Perspective Changes Everything


Perspective is a funny thing, isn’t it? At least, it can be at times. Get two people together and have them share their perspective on any given issue and things can turn from humorous to frightfully divisive real quick. Perspective is not really something static, either—at least from the human perspective. Your perspective may be subject to change over time as you grow older, gain more life experience, or if the situation demands it. How do you gain perspective on anything anyhow? What influences your perspective and what causes your perspective to change? These are some relevant questions we need to consider as they have a bearing on our identity, our security, our sanity, and our actions. The more I have been thinking about it, the more I have realized that perspective is like a black hole. In fact, I had to change my perspective on perspective. What I have found in my deliberations is that when it comes to perspective and my trying to answer these questions, there are several factors that shape, influence and even change my perspective.

  • Knowledge informs it.
  • Experience confirms it.
  • Culture influences it.
  • Circumstances factor into it.

And the more you think about it, the more you realize that perspective may not be quite as reliable as you once thought it was.

Throughout Scripture, we find that we, as its readers, are challenged, encouraged, and admonished to gain and maintain a biblical perspective on virtually every aspect of life and reality. For example, we are challenged to adopt a biblical perspective on God. That perspective includes his justice, his mercy, his love, his ways and his plans, and it forces us to accept by faith that he can be all these things at the same time without the exclusion of one over the other. Another example would be a biblical perspective on salvation. This perspective includes dealing with the totality of human sinfulness, man’s incapability to do anything about it, God’s holy and righteous demand for punishment, his gracious act in giving his Son, Christ’s death on the cross, and Christ’s resurrection from the dead. There are numerous other examples in both, the Old and New Testaments that we could name here, but I think you get the point.

So I want to take you into this Old Testament text that has been relegated to a mere historical account. At least that’s the perspective we generally have. However, in the Hebrew ordering of the books of the Old Testament—the TaNaKh or Old Testament Canon—it is found in the grouping of the Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, & the twelve minor Prophets). Yes, it deals with history; but more importantly, it deals with God’s faithfulness to the promises he has made in the first five books of Moses, among which are the promises of a “seed” in Genesis 3:15 and the raising up of a “leader” from among his people like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:18).

The two questions we want to answer today are these:

  1. How does this text help you and me gain and maintain a biblical perspective?
  2. How will this biblical perspective impact our lives, influence our decisions, orient our faith, and lead us to action today?

There is but one point I want to make from our text:

“Regardless of my outlook, I can know for certain that God is at work; and with this hope fixed, I can now face the present and the future.”

With that being said, let’s turn to 2 Kings, Chapter 7.  After King Solomon, Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the northern kingdom with its capital in Samaria and the southern kingdom with its capital in Jerusalem. Both kingdoms were ruled by kings—some good, some not so good. The backdrop of the book of Kings is the failure of both the northern and southern kingdom, but two prophets, Elijah and Elisha, stand out as prophets in the mold of Moses.

In the preceding chapter, we read that there was a great famine in Samaria (2 Kings 6:25) and that Ben-Hadad, King of Aram, had besieged the city of Samaria (2 Kings 7:24). Circumstantially speaking, the situation couldn’t get any worse: you had a natural disaster combined with an occupying force outside your city walls. Food was scarce and ridiculously expensive and the people’s perspective changed rather quickly. We read about cannibalism that occurred within the city walls, and we read about a king that was anguished, helpless, in over his head, unbelieving, and indecisive. In his mind, God was at fault, and, therefore, we needed to kill his prophet Elisha.

-The people were starving (2 Kings 6:25-29).

-The king was vacillating (2 Kings 6:30-31).

-But the prophet was assuring (2 Kings 6:32-7:1).

He didn’t let the threat on his life phase him, because in Verse 1 of our text, Elisha said, that he had a word from God that would change everything: on the following day, the gates would be open for business, trade would happen with items that had been scarce, prices would come down and the siege wouldn’t even be spoken of. Notice the different perspectives that come together: the people said, there is no hope. The king said God is at fault. The prophet said God’s going to fix it. And God promises the most unrealistic, miraculous turn of events that just sounds too good to be true, and we all know they “just don’t happen like that.”

The captain—the royal officer—was unbelieving (2 Kings 7:2a).

He looked at the situation, he heard the prophet’s words, but experience tells him it’s not going to happen. Even if there was a God and he was able to make windows in heaven, the situation is too dismal, too far gone, and too hopeless for him to even put a dent in it.

But the prophet was assuring (2 Kings 7:2b).

He had a word from God even for this royal official: not only will these events happen just like God promised, but he would see God come through exactly how he said he would but he would not benefit from it.

Again, the point is this: “Regardless of my outlook, I can know for certain that God is at work; and with this hope fixed, I can now face the present and the future.”

God was working behind the scenes (2 Kings 7:3-16)

The focus of verses 3-16 is on how God was working behind the scenes (2 Kings 7:3-16) to bring about this promised miraculous turn of events.

Verses 5 & 6 give us the first clue as to how God was working behind the scenes: He “caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army” and they went running for their lives in the middle of the night.

One commentator put it this way:

“But man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. With God nothing is impossible. Nothing is even hard. He has a thousand resources. He can send forth his angel into a camp at nightfall, and in the morning they shall be ‘all dead men’ (2 Kings 14:35). He can make brothers-in-arms to fall out, and turn their swords one against the other (2 Chronicles 20:23). He can send a groundless panic upon the largest and best-appointed host, and cause them to flee away and disappear ‘like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.’ He can make two men, like Jonathan and his armor-bearer (1 Samuel 14:6-16) victorious over a multitude. ‘A thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one,’ if God so wills it. Panic he can cause in a hundred ways.”[1]

The Arameans were fearing (2 Kings 7:5b-7).

In our text, God is the “causer” of the panicky flight. He “caused the Arameans to hear” a threefold sound:

the sound of chariots—the elite unit of a strong army, which is well-supplied and made ready for battle;

-the sound of horses—the cavalry of a strong army making a tactical advancement; and

-the sound of a great army—the foot traffic, the clinging of gear, the noise of the equipment.

The Arameans’ perspective suddenly changed: their superiority gave way to a mere drive for personal survival. Everything was left behind and they ran through night with nothing but their shirts on their backs. Their perspective was changed based on the mere sounds they heard. They needed no inquiry or investigate the veracity of the sounds they heard. Their experience told them that this must be an allied force coming to the Samaritans’ rescue. “The king of Israel hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians” (2 Kings 7:6), there was no other explanation. So they ran.

The second clue on how God was working behind the scenes (2 Kings 7:3-5,8-16) is found in verses 3-5 and 8-16: He used the most unlikely candidates to become the heroes of the story – four lepers. Their perspective changed from helplessness to utter despair. Their disease made them social outcasts, forced to live outside the gates of the city and dependent on food being provided from within the city walls. The famine caused them to be starving and despairing. They had nothing to lose. From their perspective, they had one of several options:

  • Option 1: do nothing and die of starvation (2 Kings 7:3,4b).
  • Option 2: go into the city and die of starvation (2 Kings 7:4a).
  • Option 3: go to the enemy and die at the hands of their sword (2 Kings 7:4d).
  • Option 4: go to the enemy and live (2 Kings 7:4c).

When three out of four options entail death – you belong in the category of people, who have nothing to lose. Or as Baltasar Gracián y Morales, a Spanish Jesuit, once said, “Never contend with a man who has nothing to lose.” Their perspective changed from loyalty to desertion.

The lepers were risking (2 Kings 7:5).

When they “arose at twilight,” the very moment the Arameans abandoned camp, in order “to go to the camp of the Syrians,” they risked everything. It was a suicide-by-Syrian mission with not even a glimmer of hope. It’s unlikely that even on a sunny Syrian day, they would welcome lepers into their camp. Yet, in their perspective, it was at least worth a try. Their decision to get up meant desertion and for that there is a price to pay. Due to their disease, they were already dead men, doomed to eek out an existence in isolation. Now their food supply had run out and the siege didn’t help the situation, either. So they go to the first Syrian outpost: no one was there. Then they move further inward. Again, no one was there. They move from tent to tent, getting their fill, plundering and hiding what they can (as if they could keep anything for themselves anyway). Their motives were altruistic. Their reward was short-sighted, immediate, and wouldn’t last through the night.

The third clue on how God was working behind the scenes (2 Kings 7:9) was the lepers’ change of heart: “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.” While I cherish this change of heart, I am still not sure if their perspective is accurate. Despite the great news, how are they going to explain their desertion – especially to a king, who’s been faulting God for this dilemma and who had already ordered a hit on the Lord’s prophet? But they went. They didn’t keep the good news to themselves. They couldn’t explain it, but they could relate to others what they have seen, witnessed, and experienced. They start with the gate-keepers, who then told the king.

The king was doubting (2 Kings 7:12).

It’s a trap. What else could it be? A besieging army doesn’t just abandon camp. Once they open the gates, the ambush will immediately route what’s left of the population. Who would believe these deserters anyway?

The king’s servant was hoping (2 Kings 7:13-15).

He convinced the king that it was at least worth a try. They found a couple of horses that hadn’t died yet or hadn’t been eaten yet and they decide to look into the matter.

The people were rejoicing (2 Kings 7:16).

They plundered the camp, they had their fill, and “a seah of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and two seahs of barley for a shekel, according to the word of the Lord.”

“Regardless of my outlook, I can know for certain that God is at work; and with this hope fixed, I can now face the present and the future.”

  • He is faithful to his promises.
  • He is faithful to his covenant.
  • He is faithful to his word.
  • He is faithful to his plan.
  • He is faithful to his people.

And even though it looks like he is absent, even though it feels like he does not listen, even though he appears to be unconcerned, we can know for certain that he is at work – behind the scenes, faithfully carrying out his plan.

The remainder of the chapter recounts God’s faithfulness to the word He had given (2 Kings 7:16-20):

  • The starving people of Samaria had their fill.
  • The unbelieving royal officer saw the miracle, but didn’t live to share in it.
  • The prophet’s word came to pass exactly how he said it would.

As fascinating as this account is, it doesn’t have the makings of a Hallmark movie. While there is a happy ending, there is no wholesale resolve:

  • The lepers still had leprosy.
  • There was no change of heart with the king.
  • The Samaritans didn’t repent.
  • There was no revival of sorts, no wholesale turning to God.
  • There was no acknowledgement by the Arameans that the God of Israel is great.

Since all of these things are missing, how is this text “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)”? It shows us our need to gain and maintain a biblical perspective.

How do we gain and maintain a biblical perspective? According to our text:

    1. We need to acknowledge that our perspective may be incomplete or inaccurate.
    2. We need to adopt a proper perspective on God. When we do, the following three outcomes are to be expected—
      a) It gives me the assurance that God is faithful; that he is working behind the scenes; that nothing escapes his notice; that he is neither impotent, nor unconcerned; that his timing is perfect, though I may not understand (or agree with it); that nothing is impossible for him, nothing too difficult, and nothing too hopeless.
      b) It underscores that what he has promised, he is able to keep; that he has unlimited resources; that he can bring about a drastic change to any given situation in a matter of moments; that he is Lord over kings and armies, that he is Lord over natural disasters; that he takes note of man’s plight.
      c) It gives me hope that he can use the most unlikely candidates to herald the good news. It shows me that my perspective on any given situation may have to be subject to review and that his perspective is the one I need to adopt.
    3. We need to allow Scripture to continually influence and shape our perspective.

“Regardless of my outlook, I can know for certain that God is at work; and with this hope fixed, I can now face the present and the future.”

I don’t know where you are at in your faith journey with God. I don’t know what situation or circumstances you are walking through – be it personally, as a family, at work or at school. Your circumstances may be daunting, hopeless. Your perspective may be – let’s say, at the very least – limited. Maybe, I have caused a spiritual avalanche with the whole issue of perspective. Maybe you have begun questioning things in the back of your mind.

I want you to know, based on God’s Word: God is at work. God is faithful. Therefore, fix your hope on this constant perspective and you will be able to face the present and the future – regardless of the situation and regardless of the circumstances. In all things we are to have a biblical perspective. It is one that puts us in a place of utter God-dependence and unwavering trust in His ability with a view to my inability and incapabilities. It calls for faith and our complete trust in Him. It allows us to see where there is nothing to see.

May you gain and maintain a biblical perspective by acknowledging that our perspective may be incomplete or inaccurate; by adopting a proper perspective on God; and by allowing Scripture to continually influence and shape our perspective.

A daily orientation of our perspective is found in Philippians 4:4-9:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

[1] Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary: II Kings. New York, NY: Funk & Wagnalis Company, 1917. Page 152.

Philipp Meinecke is the Network Director for Precept Ministries International e.V. and responsible for German-speaking Europe.

(c) 2018 Precept Ministries International e.V. & Philipp Meinecke. All rights reserved.


Philipp Meinecke
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