Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“Bestrong and courageous. Be not afraid or dismayed…with us is the Lord our God, to help us, and to fight our battles.”
II Chronicles 32:7,8
“If you, your heart, your will, are enlisted on the good side, if you are wishing and trying that the good in you should conquer the bad, then you are on the side of God Himself, and God is on your side; and ‘if God be for us, who hall be against us?’ Take courage, then.”
Today’s Study Text:
“Therefore send he (the king of Syria) thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.”
II Kings 6:14
The God of Dothan – Part 2
“Triple Threat Tactics”
“No man (or woman) has a velvet cross.”
“As I reflect over the troubles and trials in my own life, when have I been most taken off guard as some calamity struck?
“The grace of God exempts no one from trouble.”
“Crosses seldom come single.”
Several years ago, we undertook a special study based on the passages of Scripture found in II Chronicles 20. This particular story involves the king of Judah who has been called by some, “Good King Jehoshaphat.” While this king made some serious mistakes during his life, he was also a ruler who, unlike all his comrades, longed to serve God with a pure and undivided heart. What makes this story so fascinating is that I truly believe a lot of us can relate, in a very personal way, to this man for there’s not too many of us who would label ourselves as “perfect.” In my case, far from it. But I know that like you, there is a tremendous longing in my soul to keep my heart undivided before God.
What I think was interesting about Jehoshaphat’s life is that just when things in his kingdom appeared to be functioning extremely well, BOOM, he was hit by what I chose to call, a “Triple Threat,” which included the Moabites, Ammonites, and the inhabitants of Mount Seir – whose plan was to completely overrun the army of Judah and who knows what they wanted to do to King Jehoshaphat. It wasn’t enough for one wicked nation to come after the king and his people, instead he faced a “Triple Threat.”
Now as you read today’s study text, you might have said to yourself, “Here we go again!” For buried in this passage is another lesson about “triples.” And this time, it is “Triple Threat Tactics” as I call our study for we are provided with an effective warning for our own lives that I pray will keep us on spiritual alert as to how the enemy so frequently comes along and like a trained military strategist knows how and when to try and gain the upper hand in our lives.
If we break down our study text for today, we can identify what I call “Triple Threat Tactics” and here’s how we can uncover the challenges we frequently run headlong into.
We find in II Kings 6: 14 these three “tactics” employed by the king of Syria against one man, Elisha, the man of God. I hope you will remember that this was an attack against one, single individual.
First Tactic: The king of Syria sent “horses and chariots” – enough to surround the city. And he did this to bring down one man of God. Oh, and the Bible tells us one other thing, it was “a great host.”
Second Tactic: The king of Syria came by night. Under the cloak of darkness, the king’s forces snuck their way into the region of Dothan and placed themselves in a strategic spot.
Third Tactic: The king of Syria sent enough troops and chariots and horses to “compass the city about.” In other words, there was no apparent way of escape, Elisha was trapped. One man against a host.
Horses and chariots, a host, in the dark, surrounding the entire city of Dothan. But at this point I want to use our garden equipment – spade, shovel, hoe -
you name it, to more effectively uncover exactly how the enemy attacked Elisha, an individual who was known by everyone he met as, “the man of God.” In fact, this name has been so impressed upon my mind that now whenever I hear those four words, I immediately think of Elisha – God’s man!
Let’s look at the first tactical elements used by the enemy of God – horses, chariots, and a host. Don’t believe for a minute that the king of Syria thought he really needed all these implements to catch Elisha. That’s a completely ludicrous thought. All the king needed was a few soldiers at Elisha’s front door, grabbing the “man of God.” But no, the Syrian ruler didn’t send a fly swatter to kill a mosquito – he sent a host to squish this one man.
The second advantage the king of Syria hoped to use was that while Elisha and the entire town of Dothan slept, the king got his “host” into position. We need to remember that there wasn’t electricity in Elisha’s day. When the sun went down and the candles were blown out, in a city off by itself, like Dothan, it got dark. I got a taste of this type of darkness the other night when for some reason I awoke at 2 A.M. something seemed strange for I could not see a thing. I don’t ever remember being in a situation where it was so pitch black. At first I thought something might be wrong with my eyesight. I reached over in the bed to feel if Jim was there. He was, sleeping away. I touched the pillow at the top of the bed where our little dachshund, Baby Ethel, was sleeping as peaceful as could be. By this time, I recognized the fact that the lights which we usually leave on outside our bedroom, weren’t shining and it finally hit me, our electricity was out. As I moved around of course I awoke Jim who immediately grabbed his cell phone and used his “flashlight” option and made his way to the window where he rolled up the blind and sure enough, there wasn’t one light on in the entire town. From our hilltop perch, as we looked down into the valley, we found the same darkness that blanketed our bedroom also covered every other home in the valley and on the sides of the hills. At that moment, I thought about the fact that if someone had wanted to break into our home and enter our bedroom (other than Baby Ethel’s unrelenting, ear-piercing barking) we wouldn’t have been able to see them. This is exactly what the king of Syria planned on. With darkness enveloping every square inch of land in Dothan, he was able to place his overwhelming show of force around the city, as he slipped closer and closer toward his intended target – one man of God, Elisha.
If all the king’s horses and all the king’s men weren’t enough and the advantage gained by having his tactical effort use the darkness as an added benefit, the king of Syria must have felt that by totally surrounding the city of Dothan, he had covered all his bases and was positively certain he’d catch the “one” man of God whose life he was after.
While from the story of King Jehoshaphat we were able to learn that the “Triple Threat” employed by evil power against us attacks three critical areas of our lives – our relationships, our finances and our physical well-being, just as the Moabites, Ammonites and inhabitants of Seir attacked God’s children in ancient times – our story about Elisha in Dothan opens up to us the three tactical ways the enemy comes after you and me when we make a choice to follow God’s will and His way with an undivided heart. I will warn you, it is at our time of greatest commitment to God that we will often find ourselves terrorized with the greatest force by the enemy. This may seem to go against what we think might happen. But when the devil sees us putting our all on God’s side, don’t think he’ll let any of us off the hook easily. Instead, he will behave exactly like the king of Syria – he’ll throw everything at us but the kitchen sink and if he thinks the sink will be useful, he’ll toss that in, too. If you think I’m off base, let’s take a moment to look at Job. The “Triple Threat” hit Job hard – unbelievably hard. He was wiped out financially. All his children were killed and his wife was devastated, as we might imagine would happen by the loss of her children and so she advised her husband that death might be better than life. I have to tell you, I can understand Mrs. Job’s desperation and you may be able to, also. Of course, I mustn’t forget the cherry on top of this disaster – Job suffered physically when struck with painful boils from head to toe. Having had shingles four different times now, I’ll add that just because something only appears to be affecting your skin doesn’t mean the suffering is any less. Poor Job found this fact out when he was ostracized and sent to sit out at the city dump, covered in ashes.
As we continue to study the life of Elisha, we’ll uncover the fact that the “Triple Threat” of tragedy struck his life, too. But for today, what I want to focus on is that there is a way in which the enemy of God’s children strikes us strategically, with wily tactics used to loosen our hold on God.
Tactic 1: Strike fast with a force and power so great that it would completely swamp even the strongest person.
Tactic 2: Strike without warning when the individual being hit is least suspecting. In the dark seems to work best.
Tactic 3: Strike with a ferocity that leaves the victim feeling that there is absolutely no way of escape.
This is what the king of Syria did – an out-of-proportion show of force in the dark with no visual way of escape. And this is how the enemy comes upon you and me, “seeking whom he may devour.” He’ll use every trick in his book, one devastating attack after another. What’s more, he’ll hit us when we believe things are going just fine, there’s not even a hint of a storm brewing. And last, he’ll knock us so hard and so frequently that we’ll end up feeling as if we can’t get back on our feet. We may feel so overpowered we consider giving up
I’m going to put this into very personal terms with the hope that by sharing my own battle with the enemies’ use of “Triple Threat Tactics” that it will embolden you to, as the Apostle Paul encouraged, “run the race with endurance.”
As I shared in the past, three years ago when I felt, repeatedly impressed, that I needed to expand our prayer ministry, within days of this decision, the number of prayer requests we were receiving tripled. This to me was confirmation that God was leading in the decision to expand our outreach for Him. But let me tell you, over the past three years, the challenges Jim and I have faced in our lives have tripled, too. Our financial lives were turned upside down by events completely out of our control. Relationships at work and in our personal lives were demolished and then I awoke one day with a red streak running up my left arm and pain so severe I couldn’t even bear to have sheet touch my skin. It took three months for this infection to subside and no sooner had this problem gone away than deep into my shoulder and neck on my right side, a nerve pain developed that made it impossible for me to use my right hand – I couldn’t write at all. Some days I would have to lie as flat as I could in a tub of hot water just to attempt to alleviate the muscle cramping that was part of the reason, the doctor informed me, for the pain I was experiencing. For four weeks I went to the physical therapist every few days as my team of doctors and therapists tried, with the additional help of medication for pain as well as muscle relaxants, to break the severe cycle of spasms. One Friday afternoon, after weeks of this unbearable pain, Jim took me back again to the local physical therapy office where my specialist had me lie face down as she placed hot packs all along my spine and over my right shoulder and arm. As she turned to walk away she said, “You know Dorothy, your entire body is actually trembling with pain.” While her assessment was true, at that moment in time, what she couldn’t see were the tears running down my cheeks as I whispered, “Dear God, where are you?”
I am convinced that God’s word has been given to us just for those times when the enemy comes upon us in such forcefully, unexpected ways, broad siding all our plans and sinking our dreams. And we cry out, “O Father, where are you now?”
If this is the place you find yourself in today, please don’t despair. God didn’t leave Jehoshaphat to fight alone. He didn’t leave Job in the city dump. And He didn’t forget Elisha in Dothan. Believe me, if you have made the decision to place your will in God’s will, to embrace His plans as your plans, and to seek Him with an undivided heart, then as the prophet Isaiah tells us in words from our heavenly Father: “No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong. This triumph over opposition is your heritage. This is what God’s servants can expect. I’ll see to it that everything works out for the best. God’s decree” (Isaiah 54: 17, Amplified Bible, The Message Bible.)
I love this passage of Scripture for it is our Father’s assurance, His promise, that no matter how much force comes against us, even when we least expect it, and moreover, when there appears to be no way of escape, that He has the situation under control. No wonder the evil king of Syria thought he needed a “host” to kill off a little mosquito.
“As the hotter the day the greater the dew at night; so the hotter the time of trouble the greater the dews of refreshing from God.”
Sorrow Turned Into Joy
“Sometimes at night when human-kind
And beasts and birds are sleeping,
It seems as if the woods and banks
And meadows have been weeping.
Wrapt in night’s mantle, dews have drenched
The land with tears of sorrow,
But God will bathe it with His golden veil
Before the morrow,
Turning the tears of grief to tears of joy
Like glistening manna,
Until the hills and valleys laugh again
And sing Hosanna.”
John Alexander Bouquet
“I will be like the dew and the night mist; you will grow and blossom like the lily.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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