Do you know who you are? Do you think of yourself as the world sees you or as God sees you? It is easier and more intrinsic for us to view ourselves through the natural eyes of the world. We are born with those eyes and we learn to see through them first. Once we’re saved we get God’s Spirit, He gives us a new mind, heart, and nature. We learn to see ourselves and others through His eyes, but sometimes there is a struggle between our flesh and spirit over our identity or the identity of someone else. And those without God’s Spirit well they still see us through their dimmed sight.
Elisha had served Elijah for many years. Elijah had a great reputation as The Lord’s prophet, but Elisha had not yet earned that reputation. Elijah had just been taken up to Heaven. Elisha had witnessed it and had been given a double portion of The Spirit who had been on Elijah. But the people of Jericho did not witness it, did not have The Spirit, and did not have the faith of Elisha. So when Elisha returned from The Jordan to Jericho the people there wanted to talk to Elijah and they wanted to make sure that the whirlwind which took him to Heaven and not dropped him onto a mountain. Verses 15-18 read,
“Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the Lord has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.”17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him.18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”
Elisha was the prophet now and they could see that, but they could not grasp that The Lord had actually taken Elijah to Heaven and worried he was hurt on a mountain somewhere. Elisha told them not to go, but they didn’t completely trust Elijah’s pupil just yet. For three long arduous days they searched the mountain terrain looking for an injured and possibly dying man. But of course they didn’t find him. They would have to trust that Elijah’s student had now graduated and was The Lord’s prophet that they knew him to be.
I wonder how that made Elisha feel. Was he exasperated at their blindness to who God had made him? Was he angry that they didn’t recognize his office? Was he doubting who he was, because they didn’t trust him? I know I have had each of those reactions to others not recognizing Christ in me or not trusting The Holy Spirit in me. But the fact is, if I trust God, it doesn’t matter if others trust me. God will be God, I only have to walk in faith and obedience to my Lord. The people who see my life lived in that manner will eventually trust God themselves or reject God. It is He who saves, heals, moves, and speaks; not me.
Jesus saw through God’s eyes because He is God and because The Holy Spirit was on Him (since the Holy Spirit is His Spirit). If we have the Holy Spirit indwelled in us, we should see through God’s eyes as well. Isaiah 11:2-4 reads,
“And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.”
It took the men of Jericho three days to decide Elisha had spoken God’s word and not his own. Verses 19-22 read,
“Now the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees, but the water is bad, and the land is unfruitful.”20 He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him.21 Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” 22 So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.”
How much easier would it have been for the men had they trusted God and listened to Elisha rather than go on a grueling and futile three day search and rescue mission for a man who was in Heaven? How much easier would it be for us if we would just trust God to be God and recognize people, including ourselves by His Spirit rather than our flesh?
Even if Elisha was hurt by the men of Jericho’s mistrust, he obeyed God and healed their water. Imagine if he had let his flesh win and chose to let them suffer. What would that have said about God? Rather than let his pride win and ‘teach them a lesson,’ Elisha glorified The Lord and demonstrated the love and mercy of The Lord.
We are not impervious to the pain inflicted by people’s doubt. Their questions about our identity in Christ are like flaming arrows headed for our hearts. Any chink in our shield can let one of those arrows injure and weaken us. We are not perfect, we all have chinks in our armor. There are times when some of those arrows will strike our hearts. That is what happened to Elisha after he left Jericho and went to Bethel. Verses 23-25 record the story.
“He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys. 25 From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and from there he returned to Samaria.”
That is a big gang of little boys. Certainly those children couldn’t physically harm Elisha but their words were exactly the weapon Satan needed to try and destroy the prophet. Maybe as Elisha walked back to Bethel, he was thinking about Elijah and the journey they had taken before he saw his adopted father and mentor taken up to Heaven. Maybe he was thinking about who God is and who he was in Him. Or maybe he was thinking about the men of Jericho and how they disbelieved him and wondered if anyone would ever recognize God’s Spirit on him. I would venture to guess that had He been meditating on who God is, praising Him, and thanking Him that he would have responded differently to the boys instead of becoming so angry that 42 of them ended up dead.
Elisha’s temper and his pride did not glorify God Almighty as Deliverer, or Loving and Merciful. Elisha’s pride glorified Elisha. Yet God still used Elisha after his error. The boys judged Elisha for being bald. The men judged Elisha for being the apprentice who washed Elijah’s hands. God knew Elisha was his faithful prophet.
Do we remember Elisha for being bald? Most people do not even know this story. We remember Elisha for being chosen by The LORD and adopted by Elijah. We remember him for being a great prophet. He is remembered for being who God made him and the faithful and powerful life he lived.
You are who God has made you, not who the enemy or the world or even your family tells you that you are. Those people still see us as who we were born as and not as who God made us when we were born again. Even Jesus dealt with misgivings from the people who supposedly knew him best. The people of his hometown doubted him. His brothers and sisters were among the last to recognize him. Matthew 13:53-58 tells the story.
“And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, 54 and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”
If Jesus who is God Himself was not recognized then don’t you think you will also be discounted? Be encouraged that it is not who the world sees us as that counts, but who we are in Christ that matters. Keep being who you are called to be. Love them anyway. See them through God’s eyes anyway. Eventually, they will recognize God in you. We are here to glorify Jesus, not ourselves.