Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I had to laugh this morning . . .

As I continue on my "one year through the Bible" reading, I came upon 2 Kings 5 this morning, the story of Naaman being healed from leprosy.

You're probably familiar with it:
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.

Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "Would that 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, "Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel."

And the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel."
So the king writes a letter and sends it via Naaman:
And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy."

And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me."
I thought I was awake when I began reading this passage. I had been doing my standard activities when I read the Bible. (Among other things, I always draw a box around every occurrence of "the LORD" (all-caps) to remind myself to read it as "Yahweh" or "Jehovah" since it is actually the NAME of God and not His title ("the Lord").) . . . So I had drawn the box around "the LORD" in v. 1. And I had underlined a couple of other phrases that caught my attention.

But when I got to verse 7 ("And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, 'Am I God? . . ." etc. to the end of the passage I quoted), I suddenly perked up--or "woke up"--in a way I had not been awake before.

You've got to remember that Jehoram, King of Israel (son of Ahab and Jezebel and participant in "the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which [Jeroboam] made Israel to sin"--2 Kings 3:2-3; see also 1 Kings 12:25ff) . . . Jehoram was well aware of Yahweh/Jehovah. He interfaced with Elisha and with Yahweh/Jehovah (see, for example, 2 Kings 3:10ff). But, obviously, he wasn't very devout (to put it mildly!).

So he's not thinking very godly thoughts when Naaman comes his way. He's thinking politics and military strategy and taxes and economic policies:
"Am I God, . . . that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? . . . [S]ee how he is seeking a quarrel with me."
How astonishingly different from the way Naaman's Israelite/Jewish servant girl was thinking and how she spoke (2 Kings 5:2-3):
"Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."
The little servant girl was only thinking of how God might bless her master (despite--you've got to realize--the fact that she had been "carried off" into servanthood in a Syrian raid upon her homeland). And Naaman is only thinking about what benefit he might acquire if God would only heal him. But Jehoram is thinking: "This is a plot against my kingdom!"

And I think that's when I burst out laughing.

"Yeah. If I were in Jehoram's shoes, I would worry that this man, Naaman, is simply trying to acquire some kind of advantage over me, too. Just like Jehoram. --I would have no different thoughts."

And that phrase: "Am I God . . . ?" --No. But you know God. You know of God. You are supposed to know His power!"

So I need to be awake to opportunities like these--just as the Israelite/Jewish servant girl was--to make God's Name--and His fame--known.

So Jehoram was undone . . .
But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel."
Yeah! "That he may know . . ."

Do you know how often that phrase occurs in the Old Testament? How often Yahweh says He does things "that he may know . . . ," "that you may know . . . ," "that they may know . . . "!

That's another theme I've been watching throughout my reading.

Just a few references: Exodus 8:10, 22; 9:14, 29; 10:2; 11:7; 31:13; Leviticus 23:43; Deuteronomy 29:6; Joshua 4:24; and so forth. . . .


And for some reason, this, what I have just written, ties in with a theme I wanted to share with you from the sermon I heard on Sunday morning.

Sarita and I are not particularly charismatic or Pentecostal people. We are, as we say, very much "open" to the gifts of the Spirit: whatever God wants to send our way, we want to receive and utilize for His glory. But we have, as far as we know, never been blessed with any of the more . . . ummm . . . "spectacular" or "showy" [what is the word I'm looking for?] gifts. You know: speaking in tongues, healing, etc.

But we recognize we have to be open to those things. God does those things. He is using those kinds of gifts or special dispensations to prosecute His purposes in many places and among many peoples around the world.

So we want to be open to them if ever and/or whenever He may want to bless us and use us in that way.

Kind of like the little Israelite/Jewish servant girl in Syria.


So Sarita and I are members of a Foursquare church. (Again, that's not our background. There's stuff in the denomination that drives us crazy--as there's stuff just about anywhere we've ever gone that drives us crazy. But that's where God has put us for now. (And for quite some time.) And we are grateful for the solid biblical preaching and teaching we have received. And the fellowship. . . .)


Foursquare is a charismatic/Pentecostal denomination. So we hear things and are taught about things that you're not likely to hear or be taught about if you're involved in a non-charismatic or non-Pentecostal church.

Like what I learned on Sunday.

Our pastor has been teaching from the life of Peter. (!!! How's that for a sermon series!?! "Life of Christ"? Yes. I've heard of that. "Life of Peter"? Never heard of such a thing before.)

And on Sunday he had us looking at Mark 1:21-39. And in vv. 29-31 we looked at Jesus' healing of Peter's mother-in-law. [Did you wonder, yesterday, where I came up with the comment about Peter being the only one of the apostles about whom we are sure he was married? --It's not that I didn't know it before. But Sunday's sermon reminded me of that fact.]


Here's what our pastor noted:
  • In Mark 1:31, Jesus heals Peter's mother-in-law of a fever.
    And he . . . took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her."
    Peter observed that.
  • In Mark 5:35-42, Jesus heals the daughter of "the ruler of the synagogue." Actually, He doesn't just "heal" her; he raises her from the dead:
    Taking her by the hand he said to her, "Talitha cumi," which means, "Little girl, I say to you, arise." And immediately the girl got up and began walking. . . .
    Again, Peter was there to observe what Jesus did.
  • In Acts 3:1-10, we read of the lame beggar who asks Peter and John for alms. But Peter says (v. 6):
    "I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!" And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and began to walk. . . .
    Whoa! Talk about discipleship (see also)! Peter followed the example of his Master.
And then, finally,
  • In Acts 9:36-41, we read how Peter raised Tabitha/Dorcas to life:
    Peter . . . knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, "Tabitha, arise." And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up.
    --Not quite as dramatic as the other stories. But there is a pattern there.
Our pastor emphasized the need for usto be willing to "touch" the people around us and to "follow the Lord's example" in His "tenderhearted compassion" on people.

What struck me: In the little "instruction" or "preaching" or "teaching" I have ever heard or read about healing, I have always been impressed by the [in my opinion, inordinate and--I think it is fair to say--unfair] emphasis the preachers and teachers seem to place on the faith that the potential recipient of the healing must have: "Do you believe?" . . .

And if the person doesn't receive healing, then, "obviously," he or she supposedly "lacked faith."

[Of course, I tend to pay more attention to passages like 2 Corinthians 12:7ff where Paul prayed three times to have a certain "thorn in the flesh" removed and God chose not to do that. For, after all, He is still sovereign.]

But what hit me on Sunday morning was how much faith the one who is going to offer healing must have.

Peter didn't merely pray for these people. He took them by the hand . . . assuming, expecting, virtually requiring a healing . . . or he would look quite the fool.

And notice that Jesus--and then, Peter, after him--grabbed hold of these persons' hands before they were healed (well, not in Tabitha/Dorcas' case; she was already alive before he grabbed her hand). But the point is, there was real faith on the part of the person through whom God granted the healing.

To push the lesson back to 2 Kings 5: The little Israelite/Jewish girl didn't merely pray for her master; she spoke up and exposed herself to the possibility of all kinds of scorn.

Am I willing to take such "risks"?
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