Editors commentary: unseen realities

Recently our Sunday morning exposition focused on Elisha.
It was the incident in which the prophet was protected by chariots of fire when Israel’s enemies sent soldiers to take him. The following mid-week fellowship group was based on the same passage, taking up the question of what the Bible teaches about angels. As we talked about this, one of the members of our group, brought up in Poland, related a story from her family.

Siberian camp
A few months before the end of World War II, her (future) grandfather was taken to Siberia. Stalin’s Russian army was passing through Poland and men were scooped from the streets and sent to internment camps.
He had become a Christian while studying structural engineering at university. Now he began telling his co-prisoners about salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. There were about 2,000 men in the camp. God began to work and many believed. Night after night he preached from memory. But hard labour, very poor nutrition, rough treatment from the guards and then illness brought on profound weakness. His memory began to fail, so the new Christians began praying with him for a Bible.
A few days later a young prisoner came sheepishly forward confessing that during the long winter march to Siberia he had stolen a huge Bible from a crossroads chapel because it had leather covers which he thought might be useful for shoe soles. For some reason he couldn’t explain he carried the contents between the covers all the way too. Now he gave our friend’s grandfather the pages on the condition he could keep the covers. The clandestine gospel meetings grew. Over the nearly three years of imprisonment, men came to the Lord Jesus in their dozens. Many of them died soon after.

An angel?
The Communist camp guards, especially the commandant, became very antagonistic. Under the harsh conditions her grandfather became seriously ill with typhoid fever and dysentery. One night, very weak and sick, he had to cross the empty yard to get to a latrine. In the moonlight he suddenly saw his arch enemy, the commandant, begin to run towards him with a metal rod, his face contorted in anger. It seemed he was ready to kill as there were no witnesses. Our friend’s grandfather stopped, too weak to move, and committed his soul to the Lord. Then something astonishing happened. The commandant stopped abruptly. His expression changed to one of utter terror. He turned around, dropped the rod and ran for his life. After that he went out of his way to avoid our friend’s grandfather.
She told us: ‘My grandfather was certain that that man saw something of what Psalm 34.7 talks about: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them”’.

As believers swim against the tide of secularism and antipathy to the Bible in our society it is easy to forget the unseen realities of God’s sovereign providence and his angelic hosts. We may feel very much a despised minority. But the Scriptures would reiterate to us the words of Elisha to his frightened servant when they were surrounded by the enemy: ‘Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them’ (2 Kings 6.16).
Interestingly, in mid-July, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported that archaeologists have discovered a building that ‘might have been the house of Elisha the prophet’ at Tel Rehov in Israel. You will have to look on the web to get the full story.

John Benton

This article was first published in the September 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
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