Summary: Elisha's experience in Dothan teaches us why our hearts don't ever need to be troubled.
Did you know that someone in Canada dies from heart trouble every seven minutes? By the time we’re done worshipping this morning nine people will have died somewhere in this country from heart disease or a heart attack. Of course you don’t have to have a weak and diseased heart to suffer from heart trouble. Parents suffer troubled hearts when their babies get behind the wheel of a car for the first time. Children often suffer troubled hearts when Mom and Dad go overnight leaving them behind in the care of friends. Young people suffer troubled hearts when they think of having to go to a new school. Perhaps even right now something is troubling your heart so that you’re finding it hard to concentrate. But that’s life, isn’t it? We just have to get used to troubled hearts as long as we live in this sin-filled world. Not so, say our Scripture readings this morning. In fact we just got done singing Jesus’ words from of our Gospel lesson: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…” (John 14:1a) Our sermon text from 2 Kings 6 will illustrate why our hearts don’t ever need to be troubled.
If you think you have problems, compare them to the one the prophet Elisha was up against in our text. Word had reached the king of Aram that the reason none of his surprise attacks on Israel had been successful was because Elisha kept telling the Israelite king where the Aramaeans were waiting in ambush. So when the King of Aram found out that Elisha was staying in the little town of Dothan, he sent the army to arrest him. Doesn’t that sound like overkill? Was a whole army necessary to arrest one hapless little prophet - like hunting a rabbit with a rocket launcher? Actually, the Aramaean army was undermanned. Their fight, you see, was not with Elisha but with the Lord himself.
Elisha knew this but his servant did not. And so when the servant looked out and saw that an army had surrounded the town, his heart was troubled. It was more than troubled; it just about stopped when he saw spears and chariots glinting in the early morning sun. “What shall we do!” he cried to Elisha.
Isn’t the servant’s reaction typical? When we’re faced with a challenge we immediately ask: “What shall we do?” What were Elisha and his servant to do? Nothing. Listen to Elisha’s response: “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” There was nothing to be done, not even call for help since God had already sent help. And so when Elisha prayed he prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened to see the help God had sent. God answered that prayer and allowed Elisha’s servant to see fiery horses and chariots - an army of angels that was protecting them.
Yes, we believe in the existence of angels. No, they’re not chubby little babies floating around in the clouds, equipped with bow and arrow. Nor are angels your loved ones who have died and gone to heaven. Angels are spirits God created to serve us (Hebrews 1:14). In Scripture they sometimes appear with wings. At other times they appear as young men dressed in white. They’ve also appeared as normal travelers like the time a couple of angels visited Abraham. One way they serve God’s people is by keeping us from harm as they were doing for Elisha and his servant.
What does this mean for your daily life? Well the next time you’re in trouble don’t first ask, “What should I do?” Your strength and resources are limited. Only asking what you can do about the problem will lead to a troubled heart. Instead pray, “Lord help me…help me believe your promises. Help me see reality as Elisha did!” You see this is the wonderful thing about our God. He’s not waiting for you to ask for help – like a fire chief waiting for the 911 call. Listen to Psalm 34:7. “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” Like secret service agents who never leave the side of the President, God’s angels shadow your every move.
But if that’s so, why do Christians get into car accidents? Why do they get hurt at work? Why are they mugged and murdered? Do angels have occasional security lapses? No. When a believer gets hurt it isn’t because an angel missed a security assignment. Sometimes they are directed by God to let a believer suffer hardship. On such occasions angels are more like the hovering parent of a baby taking his first steps. Such a parent may let his child fall down so that he will learn better how to keep his balance and eventually get the hang of walking because it’s far more efficient than crawling. God too puts us in situations, some of them painful, where our faith will be exercised and therefore grow beyond a faith that crawls. Isn’t this why God allowed the Aramaean army to get as close to Elisha as it did? God could have had his angels dispense with the enemy long before they came in sight of Dothan where Elisha and his servant were but then the servant would have missed out on the opportunity to see that there was an angel army (not just a guardian angel or two) looking after him.