Naaman: “Doing it My Way”

Picture189Do we seek the glory of God? Do we trust in His words, and promises? Or, do we want to work things out for ourselves? Whenever we attempt to do things by our own efforts, our faith is not in God – but in ourselves.  When ever we stick to “Plan A,” we are seeking our glory not His.

Naaman in 2 Kings 5 is a great example of this.  

“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 (verse 1).”

This was a man of reputation, skill, and of worldly importance. Yet, he also had a fatal problem – disease.

When he hears that there is a prophet and healer in Israel, he decides that this is his chance to overcome his illness.  Okay, some trust, but to what level?

“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 [a great amount of treasure and] The letter that he took to the king of Israel read: “With this letter I am sending my servant to you so that you may cure him of his leprosy (verses 4-6).”

This is an incredible problem for Israel. as is evident from the king’s response,

“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 (verse 7)!”

Notice, the king looked at the situation with a human perspective. He felt put on the spot by an “impossible” request. But,

“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 (verse 8).” 

The king may have been well aware of his own human limitations, but the man of God saw the bigger picture.

Fair enough, God was in control, not any man. Yet, even in his act of faith of coming to Samaria (Israel), Naaman in his self-importance and human resumptions was not ready for what came next

“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. 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 all the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed?” So he turned and went off in a rage (verses 9 – 12).”

Naaman wanted some “respect.” He didn’t want to be given a task by a servant.  He didn’t expect such a simple instruction.  He wanted “show.” He wanted something earth-shattering (as if healing leprosy is mundane). So,

“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 (vs 13- 14).”

God’s power came not in elaborate rituals, or shows of a “mighty man,” but in simple obedience. No human effort was shown by the prophet. Nor did the prophet show the doubt and fear of his king. He sought God’s way, and God’s glory. The result:

“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 (verse 15).”

God’s glory was manifested. Naaman found humility as well as physical healing. The means may have defied human expectations (whether in the means [Naaman’s perception problem], or in the outcome [the king’s perception problem]. It was in the end simple faith and obedience that triumphed on the day.

Do we seek the glory of God? Do we trust in His words, and promises? Or, do we want to work things out for ourselves? Do we attempt to do things by our own efforts? Is our faith in God – or in ourselves?  Do we stick to “Plan A,” or Plan “Him?

Padre

 

Noah Faith

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Just some brief musings today on the faith of Noah.  The tenth patriarch of Genesis was a man who strove to do good.  So much in fact that God singled him out when He decided to punish humanity as the central figure of those who would be saved.

His standing out as righteous amid a corrupt generation, is a good starting point.  But Noah went beyond.  When he was told that there would be a flood, he obeyed and constructed the ark as God told him to, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he (Genesis 6:22).”

He took about 100 years to complete his task.  Noah built it as instructed, as a box.  This was no boat. It does not seem to be tapered at a prow, nor does it have a rudder.  His trust and obedience was complete.  There was no second guessing.  He was not to be a sailor or navigator, but a zoo keeper aboard a structure the shape of a shoe box.

Noah put his life in God’s hands, and was willing for the floods (emotional and literal) to take him where God desired.

Do we second guess?  Do we seek a Plan B? Are we obedient even to follow what the world would call absurd? Do we have Noah faith?

Padre

 

Loving Obedience

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Brother Joe brought a thoughtful message to us this week on the theme of obedience.  He prefaced his remarks with a reminder that all of our actions as Christians are potentially worship, from our expressions of praise, our singing, our prayer, and yes, our obedience.

Such worshipful obedience has love at its root. And it is because of this love first shown to us that we reciprocate. We love because He first loved us.

John’s gospel says of obedience,

If ye love me, keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him (John 14: 15, 21, and 23).”

And Jesus’ words are clear, we are to love the lord our God with all of our heart, mind, and strength.  Here is the root of obedience.  To follow the examples, and commands he has give us.  This is not an act of legalistic obligation, nor as a “purchase” of salvation, but as a manifestation of thanksgiving, and of mutual love and relationship with God.

Our obedience is merely a reflection of the indwelling of His love and Spirit within us.  We are transformed by Him, and we have become loving people.  I John 4 says, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love (verses 7 -8).”

Being thus born of God, in love it is now our nature to follow the two great commandments: to love God, and to love our neighbours. If we look at the most obvious framework, in obedience (the Ten Commandments) we see that these clearly address these two aspects of relationship.

Our worshipful obedience is about relationship.  It is reflecting back to God, what He has bestowed on us.  Let us not therefore seek to be rule keepers, but rather to be mirrors of righteousness.  Let us be beacons of worship, and of love.

Padre

 

 

 

 

 

Flawed, But Faithful

stained-glass-abrahams-sacrifice-2The message during worship this morning took note of Hebrews 11, in which Abraham was cited as a  champion of faith. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God (NIV).” Abraham had faith, Abraham obeyed, Abraham acted on that faith – but . . . .

Here I deviate from the Pastor’s lesson.  Yes, Abraham is the spiritual father of our faith, he is an example in outcome, and in his loyalty in God’s promise.  But, he like us, was human.  He had his flaws, and his faith was developmental.  He grew in the Lord.  He had his false starts, doubts, and struggles.  He is our father in these things too.

When God called the then Abram to leave Harran, he did obey.  He trusted in God that he would be given a land, and he went  “from  [his] country, [his] people and [his] father’s household to the land I will show you (Gen 12:1 NIV).” It is the second part of the promise Abram seemed to have reservations about.  Because in verse 2 and following, God tells him He will make him a great nation.  He and his offspring will be a blessing to the world.

So what does Abraham do with this promise?  He hedges his bets, and takes his heir (his nephew Lot) with him.  But this is as man sees, not as God sees.  Lot and Abraham soon fall out, and Abraham continues on his journey but questions. “But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir (Gen 15:2-3 NIV).”  Lord – I am childless, Lot has abandoned me, Eliezer is the closest thing I have, so where are the children?  God once again promises him a child.

It is Sarah who next hedges the bet.  If not Lot or Eliezer, if it is to be your own son – then take my servant Hagar.  She will make you a father.  Abraham once again follows the human path and concedes.  Ishmael is born, but God’s plan and promise is still unfulfilled.

Late in their lives God intervenes, and Sarah conceives Issac: the son of God’s promise. Abraham’s journey was not just one from Harran to Canaan, but from trust in himself and his own plans to those of God.  If we are honest with ourselves, are we any different?

Lord, help us to be faithful. Lord aid us in truly trusting you.  Your way, not mine, because Lord I am flawed.

Padre