1st December 2012

Chariots Of Fire

“And 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.”
II Kings 6:17 (NIV)

Upon finding out that Elisha is the prophet who has been forewarning the king of Israel of his manoeuvres, the king of Aram sends an army to capture him. Elisha and his servant waken to find the city surrounded by chariots. The servant is terrified, but Elisha insists, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them,” and prays that God will let him glimpse the reality beyond the evidence of his senses.

The man sees an army of angels protecting the city. There is a lesson here about trusting in God, and it is a very comforting reminder that God’s power is greater than any trouble we can face. How much anxiety could we save ourselves if we could see things the way God allowed Elisha’s servant to see?

I’m not recommending anyone attempt for themselves to see supernatural beings around them. I have known of one lady who spent years visualising dove-like figures of ever-increasing size and vividness after some friends told her she had a special spiritual awareness…but on the other hand she was often terrified by strange threats or dangers that no-one else could perceive either. I can’t see any good Biblical precedent for seeking out angelic encounters.

And yet without investing anything in the very political business of spiritual gifts, I sometimes stop to wonder what things look like to God. In human affairs God calculates and sets limits (Matthew 24:22), and he has the kind of foreknowledge of significant human decisions that is sometimes expressed as an intervention (Exodus 9:12) and sometimes as a prophecy (II Chronicles 10:15). God is always in action (John 5:17), and those loyal to him will always gain something worthwhile even in situations of apparent loss (Romans 8:28).

Let’s take a specific event like the recent Olympics as an example. There are several different ways of viewing it. Apparently some spectators, in the spirit of ancient Greek culture, watched the Games primarily as a parade of beautifully-toned athletic bodies, culminating in the women’s beach volleyball tournament. Some others were mainly interested in the medal tables and records broken. Many peoples’ chief fascination was the human-interest side of it—the stories of personal challenges and accomplishments irrespective of who won.

It is a fair assumption that God was also viewing the Games to the furtherance of his agenda. No doubt he heard opposing teams each praying for their own victory (sorry, I have no idea how that works, and I can never bring myself to pray for the actual result of a contest). I am sure that God was watching over his people there just as elsewhere. It would be rather banal to try and list the most likely spiritual lessons learned, examples raised and virtues tested among athletes, spectators or staff, but times of intensity in the experience of individuals can be times of opportunity for inner change and growth.

Maybe you can think of an event or situation personal to you. You have told God what it looks like from your end and prayed and meditated towards seeing it the way God does. The suggestion from scripture is that you are better off than you realise. 

God our Father, we give thanks for your protection and guidance. Please teach us to trust in you.

Study by Fiona Jones

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