A blog by Josh Humbert
There’s a scene in the Bible that is so phenomenal and wonderful and awe-inspiring that it can actually make you perhaps feel a little…frustrated. Maybe. If you’re being totally honest.
It’s a story so triumphant and victorious that as you reflect on it, you may find within yourself a small voice of discontent.
Elisha and his servant are hanging out in a town, enjoying a string of successful victories. The king of Aram has been trying to make war against the Israelites but every time he tries to setup an ambush, God helps Elisha know the exact location. Elisha relays this intel to the king of Israel and they avoid the trouble spot easily.
Because of God’s work through Elisha, the Israelites end up side stepping multiple traps like this right here…..
This obviously only serves to get the King of Aram absolutely ticked off. So, he decides to double-down on the whole “ambush” plan. The king sends an ENTIRE ARMY to go surround Elisha and capture him.
Morning comes, Elisha’s servant wakes up, gets the coffee (He)brewing (…sorry..), and is astonished by what he sees. They are completely surrounded by the army of the enemy.
Elisha’s servant hits the panic button because things look really bleak.
Elisha calmly surveys the situation outside and prays that God would open the eyes of his servant. All at once, the servant’s entire outlook is reversed: he sees a massive army of God’s warrior-angels and chariots of FIRE surrounding the enemy army. There is no need to panic — God is in control and He has made a way for Elisha and the servant to get out of this just fine.
When God sends backup in the form of His angels…it’s safe to say, you are going to get the win.
And so it is with Elisha and his servant. The story continues and God’s immediate, miraculous deliverance stands as a testament to His glory, His power, and His unmatched strength.
But what does that do inside of you?
Yes, the story is a visceral reminder of who God is (the Commander of Angel Armies…LOTS of them!), and what God is (always in control, even when physical circumstances say otherwise). Yes, the story can call us to worship and grow stronger in faith toward God.
However, it also may give an opportunity, just like in the garden of Eden, for the enemy to plant some doubt about God and His goodness in your heart.
When you read 2 Kings 6, it seems so…easy for Elisha. God shows up in awesome ways, repeatedly, and at just the right time. Even at Elisha’s darkest time, when an entire enemy army surrounds his place…God’s like, “Nah bro.”
There’s probably a part of you that thinks something like this: “that sure would be nice to get. Hey God, what’s up with that? Why don’t you deliver me immediately? Are You still there? Are You still ‘working all things together’ for Your children? Sure would be nice to see chariots of fire when I am feeling surrounded by struggles of my own.”
Sure, maybe you don’t mention those type of thoughts at church. You simply answer the “how-are-you-doing?” question with the fake smile and a “fine!” You know…positive, encouraging and all that stuff. Deep down though, there could be that voice of discontent.
Perhaps there’s another Biblical character who shares your sentiments.
The life of Joseph is one continual cycle of God NOT sending chariots of fire. From his youth through almost his entire adult life, Joseph finds himself “surrounded” by enemies and adversity. He never gets to see the angels there ready to fight for him. He never gets to see HORSES ON FIRE to secure his deliverance.
Instead, his own brothers sell him into slavery (after narrowly deciding against killing him), he is falsely accused of some serious stuff, and he spends years wasting away in prison. If there’s anyone else who may have had the right to that voice of discontent, it would be Joseph.
It is only much later in life when Joseph gets to see God’s plan unfold in a miraculous way. Then, it all makes sense and he sees how the brokenness led to such beauty. All that Joseph endured was for a very specific purpose: the salvation of God’s people in a period of great, worldwide famine.
So what are we to make of Elisha and Joseph? How could these two guys ever be connected? How could they have anything in common?
Surprisingly enough, their stories intersect at one specific spot. And I think this is for a very specific reason.
Here’s the thing – the key moment for both men happen at the exact same place. Joseph is sold into slavery and Elisha gets the chariots of fire in the city of Dothan. And it is the only two times this city is ever mentioned in the Bible.
Let that fall on you for a second. The beginning of one man’s long line of suffering happens in the same city that another man gets a glorious miracle. These are the only mentions this city ever gets.
Dothan. The city of immediate miraculous intervention but also the city of slow-building redemption.
God is making something incredibly clear: whether you get immediate help or years of suffering to endure, He is worthy of your trust AND He is doing something amazing either way.
No matter what happens in Dothan, God is surely working out His great purposes.
Now, how do you take hope in your own situation?
Joseph found himself surrounded by his brothers who wanted to bury him, kill him, or sell him off as a slave. Elisha was surrounded by an enemy army who came for blood.
This matters for you too. For there will be days when you wake up, glance outside, and you are surrounded. You’ll find yourself in a “Dothan” situation sooner or later. And honestly, there’s no way of knowing if God will send an immediate miracle or if He is working something majestic over a long time. So, what can you cling too in your Dothan-days?
Know this: you’re surrounded when you’re surrounded.
When the army came and encircled Elisha, the reality was that God Himself was already there. God had surrounded the enemy. When Joseph’s brothers encircled him to do harm, the reality was that God Himself was already there. God had surrounded their evil actions with His own good designs so that many years later…these same brothers would see how what they meant for evil had only served to bring about the salvation of many, including THEM.
God had surrounded the enemies and the evil plans with His own strength. He is awesome enough to surround those who surround His people. He WILL work toward your good and His glory. God can be trusted.
Yet this goes even deeper still…
Ultimately, this points us toward the Gospel. Jesus, on the Cross is surrounded and faced with our greatest enemy – death. Yet, at the exact same time, Jesus is surrounding death itself. He is about to use death to actually DEFEAT death. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that because of the Cross and Resurrection, we can say confidently, “Death is swallowed up (aka, totally surrounded and destroyed!) in victory. O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?”
The Gospel is the same pattern but on a cosmically grand scale: where the enemy thought it had God surrounded, it never realized the God had outflanked him from the start and it was over before it began. Death surrounded Jesus, but He was about to swallow it up for the hope of His people and for the glory of God. That’s worthy of a hearty AMEN!!!!
Psalm 125:2 supplies the hope you can stand upon. It says it this way: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people from this time forth and forever.” This is the character and nature of God to those who are in Christ Jesus. He SURROUNDS you.
The greatest mountain range in this world has nothing on God. He is a massive and mighty mountain who surrounds you. God is a mountain for you. How great is that?
If you get immediate help and deliverance, praise Him for His mighty display. If you must wait and wait and wait, trust that He is always leading the situation toward a good purpose. Whatever you physically see in front of you, just know that beyond it, He SURROUNDS you.
This is how you defeat the lies of the enemy. This is how you survive your Dothan days. This is how you grow up in the Lord.
Thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are always welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. Want more content? Check the archives or listen to me on the Cross-Cutting Culture Podcast on iTunes.