Oct 25 2020 Naaman - From Privilege to Powerless to Experiencing Grace

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

(2Kings 5:1)

There is a contrast between the world’s standard and God’s standard of power and position.

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

As you can see from the map – Aram – Syria – and Damascus is the capital. What is important – Aram was Israel’s constant enemy – and you’ll see numerous battles through Kings and Chronicles.

Sometimes, when we read the Bible, it is difficult to determine who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. If you are familiar with this story - it is a healing story and a story about humility. But this story has numerous layers of meeting. Jesus brought this story up in the gospel of Luke, chapter 4 – and a way of understanding the inclusion of outsiders into his people. This Jesus uses to tell about loving enemies and in telling of grace.

There is another layer in the way this story is told – the literary quality of the story – and it relies heavily on contrast and comparison. The language focuses on God’s perspective on Power and Position vs. the world’s perspective.

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.

This is an odd phrase – the Lord gave victory to Israel’s enemy. We know that doesn’t mean that they are the good guys. And we know that God uses these struggles to bring Israel back to Himself.

To make this real – what they are feeling. Everyone is saying this is the most important election ever – I think they just say that to get people to watch their television shows.

Lots of people have already voted. Think of it this way – after this is all said and done – and on December 17 the president has been determined – and the one you wanted to win is does not win – and let’s say the Bible is still being written – and it said, God gave victory to that candidate – that is how it must have felt to them.

Then he switches the language: But he had leprosy. The first part shows human power, provision, and privilege – but he had leprosy.

We have weakness – and then we have the powerless – without position or privilege.

2 Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman's wife. 3 She said to her mistress, "If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."

It is a young girl, without power or position – who has the power in the story. The real power comes from the powerless. That is Jesus’ way of viewing power.

4 Naaman went to his master and told him what the girl from Israel had said. 5 "By all means, go," the king of Aram replied. "I will send a letter to the king of Israel."

Things happen in this world because powerful people make them happen. And as Christians, we should say, REALLY?!

So Naaman left, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold and ten sets of clothing.

Here is the next thing in the way of the world: Money talks! Resources get things done!

6 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."

The king cannot cure him of his leprosy. Everything to them is about power and resource. But we know God’s way is that all things are first spiritual. There is a spiritual root behind everything. That is what is always ignored by the world – going to the worldly way of solving problems and neglecting the ways of God.

7 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!" 8 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 here is Elisha’s perspective of power and position: He has no use for it! I don’t’ care who he is or what his position is – it is all meaningless. Now the king knew he couldn’t do it. But to understand the king – his only concern is the political ramifications – and Elisha sees the spiritual.

Israel is God’s people, but they are living in the ways of the world.

We are to live in the world, but not in the ways of the world. How did Jesus engage in the world? That is how we are to engage. We can go to the gospels and see how He would do it.

9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha's house. 10 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."

So here is Elisha – who is Naaman? He doesn’t even come to the door – he sends his messenger. Naaman is used to special treatment. And that happens in any sphere – when you gain power and position – you are in grave danger of getting used to special treatment.

11 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. 12 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.

Naaman is used to having control and being in charge – but now that he has leprosy, he is reduced to being a beggar. God has turned his world upside-down. And it is just God’s way. God wants to turn our world and ways of thinking upside-down. We know our ways our not His ways, nor His thoughts, ours! Jesus is an upsidedown turnarounder! We need to not be afraid of that, but to embrace it! I know that is not easy

13 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'!" 14 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.

So we have it again – the servants lead. The powerless have the power. It is the poor, in God’s economy, who have the wealth. And Jesus said this clearly when people came to him and asked who is the greatest? The rulers of this world lord it over and exercise authority – Don’t do that! End it! IN my kingdom – that is not a part of things. Those who are great in my kingdom become the servant and slave of all. That is how I want you to behave.

We live in a self-made culture. Naaman was a self-made man. The Bible emphasizes the importance of hard work and initiative and how those are important to Christian character. This has nothing to do with that. We know that by going to verse 1 – Naaman – the ultimate self-made man – God gave him victory. He got none of it on his own. Yahweh gave it to him.

If we have made something of ourselves, we can be sure that God had a lot to do with it. He provided you with the talent and gifts to do all of it, and it is not from ourselves.

We have to be careful because it is easy to forget that.

Naaman humbles himself. His pride was wounded when Elisha did not come out – but God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. This becomes a grace story. Naaman did not understand grace. Today, there are so many who do not understand grace. If you are a self-made person, you cannot have any concept of grace. You are not self-made. God gave you the abilities and strength. Paul said – I worked harder than all of them – yet not I, but God’s grace through me.

God can take that away from you like that! And we would go right down the drain if God took it away. It would not take long at all.

Notice, beforehand, Naaman is judgmental and critical and demanding! With grace comes an understanding and a movement away from that.

Grace transforms Naaman

15 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.

The purpose of the book – there is one God – one people of God – and one place to worship God. And who declares this? The enemy. The outsider is the one who understands God more clearly than God’s people.

When Joshua leads the people to the promised land – who is the first to worship Him? Rahab the harlot. She knew more what was going on than God’s people did.

Or with Jesus – In all of Israel I have not found such faith as this gentile!

So please accept a gift from your servant." 16 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.

Naaman has changed. When he first came – he had all these gifts to buy what he needed – a way of manipulating. Now he is thankful – he understood grace – and that makes him want to give! He is so grateful – he is compelled – take it all! Thank you so much for what you have done!

If we have experienced spiritual growth, we can know, at some point, we have exercised humility and God gave us grace so we might grow. When that happens, the caution we must have is that spiritual growth can produce pride. If we forget, not I – but the grace of God – and then when pride comes, God opposes the proud. It is only by God’s grace that anything good happens in us.

17 "If you will not (accept these gifts)," 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.

In the Bible – and John Ference – on Monday is starting a study on the Council of the gods –

Gods were tied to land – this god represented this territory – god of the mountains, god of the sea,- even when Moses stood before Yahweh – “Take off your shoes, because the ground you are standing on belongs to Yahweh”

Joshua – stands before the flaming sword – are you on our side or the other? No! Take off your shoes –

Anyway – Naaman wants dirt from Israel to worship Yahweh -

18 But may the LORD forgive your servant for this one thing:

Forgive me for this one thing I’m going to do! We don’t do that – but we all do it all the time!

When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also--when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD forgive your servant for this." 19 "Go in peace," Elisha said.

We think he is trying to take advantage of God’s grace – but Elisha says – Go in peace.

You can never take advantage or use up God’s grace! I think we all think that – I’ve used up His grace! But God’s grace is so abundant – there are hymns written about it! It is always there and available for us.

I have been doing this in my prayers – a small little things – Scot McKnight and Henri Nouwen – The Jesus Prayer – and is found throughout the gospel – Lord Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me. Mercy is tied to grace. Chesed – lovingkindness, grace, mercy – tied up into one. I pray this for myself and my kids and the church and my wife and whomever –

Why? What they need much more than the specific things? God’s grace and mercy.

Paul, in every letter – God’s grace – he prays that they would receive God’s grace. Because the receiving of grace and mercy from God is the most important thing.

God, grant us your grace, compassion and lovingkindness. You long to do that – we long to receive it – and we trust in that, and not of ourselves.

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