I was asked at short notice by a double-booked guest preacher to preach a Gospel message at a Brethren assembly. Very thankfully, one of the elders at my church agreed to come with me for moral support and to drive me in his car. This is a man with a real gift for encouragement. He came with me last time I preached.
The assembly evidently had a real heart for evangelism. When I arrived, they were singing hymns outside their Gospel Hall and giving an open air Gospel presentation.
I was ushered into a back room where I expected to be briefed on the service. However, instead I was attending a prayer meeting.
The service began with a gentleman leading with an hymn. He then handed over to me.
I began praching my sermon, then the thought occured to me that they were not expecting me to start preaching. They were expecting me to lead the service! I ignored this thought and carried on with my sermon on 2 Kings 6:11-17. I believe I preached with power and conviction and my sermon seemed to be well received.
After I had finished, I left the pulpit. There was a long silence. This was perhaps the most embarassing silence of my life.
They were expecting me to lead the service and I had not prepared for it. Why would I have done? I thought I was there to preach.
I hoped that perhaps the congregation might realise my mistake and somebody would jump in with some service content, like an hymn or prayer. Nothing was forthcoming.
I desperately searched the hymnbook for one I knew, but I was totally unfamiliar with this ancient hymnbook. I gave out an hymn number, which it turned out they did not know. Thankfully, somebody suggested another.
After this what next? I went back into the pulpit and gave a long prayer for the lost and for the suffering in Burma.
I then asked if anybody could suggest an hymn that they all knew. There was a long silence before somebody came up with a number.
The hymn was 'When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound.' That inspired me to read an excerpt from 1 Corinthians 15 and to launch into a mini-sermon that I had to make up on the spot.
I then closed in prayer and gave a benediction, ending the sermon after less than an hour.
Evidently, they were not that dismayed by my ministry, because they took my telephone number.
Churches and assemblies, please can I ask you to think carefully about preparing your guest preachers.
The elder who accompanied me said he had never in his ministry been put in a situation like that. We had a great laugh about it in the car and then when we got back to our church, we laughed about it with some of the preachers there.
The elder was very positive about my preaching. He likes my style a lot. His only complaint was that my sermon did not follow the passage very closely. However, he felt that perhaps given the circumstances that was not such a bad thing. It was certainly appropriate for a Gospel service. I think if I had more time to prepare, I would have given a slightly more expository sermon.
Anyway, I hope you will be edified by what I said:
11 ¶ Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?
12 And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Eli'sha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
13 And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
14 Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
15 ¶ And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, a host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do?
16 And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
17 And Eli'sha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. 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 Eli'sha.
In looking at this passage, I want to say something about faith.
The servant in this story is given special vision that he may see the wonderful creatures of heaven, God’s angels in their glory and in their power. But that is not the real wonder of this story. What is amazing in this story is that Elisha knew these things were there without needing the vision. He was able to say with certain confidence that ‘those that are for us are more than those that are against us.’ He had a spiritual insight that went beyond this world. His eyes were open to the things of heaven. The servant got into a panic because his thoughts were only of carnal things. He could not look beyond the material world. But Elisha saw with the eyes of faith that God was in control.
We are told in Hebrews that faith is the substance of things unseen. This is true for the Christian today. We have never laid eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ. We have not seen the wonderful kingdom that He will establish upon the earth. We have no seen the glorious heavenly city. The Christian has confidence that these things are certain, though she has never seen them.
Our Lord said ‘Thomas because thou hast seen me thou believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.’
There are two kinds of faith, the faith of the one who sees, and the faith of the one who does not see. The servant needed to see before he could believe. But Elisha, having the things of God in his thoughts could believe without sight.
That is not to say that a faith with sight is not a real faith. Our Lord told Thomas that he believed; in Greek have faith and believe are the same words. A lot of unbelievers think that faith is blind. That a man who has faith has no reason for believing. This is not so. The Bible that the Christian believes has been shown to be reliable. Nothing in the Bible has ever been demonstrated to be false. The Bible is not a book of stories, but a book of history. It concerns real men that we can read about in the pages of history books. We may not have seen Christ, but we have every reason to believe that He truly is risen from the dead. And if He is then His claim to guarantee eternal life to the believer is confirmed. We must look to Him for life and peace with God.
Just as Thomas looked upon the risen Christ and believed, we look to the pages of God’s Word and see that He is the resurrection and the life, the Son of God who gives everlasting life to those who place their trust in Him. The servant saw his vision and he believed. We look to the promises in God’s Word the Bible. And we see that Christ Jesus offers eternal life. It says ‘these things written that yet might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and in believing ye might have eternal life through His name.’
I would like to say something about the things that the servant sees in this vision.
The servant saw a legion of God’s angels. The Bible does not tell us all that we might like to know about angels, but it does tell us some things.
We as Christians believe in angels. A lot of unbelievers scoff at the notion of angels. They might believe in space aliens, but they don't believe in angels. Other people get obsessed with angels. If you go to most bookshops you can find lots of crazy books on angels. Did you know there is book entitled 'How to get the most out of your guardian angel'? These things are deceptions from Satan. They are of the Occult.
There are spiritual forces at work in this world. God rules a vast kingdom that includes thousands upon thousands of angels. We do not know all that they do, but they do his bidding.
The Bible does not say that everybody has a guardian ange, but we know that they are involved in our lives. Our Lord said that there is rejoicing in heaven when a sinner repents. God’s angels delight in the salvation of sinners. If you turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, angels will rejoice at your conversion.
The chariots that the servant saw were fiery. God’s angels reflect His glory and his perfect holiness. The Bible says that God is a consuming fire. His holiness is unapproachable. It cannot accept that which is impure. But through Christ we are able to approach God and be cleansed, not through fire, but through Hs blood shed on the cross. Through the cross we can be reconciled to God. The apostle Paul says that Christians are made the righteousness of God in Christ. They have come to partake in God’s holiness and are made acceptable in Christ.
We also see that these angels are ready for war. Did you know that there are battles in the heavenly realms? There is war in heaven.
The Bible speaks of principalities and powers in the heavenly realms. These seem to exercise some kind of authority over this world. Just as God has His angels, Satan has his. God has His kingdom, Satan has his counterfeit kingdom. Satan is the god of this world. All of the governments and societies and false religions of this world are under Satan’s influence. That is why so much of man’s activity is directed against God or at least leaves God no part in directing it.
The politics of this world will occupy you with trying to make something of this world. You need Christ, not politics. The pleasures of this world will distract you from Christ. You need Him. The false religions of this world will tell you that you can approach God through your own efforts and by doing rituals.
The philosophy and the thinking of human society under Satan’s system is meant to teach man that he does not need God. That he make whatever he chooses of himself without God getting involved. From such a system we need to be delivered. And that deliverance is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He will have the ultimate victory over Satan and his lies. This world will pass away, but Christ is going to establish His kingdom.
The fiery chariots in this passage were amazing. We read about the awesome cherub with the flaming sword in Genesis. We read about the fantastic Serpahim in Isaiah. Great as these angels may seem, Jesus Christ the Son of God surpasses all of them.
We read in Ephesians that Christ is exalted above every principality, every power, every might and every dominion. He is glorified over all. And those who are in Christ are likewise blessed over all. If you are in Christ you are seated with Him in the heavenly realms, far above every principality and power. We might well ask, like the Psalmist, ‘What is man that thou art mindful of him?’ We are made a little lower than the angels and yet in Christ we can have the highest place in the universe. If we overcome, we can inherit all things. Let us set our minds on the glorious things of heaven. If we do that, like Elisha, we shall be able to have that discernment to look beyond this world and to the things of God. Let us set our affections on things above, not things below. Elisha had his mind on things above. He had seen Elijah, his predecessor taken up into heaven. Because he had his mind on things above he could look with the eyes of faith and see God at work. It is so easy to get caught up in our own plans and desires and be focused on this world. But this world is going to pass away. We must set our affections on things above, not things below.
If you are not in Christ. If you have not yet trusted in Him, I would urge you to look to the risen Christ. He is able to lift you up and bring you to share in the marvellous heavenly life that the Christian can enjoy. You can know God and have the confidence of being in His heavenly kingdom. I would say to you, look with the eyes of faith and receive that free gift of eternal life in Christ.