Monday, June 27, 2016

A Gentile is Healed

This Sunday's Old Testament lesson from II Kings contains an ancient story where the God of Israel grants a miracle to someone from outside the nation of Israel.  The prophet Elisha was on his own after his friend and mentor Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind to heaven so he began to travel through the countryside exhibiting the power of Yahweh to all.  This story concerns a man named Naaman, a commander of an army of Aram, a Gentile and foreigner to the people of Israel.  Even though he is in a position of authority, he has the disease of leprosy, which was feared by all in the ancient world.

A servant girl from the land of Israel who had been captured by the Arameans tells Naaman that the prophet Elisha may have the power to cure him of his leprosy.  So, he went to see Elisha, taking along with him an abundance of gifts to present to him as a token of his thanks for the healing that could come.  Naaman went to Elisha's house and Elisha sent a servant out to meet him with the the command, "Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean."  (II Kings 5:10)

Instead of immediately obeying the prophet, Naaman became angry and went away complaining about the command, thinking that the prophet should have at least come out and seen him personally and performed some kind of incantation to ward off the disease.  He also resented being told to wash in the Jordan River, thinking that the waters of his homeland were cleaner and better than this river in Israel.

Naaman's servant girl helped him come to his senses, however, by asking him if he would not have done something even more difficult than what he had been commanded to do if it would bring his healing.  So, he finally obeyed the word of Elisha and was miraculously made free from his disease.

The result of the miracle was that Naaman believed in the God of the nation of Israel, of whom he knew little.  "Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel..." (II Kings 5:15b)  When Naaman saw the result of his obedience to what the prophet had asked him to do, it changed his heart as well as his body.

This story speaks to us as well as to the ancient hearers to which it was addressed.  It spoke of Naaman's humility that he had to achieve in order to obey the word of the prophet.  Naaman had to put aside his own concerns and objections to washing in the Jordan and simply do what the prophet asked him to do so that he could receive his healing.  He had to yield his own ideas and accept those of another in order to gain what he desired so much.  We often have to act in humility also in order to achieve positive results in life.

After returning to Elisha, Naaman demonstrated his healing by returning in a state of submission and knelt before Elisha, identifying himself as a servant to both Elisha and Elisha's God.  He confessed his faith in the God of Israel.  His healing of body and spirit had been accomplished by his obedience to the word of the prophet.

The experience of healing in our own lives is an active process.  The progression from humility to a change of mind to submission and confession translates into a series of actions for our lives.  We must go down, turn around, kneel before and finally stand up before God's power and grace.

Do we have the ability to see and admit our own need, asking for God's presence in our lives?  Can we admit that we too need healing in our lives and are ready to take the steps to allow God to be present and active in our lives?  We believe in an all powerful, all knowing God, one who is aware of who we are and what happens in our lives.  We also believe in a God who cares for each of us and wants our lives to be complete and whole.  If God knows and cares, then perhaps God is ready for us to trust God for what God would provide for our lives so that we would be the most complete people we can be, ready to assist others in their own struggles in life.

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