The author of Kings records for us a most interesting perspective on revelation and God’s governance. Elisha, a prophet of God, made himself famous in the most dangerous of ways. Opposing kings became aware that conquest of God’s people was impossible without conquest of Elisha himself as his revelatory knowledge provided an advantage in every battle. And so Kings shares the strange story with us of the army of Aram attacking not Israel but Israel’s lone remaining prophet.
As Elisha’s servant emerged early in the morning, he found himself surrounded by the massive military might of Israel’s hostile neighbor. Elisha’s response, far from reasonable, was to pray for his servant’s eyes to see more rather than less. And what he saw changed everything. Rather than the army of Aram that had preoccupied his former observation, he now could see the army of God surrounding the besiegers. Perspective, as it turns out, changes everything.
Revelation, according to linguists, is a matter of making hidden things known or exposed…taking the covered and uncovering it for all to see. Jesus said famously that there is nothing covered that will not be revealed. Elisha’s prayer was for the hidden things, the larger context most of us miss, to become apparent once again and as a result his servant was filled with hope in a situation that had previously seemed truly hopeless.
Across the pages of Scripture, from beginning to end, God is revealed as the revealer, the illuminator, the One who brings understanding. His governance and leadership, rest in his amazing perspective. As Isaiah wrote, his ways are higher and his knowledge incomprehensibly more than ours. But that knowledge rather than remaining distant and unreachable constantly tries to gap the chasm between itself and humanity. God is not content with being higher and greater; He wishes to be closer and connected as well. Many persons with knowledge today wish to keep their knowledge in a secure position of intellectual possession trademarked and licensed for personal use. In contrast, God constantly disseminates his knowledge, wondering why his children only want so little of it. It is his very character to reveal.
We often wish for God to step in when there are questions that we cannot answer for ourselves. But all those directional questions (and God’s occasional answers to them) are means to an end. God is not content with telling us where to go or what to do when we get there. He is working at revealing the person He created us to be…uncovering and shaping us into his best version of ourselves. Questions on this level require much more time to answer. Paul writes in Ephesians:
I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so that you might know the hope of his calling, what are the glorious riches of his inheritance among the saints…
The word calling could be translated naming in some contexts. In a passage about spiritually estranged children who have recently been adopted, which is what Paul is writing about in Ephesians 1, he focuses for a moment on the renaming of God’s children. The Bible is full of stories in which characters have their names changed, often by God himself. And in each of them, it was a re-identifying, a revealing of call that is at the center of the changing of a name. Paul, in contrast to Elisha, is focusing on the smaller context of individual lives. The area requiring revelatory perspective is internal. Remember Abram, the father, becoming Abraham, the father of many. Remember Jacob, the scandalous manipulator, becoming Israel, the one who wrestles with God. Remember Saul, the pious Jewish lay leader, becoming Paul, the Greek-speaking apologist of the Gentiles. God transformed their lives calling them to become what He had designed them to be.
In an age when identity is almost a crisis for many in our society, God offers his identity to his children renaming them. The perspective difference that He offers us is not unlike Elisha’s prayer for his servant. We run around pursuing professional ambition, developing perfect children, creating a public image that others can admire but are besieged by doubts that we are not who we were intended to be. But God offers to bring us back to the person we were designed to be developing us into people He considers to be his richest inheritance. Later in Ephesians Paul writes:
For this reason, I kneel before the Father from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.
Paul thought of God as the Namer, the Identifier, the One who brings calling to our lives beyond the shallow sirens of our culture that would name us lesser versions of ourselves. He had read all the stories of names and callings changed and he had experienced it personally as the first appointed missionary to the Gentile world.
Elisha’s prayer was for his servant to see more and to realize the power of God outside their city. Paul’s prayer is also for us to see more but his desire is for us to see God’s power inside our own lives. He prays for the perceptions of our minds to be altered by the realization that God is actively revealing not merely the direction for our lives but the personal identity that He has designed us with. God’s governance culturally, easily observable in international relations thousands of years ago, begins internally with lives that are transformed by his revealing words.