The Visions of God’s Strength

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Leader Guide ESV, Unit 13, Session 4
© 2019 LifeWay Christian Resources. Permission granted to reproduce and distribute within the license agreement with purchaser. Edited by Rev. Lex DeLong, M.A., Dec. 2022.
Summary and Goal
In the course of Elisha’s ministry, the king of Syria, to the northeast, decided to wage war against Israel. But by God’s grace, the Lord protected Israel through Elisha’s counsel. And in response to the Syrian army’s attempt to end his counsel, he demonstrated spiritual wisdom, the effectiveness of his prayers, and kindness toward his enemies. Through Elisha’s ministry, the Lord opened eyes, protected His people, displayed extraordinary kindness, and crushed the pride of the Syrians. Though all humanity has displayed constant rebellion against God, He nevertheless has shown great mercy and grace in crushing pride that stony hearts would soften and turn to Him in repentance and faith.
Session Outline
++God’s servant sees that which is unseen by others (2 Kings 6:8-16; God’s people can trust that God is continually with them).
++God’s servant prays for the eyes of others to be opened (2 Kings 6:17-20; God wants His people to see Him at work).
++God’s servant calls for mercy and grace (2 Kings 6:21-23; Seeing God’s presence demands a response).
Background Passage: 2 Kings 4–8
Session in a Sentence
God opens people’s eyes to see the spiritual realities around them so they will trust in Him.
++God is always at work around you whether you see it or not.
Christ Connection
Elisha prayed for the eyes of others to be opened so they could see God at work around them. Likewise, Jesus came to give sight to the blind—physically and spiritually—so that they could see that He is Immanuel, God with us. Last, salvation gives us the unseen faith that God is at work around us continually as members of the body of Christ.
Fill in the blanks: (DDG p. 38)
Bible study should always involve asking good theological questions:
++What does this passage teach me about God?
++What does this passage teach me about humanity?
++How does this passage point me to Jesus?
Big Idea:
The most important theological question that needs to be asked first and with every passage:
++What did the author mean to the original audience?
Our Bible study must also involve prayer for illumination. We should pray for God to open up our eyes to understand the truth of Scripture and its purpose for our lives, so that we might see what God is doing spiritually in and around our lives.
What must be true about God to justify this approach to Scripture?
(God has spoken to us in His Word; God has revealed His identify and actions in His Word; God has given us truth in His Word; God gave us His Word with the purposes of pointing us to Jesus and growing us up in our faith in Him; God desires to show us His paths for our good and His glory)
Summarize this session in light of the questions above.
· “What was the author saying to the original readers?”
In the following narrative, God wanted Israel to remember that He is always ready, able, and willing to surround them with His protection and fight for them, as His people.
· “What does this passage teach me about God?”
In the following biblical story, God opened eyes to spiritual things, protected His people, and extended mercy to the enemies of His people.
· “What does this passage teach me about humanity?”
This story depicts human rebellion and the spiritual limitations of humanity.
· “How does this passage point me to Jesus?”
This study shows God’s redemptive work through the prophet Elisha. But we need a better Elisha to save us through providing the greater kindness of a new heart. We need a better King, one who is neither inclined to kill His enemies nor set on selfish conquests but who will rule over us in power and grace. We have these in Jesus, our true High Priest and King.

Point 1: God’s servant sees that which is unseen by others (2 Kings 6:8-16; God’s people can trust that God is continually with them).

Read 2 Kings 6:8-16 (DDG p. 39).
8 Once when the king of Syria was warring against Israel, he took counsel with his servants, saying, “At such and such a place shall be my camp.” 9 But the man of God sent word to the king of Israel, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are going down there.” 10 And the king of Israel sent to the place about which the man of God told him. Thus he used to warn him, so that he saved himself there more than once or twice.
11 And the mind of the king of Syria was greatly troubled because of this thing, and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me who of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.” 13 And he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and seize him.” It was told him, “Behold, he is in Dothan.” 14 So he sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city.
15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
DDG (p. 39)
The king of Syria likely waged war against Israel for personal pride or the pride of his gods. But the king of Syria had heard of and witnessed God’s grace:
· First, God blessed them with success. Second Kings 5:1-2 says that God gave Syria victory, even on raids within Israel. Another nation, who worshiped other gods, was given military victory not by the power of their gods but by power of Yahweh. God isn’t a small “g-o-d,” who influences only one group of people. He rules countries, the church, and the cosmos.
· Second, God blessed them with a miracle and an example of salvation. Chapter 5 goes on to tell about the incredible healing of Naaman, the commander of the Syrian army, from leprosy. In verse 15, Naaman makes a great confession of faith—that there is no god in all the world except the God in Israel. Naaman’s story demonstrates that God saves people from every tribe and tongue if they will believe.
· Third, God blessed them by crushing their pride, which He does in 2 Kings 6:8-23, the focus of this session. God can and will humiliate people in order that they may respond to Him in faith. God humbles human beings that He might save them and use them for His glory.
DDG (p. 39)
God sought to humble the Syrian king by frustrating his war plans. The account is humorous to read as the king thinks he has a spy or traitor on his team. How else could the king of Israel know his every move? Because the all-knowing, all-seeing God passed along the information. Though many miles away, God granted Elisha the secret, unseen counsel of the Syrian king, and He also protected His servant in unseen ways, making Elisha fearless before the threat of the Syrian army sent to get him.
· Sadly, instead of being humbled by God’s frustrating work and seeking Elisha to learn more about his power and wisdom and their source—the one true God—the king grew angry and sought to seize Elisha. One wonders why he didn’t assume Elisha would know of this plan also. Once again, blind pride fueled this king’s futile decisions and actions.
· The king’s servants went to Dothan, where Elisha was located, and surrounded the city at night. But God was prepared to humble the king again by protecting His prophet from the Syrian army. God had given Elisha the eyes to see His unseen divine army outnumbering the raiders.
What does this text teach us about God’s sovereignty over the nations?
(God is sovereign over the nations; God can bless or frustrate the plans of any nation, regardless of their motivations; no nation’s plans will succeed if the Lord is against them; even what a nation thinks is determined in secret is known to the Lord)

Point 2: God’s servant prays for the eyes of others to be opened (2 Kings 6:17-20; God wants His people to see Him at work).

Read: Ask a volunteer to read 2 Kings 6:17-20 (DDG p. 40).
17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 And when the Syrians came down against him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Please strike this people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness in accordance with the prayer of Elisha. 19 And Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he led them to Samaria.
20 As soon as they entered Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw, and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria.
DDG (p. 40)
Elisha saw what his servant could not see, so he prayed for the assistant’s eyes to be opened to the reality of God’s unseen protection surrounding them. God wanted He and His Hosts to be seen.
God opens eyes for people to see His grace (Ps. 146:5-10).
He also gives unseen protection to His people (Ps. 91).
Jesus Himself knew and lived under the invisible protection of the Father until the hour came for His crucifixion. God is a refuge for His people to deliver them (Ps. 46:1-7; 50:14-15,23).
But we need eyes to see it and hearts to believe it (Ps. 27:1-6).
· Though Jesus didn’t use His Father’s unseen protection in the garden of Gethsemane on the night He was arrested, He was aware of it. He rebuked one disciple’s violent defense against the soldiers sent to arrest Him, saying, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).
· Elisha also prayed for God to deal with the enemy’s sight, first in blinding them so they could not capture him. He then led them on a ten-mile hike to Samaria, the capital city of Israel, where he prayed a second time for the Lord to open their eyes to their physical reality—stuck in the middle of enemy territory.
What are some ways eyes need to be opened today?
(for physical healing from blindness; for believers to see and believe in God’s provision and protection; for believers to grow in their knowledge of the faith and its implications; for unbelievers to see the glory of God on display in the gospel of Jesus Christ)
DDG (p. 40)
Our sovereign God answers prayer; He hears the cries of His saints. Allow this passage to encourage you in your prayer life. Pray for protection, pray for others, and pray for eyes to see the beauty of the gospel in Jesus Christ, both for salvation and sanctification.
Fill in the blanks: DDG (p. 40)
Regeneration: Takes place at the beginning of the Christian life and is the miraculous transformation, or the new birth, that takes place within an individual through the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Titus 3:5). It is a work that human effort is unable to produce.
Fill in the blanks: DDG (p. 40)
Work of the Holy Spirit in Life of the Christian: The Spirit’s work in the life of a Christian begins in the work of salvation in bringing a person to faith in Christ and is continued through the work of sanctification in helping the Christian to become progressively more like Christ throughout the course of his or her life.
He also empowers and indwells believers, intercedes on their behalf, and equips them with special gifts for the service of God’s kingdom. He is the Comforter to the believer and aids us in properly interpreting the Bible.

Point 3: God’s servant calls for mercy and grace (2 Kings 6:21-23; Seeing God’s presence demands a response).

Read 2 Kings 6:21-23 (DDG p. 41).
21 As soon as the king of Israel saw them, he said to Elisha, “My father, shall I strike them down? Shall I strike them down?” 22 He answered, “You shall not strike them down. Would you strike down those whom you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” 23 So he prepared for them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into the land of Israel.
DDG (p. 41)
Elisha instructed the king of Israel to show mercy and grace to the Syrian army. Imagine the Syrian king’s reaction: “Did you capture Elisha? Did you slay him?” “No, he captured us, fed us a feast, and let us go!” God was slaying the pride of the king, showing him the folly of opposing the real King of all the earth and His prophet.
· In the great feast prepared for the Syrian army, Israel’s enemies, we see the principles behind Matthew 5:43-45 and Romans 12:18-21 at work, perhaps pointing ahead toward a future fulfillment in, or at least a picture of, God’s kingdom.
· Psalm 2 communicates the idea that opposition to the King of all the earth is utter folly: God laughs at the earthly kings who make plots against Him (Ps. 2:1-4).
What are some ways in which the world responds to enemies?
(in anger; with hatred; an eye for an eye; do unto others as they have done unto you; being passive aggressive; with hurtful words; with violence; with murder)
DDG (p. 41)
Why would God, the King of all the earth, treat His enemies like this? He gives living examples of His supremacy, power, and transforming grace to humble the proud so they will turn to Him. The God who protected Elisha, His servant, and Israel would have protected Syria also, if they had sought refuge in Him. The shelter of God is available to all who turn to Him in repentance and faith. But despite the Lord’s patient kindness, the Syrian king refused to bow the knee to Yahweh.
Voices from Church History
“Our calling is a different calling: it is to exhibit God and His character, by His grace, in this generation. We need to show Him forth as personal, as holy, and as love. It is possible in the flesh to be both orthodox and dead—or loving and compromising. What is not possible in the flesh is simultaneously to exhibit both the justice of God and the love of God—this can only be done through the work of the Holy Spirit.” 1 –Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984)
· How does God humble people today? He gives us His Word (Isa. 66:2). He reveals His glory in creation. Sometimes we’re humbled under the weight of a crisis, a crisis that should make us cry out to God. Sometimes it’s the consequences of living in ongoing sin that humbles people, which leads them to bow to God in repentance (Ps. 107:10-16). Finally, God may also use the kindness of Christians—or even our supposed enemies—to humble us. These are all acts of God’s grace intended to move us to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Use the scale in their DDG (p. 41) to evaluate your typical attitude toward their enemies.
How do you tend to treat those whom you consider enemies?
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Outright Hostility Passive Aggression Patient Kindness
What are reasons we should strive, in the Lord’s strength, to show patient kindness to our enemies?
(God shows patient kindness to His enemies to lead them to repentance and faith; so we reflect the kindness of our Savior, who has shown kindness and grace to us in our sin; to open doors for gospel conversations with those who need to hear the good news about Jesus; to honor the God who has saved us by grace through faith)
Big Idea:
The most important theological question that needs to be asked first and with every passage:
++What did the author mean to the original audience?
My Mission
This story displays many glorious attributes of God. It also provides a picture of human rebellion and sin. Despite all the overtures of God’s grace to the king of Syria, the king hardened his heart against God. When God shows us grace and mercy, let’s be quick to respond with humble faith. Let’s pray for eyes to see the wonders of God’s grace in Scripture and in our daily lives, and let’s respond rightly to that grace with faith and obedience resulting in mission.
Voices from the Church
“Humans have been unable to open their own eyes, spiritually, since Adam hid behind the tree in hopes that his hiding from God could save him from God. We’ve all become very creative at trying to make ourselves see, but we will never succeed … [God] will always be doing what no one can: be God. The God who does the miraculous. And we can be sure that the salvation of a sinner is the greatest miracle the world could ever see.” 2 –Jackie Hill Perry
Close in prayer:
1. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, in The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990), 167.
2. Jackie Hill Perry, Gay Girl, Good God (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2018), 146.
3. Worldview Study Bible (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2018), 426, n. 6:8-12; n. 6:15-17; n. 6:18.
4. Musa Gotom, “1 and 2 Kings,” in Africa Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Tokunboh Adeyemo (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), 449.
5. Havilah Dharamraj, “2 Kings,” in South Asia Bible Commentary, gen. ed. Brian Wintle (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 450-51.
6. Iain W. Provan, “1 and 2 Kings,” in ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 655, n. 6:17; n. 6:18.
7. Andrew C. Bowling, “1, 2 Kings,” in CSB Study Bible (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2017), 563, n. 6:21-23.
8. Paul R. House, 1, 2 Kings, vol. 8 in The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2003) [Wordsearch].
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