Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Go In Peace

"Then Naaman and all his attendants went back to the man of God. He stood before him and said, 'Now I know that there is no God in all the world except Israel.'"  2 Kings 5:15.

Naaman was a man of contradictions. Commander of the Aram army, the victory God gave him brought esteem and recognition from his king. This accomplished military leader, however, was also a leper, a warrior who felt no pain.

Captured by a Aram raiding party an un-named Israelite girl found herself as a servant to the Commander's wife. On day she mentioned to her mistress that if Naaman would visit Israel's prophet, he would be healed.

With his king's blessing and an official letter of introduction, Naaman headed out. His arrival at Israel's royal court caused no small stir. The king of Israel was suspicious of a set-up. After all, who was he to heal a leper.

Word of the strange visitor reached Elisha. "Send him to me," he advised the king. The reason, "and he will know there is a prophet in Israel." 2 Kings 5:8. (hmm, why was it important to know there was a prophet and not a God in Israel?)

Naaman's road to recovery was about to get bumpy. Arriving at his destination he was greeted not by the man of God, but by his servant. Didn't this prophet know who he was? You'd think he would if he was a for real. Then, Naaman was instructed how to receive his healing. Dunk in the Jordan River seven times.

Outrageous. Naaman expected a grand show of power, fanfare and hoopla. Dip  in the Jordan River seven times? The Arbana and Phapar rivers in Damascus were much better than the Jordan. Why not one of these? In a huff he stormed off.

Finally, cooler heads prevailed. Naaman obeyed and was healed. His confession to Elisha was that Israel's God was indeed the only true God. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Naaman attempts to bless the prophet were declined. Finally, he made one last request:

"...please let your servant be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord." 2 Kings. 5:17.

Two mules of dirt...but he wasn't finished yet.

"May the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing. When my master enters the house of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow down there also - when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this." 2 Kings 5:18.

So much for gratitude, at least toward God. Get healed and now you want Him to cut you a break when you bow down to an idol with your boss. How many Elisha wanna-be's would respond as the prophet did? "Go in peace."

Why didn't Elisha set him straight? Giving Naaman a worse case of leprosy than he'd come with would teach him not to trifle with Israel's God. Some of us standing in Elisha's sandals would have taught that boy a lesson, and missed God in the process.

Did Elisha know something that we don't? Did he know that Naaman's good intentions would wither away with the passage of time? It's easy to forget God when things are going good, and for Naaman life was great. Perhaps he discerned sincerity in Naaman's heart and understood that the return home to an environment with no spiritual support structure was sketchy. Like the patriarchs, Naaman would have to navigate uncharted waters of faith in God alone.

Maybe Naaman's healing would change the heart of the king away from Rimmon and toward God, eliminating those pesky temple visits. Whatever the case, better to give him grace for the journey ahead.

The Bible is silent about Naaman's homecoming and what if any impact it had on the king and the religious system of his country. Still the questions lingers. Why did Elisha act this way?

Maybe, like God, Elisha recognized that outward appearances are never the true measure of man. What's in the heart matters to God. Naaman wouldn't be the first court official required to step gingerly in his position. Daniel and his three friends would face tough tests and God's peace would see them through.

How about you? How does this study demonstrate to you the need for God's peace to rule your heart in difficult situations? When has the peace of God directed you through uncertainty and hard times? If you were in Elisha's place, what would you have done? 

2 comments:

  1. Mary: At one time, I would have 'set Naaman straight." As I have matured in Christ, I have found that true repentance comes from the heart. There are some people who talk and talk and talk about the good they will do. However, we know that we are to follow John's guidance. " My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.good things they are going to do"1 John 3:18

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    1. I didn't get the last phrase deleted. Sorry.

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