I enjoy and often relate to some of the stories from the Old Testament. Sadly, there is a recent trend that would eliminate or at least discourage consideration of that portion of the Bible.
I understand the concerns that people may discover “promises” given to Israel and try to make them part of a personal connection with God. Obligating God to promises not made to individuals carried to an extreme could cause people to lose trust in God and as a result lose faith in Him.
It is my opinion eliminating the foundation of anything is not only counterproductive but may be dangerous. Such is the case with scripture. For example, we could miss some eternal truths found in stories like the one from Second Kings about a man called Naaman. “Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:1 NIV
Time and space will not allow me to give detail about the historical setting of the events, so I will focus on what we know of the man from the introduction. He was a pretty big deal in our vernacular: a leader of men with a proven track record, well regarded by his superiors and a reputation for personal courage. But he was a leper.
There may be times in our lives when the emphasis is not on who we are but rather the negatives we feel defines us, like “but he was a leper.” Naaman was a man marked by ceremonial uncleanness, and the unspoken accusation of sinfulness that surely must have been at the root of this terrible disease.
The details of the events bring life to the story and I encourage you to read the account for yourself. But let me provide a brief summary. A young Israelite girl had been captured and brought as a slave to serve Naaman’s wife. This young girl encouraged her mistress that a prophet in Samaria would cure the incurable.
Naaman went to his king who added gifts and his authority to the request for healing to the king of Israel, who was sure the whole thing was a set up to cause further conflict. But when the prophet Elisha heard of the problem, he saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate not his power but the power of his God.
When Naaman arrived at the house of the prophet, he was disappointed on several levels. The prophet sent a servant with a prescription for a simple act of obedience, which Naaman found insulting. His first response was to refuse the solution. A quick read of 2 Kings 5:1-19 fills in all of the missed information, but I need to draw attention to perhaps a growth area for people of faith from this story.
There are things in our life that negatively define us; they are out of our control, we know it, the people around us know it. When we take these things to God for His help, we present a strategy for how God should work in our lives. But when the results of our prayers do not seem to conform with our plan, we are tempted to reject God’s best for us. We are tempted to hang on to the negative stuff rather than submit to the only one who can cure the incurable.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.