July 24, 2022
Scripture: II Kings 5:1-14
Another intriguing story from the Old Testament and the life of Elisha. Elisha, if you remember, is the disciple of the great prophet Elijah – the one whose deep desire was to inherit a double portion of his mentor’s spirit. But, Elisha has only a bit part in this story.
The gist of the story starts in a neighboring country, Aram. Israel and Aram were on-again, off-again friends sort of like distant cousins. At this point it was OFF. A raiding party from Aram had recently attacked an Israeli settlement and ran off with a young girl who apparently was quite talented, so was given to the wife of the top military commander as a servant.
The commander was extremely valuable but he incurred the dreaded and incurable disease of leprosy. Knowing what a toll the disease would have on the man, the young girl felt pity for the man in spite of what he had done to her country and dared to suggest that he visit Israel (this time as one in need rather than a conqueror) and ask the prophet Elisha to pray for him and heal him. The king was ecstatic and sent his sick commander to Elisha with a boat-load of gold and silver.
The commander arrives at Elisha’s humble dwelling with all the trimmings of wealth and power. Elisha has been warned of his arrival, but doesn’t even bother to come to the door and greet him. He stays in a back room and sends out a messenger (like Biden might greet the Premier of China by sending out one of the cleaning staff with a message). “If you want to get better, go wash yourself in the dirty Jordan River 7 times and you’ll be good as new!” And the messenger disappears back inside.
The Commander is in a rage! He’s frosted that he wasn’t even given the time of day by Elisha and he’s livid at being told to wash in the dirty Jordan when he has so many crystal clear rivers back home in Damascus! He is so ticked that he is ready to turn around and take all his infected spots home when one of his underling officers has the nerve to say: “Excuse me, sir, but would you be acting like this if the prophet had told you to do something hard? What do you have to lose?”
Don’t you hate logic at a time like that? So, you can imagine the mood as the whole procession of chariots makes the trip to the Jordan. All the way, he is nibbling on his humble pie. 1-2-3-4-5-6 and zilch! The 7th dip did it!!!
His skin was baby-soft!
Now, there are a number of take-aways that we could focus on from this story. For one, we could talk about the competition of the gods going on between the gods the Arameans worshiped vs the God of Israel. After Naaman was healed, he declared that he now believed that there was only one God and that was the God of Israel. That’s a decent place to focus, but it’s not mine this morning.
As the planning group worked on this story, Mike said something like: “I think the key concept here is faith and trust.” That was a good insight, I believe. We tend to think of faith as another word for our belief system. (for eg.: “I am of the Christian FAITH.”) There isn’t much in this story about that kind of faith.
What shows up in this story rather prominently is this: Faith is not some condition in your head alone. Faith is how willing or committed you are to risk and trust your beliefs. Faith is the decision to ACT on what you believe and even to act on it when there is little or no concrete evidence that your beliefs are solid and true.
We do that all the time.You came into the sanctuary this morning and moved to your favorite pew and without thinking about it, you sat down! You acted on faith with the benefit of past experience to give you confidence but no real proof that your pew would actually hold you up today!
Here was that little servant girl. In a foreign country, away from family support and she’s a servant up against a Commander! Her belief system is just fine: She knows Elisha can bend God’s ear and God can heal Naaman, her master. But, there is a chunk of real estate between her belief and faith in action. The unnamed little girl did not hesitate. She took the risk to JUST DO IT!
And there was Naaman. The top commander in his country – a friend of the king. His belief system was not in clear order. He didn’t have an intimate acquaintance with Israel’s God. He was a man of the world – a battle tested macho man – accustomed to respect and reliance on his own strength. Elisha says: “If you want to be whole, go wash in the filthy Jordan 7 times.”
His first reaction was total resistance. No way! His beliefs are in disarray and his will is in rebellion. And yet, because of a little word from his captain, he took the risk to JUST DO IT!
What does that say to you today? You may be quick to say your beliefs are unstable, you’ve got more questions than answers, you doubt what others around you seem to be sure about. But deep inside there is an urging to JUST DO IT!
With the writer of the book of James you might say: “‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” What about it?
Now usually I am a pretty logical person, but there comes a time when logic and reason are not enough. When all your reason leaves you just short of a clear course of action. But there is that INNER VOICE. The nudge of your inner teacher that seems to whisper or maybe even shouts in your ear: JUST DO IT!
Maybe it is an idea that has been tumbling around in your brain for years, but you’ve never had the courage to act on it! Is it time to JUST DO IT? Maybe it a moment’s prompting like this is the day that you give that homeless person a meal or a five dollar gift!
Perhaps you have been miserable in your job but you have been afraid of cutting the supply line – for fear that there won’t be enough to pay your bills.
Or maybe you’ve been waiting for a while to invest in something you believe in and you are sure God believes in it too! Maybe, as the voice gets louder and more insistent – maybe it’s the time to JUST DO IT!
I don’t have answers for you because the answers are actually inside you. I’ve watched people struggle with what I would say is a call and I’ve seen them delay and delay and they wait until their time has run out. I’ve also seen them try something and seemingly fail. But either way, they learn and grow and bit by bit come to know the heart of God just a little better.
And, I’m convinced that every time we have a funeral of someone we love like the two Nancy’s, I’m reminded that we don’t have unlimited days to JUST DO IT!