March 6, 2016:  Opened Eyes 

2 Kings 6: 8-23

One popular storytelling genre is war/espionage stories.  Spies, the idea of using our wits to help the good guys defeat the bad guys, intrigue us.  There are 24 James Bond films, for example.  Adjusted for inflation, that film series is the highest grossing series of all time.  The first was made in 1962, and starred a young Scottish actor named Sean Connery, in what became his breakout role.  One key to this genre is the understood need for secrecy.  In film and especially in real life, a key to success is not letting the other side know what our plans are.  That is what propels the action in today’s story of the on-going conflict between the kingdoms of Aram and Israel. 

 8Once when the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he took counsel with his officers. He said, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” 9But the man of God [Elisha] sent word to the king of Israel, “Take care not to pass this place, because the Arameans are going down there.”   The king of Aram, who has laid his plans carefully, gets frustrated when, in spite of the secrecy surrounding his plans, the Israelites remain one step ahead of him.  How is this possible?  Is there a spy?  No, one of his officers says; rather, 12.....it is Elisha, the prophet in Israel, who tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber.”  13He said, “Go and find where he is; I will send and seize him.”   The Aramean spies advance party come back with a report, and the action picks up.  The king of Aram sends 14.... horses and chariots there and a great army; they came by night, and surrounded the city. 15When an attendant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. His servant said, “Alas, master! What shall we do?” 16He replied, “Do not be afraid, for there are more with us than there are with them.” 17Then Elisha prayed: “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18When the Arameans came down against him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, and said, “Strike this people, please, with blindness.” So He struck them with blindness as Elisha had asked. 19Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria. 20As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O LORD, open the eyes of these men so that they may see.” The LORD opened their eyes, and they saw that they were inside Samaria.  21When the king of Israel saw them he said to Elisha, “Father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” 22He answered, “No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.” 23So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master. And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.  

God opens the eyes of the Israelites, so they will not be afraid, as God reveals the source of their protection.  God then temporarily closes the eyes of the threatening enemy, only to reveal to them grace and mercy: Elisha leads them into Samaria, the Northern Kingdom, Israel and there, where they are entirely at the mercy of the Israelites, with the King of Israel champing at the bit to slaughter this enemy, Elisha reveals that grace and mercy:  “No! Did you capture with your sword and your bow those whom you want to kill? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink; and let them go to their master.” Who is responsible for the Arameans’ blindness?  How did they fall under the control of the Israelites?  It wasn’t because of the Israelites’ might, their weapons, their prowess.  It was all because of God first reassuring those with Elisha by opening their eyes, then God closing the eyes of their enemies, and then opening those enemies’ eyes to reveal their vulnerability to the Israelites.  The Israelites follow Elisha’s command to show grace and mercy.  23So he prepared for them a great feast; after they ate and drank, he sent them on their way, and they went to their master.  What happens?  And the Arameans no longer came raiding into the land of Israel.

Elisha redirected the Israelites as he also reminded them from where THEIR help comes.  Where might that be?  The same place where our help still comes from today.  Psalm 121  I lift up my eyes to the hills.   From whence does my help come?  My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved, He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand.  The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.  The LORD will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life.  The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.

Opening our eyes, really opening our eyes, is hard.  When people tell me to open my eyes, they usually mean that I am being naive, and that I need to get a dose of reality.  Grace and mercy?  Really?  Sounds good in practice, pastor, but it’s not real life.  Real life is about protecting what is mine, getting my share, coming out on top.  It’s about NOT taking prisoners.  It’s about eliminating prisoners.  It’s a dog-eat-dog.  Better to be the first one to strike.  Better to turn those “not like us” into “others” – “others” who, if they fall into our control, should be kept out, kept away, or eliminated for the good of the community, the nation.  Right?  But especially in this time of Lent, we remember who uttered sentiment about the good of the nation:  John 11: 49-52:  49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” 51He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.  Using the rationale of those who put the Son of God to death does not seem like a good idea to me.  The wisdom of the world is not always what God calls us to live into.  It is precisely because we have opened eyes that we are supposed to extend grace and mercy.

Johnny Nash, who was one of the first non-Jamaican songwriters to record reggae music, wrote a song back in 1972, “I Can See Clearly Now,” that has been playing in my internal play list all week.  Way back in 1972, it was #1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.  It is not overtly Christian, just as most reggae music is not overtly Christian, and yet it sums up our attitude of how we are to live our lives.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

I think I can make it now, the pain is gone
All of the bad feelings have disappeared
Here is the rainbow I've been prayin for
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

Look all around, there's nothin but blue skies
Look straight ahead, nothin but blue skies

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) Sun-Shiny day.

We CAN see all obstacles in our way precisely BECAUSE God has opened our eyes.  When we release our expectations, our desire to kill our enemies, either by inflicting spiritual and psychological harm through slander, lies, hatred, or by inflicting physical harm, our pain and bad feelings can disappear.  As we come to this table, may we remember that we are called to follow Jesus, the One who came not to judge and condemn, but to redeem and save.  May we remember that we are called to live and love like Jesus, as we continue to do that which is pleasing to Him, until He returns in glory.  And even so, come soon, Lord Jesus.  Amen

© Readington Reformed Church  2015