The Real Conspiracy: Behind The Scenes

Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the LORD and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria. (2 Kgs 6:15–19)

Elijah was gone, taken directly to heaven (2 Kgs 2:1). The kingdom of Israel was a corrupt mess. Ahaziah had instructed his people to inquire of Baal-zebub, god of Ekron, to see if he would recover. This was a fatal decision (2 Kgs 1:2–4, 16). It was a gross sin (idolatry) for him to invoke a pagan god, and the author of 2 Kings is pointed about how wicked it was. The variant, Beelzebul (Matt 3:22), might be more familiar. The form Baal-zebub means “Lord of the Flies,” which is an allusion to the Evil One.1 When Elijah rebuked him, the wicked king sent for him with companies of soldiers, whom the Lord destroyed. Eventually, the Lord sent chariots of fire to take Elijah to heaven (2 Kgs 2:9–14).

Fast forward to chapter 6. Elisha has been given a double portion of the Spirit, but things are, nevertheless, not going well. The king of Aram was at war with Israel and was seeking to kill him (the office of prophet, in the Bible, was not a path to fortune or leisure). Elisha had warned the king of Israel about a plot against him, so the king of Aram sought Elisha to get intelligence on the location of Jehoram. He sent chariots and forces to Dothan to capture Elisha. That is the backstory to the passage above.

Elisha’s servant was understandably panicked; but the prophet did not panic. Even though they were tactically outmaneuvered and surrounded—ordinarily really bad news in a military conflict—Elisha knew something his servant did not. He knew, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, that as fierce as the struggle is in this world, as bloody and ugly as it can be, “but to us, the struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the rulers, with the authorities, with the world rulers of this darkness, with the spiritual things of wickedness in the heavenlies” (Eph 6:12).2 Remember, the Paul who wrote these words suffered more than most Christians have suffered in this life, having suffered “far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death.” He says,

Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Cor 11:23–27)

Elisha and Paul were not Platonists or Gnostics, who downplayed or denied the reality of bodily experience. In case you did not do the math, he received 195 lashes. The scars must have been deep and ugly. Then there were the permanent injuries from rocks and rods and other beatings. Of course, he had yet to suffer the most severe injury of all: beheading by Roman authorities for no other reason than that he was a Christian, and thus a subject of King Jesus and a citizen of the Roman empire (Phil 3:20; Acts 22:27).

Paul and the prophet who wrote Kings both knew that behind the conspiracies we see in this world, behind the shifting political alliances and cultural tribalism—each one of which calls for our complete and unyielding allegiance—there are spiritual realities that demand our primary attention. It seems particularly timely for American Christians to grasp this truth again amidst the passions of a hotly contested election year. The political parties tell us that, should their candidate lose, it is the end of America and, for all intents and purposes, the world. Apocalypse sells. Even some Christians are hawking the message that all that really matters right now is earthly politics and “winning.” A Christian who raises a question about such rhetoric and thinking is likely to be dismissed as a “Pietist” or worse.

Again, the temporal issues before us are grave. Undergraduates openly calling for the slaughter of Jews, the widespread use of chemical abortifacients, the transgender madness (now magically embedded into Title IX, an act of Congress, by executive order), and seemingly unchecked crime and violence in American cities—these are all causes for real concern and prayer. May the Lord stem the tide of evil in places high and low in the USA! Nevertheless, the citizens of the Roman empire who raged against the Christians in the wake of the sack of Rome in the early fifth century were citizens of an empire that is now covered with feet of dust. The City of God is eternal and indefectible. Whatever happens in the election—it seems likely that things will become even zanier between now and November—there are spiritual realities that Christians must see.

King David knew that, for all the pomp and glory of Israel that Solomon would see, one greater than Solomon (Matt 12:42) already rules all the kingdoms of the world. He wrote of “him who rides the ancient sky, who thunders forth his battle cry” (Ps 68:33; Trinity Psalter-Hymnal, Psalm 68A).3 We know that king to be Jesus of Nazareth. Kings rage and plot (Ps 2:1–2) and one, otherwise forgettable, regional governor even crucified him, but King Jesus was raised and vindicated (1 Tim 3:16). Neither tomb nor elite soldiers could hold him. He ascended. He is at the right hand of power (Ps 110:1; Matt 22:44–46; Acts 2:34–36; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:13; 1 Pet 3:22). He is not waiting for any earthly power to make him king or even to recognize his rule. That day will come soon enough. When it does, every knee “in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth” will bow and “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10).

Christian, be sure that Christ is reigning. None of the crimes and craziness that you are witnessing are beyond his good and perfect providence. The powers of this age, even the Lord of the Flies himself, can do no more than they are permitted by him who holds worlds in his hands, who was in the beginning and who is coming again. Baal-zebub has been defeated. He rages. He seeks to destroy us and our children, but he cannot. Christ will soon crush him under our feet (Rom 16:20). The news and social media conspire to make us myopic but do not let them do it. The chariots of fire are still there. Those who are with us are greater than those who are with Baal-zebub.

Notes

  1. Beelzebul is a more polite version signifying “Lord of the heavenly dwelling.” D. E. Aune, s.v., “Beelzebul,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, rev. ed., ed. Geoffrey Bromiley (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1979–88), 447.
  2. My translation.
  3. “Psalm 68A,” in Trinity Psalter Hymnal, A Joint Publication of the Committee on Christian Education of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Psalter Hymnal Committee of the United Reformed Churches in North America (Willow Grove, PA: Trinity Psalter Joint Venture, 2018), stanza 12.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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3 comments

  1. A good reminder of who we are in this chaotic world. Stand up against unrighteousness, but stand firm in the faith.

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