“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 6:17
He looked down at his worn, weathered hands as he told his story. His voice barely above a whisper, hoarse and as cracked as those calloused palms to which he spoke. “They would not listen,” he recalled, the clear blue eyes glazed over as he looked into the distant past. “We tried to warn them, but it was of no use.” He shook his head as he looked up at me, wanting to say more but emotion had gripped his throat. He lowered his head and ran his fingers through his course gray-speckled hair, relenting to the pain within until he could speak once more.
When he had finally recovered, his demeanor had changed. Like that of an ancient warrior who had finally prepared for battle, he had returned to the front to continue the fight and tell the rest of the story.
“We had known that they were coming, but we didn’t know when. I was with my brother in the upper pastures. It was late spring, and our sheep were hungry for any new growth. A couple weeks earlier, all the men had met one evening to discuss what we would do if they came. We knew that God was with us, but we also knew from the past, that we would need to do more than to kneel and pray when their swords began to swing. There were arguments on both sides of the faith, but eventually, we of the warrior clans ruled out. We wanted to believe that God would lead us, and we always will, but then again, we knew in the ancient times, God also fought on the side of the Israelites, and we as them, believed in our Heavenly Father; now so probably more than then. So when we heard the rumble of the hoof beats echoing up the canyon walls, we knew it was time. I raced along the ridgelines trying to watch as I flew through rock and tree, trying not to slip to the depths below. As we raced back to our farms and villages, the ancient men of faith felt their hearts in their ears. The pounding of blood pulsed through our veins as the spirit drew neigh. We had been told that overwhelming forces would come, but we feared not, for in the days of Elisha, Gideon, David, and all the other biblical kings of old who needed God to help them win, we too knew that without Him, we would surely meet Him sooner than later.
In the distance, I could see some of the families already beginning to flee to the upper reaches of the valleys. Their belongings and animals in tow. There was something about the sight of family and friends fleeing for their lives that made your insides turn into fire. We no longer felt our legs as we were at once lifted from the ground and seemingly placed into our positions of defense awaiting the onslaught of deranged armies. Their purpose had been prepared by those who had lied about the truth, swaying even the most ardent believer into thinking that they were doing the Lord’s work by attacking these meager hunters and farmers. We would find out later that we had been described as devil worshippers, practicing occult rituals, holding worship of our own accord and slandering God’s Word to make it fit our demonic worship. Those lies stung as bad as the flames that would consume most of our kin, the lucky ones that had been captured.
The rest of us would live to find a worse fate.
That day could never be erased from my mind, as we stopped one advance after another. They came like swarms of locusts, too many for the few of us to shoot with arrow and spear. We turned to rolling boulders from above to both crush them and to block the passes through which they had been attempting to pass; some only wide enough for one or two men to pass through at a time. By nightfall, we had secured our border, but with only a handful of men, the new dawn would bring more soldiers from below. Our families had for now made some good time, but the climb to the nearby peaks was slow and grueling. The elderly moved at their own speed, not fearing what was to come, but instead, welcoming it, for they had already asked for the Lord to deliver them.
Knowing that they needed more time, we stayed to buy them at least one more day’s travel. That night I watched as the stars came out and all of God’s creation was on display for us. The pitch-black sky was the perfect backdrop for the multitude of stars that lit the heavens above. The night air was cold, for it was still spring. Pockets of snow still clung to the shadowed sides of the mountains. The woolen overcoat I had carried was barely enough to keep me warm. We dared not light fires for fear of being discovered and giving away our positions, so we huddled close to one another and did the best we could, falling asleep praying to God above.
I felt as if we had barely fallen asleep when the glow of the coming morn began to light the eastern horizon. The sun had barely touched the skyline when we heard the sound of footsteps echoing again up the valley. Our hearts began to beat in time as we knew we were the only thing between our loved ones and death. Before we picked up the sword and shield to begin possibly our last day on earth, we gathered together in prayer.”
“Brother,” the old man said to me as his eyes began to well up once again, “I can tell you I had never known anyone or anybody that had prayed a prayer before that day that came true as it did that day. I must say to you before you think it, that this must just be an exaggeration, but I tell you as the Father in Heaven above sits on the throne of God, it is true. That day we prayed as one, and we said this, “God, please Lord if it be your will, give us the strength to do what is right, to save our loved ones, to defeat this force. God we know we cannot do this alone, for as in those days of Elisha, we need you now, oh Lord we need you. We beseech you, God, to send us down angels from on high to aid us in this battle if it be your desire. We seek your guidance, we seek your love, we seek you in all that we do from the very day we are born until the day we die. Lord hear our pleas, for we are the keepers of your word, from the beginning until this day, Thanks be to God, Amen.”
“We turned from that moment and took up our positions, the few of us that remained.
As we knelt behind rock and crevice waiting and watching until they were within range, the clouds began to cast shadows on the lower vestiges of the valleys. We could see the winds swirling them over the peaks behind us. Some of our younger men began to pray out loud, asking for the safety of those family members still trying to reach those distant summits before the storms hit. Distant thunderclaps shook the ground as dark, ominous clouds began to shroud the peaks that heretofore shone like brilliant golden statues in the morning sunlight.
It was then as if God had truly stood with us, that the unbelievable happened.
Shrouds of blinding ice and rain began to rush past us, like embodied beings of another realm. Lightning strobed in sequenced flashes, striking objects below our cover, shaking the earth until we thought we too might be thrown into the hell that had become the onslaught of man and beast below. Screams of horror and death could barely be heard over that of the wind, like a horrific banshee of hades, all had been obscured from anything we could determine to be human. There was no describing the scene below us, other than we could only determine in blinding sequences of scenes; men, beast, and other, intertwined in a battle that no mortal could withstand.
Time passed, and the sound of our own heartbeats in our ears drummed to the sound of the throng of echoes which combined into a siren of prayers which had been answered. I grasped onto the granite boulder before me to make sure I was still alive, so surreal was everything else around me at the moment.
We don’t know what day if it were the same or more than one, but eventually, the squalls ended, and we could rise from our places of battle refuge.
Below us on the mountain, there were only vague remnants of what had been a sizeable army. Pieces of shields, fragments of weaponry, and human remains all littered the landscape. It was as if a mighty beast had torn them asunder, limb from body, head from torso; the death was complete; not one had survived.”
The old man looked up at me and smiled for the first time.
“You see,” he nodded as he spoke, “God be with us.”
I sat in silence and in awe.
For a moment, I could feel his hand upon my knee as he wanted to say more, and then he was gone.
The day had been long and my brief rest in the chair had turned into a nap. Little did I know that it was more than just a peaceful rest I would encounter. Outside in the nearby woods, a woodpecker tapped out his vibrant melody.
I had not expected it nor known he was coming, but it was a blessing to have been visited from afar once more.
May God be with us.
Thanks be to God.