Elijah and Elisha 23

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Elijah and Elisha 23.
You may recall, that last time I spoke, I told the story of Naaman, ….. well I didn’t finish it – pre-eminently, it is a story of [P] SALVATION. I want you to keep that in mind as we complete this chapter [P]; because it may slip from view as we proceed – but salvation is the issue. Picking it up where we left off: [2 Kings 5:14–27 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; [P] and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean. (Naaman was delivered of his dreaded disease of leprosy by the Word of יהוה, made clean, saved!) When he returned to the man of God with all his company, [P] and came and stood before him, he said, “Behold now, I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel; (the response to miraculous Divine deliverance is worship, praise – acknowledging יהוה as God, the only God) so please take a present from your servant now.” (The response to deliverance is also one of gratitude – not paying for what was done, but an overflow of the heart in gratitude that has to be expressed in giving. If God has done things for you; you will give. A mean hearted Christian has not truly realized or experienced the wonder of what Jesus has actually done for him. John testifies that was what the LORD did when he was saved: that Scottish thriftiness was transformed into a generous heart. For many years I had the privilege of counting the offering at the Elim church. It was a privilege, because you got to see people’s secrets, their hidden giving. One thing that I noticed was that when someone had received a blessing, the response, so often, was a generous gift. The grateful heart responds with generosity.) But Elisha said, “As יהוה lives, before whom I stand, I will take nothing.” (He would not accept payment, not accept a gift) And he urged him to take it, but he refused. Naaman said, “If not, please let your servant at least be given two mules’ load of earth; [P] for your servant will no longer offer burnt offering nor will he sacrifice to other gods, but to יהוה.” (He changed from a worshiper of Rimmon, to a worshiper of יהוה. The common concept of that time was that there were many gods and, to allow for this, there was this idea that they were geographically constrained. יהוה was the God of Israel, so he had to be worshiped on Israeli soil. Naaman had come to realize that יהוה was the only God, but this concept of needing to be worshiped on His own soil remained) “In this matter may יהוה pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, [P] and he leans on my hand and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, יהוה pardon your servant in this matter.” (He was considering the cost, what would be entailed in following יהוה. Rimmon no longer meant anything to him, but being head of the army he had certain political obligations. He would have to accompany the king in public ceremonies that had association with their national god Rimmon. You couldn’t live in Syrian society without some acknowledgement of that god. But Naaman no longer worshipped Rimmon, it would mean nothing as he attended these rituals and so he asked for indulgence in this matter) He said to him, “Go in peace.” (“שָׁלוֹם” – this concession was granted) So he departed from him some distance. [P] But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, thought, “Behold, my master has spared this Naaman the Aramean, by not receiving from his hands what he brought. As יהוה lives, (he did this in יהוה’s Name!) I will run after him and take something from him.” So Gehazi pursued Naaman. [P] When Naaman saw one running after him, he came down from the chariot to meet him [P] and said, “Is all well?” (“שָׁלוֹם” peace) He said, “All is well.” (“שָׁלוֹם” – peace) My master has sent me, saying, ‘Behold, just now two young men of the sons of the prophets have come to me from the hill country of Ephraim. (it was an outright lie!) Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothes.’” Naaman said, “Be pleased to take two talents.” (Naaman did not begrudge him, he was overflowing with gratitude and gave more than was requested) And he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags (double what he asked for) with two changes of clothes and gave them to two of his servants; and they carried them before him. When he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and deposited them in the house, [P] and he sent the men away, and they departed. But he went in and stood before his master. [P] (and we will all have to stand before our Master one day!) And Elisha said to him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” (it reminds me of יהוה’s question to Adam in Genesis 3: “Where are you?” – יהוה knew, Elisha knew, Jesus KNOWS!) And he said, “Your servant went nowhere.” (another outright lie!) Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you, when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? (God knows what we do, where we go – it is futile trying to hide from Him!) Is it a time to receive money (there is a time but this was not it) and to receive clothes and olive groves and vineyards and sheep and oxen and male and female servants? (Did Gehazi receive olive groves, vineyards, sheep, oxen, servants? No, but Elisha’s heart went with him – knew what was in his heart. This is what Gehazi was scheming, imagining of getting with his windfall) “Therefore, the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever.” [P] So he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow. [P]] Out of the presence of Jesus, covered in sin – a tragic end to a wonderful story. Wes has been speaking on the subject of grace. [P] Naaman is a story of salvation and it is: [Ephesians 2:8–9 by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.] Salvation is an act of grace – underserved favour bestowed on us, given by God. [P] We saw last time that humility is the prerequisite for receiving the grace that we need in order to be saved – Naaman believed, took God at his word, dipped seven times in the Jordan according to the word of the LORD. Was there naked with his leprosy exposed for all to see – the humbling of confession of sin. He washed and he was made clean. Naaman was a heathen Syrian, destroying God’s people – he didn’t deserve anything! But יהוה did a miracle! This was God! Naaman was converted. Pure grace! No longer was he a follower of Rimmon, he was now going to worship יהוה. He knew that יהוה alone was God! He said: “I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel!” He confessed יהוה as God alone! He became a monotheist. “No God, but in Israel” – and here he reveals a misunderstanding. [P] Yes, יהוה was the only God but He was “in Israel” – that is why he wanted some soil so that he could worship the God that was on Israelite soil. His understanding was incomplete. That was the common understanding of the time that there were different gods in different lands – you worshiped a god in its own land. But Elisha doesn’t say, “You’ve got it all wrong!” Naaman had come to a big turn-around in his concept of God but it wasn’t complete. Neither is yours! That is grace – God allows us to continue on despite our incomplete understanding. Look, I came to the LORD when I was 3! [P] I could not have given you a doctrinally watertight account of justification by faith! But, Jesus received me to Himself! Praise the LORD! I came home from Sunday School saying that I had invited Mr Gowenlock into my heart – I was a bit mixed up! My Dad is a bit of an intellectual, he’d come to the LORD as an adult, had studied Scripture, thought it through. I don’t think he thought that a 3-year-old could have full understanding. He checked out with my Bob Gowenlock, my Sunday School teacher, to see what had gone on, that I had full understanding. He couldn’t deny that his 3-year-old son had become a believer. God’s grace was poured out despite my incomplete understanding. [P] We don’t have to have full understanding before God will receive us, we just have to come in faith – that is God’s grace. Then Naaman asked to be excused for attending idolatrous worship with the king. He was an official and he had to attend state functions. But religion is tied into culture – you cannot be part of that society without contact with the religion. And so, Naaman asked for a concession [P] – he had to attend these ceremonies but he did not want to be acknowledging Rimmon any more – his heart was not in it. Like it or not, religion is intrinsically tied up in culture. The culture in Israel involved יהוה worship, the culture in Aram involved Rimmon worship. You could not fully worship יהוה in that culture – laws regarding Sabbaths, festivals etc. could not be observed; neither could Rimmon ceremonies be avoided. Naaman couldn’t worship יהוה as he wanted, he was constrained by where he lived and the position he had. So, Elisha granted him a concession. It was grace. Now, we live in New Zealand – let me tell you that it is not a Christian country! The religion of New Zealand is secular humanism. You cannot be part of our society without participating in things where man is celebrated, honoured, glorified, worshiped. More esteem is given in this country to Edmund Hillary than to Jesus Christ! Like it or not we brush shoulders with worship of false gods all the time. For instance: “nearly all of New Zealand's red meat export slaughter premises are certified to undertake slaughter in compliance with halal requirements” (that is a direct quote). Unless I become a vegetarian, I am involved in idolatrous religious ritual. I have attended various prize-givings and official functions – almost without exception they are prefaced with a karakia, part of our culture – now those are prayers, but not to יהוה! The wailing is calling on the dead: ancestor worship. Now, you can be prickly like me and walk out; but that causes unnecessary offense. We live in a non-Chrisitan society and we need grace, concessions, just in order to live in it. For example, Scripture clearly states that a Christian should only marry a Christian. That is fine, but what if you are married already and then become a Christian and your spouse does not? In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul says that they should stay together; but the husband may want out – the spirit in him is opposed to that in his wife; she is a new creature, this is not the woman he married. Although it is God’s intention that they stay together; a concession is given: [1 Corinthians 7:15 Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace.] It is the same response Elisha gave: “Go in peace.” (v.19) We are called to live in peace. But the concession is not an excuse to presume upon grace and indulge in the world. Naaman did not want to worship Rimmon. He longed to comply with יהוה’s demands, but he simply could not. He was not trying to get out of something, have an excuse for living in the world, it’s just that he couldn’t get out of it. It reminds me of when I started work; the lab runs 7 days so I had to agree to work Sundays. Now that was no problem to me at the time, I was not walking with the LORD. But the LORD brought me back to Himself; the last thing I want to be doing on the Lord’s day is to be at work. I am not trying to get out something; it is a concession required to get on in the less than perfect society we live in. Now I want to draw a couple of big brackets [P] – this is a parenthesis, but because it is here in the passage, I will deal with it. It is probably the main lesson people take from this passage, but it is, in fact, a side issue. And it is the issue of the greed of Gehazi, [P] Elisha’s servant. He saw all these goodies that Naaman had brought and he was more than happy to part with them, and Gehazi wanted them for himself. He didn’t have to twist Naaman’s arm – he gave him twice what he asked for. But here grace ran out – Gehazi became a leper! The curse of Naaman fell upon him (it says: “the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you” – it was Naaman’s leprosy that he had. I guess the lesson is that we should not presume upon grace – it is not limitless. Jesus Himself said: [P] [Luke 12:15 Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”] Let me be clear, we have a very saleable item! Leprosy cured! Who would not come flocking, willing to pay top dollar for that?! Look, if I could walk in to ward 26 and offer those terminal cancer patients a guaranteed cure, they would be queueing up, willing to spend their last dollar for it! People are burdened with guilt; they long for release. All face death, the offer of assurance after death is powerful. People will part with material goods for these things and the Church holds the keys. And, to our shame, it has used those keys in order to gain wealth. This is what triggered the Reformation. Some 500 years ago, a Dominican friar, named Johann Tetzel, visited Germany selling, what was called “indulgences” – this was a clever scheme: you paid the church some money and you got time off purgatory, your punishment for your sins was reduced, supposedly. All it was, was a money-making scheme to pay for the building of St. Peters in Rome. It was a pretty good scheme – people gave you money and they got nothing tangible in return! There is money in religion. Now I am not getting at any particular denomination, but to illustrate: the Roman catholic church is said to be worth anywhere between US$400 Billion US$2 Trillion. That is a lot of money and that is not counting the property they own: over 700,000 square kilometres of it! It is impossible to calculate the total assets. But in 2016 the estimated operating cost of the Vatican in America alone was around the tune of US$170 Billion; of which they gave $5 Billion to charity which would be about 3%. The Church of England’s income, not assets, in 2013, was over $3 billion, more than McDonalds; about half of that came from church goers the rest was raised through the church’s investment fund, operating and trading income and fees for weddings and funerals. I am making no suggestion of financial mismanagement, just pointing out that religion is big business. And where that kind of money is around, people get tempted and frankly shameful things go on. We tend to be a bit sheltered here at Tedder ave; but to demonstrate what is going on out there in the church, in the name of Jesus, here are three short, shocking clips [P]. Not very edifying! It is a travesty! Is the curse of Naaman too severe a judgement?! [P] But it is easy to see the gross failings of others; we ourselves, need to heed Jesus’ warning of greed. Some suppose that great gain can be made: [1 Timothy 6:5–6 men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.] Discontent, is what leads to greed. We see the things other people have and we covet them for ourselves. It can be a trap [P] [1 Timothy 6:9–10 But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.] Greed is an insidious sin; we notice immorality and impurity, but Scripture mentions greed in the same breath: [Ephesians 5:3–6 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; ….. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Greed excludes you from the Kingdom of God, and it gets worse…) Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.] God’s wrath comes upon the greedy. The Bible has quite a bit to say on the topic; but, I maintain, it is a parenthesis. Yes, Gehazi took from Naaman and was judged; but, the Bible also makes clear that the labourer is worthy of his hire. You may recall that Saul when wanting to ask the prophet Samuel about his missing donkeys, speaking to his servant: [1 Samuel 9:7 Then Saul said to his servant, “But behold, if we go, what shall we bring the man? For the bread is gone from our sack and there is no present to bring to the man of God. What do we have?”] It was accepted that you took something to the prophet for his services, it wasn’t wrong to receive something in return for spiritual services. There were systems in place to ensure that the Levites and priests were supported for their work. Paul made clear [1 Timothy 5:18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing,” and “The labourer is worthy of his wages.” 1 Corinthians 9:11 If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?] So, what was so wrong about Gehazi receiving something from Naaman in return for the blessing he had received? Remember? What did I ask you to keep in mind at the beginning?: That SALVATION is the issue! Why would Elisha receive nothing from Naaman? Why was יהוה so hard on Gehazi for taking something from him? Because the issue is salvation. And the message is an important one: SALVATION IS FREE! [P] It is not that it is wrong, period, to receive for services rendered. But the message of this passage, as I hope to talk about next time, is that of salvation, even for the Gentiles; and that salvation is FREE! It is by GRACE! The essential meaning in grace is that is free; and grace isn’t grace if you pay something. [Romans 11:6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.] When I proposed to Rhoda I bought her an engagement ring – precious, valuable. Which she received. But, what if she said, “That is a lovely ring, it must have cost you a lot, let me give you something toward the cost.”? I would have been highly offended! The biggest insult you can give when someone gives you something is to try and pay for it! The essential quality of grace is that it is FREE! [P] [Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;] And you do not pay for a gift; if you do it ceases to be a gift. Isaiah cried out the word of יהוה: [P] [Isaiah 55:1 “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.] The reason why Elisha refused payment is because the spiritual lesson is that salvation is free! [P] Hallelujah! Robin spent some time on the early verses in Ephesians, there we read: that God [Ephesians 1:1–7 blessed us with every spiritual blessing ….. He chose us …. we would be holy and blameless ….. predestined us to adoption as sons …… we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, (that is salvation from the wrath to come) according to the riches His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.] Salvation is free! Paul said: [P] [Romans 3:24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;] We are made righteous by grace, and the essence of grace/χάρις is that it is free – one of the meanings of χάρις is gift. Further on he says: [P] [Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God (the word is χάρισμα – the root is grace) is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.] – that translation says “free gift” to distinguish “grace-gift” from the ordinary word for “gift”; but every gift is free – if it ain’t free, it ain’t a gift. Further on still he writes: [Romans 8:32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us (the root is grace again) all things?] Gehazi got dealt severely for violating this principle of grace; it is in the New Testament to, there was a man who saw the evidence of Holy Spirit in people’s lives – it was real, tangible, evident, visible; he wanted the power to impart it as well, so he tried to buy it: [ Acts 8:20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! ] The gift cannot be bought! God will not allow it! To attempt to do so brings a curse – and there are many so-called “Christians” under a curse because they are trying to earn their salvation, purchase it with works. [1 Corinthians 2:12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,] [P] The message of Gehazi is that salvation is free, freely given to us by God. Bless His Name! [P] Let us give [2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks to God for His indescribable gift!] by singing this lovely old chorus:
Thank You LORD for saving my soul
Thank You LORD for making me whole
Thank You LORD for giving to me
Thy great salvation so rich and free
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