The books of 1 and 2 Kings can be easily summarized as the sequence of royal assassinations for the crowns of Israel and Judah. Sure, there’s some side plots of Elijah and Elisha, but the rest of it is a king wins the throne by killing the king before him and then “did evil in the eyes of the Lord” during his reign. After some years or just a month, he gets killed by some other guy who wants to be king, and so the tradition lives on. If you’ve read the Harry Potter series, it reminds me of the Elder Wand’s heritage. As Xenophilius Lovegood says, “The bloody trail of the Elder Wand is splattered across the pages of Wizarding history.”
I’m making my way through the history books of the Bible and have progressed up to 2 Chronicles so far. It’s strangely addictive, and I’m surprised how many stories I do not recognize despite a childhood spent in Children’s Church class every Sunday morning. I did know, of course, that the Israelites did quite a bit of fighting in their conquest of the Promised Land and then to defend their property from surrounding nations once they finally settled down. I wasn’t expecting the penetrating presence of murders and executions, directed even by David, the man after God’s heart.
As I was reading 2 Kings, a male friend told me it is one of his favorite books in the Bible. My mind quickly reviewed the killing I had read by then and thought, “Well, of course, a guy would enjoy 2 Kings.” If you like war movies or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, you’d probably like 2 Kings, too. There are even child sacrifices–similar to “The Return of the King” when Denethor attempted to burn alive his son, Faramir, and himself on a funeral pyre (2 Kings 3:27).
But’s that enough for my personal distaste for blood. One of my favorite stories so far in the history books comes from 2 Kings 6. In the story, an intimidating army from Aram comes to capture the prophet Elisha. His servant wakes up, sees the army surrounding them, and immediately feels afraid–understandably so. There’s a lot to scare you in this world, and a great army out to kill you is one of them. Figurative warriors scare me in surprise attacks sometimes–perhaps a distracting temptation, a frustrating person, impossible circumstances.
Well, the servant does the only thing he can think to do; he goes to Elisha and asks what they’ll do. Elisha’s response? “Do not be afraid.” I can imagine the servant’s immediate response: “Elijah, do you see those warriors and chariots?” Two people outnumbered by hundreds if not thousands. How could he not be afraid? For some people, that would be asking the impossible.
Still undisturbed, Elisha prays that God would open his servant’s eyes. Elisha wasn’t blind. Actually, he was the only one who saw reality. When his servant’s eyes opened to the spiritual realm, he saw “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17). And even these were not necessary for their protection, because all Elisha had to do was pray that God would then blind the army. They were never in danger.
How often do we forget the ones we have on our side, those fiery chariots ready to defend us? How often do we forget that we are not only fighting opposition in this physical world? We have more enemies than mere humans, the “great army,” since the devil has his own forces out to capture us. But even knowing that, we never have to fear. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16). And behind those fierce warriors fighting for us, we have God himself, who can strike a whole army with blindness at a simple prayer of someone trusting in him. How can we be afraid?