Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Words from Wednesday (Devotional)

Trusting God in Muddy Waters

This morning I read a devotional to my students about Naaman. (We are learning about the prophets, Elijah and Elisha). The point of the devotional I read to them had to do with falling into temptation as Elisha’s servant had. However, I got caught on a few details before that, when healing happens in the muddy waters.

So here we have in 2 Kings 5 a servant girl in the home of Naaman, the commander of the Aramean army and a man who was very valuable to the king of Aram. The Arameans were known for their raids on Israel, and this servant girl was probably a captive of one of those raids.

For some crazy reason (or perhaps out of sheer desperation) Naaman goes to his master, the king, and asks for permission to visit this man of God. “By all means!” was the king’s reply (perhaps desperate, too?) and he sends a letter to Israel’s king to cure Naaman. The king of Israel is outraged by this request. What can he do about Naaman’s leprosy?

But Elisha hears about the king’s distress and invites this Aramean commander to come to him and be cured. The king agrees, and Naaman goes.

Naaman doesn’t just go, he GOES! He takes along his entourage: his horses and chariots, the gold and silver and clothing. Instead of meeting him at the door, providing this esteemed man with a healing ceremony, or even giving him medicine or medical advice, Elisha sends his servant to the door with a message: “Go wash in the Jordan River seven times and you will be healed.”

I can just imagine how Naaman is feeling right now! I bet you can, too. We have all been there. “And you think you can treat me like that?” Or maybe this one: “Don’t you know who I am?” Or how about: “You are asking me to do what? There? For who again?” Oh, I can just picture it! Those servants of Naaman are doing all they can to get him to go along with it. I mean, what can he lose? At this point, with all that leprosy over his body, he has a lot to loose—everything! He’ll become an outcast! Maybe it will work. Maybe this man of God knows what he is talking about. Maybe his God has more power than we think. An, who knows, maybe no one will recognize a man of such stature going down into that muddy cesspool. Right?

Somehow they manage to convince him, and there he goes. He is washing. . . one. . .two. . .three. . . And finally on wash number seven. . . yep, the man of God was right! Clean again! And such young and vibrant skin! Truly a miracle!

So Naaman goes back to offer all of his gifts to Elisha. Who refuses them. Many false prophets in Elisha’s day accepted gifts for their services. Maybe that was Elisha’s way of conveying to Naaman that it wasn’t him who healed Naaman, but the Lord. Maybe that was Elisha saying, “All to the glory of God.” Maybe Elisha was after the big proclamation of belief that resulted from this “dirty” encounter: that Naaman now recognized that there was no God in the world except for the God of the Israelites. And that his heart had changed in such a way that he would no longer burn offerings to another god but only the Lord.

Maybe I have to learn just like Naaman did. Maybe I need to humble myself to trusting in God even when I don’t want to or when I feel I deserve to be treated better. After all, it is God who can heal. It is God who can bring salvation in the most unexpected ways. It is God who can bring restoration. It is me who can be a vessel for Him and His plan of restoration for the world. It is me who can proclaim God as the Lord to those who surround me. And it is me who can just trust Him and His goodness. Even if that means doing the dirty work or not receiving the respect I think I deserve. If it brings glory to the one true God, well then, I guess you can just bring on the Jordan River!

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