Tag Archives: Miracles

God’s People, part 74: Naaman

Read 2 Kings 5:1-19

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And many in Israel had leprosy in the time of the prophet Elisha, but the only one healed was Naaman, a Syrian.” (Luke 4:27 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

muddy-riverPart 74: Naaman. Having just read the Scripture above, you might be wondering why I am devoting a devotion on Naaman and, for that matter, why I included one on the widow of Zarephath. After all, it was the Hebrews that were God’s people, right? On the one hand, yes. Covenantally, God had a special relationship with the people of the tribes of Israel; however, every human being on earth was created by God. Thus, properly speaking, all people are God’s people. This truth is seen both in the Old and New Testaments, where God interacts, redeems, and saves people of other “Gentile” nations.

Naaman was the commander of the Aramaean army, under King Ben-Hadad II (aka King Hadadezer). Damascus Aram was the offical name of the kingdom, and was located in the area of what is now known as Damascus, Syria. Thus, Naaman was Aramaean or Syrian and not an Israelite at all; however, he ends up with an infectious skin disease. In that time period, such a disease was considered to be a sign that one was cursed by the gods, and so it was a shame upon Naaman and his family.

What is remarkable in this story is that Naaman, an Aramaean, turns to the Israelite prophet Elisha for help. A careful reading of the story shows just how remarkable this is. Naaman had invaded the Kingdom of Israel and took captives from it, including an Israelite girl as a maid for his wife. Naaman, the great Aramaean was, thus, an enemy of the Israelites.

What’s remarkable is that the maid that Naaman took as a captive is the one who suggested to his wife that he should go see the prophet Elisha. Talk about loving your enemy! What’s even more remarkable is that Naaman actually took her advice and sought out the prophet of his enemy. What a witness this unnamed Israelite maid was that day, speaking up out of concern for the one who enslaved her.

Of course, went to see Elisha in order that he might be healed, and he was willing to pay whatever it cost to be cured of the dreaded disease that was afflicting him. Elisha was more than willing to help him out; however, Naaman was disappointed when all that Elisha asked him to do was to bathe seven times in the Jordan river. “How could that possibly heal me”, he wondered? He was so disappointed and unimpressed, angry even, with Elisha and his request that he began to storm back to his kingdom dejected and still afflicted with leprosy.

Thankfully, Naaman had some wise officers surrounding him, and one of them reasoned with him. “If Elisha had asked you to do something difficult, you would have done it to be cured, wouldn’t you have? If so, then you should definitely obey him when he simply says, ‘Go was and be clean.’” Naaman, to his credit, listened to that officer. He went back to the Jordan River and washed in it seven times and was completely healed from the leprosy.

The story of Naaman’s healing should all cause us to pause and reflect. How many times have we sought God’s hope, healing and wholeness? How many of us have wished that God would just wave an arm over us and magically heal us of whatever is affecting us? How many of us become disappointed when God didn’t come through in the way we had hoped for? The question that follows these is this, has that caused you to lose faith and hope in God? Has it caused you to grow angry and to storm back to the barren land of hopelessness?

The challenge today is for us to reevaluate our faith. God IS WITH US, whether we open our eyes to see that. Healing is being offered to us, even if it does not come in the form we are looking for? Will we storm off, as Naaman originally did? Or will we, as Naaman eventually did, humble ourselves before God and have faith that God IS restoring us back to hope, healing and wholeness? Trust in God, place your faith in the Creator of all things and trust that whatever happens God is with you. Don’t come to God with expecations, but open to God’s presence and to all possibilities.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Simple is often more…miraculous!

PRAYER
Lord, help me to find you in simplicity and to not overlook you because I am expecting something ore complicated. Amen.

God’s People, part 72: Elisha

Read 2 Kings 2:15-25

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him.” (2 Kings 2:15 NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

elishabearsPart 72: Elisha. On Mount Horeb, while hiding away from Ahab and Jezebel for fear of his life, Elijah was instructed to appoing a successor to him. The man he was to appoint was named Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah, who was evidently a farmer. When Elijah found him, he was plowing in a field.

For years following that calling, Elisha assisted Elijah in his work and learned from him. He was Elijah’s apprentice, as it were, and Elisha witnessed many of the great deeds of his mentor, and encountered many of the confrontations between Elijah and the wicked king and queen of Israel, Ahab and Jezebel.

When Elijah, according to Scripture, was taken up into heaven in a firey chariot, Elisha took over in Elijah’s place. Just prior to Elijah’s ascension into heaven, Elisha prayed to God to be given an double portion of Elijah’s spirit. While there is scholarly debate as to what Elijah meant by that prayer, for me it seems that Elisha was praying for even greater prophetic power than that of Elijah.

Indeed, Elisha was given great power and does many wonderful deeds. Elisha was considered to be a patriot because he lent his services to soldiers and kings. First and foremost, he was known as a wonder worker. He cleansed the infected waters of Jericho, and he multiplied oil for a widow who was being harrassed by a harsh creditor. Through petitions to God he was able to provide the birth of a son to a rich woman who had shown hospitality. He also later resurrected her son back to life after he had died.

Through God, Elisha cured the Syrian military commandar, Naaman, of his leprosy. He did these and performed many other mirculous signs. He was truly one of God’s people who, for the most part, remained faithful to God. Still, not everything that Elisha did seems to hold up to the God of love, mercy and grace.

For instance, in today’s scripture we come across the story of Elisha being mocked by a large group of children. Actually, the Hebrew word (נַעַר, pronounced na’ar) could mean children or it could mean people (young adult aged) who have no religion. Young adults who were, in essence, irreverent people. What were they mocking him over? Namely, they were making fun of the fact that he was bald. Yes, I feel his pain for sure; however, Elisha’s response to that seems hardly warranted. Indignant over their behavior, Elisha cursed them, which resulted in bears coming out of the forest and devouring each and everyone of them. Overkill much?

In that moment, Elisha let his pride and his anger take over and it caused him to do something that had horrific consequences. How many of us find ourselves cursing others out of anger? Perhaps when we are driving down the road, or when someone hurts our feelings, or when someone sins against us? How many of us curse people in those moments? When we do so, can we truly say we are behaving in a way that pleases God? Of course not! Let us learn from Elisha’s sin, repent of our own and, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, learn to bless people (even if undeserving) rather than curse them.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“I say, if you are even angry with someone [without cause], you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.” – Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ (Matthew 5: 22 NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, allow me to find temperance when I am angry and give me the peace I need to respond to people who hurt me with blessings and not curses. Amen.