Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bethany Bullet - October 12, 2010

We’ve all heard (or said), “They just don’t make them like that anymore.” Generally, this statement is made in regards to a perceived lack of modern craftsmanship or degradation of materials. Materials and craftsmanship considered being of lesser quality of those once used thus resulting in the speaker’s opinion that something is not “made right.” If there were a schematic for salvation or if we spoke of how forgiveness is fashioned and forged we might choose the wording:

By Grace - Through Faith - Apart from Works -
For the Sake of Christ…We are made Right by Grace.

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You may want to read II Kings 5 before you continue reading this Bethany Bullet.
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At this point in Biblical chronology, King David has been dead and buried for roughly 150 years. The great prosperity, power, and influence that Israel enjoyed under David and then under his Son Solomon’s reign was gone. In fact, the kingdom was no longer intact and by now divided into two sister nations: Israel to the north and Judah in the south. By the time we get to our reading, Aram (the nation of Israel’s border we know as Syria) was asserting itself as a player in the region. It had forced Israel into treaties and skirmishes were commonplace.

Following one such skirmish, the forces of the “Syrian” Army had taken an Israelite girl captive and in turn she became a slave in the household of Naaman, a general of the Aram army. That’s the back ground of our text. That is the reason the king of Israel is so alarmed.

Put yourself in the king’s place, “Not only is he asking too much from me, I am not a doctor, he doesn’t deserve that for which he asks. He is the leader of the army that opposes my own. He is holding captive a citizen of my kingdom.” Is it possible that the king was thinking, “I can’t heal him, and if I could, I don’t know that I would do so?” As much as we could conjecture about the king’s thoughts, I’d prefer to discuss that which I am more certain of.

Let’s be honest, Naaman is a wretch. I’m not talking about the condition of his skin (though leprosy is the case); I am, however, referring to the state of his soul. This guy is in the loop of human trafficking. And while “everyone” did it in his day that doesn’t make me feel any more kindly disposed towards him. I don’t care how nice he treated the Israelite girl. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say the treatment must have been fair since she is the one who told him about the prophet Elisha but that doesn’t change the fact of what Naaman did - not for me. Does it for you?

There are other details of his life that we know much about. He lived on the border of Israel. Someone who lived under his roof was faithful to the LORD…whether it was through the Israelite girl (listen to her words carefully, she said, “Go see the prophet”) or through others (Naaman even knew God by His revealed name, YAHWEH.) Read through it again, you will find Naaman is the only character in the account that calls God by His name. When you read LORD in your Bible it means the speaker has used God’s name, YAHWEH. So what? Well, I believe this means we can’t look at Naaman as someone who had the misfortune of not growing up in Israel. This isn’t a guy that we can say had some rough breaks or grew up somewhere with no concept of right and wrong, etc. This guy was acquainted with God by name; shouldn’t that up the ante just a bit?

Naaman, lived on the edge of the kingdom, was familiar with the LORD of all life and creation, and ventured into God’s neighborhood (so to speak), ONLY to get things for HIMSELF – be it menial help or medical attention.

As if that in and of itself isn’t a deal breaker – How about his arrogance? Listen to what Naaman says again, “I thought surely he would come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over me and cure me.” (II Kings 5:11) In other words, “God, how dare you not act with fanfare and fireworks on my behalf?”

Something within Naaman wants restoration to be more complicated than it is! So, he even goes so far as to question God’s ration, reason, and decision. Does this guy really deserve healing? You know who this guy reminds me of?

Let’s be honest, Naaman is a wretch…like me! My spirit is as rotten as his flesh. I too have been in war against God. Like Naaman, I have skirmished with the Lord’s will. I know what it is to want to keep His rule and reign o’er me at a safe distance. Close enough (mind you) that I can make a request when needed, far enough away that I can keep it like a prisoner or servant when I choose. I am inclined to live like a guy on the edge of the kingdom; able to venture into the confines of the king when I want to get things for MYSELF.

As if that shouldn’t be a deal breaker – there is the arrogance. I often tell God what and how He should do His thing. I have often been sure that His choice is not the best way to go. In fact, I have gotten angry that He has chosen not to consult me in His plan of action.

Is it just me and Naaman? This much is also certain, there is something within each of us that thinks restoration should be more complicated – if not for ourselves, at least for the Naaman’s of this world – at least THEY shouldn’t be allowed to simply be washed and cleansed, right? We even go so far as to question God’s ration, reason, and decision:
--> Does Naaman deserve healing?
--> Do they?
--> Do I?
--> Do you?
That is why it is called – GRACE. GRACE means God’s undeserved favor.

GRACE was exerted when Naaman was cleansed. Naaman was MADE RIGHT because of God’s action, not his own.

In fact, in spite of Naaman’s own actions and atrocities as well as the ones that we have already catalogued here today – we are all cleansed. While we might protest at the cleansing of a Naaman, especially since most of us would only admit to lesser charges on earth; yet, before the throne of heaven we are no less guilty than Naaman.

The diagnoses of our condition is easy enough for any young child to figure out – leper no, sinner yes. And allow the young child of our text to speak to you… there is NOTHING you can do on your own to get the healing you need and do not deserve – you need THE PROPHET; NOT JUST ANY PROPHET, the One who is also a Priest and King – Jesus Christ.

In Him and only in Him is there healing for your condition.

Though you are not worthy, have not earned it, do not deserve it, are an enemy of God by nature, and are one who reveals your condition by your actions. You and I are much like Naaman. Grumbling with God’s decisions, living on the border of His kingdom (a safe enough distance to ignore His will when we so desire and yet close enough to seek His assistance when needed), and frustrated that He doesn’t do His thing with fanfare and fireworks.

GRACE is yours in Jesus Christ.
+ Not earned, not deserved, but MADE RIGHT in Jesus.

For Naaman that meant the flesh of a leper became like the body of a baby. For us it means the guilt of a sinner is cast away so that God sees us as those as pure as Jesus through Faith. Know that like Naaman - your own cleansing and restoration has come solely by GRACE.

-Pastor Kevin Kritzer


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