"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
June 23, 2010
How come we're often willing to do something difficult and time consuming when God asks us, but when He asks us to do something simple and easy we'll balk at it and argue? It's as if we think God will be more impressed with us if we do something that's harder and takes a lot of effort. But often it's the easier things that humble us and break our pride, which in turn causes us to mature and grow spiritually.
In 2 Kings 5 we read the story of Naaman. Verse 1 begins, "Now Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was also a mighty man of valor, but a leper."
During one of his raids to Israel, he brought back captive a young girl, who became a servant to his wife. This young girls saw Naaman's affliction and told her mistress, "If only my master were with the prophet, who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy."
Naaman told the king what the young girl had said, and the king told him to go and he would write a letter to the king of Israel on Naaman's behalf. In addition to the king's letter, he also took with him 10 talents of silver, 6,000 shekels of gold, and 10 changes of clothing.
When the king of Israel read the letter, he thought the king of Syria was trying to start a quarrel with him. He said, "Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy?"
Elisha heard about it, and ask that Naaman be sent to him.
When Naaman arrived at Elisha's house, instead of going out and meeting Naaman, he sent a messenger instead who told him, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean."
Naaman was offended that Elisha hadn't bothered to come out and speak to him, and became furious. "Indeed, I said to myself, 'He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.'" He had it all figured out in his mind how Elisha would "perform", then his miracle would occur. When it didn't happen like he thought, it made him mad.
Furthermore, Jordan was a muddy river, and Naaman didn't want to go dip in those waters. "Isn't 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.
How typical is that of our reactions many times? God doesn't do things like we think He should, so we get angry. We have it figured out that God is going to answer our prayer a certain way, and when He doesn't, we get upset. "God should have done it like this!" "I don't understand why I prayed and instead of this happening, God let that happen!" We decide if God isn't going to perform like we thought He would, then we'll just go try and figure it out by ourselves.
Thankfully, Naaman's servants, who were traveling with him, had the guts to speak the truth to him. They asked if the prophet had had him do some great thing, would he not have done it? But all Elisha had told him to do was dip in the Jordan seven times, so why wouldn't he do it so that he could be made clean?
With all the money and clothing that Naaman had taken along with him, he was prepared to offer gifts in exchange for his healing. I'm sure the 10 changes of clothing were made out of the finest linen and was of the highest quality and worth a lot of money. In addition, he had the 10 talents of silver and 6,000 shekels of gold. Giving things of monetary value was something Naaman was prepared to do. If asked, he probably would have even been willing to give up the servants who were traveling with him in exchange for being made whole. He may have been willing to give military advice, which he was well-versed in by being commander of the Syrian army. Perhaps he was even willing to sign a treaty between the Syrian army and the army of Israel.
But go down to the muddy water of the Jordan river and submerge himself seven times? He didn't want to do that. He would get wet and dirty and muddy. With the position he held in Syria, he probably had a very prestigious position and was very wealthy. He more than likely lived in a fancy home, with servants waiting on him and his family. He probably only ate the finest foods and dressed in finery that defined him as commander of the army. He apparently personally knew the king of Syria, for he was given audience with the king, and the king wrote a letter on his behalf to the king of Israel. In fact, the scripture says that he was a great and honorable man in the eyes of his master, who would have been the king. So he may have even ate at the kings table from time to time. He was used to issuing commands and orders and having them followed.
When he went to Elisha's home, Elisha didn't even come out and speak to him, but sent a messenger instead. Naaman may have assumed that Elisha would come out and lay hands on him, or give him a special potion, or speak words, or do some type of magic "hocus-pocus" that would cause the leprosy to go away.
There was a purpose behind Elisha's actions. He didn't want Naaman going back home giving credit to him for his miracle, therefore, he had no contact with him whatsoever. Both the Israelites and Syrians knew that the muddy Jordan had no powers within its water to cure leprosy. So by Naaman going down and dipping in the water 7 times, the miracle could only be attributed to God.
Naaman had to humble himself in order to obey the instructions of the prophet. He wanted to be cured, but at first, he wanted it on his terms. But after his servants speaking to him, he realized that if he wanted to be made clean, then he had to do what he didn't want to do.
Verse 14 says that after Naaman dipped in the Jordan seven times, his flesh became like the flesh of a child and he was made clean. So was humbling himself and getting dirty worth it? Most definitely!
At times we've all had to do things that we didn't want to do. We've had to make choices or decisions that we'd rather not make. Changes may have occurred in our life that were unpleasant and were not what we had planned. Sometimes those situations seem unfair and just plain stink!
But how we respond can determine the outcome. Only we can determine our attitude and outlook. We can pout, be stubborn, become angry, and go away in a rage like Naaman did in the beginning. Or we can obey and choose to trust God and see what happens.
I can somewhat understand Naaman's response, but for a completely different reason. I don't know about the Jordan, but most rivers have snakes in them. And the muddy, dirty water may hide the snakes. I'd be thinking, "What if I walk out into the water and a snake swims by?!" What if the muddy water stains and ruins my clothes? You don't know what may be underneath that dirty water. I don't know how to swim, so I'd want someone to walk out with me to hold onto me. What if my shoe got stuck in the muddy river bottom, or I got stuck in the current? What if someone saw me dipping down into the muddy water and questioned why I was in the water? What if someone were on the bank, pointing their finger at me and laughing?
Even though I would want to be healed of the leprosy, I'd be standing at the river bank thinking of all the what ifs, and thinking of everything that could go wrong. You'd think someone in that position would go running down as fast as they could into the water and dip underneath as fast as they could 7 times, in anticipation of being cleansed. But often, we wait and debate.
It's kind of like doing household chores. There are some that I don't mind doing. I generally make our bed as soon as we get up; and I refuse to get into a bed that hasn't been made! I really don't mind doing laundry. But I really dislike dusting. It's not hard to do, and doesn't take that long, but I just don't like doing it. I don't like seeing a layer of dust all over either, but sometimes that's what it takes for me to realize that it's been a while since I last dusted.
I also push mow our yard, and don't fuss too much, unless it's 100 degrees outside. But I hate going to the gas station to fill up the gas container. It's easy to do and doesn't take that long. I don't really know why; I just dislike doing it. But eventually I have to do all the household and yard chores, regardless of whether or not I enjoy doing them. I can choose my attitude when I do the chores. I can either fuss and complain the whole time, or I can think about the end results and do it with a good outlook.
If we want results, then we have to do those things that may not be fun. Necessary things may not always be what we like or want to do.
Naaman had to humble himself and dip in the dirty water in order to be cleansed from leprosy. When he did so, the end result was flesh as smooth as a baby. He then acknowledge that God was truly the one true God.
Sometimes if we want God to work in our lives, then we have to be willing to let go of pride and do things we don't want to. But the end result will always be remarkable and worth it.
Loretta wrote the rest of this almost two weeks ago. She's very good about getting things done ahead of time. This time, she wanted to get it done early because we were about to be out of town for a week. We went through several states, but mostly visited Yellowstone. We saw a lot, and learned a lot. I'm sure Loretta will write for several weeks about the various lessons we learned. Maybe we'll share some pictures here, too.
Loretta wrote (before we left) about having a good attitude while doing chores. It may seem shocking, but the same applies to exploring God's wonderful creation. There were actually people walking around parts of Yellowstone who looked unhappy. They were usually with someone excited to be there, but looked like they had to be dragged there. Some of them, especially teens, looked like they wanted to make everyone else miserable, too. But it didn't seem to work.
We can do a miserable chore, while thinking about our favorite hymn and enjoying ourselves; or look at one of the most beautiful sunsets over a lake filled with ducks and geese and be miserable.
1. How old were Abraham and Sarah when Isaac was born?
2. What were the names of Isaac's sons?
3. Elijah told King Ahab that there would not be any rain or dew except at his word. How long did the drought last?
4. How did God take Elijah into heaven?
5. What did Elisha tell Naaman to do in order for his leprosy to be healed?
Chicken Breast, cooked and chopped
Red Grapes, split in half
Amounts depend on how much you want to make. Boil chicken breast; cool, debone and chop. Add Hellmann's mayonnaise (the real stuff taste so much better), chopped celery, and grapes that have been split in half. Mix until a good consistency and put on croissants.
Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. (Genesis 17:16-19)
Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:24-26)
3 years (1 Kings 18:1)
By a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11)
Dip in the Jordan river 7 times (2 Kings 5:14)
How do you plan to live today? Just putting in your time or giving it all you've got? Live enthusiastically!
We love you!
Loretta & Jon