The connection between the eyes and heart
Dear Christian friends,
So there was Elisha, an agribusiness baron. He had twelve yoke of oxen. That’s twenty four. Not many people had that kind of farm equipment in 850 BC. To a farmer in Nebraska today, that is the equivalent of a fleet of tractors and a combine or two. How much land did Elijah have? We don’t know, but someone with twelve yoke of oxen isn’t plowing up a backyard garden.
So there he was manhandling the wooden plow at the south end of those northbound oxen. Suddenly a stranger shows up. Without speaking a word the stranger slips his cloak around Elisha’s shoulders. No, it wasn’t about a brisk northern wind. Believe it or not, Elisha was undergoing a life-changing and career-changing experience. The cloak belonged to Elijah, the great prophet. He had stood up to wicked King Ahab and his evil wife, Queen Jezebel. Elijah had taken on the 450 prophets of Baal and proved that the LORD Jehovah was the only God there is. The cloak? What did that mean? Now it was Elisha’s turn! Elijah was passing the mantle. Elijah was going into retirement. Elisha was taking his place. Elisha was going to plant the seed of God’s word instead of planting the seed of wheat.
Today we look at one of those experiences Elisha would cherish in that ministry that he was called to. We get to learn from it. We get to see “The Connection between the Eyes and the Heart.” We get to learn what happens 1) When someone only sees with the eyes; 2) but we get to learn what happens when there is a connection between the eye and the heart.
I had a college classmate that tried to teach me how to play chess. It is definitely a thinking person’s game. He taught me the different directions that the pawns, the rooks, the knights, the bishops and the king and queen could move. We played a game. He would never admit it if you asked him today, but I beat him. He challenged me again. I don’t remember how he did it but he beat me in three moves. He had read something that Bobby Fischer, who was the world’s chess master at the time, had written and I was toast. I never played again.
To the outsider, the King of Aram (Syria), Ben-Hadad, and the King of Israel, King Joram, were in a kind of chess match. The stakes were life and death. Ben-Hadad wanted to conquer and destroy Israel. Ben-Hadad got his advisors together in the war room and plotted strategy. What they couldn’t see was the weakness of their plan. They never figured that the LORD was present too. The LORD passed on all their strategies to Elisha. Elisha passed along the information to Joram. Ben-Hadad was getting smoked. “Now the king of Aram was at war with Israel. After conferring with his officers, he said, “I will set up my camp in such and such a place.” The man of God sent word to the king of Israel: “Beware of passing that place, because the Arameans 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.””
I don’t use the word “luck.” I don’t like that word. But I have to admit when I beat my friend at chess in the first game I ever played, it was luck. When Ban-Hadad positioned his armies to pounce on the armies of Israel, Joram’s counter-moves were not luck. They were the hand of God. Ben-Hadad didn’t see it that way.
The King of Syria was angry. Something was fishy here. There had to be a mole; there had to be a traitor attending the strategy sessions. “Will you not tell me which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?”
You see, Ben-Hadad saw with his eyes but the eyes of his heart were totally blank and blind. He never even considered that he was going against the hand of God. Certainly not the first time someone did that and certainly not the last time either. When the waters of the Great Flood rose to an eighth of an inch of people’s nostrils, I wonder what they were thinking. Darn cold front? Or did they think that this must be the hand of God? One thing we know for sure they didn’t repent. After ten plagues the Egyptians kept fighting even though they saw with the eyes and experienced all the pain of the other senses too. Yet, instead of dropping to their knees and pleading that Lord God of Israel be merciful to them they kept pursuing the Children of Israel to their watery graves. When the Pharisees saw Lazarus alive and well after Jesus raised him from four days in the grave, they should have seen the hand of God. Instead they resolved to put the one who raised Lazarus from the dead and wanted to get rid of Lazarus again. They never considered that Jesus was giving evidence that proved he was promised to be – Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. People saw and still didn’t believe. No connection between the heart and the eyes.
There are millions who see some amazing things and yet conclude there is no God. Mr. and Ms. Evolutionist, you say it is impossible to believe that there is a Creator who said, “Let there be” and life came into being. Yet you find it easier to believe that a single blade of grass, a cockroach and human both male and female came from a common cell created by an accidental bolt of electricity that created all the right circumstances that formed a single cell? And that cell gave life to all things that are living? Plant, animal and human? You say that took place billions and billions of years ago? You say that is easier to believe than to believe in God who was and is the master designer? It is sad when eyes don’t connect with the heart.
But even we have the eyes of faith have blurry vision… just like Elisha’s servant. When Ben-Hadad suspected that there was a traitor in the room, one of his officers spoke up. “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.” The year was 850 BC. It could have been 850 AD and the result would have been the same. There were no sophisticated bugging devices or secret cameras transmitting conversations from the hidden recesses of his home. As I said, Ben-Hadad was ignoring the hand of God. “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” And it ain’t Alabama! “Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.”
As God’s people we embrace an omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent Lord. It is sadly humorous to watch the King of Syria think he was going to duke it out with the Lord and actually think he was going to win.
But let’s look at the one close to Elisha, his servant. He had seen his master used by the Lord in miraculous ways. Yet he was having a hard time connecting what he saw with his heart and actually believe the Lord was with them. “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, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.” I don’t know where Elisha spent the night. It appears that he spent it on a tempurpedic. He rested soundly. His servant, on the other hand, seems to have spent the night tossing and turning. He was up early. When he looked off into a distance, he saw nothing but trouble. He saw the campfires of the Syrian army. He saw the chariots and horses ready to attack. They were after his master. Since he served Elisha, he knew he would be next in the pecking order. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”
That might have been a natural question to ask, but the right question to ask would have been “Oh, my lord, what will the LORD do?
The people of God don’t always act like the people of God. People of God don’t always trust like the people of God should. This is a spiritual malady that can be traced back to Eden. Even someone so special as Moses had his trouble connecting his eyes and a heart of faith. Remember when the Children of Israel were trudging through the wilderness, they complained about the food. Their menu was manna every day. Even though it was good for them, even though it was delivered to the doors of their tents, even though it was totally free, they complained. It was the same old thing. So the Lord said he would supply meat. It wasn’t just going a special meal like thanksgiving dinner; there would be meat daily for a month. So Moses gets out the calculator and then starts so rattle off the facts that he saw. There are 600,000 fighting men, not counting retirees, women and children. He figures if they slaughtered all the lambs and livestock they had, there is no way that all those people could be fed meat. Hey Lord, what you are promising is frankly impossible. Remember Moses saw the LORD part the seas. Moses saw the plagues. Moses, when God says what he says, it isn’t our job to help God figure it out. His promises are for us to believe.
A man came to Jesus with a son who had an evil spirit. The disciples tried to heal him but they couldn’t. The man explained to Jesus that the spirit “often threw him into the fire or water to kill him. Then the man said, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus pointed out some incorrect language. If you can? The man saw his error and repented. “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
The servant of Elisha thought for sure they were toast. Elisha’s servant kept thinking there were only two when there was really three. And the third made all the difference.
Here we are worried and wondering. Will we get through these economic times? Yeah I know what the Lord says, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!” He says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Here we are saying we have sinned far too often. Our sins are too great. We have repeated them far too often. Don’t we run out of chances? Do we just see with our eyes and throw in the towel? Or do we see with the heart and believe what the Lord says?
And what does the Lord say? “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us… Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses us from all sin.” Any questions?
This story teaches us that our own sight has its limitations; the God we believe in does not. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 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. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. There was an army of angels between the Syrian army and Elisha and his servant. There is an irony here. The servant saw with his heart when the Syrian army was blinded.
You know what? Elisha’s servant, you and me and Thomas are so much alike. Thomas wouldn’t believe until he saw. What he really needed to see was with his heart and not his eyes. Jesus chided Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
So what is the point of the story? Our eyes are like headlights on a car; they only see so far. Put your faith in God who sees the whole picture.