2 Kings 5: Naaman the Leper Healed

Posted: June 29th, 2011 | Author: James Early | Filed under: Biblical Role Model, Elisha, Healing, Naaman | 10 Comments »

“And [Naaman’s] servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? how much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?”  II Kings 5:13

Recently, the story of Naaman the leper being healed by the prophet Elisha was read at church and the above verse was included.

I’ve heard this story at church and have read it myself too many times to count.  But I got a totally new idea from it the other day.  And I’ll tell you about it in just a minute.

Usually I think of the humility Naaman had to express before he was healed.  Obviously, that’s a valuable lesson that we all need to learn.

But there are lots of lessons in this Old Testament story.  (See II Kings 5:1-14. If you haven’t read this story in a while, you should check it out.)

Naaman is not Jewish, but actually the captain of the Sryian army.  He was an honorable man and full of valor but he was a leper.  I think it’s fascinating that Elisha is so willing to heal this non-believing Syrian.  There’s a lesson for all of us when we only want to associate with and help those who are of our own culture, background or faith.

Naaman’s wife had a servant girl that had been captured from the land of Israel.  This servant obviously knew of Elisha’s healing power as a prophet of the LORD and suggested Naaman could be healed by him.

Naaman comes with the fanfare of his horses and chariots to see the prophet.  But Elisha does not even come out of his house to see him.  Instead he sends a messenger telling Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the River Jordan.

What Naaman really needed.

Elisha knew he needed to be healed of the leprosy, but that he also needed some humility in order to be receptive to the simple, gentle, healing power of the God of Israel.

Naaman is incensed.  “Why can’t I wash in the rivers of Damascus?  They are so much better than that muddy thing you call the River Jordan.  And some nerve he had.  He didn’t even come out to see me.  I thought since he was a prophet, he would come out and make a big show of how powerful this God of his is that he claims is so mighty.”  [my paraphrase]

Because of his position and in the army and his favor with the King of Syria, Naaman was probably used to getting his way and having people treat him great honor.  So Naaman stomps off in a rage.  Not someone I would want to meet up with when he was in that kind of a mood.  Would you?

But then the most amazing thing happens…

Some of Naaman’s servants come up to him and suggest that he should go ahead and wash in the Jordan as Elisha had instructed.

This is the part of the story that gave me some fresh inspiration.  If you had been one of Naaman’s servants, would you have gone up to this raging man of immense power and told him to do the exact thing he was furious over?

I’ve always thought of the importance of Naaman learning humility before he was healed.  Humility is a vital part of healing, no doubt.

But for the first time, I saw in this story the importance of courage, on the part of the servants, to say the right thing at the right time even if it was a hard thing to confront the anger of their master.

What motivates our actions, fear or love?

And then I saw a deeper lesson:  love.  Think how the servants must have loved their master to overcome their fear of talking to him.   And to have the courage to counsel him to go wash in the Jordan River when he didn’t want to.  And think of the love and respect Naaman must have had for his servants to even allow them to say anything to him while he was in a rage, then take their advice willingly.  Wow!

The servants were part of God’s plan to reveal His healing power to Naaman in the Bible.  It was hard for him to accept his assigned task from a stranger, but he could hear his trusted servants, whom he knew cared for him.

Which of these rolls have you filled?

Have you ever been like Naaman, full of even rightful pride and the answer to your problem was not to your liking?  Guess what, humility is not of style, and you have it in you already.  You just need to dig it out, dust it off and put it into practice.  Seek the help of someone spiritually close to God.  Listen to the counsel of those close to you who love you.  Go ahead and eat your humble pie and do what you need to do.  It won’t kill you.

Do you ever have the roll of the little servant girl? Maybe you have a boss that is a tyrant, but you have enough love in you to suggest something that might really help him.

And what if you are ever in the roll of Elisha?  You never know when you might be the prophet of God’s healing power to someone in need–someone you know or someone you don’t know that doesn’t even believe in God.  How will you respond?

And how about the roll of those servants who had enough guts to tell Naaman what he should do.  Even if it’s hard and you’re afraid of the consequences, you can do what’s right in order to help someone–if you love enough.

Don’t you just love the way a Bible story you’ve read hundreds of times can be fresh and bring new inspiration?

I’d love to hear your ideas on this story and how it has helped or inspired you.  Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Blessings always,

James


“Be of Good Cheer; I Have Overcome the World.”

Posted: April 20th, 2011 | Author: James Early | Filed under: Easter, Jesus Christ, Overcoming life's challenges | 10 Comments »

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation:  but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

"Resurrection Morning" Stained Glass window at First Presbyterian Church, Amarillo, TX. This is the church I grew up in.

I love these words of Jesus from the Gospel of John.  It is so indicative of the spiritual level at which he was thinking and living.

The Last Supper is over and Jesus is counseling the remaining 11 disciples about what’s  going to happen in a few short hours.  He is also forewarning them of some of the challenges they are going to face in this material world.  But he says to be of good cheer.  Why?  Because he has already overcome the world.  Here is Jesus, about to be crucified and he is comforting his disciples.  That is so like our Lord.

I’ve been thinking a lot these last few days about Jesus’ declaration, “I have overcome the world.”  He said this before the agony of Gethsemane and the crucifixion.  He had not outwardly proved this victory over the world.  And yet he states emphatically, “I have overcome the world.”   Jesus claims this victory “before the battle” so to speak.

Was Jesus just giving himself and his disciples a pep talk like a football coach might do before a big game?  “Okay team, we are going to win this one!”  I think there was more to it.  However good or confident a football team may be compared to the other team, it is never 100% certain who will win.

And Jesus did not say, “I am going to overcome the world.”  He said he already had.  Big difference.  It’s not just that Jesus knew he would be victorious–because he did know this.  But on a deep spiritual level, the Bible seems to indicate that Jesus had already defeated the enemy in his heart.  He just had to go through the details of proving this in his life–for himself and for us.

This fits with Jesus’ practice of thanking God for something before it had happened.  When he fed the multitudes, he gave thanks for and blessed what was available before the loaves and fish were multiplied.  Before he called Lazarus out of the tomb, he thanked God for hearing and answering his prayer.  He knew what would happen in both cases and he thanked his Father and saw the solutions before they were obvious to everyone else.

And so with the resurrection.  Jesus announced he was already victorious over the world– death, the grave, the sins of the world, over all evil–before he was crucified.  And if you can read between the lines, I think he is expressing a lot of gratitude in this verse.

What are the implications of Jesus’ victory?

Not only did he overcome his own death, he overcame death itself–for all mankind, for all time.

Just try to imagine the picture of Jesus on the cross.  Artists over the ages have painted that poignant scene too many times to count.  I’m sure you have one that’s meaningful to you.  There have been numerous movies and TV specials over the years trying to catch the spirit of what was happening on the dark Friday afternoon almost 2000 years ago.

But just try to imagine how it looked to the crowd.  Here was a man who had brought hope of God’s salvation to the people and he had been defeated.  Many in the crowd had believed he was the promised Messiah, but now their expectations were dashed.  There was fear, doubt and utter dismay in their hearts.

For all practical purposes, it looked like Satan was boasting, “Look everyone, I have killed Christ.  I have overcome Truth!”

But Jesus told us pointedly that the Devil is a liar and there is no truth in him.  Then, if what the Devil says is a lie, then the opposite of what he said must be true.  That means that the Devil, Satan, the Adversary, evil, the carnal mind, whatever you want to call it, was not crucifying Christ.  Christ was crucifying Satan– all evil, all sin, all disease, all death.

In the agony of Gethsemane, Jesus had given up all vestige of his own will.  He submitted entirely to God’s will–which, by the way, included not just the crucifixion but the resurrection as well.  And on the cross, there was so much going on that the human eyes could not take in.  Among other things, Jesus was sacrificing (doing away with) a limited material sense of man as just an animated lump of clay and proving that man’s true life is spiritual and eternal, made in the image of God.  See Genesis 1:26.

Jesus did all this not just for himself.  He did it for us.  He showed us by his supreme example of love and unselfishness how we are to live our lives.  By his willingness to face the ultimate foe and his victory over this foe, our Master shattered the hold that evil has on us.  He has already won the victory over all evil.

His victory gives us the victory.

Evil, or Satan if you prefer, is already defeated– was already defeated before the crucifixion or Jesus would not and could not have said so boldly, “I have overcome the world.”

How does this apply to you and me?

Are we standing on the Rock of Christ and holding in our hearts Jesus’ victory over the world–the materialism and evil of the day, the hatred and disinterest in Christ, Truth?

Are we claiming our own victory over the world– the fear, the want and woes, the challenges that face us?

Are we pre-claiming the victory for those who come to us for help with their worldly tribulations that Jesus said would occur?

And what about those who don’t seem receptive to hearing about God or love or forgiveness or Jesus’ message of salvation?  Do we give up on them or do we claim their right to a victory as well?

Jesus has already overcome whatever challenge anyone, anywhere, anytime will face.

So at this Easter season, take some quiet time with God to plant your feet on the Rock of the Resurrected Christ and on Jesus’ victory over the world.  Claim your own victory over the world as well.

The consequences are grand.

God speaks directly to us in the Book of Revelation, “He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.”  Rev. 21:7  What else do we need?

Have a Resurrection Easter.

All blessings,

James