Can You Let God Be God? (2 Kings 5:1-19)

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

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2 Kings 5:1-19

Can You Let God be God?

 

This last week, we spent time with some friends from far away that I’ve known for about 15 years.  The husband is looking to change jobs and was telling us the stories of other people around them who get jobs out of nowhere and in amazing ways.  They pray, and the next day there’s a job offer.  Other friends talk about how faithful God was when a new job came out of nowhere, and without looking for it.  My friend is wrestling with what to think–he’s prayed, he’s put in resumes.  He’s had a few offers that didn’t work out, and he’s thinking–does God really work that way?

I would bet many of you know that tension.  Is this guy/girl the one I’m supposed to marry?  They’re godly, but my heart isn’t aflutter–how much does it matter?  Or, they’re beautiful, but they never read their Bible–is it really that big a deal?  Surely, God wouldn’t have orchestrated events like these if He didn’t.

My son/daughter professed Christ and was faithful at church while they were in my home.  We decided to send them to Prosperity University because this was the best place for them to succeed as an artist, engineer, railroad tycoon–whatever.  There’s not a good church that we’ve found, but its only four years, and surely God understands.  After all, He provided such a great scholarship there.

We often look at the circumstances in our lives and think we see God in them.  But what we’re looking for is the affirmation that what’s happening is right.  We want to be familiar with what’s happening.  We want to be comfortable with what’s happening.  Dare I say, we want to feel “in control” of what’s happening?

Now, we definitely want to be in God’s will–we don’t want to go against Him.  But we look for, and expect Him to work in ways that are familiar to us.  And when you look for God to act as you expect that He should–when you start questioning why God is doing what he’s doing, when you get disappointed or depressed by what’s happening in your life, there is a strong likelihood that you have been thinking about God wrong.  Do you give God the right to be God?

I know that we all talk about his power and control and sovereignty and rule.  But when push-comes-to-shove, do you find yourself complaining about your circumstances?  Deep down, do you look for God to provide a clear and easy path forward?  Do you believe that peace in your life is an adequate indicator that God is at work?  The more I read the Bible, the more I realize that God’s ways are not my ways.  He often works in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

In the mid-1700s, William Cowper (cooper) was approaching a promotion in civil government with great fear.  He was not merely anxious about the job interview, but had a complete mental breakdown, attempting to kill himself in three different ways.  First by drowning himself, but he found the river water too low that day; then by drug overdose, but he could not get the container open; then the next morning, he tried to hang himself by his suspenders.  On the third try with the suspenders, they broke and he fell down being knocked unconscious.

Within some weeks, he was committed to an insane asylum.  There, he came under the care of Dr. Nathaniel Cotton, who was an evangelical believer.  He had hope for Cowper and showed love to him, though Cowper kept insisting that he was damned and beyond hope.  Six months into his stay, Cowper found a Bible lying by accident on a bench in the garden.  He opened by chance to John 11 and read of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  His heart began to soften.  He next happened upon Romans 3 and the Gospel became clear to him, so much so that he believed and was saved.

There is more to the story of his life, but get this–God often works in ways unfamiliar to us.  Cowper would have more ups and downs–even more attempted suicides.  Yet at the end of his life, before dying of natural causes, he would pen:  God Moves in a Mysterious Way–acknowledging God’s great wisdom in hard circumstances.

4 Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

6 Blind unbelief is sure to err And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.

God works in mysterious ways.  He does things quite different than us.  And my question to you this morning is:

Do you give God the right to be God?  Can you let God be God, or do you find yourself disappointed and disillusioned when He doesn’t work in the way that you believe is best?

This morning, I want to take us back into the Old Testament and look freshly at how God works.  I want you to see how differently God works from what we often expect.  We’re going to look at the work of God in the life of Naaman.  You’ll find his story in 2 Kings 5.  Turn there.Do you give God the right to be God?  Can you let God be God, or do you find yourself disappointed and disillusioned when He doesn’t work in the way that you believe is best?

Naaman was not a Jew.  He was not part of Israel, nor did he even live in Israel.  Naaman was a Syrian.  Or your Bible may say that he came from Aram–ancient Syria.  He lived during the mid-800s BC.  Israel was no longer a united kingdom, but had divided into Israel in the north and Judah in the south.  Judah was led by a number of good kings who were descendants of David, whereas Israel was by a bunch of bad kings and only a few good ones.

At this point, Israel had been in religious and political decline for some time.  Syria was growing more powerful, and about 100 years after this, Israel would fall and its people would go into captivity.

Naaman–he was Syrian, but he was not just any Syrian.  Look at verse 1.  “Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper.”  So what do we learn about the character and work of God here?

1.  God Uses All Sorts of People  Verse 1

Naaman is a study in contrasts.  Second Kings 5 says that he is the captain of the army.  The ESV is right to translate it as “commander”.  He was the leader–the top dog, the 5-star general who oversaw all of Syria’s army.  He was the Omar Bradley, the Colin Powell of ancient Syria.

He did not get the job by politics or relationship or personality.  He got the job by being the best.  He was a leader.  He was respected by all who knew him.  And by this time he was nationally known, at the height of society.  The king of Syria loved him.  Everyone respected him.  And the text says why–“because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria/Aram.”

His position and the respect of others were given to him because he made Syria a winner on the battlefield.  He had led the army to victory many times.  In fact, the Bible labels him a “mighty man of valor, a valiant warrior.”  These are the same exact words used for David’s mighty men–the special forces of David’s army.  These are the Seal Team Six and Delta Force guys.  Naaman was not a desk jockey.  He was not a general who sat in an office.  He was an operator.  He was tough.  He could fight hard and he could lead others.  Syria was dominating the region because of him–he was their man.

And really–what we see is that the Lord had given Syria victory by him.  God was not just standing by and watching from the cheap seats while Syria beat down other countries.  God was actively at work giving them the victory, enabling Naaman to succeed.  Second Kings 5 tells us this.

And later, in 2 Kings 13:3, we learn why.  “So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and He gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Aram, and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.”  The kings of Israel led the people further and further away from God.  And He would not abide by that, so he chastened them by means of another nation.  He enabled Syria to rise up against them.  You see, God uses all sorts of people, not just those who are saved.

So here’s Naaman, a guy who works really hard at his job and succeeds.  And why does he succeed?  Well, he worked really hard.  But also, God was enabling him to.  And remember, this is not a believer.  Naaman is not even an Israelite.  But God was behind him.  God was elevating him.  God was making him great–completely and totally unknown and uncredited by Naaman.  God will use anyone to accomplish His will.  That person may not even know it.  Naaman was proud of what he had done.  He was proud of his achievements.

You know when you pray for the leaders of our nation?  You pray for their wisdom and success, and even more, for them to know and follow the Lord?  Do you lack confidence that anything might really change?  You do it because it’s biblical, but not because you have any real hope that God will work?

Naaman was one of those guys.  He was the rich, socially elite, and politically powerful.  He’d been unknowingly, unwittingly used of God to scourge Israel and other nations.  He was proud, strong and wealthy.  But God was going to break into his life, and that means that we should not lose hope for people like that.  That means that we should pray with confidence that God can transform an arrogant, elite, seemingly untouchable individual.  Naaman is that man, and he’s also one of those who people would look on as cursed and separate and afflicted.

Verse 1 ends with the contrast, a single word that’s intended to spark a fire in your mind.  Naaman was a leper.  Now he wasn’t a leper in the more modern sense of the word.  He didn’t suffer from the highly communicable Hansen’s disease, where nerve damage causes body parts to be hurt, necrotic and auto-amputate.  The word that’s used here describes a skin disease that made his skin white like snow.  Now some of you look like that now, but in the Middle East, that would not be natural.  It was dry and flaky and white–possibly scabies or vitiligo. (5:27)

In that culture, such a skin disease was a mark of being cursed by the gods.  Though Naaman had achieved great things for his country, and was respected by the king, there would’ve been whispers, there would’ve been shunning.  The staring and the talking about him would have been unrelenting.  Plus he had to deal with the actual pain of the skin disease.  It was so bad that he had sought out every possible treatment he could find.  It was so bad that others who knew him well had compassion and wished for healing.

So we have this man who appears to have it all, but also functions as a bit of a pariah.  He appears popular, but is often rejected.  He is looked on with pity and horror by others.  And they believe that it is a sign of the gods’ curse upon him.

I don’t know what the diseases and conditions are that you look down upon–perhaps it’s HIV or anorexia or drug addiction or even poverty.  But there are often people we see and hear about who have some life condition that we feel is a mark against them.  You see their plight as something that is controllable and beneath you.  You may even see their condition as a sign of God’s judgment on them.

Naaman was that sort of person.  He was one who people had lost hope for.  He was one who people thought that God had abandoned.  But God uses all kinds of people.  He calls the rich and mighty.  He calls the sick and the scorned.  But it’s not an easy road.  In fact . . .

2.  God’s Work is Costly  Verses 2 to 3

Look at verses 2 and 3, “Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, ‘I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.’”

Now think about the cost of what you just read.  In order for God to work in Naaman’s life, He sent a young girl.  But that girl didn’t hop a camel to go get work in Damascus.  She wasn’t hired from the nearby neighborhood.  She had been captured from her family when Naaman had led raids into Israel.  We don’t know if her parents were enslaved or killed, or just left childless.  We just know that she was taken from her family.  And there was no search party sent looking for her.

Now it’d be a little easier to digest if she had gone there as a 2- to 3-year-old, when memories fade easily.  But she was old enough to remember her home.  She was old enough to know that there was a prophet in the land.  This shows that she was likely raised in a godly, believing home.  Something bad had happened to a good family.  God’s work is costly.

So often we live under the delirium of thinking that God will keep your family from harm.  The world may attack.  The evil one may tempt, but God will keep us safe.  Yet we see here that God allows evil to come upon his children for the good of others.

Her parents, if they lived, probably never knew what happened to her.  They never saw God’s use of her in Naaman’s household.  They saw no good from this–only pain and sorrow.  The girl had been ripped from her home.  There were tears and emotional scars.

It would be natural for her to hate Naaman, to hate Naaman’s wife, to hate everything about her life as a slave girl.  God’s work in people’s lives is costly—it’s not easy.  Yet God does amazing things.  We see in verse 3 that the girl does not hate her captor.  Despite the pain that she’s suffered, despite the anger that she must’ve felt, despite the indignity of becoming a slave under the authority of another–the girl served Naaman’s wife well and felt compassion and sorrow for Naaman.  And this tells you something about how visible and how painful Naaman’s affliction was.  The man who commands the respect of the king is pitied by a slave girl.

You see, God permitted Naaman’s skin disease so that he would one day turn to God.  God had allowed Naaman to endure years of pain and years of scorn by others.  His immediate willingness to hear this girl shows that he had sought every remedy that the world had to offer.  No army general takes the advice of his wife’s maid unless he’s truly desperate.  She’s young, she’s Jewish, she’s a slave, and she’s not even his servant.  Naaman must’ve been hopeless.  His suffering had gone so long that he felt out of options.  God had appointed great pain in Naaman’s life to get him to this point.  And this is not that unusual.

A.W. Tozer said, “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”  John 9 records the disciples asking about why a man would be born blind?  They assume it’s due to sin (verse 3), “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. ‘”  God’s work is costly to us.

God may cause great pain in your life, or in the life of someone you love, for His purposes.  Naaman would be saved, but it cost him years of pain.  It cost the girl her freedom and her family.  And it may have even cost her family their lives.  In fact, the girl is not named in the story, which tells us that she is not a major player in the storyline.  This is the most important thing that happened in her life.  In fact, there is no evidence in the text that she was ever released or saw her family again.

Are you ready to be used by God in this way?  Many people want the up-front, public, noticed-by-everyone, praised by others positions.  Some people want the positions that allow you to serve behind-the-scenes, out of the public eye, but enabling others’ successes.  How many want the work of God that comes at great cost to you and to your family?  Know that He may require this of you.  You don’t have to search it out, but He may bring it.

3.  Professing God is Different than Knowing Him  Verses 4 to 7

“Naaman went in and told his master, saying, ‘Thus and thus spoke the girl who is from the land of Israel.’ 5 Then the king of Aram said, ‘Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.’ He departed and took with him ten talents of silver and six thousand shekels of gold and ten changes of clothes. 6 He brought the letter to the king of Israel, saying, ‘And now as this letter comes to you, behold, I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him of his leprosy.’ 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, ‘Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man is sending word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? But consider now, and see how he is seeking a quarrel against me.’”

Naaman believes the slave girl’s words and goes to see the king.  The king has respect and love for Naaman and wants to help him.  He writes a letter to the king of Israel–probably Joram/Jehoram, but not named.  And at first, I wondered–why?!  The slave girl said that the prophet was the healer.  But then you think about it–their assumption is that any good king must keep such a powerful prophet nearby and in his employment.  And when they want something from their gods, they bring the gifts.

So Naaman loads up his servants and some carts with about 750 lbs of silver, and 150 lbs of gold, as well as 10 wardrobe changes.  He’s planning to buy his healing, and this is really no different than how some Christians act today.  They say, “God, if you will do ___________, then I will do ____________.”  (You can fill in the blanks—keep this plane up/go to church every week, or let me win the lottery/give half to the church.)  Or they offer payment first (God, I have been reading my Bible every day, why am I being tempted?  Or, I have sought counsel and prayed and tried, why is my marriage still so hard?)

Naaman came with a bunch of gifts, thinking that he knew what God would want.  He shows some belief in Israel’s God, simply by making the journey to Israel.  But professing to believe in God is different than actually knowing Him.

We see this with the king of Israel as well.  The king is downright terrified–from his perspective, the Syrian king is asking the impossible.  It’s like your worst enemy knocks on your door and asks for your help with his wife.  She’s been missing one of her arms since birth and he’s telling you to cure her.  The Syrian king clearly puts the responsibility on Israel’s king.  Verse 6, “I have sent Naaman my servant to you, that you may cure him.”

And Israel’s king demonstrates that he is religious without actually knowing God.  His actions and words demonstrate his participation in the Israelite religion.  He tears his clothes as a typical act of mourning and repentance.  He is devastated.  He is beside himself, believing that the king is just trying to pick a fight.  And he even recognizes that God can do it and he can’t, verse 7, “Am I God, to kill and make alive?”

So there’s actions typical of a believer, and there’s speech that acknowledges God’s power.  But professing to believe in God is different than actually knowing Him.  Isaiah 29:13, “This people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

The king of Israel professes to know God, but never looks to Him.  Apparently he knew God could do such things, but all he could see was politics.  He lives his life in acknowledgment of God but never truly seeking Him out.  Maybe some of you are that way.  You profess to believe in God, but you never personally seek for Him.  You come to church out of duty or the mistaken belief that it’s what makes God happy.  But away from Sundays, you never look to Him.  That was Israel’s king.  It’s not that he’d never heard of the prophet whom Naaman came to see.

The king was the son of Ahab and Jezebel.  He had seen firsthand as Elisha helped the king of Judah in war. (2 Kings 3)  He was not a friend, but he was aware of the man of God who lived some miles away.  He recognizes his need for God’s help, but refuses to depend upon Him.  The king acknowledges God without looking to Him.  Naaman came to Israel, thinking that he knew what God would want and where to find Him.  Professing to believe in God is different than actually knowing Him.  And especially for that reason . . .

4.  God Rarely Meets Your Expectations  Verses 8 to 12

It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, ‘Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.’ 9 So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. 10 Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, ‘Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.’ 11 But Naaman was furious and went away and said, ‘Behold, I thought, “He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.” 12 ‘Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.”

Elisha is around 75 miles away from where this happens, but word gets to him.  If taking a horse or donkey, it would’ve been at least a day for the news, and another to respond.  Most likely, there was a 3 to 4 day delay between Naaman’s arrival and Elisha’s response.  And I love this–it means that the king of Israel is left to fret, and Naaman is being stalled and losing hope.  He may have approached the capital with anticipation, but now anger and frustration would be rising.  God was not doing what he expected.

In the same way, the king was expecting war, and God brings peace through Elisha, rebuking the king for his unbelief.  So Naaman goes to Elisha’s house–a journey of a couple days with his caravan.  And the text paints it so dramatically.  Verse 9, “Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha.”

Naaman rolls up with his crew.  He’s got a sweet ride and a bunch of gear.  He expects pomp and circumstance.  He has a diplomatic entourage.  But when he arrives there is no welcome committee–just some neighbors probably staring.  He’s gone from a palace to a hovel.  He is not in a place that seems fitting for such power.

But he gets out and walks to the gated entrance of the house.  He expects to be greeted, welcomed and catered to by the prophet.  But Elisha does not give him the time of day.  Rather than greeting him, he sends a messenger to him.  It’s like he’s intentionally insulting him–and in front of his minions.  God is revealing Naaman’s pride to humble him.  He is not acting as expected.

Through a messenger, Elisha tells him how to be healed.  Verse 10, “Go wash in the Jordan seven times and you’ll be clean.”  But Naaman is beyond angry.  You can see that his expectations are not being met.  Behold, I thought–look, I thought.  Verse 11 reveals what He thought would happen.  “Elisha will surely come out to me and stand tall and call upon Yahweh HIS God, and wave his hands everywhere and cure me.”

He expected a show.  He thought that the power of God resided with men.  He thought that the God of Israel was like all the other gods.  He thought the prophet of God would be like all the other religious men he knew.  He expects a show and instead is told to take a muddy bath.  He is boiling, hoppin’ mad and turns away to leave.

God is not doing what Naaman expected.  Naaman had already written the script for what was supposed to happen.  He wanted something more substantial than a promise.  And oftentimes we have our own ideas about how God works.  We’re not that far off from Naaman.  We write the script for what should happen.  When you’re hindered from accomplishing your plans, do you get impatient?  When God fails to do what you think is best, do you get disappointed?  When things don’t go according to your plan, do you get angry?

You see God rarely meets your expectations.  Too often we expect God to do what we think is best.  And then we get angry and even embittered because life got hard and the way that was easiest or best for us didn’t happen.

This week, I listened to a one-hour story of Bishop Carlton Pearson, a Pentecostal preacher who has been labeled as a heretic by most of those who profess Christ.  Since then, his church of more than 5,000 has dwindled to less than 200 before he moved on.

Pearson was branded a heretic because he began to deny the existence of hell.  It simply didn’t agree with his concept of justice or love.  He could not see how God would condemn anyone to such a place.  And he moved to universalism, where everyone is saved regardless of what they believe.  God didn’t meet his expectations, so he moved on.

How do you respond when God doesn’t do what you expect?  Naaman’s complaints are the same complaints people make today about the Gospel.  What do you mean that Jesus is the only way?  Surely I can wash in other rivers.  All I have to do is believe and hope in Christ alone for salvation?  I’m looking for something more complex.  Surely somebody needs to wave their arms around and I should have to do something too.

You want me to endure slander and not fight back?  You want me to give my hard-earned money to what?  I think I know what God should be doing in this situation. Why should I listen to you?  How do you know what’s right anyway?!

But the Gospel of the Bible says that believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved.  We must see our sinfulness and need for forgiveness.  And then we must believe that Jesus Christ came and lived the perfect life that you never could, and then was hung on a cross where He endured the wrath of God which you deserve.  And when you believe in Christ for salvation, you put your full confidence in Him alone–not your works and not your family, that God has forgiven you through Christ.  And He will enable you to live in a way that stands out from the world around you.

The Gospel is narrow.  The Gospel is simple.  The Gospel demands humility.  God’s ways are not your ways.  People get so caught up in this.  It’s why Paul told the Corinthians in his first epistle, 1:22 to 24, “For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”  God rarely meets our expectations because we expect that God will be like us.

Isaiah 55:8 to 9, “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways’ declares the Lord. 9 ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”  Though we are made in His image, we are fleeting shadows of Him.  Rarely do we expect God to really be God, and utterly unlike us, in His thinking and actions.

Again and again in life, we see God do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.  And sometimes we love the results.  And sometimes we struggle with them.  And sometimes we never see what happens.  But I, and I’m guessing you, regularly fail to let God be God.  Naaman expected a show, and he expected to pay for it.  God didn’t meet his expectations at all.  Instead we see . . .

5.  God’s Grace is Free and Abundant  Verses 13 to 19

Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, ‘My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, “Wash, and be clean”?’ 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. 15 When he returned to the man of God with all his company, and came and stood before him, he said, ‘Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; so please take a present from your servant now.’ 16 But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.’ And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17 Naaman said, ‘If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to the Lord. 18 In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter.’ 19 He said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he departed from him some distance.”

You just see God’s grace to Naaman over and over again in this passage.  It’s manifest in the humble and tender love of his servant in verse 13.  “My father . . .”–they still want him to try, and he gives in because of them.  God’s grace is manifest in Naaman’s cleansing and subsequent belief.  In verse 11, it was “Yahweh, HIS God.”  Now in verse 15, Naaman says to Elisha, I am “your servant”.  God’s grace is manifest in Elisha’s refusal to take money.  Naaman was used to offering tribute to each God that he worshipped.  But in verse 16, Elisha would have none of it.  He wanted Naaman to understand the free gift of God’s grace.  And this appears to be what breaks Naaman.

In every Christian’s life, there is a time when they realize who they are and what they have loved, and they repent and hope in Christ alone.  This seems to be what happens with Naaman.  In verse 17, Naaman declares that he will worship no other god, but the one true God.  In fact, he asks to take dirt from Israel home in order to build an altar and worship Yahweh there.  And though Israelites were required to worship Him in the temple, God gives grace to Naaman and approves his plan for worship from a distance.

And we see God’s grace to Naaman again in His accommodation to his job.  Naaman manifests a tender conscience before Elisha, realizing that his job will appear to invalidate the claims that he’s making.  As a part of his job as the commander of the military, Naaman had to accompany the king into the temple of Rimmon, the God of thunder and storms, who would later be called Zeus by the Greeks.  Naaman’s duties in the temple bother him and he speaks up right away about them.  And because God’s grace is free and abundant, Elisha tells him to “go in peace.” (verse 19)

Many years later, Paul would make similar concessions to new and weak believers in 1 Corinthians 8 to 10 and Acts 18:18, 21:26.  And we can be just like Naaman, thinking that we need to do all kinds of stuff to earn God’s favor.  You think, I’ll come back to God once I clean up my act.  As soon as I stop smoking, I’ll come to church.  Once I’ve quit this relationship, I’ll feel like I can pray again.  God’s grace is free and abundant.

Ephesians 2:8 to 9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  You are saved by God’s grace and never by your works.  And God pours out His grace into your life to win you and draw you to Himself.

Following Jesus sounds so narrow and exclusive, but as you do, you see how free and abundant God’s grace in our lives really is.

1. God uses all sorts of people.

2. God’s work is costly.

3. Professing to believe in God is different than actually knowing Him.

4. God rarely meets your expectations.

5. God’s grace is free and abundant.

Do you know God’s grace in your own life?  You see, in the time when Naaman lived, there were many who maintained Israel’s religion.  There were many who did all the deeds that the Bible commanded.  But they did not know or love God.  They followed their religion because of their family, and their ethnicity, and their culture, and the desire to look good in the eyes of others.

Naaman’s confession and desire to worship God were a condemnation of Israel’s religiosity.  God was going to great lengths to save a Gentile while Jews went neglected.  Jesus points this out in Luke 4:27 to 28, “’And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.’” 28 And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things.”  God bypassed many in need during Israel’s exile in order to show grace to a Gentile.

Do you see your need for salvation?  Has your heart been awakened to the radical, gracious love of God found in Jesus Christ?  Have you placed your full confidence in Jesus Christ as your only hope for approval by God?  There is available to you a greater mercy than Naaman found.  He looked ahead and saw that God could save and believed.  You now can see how God saves and the treasure that awaits you—we have a complete Scripture record that reveals the character and nature of God, the Son and the Spirit.  There is more mercy available to you.

There is greater forgiveness than the slave girl demonstrated.  She appears to only have hoped for his physical cleansing.  She forgave his cruelty and as the cause of his suffering.  God will forgive you for a lifetime of hatred, rebellion and evil.  There is greater forgiveness available to you than what the slave girl gave.

Or, there is greater condemnation than Israel knew awaiting you.  If you neglect what Scripture states so plainly, there is a great condemnation that awaits you.  There is more clear revelation about the character and existence of God now.  There is more clear revelation about Jesus and salvation in Him now.  There is more clear revelation about the heaven that awaits God’s children.  We have a more clear Word than Naaman or any Israelite in his time.

We should tremble and fear at our privileges, and rejoice in the mercy and forgiveness available to us in Christ!  Do you give God the right to be God?  Have you found confidence in His mysterious ways?

Do you trust in power or position?  Do you expect God’s work in your life to be easy or costly?  Do you know God without any experience of Him?  Do you find yourself disappointed and frustrated, because God is not doing things according to your plans?  Do you think that God’s forgiveness must be earned or bought off?

“Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.”

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ABOUT THIS PREACHER

John serves as a pastor and elder at Faith Bible Church

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