Seeing the Invisible
January 28th, 1962 @ 7:30 PM
2 Kings 6:8-17
SEEING THE INVISIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2 Kings 6:8-17
1-28-62 7:30 p.m.
Now all of us in our Bibles turn to 2 Kings, 2 Kings chapter 6, verse 8 through verse 17, and we will share our Bibles. All of us read it together out loud, 2 Kings chapter 6, starting at verse 8, reading through verse 17. The title of the sermon tonight is Seeing the Invisible, and you will see the basis of the message in this passage we read together, 2 Kings 6:8-17. Now all of us together:
Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place; for thither the Syrians are come down.
And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice.
Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?
And one of his servants said, None, my lord, O king: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber.
And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan.
Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about.
And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! How shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.
And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray Thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.
[2 Kings 6:8-17]
“Lord, open his eyes, that he may see” [2 Kings 6:17]. Seeing the Invisible: the title, of course, is from a passage in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews where the author describes Moses as having committed himself to God and “endured, as seeing the invisible” [Hebrews 11:27].
This servant of Elisha had an unusual situation. It would be a fine thing for any young man to have been the understudy of the prophet Elisha. Think of his opportunity, a wide open door into the deep things of God. But it has been said that if a man is going to be a prophet, he’d better be prepared to die like one. It is the same thing about a young man who is Elisha’s servant. He better be prepared for the risk calculated and undertaken. And so it came upon a day that the young man ministering to Elisha arose early in the morning, and when he did so, the armies of the enemies of Israel surrounded the city on every side [2 Kings 6:15]. They were there to take the prophet dead or alive.
No man could be victor over Israel, as long as that prophet told the king of Israel everything that the king of Syria thought about [2 Kings 6:12]. Every plan, every ambush, every situation, Elisha knew it! God told it to him and he saved Israel, not once nor twice, but time and again [2 Kings 6:10]. And when the thing repeatedly happened, the king of [Syria] called in his servants, his chief of staff, his commander of the armies, the captains and the leaders, and said, “Tell me, which one of you is a traitor? Which one of you is against us and for them? For every time we map a strategy and every time we pursue a course, the enemy, the king of Israel, knows all about it. Now, which one of you is telling him?” [2 Kings 6:11].
And one of the men on the staff, one of the men in the army, who knew the situation over there in Israel, said, “My lord, O king, there is not a one of us that is betraying any secret by which we counsel together to make war against Israel. But there is a man of God over there, there is a prophet of the Lord there, and he tells the king what you think in your bedchamber!”
And so the king of Syria naturally said, “Then if we win the war, we’ve got to seize that prophet. Now, let’s catch him!” So he sent a whole army into Israel to surround Elisha and to bring him back, as I said, dead or alive [2 Kings 6:14]. Well, when the servant of the prophet arose early the next morning, there he looked to the east and to the west, to the north and to the south, and wherever he looked there was the army of the Syrians, coming to take Elisha his master captive [2 Kings 6:15]. And he came back to his master and said, “Master, wake up! Wake up! This is a tragic day. This is a day of disaster and despair! On every side the enemy has surrounded us, and there is no escape” [2 Kings 6:15].
But Elisha the prophet was quiet. He was tranquil—without any pills! What an astonishing thing; I thought all of us had to take tranquilizers in order to be at rest, in order to be at peace, in order to be quiet. Why, in this world, like in that world, no man could be quiet and be in a situation like that! But it’s a marvelous thing about the Lord, marvelous thing. All of those medicines! Man, I don’t know what the pharmaceutical companies would do if people were to be quiet before God. I don’t know what would become of all of our ills if we would be quiet before God! About ninety-nine percent of them would absolutely disappear, and about a one hundred percent of our worries, and our anxieties, and things that drive us mad and crazy and to distraction—they just wouldn’t be, if people were quiet before God.
And when that servant came back and announced to his master Elisha, “Master, we are in despair! The armies of the enemy surround us on every side, there is not any escape!” [2 Kings 6:15]. Elisha was unperturbed, undisturbed, absolutely quiet. And I can imagine that servant saying to him, “Master, you don’t realize the situation.” Have you seen that sign on these business houses you go in? If you are quiet, and if you are not disturbed, and if you are at peace, and if calm, it’s because you don’t know the facts: if you knew the things, why, you would be disturbed, and perturbed, and anxious like all the rest of us, for that is the way the modern man is supposed to live. He’s supposed to live as though there weren’t any God; he’s supposed to live as though we were going to be defeated. He’s supposed to live as though this thing is a lost cause; there is not any hope and there is not any future. That’s the way a modern man is supposed to live, full of anxieties, dreads, forebodings, every terrible, tragic thing that mind could imagine. That’s the way he’s supposed to live.
So when the [servant] came back to Elisha and said, “Master, you don’t understand, these enemies are on every side and nothing awaits us but defeat and despair!” [2 Kings 6:15], and the prophet said to the young man, “Young fellow, did you know that they that are with us are more than they that are with them?” [2 Kings 6:16]. And I could well imagine that the young fellow thought, “I’ve heretofore had great admiration for the intellectual acumen and the spiritual judgment and the practical reasoning of my master, but he’s slap-dab crazy! He’s lost his marbles; he’s got a screw loose. ‘They that are with us’—how many of us? There two; him and me, me and him. Two of us! And yet he says, ‘They that are with us are more than they that are with them,’ and there is an army out there!” [2 Kings 6:16].
Then Elisha bowed his head and prayed and asked, “O Lord, open the eyes of the young man. Open his eyes. Let him see. Let him see.” And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and answered the prayer of Elisha. And the mountains, and the mountains were filled with horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha! [2 Kings 6:17]. Isn’t that an unusual thing? There wasn’t anything abnormal about the young man: he had his eyes to see, and he had his ears to hear, but seeing, he couldn’t see, and hearing, he couldn’t hear [Isaiah 6:9]. And Elisha reckoned the young man as being blind, and deaf, and dumb, and Elisha prayed that he might have eyes to see.
And that’s the sermon tonight; the prayer to God that the Lord will give us eyes to see. First: that God will give us eyes to see the true nature of reality, for reality is always invisible and spiritual—always, always, by inspiration! This author to the Hebrews wrote an unusual thing, and after these years of study and scientific probing, he wrote it exactly as the thing is. You have it translated here, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,” by fiat He spoke them into existence, “so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” [Hebrews 11:3], and that’s the phrase, “so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Mē to phainomenōn—now you ought to recognize that Greek word, mē to phainomenōn, the things appearing, this, this, this, this; the things I look at—the things appearing; not “the things appearing are made of the things that we see.”
Now apparently that’s a foolish statement: “The things appearing are not made of the things that we see.” Apparently that’s a foolish thing to say, but when you probe into the meaning of those words with these years, two thousand years now since they were written, you find that by inspiration that man said exactly how this universe of appearance is put together. It’s not anything like you think it is. Nothing is! This solid piece of oak in that table and everything you see is made up of invisible particles of force and energy that you call electrons and protons and neutrons that are swirling around a central nucleus, and nobody ever saw one of those things. Nobody ever saw an atom, and he never will. Nobody ever saw an electron, and he never will. Nobody ever saw a neutron or a proton, and he never will. And yet this entire creation is made up of those things! They are invisible things. The things that appear are not made out of things that we see, for the things that we see are not the real things; the real things are invisible and you don’t see them!
I have been told that if you were to mash out, if you were to press out all of the space in the atoms that make up this world, you could hold it like a baseball in your hand. I have read that if you were to mash out, press out, push out, all of the space in the atoms of the sun, you could haul it around in a tub. You could carry it around in a wheelbarrow. Wouldn’t that be something, walking down the street with the sun in a wheelbarrow! Now those things are astonishing, they’re astonishing! But that’s reality; you don’t see these things that are real. They are invisible. And it is the same thing in the great world of the spirit, and of mind, and of creation.
I don’t know of a truer philosophy in this earth than Plato’s, and the great fundamental, undergirding, foundational supposition and proposition of Plato is this: that what we see in this world is the shadow; that the substance, the reality is in a spiritual world. What he said was, what we see here is imitation, but the pattern is invisible. And Plato would illustrate it like this: the idea of a chair is the reality, and this particular chair is a transitory, temporal shadow. It will disintegrate. In fact, Mr. Willis, it’s about nine-tenths disintegrated already! And he’s going to get us some brand new chairs up here pretty soon. They’re on the way, isn’t that right? Pretty soon!
But the thing that endures is the idea of the chair. This is a temporality, this is a shadow, this is a copy, but the reality is the idea. Now, that’s the fundamental proposition of Plato’s philosophy: that the real things are spiritual things; the real things are unseen things. And all of these things that are seen are just the shadows, they’re just the copies of the real things that are invisible and unseen. And those great spiritual truths that that marvelous Greek philosopher could see with a mind’s eye, with his eyes open, with soul eyes, are the things that pertain to the Lord God. The great reality in this universe is the reality of the intelligence and the personality and the sovereignty of the Lord God: seeing the invisible.
Now, an animal doesn’t see Him. The dog in his kennel is absolutely oblivious of the firmament above him, and the cow grazing in the pasture is absolutely unaware of the beauty of the landscape. But the faculty of seeing, the faculty of faith, the faculty of beholding God is a faculty the Lord God bestowed upon man. A man can do it, and when a man does not, he’s no better than an animal! He might as well be a dog. He might as well be a horse. He might as well be a cow. He might as well be any other animal other than the use of that highest faculty that looks upon God.
A haze on the far horizon,
The infinite, tender sky,
The rich ripe tint of the cornfields,
And the wild geese sailing high
And all over upland and lowland,
The charm of the goldenrod–
Some of us say its Autumn,
But some of us say, It’s God!
A picket frozen on duty,
A mother starved for her brood,
Socrates drinking the hemlock,
And Jesus on the rood;
And many, humble and nameless,
The straight, hard pathway plod—
Some of us say that’s Consecration,
But others of us say, That’s God!
[adapted from “Each in His Own Tongue,” William Herbert Carruth]
With eyes of the soul you see Him everywhere, and yet there are men that rise in the morning and go to sleep at night having not seen God all day. And there are men who live in January and they’re still alive in God’s wonderful world in December, and they haven’t seen God all the year through! Seeing the invisible, eyes of the soul: Lord, open his eyes, that he could see [2 Kings 6:17]. We need our eyes spiritually open that we might see the enemy of our souls, our great arch adversary, Satan.
Yea, we need a thousand eyes, every one of them open to God, that we might behold that angel who comes to us as an archangel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14], that we might know him and his deception, and it’s a marvelous thing how it works. You would think that a primitive man who lived close to nature, who lived beyond the refinements of the veneer of a cheap civilization, you would think that a primitive man who lived close to nature would be also a man who lived close to God. It is the opposite. As I have seen and watched the primitive man in Africa, and in India, and in Central and South America, and other places in this earth, he is depraved and sodden. That’s the devil!
And then when you turn it around, here is an educated people, and they are learned, and they are university professors, and they are as godless and as atheistic. I marvel at the naïveté of the Russians, for they boasted on their radios and they published in their papers that their astronaut had gone around the world three times and he didn’t find any God up there where the Christians say that there is a Lord. As though, as though with a man’s naked eyes, when he astronauts around this world, he’s going to find the throne of the Lord God in heaven. You can’t believe that men of science and men of learning are duped by such things, but whether he’s a primitive, primordial, primeval critter who lives sodden in ignorance and in filth, or whether he’s the university professor, so many of them—both extremes—are blinded by the god of this world [2 Corinthians 4:4], and they don’t see. The same thing in all the avenues of life: poverty, Satan uses to degrade; affluence, Satan uses to degrade; beauty, Satan uses to damn; culture, Satan uses to destroy. The youths, the old, the middle-aged, the young; there’s no place where this archenemy of the soul does not waylay, and ambush, and destroy, and defeat. O God, open our eyes that we might behold; that the Lord might open our eyes that we might look upon our Lord and Savior as He is. It is an astonishing thing, it’s an amazing thing, how people can see the same thing, and both look on the Lord Jesus alike, and yet see such vastly different personality in the same Lord Jesus, looking at Him.
Just hurriedly, take these illustrations. He was casting out devils. Here was a drunk, and He was making him well, and here was a man bound down by one of those tragic demons, and the Lord liberates him. You say, “Oh, but I don’t believe in demon possession.” Man, just go around with me. Here is somebody in the hands of a vile, evil spirit. Here’s somebody caught in the temper of an awful, awful wrath. Why, it’s just tragic. Here is somebody bound down by an indescribable lust, and here is somebody who is given to drunkenness and to violence; all of these things that enter into the human heart. Here is a man that one day was fine, and now he is vile and vicious. Here is a boy that was sweet and fine, and now he belongs in the gutter.
Such things as the evil of this world is able to do with the human heart and the human life, and the Lord would heal him. And some of them looked and said, “It is never so seen in Israel [Matthew 9:33]; O praise the name of God, that we’ve seen such a thing,” and then the others went away and said, “You know what He does? He casts out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” [Luke 11:15]. What an amazing difference! When the Lord appeared before the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus stood up and championed the Lord Jesus [John 7:50-51], and the rest of the members of the Sanhedrin said, “Search, and see; there is no prophet that comes out of Galilee” [John 7:52], and they voted to condemn Him to death [Mark 14:64]. And when the Lord raised Lazarus from the dead [John 11:43-44], there the people were, having seen Lazarus raised, and they praised God that He walked among men [John 11:45]. And there were others that went out and planned to destroy Him, to take His life [John 11:53]. When the Lord Jesus was being tried and Peter looked upon Him, he went out in repentance, and wept bitterly [Luke 22:61-62]. And there were the soldiers there, in buffoonery and in ridicule and in mockery, making fun of the King of heaven [Matthew 27:27-31].
And when He died on the cross, on one side of Him was a thief who blasphemed His name and cursed Him and ridiculed Him [Luke 23:39], and on the other side was another thief, and he said, “Lord, when Thou comest into Thy kingdom, remember me” [Luke 23: 42]. What an astonishing thing, looking on the same Man, watching the works of the Son of God, and to some of them it was the work of the devil, while to others it was a sign that the Lord God incarnate had come down from heaven among men [Hebrews 10:5-14]. Eyes to see, eyes to see; and that brings me to this final appeal. “O Lord, open his eyes, open his eyes, that he may see” [2 Kings 6:17], for there has to be a work of God in the human heart for a man to look in faith upon Jesus [John 6:44].
Now, we can take our tallow candles and hold them up and say, “Look at the horses and the chariots of fire,” and we can take our little candles and try to point out the spiritual realities of God, and we can take our vain reasoning and we can try to dispel the night that covers the man’s soul and the veil that covers his heart. But after you have preached and preached and preached, and after you have made the gospel the simplicity of the simplicities, and after you’ve done your utmost and your best to show men how to be saved, God has to open his eyes for him to see. We are shut up to prayer; we must cast ourselves upon God [2 Peter 3:9].
Last Sunday night, the best I could, with all the fervency of my soul, I was preaching on the chapter before—chapter 5, in the Second Book of the Kings—and it was on Naaman [2 Kings 5:1-14]. And with all of my soul I was preaching, “Wash and be clean, look and live [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9], believe and be saved!” [Acts 16:30-31]. But a man doesn’t wash, he doesn’t look, he doesn’t believe until God does something to his soul, until God opens his eyes that he can see. For seeing, and seeing, and seeing, and he doesn’t see; and hearing, and hearing, and hearing, and he doesn’t hear [Matthew 13:13-16]. It’s as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14: “For the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” He can hear, and hear, and hear, and hear, but he doesn’t hear. And he can look, and look, and look, and look, but he doesn’t see. God has to do something to a young man’s heart, to a young man’s life, to a young man’s soul. “O God,” cried Elisha, “O God, open his eyes, that he may see.” Open his eyes, open his eyes, open his eyes! “O God, open his eyes, that he may see” [2 Kings 6:17].
Now when God does that, the man turns and he says, “Well, why didn’t I see that before?” You see, he sees. “Well, I never heard that before.” Why, man, you’ve been hearing it all your life! Every time the preacher preaches, you’ve been listening to it, and every time you read God’s Book, you’ve been reading it, and every time anybody has witnessed to you about Jesus, that’s what they said.
But he heard, and heard, and heard, and one day he heard. And he looked, and looked, and looked, and looked, and one day he saw. It’s something God does to the heart, and that’s why all of our preaching in the world won’t save a single soul, not a one. And that’s why all of our efforts, and all of our extenuating, and all of our philosophizing, and all of our rationalizing, and everything else we can do in this world is as nothing until God does something to the human heart. And that’s why the prayer meetings, and that’s why people looking to Jesus, and that’s why the bended knee, and that’s why the supplication to heaven; ”O God! Open his eyes, that he can see—open his eyes! [2 Kings 6:17]. Open his eyes! Lord, open his eyes.”
And when God opens his eyes, he sees the unseeable; he looks upon the invisible. Jesus is no longer just a historical character to him; Jesus becomes a personal Savior [John 20:27-28]. And the church is no longer just another organization like a club, or like a civic organization, or like a fraternity; the church becomes the living body of Jesus in this earth. And the people of the Lord no longer appear to them as a bunch of fussy old hypocrites, who are looking down their nose at all of the rest of the sinners in the world; but the church and the people of the Lord become a great communion and a great fellowship. He looks, and looks, and looks, and one day he sees. He hears, and he hears, and he hears, and one day he hears. And when he turns, he is amazed at the simplicity and why he never saw it and never heard it before. It’s something God has to do to a man’s heart [John 6:44].
Now this conclusion: somebody prayed for us. That’s why we saw, that’s why we heard, and that’s why we were saved. “Lord, open his eyes” [2 Kings 6:17]. Did your mother pray for you? Did she? Did your father pray for you? Did he? Did you have a pastor who prayed for you? Did he? Did you ever have a Sunday school teacher who asked God about you? Did you ever have a friend who named your name at the throne of grace? Think! Think! When I close my eyes and I think, I see a loved and familiar face. I see tears. I hear that word of prayer that calls my name. Think! Think! And it is in answer to prayer that God opens the eyes of the soul. “Lord, open his eyes, that he may see,” and God opened his eyes, and he looked and beheld the great God and our Savior, Jesus the Christ.
And I haven’t time to speak of the great message of this sermon and the comfort that comes from it. The young man saw the danger, but he didn’t see the deliverance. The young man saw the host of flesh and blood, but he didn’t see the chariots of fire [2 Kings 6:15-17]. And that’s the way with God’s people so many times. We see the dangers, but we forget about the deliverance. When the down-look is drear and dark, try the up-look, and when the future looks bad, try the eternal look. Oh, the comfort that comes to God’s people when God opens their eyes and they see. They that are with us are more than they that are with them [2 Kings 6:16]. The future belongs to us. If God be for us, who can be against us? [Romans 8:31].
Oh, the comfort, and the assurance, and the blessedness, and the victory, and the triumph, and the riches in glory; even our poverty is as nothing compared to such riches! And even our pain, and our despair, and our ache of heart is as nothing compared to what God has done, and is going, and will do, for those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear Him say, “What things I have prepared for My people” [1 Corinthians 2:9]. O God, open our eyes, that we may see [2 Kings 6:17].
Now, there is no need to preach about it and not do it. Let’s all stand, let’s all go to our places for this invitation, and we’re going to have a prayer. We’re going to ask God to open the eyes of our soul [2 Kings 6:17], and then ask God to send to us tonight these who by faith look up to Jesus [Ephesians 2:8], and in trust, simple, humble, commit to Him their souls and their lives [Romans 10:9-10]. Now let’s stand for the prayer.
Our Lord in heaven, when we have preached our best, it is nothing except the Spirit of Jesus, there the appeal on the words of love; O God, however we may explain, and however we may try to simplify the gospel, God must do something; God must open the eyes of the soul; God must show our Lord in His death on the cross [Matthew 27:32-50], in His resurrection from the grave [Matthew 28:1-7], in His promised coming again [1 Acts 1:9-11]. We must see a vision of Jesus in our hearts [Hebrews2:9]. He is the one to whom we confess our sins [1 John 1:9]; He is the one who forgives us all the wrong of our life; He is the one who writes our name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27; Luke 10:20]. He is the one to whom now we pray, and He is the one whom someday we shall see face-to-face [Revelation 22:3-5]. O Lord, open our eyes, that spiritual reality might be seen in our souls [2 Kings 6:17]. And our Master, as the Holy Spirit of God does His office work tonight, O blessed Lord, give to us these who look and live [John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:8-9]; these who wash in the blood of the Lamb and are clean [2 Kings 5:10-14; Revelation 7:14]; these who trust and are saved [Acts 16:30-31]. Master, as our people pray, and as God answers, and as we sing our song of appeal and invitation, Lord, again, tonight, grant us a gracious harvest for Thy name’s sake. Amen.
And now while we sing our song, somebody you, give his heart to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10]. Somebody you, put your life in the fellowship of this beloved congregation. A family you, come. In the balcony round, down one of these stairwells, come. On the lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front: “Here I come, pastor, and here I am,” while we sing this song of appeal.
SEEING THE INVISIBLE
Dr. W. A. Criswell 2 Kings 6:8-17
I. That we might see with the eyes of God
1. The true realities are invisible
2. The presence of God
3. Satan, the enemy of our souls
4. The appointed Savior, to see God, look to Jesus
II. We are shut up to prayer – to open our eyes is something only God can do
III. Results of prayer
2. Encouragement, deliverance, comfort, assurance