Devotion: Kingdom of Peace
2 Kings 5 tells the story of a man named Naaman. "Captain of the army of the king of Aram, Naaman was a great man, and highly respected," v1. The Lord intimately knew Naaman. He had used him to give victory to the land of Aram. Naaman was a man of valor, and a warrior.
But Naaman had leprosy.
Leprosy, definition: 1. a contagious disease that affects the skin, mucous membranes, and nerves, causing discoloration and lumps on the skin and, in severe cases, disfigurement and deformities.
Perhaps the leprosy had lain dormant in his system for a long while. Until the disease began to disfigure their physical body, a sick man or women could cover its existence with careful clothing choices and self-protective mannerisms.
In Naaman's household was a young Israelite girl, who worked as a servant in the service of his wife. She had been kidnapped by the Syrians years earlier. Her trust in God and devotion to his righteousness led her to do something radical. To approach her mistress, and speak of God as healer. In a land surrounded by idols and gods. Surrounded by men and women who had represented a nation to whom she had been stolen away. With confidence she spoke to Namaan's wife: "The prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him." Not that he could, but rather, that he would.
And Namaan's humility is here seen. As a man of brave and noble reputation, the last thing he must have wanted anyone to know was that he suffered from such an ailment, one that found little compassion amongst those in the Old Testament. After approaching the king of Syria, Naaman went to meet the prophet. "He took with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. He brought the letter to the king of Israel." A letter written by the king of Syria asking the king of Israel to have compassion on his servant.
What a reversal in heart? Only years ago was it that Syrians are kidnapped Israelite children in a raid of their lands? This is humility, a catalyst effect. The servant girl's compassion (gift of God) extended to Namaan, to the king of Syria, to the king of Israel.
"Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean," v10.
At first Namaan was hurt and angry. Did he not bring gifts to the king of Israel that he might be treated with respect, that he would be called upon to stand beneath the prophet and receive healing. Were there not closer, holy places to meet the healer? His servants came near and encouraged him. Again, the compassion-----this power------of God extended itself through those in the most humble of positions. Namaan did as the prophet said, and he was healed.
There is another definition for leprosy, as found at Dictionary.com and Merriam Webster. Leprosy: 2. a state of corruption or decay.
In 2020, it has become even easier to master the art of hiddenness. It is not the social media age that has taught men and women how to hide themselves (even Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden ran to the bushes to cover their nakedness, this vulnerability), but the ability to project images and conversations online that happen outside the presence of the view allows for a greater cycle of concealment.
In mastering the art of hiddenness, we find creative ways to conceal our struggles. Be it anger? Disappointment? Anxiety? Unforgiveness? Shame? Guilt? We spend our creativity on this, and it leaves us lonely, exhausted and embarrassed. Proverbs 28 reads: "He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion," v13.
Unbeknownst to Namaan, God's compassion and favor was already resting on his life. Despite this leprosy, God was working through him to give victory to Syria, 2 Kings 5v1. When Namaan sought the king of Syria, he revealed his greatest weakness and this news spread men of high regard across two nations.
I would have been so afraid that my valor and esteem would be overshadowed by news of my disease. I wonder if Namaan felt this way. If he was worried that the king would reject him?
This story speaks sincerity. To the humility that gives one the peace to kneel before kings and seek compassion from the Lord.
Because God doesn't need earthly treasures----the silver, gold and clothing (v6). Don't you see the the delights in knowing his children deeply? In returning this (in knowing him), we receive healing he alone can give.
♪ Pieces (Spontaneous) - Amanda Cook | MOMENTS: MIGHTY SOUND.
On the mountain Jesus stood before his followers and said: "Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them. When you give, let it be in secret. Your Father who.sees in secret will reward you," Matthew 6v1.
The kingdom of God is counter-cultural because the king is all-seeing. Earlier this week I wrote about Caleb, Joshua and the land of milk and honey. How they understood that the approval of men and women paled in comparison to the grace and attentiveness of God. How these two slaves found freedom in the kingdom of God.
In Matthew, Jesus begins to describe his kingdom. It is a place where those in poverty and grief find comfort, where the weak and compassionate receive mercy returned to them full fold. Where the peacemakers become children of righteousness and the persecuted are made welcome. Here, the pure of heart see God (consider Naaman's humility), 5v1-8.
Jesus continues. He asks no one to leave. He does not consider the hours that have passed. How exhausted he must feel are walking for hours under the heat of the sun. Under the pressure of knowing that so many are looking to him for comfort.
He knows many want him to weaken and say something that opposes truth. But how can Truth speak of anything less?
And when he said: "Do not practice your righteousness before men," he was telling them how deeply he loved them. Only a few verses before had he told them that he had come to fulfill the Law and make a way for intimacy between God and man. He was willing to die for them. He saw them in the struggle and success.
Practice. Practice your righteousness. Sometimes we forget that good habits come with patient dedication. We will make mistakes along the way, become frustrated, fall apart. And Jesus sees our attempt. He does not dwell on the failure, but encourages us to continue pursuing "truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, virtue and praise," Philippians 4v8.
Jesus knew that the world would correlate 'seen' with 'significance.' It often celebrates the wrong thing, seen things. It makes assumptions based on what it can see, and validates the visible.
But what is invisible is often more valuable. The kingdom of God is counter-cultural because the king is omniscient. We use this word sometimes. It's Latin, and means: One who knows all. The word omniscient has been part of the English language since at least the beginning of the 17th century, and brings together two Latin roots: the prefix omni-, meaning "all," and the verb scire, meaning "to know."
It is easier to understand someone when you know them. Jesus intimately knows us and when he looks at the actions----overflowing from the heart-----he understands more about us than anyone else looking on. He does not misunderstand, but celebrates the unseen. The gorgeousness of this ✨.
I think we do not simply want to be seen, but to be understood. This is why we strive for attention. Why we try to prove that we are pursuing righteousness. But consider this. The world does not define nor recognize righteousness the way Christ does. The world looks to be validated, but Jesus celebrates value. So hold fast to Beatitude values. These things that bring the kingdom of heaven a little closer to earth.
♪ You're Gonna Be Ok, Jen Johnson.
In Exodus 9, the Lord said to Moses "Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews: Let my people go so that they may worship me,'" v1.
Imagine this picture. The servant of a king kneels before another king, and yet his words are full of command and confidence: let us go so that we may serve another.
In this verse, God's reason for rescuing his children from bondage, out of slavery, out from under a cruel taskmaster, away from Egypt, was not solely about taking them into his prepared Promised Land. God delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh so that he could reveal the nature of his heart to them. He freed them so that they no longer had to worry about the weariness, distractions and hurt of the enslaving world and could focus on worship. There is no such peace than this intimacy.
From the beginning of time, God sought connection with his children. The story began in Eden when He created Adam and Eve and walked with them in the garden. It continued into the New Testament when He became man to walk among humankind. Even now, through the Holy Spirit, God's presence is near.
This is the reason why He wants to rescue us from the power of sin. Because grace calls us to pour out praise, Ephesians 1v12.
Psalm 37: "Delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart," v4. When our focus is called free (from legitimate hurt and fear), we can see and know the heart of God more intimately. The struggle that the Israelites knew was real----they were dying, shackled, desperate for someone to stand on their behalf and rescue them from persecution. God did not overlook this, or brush it aside, but promised to heal them. He met them there and defended his people as King.
♪ You Know Me - Steffany Gretzinger | The Loft Sessions.
Before all of this, before Moses approached Pharaoh and the people of God were rescued from bondage, before God guided took them into the wilderness and guided them towards a kingdom overflowing with milk and honey. Before all this, Moses was a shepherd leading his flock to the west side of the wilderness towards Horeb, the mountain of God.
On this mountain a bush was burning. But the burning didn't consume the tree. It was alight with the presence of the Lord, and God called out to him: "Moses, Moses!" to which the shepherd replied: "Here I am."
Yet when the voice in the bush said: "Take your sandals off your feet; holy is the place on which you stand. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God.
How Moses must have knelt down, taking off his sandals, unstrapping the sturdiness of their thick leather and sole. The surface of the mountain sharp in stone and wire grass of desert terrain. How dirty his feet must have been, even before this. The desert sand slipping through the sides of his sandals. The sweat.
In John 13, Jesus comes close and washes the feet of his disciples, v1-17. Through this act, he again proved to them that his love did not overlook the sin, discomfort and ugliness of their daily lives, but cleansed it. He was showing them that he not only knew where they had walked, but also understood the kinds of marks that such a journey would leave behind (both external and internally).
In Exodus, God was calling Moses to draw close on holy land, and the man of God hid. He was afraid to see the Lord.
When we feel ashamed of who we think we are, of the places we've walked, or the things we've said or done, we often want to hide from those who matter to us most. We don't want them to see us in such a state.
But God is saying: Look, look to me. Moses, I am here.
If Moses had kept his eyes covered in fear, he would have continued to believe himself an old man with failing strength and limited influence. He would have lost the opportunity to engage in one of the most beautiful relationships. I AM and man.
Psalm 34:4, When we seek the Lord, he delivers us from all our fears," v4. Sometimes we hide because we don't feel qualified to receive and respond to the call of God. But if we allow shame to separate us from God, we will miss out on the redemption he has in set in store for our lives.
Earth's crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: but only he who sees takes off his shoes.
wrote Victorian-era poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning. When we look and see God in the compassion and detail of his glory on earth, we understand love. We understand that there is nothing to fear.
So let us come before the Lord with confidence in this.
♪ Steady Heart (Live Acoustic Version), Steffany Gretzinger