on seeing

There’s this really awesome moment in 2 Kings chapter 6 when the prophet Elisha and his servant find themselves surrounded by Aramean soldiers, on orders to bring them alive back to their king. The servant wakes up one morning and finds the city encircled with horses and chariots, and so he goes to Elisha and asks “what do we do?” You can almost hear the panic in his voice. Elisha then prays that his servant’s eyes will be opened, and then and there the man sees – he sees the armies of the living God surrounding the Arameans. The latter, of course, fail their mission.

This idea of seeing the bigger picture or seeing with God’s eyes shouldn’t be new, after all we sing it pretty often, don’t we? “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord.” But strangely I never grasped what the idea means till recently.

It took me to read D Wong’s This Book Is Full Of Spiders: Seriously Dude Don’t Touch It to get the idea to click. In Spiders (and its predecessor John Dies at the End) the protagonists are two small town losers with no special skills or talents. What makes them (anti-) heroes is the fact that they can see through our reality thanks to some seriously weird drugs. They alone can see the supernatural badness that is threatening the world and so save the day.

Again this motif shouldn’t have surprised me, after all that’s what The Matrix was pretty much all about, and several other iconic films of my generation.

Nevertheless the idea finally hit me: we do need to see beyond what is in front of us. There is something greater out there. In the case of Matrix, Spiders and John the something is bad and harmful, but fortunately for us as Christians, the Bible tells us that the something we should look to gives us hope.

Deborah and Rahab, two remarkable women whose stories have been on my mind – especially after we’d briefly discussed Rahab in a bible study a week ago – beside the fact that they were both strong and brave, what set them apart?

They both had faith that the here is not bigger than what is coming.

Rahab (Joshua 2) lived by faith – she believed that the here and now was not greater than what is coming. Her here and now came in the form of the king’s thugs, who demanded she hand over the Israelite spies who’d stayed with her. She lied to their faces, risking life and limb (hers and her family’s) and spared the spies. What drove her to take this risk? She knew that this new God marching into Canaan was “God in heaven above and on earth below” (v11). When she chose to lie to the king’s men she put into action her belief that this coming God was bigger than the men standing before her. And in the end it saved her life and that of her family, even as Jericho burned around them.

Deborah (Judges 4) was another woman who by faith saw beyond what was before her. Now in her day the Canaanite general Sisera had oppressed the Israelites for 20 years, so when Deborah summoned Barak and told him that God had commanded he march out to fight Sisera (4:6), he baulked – Sisera after all was a veteran commander with 900 iron chariots at his disposal. Deborah however saw beyond the iron chariots and saw instead God’s promise that he would give Sisera into their hands (v7). What was before the Israelites was not, she believed and knew, greater than what was promised. In the end she went with Barak to rally the men of Israel, and as God promised, Sisera was defeated (v14).

I guess that’s what the phrase means, “to live by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). To really have your eyes opened like Elisha’s servant, and to see. A lot of the heroes of the OT lived this out – Abraham, David, Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, Daniel, and so on (Heb 11).

What does it mean for us Christians? What do we look forward to? God has promised that he will clean our hearts, that he will give us new hearts of flesh to replace our hearts of stone, he will give us his Spirit to move us to follow his commands, he will bring us home where we will be his people and he our God (Ez 36:25-28). Jesus has promised we will have trouble in this world but that he has overcome it for us (John 16:33). Peter tells us that the trials we suffer now cannot take away from the joy of our salvation and the future glory of Jesus’ coming (1 Pet 1:6).

Jesus himself modeled looking beyond the here and now, and grasping future glory. He saw beyond the seductive promises of Satan in the desert and stuck to the future glory of his Father (Matt 4:1-11). In Gethsemane he looked beyond the agony and death of the crucifixion, because he knew the future glory would be incomparably greater (Heb 12:2).

We as Christians must do the same if we are to follow Jesus. Do we live and act like Rahab and Deborah, like Jesus? Or do we get preoccupied or overawed by the here and now, and so forget the future glory that Jesus promises? Do we settle for the here and now, pursuing its riches without lifting our eyes to the future? Do we pursue wealth, security, romantic love, great experiences above all else? Or do we live unafraid of the here and now’s threats, or unimpressed by its seductions, because we know something bigger and greater is waiting for us – the armies of the living God surrounding the enemy, commanded by King Jesus?

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