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When it seems there is no way out…

November 18, 2019

I grew up in church.  My father was a pastor, making me one of those Pastor’s Kids (PKs).  When the doors were open to the church we were there, mainly because we were the ones to unlock the building and turn on the lights. So, name a Bible story and I have heard it.  And that can be a problem.  All too often those of us who have “grown up” in the church and think we know all the stories have a tendency to accept the sanitized “Sunday School” version and can miss amazing aspects of God in the story.

For the longest time, I had missed the amazing grace of God in a very familiar story told in Sunday School classes throughout the country.  You find the story in 2 Kings 5.  It is about a commander of the army of Aram.  His name was Naaman.  Is it coming back to you?   He had leprosy.  In his household was a young girl, who had been taken captive from Israel, and was now serving his wife.  She had mentioned to her mistress that the prophet in Samaria, referring to Elisha could heal her master.  Naaman goes to the king with this news and the king sends him to Elisha.  The prophet just sends a  servant to tell Naaman to go dunk himself seven times in the Jordan River.  After a lot of fussing and sputtering and arguing with hi s advisors, Naaman complies and he is miraculously healed. 013-elisha-naaman

He goes back to thank and pay Elisha for is services.  But the prophet refuses to accept payment.  So, as we hear the story in Sunday School, he leaves and heads home.  Elisha’s servant chases after Naaman and tells him that the prophet has changed his mind, and he receives a bit of payment that he keeps for himself.  Of course, he is found out and he suffers.  Our Sunday School moral is to trust God and not take stuff that isn’t ours.  And these are good lessons and good things to do.

But we miss a very important point of the story if we just gloss over the things we have heard.  It is found in 2 Kings 5:17-19.  Naaman has accepted the fact that Elisa will not receive payment, so he makes two requests.  First, he asks if he can take as much dirt from Israel that a pair of mules can carry.  In that time many felt that worship of a deity was limited to the place they called home.  So, by taking the soil, he was in essence taking part of the God of Israel with him.  Elisha chooses to not correct this notion. Naaman has a very immature faith, but it is still faith.  And his commitment is to only worship Israel’s God from now on.  So Elisha grants the request.  A lesson we can all learn about letting people mature in faith at God’s pace, not ours.  But the second request is one I want to focus on.  Naaman asks for understanding, and grace, whether he can fully articulate it or not.  He is the trusted servant of the king.  The king is old.  The king worships a god known as Rimmon.  When the king goes in to worship Rimmon and is leaning on Naaman for support, Naaman must bow before the altar of Rimmon with the king.  He is troubled by this, but knows it is his reality.  So he asks, “…when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.” (2 Kings 5:18).   Elisah responds, “Go in peace.” (v. 19).  

That is grace!  That is God understanding!  That is something to get excited about!  When you or I are in situations that are uncomfortable and yet we don’t have a clear way out of them, we have a God, who knows our heart.  This is by no means a license to do whatever we want.  It is, however, a freeing reminder, that God is fully aware of the awkward circumstances that sometimes surround us, and he knows that our being in the situation is not the same as our agreeing with the situation.

As we enter the Holiday season, many who follow Christ are going to find themselves in situations with which they struggle.  Maybe that is you.  You are already thinking about how you might graciously say “No” to an invitation, but nothing is coming to mind.  There are just times when  you just can’t get out of the situation.  Sometimes you have to step into that which is uncomfortable and sometimes you wonder if God really understands and will forgive.  Naaman’s experience says a resounding “Yes!”  God knows your heart and he knows your desire and he knows your predicament.  And when you feel there is no good choice, he says “Go in peace.”

 

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