20/20 in 2020
The new year is upon us and it’s super exciting this year because we get to start a new decade: 2020. No more twenty-teens; hello roaring 20s! When you hear someone say 2020, aside from the news program on CBS that my parents used to watch, most of us naturally think of eyesight. 20/20…that’s perfect vision, right? The goal of every eye exam is to get you seeing with the crystal clarity of 20/20 vision. I still remember my first eye exam way back in the 6th grade because I really did not want to go. My science teacher had told me I probably needed glasses because I couldn’t see the chalkboard from the back of the room. I did not want glasses because I loved playing baseball, and in all my massive 6th grade wisdom I knew that glasses meant I wouldn’t be any good at baseball anymore. Everyone I knew who wore glasses was not good at baseball, so therefore, glasses must keep you from playing baseball well. I know, I know; I’m amazed at myself too. How was I so smart but so young? On top of that, I was already teased at school for being the nerdy smart kid and I did not want to add “four eyes” to the list of things those students could call me.
My parents were of the generation that didn’t let their children choose what they wanted to do or didn’t want to do, so I went to that eye appointment. We did the “read the letters on the wall chart as they get progressively smaller,” test. We did the glaucoma test that blew air into your eyeball. We did the “which looks better, 1 or 2…1 or 2…2 or 1” thing. Finally, we did a color vision test. Let me just say, I failed them all! I couldn’t read the letters on the eye chart, the pressure in my eyes was too high, sometimes I couldn’t decide if 1 was better than 2, and I am most definitely color blind! In fact, I just want to give a shout out to my wife Andrea for picking out my clothes and making sure I don’t dress like a complete dork. Without her monitoring my clothing, I’d be a sad case. Anyway, we left the doctor that day and I dreaded what was coming when those glasses arrived. It took about 2 weeks for them to come in and when I put them on for the first time, my world changed. Things that I couldn’t see before were suddenly crystal clear. Before, I could tell if someone’s eye were open or closed, but now I could see eyelashes and the contour of cheekbones in people’s faces. I discovered that it was possible to read things from across the room, and outside I could see leaves on trees! I never knew that before! I knew there were individual leaves because I had to rake them up when they fell, but I never realized you could see the outline of an individual leaf while it was on the tree. I kept taking my glasses off and putting them back on to compare. Taking them off; putting them on. I was amazed! It was like I was seeing the world as it really was for the very first time.
My prayer for you as we dig into our Bibles and launch into the year 2020, is that the Lord will open your eyes like that. I pray that you will be able to clearly see Him and how He is working around you and through you.
Now, let’s look at the book of 2 Kings, chapter 6. Before we get into the text, let me give you a little backstory. The Bible tells us that the King of Aram was at war with Israel in the north. This is well after King Solomon had died, so Israel was split into two separate kingdoms: the southern kingdom of Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel. Aram was the country on the north east border of Israel, and they had begun attacking the cities of Israel in the north. It wasn’t working though because every time the king of Aram would move his army to set up camp, God would speak through the prophet Elisha and warn the king of Israel about it. Israel’s army would be on alert in that area and keep them at bay. The king of Aram was furious because he thought one of his officers was a spy. Let’s pick the story up here in 2 Kings 6, starting in verse 11…
2 Kings 6:11-17 (NIV)
“This enraged the king of Aram. He summoned his officers and demanded of them, “Tell me! Which of us is on the side of the king of Israel?” “None of us, my lord the king,” said one of his officers, “but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom.” “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”
So, the king of Aram finds out about Elisha and sends what the Bible calls, “a strong force” to go capture him. Think about this for a moment. The king of Aram is mad and frustrated, and we generally don’t make good decisions when we’re angry. It’s safe to reason that the “strong force” he sent was likely overkill, because to capture one man he sent enough army to surround a city. Picture in your head how many horses, chariots, and men it required to surround a city…it was likely hundreds but possibly even a thousand or more. Now, put yourself in the shoes of Elisha’s servant for a moment. You would know how Elisha has been reporting to the King of Israel. You probably even felt some joy and pride knowing that you were serving Elisha, who was God’s prophet and crucial in providing the information used to fight those dirty old Arameans. When that army rolls up and surrounds you, you’re sure that you’re a goner. That army would not have killed Elisha and left the servant alone. There’d be no defense attorney saying, “He doesn’t deserve the death penalty, he was just a servant doing what he was told.” No, he’d have been killed either right before or right after Elisha…no questions asked, no ifs ands or buts. So, he was scared. In his fear, he looked to Elisha who as a prophet, spoke on behalf of God. Elijah prayed that God would open his eyes to see that those who are with us are greater than those who are with them.
As we enter the year 2020, seeking God’s 20/20 vision for our paths, I believe that the first step you and I must take is the same as Elisha’s servant.
We must place our focus on the God surrounding us, not the trouble looming over us.
As the Aramean army moved into place during the night, God’s horses and chariots of fire were there too, ready to go at His command. Elisha knew it. He could see them. That’s how he was so calm in the face of trouble. With that big army surrounding his city, knowing full well why they were there, he was calm. He could look up into the hills around the city and see that God had them covered. The Aramean army was still there, but they didn’t look so scary with God’s army surrounding them. The servant couldn’t see it until Elisha prayed and asked God to open his eyes to see the spiritual realm around him. Suddenly, the servant had God’s 20/20 vision and could see the world for how it really was. He could see how God was fighting for him in the spiritual realm; when he saw it clearly, he was calm like Elisha too. In fact, we don’t hear anything else about the servant from that point on. I believe when he saw how God was on his side in the spiritual realm, that he understood the power God has over everything of man. I’d be willing to bet he was reminded of these words by King David in Psalm 118:6:
Psalm 118:6 (ESV)
The LORD is on my side; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
What can man do to me? That’s a great reminder for you and me when we’re in a tight spot, when someone is out to get us or whatever else the evil one throws at us. What can man do to me?
I don’t know how your 2019 is ending and how your 2020 is shaping up. Some of you, I know, have had a difficult year. Perhaps things are super stressful at work and you’ve got a boss that won’t quit riding your case. Perhaps there’s someone who’s attacking your character or after your job. Maybe there is a layoff coming and you’re concerned about providing for your family. Perhaps you own a fried chicken restaurant and Chick-fil-A opened in the same shopping center as you…Whatever it is that the evil one is using to attack you, like Elisha’ servant, I pray that your eyes will be opened to see God supporting you. Wherever you are, whatever is going on around you, no matter how bleak it may look, God’s army is right there to support you when you trust Him and follow Him. If you will fix your eyes on Him, then in every situation you can have confidence in His heavenly armies. Like Elisha’s servant, you’ll go from “freak out” to “chill out” knowing that the God who created the universe has your back. “The Lord is on my side; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
The other thing I want to draw your attention to in this account from the life of the prophet Elisha is this that, you will see God’s faithfulness in your obedience.
2 Kings 6:18-23 (NIV)
“As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked. Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria. [Samaria is the capital city of Israel and about 10-12 miles away from Dothan] After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria. When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?” “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.”
After Elisha’s servant has seen the horses and chariots of fire in the hills, the very next verse tells us that the army advanced toward Elisha. What did Elisha do? Did he ask God to unleash His chariots of fire and roast the Aramean army like a pig at a luau? That’s what I’d have wanted to do. That’s usually our human reaction toward those who attack us, right? We want to get them before they get us. The Bible doesn’t tell us how Elisha felt, but it does tell us what he did. It’s reasonable to believe that his humanity wanted that army taken out but instead, he struck them blind and led them to Samaria. I believe it’s because God had already told him what to do. Remember, God had been speaking to Elisha already about the troop movements of the Aramean army and sending him to warn the king of Israel. So, I think God gave Elisha instructions for this situation too. The Bible doesn’t say specifically; but to me it’s a very logical and reasonable explanation for Elisha’s seemingly random request to strike the army blind and then lead them to Samaria.
Imagine the king of Israel’s surprise and joy when he sees the blinded Aramean army hand-delivered into his city. He was probably excited and ready to kill them. However, even though he had the power to order them killed, he knew that he should seek Elisha’s (and therefore God’s) approval first. Elisha said to feed them and send them back home unharmed. So yeah, that sounds crazy, but it’s exactly what the king of Israel did. The Bible tells us that the conflict with Aram stopped because of that act.
Now, who would have seen that one coming? Probably no one. It happened because Elisha and the king of Israel were obedient to God. Had they killed the Aramean army, it likely would have incensed the king of Aram to the point that he would have hired other countries to attack Israel with him and Israel could have been wiped out. Instead of following their own thoughts, they were obedient to God and showed kindness and mercy to their enemy which lead to the end of a war. When you are obedient to the Lord and follow Him, you will see the faithfulness of God play out in amazing ways. Things often work out better than you imagined they could. It doesn’t mean you won’t have adversity and trouble. Israel and Elisha had plenty of trouble with the king of Aram. God never promises us a trouble-free life, but he does promise us that He will work on our behalf when we are obedient.
I remember a lady who shared with me that she knew she needed to be obedient and tithe, but financially she was strapped and didn’t think she could do it. She asked me what I thought she should do. I think she was hoping I’d let her off the hook, like I even have the authority to do that! God said it, not me! I told her that the Bible was clear, we are to return the first 10% of our income to the Lord and He will bless our lives when we do. She was single woman living on her own and her budget really was stretched thin, but she decided to be obedient and give the Lord the first 10% of her income anyway. Within two months, she had to move out of her apartment because she could no longer afford it. I remember how upset she was. I was upset too. I didn’t know what in the world God was doing but I encouraged her to be faithful to tithe because I’ve never seen God ignore the needs of His people when they are obedient. So, she moved into a different apartment that fit her budget better and made a few other lifestyle changes which allowed her to keep tithing and being faithful. I talked to her again about six months later, and joy radiated from her face as she told me the story of God’s faithfulness. In the apartment she left, she was surrounded by grumpy neighbors but in the new apartment, she made friends quickly with nice people who lived near her. It worked out that one of her neighbors volunteered to pet sit for her when she went out of town and that saved her a lot of money from kennel costs. Also, she was forced to eat out less and cook at home more. In doing so, she not only saved money on food but had lost a lot of weight and felt healthier and more energetic that she had for years. Did her obedience cause God to give her a larger income? Nope. Was God still faithful to her? You bet! She loved life a thousand times more after tithing than before and had no idea He was going to bless her with new friends, cheaper expenses, and better health. That’s how God often works, isn’t it? He’ll surprise you and give you more than you thought if you’ll just be faithful and obedient.
How does God want you to bring clarity and focus to your 2020 through obedience?
Maybe you need to begin tithing 10% of your income and return it to the Lord if you aren’t already. Maybe you need to reconcile a relationship with a family member. Perhaps God is telling you to ditch pride or arrogance, and to extend an olive branch of peace to this person. What might God do with that relationship if you’ll just follow His lead? Perhaps you need to start being an open Christ-follower at work. You need to be obedient to the Lord and quit riding the fence to blend in, and instead make it known that you follow Jesus. It might even cost you that job, but what does God have in store for you if you’re obedient? Perhaps you just need to start over in your career. You can hear the Holy Spirit whispering to you – “This is not what I made you for” and you need to start fresh. It’s scary to start over, but God is faithful if you’ll just be obedient. Maybe you’ve never chosen to trust Jesus Christ before and you need to start by seeking forgiveness of your sin from Him. It’s a big step of obedience and it can even be a little scary but if you sense God telling you to let go of yourself and trust Him – I can’t encourage you enough to do it. Do it today. Do it now!
As we seek God’s clarity of vision for 2020, I encourage you to pray right now and ask God to open your eyes to see His army fighting for you in the heavenly realm. Pray that in the coming year, you will see and gain focus on the world like Elisha’s servant and that you will not fear the constructs of man but will walk boldly in 2020 being the man or woman of God that He is calling you to be.
– Pastor Gary Chevalier