Saturday, July 31, 2010
God of Reversals - Naaman
2 Kings 5 opens with a pretty fascinating statement:
"Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper."
This verse tells us a lot about Naaman:
*he was Aramean (Syrian)
*captain of the army of the king
*great man in his master's eyes
But what struck me was the little phrase - "because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram." Naaman was a gentile soldier who God used to bring victory to Syria over Israel. The victory was not because Syria was more powerful or because Israel was unprepared, but because God gave the victory to Syria.
Remember, when you study the Word, you need to look for God - enlarge your understanding of Him. This verse tells us that at times God works in gentiles' lives and gives His people into the hands of their enemies.
The story goes on to tell that when Syria plundered Israel, a young girl was taken captive, who ended up being the servant to Naaman's wife. She told Naaman's wife that there was a prophet in Israel who could heal her husband. Immediately a letter was written to the king of Israel on behalf of Naaman, demanding that he cure Naaman, sent along with a hefty gift of money.
The king panics and goes into mourning because he has no idea what Naaman is talking about, knowing that he could not possibly heal Naaman, but Elisha hears that the king is mourning and he steps in and saves the day. "Send him to me and I'll take care of it."
So Naaman journeys to the house of Elisha with his horses and his chariots - quite an entourage, not a secret meeting but almost a parade - and knocks on Elisha's door. Elisha sends a servant to the door who tells Naaman to go into the Jordan River seven times and wash himself, and he will be clean.
Naaman becomes enraged that Elisha would not personally come to the door, but sent a servant in his place and he prepares to leave. What Elisha has asked him to do made no sense to him whatsoever. He reasoned that in Syria, there were better rivers than the filthy Jordan (I added "filthy" because I've seen the Jordan before) and if Elisha wouldn't come out to heal him, then he would simply leave.
But Naaman's servants intervened and basically reasoned with Naaman to go ahead and give it a try. Of course we all know the end of the story. The seventh time he comes out of the water, Naaman is healed of his leprosy. He then makes this statement:
"Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel..." (2 Kings 5:15)
...and then offers gifts to the Lord through Elisha, because he wants God's forgiveness. He knows that when he returns to Syria, he must enter the house of a false god and he wants to take dirt from Israel back with him so that when he offers a sacrifice, it would be to the God of that dirt (or that land, Israel). Elisha refused the gift and also eased Naaman's conscience by telling him to "...Go in peace." (v.19)
Okay, great story, Kristen. Tell me something I didn't know.
Just a few observations about the God of Reversals:
*God disciplines through outside sources - don't think that God's hand is not in it just because you are being called on the mat by an unbeliever. God is in control and uses whatever He pleases to get His children's attention and to accomplish His will
*God took away Naaman's debilitating, fatal disease - reversal of life - he was an unclean, walking dead man and God gave him life
*God also took away Naaman's debilitating, fatal spiritual disease - reversal of spiritual life - Naaman was given a glimpse of the God of Israel and it was irresistible!
*And finally, God wants obedience. He blesses obedience, and sometimes what He asks us to do doesn't make sense, but if we obey, He will bless. Dunking in that dirty river seven times made no sense to Naaman, but obedience brought cleansing and spiritual awakening. It brought him life.
What has God asked you to do that makes no sense? Forgive a repeat offender? Restore a broken relationship? Move from your comfort zone and plant a church? Open your home to a child who is not your own? Submit, submit, submit?
Naaman's story teaches me that the God of Reversals simple wants us to follow Him. How many times have we instructed our children to do something because our age and experience has taught us the hard way, but it makes no sense to them? What do we say to them? "Just trust me on this one..."
We need to trust the Lord and follow His lead because what seems strange to us, makes all the sense in the universe to Him.
One final observation - when Naaman was cleansed, what was his response? Did he walk away and say, "Well, of course, I am healed because I am a valued member of society and God knew what a great catch I would be?" No, he offered whatever he had to the Lord, begging his forgiveness.
When we see the hand of God work in a mighty way, what is our response? I think that I am so accustomed to God's gracious hand, that I don't even look for it anymore - I just expect it to be there. It's time for that to stop. It's time for me to fall on my face and beg forgiveness and offer all I have to the God of Reversals.
May your faith be strengthened and your walk be enhanced by looking at Naaman today! And may you respond in joy, just as Naaman did.