesson actually covers other incidents in Elisha’s ministry. Most of our old manuals include additional events. The lessons here come from Ezra C. Dalby’s Land and Leaders of Israel (Salt Lake City: Church Department of Education, 1930), a text used by the seminaries of the Church.

Elisha, the Man of God

Lesson Text: 1 Kings 19:19-21; 2 Kings 4:8-37.
Song.
Responsive Reading: Matt. 8:1-13.
Prayer by Student.
Memory Text: “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” – Luke 14:11.

The Message of the Lesson

A Woman’s Faith

It will be remembered that Elijah was instructed at Sinai to return and anoint Elisha as his successor. He found him plowing in the field; and as he passed by, he cast his mantle on him. Elisha immediately left his oxen and ran after Elijah, but asked permission to go back and kiss his father and mother goodbye, and then he would follow the prophet. Elijah answered: “Go back again: for what have I done to thee?” By that statement he did not mean to reprove Elisha, as some have supposed. He gave him full permission to return. Elijah had but cast his mantle over him, nothing more. This was a call, but Elisha himself must make the decision. So Elisha understood it. He returned and killed his oxen, boiled the flesh, and invited the people to a farewell feast. After that he bade goodbye to his parents and kinsmen and became a follower of Elijah, until the great prophet was taken from the earth. After that he took his master’s place.

The two men were very different in character and disposition. Elijah had no home. No family ties bound him to any particular place. He lived most of the time alone in some cave or other secluded spot, coming generally from no one knew where to deliver his message, and then vanishing again like lightning. Elisha, on the other hand, lived among the people, and he was the companion and friend not only of the lower classes, but of kings and rulers as well. He did not have as great a message as Elijah, nor did he have his predecessor’s zeal and moral earnestness. But it must not be supposed from this statement that he was weak or that he compromised with sin. Only his methods were different from those used by Elijah, and better adapted to the times in which he lived. However, it is no disparagement of the great work he accomplished to say that he did not leave the impress as a prophet on Israel that was left by Elijah.

A great many miracles are attributed to Elisha, some of which seemed to have no particular spiritual value, while others were very suggestive and faith-inspiring. One of the most noted is the raising from the dead of the Shunammite woman’s son. It illustrates in a striking manner the friendliness of Elisha, and the great faith of the stricken mother.

Shunem was a small village three miles north of Jezreel, on the slopes of Little Hermon. At this place lived a woman of wealth and influence, whose husband owned land surrounding their home. Shunem was also the home of the beautiful Abishag, the nurse of David’s old age. As he journeyed to and fro among the school of the prophets. Elisha often passed this way, and was entertained by the good woman and her husband. Finally, they built a little private chamber for the prophet on the flat roof of the house. They furnished it with a bed, a chair to sit on, a table, and a lamp. Here the weary prophet often found a simple and delightful resting place.

Elisha was grateful for the kindness with which they treated him, and was anxious to do something for them in return. He told his servant to call the woman. In deep humility she came and stood in his presence. Instead of speaking to her himself, he requested his servant Gehazi to thank her for all that she had done for them, and inquire if he should say a good word to the king for her. she replied with great dignity: “I dwell among mine own people.” By this she meant that she was quite content, and had no desire of any notice from the king. She had her husband, her home, and her daily work. This was sufficient. If this woman’s spirit should take hold of all people, what a blessing would be realized by every soul. It is covetousness that disturbs the world, and makes for sin and unhappiness everywhere. The king could not give this woman as much as he would take away from her. She had found her work and place; she was of some consequence where she was, and might be of no importance in another place.

Elisha was not satisfied, and he asked Gehazi what could be done for her. The servant, a keen observer, had discovered the sorrow of her life, and called attention to the fact that she had no child. “Call her,” said the prophet. She came back and stood in the door. “About this season, according to the time of life,” he said to her, “thou shalt embrace a son.” This unexpected promise filled her heart with joy. It seemed too good to be true. “nay, my lord, thou man of God,” she exclaimed, “do not lie unto thine handmaid.” But the prediction was fulfilled, and the Shunammite woman became the happy mother of a son.

Years passed, and the child grew old enough to go out with his father. One day as he played in the field, he had a sunstroke, and cried: “My head, my head!” The father, not realizing how serious it was, said to a lad: “Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken hin, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out.”

Many accounts of dying children have been written, but it is doubtful whether a more graphic account of a small boy’s death can be found anywhere, than is here set forth. Every parent who has lost a child can sense the dread and sting of death in every clause. We can feel in the brief but vivid description the terrible agony of the anxious mother as she waits with bated breath the outcome. And when the child is dead, she grimly carries her boy to the prophet’s room, closes the door on him, and walks away. Not a tear is shed, but a great resolve grips her soul. the prophet who promised her the child must give him back to her again.

The good woman of Shunem had lost her son, but she had not lost her faith. without even telling her husband that the child was dead, she asked him to send her one of the animals, for she must go to the man of God immediately. He mildly protested, but she brushed aside all his objections, and was on her way. The distance to Mount Carmel was sixteen miles, and she ordered her servant to drive the animal at full speed. “Slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee,” she said.

Elisha from his retreat on the hill saw her coming, and asked his servant to run and meet her and inquire if all was well with her husband and child. But she did not stop to talk with the servant; her business was with his master, and she hurried on until she reached Elisha, and flung herself at his feet. “Did I desire a son of my lord?” she asked; “did I not say, do not deceive me?” Elisha guessed the truth, and he immediately sent the servant to hasten and lay his staff upon the child. but the broken-hearted mother refused to leave Elisha, so the prophet arose and followed her. On the way, Gehazi met them with the news that the boy was still dead. The staff had been ineffective in restoring life. Elisha hurried on and found the child dead on his bed, as the servant had said. After earnest prayer, he stretched himself over the body of the child. soon it grew warm with returning life, and after pacing up and down the room, Elisha once more stretched himself over him. Then the boy opened his eyes and sneezed seven times. “Take up thy son,” he said to the overjoyed mother; and she fell at his feet in speechless gratitude.

We are impressed here with the supreme faith of this good woman. Death itself could not destroy her implicit trust in the power that Elisha had with God. She had the faith that removes mountains, and verified the great truth which was later stated by Jesus: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Every boy and girl should seek contact with a person who can inspire a faith in their lives such as Elisha gave to the Shunammite woman. Elisha asked if he should speak for her to the king. But how small was my favor that a king could bestow, compared with the priceless gift of faith which she received from the prophet. Surely, the woman selected wisely when she chose to remain among her own people and entertain a prophet, instead of seeking favors from the king and court.

Memory Gem

The Little Chamber

“Little chamber” built “upon the wall,”
With stool and table, candlestick and bed,
Where he might sit, or kneel, or la his head
At night or sultry noontide: this was all
A prophet’s need; but in that chamber small
What mighty prayers arose, what grace was shed;
What gifts were given, potent to wake the dead,
And from its viewless flight a soul recall!
And still what miracles of grace are wrought
In many a lonely chamber with shut door,
Where God our Father is in secret sought,
And shows himself in mercy more and more!
Dim upper rooms with God’s own glory shine,
And souls are lifted to the life divine.
– Richard Wilton.

Questions and Problems

1. Tell how Elisha was called to be a prophet.
2. Contrast the characters of Elijah and Elisha.
3. Which of these two prophets do you admire the more? Why?
4. How did Elisha come to visit at the Shunammite’s home?
5. What was done to entertain the prophet?
6. Give a description of the child’s death.
7. How did the woman get to Elisha, and what did she say to him?
8. How was the child restored?
9. What is a prophet? All prophets do not use the same methods in carrying out God’s will. Why? Give other examples.
10. What answer did the woman make to Elisha’s offer to speak to the king? Discuss.
11. Explain the failure of Gehazi in healing the child, when he literally carried out Elisha’s instructions. Several answers may be given.
12. How do you account for the fact that the servant saw what the woman longed for when the prophet did not?
13. How may we make application of this lesson in our lives?
14. Discuss the Memory Gem.

Suggestive Closing Prayer

Our Father in heaven, wilt thou create in us a spirit of contentment and joy in the work that we have been called to do. May we realize that all of us cannot attain fame and distinction. Help us to see that private soldiers are as necessary in the army that is fighting for righteousness, as are captains and generals. Give to us a desire to choose the simpler and more necessary work in thy kingdom. Among. the many who must labor in quiet and obscure duties, give to us a useful and happy part.

Naaman, the Leper

Lesson Text: 2 Kings 5:1-19.
song.
Responsive Reading: Luke 1:46-55.
Prayer by Student.
memory Text: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” – Revelations 3:20.

The Message of the Lesson

Pride Humbled

The kingdom of Syria joined Israel on the north, and the two nations were bitter enemies. Syria was particularly aggressive against the southern kingdom. Not only did they besiege the cities and carry away the property of Israel, but often they seized and made slaves of their children. On one occasion, a little girl was captured and sold to Naaman the commander-in-chief of the Syrian army. Naaman was a great man with his master. He was honorable and a mighty man of valor. But unfortunately he was a leper, and leprosy was one of the most dreadful diseases of those days. It was considered incurable, and meant a slow, lingering death.

It is evident that the great captain had won the affection of the little slave girl, for she said to his wife: “Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria! for he would recover him of his leprosy.” The Old Testament says so little about children, that we may be pardoned if we pause for a moment to discuss the act of this nameless child heroine. She seems to have harbored no grudge against her captors, who had sold her to strangers. She returned good for evil. Not content merely to do the work assigned her, she manifested an interest in the personal welfare of her master. This girl had the real missionary spirit. She was a pioneer in bringing a knowledge of the true God to foreign lands. Her example should inspire everyone to bring to the attention to others the healing power of Christ. Freely we have received, and freely we should give to others the good news of the kingdom of God. If this poor slave child could find an opportunity to bear witness to the power of God and his prophet, what could we not do for him, with all our social contacts? Every day there are openings for us to say a good word that may be the means of saving someone else.

The words of the girl were brought to the ears of the king, and he was struck with the suggestion. He determined to send a letter and a splendid royal gift to the king of Israel, with the request that he command such help as was necessary to heal Naaman. Nothing was said in the letter about the man of God, and the king thought that it was a pretext for a quarrel. He angrily exclaimed that he was not God, to kill and to make alive. It never occurred to him that Elisha might help him to solve the problem.

But the prophet heard of the object of Naaman’s visit, and took matters into his own hands. He told the king to send the Syrian captain to him. In response to this request, Naaman came to Elisha’s humble home, with his horses and chariots and servants, in all the splendor of a great ambassador. of course, he expected a royal reception. But Elisha did not even pay him the courtesy of coming out to meet him. He simply sent his servant to the great man with the message: “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.”

Such an insult! Naaman was accustomed to the homage of all the Syrian people, and he was enraged at such treatment. Why was he not received as a man of honor and distinction? Why come all this distance to wash in the muddy Jordan, when the clear rivers of his own land were at his service? Naaman was disgusted at such a commonplace prescription for the healing of his leprosy. A disease so deadly required heroic treatment. No simple dipping in water would effect a cure, and the Syrian chief started for home in great rage.

We blame Naaman for his outburst of anger, but we, too, dislike the commonplace. Men like the spectacular in life; they clamor for display and striking demonstrations of power. Jesus himself had to meet criticism on this account: “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Do we not know his brothers?” It was with such words that the Pharisees sought to discredit the Son of God. His advent was too commonplace to suit them.

This is a dangerous attitude. For the commonplace is the very essence of life. It is the material out of which our days are made. Then, too, the commonplace is god’s preparation for bigger things in life. Simple obedience to a command of God is the only path by which we can reach the heights of greatness. Christ’s whole teaching was based upon the commonplace. The least in his kingdom was the greatest.

Elisha meant no discourtesy; but Naaman was a proud man, and it was necessary for him to learn the lesson of humility. He had been accustomed to receive deference and respect from everyone. Now he must be made to realize that in God’s sight he had no occasion to be proud. He was only a poor frail mortal, in the grip of a deadly disease that was slowly eating his life away. This was what the prophet wanted him to see. Elisha wanted no honor himself. He was willing to be effaced from the picture completely, if only he could magnify the power of the God of Israel in the eyes of this haughty Syrian.

Had it not been for the affection and good judgment of his servants, Naaman would have returned home without being healed. But they said to him: “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” Could any advice have been more sensible? Naaman was wise enough to adopt it. he went down and washed in the Jordan river as Elisha had said, and the miracle happened – “His flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”

There was no more standing on his dignity after that. With joy and gratitude he returned to the man of God and asked for admittance into his presence. Humbly he made his confession: “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel: now therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing (i.e. a present) of thy servant.” That was the lesson that Elisha wanted him to learn, but he refused to receive any payment. he was no Balaam, accepting rewards for what God had done. Naaman must learn that the God of all the earth was a God of love, and that his prophets did not divine for money.

It was a wonderful revelation to the Syrian, and he was deeply impressed. his conception of God had always been that his favors could be purchased with money, but here was a man who had been instrumental in curing his loathsome disease, refusing to take a reward. Such self-denial, such disinterestedness was new to him, and he resolved to become a worshiper of the God of Israel. Henceforth he would offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice to other gods, “but unto the Lord.” He asked permission to receive two mules’ burden of earth wherewith to build an altar to Elisha’s God in Syria. His idea seems to have been that Jehovah was a local deity, and could only be worshiped on his own soil.

Elisha not only granted this favor, but also permitted him to continue to pay outward homage to Rimmon, the god worshiped by the king of Syria. This permission must not be misunderstood, however. For a man who had been an idolater all his days, it might be extremely difficult suddenly to abandon every tradition and custom of his life; and for that reason Elisha was lenient. But for us, in the light of Christ’s teachings, there can be no compromise with sin. We must now “bow down to Rimmon,” but stand for the ideals of our faith before men everywhere, that God’s name may be glorified in all the earth.

Memory Gem

Humility

O son, thou hast not true humility,
The highest virtue, mother of them all;
But her thou hast not known; for what is this?
Thou thoughtest of thy prowess and thy sins;
Thou hast not lost thyself to save thyself.
– Alfred Tennyson.

Questions and Problems

1. Describe Naaman. Tell about his affliction.
2. Give an account of the captive maid.
3. What kind of a reception did Naaman receive from the king of Israel? Why?
4. Give an account of his visit to Elisha.
5. Why did Naaman refuse to wash in the Jordan? How did he come to change his mind?
6. What did Naaman do after he was healed?
7. What great lesson did Elisha teach him?
8. Tell all you can about the Syrians.
9. Give examples of people’s dislike for the commonplace.” Why is this attitude wrong?
10. Why did Naaman ask to take soil from Israel to his own land? Discuss in detail.
11. What compromise did Elisha permit him to make? Can this be justified? How?
12. Discuss the question of compromising with sin. How is it often done?
13. How can we apply this lesson in our lives?

Suggestive Closing Prayer

Our loving Father, we thank thee for the commonplace, for the little things in life that often bring to us our richest blessings. may we not despise the words of love spoken by the least member in our household, for they may lead us to the prophet of God; and the “muddy waters” of the Jordan may be to us a healing balm in the day of our affliction. help us to realize that thy free gifts of joy, health, friendship, and the companionship of God, are knocking at the door every day for entrance into our lives. Incline our hearts to bid them welcome.

Gehazi, the Hypocrite

Lesson Text: 2 Kings 4:12-14, 25-31; 5:20-27.
Song.
Responsive Reading: Matt. 23:1-12.
Prayer by Student.
Memory Text: “Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” – Matt. 23:28.

The Message of the Lesson

“Thou Shalt Not Covet”

We give a lesson to the study of Gehazi, not because much is written about him, but because he represents a type of sinner that is all too common. He must have been a good man at first, or Elisha would not have selected him to be his servant. There must have been a time when his possibilities for good were in the ascendent. Like Judas, whom Christ selected to be one of his apostles, he allowed a strain of covetousness in his character to become a besetting sin, and ruin all his prospects of becoming a prophet of God.

The strange part of his sad story is that he deteriorated in daily contact with a man like Elisha. We would naturally think that intimate association with a prophet would have eliminated the bad in him, and transformed him into the likeness of his master. But it had the very opposite effect. The strange part of the story is that Gehazi deteriorated by associating with a prophet of God. he had a great example before him in the person of Elisha, but he wholly missed its meaning. He failed to sense the value of his wonderful companionship. One writer has said of him: “He dwelt with a hero yet was a poltroon; he lived with a saint yet was a knave; he was the associate of a prophet yet was a petty thief.”

In some respects Gehazi was very clever, but lacked faith. he had no religious fervor. He saw more clearly what the woman longed for most than his master did. In the sequel, when the woman, bereft of her child, came in haste to Carmel and threw herself at Elisha’s feet in an agony of grief, Gehazi resented this apparent familiarity and made an attempt to thrust the woman aside. He showed an utter lack of sympathy with her overwhelming grief, and would have succeeded had not the prophet intervened in her behalf with the statement: “Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her.” When her grief was revealed and Gehazi was sent to restore the child, he carried out his master’s instructions to the letter; but he failed to bring life back to the child. Elisha’s sacred staff had no healing power in his hands, because of his lack of sympathy and faith.

But it is in the story of Naaman, where Gehazi appears at his worst. The prophet refused to take any money, though the Syrian captain pressed him to do so. Elisha wanted his eyes fixed on God as the only one who was responsible for his healing, and all his gratitude must go to him. His new health had come from God, and money could not purchase such a gift. It was a great lesson, and Naaman was converted. He solemnly renounced his heathen god, and declared that henceforth he would worship the God of Israel.

Then it was that the mean cupidity of Gehazi did its utmost to nullify the good example of his master. He had listened to Elisha’s refusal with amazement. How could the prophet let such an opportunity pass without making the most of it? Naaman was rich; he had received a priceless blessing, and it would be a pleasure for him to return some acknowledgment, which he would never miss. In fact, he had seemed hurt by Elisha’s refusal. There certainly could be no harm in taking what he was so anxious to give. And to what excellent uses the money could be put! So pleaded the covetous spirit within the man. By such specious delusions he fostered his evil temptation, until it took shape in a wicked resolve.

The mischief of Elisha’s refusal had been done, but he could speedily undo it and no one would be the worse. “Behold,” he said, “my master hath spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought: but, as the Lord liveth, I will run after him, and take somewhat of him.”

Poor Gehazi! What a shipwreck he was making of his life! Surrounded by the most sacred influences that he might choose the good and live, he deliberately turned his back on God and his prophet. How blind some men are! How cheaply they sell their souls! This man had the rare opportunity of living with God’s witness to that age. He ate with him, slept with him, and listened to his daily conversation. He heard him testify of God’s love in healing Naaman. Was ever a man more highly favored? And now he dared to question his master’s judgment. Worse still, for a paltry talent of silver and a garment, he dared to undo the work of his master in converting Naaman to the religion of Israel. Could anything be more wicked? What must the Syrian captain have thought, when Gehazi in his master’s name asked him for the very thing Elisha had refused? The request for money and garments undid the effects of the fine impression that Elisha had made. It was a disenchantment from the high ideal exhibited by his former refusal. Of course the request was granted; but Naaman could not be blamed if he returned home a little less enthusiastic about worshiping Jehovah, than he was before the servant made his request.

“Whence comest thou, Gehazi?” This was the question that greeted him when he once more stood in the presence of Elisha. The words must have startled him, but he was ready with another lie. “thy servant went no whither,” he replied. And we may be sure that he looked innocent enough. then, like the crash of doom, there came from the lips of the prophet a reproof so scathing and a punishment so terrible that our hearts almost stop beating as we read: “Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments? * * * the leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.”

These dreadful words grip us with an intensity that is hard to express. What a lesson they convey1 Contrast the man who stands there now, without hope for himself or for his posterity, with what he might have been, and with what he was intended to be. He was in line for leadership among the prophets, the successor of Elisha, a man of God. And now there is nothing left for him but to go back and look upon his silk and his silver, for which he had exchanged heaven and the happiness of himself and his children forever. Could there be a greater tragedy?

“Thou shalt not covet,” thundered the voice of God from Sinai, and we have seen in these lessons how terrible has been the punishment of those who broke this commandment. In the list we can count Balaam, Achan, Abimelech, Saul, David, Absalom, Ahab, Gehazi, and others of lesser note. it must be apparent to all who study the lives of these men that covetousness is one of the most deadly sins in the entire decalogue. It leads to hypocrisy and double dealing, makes good men bad, and it is to the soul what leprosy is to the body.

There are in every community men who make religion a cloak for their own avarice. Gehazi used his friendship with the man of God to further his selfish interests. he pretended to be religious, when as a matter of fact his heart had never been touched by its holy flame. Compliance with outward forms of worship may have little meaning. Cain planned the murder of his brother Abel, while in the act of offering sacrifice to God. As has been aptly said: “Men may pray I church on Sunday, and prey on their brethren during the week.” Daily fellowship with Elisha is a dangerous thing, as well as a blessed privilege; for it may either breed contempt, or transform us into the likeness of the prophet.

Memory Gems

Hypocrisy

Neither man nor angel can discern hypocrisy.
It is the only evil that walks invisible
Except to God alone, upon the earth.
– Milton.

Growth of Sin

We are not worst at once; the course of evil
Begins so slowly, and from such slight source,
An infant’s hand might stem the breach with clay;
But let the stream grow wider, and philosophy,
Age, and religion, too, may strive in vain
To stem the headstrong current.
– Author Unknown.

Questions and Problems

1. Name the men in our lessons who fell through covetousness.
2. Why was Gehazi’s fall so tragic?
3. Do you think that he was bad at first? Why?
4. What part did Gehazi play in the story of the Shunammite woman?
5. How did Elisha’s refusal to accept a gift from Naaman affect Gehazi? Why?
6. How did he come to the decision to follow Naaman?
7. Relate their conversation.
8. What happened when he returned to Elisha?
9. What is the message of this lesson to us?
10. How do you account for the fact that Gehazi grew bad in the company of Elisha?
11. How would Gehazi’s conduct affect Naaman’s faith? Why?
12. What did Elisha imply when he said: “Is this a time to receive money, and to receive garments?”
13. Just what do you understand covet to mean? Is it always wrong to covet? Why?
14. How may this lesson be applied in our lives?
15. Discuss the Memory Gems.

Suggestive Closing Prayer

O thou God of truth who cannot lie, save us from the sin of hypocrisy. May we not only honor thee with our lips, but with all our hearts. Help us to remember the condemnation expressed by Jesus of those who gave their alms to be seen of men, and those who used vain repetitions in their prayers that they might be heard for their much speaking. We desire to worship thee in sincerity and in truth, that blessings may come to us instead of cursing.

Elisha, the Seer

Lesson Text: 2 Kings 6:8-23.
Song.
Responsive Reading: Psalms 23.
Prayer by Student.
Memory Text: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – 2 Corinthians 4:18.

The Message of the Lesson

Seeing the Invisible

It is interesting to come back to a town that we visited a thousand years before. That is what we are doing today. Dothan, twelve miles north of the city of Samaria, is the place where Joseph was sold to the Ishmaelites by his brethren. In this lesson it is the town where the Syrians surrounded Elisha, to capture and take him to their king.

During the days of Elisha, the Syrians carried on a constant warfare against Israel. It consisted mostly of predatory incursions that made life and property very unsafe. In these difficulties, the king of Israel was greatly helped by the prophet’s counsel. He repeatedly frustrated the designs of the enemy by revealing to his own king the places that the Syrians intended to attack, and in that way defeated the schemes of the enemy. Even the king’s own life was saved by Elisha’s timely warning.

The Syrian ruler, annoyed at his repeated failures, suspected treachery. He called his officers together in great indignation, and he demanded to know who was the traitor among them. They assured him that everyone was faithful, and that his secrets were made known to the king by Israel by Elisha. The king thereupon decided to capture the prophet, and sent a contingent of horses and chariots at night to surround Dothan, where Elisha was living, and prevent any escape from the gates. It seems never to have occurred to the king of Syria that if Elisha knew his designs against his own king, he would also know his plans against himself. Man, unaided, cannot know the things of God.

When Elisha’s servant rose in the morning, he was terrified to see the Syrians encamped around the entire city. In great dismay he cried to the prophet: “Alas, my master! how shall we do?” Elisha showed no concern. “Fear not,” he said, “for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” Then he prayed for the fearful servant, and the youth’s eyes were opened, and he saw a vision of forces hitherto unseen. We read: “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.”

This incident is one of the most comforting in the Old Testament. The natural alarm of the young servant was not shared by Elisha, for his eyes were open. He could see the Unseen – the reality of divine protection. He had no doubt read the words of the Psalmist until he saw the picture: “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” (Psalms 34:7) Our eyes are blinded by worldliness and lack of faith. but it is within the power of everyone to see the Unseen. Two simple words are the keys that unlock the door of the temporal, and reveal to us the Invisible. Pray and Obey, so simple and yet so profound! Most of us do neither, and hence are blind to the glorious vision that Elisha saw. For prayer is more than a stereotyped repetition of words, spoken on our knees to God; and obeying is not simply outward conformity to certain rules and requirements of our church. Prayer is the heartfelt expression of a crying need which we feel for God’s help and comfort; it is voicing gratitude to him whose love we sense and whose fellowship we desire. And obedience is loyalty of mind and heart and soul to all that God requires in service, praise, and worship.

And what will this vision beautiful do for us? First, it will do for us what it did for the servant of Elisha – deliver us from fear. Imagine the reaction that must have come to this young man, when he saw the horses and chariots of fire around Elisha. The enemy were still there, but they gave him no further concern. Fear is written on the faces of nearly every person we meet. Fear of danger, fear of poverty, fear of sickness, fear of death, and a hundred other fears make cowards of us all. It is the greatest enemy of mankind. nearly all our failures are due to fear. If fear could be taken fro the world, the efficiency of every person would be increased one hundred per cent. And when we realize that there is no need of it, that it is only a material force that can be overcome by cultivating fellowship with the Unseen, we wonder that it has not long since been banished from the world. “Fear not,” said Elisha; and that statement should constantly ring in the ears of every person who hopes to attain success in life.

But seeing the Invisible does more for us than destroy fear. it brings to us a joy greater than any joy that the material world can give. this was the joy which Jesus had in such rich measure, and which he prayed might remain with his disciples. It is the abundant life, the peace that passeth understanding, the companionship of God himself.

We must not get the impression, however, that men who see the Invisible will constantly be shielded from the triumph of enemies, or be free from anguish, suffering, and defeat. Their victory may not always be a physical victory. Men of God by the thousands have given their lives for the truth. Saints have died in exile and prison, have been stoned, tempted, slain with the sword, tortured on the rack, rotted in miry dungeons, and sighed out their souls in agonizing flame. Even Christ was scourged and crucified. But through all these tortures and afflictions, God was at their side. The sense of his protection did not desert them, even when to the eyes of men they seemed to be utterly forsaken. In him they found a refuge, a balm.

The presence of those horses and chariots of fire, unseen with the natural eye, means, not always protection from suffering and death, but it means absence of fear and a fulness of joy. It means also that as long as a man of God is in the line of his duty, and until that duty has been done, no harm can come to him. God will keep him and give his angels charge over him, “lest at any time he dash his foot against a stone.” It stands to reason that until such a man has completed his work, God will not permit any force or combination of forces to hinder the accomplishment of the work entrusted to him.

And now after this digression we come back to Dothan, and Elisha, and the Syrians surrounding the city. It is interesting to note how easily the prophet extricated himself from his apparent danger. He seems to have gone out of town, and down the hill to the Syrian captains; and he prayed that god would send them illusions so that they might be misled. Then he boldly said to them: “This is not the way, neither is this the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek.” They followed him without questions, and he actually led them twelve miles south, straight into the city of Samaria, where they suddenly found themselves surrounded by the king’s troops. king Jehoram eagerly exclaimed: “My father, shall I smite them? shall I smite them?”

The question was natural enough. Syria had been giving the king no end of trouble, and now that all these men were in his power he might, by putting them to death, break the morale of the Syrian army. But the spirit of Elisha was more merciful. he told the king that he must not kill but feed them. this action on the prophet’s part reminds us of him who said, “Love your enemies; forgive them that hate you.” When they were well fed, elisha sent them back to their own camp; and the narrative ends by telling us that this example of mercy and generosity made such a favorable impression that “the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel.”

Memory Gem

Seeing the Unseen

Almighty God, as now we raise
Our longing eyes in hope to thee,
Anointed may our wondering gaze
Thy chariots and thy horsemen see.

Let faith revive, let courage new
The visions of thy hosts impart;
That all thou willest we may do
With steadfast hands and holy heart.
– A.S. Dyer.

Questions and Problems

1. Tell all you can about Dothan.
2. Why did the king of Syria seek to capture Elisha?
3. What did the servant see in the morning as he arose? What did he say?
4. What was the prophet’s answer?
5. What happened after the Syrians were taken to Samaria?
6. What effect did Elisha’s treatment of the Syrians have?
7. What is meant by seeing the Invisible?
8. How may “seeing the Invisible” be realized? Discuss.
9. What two things will it do for us? Discuss.
10. Do you think that the Syrians were smitten with total blindness, or only failed to recognize Elisha? Why?
11. How may we make application of this lesson in our lives?
12. Discuss the Memory Gem.

Suggestive Closing Prayer

Gracious God, our hearts are set on thee, and with our lips we honor thy sacred name. Wilt thou touch our eyes that we may see the Invisible, as did the ancient seer. We thank thee for our daily contact with thy word, and the great men whom thou dist call to reveal thy glorious personality to ancient Israel. May they be to us also a fountain of light and life and truth. And the glory and honor we give to thee.



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