Sheltering in Place
I was watching the news on television last night and heard the Covid-19 pandemic described as a “terrifying seige.” I thought of the day Elisha and his servant were beseiged at Dothan (2 Kings 6:8-19).
Dothan was an insignificant Israeli settlement about twelve miles north of Samaria, Israel’s capitol. The city wasn’t much to look at—about 10 acres in size—and there wasn’t anything worth defending there for the residents never bothered to build a wall. The only defense system in evidence today is a stone rampart from an earlier period that was pressed into service and, as ancient walls go, was of no significance.
But Dothan was of great significance to Elisha for there were Israelites there that had not yet bowed the knee to Baal and kissed his feet.
On one occasion when Elisha and his servant were residing at Dothan, Ben Hadad, the Syrian King, besieged the city in order to kill the prophet. He had good reason for Elisha had been supplying Israel’s King Jehoram with intelligence about Syrian military movements.
The Syrian army gathered by night, surrounded the city, sized up the situation, decided the city was nothing to worry about, and bedded down for the night.
Early the next morning, Elisha’s disciple awakened and began making preparations to return to their permanent residence in Samaria (6:32). He looked over the wall and discovered to his dismay “an army with horses and chariots surrounding the city.” He ran to alert Elisha and cried out in despair, “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?”
“Don't be afraid,” Elisha said. “The odds are in our favor.” Or words to that effect.
Then Elisha prayed, “Lord, open the young man's eyes so that he may see.” So the Lord opened his eyes and he "saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” He saw the legions of heaven at God's disposal, against which Syria’s forces were powerless.
Seeing into the unseen world, as I have written before, is a mark of spiritual maturity. It’s an insight that assures us that we are never at loose ends. We may feel small and insignificant in the face of present danger, but “the chariots of God are myriads; thousands upon thousands” (Psalm 68:17). God and a googol of angels encircle us.
This does not mean that we will not be overrun from time to time. Indeed we will. “Disturbances, troubles, wars, captivities, cries, groans, and frights,” may assault us, as Mr. Sagacity assured Bunyan’s hard-pressed pilgrim. Despite our best efforts Corvid-19 may overwhelm us. We and our loved ones may sicken and die. But we are safe, shielded and sheltered by God’s power unto eternal salvation (1 Peter 1:5). As Jesus said with such fine irony, they may kill us, but not one hair of our head will perish (Luke 21:18).
And, in the interim, God is with us in the moment, wherever we are and whatever our circumstances may be. He is here to meet each emergency as it arises. This is not a new condition: “His is the presence in which we have ever been.”
He is pleased when, though we cannot see him, we speak to him as though we were looking into his face. We can say with confidence, “He is in this place.”
This is a solid fact on which we stand and with which we can meet the present hour in peace. We can put God and his armies between us and all that we fear.
When at length
the day is through,
shall I find
I failed to tap
the Infinite Resources
forever open to the weak
who seek (Ruth Bell Graham).
Adapted from the chapter “Dothan” in Seasoned With Salt.