Archive for August, 2009

The 4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (9)

August 31st, 2009
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Scripture of the Day: 2Kings5:11-19

But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage.  Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” So he went down and dipped himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had told him, and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy.

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 in Israel. Please accept now a gift from your servant.”

The prophet answered, “As surely as the LORD lives, whom I serve, I will not accept a thing.” And even though Naaman urged him, he refused.

“If you will not,” said Naaman, “please let me, 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. But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I bow there also-when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this.”

“Go in peace,” Elisha said. (NIV)

 The instruction to complete a lowly task is met with anger and disdain.

Servants show the way forward as their astute diplomacy cause Naaman to calm down, reflect and act, and so be healed.

And even though Naaman urged Elisha to take a gift, he refused. Even though the labourer is the worthy of his hire, and that the prophets survived on the gifts of the people, Elisha’s refusal in this case to accept them reinforces the fact that it was God who healed, not Elisha. Like Paul much later, he knows that claiming personal rights and material advantage is not as important as seeing people grow in faith in the life-giving God.

Pagan Naaman comes to recognize what many in Israel did not, that there is only one God.

Despite what most of us would see as an unacceptable compromise Elisha says to Namaan: “Go in Peace”.

God can be generous to people ‘like us’ ( in terms of race, social grouping or theology) but the thought that others might be more blessed is often unwelcomed! Such reactions show how we distort God’s grace in to something we deserve because of our faith, or faithfulness, or good character etc. The fact remains , God did show favour to an outsider, and the hearer’s theology has to adapt (as did Peter’s theology when the Holy Spirit came upon the Gentile Cornelius.)

Here are some other thoughts to reflect on:

o It is only as Naaman humbles himself and no longer seeks special treatment because of his status he is healed
o He must do things God’s way and not the way he prefers God to act.
o He is both physically and socially restored (given new life) and made clean, with faith in the one living God.

Message for the Day

The 4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (8)

August 30th, 2009
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Scripture of the Day: 2 Kings 5:1-10

Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the LORD had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.  Now bands from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.”

Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. “By all means, go,” the king of Aram replied. “I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing. The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant Naaman to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy.”

As soon as the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his robes and said, “Am I God? Can I kill and bring back to life? Why does this fellow send someone to me to be cured of his leprosy? See how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me!”

When Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his robes, he sent him this message: “Why have you torn your robes? Have the man come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” (NIV)

 Naaman the Syrian is favourably described (unusual) for enemies, and amazingly the reason is that through him Yahweh has given victory to Aram. Nations ascribed victory to their gods, but the writer has seen that if there is only one God, then that God has been in charge not only in Israel but amongst all nations. Leprosy had associations of abhorrence and isolation. Under biblical law this would make a person ritually unclean and it could be a judgment of God. Social ostracism was common. On three counts Naaman is an outsider: he is a foreigner, an enemy general, and a leper.

The rest of the story contains role reversals and unexpected twists.

A young captive servant girl keeps her faith in a foreign land and provides the way forward for an experienced dynamic general.

A foreigner knows of a prophet in Israel who may help and receives support from his king, but the ‘king of Israel’ does not know about Elisha and is more worried about himself.

The mighty general comes to Elisha in glory befitting his rank and is given a message passed on by a mere servant.

Message for the Day

The 4th Master Class of Jesus Christ (7)

August 29th, 2009
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Scripture of the Day: 1Kings 17:16- 24

For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.  Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

“Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”

Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” (NIV)

 The words of Jesus highlight a significant feature: while Jezebel had importance and status, and while one might expect Yahweh to look after people in Israel first, Yahweh’s interest is in a powerless woman in a small village outside Israel. He is a God of power who acts in grace where he chooses.

This freedom of God to be who he is cannot be restricted by our prejudices.

Message for the Day