How Much Can God Trust Us?
Can God trust us with our enemies?
Can God trust me enough to make my enemies vulnerable by giving me power over them?
If we look around it doesn't take long at all to see how most people think enemies should be treated. And sadly most Christians have little difference in their personal views about how to relate to enemies than everyone else. If you just listen to the scenarios presented by various groups of Christians about end-time scenarios, they almost always involve some kind of triumphalism doctrines where God uses coercion to at last win over His enemies, punish them severely and exalt those who are loyal to Him.
Yet how can we give credence to these notions when they fly directly in the face of explicit teachings and the example of Jesus regarding how we are to view and relate to our enemies? Jesus also makes it very clear that God does not treat His enemies the way we think they should be treated.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:44-45)
That modern Christianity is far removed from the teachings and practice of Jesus becomes very clear to anyone willing to study and take those instructions seriously. But I come back to the original question: Can God really trust us with our enemies, to treat them the way Jesus taught if we had the chance to exercise power over them instead of the other way around?
Remember Elijah? Many Christians think fondly of Elijah and like to talk wistfully about the power that Elijah seems to represent. We pray that we may once again have that kind of power seen today in our midst. We rather like the idea of shaming those who don't worship God the way we think they should. We want to make them look like fools in front of the whole world when God takes our side in some great showdown like Elijah did. And getting caught up in the enthusiasm of the furor and emotion like Elijah did on Mt. Carmel, we can easily overlook the fact that God never instructed Elijah to use force to kill off those prophets of Baal. We just assume that our God is ready to resort to using force and violence just like we think we must do when things get too out of hand.
We also liken Elijah to John the Baptist who likewise had rather stern and frightening speeches to awaken people to their sordid moral condition. John too was a powerful preacher that used strong epitaphs to describe those who were opposed to God. But I ask the question: is it really safe to rely on these two forerunners to be the best example of revealing to us the true nature of God and how He wants us to relate to enemies?
Elijah certainly was a type of John the Baptist. Jesus even said so Himself. And it is also prophesied by Malachi that in these last days another Elijah movement will be raised up again to alert the world to its desperate condition and people's need for repentance and reform. But if you have not forgotten, in both instances these prophets of power were each immediately followed by another who was far more accurate in their messages and example to show to the watching universe the real truth about what God is like and how He treats those who are opposed to Him.
I have already mentioned the fact that Jesus taught very plainly things about enemy love that directly conflict with pretty much everything most people believe about God. But let me also go back and share a story that correspondingly reveals the kind of God we are dealing with from the experience of Elisha the prophet, who by the way had a double portion of the spirit of Elijah. And if someone is twice as powerful as the previous one, wouldn't it just make sense they they should be given more credibility than the previous one?
Its one of those absolutely amazing, surprising stories we find in the Old Testament that we far too often relegate to the children's divisions for entertainment. Of course in doing so we miss the powerful lesson about what God is like embedded in this story in Elisha's life, the prophet who was most parallel to Jesus. Did you realize that of every person mentioned in the Old Testament, Elisha's life more closely resembled the life of Jesus than anyone else? Elisha performed many miracles closely related to similar miracles that Jesus performed, like feeding a large group of people with just a little food, healing the sick and mentoring a group of young students to learn how to live and represent God before the world.
One time Elisha ended up making life quite difficult for an enemy king who wanted to make a lot of trouble for Israel. Every time this king secretly planned a surprise attack on Israel, the king of Israel already knew about it well in advance and was well prepared. This was because God through Elisha kept passing along the information of the enemy king's plans thus making it impossible for the enemy to use surprise as a military option.
After accusing his own servants of being spies for Israel, one of them shared with the king that it was not his own people who were the problem but rather that his secrets were being supernaturally conveyed to the prophet Elisha who was continually finking on the king's secret schemes.
Not thinking too clearly, at least in my opinion, the king decided to launch an attack on the city where Elisha and his servant were staying at the time. Now think this through, the king already had been told that God was the one who was sharing top secret information with Elisha all along. So what made him so naïve that he thought he could surprise Elisha any more than he could surprise the king Israel? That makes no logical sense to me at all. But then maybe the enemies of God don't use their reasoning powers very well to start with or they might not remain enemies for very long.
At any rate, the enemy army encircled the small town where Elisha was staying, evidently overnight. The next morning Elisha's servant, maybe as part of his learning about spending quiet time with God each morning following the example of his master, suddenly makes the discovery upon looking out into the morning light that they appeared to be in very big trouble. Well, at least from human perspective.
That is precisely the point that Elisha soon makes to his terrified servant breathlessly sharing this alarming news with his teacher. Elisha prays for the 'eyes' of his servant to be opened, and behold, the mountains all around them are seen to be filled with a far greater army of supernatural forces that are far superior to anything any army on earth could ever hope to marshal, than the puny threat presented by any earthly enemy king.
Now, if it had been me I might have been tempted to pray for the eyes of the soldiers surrounding the city to have their eyes opened too. But he did not do that. Instead, Elisha demonstrated a perspective and attitude that allowed him to be perfectly at peace no matter how threatening his enemies tried to appear. Elisha was so tight in his trust of God that he did not live his life in fear but in complete trust and rest in His heavenly Father's constant care and protection. How much do we meditate on this powerful example and let that vital lesson absorb into our own hearts?
Ironically, instead of praying for the eyes of the enemy soldiers to be opened so they would become terrified themselves, Elisha prays that their eyes will be closed and they become completely blind. Now what kind of prayer is that to pray for your enemies? Is that a nice thing to wish on someone? Is that the kind of spirit that emulates the teachings of Jesus? Did Jesus have in mind for us to pray for our enemies in this way?
I come back to the original issue. Could God trust Elisha with his enemies?
Why did Elisha pray for his enemies to be blinded?
So he could escape?
So he could harm them?
So he could exploit them?
So they would become more frightened?
If Elisha wanted them to be frightened he would have prayed the same prayer for them that he did for his servant. But no, Elisha had something far more beneficial in mind in his strange request to God, and the spirit of Elisha reveals far better the character of our loving God than the spirit that Elijah displayed when he took things into his own hands and used the sword to slaughter hundreds of priests who were seen as his enemies.
Elisha kindly went out and assured the blinded enemy soldiers that he would guide them in the right direction. Since they had little choice in the matter at this point due to their sudden disability, they accepted Elisha's offer, though at this point they still did not know who he was. Elisha led them to a different city, the city where the king of Israel lived and likely the place where they had previously attempted to launch unsuccessful attacks. Upon arriving at that city and being led right into the middle of town, Elisha prays again to God, this time to open the eyes of the enemy. Of course upon being able to comprehend where they were by this time they must have felt completely helpless and vulnerable, surrounded as they likely were on every side by soldiers and people of Israel.
This was something like the perfect, supernatural ambush, don't you think? Elisha apparently used his supernatural connections to do what any military strategist wishes they could do. But here is where things really get interesting in the story. This is where the stark contrast emerges between the kind of God the average people of God think He should be like, and the kind of God Elisha knew Him to be.
Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, "My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?" He answered, "You shall not kill them. Would you kill those 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." So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel. (2 Kings 6:21-23)
Need I say any more? Clearly this is the kind of stunt that Jesus might pull off. Elisha understood the heart of God just as Jesus did so well that he carried out this plan to reveal the kind of God who loves His enemies, feeds and respects His enemies and in so doing disarms them – not of their physical weapons but of the hostility they had in their hearts against God and His people.
But I ask the question again: Could God trust us with that kind of power over our enemies? Do the versions of end-time events we gravitate toward today resemble this story we find in the life of Elisha? Or do they more closely resemble the blood-letting we see on Mt. Carmel? What is the difference between these two stories? And which story honors God more clearly; the one where a prophet indulges his own desires for revenge and takes advantage of his public win because of God's display of power on his behalf? Or the prophet who uses miracles to not only defeat the enemy's plans to hurt him but turns it into an opportunity to show them the kind of selfless love that God has toward all His enemies?
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:46-48)