As disciples of Jesus Christ we are challenged, even required, to study the Word of God. There is no debate on this issue, we are to study the Bible. The issue that is debated is what method should we use to study the Holy Scriptures. When believers attempt to study God’s Word with poor study principles disaster can often result. When I was in high school I remember reading my Bible in study hall one afternoon. Our librarian at the time asked where I was reading from in the Bible. He then shared his technique for reading the Bible. He would open the Bible, place his finger on a verse and read that verse. He then would flip to a new spot and repeat the process. He would read several verses a day using this practice. If he were telling the truth, he read each verse of Scripture as a stand alone proverb. The Bible is not a series of stand alone verses or even a collection of random stories. The Bible is a metanarrative, that is it has a big story. That big story is God’s redeeming work in mankind.
One problem I constantly see is some elevate certain verses of Scripture over others and then build their entire belief system on the elevated verses. Some popular preachers and teachers today employing this practice preach only on grace and never judgment. It seems in their Bible there is a heaven but no hell. Some highlight the promises of blessings for God’s children without ever mentioning the suffering that is guaranteed we will endure. As students of the Word we must study what the entire Holy Bible teaches on a subject. Consider the town of Dothan as an example of why we must study all the Bible.
Dothan is mentioned only twice in the Bible.
I. THE SECOND TIME DOTHAN IS MENTIONED GOD SENT AN ARMY OF CHARIOTS AND HORSES FOR HIS CHILDREN.
In II Kings 6 Elisha and his servant are staying in Dothan. Ben-hadad, king of Syria, has sent horses, chariots and a great number of soldiers to capture Elisha. Their reason for attempting to capture Elisha is God revealed to Elisha the military plans of the Syrians. Elisha would tell the king of Israel all of Syria’s military strategies. In II Kings 6:15 the servant of Elisha wakes early in the morning to find Dothan is surrounded by the Syrian troops. He screams at Elisha, “Master, what shall we do?” He was gripped with fear. Fear is the result of narrow vision. This servant forgot all the miracles that Elisha had performed. By the hand of God Elisha divided the Jordan River and crossed it on dry land, healed poisonous water, allowed a barren woman to conceive. He even raised a dead son to life. The servant, however, suffered from narrow vision. He only saw the armies of Syria and forgot everything else that Elisha had done.
In verse 16 Elisha made an incredible statement to the servant. He said, “Fear not for they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” By faith Elisha could see what the servant could not see because of fear. Elisha prays for the servant’s eyes to be opened in verse 17 and the servant sees the mountains around Dothan are full of chariots and horses of fire. God delivered an army to hills around Dothan in order to calm the fears of Elisha’s servant.
II. THE FIRST TIME DOTHAN IS MENTIONED IN THE BIBLE ONE OF GOD’S CHILDREN IS SOLD INTO SLAVERY AND SUFFERS FOR YEARS.
In Genesis 37 we read of Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. Joseph’s brothers are jealous of Jacob and resent him tremendously. In verses 13 and 14 Jacob sends Joseph to Shechem to check on his brothers who are tending their father’s flocks. In verse 17 a stranger tells Joseph his brothers have gone to Dothan. This is the first time Dothan is mentioned in the Bible. In verse 28, at Dothan, Joseph’s jealous brothers sell him as slave to a band of Ishmaelites who take him to Egypt as their property. After this Joseph’s life is a series of ups and downs. He rises to a high position in Potiphar’s home. Because of Potiphar’s wife’s wickedness and lies Joseph is imprisoned. Eventually he gains his freedom and becomes the number 2 man in all of Egypt. As the number 2 man and by God’s revelation Joseph prepares Egypt for a seven year drought that was going to strike the land. Joseph’s family, the very family that sold him into slavery, journeys to Egypt for the purpose of asking for food because of the severity of the drought. Eventually Joseph reveals himself to his brothers and takes care of them and his elderly father, Jacob. After Jacob’s death the brothers were sure Joseph would then kill them as retaliation for what they had done to him years earlier. In Genesis 50:20 Joseph makes that great statement, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” God in His sovereignty had placed Joseph exactly where he needed to be to save Israel and preserve the nation that He would eventually use to provide for the world the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
Here is the danger of elevating one passage of Scripture and ignoring others, if one reads only Elisha’s encounter at Dothan it is a reasonable conclusion that God will always send His army to deliver His children from difficulty and disasters. However, from Joseph’s encounter at Dothan we learn sometimes God delivers His children into tragedy and disaster for a season in order to accomplish greater things in the future. We can be assured in these times that God means it for good and not evil. The two instances which Dothan is mentioned in the Bible serve as a reminder we must study everything the Bible says on a matter.