Going Deeper 7-2-19

The first reading for Pentecost 4...
2 Kings 5:1-14  Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young girl captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman's wife.  She said to her mistress, "If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy."  So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said, "Go then, and I will send along a letter to the king of Israel."  He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy."  When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me."  But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king, "Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel."  So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha's house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean."  But Naaman became angry and went away, saying, "I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?"  He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him, "Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, "Wash, and be clean'?"  So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

This is a truly remarkable story on many levels.  Most significantly, it demonstrates that God's compassion extended beyond the descendants of Abraham... even to their enemies!!   When Jesus referred to this story once in his hometown, it nearly got Him killed.  How easy it has been throughout history for God's children to assume that their enemies must by extension be God's enemies as well.  Jesus' mission contradicts that mindset from start to finish.

This story also demonstrates that power and riches can only extend so far.  Commander Naaman comes loaded with both, bringing "ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments," as well as "his horses and chariots."  In later verses, we find out that Elisha refused to accept anything, even as a "thank you" gift.  Money and power have no impact in this story.  The healing is all grace.

Finally, we see the value of humility in this story.  That Naaman would listen to input from a slave girl is remarkable.  That he would be willing to go to a prophet among his enemies is also quite surprising (although it might also be a sign of sheer desperation).   But after an initial reaction of disgust to Elisha's simple instructions, Naaman does listen to his servants and does what the prophet had said, and a miraculous healing followed.

Compassion, grace, and humility.  Three vital lessons for all to learn!

With You in His Love,

Mark Gabbert, Pastor
Zion Lutheran Church
Wellington, Colorado

"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."