Sunday, June 29, 2014

Faith Versus Law -- The Example of Naaman

II Kings chapter 5 gives the story of Naaman the Syrian; a high ranking officer in the Syrian army who was a leper. His wife's servant girl, captured in a raid into Israel, related how there was a prophet of God in Israel who could heal Naaman of his leprosy.

This claim is related to the king of Syria, who in turn sends Naaman to Israel in order to be healed should the claim be true as related by the Israelite girl. There was some political intrigue also attached to the situation, but that is not the focus here. The king of Israel sees the act of sending Naaman to him as a provocation, but the prophet of God hears about it and instructs the king to send Naaman to him.

Naaman shows up at Elisha's door, and Elisha does not even so much as come out to face him. Elisha sends his servant out to inform Naaman to go and dip himself 7 times in the Jordan and he will be clean.
Naaman is outraged. He expected at the very least the prophet to come out and perform some ritual and incantation along with the attendant hand waving and all. His expectation was that he would have to pay a hefty price for his healing, hence the silver and gold he brought, along with expensive attire. Another expectation was to be required to perform some mighty deed or deeds in order to secure his healing.

All he was required to do was something simple, and easily accomplished: Go soak your head in the Jordan and wash away some of that ego.

Naaman relents, does the simple task that went against the grain of ego and pride, and was healed. He tries to pay for his healing, only to be refused. Naaman then makes an interesting declaration:
And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. – 2 Kings 5:17

Naaman put the pieces together. This God of Israel is the One to serve and believe in. What a contrast to the false gods of Syria, who demand much, and give nothing.

Now the curios twist in the plot:

In this thing the LORD pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth into the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon: when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon thy servant in this thing. – 2 Kings 5:18

Naaman was expected to attend his king when his king went in to pay homage to this false god Rimmon. Naaman now knew this god was nothing, but he was duty bound to attend his king, and go through the motions.

This action on the part of Naaman was a case of directly violating the commands found in the ten commandments!

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments. – Exodus 20:3-5
Poof! Naaman's leprosy returns to him, seeing as he violated one the the most important commands in the Bible, which, according to some, applies universally to all mankind for all time.

Not quite.

God showed mercy to him, despite the fact he let it be known he would be violating this law, whether he knew about this law or not. According to this command, his actions would be seen by God as iniquity.

What then was Elisha's response to Naaman?

And he said unto him, Go in peace. – 2 Kings 5:19a

You would think that the prophet would have informed Naaman not only was he to not bow down to a false god, he was responsible for keeping all of the ten commandments, including the sabbath, seeing as they are universal in application; the eternal, moral precepts of God.

Nope. Didn't happen. Quite the opposite.

The servant of Elisha figured Naaman got off cheap for his healing. He felt Naaman should have surrendered something in return for his healing, and so ran off after Naaman in order to extract something of value from him.

But God required nothing of substance from Naaman. It was a lesson in faith, with no real strings attached. What was “required” of him was to humble himself; an act of humility.

Jesus weighed in on this story to the Jews of His time, pointing out that there were many lepers in Israel when Naaman was healed, yet none of those lepers in Israel, who had the law, were healed. The Jews responded to Jesus' observation by trying to kill him. His words were an affront to them and the law.

So, we have the example of Naaman, an enemy of Israel, who intentionally let it be known he was going to violate the ten commandments, healed by God as an act of, and example of faith, as contrasted to Israelites who had the ten commandments/law and were trying to live by them, yet deemed faithless by Christ.

It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11

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